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Self-Care Things That We Tried And Loved In 2021

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2021 was stressful. No kidding. The staff here at BuzzFeed News have some recommendations for what they tried at home over the last year that they actually loved and helped make life a little easier. Things like a Theragun for sore muscles, fancy face wash, a cheap dupe for fancy sunscreen, and the best workout headband for short hair. Perhaps the strongest recommendation is that two separate people tried out and swear by acupressure mats for headaches and stress.

These items were independently selected by staff and they spent their own money on it. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of publication.

Acupressure mat — $19.47 from Amazon

I get really bad headaches periodically and generally bounce between over-the-counter medications, none of which seem to make a dent in the pain. Earlier this year I asked a neighbor with migraines if he’d had any medication successes recently, and he said, “You know what has helped? This.” I expected the link would go to some newfangled headache medicine or perhaps an herbal remedy, but instead it went to this truly odd product, a yoga mat crossed with a medieval torture device rendered in crisp white plastic spikes Somewhat inexplicably, it does in fact seem to help my headaches, and it also causes me to fall into a weird deep sleep within moments of lying down on it. (Warning: Set an alarm; I recently conked out for two hours on this thing, and my back was aflame when I finally woke up.) I have found it comforting to know that when the pain gets bad, I can just lie down on my bed of piercing plastic nails. —Sam Henig

Theragun Prime — $299 at Macy’s

You know what I got into over the pandemic? Running. Really original, I know. But between the stress of the lockdown and the stress of being a new father, I needed a consistent and mindless physical release.

You know what happens when you run regularly? Your whole lower body starts to hurt. I tend to be skeptical of shortcuts around pain. I don’t really think you can trick the body. And if you do, I think you tend to pay for it later. But a few months after I did my first loop around Prospect Park, wracked with calf and hip pain, I caved and ordered a Theragun. Yes, a Theragun. That loud and heavy percussive massager that looks like a sex toy for German ravers.

The thing works. You stick it where it hurts and then it hurts less. Doesn’t get much simpler. There are lots of things I don’t like about it. It costs too much, and when I lie on the couch blasting the tension out of my quads, my wife will sometimes cruise by and ask, “Pleasuring yourself again?” To which I say, 20 miles a week may strain my knee, but words will never hurt me. —Joe Bernstein

Contoured sleep mask — $18.99 at Amazon

Let me start by being really honest: I cannot function with less than eight hours of sleep. I know there are a lot of freaks out there who are proud to sleep like five hours a night or whatever, but I am not like you. Sleeping is my favorite — and incredibly vital!! — hobby, so you know you can trust me, and I’m here to tell you to get this contoured sleep mask made of memory foam. It has changed my sleeping life in a way no other product ever has. The second night I used it, I slept straight through my alarm and got a full 12 hours of deep sleep, which was terrifying for the purposes of my alarm’s quality, but fantastic for my mind and body. It’s pitch-black in there, but the contouring means you can open your eyes even in the mask, plus you can keep the blinds open and let the sunshine in to help you wake up once you take it off — but not a moment earlier. I also find the soft memory foam to be sort of like an extra pillow just for my eyes, and the act of putting it on when it’s time to sleep keeps me off my phone and tells my brain it’s time to shut shit down. I love her. —Addy Baird

