May 23, 2024
Benjamin Capital Partners raises $5.5M to reward cash for gamers and more



Benjamin Capital Partners has raised $5.5 million to invest in its cash rewards business built around the Benjamin app.

The seed round for the New York and Oulu, Finland-based company will fuel the next stage of growth in its mission to disrupt the fast-growing consumer cash rewards market. And believe it or not, this has a gaming angle to it.

The funding came from Play Ventures and F4 Fund, which are both prominent gaming funds. Other prominent investors in the round include inventor, investor, and serial entrepreneur Anton Gauffin (founder of social gaming company Huuuge); tech CEO and 20-year payment veteran Shane Happach; and Ilkka Teppo, founder of Reworks.

The funds will help the company grow its Benjamin cash rewards app, which has generated robust consumer demand and revenue growth since its launch in October 2023.

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Erno Tauriainen, founder of Benjamin Capital Partners.

Since coming out of beta in October, the Benjamin app already has over 250,000 installs and 155,000 monthly active users (MAUs). Many users are already earning over $100 per month; some are over $1,000 per month in earnings. Moreover, more than 50% of installs are staying as MAUs. Revenue growth has also been very strong, growing above 40% month over month since October.

“We are delivering audience to these game companies where they go so deep into playing their games. And they’re willing to pay a lot of money for that,” said Erno Tauriainen, founder of Benjamin Capital Partners, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We also reward these people for their everyday purchases, like when they go to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. We give them money on a daily basis, and they love us. We have a long list of game publishers who are knocking on our door. They want these Money Moments in their own games.”

The injection of funds will go towards aggressive user acquisition and funding product development. The raise coincides with the imminent release of an enhanced version of the app as well as the hiring of Benjamin’s first CEO.

Strength in gaming

Benjamin wants you to make a Benjamin every month.

Gaming has emerged as Benjamin’s most robust area of growth since launch. Play Ventures and F4 are both leaders in gaming investments.

Along with gaming, the Benjamin leaders are focused on two other key pillars of opportunity for the newly enhanced Benjamin product. The first one is daily cashback earnings, which again generates rewards for consumers on all of their daily purchases from groceries to Netflix.

In this age dominated by social media, the Benjamin team is also prioritizing the “social money” features on the app. This would include the ability to earn money for creating social posts.

Origins

Benjamin Capital Partners started in 2022.

Tauriainen migrated to the U.S. in 2010, having grown up in Finland in a family retail business. In the U.S., he wanted to start something related to banking data as part of his American dream. He built a couple of startups that grounded him in cash rewards. The second business, Spent, (started in 2014) let people record and track their expenses. He created an app that he hoped would be better than Expensify. But the thing that took off with users were the special offers for affiliate links next to the expense numbers.

“It instantly resonated with the users, and I thought let’s build this,” he said. “The expenses combined with cashback offers was a hit.”

During that time, he met Lon Otremba. Spent had to engage in maneuvering to try to beat out its competition. He eventually sold the company to a banking partner.

“Then we said let’s drop the expense part altogether and focus on the cashback part,” he said. “The studies show that it increases all of your numbers.”

Tauriainen began thinking about Benjamin, and he actually started the company in 2022.

“I realized a couple of things. Money as an incentive is better than anything,” he said. “And it’s going to revolutionize advertising because in Benjamin’s case, the money will go directly to the consumer. And then we call them Money Moments. So we are creating a new paradigm. It’s not cashback. It’s not advertising. But it’s what we call Benjamin money moments. I called it Benjamin because of the $100 bill.”

It’s simply sending the cash to the consumer if they do something like read an article, play a game, or engage with an advertisement. (Sounds similar to the Kiip business I wrote about years ago; it shut down in 2019).

“We are now the fastest growing app in the space,” he said.

Tauriainen recruited Otremba, promising to disrupt the cashback world.

“I was blown away by the vision,” Otremba said in an interview. “I was going to take a breather. But Erno called me 30 days after [he sold his prior business].”

They met in Florida and Otremba signed on.

“I have so much respect for him, and I’ve admired his intellect and his his principles and the way he conducts his business and the way he was putting these pieces together,” Otremba said. “If he had been starting a taco truck, I probably would have said let’s do it.”

They opened up the beta testing in October and got good traction.

“We knew that game publishers,were very active in the space of providing rewards to people for trying their games,” Otremba said. “And so this would be a great place to get a supply of money moments that we could put in front of people. And so that’s the sector we got our supply from. And then we start going out to see how we would acquire gamers first. And it’s been off the charts ever since.”

New CEO

Lon Otremba is CEO of Benjamin Capital Partners.

The new CEO Otremba has a background in media, marketing, and technology. Most recently, Otremba was the CEO of pioneering native advertising tech platform, Bidtellect, whose growth he spearheaded through to acquisition last year by Simpli.fi.

Otremba is a seasoned and versatile industry leader whose career hallmarks include successfully running AOL’s Interactive Marketing Group. He was the founding president of Mail.com (exit via IPO and eventual sale to AT&T); and was a founding executive at CNET Networks (exit via IPO).

“We have a simple goal”, said Otremba. “To allow consumers to generate at least a Benjamin a month – $100 – using the Benjamin app.”

Benjamin Money Moments

Benjamin Money Moments

The Benjamin app allows consumers to generate cash rewards – called Benjamin Money Moments – on a broad range of everyday activities including purchases, mobile gaming, and viewing ads. You can earn cash rewards by completing daily tasks in mobile games.

This versatility allows Benjamin to up the ante to compete against other established players in the cashback arena.

Bilt Rewards, which recently raised $200 million with a multi-billion dollar valuation, is focused on cash rewards for paying rent or one’s mortgage. Another player, Upside, which previously generated a $165 million Series D round, is focused on generating cash back on consumer gas purchases for their cars.

“Our vision is for Benjamin to be the facilitator of a comprehensive cash rewards lifestyle across the full range of commercial brands and entities with which consumers interact on a daily basis,” said Tauriainen. “The Benjamin wallet will be the catalyst for a series of ‘Benjamin Money Moments’ for consumers as they go throughout the course of their days. They can use the app in the morning at their local Starbucks and get 2% back. And then when they are commuting on the train to their jobs, playing their favorite mobile games, they can earn money there too.”

Tauriainen is a 15-year veteran of the cash rewards space, with two previous exits.

Ad industry changes

As the ad industry struggles with how to maintain scale of accurate digital ad targeting and measurement in the face of signal loss precipitated by Google’s deprecation of third-party tracking cookies, brand marketers are focusing increasingly on harnessing and applying first-party, consented data.

“Play Ventures is very excited to lead the seed round of Benjamin as they continue to build category-defining consumer reward products. With nearly half of the US population playing mobile games, and consumer credit card rewards reaching new heights every year, we believe that the intersection of consumer rewards and mobile games is a major emerging opportunity,” said Harri Manninen, founding partner at Play Ventures, in a statement. “We are excited to put our expertise in scaling gaming companies to work with the Benjamin team to help them seize the opportunity to redefine lifestyle products in the category.”

With Benjamin’s comprehensive, cross-vertical coverage, the company is poised to become a major partner with leading brands across the spectrum.

“We at F4 Fund are thrilled to be investors and backers of Benjamin. The brilliance of their cashback app lies in its simplicity, effectiveness, and unique reach into gaming, which opens up new avenues for monetization and distribution of games,” said Joakim Achren, general partner at F4 Fund, in a statement. “The team at Benjamin has impressed us with their knowledge in this space and their skills in delivering an unparalleled solution. “



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