So, what exactly is Aura?
Aura is a mindful money management platform that helps you put your money to work and anxiety to rest. You can think of us as Headspace + Noom for Finance.
At the intersection of wellness and wealth management, we provide financial coaching and direct investing with measurable results to improve your financial well-being. We use automated, values-based investing, rewards-based learning, coaching, and community to meet people where they are and build a personalized path to financial freedom. Our collaborative, community-driven approach enables us to foster a more inclusive, accessible space where anyone can feel comfortable investing.
While the majority of wellness platforms tackle the symptoms of anxiety, Aura is dealing directly with the root cause – money. 77% of Americans are anxious about their financial situation and money is the leading cause of stress and anxiety in the U.S. Aura’s data-driven approach to financial coaching and investing is designed to help individuals create better patterns and behaviors and empower them to design and finance their best, most abundant lives.
How did it start?
There was Kelsey, Courtney, and a shared idea that things should be different.
Kelsey: I was 20 years old when my parents’ business failed and we lost our family home. I scrambled to fill out student loan forms to cover my tuition and 2 years later, saddled with over $150,000 in debt and severe financial anxiety, graduated from Wake Forest with a dual degree in Business and English.
Kelsey deferred her dreams of entrepreneurship and opted for a gig with Goldman Sachs. Her goal was to save money, get out of debt, and eventually pursue her dream of starting a business. Six years later, Kelsey left Goldman Sachs and joined the On Deck founder fellowship with a dream to expand access to investment opportunities for unrepresented investors.
Courtney: My grandmother led the effort to help women secure credit in their own name. Thirty years’ later after my own divorce and personal financial reckoning, I realized how much more work was needed to help people feel safe, financially secure, and free to live life on their own terms.
After nearly a decade building a career as a lawyer and economic policy advocate in Washington, DC, Courtney divorced her college sweetheart (a wealth advisor) and moved to Melbourne, Australia to work in impact investing. Working side-by-side with mission-driven entrepreneurs inspired Courtney to dream about building her own solution to financial insecurity, “Duolingo for financial literacy.”
How did you meet?
Kelsey: Courtney was one of the first people I met in On Deck. It was clear we shared a passion for leveling the playing field and a mission to build a more equitable, inclusive financial system. As the weeks went on, we couldn’t stop talking about all the ideas we had to make our mission possible and it became clear, we could do so much more together.
Courtney: I knew I wanted to talk to Kelsey as soon as I saw her profile, former Goldman Sachs and a creative writer – she was a magical unicorn. She was the first person I reached out to and the chemistry was instant. We started doing weekly happy hours together. Usually, we’d talk about new people we met from the program, what sessions were the most helpful, and what we planned to do next. One week, Kelsey was preparing for yet another round of potential user interviews and I just blurted out, “hey, what if we do this next round together?” Thankfully, she agreed. I remember feeling so relieved that this time around, I would have someone in the trenches with me.
After weeks of sharing learnings and ideas, Kelsey and Courtney teamed up to conduct a user research study to understand why people, particularly women, weren’t investing. While Kelsey was originally focused on access and Courtney was focused on education as a solution, they quickly realized the problem was not just about access or education – it was emotional and behavioral. People were deeply anxious about investing and needed help.
What came next?
Courtney: We spent weeks meeting with people and diving into their personal relationships with money. I spoke with one woman who was recently engaged – she should have been thrilled but she was so worried about her finances. We talked about her money issues, her parents’ money issues, and steps she could take that day to start designing a healthier relationship with money. When she said the conversation was more valuable than her weekly therapy session, we knew we were onto something.
After dozens of 1:1 meetings with people about their experience investing and managing money, patterns started to emerge. Women in their 20s and 30s consistently reported that they felt eager to start investing, but scared to get started.
The ASAI (aggressive saver, anxious investor) came to represent Aura’s lead persona. The ASAI is conscientious, works hard for their money, values financial security, and has sufficient savings but is unsure how to confidently grow wealth. They frequently turn to their parents and significant others for financial advice and, oftentimes, this does not lead to the best advice or outcomes for them.
Kelsey: Those early interviews were illuminating. We not only validated our thesis that people wanted and needed help managing the emotional as well as the practical side of money, but we began to see how deeply this problem affected each of us individually. The conversations often felt like a mirror, unveiling our own money stories and traumas. We decided to officially join forces and build Aura — the app we wished we had at the beginning of our financial journeys.
So what makes Aura different?
Aura is the next generation of wealth management. Financial management can be an emotional journey, but we know that investing shouldn’t be emotional. We help people invest with intention – one that combines mindfulness and strategy in alignment with their values and financial goals. We start by getting to know our users and their personalities. Once we get to know them and understand their unique situation, we help them set and stick to a plan that works to help them achieve their goals directly on the app.
Our investment strategy is also different. While robo-advisors seek to democratize access to mutual funds and ETFs, we use direct indexing to give investors more personalization and better opportunities for diversification. As opposed to buying 6-7 ETFs which comes with high expense ratios, no customization, and tax inefficiencies, we buy the underlying stocks within the indexes directly. This means, our investors put their money to work and support the causes they care about while also gaining broad market exposure, reducing fees and achieving superior after-tax returns. This strategy was historically only available to high net worth individuals, but due to fractional share ownership, we are able to provide affordable access to strategic, values-aligned investment opportunities to a much broader audience.
Science-backed, data-driven approach.
Aura is on a mission to promote and improve financial wellness. Our team of behavioral psychology and financial wellness experts are helping us build tools designed to help reduce stress and anxiety and create better behavior patterns. We are currently developing new scales and metrics to assess and measure overall financial health and well-being and co-designing a safe and inclusive platform with our founding members to share and source financial education and information. We want Aura to be a place where you can build wealth AND feel better.
How can I get access to Aura?
Aura is currently in private beta with our founding members. If you’re interested in becoming a founding member, you can sign up here.
How do we think about the future?
We’re still early on in our founder and product journeys, but we’ve got big plans for the future. In addition to building out a robust community of peer mentors and expert guides, we’re building strategic partnerships with top researchers and values-aligned organizations to scale our impact. We’re also growing our team, so check out opportunities to work with us here in product, design, marketing (internship) and engineering. If you’re interested, please email us at email@example.com, and sign up for our waitlist!