La Prairie foam cleanser — $90 at Neiman Marcus

A few years back, a Very Nice person gifted me with some travel-size products from a Swiss company called La Prairie. I knew nothing about the brand. They seemed nice. A small tub of something called skin caviar, a refining lotion, and the one standout: a tiny tube of foaming face cleanser. It smelled great — a faint hint of peppermint, maybe? (It’s pink, so maybe my brain filled in that scent on its own.) It was unlike any cleanser I had used before. It rinsed away in seconds (no soapy feel) and left my face feeling weirdly super clean. I have dry skin, and it never felt like this particular product was drying it out more — rather, it was the opposite. Really, it wasn’t like any other facial cleansing product I’ve tried (and I’ve tried lots). I only needed a tiny bit, and it lasted forever. When I ran out of all these cute little products, I had a bit of a shock. This stuff is expensive! As in, some of the products are $200-an-ounce expensive. (Ahem, $180 sunscreen, anyone?) Anyway, I was like, Welp that’s nice, now where’s my favorite Neutrogena cleansing gel? (It’s also a great product.) However, this year I found the La Prairie foam cleanser for $90. I know, that’s a LOT for a face wash. But it’s a 4-oz. tube (which, BTW, is huge by beauty product standards), and it’s lasted for months — it may even last a year. I don’t generally spend that much on beauty products, but this is the rare item that seemed like it would be OK for a fancyish gift or an occasional splurge. [Editor’s note: We found this for cheaper on Amazon, but the reviews for the seller said that it may be expired or counterfeit, which is not uncommon for high-end skincare products on Amazon or other reseller sites.] —Theresa Tamkins

Acure Curiously Clarifying Shampoo — $5.99 at Amazon

I have combination hair and exercise a lot, so finding the perfect shampoo has been a lifelong journey. Acure is affordable, smells great, has a vegan formula, never dries out my scalp, and has kept my hair feeling shiny from my roots to my tips! —Nicole Fallert

Revlon One-Step Dryer Brush — $34.88 on Amazon

It takes less than 10 minutes for me to dry my long, thick hair with this dryer brush. It doesn’t dry out my hair or scalp — and is loved by many of my friends with different hair types from curly to straight. —Nicole Fallert

Larq self-cleaning water bottle — $95 at Larq

I don’t know about you but I am really bad about washing my water bottle. Frankly, it just doesn’t cross my mind often enough, and then I realize it’s gross and I’m embarrassed and avoid dealing with it. This is probably something I should address in therapy, but until then, there’s the Larq self-cleaning water bottle. Yes, $95 is a ridiculously high price for a water bottle — but if there were a water bottle worth such a price tag, it would be this one. Not only does this thing clean itself with a UV light inside the lid, but it is also able to filter water (with two different settings based on how much filtering the water might need). And thanks to some sort of god-tier insulation, it keeps my water cold as hell. My previous main water bottle was a giant 42-oz. Hydroflask, which was literally giving me shoulder problems from carrying it around. The Larq bottle is 17 oz., which means I’m filling it up often but also that it fits perfectly in my bag. —Addy Baird

Intake Breathing nose magnets — $67 from Intake Breathing

I have a garbage septum that has robbed me of clear and easy breathing for decades. It interferes with my sleep, makes exercising annoying, and on occasion humiliates me in meetings or public gatherings when I suddenly realize I have unconsciously begun pulling on my cheek to stretch open a nostril. It sucks. And, yes, I should have it fixed surgically. But instead of doing that, I have relied on a bucket full of pharmacy-shelf flop-nostril countermeasures. Breathe Right’s little nose strips, nostril dilators, I’ve tried them all. They have all helped to some extent, but none have given me the throw-the-windows-wide nostril opening relief of Intake Breathing’s nose magnets. These things improve on the concept of nasal strips by turning them into an inflexible and *magnetized* nose bridge that then attaches to little metal-filled bandage-y things you stick on your nostrils. Ridiculous, you say? Ridiculously ingenious. Because they are not flimsy, and they rely on the POWER of magnetism instead of the power of adhesive athletic tape, Intake opens up your airways and keeps them that way without falling off your face. Yes, I look like I have a Transformer on my nose when I’m wearing it. But I can breathe without feeling like I’m suffocating, and that’s all that matters. —John Paczkowski

Shakti Mat — $69 at Shakti

The Shakti Mat is a modern-day bed of nails. It is a deeply weird synergy of BDSM and meditation — but once you get over the initial pain, it is incredibly relaxing. I have no idea how or why it works. But it was definitely more fun than the pandemic. —Tom Warren

