A bank with a charitable philosophy and without a building

Shawn Melamed’s home office is filled with high-tech equipment – computers, microphones, cameras for Zoom. But the most visible keyboard is not connected to his laptop. It is a real size intended for making music.

Melamed, who co-founded and is CEO of Spiral, a startup combining digital banking and doing well, is also at home in corporate boardrooms and dance clubs, where he creates electronic music as a DJ and producer. He performs under the funky name “Alchemist Spider”.

Shawn Melamed, CEO of Spiral. Photo courtesy of Spiral

“I love to connect people from all walks of life. You connect people through music. Spiral also tries to help people feel connected, to make the world a better place by being more socially responsible, ”Melamed told ISRAEL21c.

“I like to do both music and technology. If I only did one all day, I would be bored!


Spiral is a “neobank”, an independent financial institution that relies on a more established institution.

If you bank with Spiral, you will see the Spiral branding. But your deposits are held by the other fully regulated bank, with FDIC insurance protecting up to $ 250,000 of your savings.

The neobanks are online only. That’s fine with most customers, says Melamed, who are now used to doing everything on their phones and prefer not to spend more time than necessary in a brick-and-mortar building.

There is a second trend that is fueling the rise of neobanks, says Melamed.

“Historically, you had a relationship with the branch manager of your bank. The bank could take over the local 5 km run. Then the small banks started to regroup to become these giant banks. They have completely lost touch with their customers. These two trends have created a very fertile ground for disturbance.

In September 2021, there were 246 neobanks around the world. Among them: Chime, which now has 15 million US customers and a valuation of $ 25 billion; and Revolut, a fully European digital bank valued at $ 33 billion. Israel has one too: First Digital, created by Mobileye founder Amnon Shashua.

Obviously, the neobanks have become big companies.

Seeking a way to differentiate Spiral, Melamed came up with the idea of ​​combining banking with charitable giving.

Donate easily

The Spiral mobile app is like other online banking tools – there’s your daily balance and your most recent transactions.

But if you want to donate to one or more charities, the app allows you to allocate a certain percentage of what you earn or send a one-time donation to a specific organization.

Screenshot courtesy of Spiral

There are some 1.5 million nonprofit charities in the United States, all searchable from the Spiral app.

“Who would you like to offer? Melamed asks me.

I think for a second. “The Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem,” I told him. This is where my wife and I met.

Melamed performs a quick search and Pardes appears immediately. He chooses an amount – $ 5 – send key, and Pardes is now a few dollars richer.

Spiral will send a check to Pardes, along with a colored note stating that if Pardes chooses to become an official charity partner, Spiral can make direct deposits to their bank account. Pardes will also be able to post videos and other content on the app so that Spiral customers can see how their money will be used.

Spiral has 100 partner charities, including United Way, American Friends of Hebrew University, Earthday, Rainforest Trust and the United Nations and Eden Reforestation. Any charity with a 501c3 designation in the United States is eligible.

Spiral issues a summary report whenever you want. This is especially useful at tax time, showing exactly where you donated in the past year and the total amount.

Spiral also has an individual matchmaking program of up to $ 150, so the $ 5 Melamed just gave Pardes became $ 10.

Spiral matches your charitable contributions up to $ 150. Screenshots courtesy of Spiral

The most generous nation

How does Spiral get all these goodies? This is part of the magic of banking: Banks take your deposited money and reinvest it in other assets, either generating income or distributing it as a loan with interest.

This allows Spiral to make and match donations. Charities do not pay to be part of the Spiral system.

Spiral was founded by two Israelis – Melamed and its marketing director Dan Blumenfeld – but moved to New York to get closer to its main market.

“The United States is called ‘the most generous nation’,” Melamed told ISRAEL21c. “Six in ten households donate to charity. This works out to about $ 470 billion a year.

Spiral will focus on the United States for the next four to five years, Melamed said. Europe will come next. “Ten years from now,” says Melamed, “people will be looking for a consistent banking experience, regardless of their location.

In other words, you won’t necessarily choose a bank where you live but the best bank for your needs.

Digital nomads

Melamed takes the same comprehensive approach to staffing Spiral. The company closed a $ 14 million funding round just before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down much of the world.

“We only had an office for about two months,” says Melamed. He has no plans to reopen a physical office – just like his neobank.

“More and more people are becoming global digital nomads,” notes Melamed. They can work anywhere. “We have Israelis who have moved to the United States, we have employees in Mexico, Portugal and Costa Rica. “

Melamed grew up in Mevaseret Zion, a suburb of Jerusalem. He started his first business, Correlix, in Israel, before moving with it to the United States in 2008. Correlix was acquired by TS-Associates in 2012.

Melamed then joined Morgan Stanley, a 60,000-employee Wall Street company that was looking for an entrepreneur to lead business development.

“I thought I would do it for a year or two, but I really liked it. I had a managerial position and worked closely with the COO, who is now part of the Spiral board.

Melamed became the head of Morgan Stanley’s innovation office. “It was a great opportunity to learn how to innovate on a large scale,” he says.

After five years, the entrepreneurial spirit returned and he decided to create “a bank with a heart, something to guide people to live better lives”.

Long term travel

Spiral was launched to the public just three months ago and is approaching 5,000 customers. Melamed says customers can earn up to 15 times more on their savings than at an average bank.

Most users donate small amounts to charity, although a few donate thousands of dollars.

“It’s a long-term journey,” he says. “We don’t build a startup to sell in three years. We are trying to build a business that will last 20 years with tens of millions of customers.

What’s the next step for Spiral? Credit cards, personal loans and mortgages, says Melamed, while continuing to match donations and offer customers cash bonuses of up to $ 126 per year.

Paradoxically perhaps, the Covid-19 crisis has not dried up donations. In fact, donations in 2020 have increased by 13%, says Melamed. “A lot of people and a lot of causes needed help, so people donated more.”

Spiral isn’t the only financial services company founded in Israel that gives back – top-tier insurance company Lemonade is committed that if there is any money left between the premiums you pay and the claims that must be paid, Lemonade will donate it to a worthy cause.

Now that “New York is waking up and going back to work,” says Melamed, there could be more money made, more donations, and even more opportunities to indulge in his other passion: making music while Spiral makes money for its neobank clients.

In North America, you can get a Spiral account here

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