Luke Moberly, Bumper
Startland News’ Startup Road Trip series explores innovative and uncommon ideas finding success in rural America and Midwestern startup hubs outside the Kansas City metro. This series is possible thanks to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which leads a collaborative, nationwide effort to identify and remove large and small barriers to new business creation.
LINCOLN, Nebraska — A Midwest tech startup that leveraged its teen founder’s peer and investor networks is poised for cap table impact after a headline-grabbing tech controversy, game-changing pivot and half-million-dollar pre-seed infusion.
“It was kind of a surprise to us,” Luke Moberly said of Bumper’s recent $500,000 pre-seed round. “I had never seen that amount of money in my life before.”
Elevator pitch: Bumper is an educational investing app for teenagers. With just $1 and an adult sponsor, teens can begin investing in their favorite companies and markets before they turn 18.
Bumper — which began as a life insurance solution for parents before pivoting to a personal finance focus for young people — is the first commission-free investing app built only for teens. Users actively manage their own investing portfolios, learning about budgeting, diversification, compound interest, and other aspects of the process.
The idea for Bumper started when Alex Kearns, a college student in Moberly’s hometown, Lincoln, committed suicide after seeing a false negative balance of more than $700,000 on his Robinhood trading app. The national and tech media attention on meme trading in early 2021 further highlighted the danger of certain investing tools, Moberly said.
Click here to read more about how Kearns’ death began a domino effect within the investment tech community.
“The entire goal of Bumper is to prepare teens financially at a young age so they are more adept at navigating the crazy world that is money management,” Bumper’s founder described. “We believe that it is better for teenagers to learn investing now rather than wait until they turn 18 when they gain access to potentially dangerous financial tools.”
Until now, most responsible investing apps were out of reach to them, he continued.
“Investing at a young age can help you identify your tolerance,” said Moberly, noting the ups and downs of investing and need to navigate short- and long-term risks — and potential rewards.
Click here to explore Bumper, which is available on desktop and iOS devices.
The first $100K
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Luke Moberly’s gap year between high school and college took an unexpected entrepreneurial turn. His plan to study Spanish in Uruguay fell through so he sought out new options.
While in London for a coding bootcamp, Moberly received an email from his Union Bank & Trust banker about the NMotion Venture Studio powered by gener8tor in Lincoln.
He decided to apply and earned his spot after competing against 162 other applicants.
Growing up in Lincoln, Moberly himself didn’t know anything about investing until he was 18. It wasn’t until after he opened a Roth IRA and started following the market that he got hooked, he said.
Moberly’s banker referred him to the NMotion Venture Studio by gener8tor, where startups can receive $100,000 as well as mentorship opportunities, for joining the 16-month program. NMotion proved a turning point, providing a financial foundation, as well as the birth of Bumper’s developing team, Moberly said.
“Bumper’s progress and growth in such a relative period of time comes from a lot of different people and organizations leveraging complementary strengths,” said Scott Henderson, managing director of NMotion, “What’s equally exciting is that Bumper is just one of 10 companies we’re building from scratch with $1 million of capital this year — so keep your eyes open for more stories like this.”
Click here to learn more about NMotion, Nebraska’s premier startup acclerator.
Less than eight months after completing the program, Moberly’s startup secured the $500,000 round with the help of Invest Nebraska and Nebraska Angels and Wisconsin-based Lancaster Investments.
“We chose to lead the investment round because Bumper is a unique combination of an exceptional founder paired with an audacious goal to solve a problem no one has been able to solve and doing it in a smart and differentiated way,” explained Ben Williamson, principal and general counsel for Invest Nebraska.
Funds from the investment are now being used to build a more efficient app that is responsive to both teen users and their parents, Moberly said.
“Parents are still involved,” he said. “In order for a teenager to invest legally, the parent needs to be the final executor. We’re still in that [original] space, but it’s a lot more interesting to us.”
Raymond Tam, growth lead at Bumper
Harrison Martindale, educational and finance lead of Bumper
Luke Moberly, founder and CEO of Bumper
Guided by teens from the start
Developing Bumper’s core mission came with interest invested by Moberly’s peers, he said.
Moberly began by direct messaging about 200 people he thought might like using the app. From that pool, about 10 percent gave the idea positive feedback.
“From there, we started running Instagram ads and we partnered with a few smaller influencers,” Moberly said. “We also have given a few presentations at high school investing clubs.”
After a couple hundred user interviews with students, the team developed a waitlist with a few thousand teenagers and college students, he said.
“It was enough to give us the confidence to build the app,” Moberly detailed. “We had about 30 teenagers on the app. Once they had a funded account, they were very engaged. The problem was just getting them excited about investing beforehand.”
The product ultimately launched this fall.
Two of Bumper’s six team members hail from Nebraska with the work to build the startup essentially spread across the country.
“We’re just getting started and have already begun to put the investment round to work,” Moberly said. “We’re hiring frontend and backend developers and will bolster our sales and growth efforts to reach as many Gen Z teens and their parents as possible.”
Up next, Bumper is redesigning its parent portal to make it easier for parents to see where their children are investing.
“We’re also working on adding more features to the app to provide more guidance on what to invest in,” Moberly said. “We don’t give explicit advice, but we think that allowing teenagers to see what their friends are investing in can make it less stressful.”
Bumping up financial literacy
In addition to the app, Bumper offers an ambassador program, Moberly said.
“We work with about 50 teenagers a week to give free lessons on finance,” he said. “They usually come on as marketing interns. They help us get into schools or find clubs who might want to partner with us.”
Another informational tool for parents and teens: Bumper Bites — a program through which teens can learn some of the financial buzzwords that might not be taught in school. Topics include budgeting, spending and saving, managing risk, and diversification.
The goal is to encourage teens to feel comfortable starting early, Moberly said.
“Even just waiting 10 years cuts the potential earning power of your investments in half,” he said.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.
For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn
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