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These Y Combinator cofounders are taking on Robinhood to make crypto investing accessible to Gen Z women

March 21, 2022, 1:22 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings begin today, the House passes the CROWN Act to ban hair discrimination, and two founders are bringing crypto investing to Gen Z women. Have a productive Monday.

– Early investment. From the crypto community BFF to a celebrity-backed push for NFT innovation, crypto diehards are making an effort to ensure women are included in the 21st century’s financial revolution. But what about young women and those who can’t afford to put thousands of dollars behind cryptocurrency investments just yet?

Founders Eve Halimi and Anam Lakhani, both 25, are debuting a new crypto investing platform today geared toward Gen Z women. The Y Combinator alumnae founded their startup, Alinea, as an investing offering a year ago, and are now adding crypto to its functionality through a partnership with fellow YC business Alpaca, a crypto brokerage platform. They see their company, which has raised $2.1 million in seed funding from investors Goodwater and Kima Ventures, as a competitor to Robinhood and SoFi—with a younger and more gender-diverse user base.

Their thesis is based on a few different statistics. Gen Z’s purchasing power: $360 billion. The share of women who’ve invested in crypto: 7% in mid-2021. The portion of women who are single after age 65, 49%, and need investing tools that will last through retirement.

Alinea co-founders Eve Halimi and Anam Lakhani.
Courtesy of Alinea

Put these trends together, and Halimi and Lakhani see the need for an easy-to-use, educational investing platform that allows women of all income levels to build wealth through traditional investing and crypto investing. The social app experience, which also allows users to see where their friends are allocating funds, is centered on what they call investing “playlists.” A spinoff of ETFs, each playlist chooses a themed bundle of stocks and investments, from crypto playlists with 20 different cryptocurrencies to women-led companies or LGBTQ-friendly businesses. The minimum investment is $1, put toward fractional shares and ETFs. For crypto trades, the platform charges a 1% fee.

While young investors have flocked to Robinhood, Lakhani says that Alinea will be a platform for long-term wealth creation—not day trading. “People don’t think about the consequences of an app like Robinhood,” Lakhani argues. “It wasn’t designed with the intention of long-term investing, and investing in single stocks is an unhealthy habit. We wanted to create the opposite experience. The last thing our generation needs is another source of anxiety.”

To differentiate itself, Alinea uses a neutral color scheme of calming pinks and purples in an attempt to reduce the apprehension often associated with money. The app also features educational materials about crypto and investing. But the co-CEOs still see their platform as a more approachable form of investing than the longtime options that far predate Robinhood. In essence, a kind of middle ground between app-based trading and a robo-advisor. Alinea is an early-stage startup with a “few thousand” users so far—60% Gen Z and 70% women—who have an average account size of $1,000.

Increasing accessibility and reducing anxiety is one thing. Building trust with Gen Z investors so they feel comfortable putting their money into a new platform run by two young women is another. While the founders have encountered some skepticism of their vision—more often while fundraising than when interacting with consumers—they’re not deterred. “That’s a challenge with any sort of financial innovation, right?” Lakhani says.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- What to expect. Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court hearings are scheduled to begin today. Expect to hear from Democrats about the judge's legal experience and history of bipartisanship, and from Republicans about her record defending people with criminal convictions. Her hearings are set to last four days

- In Ukraine.  Ukrainian men are unable to leave the country under martial law, leaving many women and children to flee to neighboring countries. Some women, though, are staying in Ukraine and fighting in the military. In fact, Ukrainian women have a long history of serving in the military, starting 100 years earlier than when American women joined the U.S. armed forces. 

- Banking backlash. A Texas lawmaker sent Citibank a cease and desist letter in response to the bank's announcement last week that it would pay travel costs for employees who must go out of state to access reproductive health care. State Rep. Briscoe Cain argued that Citi, led by CEO Jane Fraser, could face criminal prosecution for helping its Texas employees access abortion. Bloomberg

- Hair to stay. The House of Representatives last week voted to pass the CROWN Act, a bill that would ban race-based hair discrimination in employment. New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman was the bill's sponsor; the Senate version is backed by Sen. Cory Booker. The Biden administration is hoping to sign the bill into law, while some Republicans have criticized the legislation as an inconsequential "bill on hair." CNN

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Rinki Sethi, an alum of Twitter and Rubrik, joins Bill.com as VP and chief information security officer. Car-sharing marketplace Turo added Pallas Global Group cofounder Bonnie Jonas and Spero Ventures founding partner Shripriya Mahesh to its board. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

-  Midterm check-in. It's been four years since the 2018 midterm elections swept a wave of women into national office. As the 2022 midterms approach, is the energy still there for female candidates? Jezebel

- Just keep swimming. Swimmer Lia Thomas competed in N.C.A.A. championships under a cloud of criticism and attention; the transgender college athlete has been the subject of debate from those who say she shouldn't be allowed to compete in women's competitions. But she became the first known trans athlete to win a Division I championship on Thursday with the 500-yard freestyle, before bringing her collegiate career to a close with an eighth-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle. 

- Safety first. Hiring and retaining diverse teams is critical to business success. But diverse teams sometimes underperform compared to non-diverse teams, according to research. That is often because one crucial element is missing: psychological safety. To unlock the benefits of diversity, all team members need to have a "shared belief that team members will not be rejected or embarrassed for speaking up," researchers say. Harvard Business Review

ON MY RADAR

Why are so many men still resistant to reading women? LitHub

Not your mother's maternity clothes: The pregnancy fashion revolution is here Refinery29

Jane Fonda’s new climate PAC is taking on fossil fuel-backed politicians Grist

PARTING WORDS

"Female audiences are trained to not take their own stories as seriously. Stuff men were obsessed with when they were 9 is treated like Hamlet. ... What if someone treated something for girls that seriously?"

-The Baby-Sitters Club showrunner Rachel Shukert, speaking to Vulture about Netflix's cancelation of her series after two seasons. 

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