Snapchat as a wealth manager and start-up launches are among the week’s L.A. tech highlights

Start-ups must spend millions of dollars to acquire customers from scratch, whereas apps such as Snapchat already have tens of millions of users to directly tap into. Above, Snapchat's offices at Venice Beach.

Start-ups must spend millions of dollars to acquire customers from scratch, whereas apps such as Snapchat already have tens of millions of users to directly tap into. Above, Snapchat’s offices at Venice Beach.

(The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Snapchat Inc. is one of several companies considering adopting features to their apps that would enable users to invest in stocks and other securities from their smartphones, according to a report last week.

Without citing sources, news agency Reuters said Venice-based Snapchat as well as Twitter, Venmo, Mint and others could introduce automated money management services.

The technology companies have largely young user bases, likely without much extra cash. But as users age, the apps are seeking to keep pace by providing additional services. Finance, along with shopping, are two of the more buzzed-about possibilities.


Several start-ups already provide automated investment apps, including Wealthfront and Betterment. Users select some strategy preferences and then let computers handle the investing.

But the start-ups must spend millions of dollars to acquire customers from scratch, whereas apps such as Snapchat already have tens of millions of users to directly tap into. They also are a highly engaged audience: Snapchat generates 7 billion video views across its app each day, Bloomberg reported and a source confirmed Monday. That’s a major advantage.

Still, it’s far from certain that either the finance-focused start-ups or the bigger technology companies have found a way to generate sustainable profits from investment features. Fee structures vary at existing services. And it’s also unclear whether in an age of endless specialty apps, consumers would want an app like Snapchat to become a hub for so many of their activities.

That leaves the question: “Is the cost and distraction of developing an investment service worth the potential revenue?” said Steven Lockshin, founder of investment advisor AdvicePeriod and an investor in Betterment. “To the extent these guys can tap into the millennial client base, there is a giant opportunity.”

A different currency. Gem, a start-up working on technology related to the digital currency bitcoin, announced $7.1 million in funding last week from Pelion Venture Partners, KEC Ventures, Blockchain Capital, Digital Currency Group and RRE Ventures.

Gem initially focused on bitcoin storage technology. Now, the Venice company is helping companies store data on blockchains, the digital database technology that stores bitcoin ownership records. Banks, healthcare companies and more are intrigued because blockchains are difficult to maliciously alter.


A different chain. Source Intelligence announced $17.5 million in funding from Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors to advance its supply chain management software. The Carlsbad start-up’s subscription service lets companies track how vendors are holding up compared with various environmental and ethical standards, such as avoidance of conflict minerals.

New year, new start-ups. A slowdown in venture capital investment over the last year isn’t deterring every would-be entrepreneur. Several nascent services companies from outside the region are starting to expand into Los Angeles.

--New York City-based Hooch has been promoting its subscription cocktail service in Los Angeles. Hooch users pay $9.99 a month to get one free drink each day at any one of several bars. Los Angeles options include Golden Gopher, the Larchmont and State Social.

--Gobble, a small player in the growing meal-delivery industry, launched in Los Angeles on Monday. The Palo Alto company’s schtick is providing users with a kit of ingredients to prepare a meal in about 10 minutes, using just a pan. Competitors like Blue Apron and Plated generally provide more complex meals that take up to 30 minutes to prepare. Reviewers find them all tasty, but consumers have to bite a price that generally exceeds a comparable supermarket bill.

--This week, roommate search app Roomi plans to start helping people find places to live in Los Angeles. The app gets people to log in using their Facebook account and then queries them about preferences before hooking them up with apartment listings and a chat app. The New York City company has raised $2 million.

--Hotel-room sharing service the Winston Club, based in Seattle, plans to launch in Los Angeles soon. Club members get into fancy hotel rooms on the cheap because the service lets them pair with someone looking for similar accommodations.

Elsewhere on the Web. The California Sunday Magazine reports on Tinder and its controversial chief executive, Sean Rad. In the story, he says he receives sexy messages on Snapchat, talks to 10 Tinder users a day to empathize with them, and is living with his parents while his condo gets remodeled.

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