Bettr, is the name of the bank (bank is doing some heavy lifting here as we’ll get to) that South African influencer Grant Hinds loudly proclaimed he was co-founding in April 2021.
As he explains in the video embedded above, Hinds met Tobie van Zyl upon returning from the UK. The pair reportedly discussed the financial solutions available to folks aboard with a specific mention of banking services for content creators.
As anybody who makes a living online may know, telling a bank your pay cheque comes from Twitch may not give you access to lines of credit, finance and the like. This isn’t just true for content creators though, as many informally employed South Africans don’t have access to a bank account because they can’t provide a payslip or their physical address doesn’t jive with the bank’s systems among a host of other problems.
The exact number of South Africans without access to a bank account is a tough number to gauge, but the most recent figure we could find is 23.5 percent in 2016 as determined by the Oxford Business Group.
However, since then, we have seen the launch of several more affordable or no-fee digital banks in recent years.
Searching for Bettr
One of those was Bettr which Hinds and van Zyl co-founded. Only now, Bettr has left the chat. At least, that’s the impression we get when trying to access the bank’s website and smartphone apps. The website flits between an Error 403 and Error 404 page depending on when it’s visited and both pages for the Android and iOS apps are dead.
In terms of social media, the Bettr Twitter account hasn’t posted content since 13th March 2023.
While Grant Hinds is active on social media, his last mention of Bettr on Twitter was on 14th December 2021. The other co-founder of Bettr, Tobie van Zyl, hasn’t posted on Twitter since 11th November 2022.
The Bettr Discord server is also silent with some folks still seemingly joining the server out of interest or by accident. In total there are only 21 members on that Discord server as of January 2024.
Turning now to official records, according to the Companies And Intellectual Property Commission’s (CIPC) records, Bettr is still in business as it has been since 2017. Bettr’s directors have included Angus Farquharson Campbell Brown, Andrzey Graham Stempowski, and Tobias Gerhardhus Van Zyl.
Brown is no longer listed as a director, nor is Stempowski who appears to have left in 2021. The sole director listed by the CIPC is van Zyl.
Of concern is that according to the CIPC’s records, Bettr hasn’t filed its annual returns for both 2022 and 2023, around the time the bank’s social media went quiet. This was also around the time van Zyl went radio silent. While not nefarious in and of itself, this coupled with the radio silence that has deafened Bettr’s socials since then is concerning.
As for media, the last mention we can find of the bank is in this round-up from MyBroadband published in 2023.
Bettr was “never a bank-bank”
This is all very worrying and attempts to contact Hinds or van Zyl proved to be incredibly difficult. Initial attempts to contact Hinds were met with a reluctance to provide a statement, but ultimately the content creator provided us with the following statement about Bettr.
“Thank you for reaching out. I’ve alerted Tobie and the big founders who are best equipped to provide you with a much more detailed and clearer picture of what transpired. I’m happy to fill in my feelings; however, I will not be of much use answering the nuts and bolts of it. For further clarity, my involvement was strategic direction and insights into the business of gig work in the new economy, not product development and/or management, hence why Tobie and the team will step in to give light of the matter,” Hinds told Hypertext via email.
Curiously, Hinds couldn’t say outright whether Bettr is still operational or not, for context, we asked the influencer plainly whether Bettr was still providing a banking platform. He does appear to want to put some distance between himself and the bank. That behaviour stands in stark contrast to the video we’ve embedded above. However, Hinds insisted that van Zyl would be able to provide more information so we asked the co-founder pointedly whether Bettr is still operational and we received some eye-opening insight.
Firstly, we’re told that Bettr was, “never a bank-bank, it was a fintech payments operator under a GN5 Alliance Banking scheme with our sponsor bank.” That sponsor bank was seemingly Access Bank, per Bettr’s social media. We have attempted to contact Access Bank, but it didn’t respond by the time of publication.
As for whether Bettr is still operational, van Zyl said it isn’t.
“Bettr faced significant challenges, including the impact of COVID-19 and fluctuations in venture capital markets. Despite initial successes, securing sustained venture funding in the high interest rate environment of 2022 became untenable. Consequently, we ceased operations at the end of 2022, refunding all accounts held by users,” van Zyl told Hypertext via email.
This is the first we’ve heard from somebody at Bettr that the bank, apologies, “fintech payments operator”, was no longer operating in the local market. For nearly a year the platform has been inoperable and there hasn’t been a peep from van Zyl. The co-founder does tell us that Hinds wasn’t involved in daily operations.
The influencer then was seemingly an honorary co-founder given that he wasn’t really involved in Bettr’s work.
This, however, doesn’t absolve Hinds of what has transpired here. As a person with a massive audience and a large degree of influence, not to mention being a co-founder he had a responsibility to alert his followers and fans to the fact that there were problems at Bettr.
As to why Bettr never announced it was shuttering and why it’s social media is a ghost town, van Zyl said, “Regarding social media and our online presence, we have maintained a static profile to facilitate ongoing negotiations with potential buyers, aiming to preserve the value for distribution. Discretion during this process is paramount to securing a successful transaction.”
This raised several questions including whether van Zyl was selling Bettr as an operational platform. How much value a shuttered “fintech payment platform” with no website, apps or users can have is unclear to us, but we wouldn’t buy it. There are countless fintech startups that are functional and on a growth trajectory for investors to put their money into.
We take no joy in reporting that a startup has failed, in fact we’re saddened to hear that Bettr didn’t hit the mark. However, we’re upset that van Zyl and Hinds haven’t mentioned this until we came knocking. The pair had a responsibility to users – and in the case of Hinds – their followers that Bettr was no longer operational.
The situation highlights that just because an influencer tells you that X product/service is amazing and revolutionary and going to change the world, you should take that advice with a mountain of salt. Unfortunately, Hinds played a role here, as much as he wants to distance himself, that time passed in 2022 when Bettr shut down.
A full year has passed since van Zyl says Bettr was shuttered and not a word was said by either co-founder and that is simply unacceptable behaviour from a company that asked South African creators to trust them with their money.
We truly expected better from the pair.