Innisfree SPF 36 daily sunscreen — $15 at Amazon

I’m old enough to have observed the frightening reality of sun damage and have been scared straight into assiduous sunscreen application. I previously tried and liked Supergoop’s “Play” everyday SPF 50 sunscreen, but at $22 it’s kind of pricey. So I looked for some cheaper options, and the closest dupe for Supergood was from K-beauty brand Innisfree for $15. It has the same texture that is moisturizing and light, “dewy” without being sticky. I have dry skin, and I don’t love the matte finish that La Roche-Posay, Neutrogena, and Sun Bum’s face options have. —Katie Notopoulos

Harry’s deodorant — $5 at Harry’s

Do you sweat more than you’d like? Profusely, perhaps? Are you tired of spending $12-plus on “clinical-strength” over-the-counter antiperspirants that smell like your grandmother? Then check out Harry’s sweat control solutions. The company, which started out as a subscription shaving outfit, now makes a line of delightful deodorants. The scents are interesting and not at all cloying (goodbye “baby powder,” hello “stone” and “redwood”), the “enhanced sweat control” version works just as well as anything you’d buy from BIG DEODORANT, and it only costs $5. —John Paczkowski


Eric Morrow / BuzzFeed News

Temple Tape sweatband – $8.95 and Temple Tape

Like so many other people over the last year and change, my hair grew out a lot. Like, *a lot.* But when it came time to reenter society and get a haircut, I wanted to keep some of the volume I had picked up over lockdown. My new barber made it happen (Masako, you’re seriously the best) but three weeks after any cut, it’d run into a problem. My longer hair would start getting in the way at the gym or on a run. Some buffs I had on hand before the pandemic worked fine when I was home, but I didn’t want to be wearing some handout covered in corporate logos all the time. Enter Temple Tape headbands, which I found while looking for a headband brand I could order outside of Amazon. They’re durable, keep my hair up and sweat out of my eyes, and come in a bunch of simple colors. They’re even based in Brooklyn so I get to say I’m supporting a local business.

I feel like headbands are having a moment. They’re ubiquitous on college and pro football sidelines and even Drake sported one while boxing. The appeal is easy to understand. They’re functional, but they’re also so fun to wear that I have a headband on during all my workouts now, even if I got my hair cut the day before. —Eric Morrow

Opening illustration by Raymond Biesinger for BuzzFeed News

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Rivian shares down more than 17% following report of Ford sell-off – TechCrunch

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Rivian’s stock price fell more than 17% Monday, a drop prompted by a CNBC report that Ford was selling 8 million shares of the EV automaker.

Ford held a 12% stake, or about 102 million shares, of Rivian.

Over the weekend, David Faber of CNBC reported that Ford would sell 8 million of its Rivian shares through Goldman Sachs. Faber followed up on Monday, describing the sale as “done.” The sell-off came as an insider lockup for the stock expired Sunday.

TechCrunch will update the article if Ford responds to a request for comment.

The news has further accelerated the decline of Rivian’s share price since its IPO last year. Rivian debuted as a publicly traded company in November with an opening share price of $106.75, a price that made it one of the largest IPOs in U.S. history and put its market cap above GM as well as Ford. (At the time, GM’s market cap was $86.31 billion; Ford’s was $78.2 billion.)

Rivian’s share price reached as high as $179.47 a week later, before coming back down to earth. Rivian shares have fallen more than 75% since its public market opener.

That freefall has also affected its largest shareholders, Ford and Amazon. Last month, Ford reported it lost $3.1 billion in GAAP terms in Q1, largely due to a write-off of the value of its stake in Rivian. 

Amazon reported a $7.6 billion loss on its investment in Rivian.

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Why Twitter’s top lawyer has come under fire from Elon Musk

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Vijaya Gadde came reluctantly to the decision that cemented her reputation on the right as Twitter’s “chief censor.” For years, the company’s top lawyer had resisted calls to boot then-President Donald Trump from his favorite social media platform.

