Cheese, a US digital banking platform targeting Asian communities, has launched with a pledge to donate $100,000 to nonprofits and community service programmes in support of Asian neighbourhoods and businesses hit by violence and economic hardship during the pandemic.
Cheese has raised $3.6 million in seed funding from lead investors Ifly.vc and Amplify with additional participation from Adam Nash, former CEO of Wealthfront and Zillow co-founder Spencer Rascoff.
The startup is building a platform for the nearly 21 million Asian Americans in the United States. This group represents the fastest growing, most affluent and educated of any racial or ethnic group in the country, says Cheese.
Despite this, Asians often have been subject to discrimination and an unequal playing field in America, facing challenges in securing basic banking services due to a lack of credit history and language barriers.
Users will get a debit card, even if they have no credit history, that is issued by Coastal Community Bank. Accounts offer advance pay up to two days early with direct deposit, a 3% deposit bonus for referring friends, 0.3% annual percentage yield, and up to 10% cash back on purchases at over 10,000 merchants.
Cheese has pledged $100,000 to a fund to donate to nonprofits and community service programmes in support of Asian neighbourhoods and businesses hardest hit by violence and economic hardship during the pandemic. Initial efforts will focus on San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, with plans to expand to other cities.
Cheese CEO Ken Lian, an immigrant and international student in the US, says: "I had paid thousands in unnecessary bank fees and been declined multiple times for basic bank accounts, even with an 800+ FICO score.
"I have always envisioned launching a digital banking platform that someone like me could easily access but also serves a deeper purpose, with the power to positively impact Asian communities. Cheese is that banking platform.”