Sugar Wallet is a New Zealand fintech co-founded by Devrath (Dev) Soni and Sophia Ritchie with a mission to make investing “ridiculously easy” for everyone.
“In APAC alone, there are 143 million people who can afford to invest but continue to save primarily through their bank,” said Soni.
“One of the reasons for this is that platforms are too complex and time-consuming for the common person with lower financial literacy.”
The couple kicked off the idea by talking to hundreds of people, including craftsmen, doctors and even the unemployed, and concluded that helping people make investing a “habit.” Sugar Wallet can help them improve their financial well-being.
Fast forward, just six months, and the team of four has built a platform that helps new investors automatically invest a percentage of their pay in one of three simple investment funds in less than five minutes.
It’s a simple platform for novice investors that feels trusted, safe and easy so they can finally get started.
The team works with established fund managers to ensure their users have access to leading asset classes – but without jargon like ETFs; Stop loss and APY.
“Our users tell us that before Sugar Wallet, they were just procrastinating on building good money habits, and signing up fixed that,” said Soni.
Sugar Wallet has already experienced ‘viral’ growth in the market in just a few months, with its early traction and stats matching and in some cases surpassing stats at the same stage for platforms like Sharesies and Spaceship.
Now Sugar Wallet has been selected to participate in the GD1 funded Stage One Incubator which aims to produce 10 Kiwi technology “unicorns” (aka “Kiwicorns”) by 2026.
‘It’s not enough to copy’
Dev is no stranger to small businesses that have grown – having previously grown his bespoke clothing store, Devonché, to sell New Zealand’s most bespoke suits within three years from a single store; where news networks, All Blacks, Black Caps, BMW and others.
He also helped the florist Flowerist achieve $100,000 in digital sales within its first six months.
Co-founder Sophia Ritchie worked at Xero and Billy (a bill-splitting platform) as a software engineer and is also a serial entrepreneur.
Growing a tech startup, however, was a brand new challenge that required an unrequited focus on what Soni calls “problem detection.”
“I’ll never forget a last minute chat I had with an experienced unicorn operator who asked me: What problem are you solving?” he said.
“We were about to go full steam ahead with mimicking a foreign app, but that afternoon, when I heard myself describing how I think at a high level, it all seemed very superficial. That conversation was key to charting our course back to problem discovery.”
It’s not enough to copy something that works well abroad, Soni . realized
“If you are in a regulated market and build market by market like fintech – you need to understand the local market – local sensitivity and the unique issues your ideal target audience faces locally before you can think of scaling a global business and see if international audiences have the same problem,” he said.
“The time spent thinking about the tough questions is critical.”
Since then, the duo has sought out mentors who repeatedly ask the tough questions; and can give advice based on lived experience.
“There is a lot of wisdom available online, but founders need advice on how to apply that wisdom to their particular startup. It is extremely valuable to tap into the experience of someone who has already walked that path,” said Soni
“What Mahesh Muralidhar, CEO and founder of Phase One Ventures, has created for early stage startups, a step above the kind of formula “knowledge” out there. The incubator mentors all have tremendous credibility and can offer practical experience and advice that makes them question our naive assumptions. Many of them have been involved in bringing businesses from $0 to a billion dollars in revenue – that expertise is rare in New Zealand.”
Sugar Wallet’s angel investors include executives and ex-operators of international fintech and B2C giants: Robinhood, Transferwise, Public.com, Canva and NZ Rich-Lister William Smale, with team experience from Xero, bag full, Thero, NetWealth, Pushpay and EzyVet/VetRadar.
“We are solving a very real problem for everyday, financially inexperienced people; and we’re excited to have them partner with us to build habits that will literally change their future. That’s why we exist – to make investing more attractive,” said Soni.