Ecosia backs $1m seed round in TreeCard, the new debit card that plants trees

TreeCard, a free eco-friendly debit card that will channel profits from merchant transaction fees directly to tree planting in areas of the world threatened by deforestation, today opens its waiting list for it’s brand new wooden debit card.

TreeCard, scheduled to launch early 2021, is completely free for users and will dedicate 80% of its profits from interchange fees directly to reforestation initiatives. The company estimates that for every US $60 / £45 spent* with their new wooden debit card, TreeCard will be able to plant and care for a tree to ensure it survives beyond three years in an area threatened by deforestation. The eco-focused FinTech company aims to compete with the likes of Chime and Revolut, eventually providing all the benefits of the neobank experience, while enabling people to take meaningful climate action every day.

TreeCard’s launch is being powered by Ecosia, the search engine that uses advertising revenues to plant trees. To date, Ecosia has planted over 110 million trees, and this tie-up with TreeCard is a logical extension of Ecosia’s fight against the climate crisis. TreeCard will dedicate 80% of its profits to Ecosia’s tree-planting initiatives across the world.

Christian Kroll, CEO of Ecosia commented: “I’m thrilled that Ecosia users will have another way to contribute to the fight against the climate emergency with TreeCard. The searches made by Ecosia users have already funded the planting of over 110 million trees and improved habitats for endangered animals all over the world, while also helping to sequester thousands of tonnes of carbon each week. TreeCard is a new debit card with purpose and it will help us to plant even more trees in areas of the world that are being destroyed by climate change. Not only is TreeCard offering a product that addresses the issues we all have with the incumbent, traditional banks, but also commits wholeheartedly to fighting the climate crisis as well. We will soon be able to help fight climate change simply by buying a round of drinks in the pub or by doing the weekly shop.”

Ecosia will provide financial, commercial and marketing support to TreeCard. In return, Ecosia will receive a minority stake in the business, although TreeCard is independent. Alongside the technical and commercial partnership, TreeCard will also make use of Ecosia’s global network of tree-planting NGOs. Funds raised by TreeCard will go directly into Ecosia established projects, supporting Ecosia’s partnerships with tree planters and fast-tracking planting which can take years to achieve in remote regions of the world. Ecosia currently has 38 projects across 25 countries.

TreeCard will be jointly based in London, Europe’s FinTech capital, and the home of TreeCard founders, and in Berlin, where Ecosia is based, in order to access passporting rights for the European Union marketplace. The TreeCard founding team includes CEO Jamie Cox, the 23-year old founder of Cashew, a FinTech startup admitted to YCombinator in 2017, and Peter Francis (COO) who recently raised over $250,000 for refugee camps across Lebanon and Iraq.

As an independent company, TreeCard’s founding team will in time seek additional VC funds in order to compete with Monzo ($493m raised to date) and Revolut ($836m raised to date). However, TreeCard has stated that they will not be accepting investment from a VC fund that invests in fossil-fuel activities, or one that has LPs that are significant polluters. Ecosia will not seek to profit directly from the investment, rather it sees its support of TreeCard as a strategic brand extension of its core activities as a search engine. The two companies hope the new offering will give Ecosia’s 15 million users a new way to raise funds to plant trees and fight the climate emergency.

TreeCard is aiming to sign-up 100,000 users of the wooden debit card in the first six months. If this goal were to be achieved and if each user were to deposit and spend half the amount that Monzo users do on average ($500) on their TreeCard each month, TreeCard would be able to plant over 6 million trees in its first year. TreeCard’s wooden debit card will be 100% free to use, with the only financial cost for users being the initial card shipping fee ($3). This charge will be waived for the first 100,000 users.

Jamie Cox, CEO of TreeCard, commented: “The current crop of challenger banks haven’t really changed anything, aside from mildly improved customer services and the digitisation of some elements of the personal finance process, the players are just as profit hungry and eager to become an overbearing monopoly as legacy banks. We’re incredibly grateful to Ecosia, not just for the initial financial backing which has allowed us to get TreeCard up-and-running, but for the strategic partnership which will allow us to have access to credible, established tree planting partners, and the technological advice and support as we launch. We’re looking forward to building TreeCard hand in hand with Ecosia. Working with Ecosia, we intend to make personal everyday banking an effortless but impactful way for our users to fight climate change.”

TreeCard will be partnering with FinTech platform Synapse, a backend technology provider for banking and financial services, including card processing through Mastercard.

Sankaet Pathak, CEO at Synapse, commented: “Synapse’s mission is to democratize access to financial services by reducing the barrier to entry for companies like TreeCard. Through our flexible, responsive and robust product offering the potential for speed and scale is ingrained in our core and we’re proud to work with TreeCard, issuing their wooden debit card, providing banking and financial services to support their inspiring vision.”

From launch, TreeCard’s mobile app will include a home page with an illustrated landscape that allows you to track your tree-planting impact in real time. It will also offer standard features offered by other challenger banks including projected budget per month, in-app spending reports (and breakdown by category – i.e. pubs/restaurants, transport, supermarkets), contactless payments, notifications each time a transaction is made, a bill splitting feature, in-app card management / card freezing, as well as bank-level security (256-bit AES encryption), and an in-app, personal insurance offering (up to $250k, FINRA regulated).

Cards will be launched early next year, with the first launch region determined by demand. Likely options include the United States, where there are fewer challengers in the banking space, the United Kingdom, which is a global hub for FinTech, as well as in Germany, where European banking passporting laws could enable an EU-wide rollout.

Author: Lauren Towner

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