Innovation

Avion Gray achieved the largest pre-seed funding by a female founder in Europe – Here’s how she did it

BY Preta Peace Namasaba July 5, 2024 4:16 PM EDT

On a mission to democratize wealth-building, former investment banker Avion Gray co-founded Belong in 2023 to educate, inform, and empower young investors. The platform launched earlier this year after securing €3.4 million ($3.7 million) in pre-seed funding. Gray now holds the distinction of raising the largest pre-seed round ever by a European female founder.

“We need two things to build long-term wealth – time and money, but we rarely have both of these elements concurrently. Millennials still have the time ahead of us to see any long-term investment we make now compound and pay off before retirement, but we often struggle to get started. Whether that’s due to being unable to secure a mortgage, lack of confidence around investing or feeling like we don’t have enough cash available to make it worthwhile – Belong is changing this,” Gray said about Belong’s aspirations.

As an entrepreneur, Gray was perplexed that millennials were not investing their savings. She consequently set out to create a deliberate cultural shift around how young people think about risk. Belong is reshaping the investment landscape by making traditionally exclusive wealth-building opportunities accessible to a broader demographic, particularly professionally-employed millennials.

Belong’s flagship product presents a pioneering approach to wealth-building. Its ‘Boost loan’ feature, offers customers the option to supercharge their long-term investment in equities. The tool allows users to increase their investment potential through low-interest loans that grow over time. The Boost loan is repayable in manageable monthly installments that enable investors to simultaneously broaden their portfolios and financial flexibility.

Gray decided to eliminate the outdated concept of not having enough time or money to invest due to the overarching financial disparities faced by millennials. The demographic, despite constituting a significant portion of the population owns a meager fraction of the stock market and are stuck in a cycle of financial insecurity. According to research by Belong, people aged 18 to 44 account for £300 billion of the £1.5 trillion total cash savings held by UK households. Belong is allowing young investors to start investing right away, widening their scope beyond the confinement of low-yield accounts and opening up transformative wealth-building opportunities.

The validity of the company’s approach is supported by the positive feedback from Beta users. It boasts a 100% retention rate with all users who have opted for a Boost loan making punctual repayments after 15 months. This promising early performance shows there is a high demand and potential for Beyond’s offering. It bodes well for the London-based platform’s future and global ambitions.

“It’s a global problem – we have a platform here that can easily go worldwide if we wanted to, anywhere that there’s an investing and lending ecosystem or credit ecosystem, this could work,” Gray said about the company’s growth potential.

Born in Trinidad & Tobago, Gray studied finance at Howard University and completed her MBA at Stanford. She pursued a career in investment banking and most recently held the role of Head of Product & Commercialisation at the industry-leading POS systems and merchant service provider, Clover. In this position, she oversaw the launch and expansion of the business in the US and across Europe.