Even after a violent pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, Gadde explained during an emotional virtual company town hall on Jan. 8 that Trump hadn’t broken enough of Twitter’s rules against glorification of violence to merit a permanent ban of his account.

Three hours later, after her team produced evidence that Trump’s latest tweets had sparked calls to violence on other sites, Gadde relented, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. She reached then-CEO Jack Dorsey in French Polynesia, and they agreed to lower the boom.

Elon Musk wants ‘free speech’ on Twitter. But for whom?

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account,” the company announced in a blog post, “… we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”

The ban on Trump, which continues to this day, is the most prominent example of the deeply polarizing decisions that have led conservatives to accuse Twitter of political censorship. As billionaire Elon Musk, a self-declared free-speech absolutist, seeks to acquire the social network, these decisions — and Gadde herself — are coming under fresh scrutiny.

Critics have derided her as Twitter’s “top censorship advocate,” a barb amplified by Musk, who tweeted a meme with a photo of Gadde that cast her as an icon of “Twitter’s left wing bias.” Musk’s legions of followers have tweeted calls for her firing, some of them racist. (Gadde, 47, is Indian American.)

Twitter colleagues describe Gadde’s work as difficult but necessary and unmotivated by political ideology. Defenders say her team, known as the trust and safety organization, has worked painstakingly to rein in coronavirus misinformation, bullying and other harmful speech on the site, moves that necessarily limit some forms of expression. They have also disproportionately affected right-leaning accounts.

But Gadde also has tried to balance the desire to protect users with the values of a company built on the principle of radical free speech, they say. She pioneered strategies for flagging harmful content without removing it, adopting warning labels and “interstitials,” which cover up tweets that break Twitter’s rules and give people control over what content they see — strategies copied by Twitter’s much larger rival, Facebook.

Many researchers and experts in online harassment say Gadde’s policies have made Twitter safer for its roughly 229 million daily users and say they fear Musk will dismantle them if the sale goes through.

“If Musk takes things in the direction he has been signaling — which is a rather simplistic view that more or less anything goes in the name of free speech — we will certainly see the platform go back to square one,” said Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University.

Twitter workers face a reality they’ve long feared: Elon Musk as owner

Whatever happens to her policies, Gadde signaled at a staff meeting late last month that her days at Twitter may be numbered, telling employees that she would work to protect their jobs as long as she is around, according to a person who attended the meeting.

She did not respond to requests for comment. Twitter declined to comment. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

This story is based on interviews with 10 current and former Twitter employees, as well as others familiar with decisions made by Gadde and her team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private company discussions.

“I do believe very strongly — and our rules are based on this framework — that free expression is a fundamental right, that everyone has a voice and they should be able to use it,” said Gadde in a 2019 interview with The Washington Post. There is a line between doing that and committing what we call abuse or harassment, and crossing over into a place where you’re preventing someone else from using their voice.”

Gadde is a previous donor to Kamala Harris and other Democrats, and in 2017 she helped lead Twitter’s $1.59 million donation to the ACLU to fight Trump’s executive order banning immigration from majority Muslim countries.

Among employees, Gadde is known for taking a legalistic yet pragmatic approach to content moderation. As with Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection, she often has argued against limiting speech and has rejected colleagues who wanted to take a stronger approach to removing content, moving to do so only after careful consideration.

For years, she has been the animating force pushing Twitter to champion free expression abroad. In India and Turkey, for example, her team has resisted demands to remove content critical of repressive governments. In 2014, Gadde made Twitter the only Silicon Valley company to sue the U.S. government over gag orders on what tech companies could say publicly about federal requests for user data related to national security. (Five other companies settled.)

Elon Musk boosts criticism of Twitter executives, prompting online attacks

“She wasn’t a censorship warrior or a free expression warrior,” said a former colleague familiar with Gadde’s approach. “She is pragmatic, but not doctrinaire.”

