Fintech Portable today announced the close of a $2.5 million seed round led by Harlem Capital Partners. Founded by Nate Sofio and Alex Yinkalov, Portable also launches today.
It’s a digital wallet and password manager for financial services and banking apps, but Sofio calls it a financial digital passport, which helps with user identification, making the job harder for consumers and financial services. He said the company’s goal is to free people from passwords and help consumers gain more ownership over their financial information, giving them control over who can access it.
The app works like this: Portabl stores data that can be used to access existing financial apps. Portable login appears whenever an app is opened and allows users to log in easily in just two clicks.
“If you’re a consumer, we recognize that telling who should have access to your identity and financial life has historically been confusing and difficult. At worst, adversarial and alienating,” Sofio told TechCrunch. By empowering consumers to own their data, keep it secure and access or share it for updates, we believe it’s the right way to deliver on the many promises heard in Open Banking.
Yenkalov cited the advent of decentralized accounts, verified credentials and zero-knowledge authentication, saying the industry is closer than ever to allowing financial institutions to benefit from consumers owning and sharing their own data.
“In a way, by giving users control over their real data, Portable is turning them into their own secure APIs,” he told TechCrunch. This has great potential to transform consumer-provider interactions in the financial world. “
Calling the fundraising journey “such a weird hopscotch situation,” said Sofio, who started building the app while attending Wharton Business School early last year. In his spare time he organizes competitions and accelerators. He eventually met with Yenkalov, who helped him continue formulating the app’s hypothesis. Thanks to a series of warm introductions, the two actors started scraping together money and meeting investors.
According to Sofio, Portable chose Harlem Capital to lead the round after a memorable call: Yinkalov, a Ukrainian citizen, was caught in the country amid a fundraising call for the firm during the war with Russia. Sofio remembers the air raid siren going off and the first few minutes of the call the conversation was not about business but rather about finding a way to help Yenkalov escape the country.
“It’s a VC firm, and their mission is to make great investments,” Sofio said. “Put all that aside and say, ‘Hey, this is a global crisis – what else are we going to do for you?’ For me, that was something I’ll remember forever, to be honest.
Harlem Capital partner Brandon Bryant originally drew his money to Portables because of the idea that identity verification in fintech was still unsolved. “Their platform allows you as a consumer to create your own IDs once and bring them to every fintech app,” Bryant told TechCrunch. “We think this will be a big opening for the industry.”
Carl Vogel, a partner at Sixth Person Ventures, which invested in Portable’s seed round, expressed similar sentiments. The application recognizes that creating consumer-owned financial accounts can create meaningful product and operational improvements not only for consumers, but also for financial institutions.
“We were also impressed by the fact that the portable solution wanted to keep both traditional financial institutions and Web3-native companies securely on board,” continued Vogel. “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Portable on their journey.”
Sofio said the company plans to use the funds to expand its team and accelerate its growth. It’s also working on SOC2 and ISO/IEC 27001 security certifications (the former is a voluntary standard for managing consumer data, and the latter is a global regulation for managing data) and is leaning toward blockchain to give consumers “bulletproof records of their data.” “
As a child, Sofia learned the importance of verified identity information. He was born in Colombia and raised in Stanford, Connecticut by a Polish mother and Puerto Rican father. He described his background as primarily immigrant and said there was always an underlying fear and anxiety about obtaining proper documentation.
“I grew up seeing different forms of financial stigma, with poverty, migration, reliance on cash and a lot of stress around documentation and dealing with brick and mortar banks,” Sofio said. “These are things that prevent good people from using basic services.”
He studied anthropology as an undergraduate at Yale and always planned to attend law school. His first job out of university was as a paralegal, where he was tasked with building databases and developed a passion for data collection. He then spent a decade working for various software and fintech startups, holding roles focused on product management fraud and anti-fraud.
He soon realized the connection between data management, identity issues and access to essential financial services. From there, he dropped everything, scrapped his law school plans, and went on a journey to learn about identity, which naturally led him to Wharton.
“Historically, a lot of people were excluded from the system not because they were bad, but because they were difficult to understand,” he said. “We want to make that a thing of the past by redefining how information, both traditional and alternative, is owned, shared and trusted.”