Startup St. Pete offers innovative financial academy • St Pete Catalyst
At Wednesday’s 1 Million Cups event, hosted by Thrive DTSP, a panel of local business leaders heard how the founder of St. Petersburg startup Tech & Flow hopes to inspire a culture of financial success for young professionals through an online academy and, ultimately, an innovative mobile app.
According to its website, Tech & Flow’s mission is to develop a unique digital experience to help technology, sports and creative professionals through an online academy and coaching services. Xavier Gray, former financial advisor and founder of the startup, began his presentation by asking who among the panel felt like they had learned the keys to financial literacy in their formative years. The question elicited a round of laughter.
Gray said that during his previous career as a banker and financial adviser, he had witnessed several companies that offered helpful products and services. However, many customers did not understand how to leverage these resources to their advantage.
“I was sitting in front of people, and there was such a disconnect between what I knew — the language, the perspective — and the other person,” he said.
Gray founded Tech & Flow in April 2021 to fill this knowledge gap. His target audience are young professionals between the ages of 18 and 40, whom he called the world’s future leaders and decision makers. He admitted that people can use Google or websites like Investopedia to glean financial knowledge, but he thinks the information is often difficult to understand and offers no incentives to learn.
Gray said his financial academy offers courses on topics ranging from basic budgeting and money management to more complex concepts like arbitrage, how to start a business or understanding tax codes. He added that Tech & Flow partners with industry leaders in various fields, such as cryptocurrency and estate planning, who can personally help users. Gray said he was also building an innovative mobile app.
“The function of this app is basically to be a financial advisor in your pocket,” he said.
After logging into the app, Gray said users would create a personal avatar and answer a series of questions to identify goals. If someone wants to pay off credit card debt, the app’s artificial intelligence could create a list of requirements for users to fulfill. As someone completes the goals, they earn points to redeem for free shares or crypto tokens.
One panelist noted that the gamification of goal achievement is a unique aspect that would set Tech & Flow apart from a myriad of other financial planning apps. Gray referred to the Coinbase cryptocurrency platform as an example for users to earn tokens to learn more about crypto and blockchain companies.
“It’s part of the journey, where we’re going,” he said.
Another panelist referenced academic research showing the imperative to teach financial literacy starting in middle school and how the state now requires high schools to offer courses on the subject. She asked Gray if he considered offering his services to a younger audience.
Gray said one of his company’s partners is focused on teaching children in kindergarten through sixth grade, but he has “no intentions” of lowering his age range. He said his target audience has finished elementary school, started earning an income, and is now looking to make sound financial decisions to better position themselves for the future.
“I think that’s the path we’ll stay on,” he said. “And I think our technology is desirable.”
Gray said he designed most of Tech & Flow’s curriculum, consisting of videos, worksheets and the aforementioned app. Clients can also schedule personal coaching sessions. Through another partner, Gray said there are also detailed programs centered around crypto, blockchain, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Gray announced a recent partnership with the University of Miami, in which the school uses the Tech & Flow platform to provide financial education to students. He said he was also working on a similar partnership with St. Petersburg College.
Tech & Flow currently has 23 users and $60,000 in revenue in just under its first year. It hopes to reach 10,000 users over the next five years and increase revenue through partnerships and offering additional services, such as insurance, wealth management and mortgages. The company currently charges $19.99 per month for a subscription to its academy.
“I think that will change a bit once the app is live,” he said. “Right now it’s purely the financial academy and the coaches. We’re about 60% into app development. I think what’s holding us back is capital.”
In addition to the capital needed to complete Tech & Flow’s application, Gray asked the panel of local business leaders to try out the academy for free and provide feedback. He also offered to attend speaking engagements and provide educational information.