Flush with $8.7M, Charlotte fintech startup unveils ‘philanthropic’ platform

A Charlotte fintech startup, flush with $8.7 million in new funding, is launching its own platform aimed at making us all philanthropists.

Amicus.io is focused on “democratizing” donor-advised funds (DAF).

This week, it unveiled its first product, DAF 2.0 — a platform, it says, allows consumer banks to offer self-directed DAFs to customers for the first time.

It comes just months after closing on a Series B round led by Vancouver-based The FR Group and including Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator, from which the company recently graduated.

That brings its total raised to $17.5 million to date.

“DAFs have been late to the digital transformation,” its CEO and founder Cor Hoekstra said by email to Hypepotamus.

“Our platform makes charitable giving more accessible and transparent so the average person can make a bigger impact. The goal is to make the Amicus platform a popular savings option, similar to a 401(k), IRA or 529 plan.”


Donor-advised funds (DAFs)

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) aren’t new.

First pioneered in the 1930s, it’s a philanthropic giving vehicle administered by a charitable sponsor — sort of like a “charitable savings account,” as Hoekstra explains it.

Donors contribute a variety of assets, such as cash and securities, into their accounts and receive an automatic tax receipt. These funds are then easily invested where they can grow tax-free. Donors can then grant funds to the non-profits and causes of their choice.

Up until now, said Hoekstra, traditional DAFS have been “antiquated, inefficient, and most often used by high-net-worth individuals through private banks,” which require high account minimums.

But Amicus hopes to change that.

A streamlined, digital platform helps lowers the administrative costs for the financial institution, he said. That, in turn, drops minimums for the average online banking customer.

“By lowering the barrier to entry, we set a ripple effect in motion that will impact the entire philanthropic community, paying dividends to each party involved,” added co-founder and chairman Walt Ruloff.

A digital disruption?

Meanwhile, DAFs are booming.

recent report from the National Philanthropic Trust estimates that contributions to DAFs in 2018 totaled $37.12 billion, an all-time high. Meanwhile, charitable assets in donor-advised funds grew from $112.10 billion in 2017 to $121.42 billion in 2018 — an 8.3 percent jump.

According to Amicus, that makes conditions “prime” for disruption.

Hoekstra, who is based in Charlotte, and Ruloff, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, founded the company back in 2017.

The pair originally met while working in the supply chain industry back in the early 2000s. Both worked for One Network Enterprises and i2 Technologies around the same time.

After exploring the non-profit ecosystem, they said they were determined to bring better resources to the philanthropic community.

Hoekstra said it took 20 years to research and develop Amicus, but now they’re ready to scale.

The company currently employs 25 staff across offices in Charlotte, Tel Aviv, and Vancouver.

We expect to double our headcount in the next 18 months with additions in sales and marketing teams, as well as engineering hires, including positions at our HQ in Charlotte,” he said.

It also recently tapped former AAA Carolinas exec, Raja Musunuru, as its new chief technology officer.

Meanwhile, Amicus is expected to roll out its first branded platform in partnership with a “leading global financial institution” later this year.

It also plans to extend the DAF 2.0 platform to include not just banks, but non-profit organizations as well, letting them share stories and updates back to donors.

“We want to deepen the connections between donors and the charities they support, creating a virtuous feedback loop that keeps customers inspired to keep giving,” Hoekstra said.

Amicus is a graduate of the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator, a fully virtual six-month program focused on helping early-stage startups learn what it takes to break into the Fortune 500 marketplace. It also participated in the Charlotte-based QC Fintech Accelerator, which provides member companies access to mentors, capital, and financial service organizations.