The MBA Fund’s Investment in Vise AI
A New Intelligence for Your Portfolio
I am thrilled to announce the MBA Fund’s seed investment in Vise AI. The round, which closed in May, was led by Keith Rabois at Founders Fund and Ben Ling at Bling Capital (formerly at Khosla Ventures). Aside from the MBA Fund, the round also includes investments from Pete Flint at NFX, Nat Turner & Zach Weinberg (Flatiron Health), Jon Xu (FutureAdvisor), Andy Boszhardt (Great Oaks VC), and others. Check out my thoughts on Vise below!
Over the last 15 years, asset and wealth management (“AWM”) services have become critical to the broader financial ecosystem — apparently a decade and a half of listening to the phrase “make your money work for you” is finally leaving a mark. In that time frame, global assets under management (“AUM”) have effectively tripled, growing from ~$35Tn to ~$110Tn by next year, while penetration rates (managed assets / total assets) have increased from 30% to nearly 40%. It has never been more clear that individuals, businesses, and funds are willing to pay for the management of their assets (and a higher portion of them).
That tremendous growth in AUM is not just driven by greater wealth, higher education, or the growth in private market returns, but also the significant innovation that has occurred within the wealth management industry. Over the years, we saw turnkey asset management programs (“TAMPs”) aim to free up the work days of traditional wealth managers. Some equity managers shifted to blended portfolios, striving to leverage the diversification, liquidity, and scale of mutual funds along with the risk / return profiles of high-performing individual equities. More recently, since their inceptions in the late 2000s, robo-advisors like Betterment and Wealthfront have provided digital, direct to consumer portfolio guidance by applying algorithms to simple portfolios of exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”). These two robo-advisors alone have since captured $27Bn in AUM from the more traditional providers.
As expected, this innovation has created a much more competitive market, which has suppressed equilibrium pricing, enhanced portfolio returns, and introduced an existential question: are humans necessary within the wealth management world? As seed investors, we hope we can figure that out…
Along those lines, we at the MBA Fund are looking for real, tangible, long-lasting customer pains, as those pains are one of the quickest indications of value prop validation. In the scene painted above, the real pain is felt by legacy registered investment advisors (“RIAs”) and regional institutions that get pushed out of the market. As these traditional providers struggle to compete against big name institutions and AI-automated tools, they become more dependent on a solution, which is why we are so excited to partner with Samir and Runik at Vise.
This market is no joke — it is full of strong players, including companies that have been around for nearly 100 years, startups funded up and down Sand Hill Road, and numerous multi-billion dollar public companies. Winning in this space will mean dissecting the market and truly understanding the fine line between potential partners and competitors. Vise has done just that. These two co-founders, along with their team, have been extremely thoughtful about where value is being lost in this industry.
Using proprietary machine learning and quantitative models, the Vise platform is capable of building, maintaining, and constantly rebalancing portfolios of individual equities. With this new service, financial advisors will have an opportunity to leapfrog standard allocations of ETFs (what robo-advisors currently recommend), and provide clients with customized, fully-automated portfolios of individual stocks. Unlike other providers, Vise also provides portfolio intelligence, which includes justifications for investments in each stock, along with the “why” behind each new portfolio and its respective allocations. With this platform, RIAs will have enough to be dangerous again.
The Vise team is the real deal, and they are hungry — you can feel it in the room. At our stage, half of our job is finding a great team and trusting its vision, and the Vise founders make that easy. Prior to Vise, Samir and Runik co-founded NYX Group, a global tech firm specializing in marketing and software development. The two spent their early careers together in AI / ML research and consulting on AI and portfolio management for financial services and tech companies, including Microsoft, BCG, Deutsche Bank, MassMutual, RBC Royal, and Morgan Stanley. The remainder of the team is equally exceptional, with experienced data scientists and engineers from Google, Uber, and IBM as well as development leads from E-Trade and Charles Schwab — all of whom are eager to work for two passionate founders a few years their junior.
We are in the Vise corner of the ring as they work to introduce a new intelligence product to a fragmented industry full of friction. With a shift to intelligence and learning for individual equities, a new standard could be set in the marketplace, and we believe Vise will be instrumental in doing that.
Watch out for these guys!