The Goldman Sachs Alum Helping Young People Manage Their Finances
By Amanda Breen
“One of the hardest things about adulthood is that it is undefined — no one gives you the playbook when you start working, and you have to figure out a lot of things yourself,” says Genevieve Bellaire, founder and CEO of Realworld.
Bellaire graduated with an MBA and JD from Georgetown University and began her career at Goldman Sachs. Despite her academic and professional successes, Bellaire didn’t know where to turn for the answers to her most pressing questions about adulthood. That made the transition, and all of the new responsibilities that came with it, difficult. It’s an experience shared by many young people who aren’t equipped with the necessary resources and knowledge to adapt to life’s next phase.
“I made a bunch of mistakes around my healthcare, retirement savings and other finances when I started working,” Bellaire says. “I had never learned about those topics in school and didn’t know what ‘good’ looked like.”
In addition to causing a major headache for anyone trying to navigate adulthood, stumbling early on in the process can leave people feeling like they’re not in control of their financial and professional futures. That’s why Bellaire decided to take action: She founded Realworld, a free app that gives young people all of the tools they need to find their footing.
“That feeling of independence is what we’re working to provide”
The Realworld mobile app was released in 2021; through its comprehensive library of “playbooks,” it provides users with the information (and personalized task lists) they need to manage their finances, healthcare, living situations, insurance and other important life decisions.
Even though Bellaire laughs as she questions if anyone ever feels like a “fully functioning” adult, she’s determined for Realworld to make a real impact on young adults’ lives — showing them they can take the steps they need to succeed.
“That feeling of independence is what we’re working to provide for our members at Realworld,” Bellaire explains. “We want to help them get the foundational building blocks right so they can spend their time focused on other things — figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives.”
Earlier this month, Realworld closed a $3.2 million round of funding that will help power its expansion plans: doubling the size of the team, introducing new product features and scaling growth. Realworld’s round was led by Fitz Gate Ventures, with support from TTV Capital, Bezos Expeditions, Techstars, Knightsgate, The Helm and others, and its angel investors and operators include Rent the Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss and Yext co-founder Howard Lerman.
“This is a truly new product”
Realworld was initially a B2B product, but after learning more about the market, the company shifted gears, instead focusing on B2C. Unlike other apps in the fintech and health and wellness spaces that could follow the blueprints of those that had come before them, Realworld didn’t have that luxury: Bellaire had to figure out everything — from the app’s ideal positioning to its target user — for the first time.
“What I’ve found with building Realworld is there needs to be a Realworld for founders, because it is like every single step is new,” Bellaire laughs. “And when you’re starting something for the first time, it’s like a whole new discipline to understand how to build a company. It’s not just the logistics of getting bank accounts and all that kind of stuff, but building a team, culture, strategy, being iterative and changing paths based upon your data.
“But that’s also what makes it exciting, is that we get to define the category and define what the product is and how it works and can create a new space,” she adds.
“People are everything”
When it comes to Realworld’s funding rounds, including its most recent, Bellaire says that building relationships with different investors and operators has been vital, as one incredible connection so often leads to another one down the line. “People are everything,” Bellaire says. “It’s so important to surround yourself with smart, kind and driven people you can learn from, and to spend time building relationships with them.”
Bellaire made sure that anyone interested in participating in the most recent round was as invested in Realworld’s mission as the rest of the team is. “At the end of the day, capital is capital,” Bellaire says. “What we want to do is work with people who see the future the way that we see it, which is that it could be a lot better with Realworld in it, and who understand the tradeoffs [that come with] building a category-defining product that changes the way that people start out in adulthood.”
Bellaire had to drill down on what made the interested investors tick, in terms of how their past experiences were contributing to their excitement about the problems Realworld is trying to solve, and she also had to consider who could effectively help the team spread the word about the app and lend their expertise to its build-out.
“We want to make a frequent-use product”
Realworld wants to take the guesswork out of adulthood’s greatest challenges, not only because it strives to set young people up for success right out of the gate, but also because it understands that those fundamentals are only one small part of a much bigger picture. That’s why, ultimately, Bellaire hopes Realworld grows into a resource users can turn to well beyond the early years of adulthood.
“We want to make a frequent-use product that’s not just helping you get set up in your early twenties, but making sure that throughout your life, you are staying on top of things, not letting things slip through the cracks, being a place that’s done the homework for you so that you can get the basics for adulthood right,” Bellaire says. “Then go spend your time doing other, more important things, like figuring out who you want to be, what you want to do with your career and your life. Let us take care of the other stuff.”
The steep learning curves Realworld has already faced will no doubt be an asset as the company tackles its ambitious plans for the future. Bellaire stresses just how valuable the ability to pivot is for any entrepreneur hoping to find success in their chosen problem space.
“Meaningful companies are not built overnight,” she says. “They also change frequently. The solution to whatever the problem is that you’re solving changes frequently, so if you fall in love with a solution that you’ve built, you can end up in a not-great place because you are further and further away from the problem. You’re just building for yourself and what you think the market needs versus staying close to your customers and users and to the problem itself, and letting the solution evolve to be able to suit the market.”
Photo Source: Realworld