App users share money worries in Murdochs' media-for-equity investment

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A startup investment company which has the Murdoch family as its largest common denominator, is adding the developer of a personal finance app that collects data to its investments.

News Corp Australia has announced The Scaleup Mediafund - of which it is a partner - has taken a $1 million share in startup Humaniti.

Except that it's not all cash. Media-for-equity funds typically trade extensive media coverage and other forms of advertising for shares in the startup company.

SUMF claims to be Australia's only dedicated media-for-equity fund, and has News and four companies related to it - subsidiaries Foxtel and REA, Nova Entertainment (which belongs to Lachlan Murdoch's Illyria) and Network Ten (of which he is a former shareholder) - as backers.

Humaniti is a free personal finance app in which users can earn money doing surveys. Chief executive Ben Dixon says winning support from "a cornerstone investor like Scaleup" was a critically important building block.

"Having partners like SUMF and News Corp Australia providing advice, resourcing, marketing expertise and a monthly audience reach of 17 million consumers provides a competitive advantage we couldn't replicate ourselves," he said.

According to a statement issued by News Corp Australia, SUMF works with businesses and venture capital to provide discounted advertising and marketing inventory in exchange for equity, and is committed to more than $30 million in advertising and marketing inventory.

A similar media-for-equity deal operated with PointsBet, which floated last June in a $75 million listing and last week announced a $303 million capital raising. SUMF chairman Richard Skimin said the fund had now invested in nine promising digital businesses, with PointsBet "a highlight".

Humaniti says since its launch late last year, it has organised more than 16 million transactions worth $6 billion across more than 2,500 merchants. It has also attracted almost $5 million from investors, and is currently doing an $800,000 equity crowdfund raise via Equitise.

Consumers can link their accounts to see a complete summary of their personal finances, and can answer surveys to earn extra cash. Its revenue comes from connecting companies with "consumer insights" from more than 240 financial institutions including banks, superannuation funds and share trading platforms.

Dixon says the technology "integrates behavioural data directly with research data to give business a complete, 360˚ view of consumers".

Like any product that collects personal information, it "requires a high level of trust by consumers" and Humaniti will employ "enterprise-grade security technology and best-in-class privacy measures".

He says the "trusted media environments Scaleup's shareholders provide" are a wonderful asset.

Scaleup's other media-for-equity investments include a boarding and dog walking business, an app to place advance café orders, a real-estate agent comparison service, a marketplace for self storage and parking spaces, a neighbourhood babysitting and nanny network, an aged care and disability support worker marketplace, and a car sales site.

It continues to look for start-up and growth companies.

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