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PEOPLE: LA Fintech Startup Hires Former Acorns’ Director of Growth as COO. U-Nest Hires Mike Van Kempen…

A fintech startup that created a mobile app with the goal of making it easier for families to save for college announced some new hires.

U-Nest launched its app in 2018. The hires are being funded by approximately $2 million in seed funding. That round closed last month.

U-Nest, founded by Ksenia Yudina, has HQ in North Hollywood.

Former Acorns’ director of growth, Mike Van Kempen, joins as COO. He will be responsible for growing the company’s user base and operations.

At Acorns, with HQ in Irvine, Van Kempen expanded that fintech company’s paid acquisition strategy, adding over 4.5 million investment accounts during his tenure. Acorns specializes in micro-investing.

Steve Buchanan also joins U-Nest as its first CTO, and will be responsible for product architecture and technology platform.

He previously was a solutions architect at Union Bank, and formerly chief architect and director of engineering at Calypso, a Silicon Valley startup.

In addition, Frank Mastrangelo joins U-Nest’s board, bringing 20 years of experience as an exec who served at the highest levels in banking and tech.

As president and COO of Bancorp from its inception in 1999, Mastrangelo helped the organization become an industry bellwether for branch-less financial services and a global leader in payments.

“Student debt is staggering, and as more families seek answers, our strengthened leadership team will help U-Nest reach them,” Ksenia Yudina, CEO of U-Nest, said in a November 19 press release. “During our next phase of growth, this additional expertise will give us the infrastructure and know-how to expand, and help more families meet the financial challenges of education.”

The U-Nest app is designed for the 529 college savings plan, a specialized savings account parents use to save money for their child’s tuition. The money in a 529 plan may be used to pay for the college expenses and K-12 tuition of the beneficiary, tax-free.

U-Nest claims that rather than spending hours researching and completing application forms, parents can quickly start using a college savings plan through its app.

While student debt in the U.S. has reached a historic level of $1.6 trillion, 70% of people in the US don’t know about 529 plans, and only 14% are currently using them, due to the complexities associated with the account setup and management, according to U-Nest.

U-Nest provides a paperless approach that the company says takes “only five minutes” to set up.

U-Nest is a fully accredited and registered financial advisor with SEC and FINRA.

The U-Nest team has decades of experience as certified financial advisors, technologists, and entrepreneurs.

The app helps parents build a tax-advantaged and affordable savings plan that aligns with the age of their child.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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