By Shaun Maguire on behalf of Team Sequoia
Last October, Sequoia hosted a gathering for a few dozen founders on the eve of TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco where I serendipitously struck up a conversation with Samir Vasavada and Runik Mehrotra, the founders of Vise. After just a few minutes of conversation, I was immediately blown away by the clarity of their thinking and how well they knew their industry — software for independent financial advisors.
In particular, I asked them: What were the key insights that led to starting Vise? Their answers resonated with me.
First, they had previously worked on statistical consulting projects with a few banks and were surprised by how profitable their wealth management divisions are. In particular, before COVID-19, there were over $80 trillion worldwide in assets under management (AUM) by registered investment advisors (RIAs).
Second, despite the rise of robo-advisors, somewhat counter-intuitively, the human-driven side of wealth management has grown at more than 15% annually over the last decade. The vast majority of clients still crave having access to professional advisors.
And finally, of the $80T in AUM, about 90% of this is managed by banks and large institutional advisory practices (such as Edward Jones) but about 10% of this is managed by smaller “independent” advisors. Most startups in this space have targeted the larger segment of the market — the institutions. But Vise is targeting the more fragmented long-tail of independent advisors. Similar to Shopify enabling artisans to compete against Amazon, or Airbnb allowing homeowners to launch side hustles, Vise empowers this new generation of entrepreneurial independent advisers.
So, what does Vise do? Vise is a portfolio management platform that’s powered by artificial intelligence and built for the modern financial advisor. They’ve built a full-stack platform spanning the entire lifecycle of the advisor-client relationship, including designing personalized portfolios for clients, managing portfolios, and providing ongoing intelligence. By doing so, Vise helps financial advisors focus on their most valuable resource — their client relationships.
Samir and Runik weren’t fundraising when we first met so after some convincing we held another meeting, which led to another meeting, which led to them letting us invest in a $1.5M seed extension round last November.
We’ve been working closely with Samir and Runik ever since. Earlier this year they launched their platform to advisors and after witnessing strong market pull, including one of their early users claiming that Vise is “saving them 10 hours per day,” we decided to deepen our partnership by leading their Series A.
Samir and Runik have displayed strong customer empathy and are bolstered by powerful market tailwinds, such as:
- Breakaway Advisors: The secular trend of advisors wanting to leave the institutional “wire houses” to join or start their own independent firms.
- Personalization: Clients crave personalized portfolios, especially in line with their ESG goals. Vise is the perfect platform to enable this.
- The Unbundling of the Mutual Fund: Last fall Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade followed Robinhood’s lead and also moved to zero-commision trading. The second-order effects of this change are going to be massive; one of which is that for the first time it’s now cheaper for the average American to seek diversification via a personalized portfolio than to invest in mutual funds.
So today, we’re beyond excited to announce our partnership with Samir and Runik as they build Vise into a world-changing company. They’re some of the most talented founders we’ve met.
Oh yeah, and they’re 19.