Sydney-founded, San Francisco-based fintech startup Douugh has closed a $2.5 million seed funding round and landed a partnership with US bank, Choice Financial.
With Choice Financial also investing in the startup, the “open banking” partnership will see Douugh authorised to take deposits through the bank, creating its own integrated bank account and debit card.
Andy Taylor, founder and CEO of Douugh, said the partnership will allow the startup to build out its platform in the US before launching in Australia and elsewhere through similar open banking partnerships.
“Choice Financial is a perfect fit for us. We share the same values and beliefs that the future of banking is about platform, data and identity, and fostering financial wellness via a seamless mobile experience that harnesses AI and machine learning,” he said.
“As partners, we unanimously agree that the traditional banking model is flawed. From their legacy systems, to over-priced and complex compounding interest credit products designed to keep people in a debt cycle.”
Taylor, cofounder of peer-to-peer lending platform SocietyOne, founded Douugh last year with the aim of bringing an AI-focused approach to banking after seeing a problem with financial literacy.
The result is Sophie, a personal assistant or chatbot that aims to help people get on top of their finances by linking to their existing account or, once the startup has more open banking partnerships on the board, their Douugh bank account.
As well as informing customers about their spending habits and other insights, Sophie can be set up to perform transactional tasks like paying and splitting bills, requesting money, automatically saving, tracking and management of spending and savings goals.
Based in Fargo, North Dakota, Choice Financial itself was born in 2001 through the merging of four local banks.
Tim Heilman, CIO of Choice Financial, said the partnership gives the bank and the startup the opportunity to “co-create and collaborate to redefine what people should expect from their bank”.
“It’s very exciting to be chosen as Douugh’s banking partner. Douugh’s vision of reimagining an everyday banking experience through AI is the next revolution in our industry. Douugh is laser focused with global potential, unique technology and a world class team,” he said.
“Choice Financial’s purpose is to put people first in everything we do, a common connection we quickly identified with Douugh.”
With the seed funding, Douugh will look to find other partnerships through which to deliver more services connected into Sophie.
In the works is an API product called Douugh Connect, which will allow Sophie to coach users, manage finances, and execute in a more “cohesive and intuitive” way, including on autopilot.
Image: Douugh team – James Walker, Mark Taylor, Andy Taylor, Tom Lee, Matthew Olde. Source: Supplied.