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Things For Our Homes We Tried And Loved In 2021

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Working remotely all year, the staff at BuzzFeed News had lots of time to test out different ways to make time at home a little more bearable. From hummingbird feeders to a pet fish, fancy sheets, or a small real alarm clock, these are all things we highly recommend.

These items were independently selected by staff and except where noted, 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.

Tervis insulated tumblers — $34.99 for a four-pack at Amazon

2021 was the year I accepted that I needed some kid-friendly plastic drinking glasses for adults. They keep cold drinks cold for an impressively long time — I’ll leave an iced coffee out and find it two hours later with ice cubes still intact. Best of all, the insulation means no condensation sweat to leave rings on wood tables. They’re not the chicest-looking drinkware, but they’re perfect for daily use. —Katie Notopoulos

Casio travel alarm clock — $13.95 at Amazon

I recently full-on slept through my phone alarm, which was…concerning. Though it did not totally fuck me over on that particular day, it was a wake-up call (lol) that my iPhone cannot be trusted as the sole thing to get me out of bed on time. I purchased a tiny, real alarm clock, and you should, too. It has performed its job of waking me up on time without incident, with the added benefit of not having the very first experience of the day be a blast in the face of the inevitable bad vibes of my phone. Plus, it’s cute! —Addy Baird

A daily NYT crossword puzzle calendar$14 at Amazon

I refuse to look at my phone’s Screen Time, but I’m sure that in 2020 I spent at least 80% of my waking hours looking at my phone or laptop. I knew it was hurting my eyes and brain, but I struggled during quarantine to find a hobby I enjoyed that took me completely offline. At the end of that year, I bought a crossword puzzle calendar to give myself a daily task (I’m bad at hobbies so hobbies must be tasks) for 2021 that could take anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours to complete. I set myself rules to make it feel even more like an accomplishment (again I am not saying this is the right way to do things): I never google clues, but I can phone a friend. I can’t rip off a day until I’ve finished it (except for the times when I got behind by a week…catching up on that is too much pressure so I just rip seven days off in a chunk like they never happened). The compact page-a-day calendar was easy to take on trips to the woods where my friends would offer to help with the puzzle and then immediately get frustrated that they didn’t know which seven-time Emmy winner a clue could possibly be referring to (Ed Asner). Patience is key with crosswords, and the joy of it isn’t fun for the whole family, but rather a peaceful, solitary task that doesn’t involve looking at my freaking phone. —Sarah Schweppe


John Paczkowski / BuzzFeed News

LoveSac — $1,062–$1317.50 (on sale) at LoveSac

A defining image of the pandemic for me is our 60-pound “puppy” cannonballing my unsuspecting daughter as she relaxed in the mountainous LoveSac that now sits, like a befurred and cuddly Jabba the Hutt in our family room. (LoveSac loaned BuzzFeed this item to review.) It’s difficult to describe just how comfortable and how much fun this thing is. Imagine sitting in a bathtub full of fur or a vast kangaroo pouch. Now, imagine doing it with another person. And now add a dog. The big caveat here is that you really need to have a good appreciation for the ridiculous to live with one of the larger LoveSacs as they are Raiders of the Lost Ark boulder–size, but wow, what a wonderful thing to watch movies from. —John Paczkowski

The Citizenry linen sheet set — $230 at The Citizenry

Years ago when the direct-to-consumer bedding marker first emerged I bought a set of Parachute linen sheets. I remember being thrilled with them at the time, but they lost their color within a year and ripped soon after. So earlier this year we bought some new linen sheets from The Citizenry. I don’t often use the word lovely, but these sheets demand it. They are lovely, deliciously comfortable, and have withstood repeated washings inspired by a strong desire to ALWAYS have them on our bed, which is where I’m writing this because why not? —John Paczkowski

Nugget play couch — $259 at Nugget

In fall 2020, I wrote about how hard-to-buy Nugget play couches had become like Supreme drops for moms. The foam couch had grown a cult following through Facebook parent groups as a fun, fort-buildable couch that kids could climb on while doubling as playroom furniture that came in an Instagram-worthy array of colors. The pandemic created a surge in demand and a slowdown in production, resulting in a “drop” system where restocks would sell out within minutes. After publishing my article, I decided to buy one myself.

My verdict: It’s absolutely worth the hype. My kid loves climbing and jumping on it, and the best endorsement I can offer any parent is that after an early evening session of Nugget play, he will conk right out at bedtime.

There are now plenty of competitors to the Nugget couch, but a lot of them are way more expensive. Though colors are still limited, it’s possible to actually order one now. —Katie Notopoulos


Agus Mahmuda / Getty Images

Betta fish tank and supplies — tank, $27.99; filters, $8.49; and water conditioner, $2.49 at Amazon; betta fish, ~$5 at your local store

I absolutely did not want a fish. My son had been begging for a fish for months (downgraded from a dog at least), and I relented last January in a moment of pandemic-induced guilt. He couldn’t have playdates with real children, but maybe he could have a fish companion. I dreaded cleaning the gross bowl, remembering to feed him, and having to explain his inevitable death to a small child.