A dedication to free speech has been part of Twitter’s DNA since its founding in San Francisco 16 years ago. Early executives were such believers that they famously referred to Twitter as “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” That approach made Twitter ripe for abuse in its early days, and the platform developed a reputation as unsafe — particularly for high-profile women, who endured threats of rape and other sexist attacks.

Back then, Twitter’s attitude was, “we don’t touch speech,” said University of Virginia law professor Danielle Citron, an expert on online harassment. In 2009, Citron prepared a three-page, single-spaced memo for the Twitter C-suite, explaining the legal definition of criminal harassment, true threats and stalking.

Gadde joined Twitter’s legal team two years later, leaving her post at the Silicon Valley firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati. People who worked with her said her move was inspired by the Arab Spring uprising, when pro-democracy activists used Twitter and other social platforms to organize protests across the Middle East. The Arab Spring solidified the belief among Twitter’s leaders that their job was to protect speech, not police it.

Twitter was soon engulfed in scandal, however. In 2014, online trolls launched a brutal campaign against women in the video game industry. The attacks — which came to be known as “GamerGate” — were carried out on multiple tech platforms. But they were most visible on Twitter, where women received highly graphic threats of violence, some including the woman’s address or an exact time of attack.

The incident was a wake-up call for the company, said software engineer Brianna Wu, one of the women targeted in GamerGate, who worked with Twitter to improve the site.

In an op-ed published in The Post, Gadde wrote that she was “seriously troubled by the plight of some of our users who are completely overwhelmed by those who are trying to silence healthy discourse in the name of free expression.”

Elon Musk wants a free speech utopia. Technologists clap back.

By then, Gadde had been promoted to general counsel, overseeing all legal and trust and safety matters facing the company.

In response to GamerGate, Twitter streamlined the company’s complicated nine-step process for reporting abuse and tripled the number of people on its trust and safety team, as well as other teams that protect users, according to the op-ed and other reports at the time.

But the moves to clamp down on harassment soon stirred fresh controversy. Internal emails obtained by BuzzFeed in 2017 showed Gadde and other executives engaged in messy, seemingly ad hoc deliberations over whether to shut down the accounts of alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and right-wing flamethrower Chuck C. Johnson, who had tweeted that he was raising money in the hopes of “taking out” a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Johnson, who says his comment was part of a “journalistic project,” has complained that Twitter never offered a clear reason for the ban. He sued the company over it and lost. He has since abandoned his alliance with Trump and declared his support for President Biden, he said, leading to attacks online. Because his Twitter account is still suspended, Johnson argues he is unable to defend himself.

About the same time, Twitter was confronted with another conundrum: the candidacy of Trump, who made Twitter central to his 2016 presidential campaign. With nearly 90 million followers at his peak, Trump routinely lobbed tweets at political opponents, journalists and even private citizens, triggering waves of online harassment.

After Trump’s election, Gadde and Dorsey convened a “free speech roundtable” at the company’s San Francisco headquarters, where top Twitter executives heard from Citron, former New York Times editor Bill Keller and Tom Goldstein, former dean of the graduate journalism school at University of California at Berkeley. During the meeting, which has not been previously reported, Citron expressed concerns about online harassment, especially directed at journalists.

Gadde “understood how speech could silence speech,” Citron recalled, “and could be incredibly damaging to people’s lives.”

Goldstein declined to comment on the meeting. Keller said the group discussed how new standards could bring order to the “wild west” of social media.

Elon Musk acquires Twitter for roughly $44 billion

Internally, some employees faulted Gadde for ineffectiveness, as rules were unevenly applied across the massive platform. Three former workers said her trust and safety unit did not coordinate well with other teams that also policed the site.

Even as the company took action to limit hate speech and harassment, Gadde resisted calls to police mere misinformation and falsehoods — including by the new president.

“As much as we and many of the individuals might have deeply held beliefs about what is true and what is factual and what’s appropriate, we felt that we should not as a company be in the position of verifying truth,” Gadde said on a 2018 Slate podcast, responding to a question about right-wing media host Alex Jones, who had promoted the falsehood on his show, Infowars, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged.

