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FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Co-Founder and CEO at Aura, Kelsey Willock

In college, Kelsey worked for a number of startups including an edtech, fintech, and e-commerce company. In her junior year, she got an offer to intern at Goldman Sachs and ended up staying at the firm for almost 6 years eventually becoming a Vice President. Throughout her time, she worked in Prime Brokerage alongside the firm’s top hedge fund clients and as an Ambassador for Launch with GS - the firm’s billion dollar commitment to investing in diverse entrepreneurs and investment managers. "After working with Launch with GS for 3 years, I felt compelled back to entrepreneurship to solve an issue I deeply cared about and personally experienced - financial insecurity. I applied and got into to On Deck, an entrepreneurial program designed to help founders go from 0 to 1, quit my corporate job, and never looked back," she says.


Kelsey Willock is currently the co-founder and CEO of Aura Finance. While building her venture at On Deck, she also started writing a weekly blog called “Not Your Partner’s Investment Advice” where she used humor and storytelling to educate an audience about personal finance and investing. Early in her journey, she met her now Co-Founder, Courtney Cardin, who was working at Duolingo for financial literacy. With a shared interest to create a more inclusive financial system, the two started working on a research project together where they quickly realized, that people were not underinvested simply due to lack of access or education - it was an emotional and behavioral problem which is where the idea for Aura began. "After almost a year of building product and growing community in a private beta environment, we are about to start letting people off our waitlist and onto the app," she shares.


Aura is a culture of working smarter, not harder. She says: "We care more about output than input which means, we trust each other enough to do the work we need so we can lead fulfilling lives inside and outside of work." This is deeply ingrained in Aura’s mission of helping individuals lead a life of abundance while growing passive wealth. "We also have a deep appreciation for flexibility and willingness to grow. While our mission will always remain constant, our methods of accomplishing it are evolving which requires a commitment to learning and being adaptable. "


"In 2008, robo-advisors emerged from the Great Recession leveraging technology to expand access to passive markets and bring wealth management to the masses. Fifteen years later, it is clear that the one-size-fits-all, set-and-forget approach does little for managing financial anxiety. More than 77% of Americans are experiencing financial anxiety and money is the leading cause of stress in the U.S. Financial insecurity also disproportionately impacts women, younger people, and people of color. " Kelsey is proud that Aura is redefining financial wellness and the parameters we measure it by through a personalized and research-backed approach, helping people understand and find comfort with their money relationship and helping them put their money to work.


More on Kelsey


Where you currently live: San Francisco

Living arrangement: I live with my fiancé in an apartment in the city

Hometown: Chicago

Favorite hobby: Skiing / creative writing

Favorite part of your day: I don’t really have a favorite part of my day because each day is constantly different. I’d say my favorite thing is that every day comes with its own adventure.

Favorite show to binge: Virgin River


Can you tell us about a time someone encouraged you to try a task or take on a project you didn’t think that you would know how to do/or be good at?


I’d say Courtney does this for me daily. Together, we manage the firm’s operations, finances, product, marketing, and so much more. At the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey, I used to think I needed validation for other “experts” on every decision I made or idea I had. Now, I am learning to trust myself more every day and a ton of that confidence comes from Courtney and I simply saying, “I trust you - you got this.” Sometimes, you don’t need an “expert” to validate you, you simply need the courage to believe in yourself.


Daily Diary


MONDAY:


6:30 am - I mute my first alarm.

6:45 am - I mute my alarm for a second time.

7:00 am - I wake up, shower, make coffee and start filming some DIML TikTok snippets.

8:00 am - I head to my co-working space in the Mission District and attempt not to scratch my car in the world’s smallest parking garage.

8:30 am - I start going through emails and my to-dos’ for the day

9:30 am - I walk to my local coffee shop and chat with my favorite barista (I don’t believe in latte shaming - what brings you joy should not induce unreasonable guilt.)

11:00 am - I join our daily standup with the product and engineering team.

12:00 am - I catch up with Courtney about outstanding tasks we owe engineering/product and work for the next hour or so working through deliverables

1:00-2:00pm - I film a tiktok video about the recent interest rate hikes and what they mean for investors.

2:00pm - I have a catch up with our advisor and Courtney about a research study we are conducting on financial wellness.

3:15 pm - I catch up with a friend at the co-working space to give my eyes a break from zoom.

3:30-5:30pm - I finish up my deliverables for the day and account for anything I didn’t get to, so I can finish tomorrow.

5:30-7:00pm - I drive home and meet up with a friend to walk to the park.

7:00pm - I start making dinner. My partner and I usually deliberate what to make - it’s often a choice among buddha bowls, lentil tacos or pizza.

8:00pm - I turn on Virgin River or Peaky Blinders and comb through some final emails I may have missed during the day.

10:00pm - I watch a few tiktoks in bed and head to sleep!


TUESDAY:

6:30 am - I mute my first alarm.

6:45 am - I mute my alarm for a second time.

7:00 am - I wake up, shower, make coffee and forget to film my daily DIML TikTok (I’m never really motivated to film when I WFH).

8:00 am - I start going through emails and my to-dos’s for the day. I’m not going into the office today, because I have an appointment.

9:30 am - I have a meeting with our marketing intern to talk through growth and content ideas. We’re feeling like content hasn’t been fun enough lately but debate if memes are overdone.

11:00 am - I join our daily standup with the product and engineering team.

12:00 am - I catch up with Courtney to go through a presentation we’re putting on next week. We’re presenting to 50 entrepreneurs and want the presentation to be perfect but the slides currently have too much text. We work to make it more cohesive and clear.

1:00-2:00pm - I get an email from our bookkeeper that our monthly dashboard is ready so comb through finances for the next hour to make sure we’re staying within our budget.

2:00pm - I go to my therapy appointment. Mental health is something I take super seriously so try to make space for it every month.

3:30-5:30pm - I drive home and finish up my deliverables for the day and account for anything I didn’t get to, so I can finish tomorrow.

5:30-6:00pm - I go to my patio and call my mom. I recently got engaged, so she’s asking me about who I want to invite to my bridal shower.

7:00pm - My partner gets home and we catch up about each other’s day. We decide we’re too lazy to cook anything elaborate tonight so bake some Amy’s pizza rolls.

8:00pm - I turn on Virgin River or Peaky Blinders and comb through some final emails. I realize I have an application due tomorrow to spend the next few hours finishing it.

11:30pm - I head to sleep!

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