Turns out I was wrong. I love Swimmy, the blue betta fish. After a short-lived period of my son feeding him a single pellet in the morning and evening, I’ve taken over his feeding duties, and I enjoy it. I talk to Swimmy, greeting him in the morning and evening. I find the light in his tank a helpful nightlight in the kitchen — the one light that stays on, and his tank is even kind of attractive.

Best of all, cleaning his tank is easier than I thought it would be. Instead of dumping all the water out weekly, you replace about a third of the tank every three to five days, while the fish stays in the tank (I just scoop it out with a measuring cup). —Katie Notopoulos


Dru Moorhouse / BuzzFeed News

Hummingbird feeder — $25 at Amazon

Hummingbirds are assholes. (OK, just some hummingbirds are assholes. But they’re all adorable!) This I learned after hanging my first-ever hummingbird feeder, daring to hope that it would attract the eponymous visitors. (After being cooped up in a gloomy one-bedroom apartment for a year and a half during the pandemic, we finally moved this summer to a sunny place with a yard.)

It didn’t take long — within hours, a colorful lil’ cutie was slurping up nectar (1 part sugar, 4 parts water, easy-peasy) and buzzing around the patio. News spread quickly and a number of their friends popped by — only to be chased away by the aforementioned asshole, who perched near the feeder and spent the whole day scaring off the competition (with a clicking noise we originally thought signaled an electrical problem). I decided I needed another feeder placed far enough away to satisfy other customers.

Two feeders became four, four became six. For prime window viewing, I bought a couple of tall shepherd’s hooks. Now we (and our cats) can see the hummingbirds (most of whom are not assholes) from nearly every room in the house. Often when I’m outside replacing a feeder (every four to five days), a hummingbird will buzz around my head like I’m Snow White. Because of these tiny, extraordinary creatures, I experience joy — however fleeting — every single day. Even in 2021!

I’ve got Amazon open in another tab, and I’m about to hit “buy now” on my seventh feeder. Can you blame me? —Dru Moorhouse


John Paczkowski / BuzzFeed News

Outward Hound Invincibles stuffingless squeaky dog toy — $14 at Amazon

By the time our new “puppy” was 7 months old, he weighed 80 pounds and had probably destroyed his own weight in dog toys. We very quickly lost count of the “indestructible” plushies that were disemboweled and drawn and quartered in the one-puppy Battle of Helm’s Deep that has been raging in our living room for months now. Only one toy has survived: an Outward Hound Invincibles snake. While he’s been desqueaked, brutalized, and used to tow me around in an office chair, Severus Snake, as we call him, endures. He may well be immortal. —John Paczkowski


Rinee Shah for BuzzFeed News

Just fill a sock with catnip, folks

This is Sir Jiggery Pokery, love of my life and the best decision I ever made. He is named after Antonin Scalia’s colorful dissent in King v. Burwell. (Scalia was a hilarious writer, as long as he was in dissent.) But Jiggers, bless him, has no love for cat toys. If it was made for cats, he is not interested in it, because, well, that’s how being a cat works.

But he is not impervious to the chemical weaknesses of his kind. At some point during the pandemic, I got a big tub of catnip, took an unmatched sock, shoveled about a cup of the catnip into it, and tied off the top. Jigs promptly took the sock and wrapped it around his head, flailing about in the most feline of highs.

Later that evening, he was running around the kitchen diving into empty Whole Foods bags, as one does, and he managed to get the handle of one stuck around his neck. Alarmed, he leapt into the air and ripped the bag in two. He then sprinted across the house, up the stairs, and under the bed, with half the paper bag flying behind him like a superhero cape.

Anyway: Get a cat; they are one of life’s great delights. Then get a big tub of catnip and get him real high. —Emily Baker-White


Matt Berman / BuzzFeed News

Husky workbench as standing desk — $299 at Home Depot

After 16 months of the pandemic, I figured it would be a good idea to get a desk for my apartment that would not also come with physical therapy for my body. I wanted an adjustable standing desk, but not something that cost $800+ or looked really stupid. I was lucky enough to have been tipped off to a secret: Workbenches sold by Home Depot intended for, I don’t know, workbench stuff, actually make for perfect and cheap standing desks. This one is great — it looks fine, it comes on wheels if I need to clear space, it has a cool hand crank that’s easy to use. And, best of all, it says “Husky” on it in big letters with a wolf head decal, which makes me feel very powerful while I stare at Tweetdeck. —Matt Berman

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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