A year later, nearly every other major platform banned Jones. Twitter initially declined to do so, saying Jones hadn’t broken any of its rules. Within a month, however, Gadde reversed course, banishing Jones for “abusive behavior.” In a 2019 appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Gadde explained that Jones had earned “three strikes” by posting videos that did violate Twitter’s rules, including one she deemed an incitement to violence against the news media.

Jones did not respond to a request for comment. At the time, he called Infowars “a rallying cry for free speech in America,” adding that he was “very honored to be under attack.”

Gadde and her team later escalated the company’s efforts to fight disinformation — along with spam and fake accounts — after news broke that Twitter, Facebook and other platforms had been exploited by Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign. The company began removing a million accounts a day in a broad effort to crack down on abuse.

In a move described as signature Gadde, Twitter also launched an initiative called “Healthy Conversations” that sought feedback from hundreds of experts about how to foster more civil dialogue. That effort led to updated hate speech policies that banned “dehumanizing speech” — such as racial slurs and negative stereotypes based on religion, caste or sexual orientation — because it could have the effect of “normalizing serious violence,” according to a company blog post.

In subsequent years, Dorsey became increasingly absent and would effectively outsource a growing number of decisions to Gadde, including those around content moderation, three of the people said.

Gadde also was key to a 2019 decision to ban political advertising on the platform, according to four people familiar with the decision, arguing that politicians should reach broad audiences on the merits of their statements rather than by paying for them. Other companies copied the move, enacting temporary pauses during the 2020 election.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, at the company’s monthly town halls, Twitter employees regularly called on Gadde to ban Trump, accusing him of bullying and promoting misinformation. Gadde argued that the public had a right to hear what public figures such as Trump have to say — especially when they say horrible things, the people said.

How Twitter decided to ban Trump

Meanwhile, Gadde and her team were quietly working with engineers to develop a warning label to cover up tweets — even from world leaders such as Trump — if they broke the company’s rules. Users would see the tweet only if they chose to click on it. They saw it as a middle ground between banning accounts and removing content and leaving it up.

In May 2020, as Trump’s reelection campaign got underway, Twitter decided to slap a fact-checking label on a Trump tweet that falsely claimed that mail-in ballots are fraudulent — the first action by a technology company to punish Trump for spreading misinformation. Days later, the company acted again, covering up a Trump tweet about protests over the death of George Floyd that warned “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” More such actions followed.

Later that year, Gadde was involved in a decision that drew widespread criticism. In October 2020, the New York Post published an exclusive story based on material found on a laptop allegedly belonging to Biden’s son Hunter. Gadde and other trust and safety executives suspected the story was based on material obtained through hacking and therefore violated the company’s rules against publishing such material.

Anxious to avoid a repeat of Russia leaking hacked material during the 2016 election,Twitter executives took the unusual step of temporarily locking the newspaper’s Twitter account and blocking Twitter users from sharing a link to the story.

Even within liberal Twitter, the decision was controversial, two of the people said. It was not entirely clear the materials had been hacked, nor that the New York Post had participated in any hacking. A Post investigation later confirmed that thousands of emails taken from the laptop were authentic.

Amid mounting outrage among conservatives, Gadde conferred with Dorsey and announced an 11th-hour change to the hacked-materials policy: The company would remove only content posted by the hackers themselves or others acting in concert with them. It also would label more questionable tweets.

Dorsey later tweeted that the decision to block mention of the New York Post story was a mistake. Recently, Musk tweeted that “suspending the Twitter account of a major news organization for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate.”

Here’s how The Post analyzed Hunter Biden’s laptop

Now employees are worried that Musk will undo much of the trust and safety team’s work. Many people silenced by policies adopted under Gadde are clamoring for Musk to avenge them. Johnson, for example, said he has appealed via text to Jared Birchall, head of Musk’s family office, asking when his account might be restored.

