Kinly app founder motivated to balance the financial scales for Black America

Kinly app founder motivated to balance the financial scales for Black America
Photo courtesy of Kinly

Rolling out talked with Donald Hawkins, the founder and CEO of Kinly, the financial app that is bringing innovative forms of financial literacy and inclusion to the Black community.

What sparked your interest in becoming an entrepreneur?

I was very fortunate to be connected and blessed to just have the right people in my life at the right time. I got exposed to venture capitalism at a very early age, maybe about a decade earlier than I was supposed to. … Then I dabbled in a number of other ventures, health tech, brick and mortar ad tech, you name it, I’ve tried it. 

What was your motivation for starting Kinly?

May 25, [2020], George Floyd gets killed. And I was looking in the mirror, and as so often we do as a community when things like that happen to us … I realized I wanted to do something different. Because every time this has happened before it caused me to really think about something that I could do to be more impactful. For us, it was really all about throwing our hat into the ring for financial inclusion.

How does the Kinly app work and how did you decide what features to include?

Let’s see if this sounds familiar. You get told in high school, you’ve got to go to college and get as many degrees as you can. Because when you get those degrees, you’re going to make the money you want to make and live your dreams. But what they don’t tell us is that, especially for Black women, you all are the most educated, but the most underpaid, and also the most indebted. Many of us fell into that debt trap, trying to rebuild credit. So we’re building solutions for us and our families. It just so happens to be a meaningful solution for the entire community.

What separates Kinly from traditional banks and other financial apps?

As a neo-bank, we have a bank sponsor. Our bank sponsor is Bancorp. Bancorp is an FDIC-insured bank. So our members’ deposits are insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC. They also help us with regulatory and compliance-related needs, because that’s how the neo-bank space works. Through that partnership, we’re able to offer traditional banking services through our bank sponsor. The benefit that we have as a neo-bank is we also get to add additional features to enhance the experience for our members. We can kind of consider ourselves a lifestyle company. We don’t want people to think of us as just a financial app or a place that I can just log into and look at my money. We want people to think of us as a tool that also provides them curated bite-sized audio tracks, with our financial education director, Dr. Melody Robinson.

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