In the late 1990s, during the dot com boom,
Now it's Jeff's turn, at age 27, to try to make something big grow from a seed. So it's fitting that the startup he founded is called Acorns, and that its office motif includes a sprinkling of nuts all over employees' newly outfitted desks.
"My dad would talk deals all the time when I was little," said Cruttenden. "He's the type of person who would talk to a 5-year-old like the 5-year-old was an adult."
The idea behind Acorns' app, which is expected to launch on the iPhone app store in coming weeks, is simple:
Sign up for an Acorns account and the purchases you make using the cards already in your pocket are rounded up to the next dollar. That spare change is invested in the stock market.
Acorns handles the investment and puts your money in a portfolio of index funds. It advises you how much risk is involved in each grouping of stocks and you can pull your money out anytime -- there's no transaction fee to the user or commissions.
Acorns takes a
So after signing up, a
Add that to all the little roundups in a month and you've got something like the penny shaving schemes from "Office Space" or "Superman III" that raised millions. But this time it's legal and actually encouraged.
"We're going after that huge problem that 100 million people are great at spending and lousy at saving," said
Acorns got regulatory approvals to become an investment adviser last year, and in February it got approvals to maintain accounts and execute trades. That's when it started to emerge from stealth mode. The app is currently in a testing phase and beta testers have investments with Acorns from less than
The venture has
"Our hope is to just keep growing and build it as big as we can," said
"These guys are looking for a massive scale ... they can't have a hundred people sign up for this. They need thousands, hundreds of thousands," said
The idea behind Acorns goes back to Cruttenden's no-gloves treatment as a child. Walter might relate a deal involving a comic book company to Jeff in order to make a business transaction meaningful. At about 11 years old Jeff also got to pick his own (ultimately failed) stock purchase in a cheese company.
The idea for Acorns started to form at
"The first (reason) is usually 'I don't have enough money to start investing,'" he said. "The next was the issue with commissions ... because if someone was willing to put together a few hundred dollars if they're going to buy a few shares, or one share, of a company ... the commissions don't make it that economical.
"When you have such a huge collection of stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds you tend to make no decision or delay it. And our generation, I think we want to make a decision quickly. We want to get started with something quickly."
As for his parenting style with four boys, Walter said, "There's no magic there. We're just a bunch of competitive boys all playing sports. Coached their soccer teams and all that jazz."
"Although I think I was better at math than sports," said Jeff.
"That's true," said Walter with a laugh.
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