Birchall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Though Johnson does not plan to tweet, he said, he wants his account back on principle. According to text messages first reported by the Wall Street Journal and subsequently viewed by The Post, Birchall replied: “Hopefully soon.”

Birchall also shed light on one of the biggest questions looming over the Musk takeover: Will Musk undo Gadde’s decision to ban Trump? At a recent TED conference, Musk said he supports temporary bans over permanent ones.

Musk “vehemently disagrees with censoring,” Birchall texted to Johnson. “Especially for a sitting president. Insane.”

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Gradient Ventures backs Mentum’s goal to democratize investment services in LatAm – TechCrunch

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Investment in stocks or retirement accounts can seem like a complicated process if you are not sure where to begin.

Mentum is out to change that in Latin America, and is working on customizable investment APIs and widgets so businesses in Latin America can build and offer fully digital investment products, like local mutual funds, ETFs and stocks, to their customers. The products are also compliant with local regulations.

Co-founder and CEO Gustavo Trigos started the San Francisco-based company in 2021 with Simon Avila and Daniel Osvath. The trio, who participated in Y Combinator’s summer 2021 cohort, come from a mixture of backgrounds in payments, technology, APIs and investment services.

All of them came to the U.S. from Latin America to study and work, and in the course of using some of the investment apps offered in the U.S., they struggled to find similar products in Latin America that provided a way to fully invest. And, in Latin America, just 2% of the population in each country have access to investment products, and that’s mainly because they are high-net-worth individuals, Trigos said.

He noted in talking to folks at Chile-based Fintual, which is operating in the retail investing space, why there was not more competition, and what they discussed was a huge gap in the infrastructure and understanding the regulations in each country.

“You have to start from scratch in each country,” Trigos told TechCrunch. “We saw no one was building it, so we did.”

Mentum is not alone in working to provide an easier way for Latin Americans to learn about investing and try it out. In the past year or so, some significant venture capital dollars have been infused into companies, like Vest, Flink and Grupo Bursátil Mexicano, that have also developed investment products as a way to boost financial inclusion within the region.

Trigos considers Mentum a technology company operating in the fintech space versus a fintech company. It started in Colombia and acts as a middle layer, developing technology that companies can build on top of.

One of the early approaches the company took was to reach out to 10 of the top broker-dealers in each country to understand the regulations and build relationships to get the greenlight to do business. While Trigos called that process “burdensome,” once Mentum did that, it was able to more easily repeat the process in Chile and now is eyeing Peru and Argentina for expansion.

Initially, Mentum targeted fintech companies because they already knew how to work with APIs, but then demand started coming in from traditional banks and even supermarkets, insurance companies, credit unions and super apps that deliver food.

Mentum’s widgets. Image Credits: Mentum

Having so many different kinds of companies eager to offer investment products is a big reason why the company wanted to make its products easier to use, Trigos said.

“We analyzed hundreds of apps to see what the general experience should look like, then we created widgets that do require some code, but we also have a desktop simulator in beta that will require no code to set up the experience,” he added.

Mentum’s products are still in beta, but plans to launch them this year were accelerated by $4.2 million in funding, led by Google’s Gradient Ventures, with participation from Global Founders Capital, Soma Capital Y Combinator and co-founders of Plaid and Jeeves.

Trigos intends to use the new capital to increase its headcount from the seven employees it has now, including setting up its founding team. One of his goals for the year is to grow in Colombia and Chile by integrating five clients in each country. The company will work on product development and features that will enhance the experience, like more payments and adding DeFi and crypto.

Mentum already has two strategic partnerships with broker-dealers and is currently in the integration process with two of its fellow YC-backed fintech companies in Colombia and another 25 companies interested in launching its products.

“The financial services industry is undergoing a massive transformation in Latin America. APIs have created new opportunities for the way we bank,” said Wen-Wen Lam, partner at Gradient Ventures, in a written statement. “With its innovative technology, Mentum has opened up a wide range of possibilities for Latin America fintech apps. We’re excited to back Gus and his team as they usher in the next generation of banking.”

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