College-focused FinTech platform Firstcard raises $4.7m in funding round


Firstcard, a firm crafting superior banking experiences for college students, has proudly declared its recent seed funding triumph of $4.7m.

Notable contributors to this round encompass a selection of venture capitalists and angel investors, specifically the AngelList Early Stage Quant Fund.

The origin story of Firstcard is deeply rooted in personal experience. Founded by immigrant entrepreneur Kenji Niwa, who also boasts of a successful startup sale in Japan, he founded Firstcard during his MBA tenure at UC Berkeley Haas Business School. It was during this time that Kenji personally faced hurdles while trying to access financial products as an international student, and simultaneously observed the financial challenges plaguing his fellow students.

To address these pain points, Firstcard has unveiled its Credit Builder Card, a game-changer in student finance. This product empowers students to commence their financial journey with a strong foundation, focusing on credit building without the common concerns of credit history, over-spending, or even the dread of rejection. The Firstcard platform goes beyond just a credit card offering; it provides a comprehensive banking solution where students can earn notable cash back from specific merchants, and soon, enhance their savings with an impressive 4.25% APY via the Firstcard Plus subscription.

Features of the Firstcard Credit Builder Card are especially student-friendly: they can track and build credit scores, maintain healthy financial habits through a deposit equals spend model, secure approval sans credit history or location-based constraints, grow cash steadily, enjoy cash back from a vast network of partners, and much more – all without the unexpected sting of hidden fees.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, Firstcard CEO Kenji Niwa revealed, “We built Firstcard because students are provided with very little knowledge to manage their finances coming out of college. We started Firstcard with an ambitious mission: to help students succeed in their financial journey by changing the culture of finance and making financial products accessible to all students – no matter who they are, where they are from, or what their credit history is.”

Recent findings by Firstcard have shown that half the college student population steers clear from credit cards due to fears of irresponsible spending and potential rejections. Additionally, a FICO study highlights that almost 29% of Gen Z consumers are either without a credit score or uncertain about it. Recognising this gap, the Firstcard executive trio – Kenji Niwa (CEO), Daniel Junqueira (CTO), and Ma Qing (CMO) – took the initiative to create the Credit Builder Card specifically to address students’ credit challenges.

Reflecting on their investment decision, AngelList Early Stage Quant Fund’s Abraham Othman, PhD, shared, “We’re excited to be investors in Firstcard. We know from our hiring data that Firstcard has been among the very best startups for attracting top talent on Wellfound (formerly AngelList Talent).”

The recently acquired funds are earmarked for expanding Firstcard’s tech infrastructure, intensifying marketing activities on college campuses, and enhancing its feature set. The pipeline includes the introduction of an AI-driven “financial advisor”, a budgeting toolset, and student loan solutions, amongst other novel features to further Firstcard’s mission in nurturing students’ financial futures.

Lastly, a nod to Firstcard’s past financial milestones – a year prior to this success, the firm had raised $3m in its pre-seed round, bringing its total funding to an impressive $7.7m.

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