GloriFi’s failure is proof that ethos does not supplant business prowess.
The “anti-woke” fintech startup backed by Peter Thiel was meant to give conservative customers who had tired of what they perceived to be Wall Street’s liberal drift an option to open accounts, get credit and debit cards, and eventually insurance and mortgages. But it was a bag of blunders from the start. Poor leadership and struggles to raise funds have cut its lifeline incredibly short—just two months after its September launch.
The startup, which promoted what it considered to be “pro-America” values such as capitalism, family, law enforcement and the freedom to “celebrate your love of God and country,” is winding down because it “has experienced a series of financial challenges related to startup mistakes, reputation attacks, the declining economy, and multiple negative media stories,” its website says. (This is exactly the language used by Cathy Landtroop, the company’s chief marketing and communications officer, in an email to employees seen by the Wall Street Journal, which first broke the news.)
After failing to secure funding to get through the first quarter of 2023, GloriFi has laid off most of its staff and started helping customers resolve their accounts.
July 25: GloriFi agrees to go public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) deal, which values the right-wing fintech firm at $1.7 billion
Sept. 20: GloriFi, the fintech app with banking services provided by Texas-based TransPecos Banks, debuts on the Apple App Store
Oct. 10: A Wall Street Journal article sheds light on GloriFi’s troubles, including launch delays over regulatory hiccups, mass layoffs, glitchy tech misses, and how the company burnt through investor money so quickly it ended up on the verge of bankruptcy. Details include founder-CEO Toby Neugebauer’s 16,000 square feet Dallas home doubling up as GloriFi’s office, with staffers exposed to his volatile behavior and excessive drinking; an impractical plan to make credit cards out of shell casings, which would interfere with security chips and potentially be too thick for payment terminals; and a potential homeowners policy that would award discounts to gun-owners
Oct. 17: Neugebauer steps down as CEO after the WSJ exposé
Nov. 21: GloriFi announces it’s winding down operations
Toby Neugebauer and his wife Melissa started working on GloriFi in late 2021 and ended up amassing 84 backers, including Mike Pence’s former chief of staff Nick Ayers and controversial conservative commentator Candace Owens.
In the first few months, Neugebauer put in $10,000 of his own, and drew tens of millions of dollars from big-name investors like hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin and Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal with Elon Musk.
Thiel, one of Facebook’s first investors and former partner at incubator Y combinator, is an unsurprising entry in this list given that he’s known to put his money towards causes furthering his conservative beliefs.
📱Apps: Thiel’s most popular conservative app investment is in the first alt-right social media platform to go public, Rumble.
A lesser known investment, Thiel pumped in $1.5 million into an invite-only right-wing dating app—named The Right Stuff—whose ads featured women seeking “alpha males” and calling being a democrat a “red flag.” Failing to attract women to its platform, a slow sign up process, and glitchy and sluggish tech, were among the more predictable issues for the app where conspiracy theorists reportedly aired their fluoride phobia. Some users claimed in the app reviews they were contacted by the FBI answering a profile prompt about the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill insurgence, but the app dismissed the reports as trolling.
While GloriFi, Glorify is thriving.
The Christian worship and meditation app was founded in the UK in 2020. In December 2020, it raised $40 million funding from Japan’s SoftBank, California-based VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, and reality TV star Kris Jenner. In the next round, the HeadSpace for Christians got singers Michael Bublé and Jason Derulo onboard as investors. According to Google Play Store, it’s been downloaded over 5 million times.