UNest hires Jon Walker as chairman as it dives into crypto

Since its inception in 2018, UNest has been focused on helping parents save money for their children. Offering clients flexible accounts to pay tuition, wedding fees or a down payment on a house, the North Hollywood-based fintech startup may seem like more of a low-risk institution.

Yet, in the next few weeks, UNest is diving headfirst into the world of cryptocurrencies.

On Thursday, the company announced it had hired Jon Walker as president to help lead the app’s expansion as it seeks to hire more people, expand its product offering and raise more revenue. funds. In the newly created position, Walker will work alongside UNest founder and CEO Ksenia Yudina.

In an interview with dot.LA, Walker said his first job was leading the launch of UNest Legacy — his next product allowing users to invest in crypto and individual stocks — as well as expanding the presence of the company. business in Utah, where he resides.

“Our goal is to help families build lasting financial legacies,” Walker said. “Crypto investors tend to be younger and more diverse than retail equity investors, and we believe this is becoming more common.”

Prior to joining UNest, which counts former NBA player Baron Davis and actress Laura Dern among its investors, Walker served on the management team of KPMG Spark, the accounting and tax preparation arm of the accounting giant for small and medium-sized businesses. He joined the firm after KPMG’s 2018 acquisition of Salt Lake City-based online accounting startup Bookly, where he was a board member and part of the founding team.

He has also been involved in exits at Utah-based startups EcoScraps and GroSocial, and held positions at venture capital firms Signal Peak Ventures and Kickstart Seed Fund, all based in the “Silicon Slopes” area of ​​Utah. south of Salt Lake City, which earned that moniker thanks to its booming tech startup scene.

Walker hopes to poach into the region’s tech talent base as part of a hiring spree for UNest this year. The startup plans to double the size of its workforce to 70 employees by the end of 2022, including new engineering, marketing and operations staff.

“Utah has become quite a vibrant ecosystem when it comes to startups and the VC community,” Walker said, adding that there are no plans to move UNest’s headquarters there.

UNest aims to grow from 400,000 users currently to 1 million by the end of the year. The company has just emerged from a $26M Series B Funding Round last fall, led by Houston-based The Artemis Fund, which increased its total capital raised to $40 million.

Walker said he was tasked with executing an even larger Series C raise by the end of 2022 and laying the groundwork for a possible IPO in the years to come. “It’s definitely on our roadmap,” he said of a public offering.

Walker said UNest also plans to partner with one of its investors, asset management giant Franklin Templeton, to introduce a product focused on ESG (environmental, social and governance) equities.

UNest isn’t the only family savings start-up on the fintech scene; its competitors include Chicago-based EarlyBird and San Francisco-based Backer. Having acquired two similar apps — San Francisco-based Littlefund and New York-based Kidfund — in recent years, Walker hasn’t ruled out further acquisitions for UNest.

“Right now we’re really focused on the hyper-growth mode,” he said. “If the right opportunity arises and it makes sense for both parties, I believe it is our fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to consider the opportunities that arise.”

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