Today we announced our Series B financing round, led by Sequoia Capital. Sequoia has partnered at the earliest stages with category defining companies like Google, Apple, Oracle, and now Vise. I am proud to say that over the past 8 months, our team demonstrated the vision, resolve, and grit necessary to deserve renewed and re-upped validation from them and the rest of our tremendous backers: Allen & Company, Greenoaks Capital, and several exceptional individuals. While it is an exciting milestone, I wanted to write this post to stress an important message: this is just the beginning.
In 2014, Runik and I were a pair of teenagers from the Midwest who developed an early obsession with finance, machine learning, and the applications of artificial intelligence. Fast forward a few years and we somehow found ourselves consulting with large banks, asset managers, and insurance companies, providing a front-row view to the dynamics on Wall Street. This led to an important realization: the M&A deals headlining the Wall Street Journal were not the engine powering the financial industry. It was wealth management. Financial advisors were the storytellers, coaches, friends, and trusted confidants who made the jargon and complexity from Wall Street make sense to regular people – just like Runik and I had done with artificial intelligence to our audiences.
We saw financial advisors as the heartbeat of financial services, and founded Vise on a contrarian view in Silicon Valley circa 2016: that financial advisors would be the last – not the first – role in financial services to be replaced by machines. No technology could match an advisor’s ability to communicate, empathize, and relate to their clients. Instead, the biggest problem in the industry was the monotony of paperwork, operational processes, and administrative tasks that distracted advisors from what they did best. These problems were compounded for the best advisors on Wall Street, who broke away from the large banks, trading infrastructure and support in pursuit of freedom and entrepreneurship.
Runik and I worked with our team to build a platform that would support these advisors by allowing them to create highly customized, automated investment portfolios for their clients. We used AI to play the role of investment analyst, taking inputs from the financial advisor to select a portfolio of single stocks that would best help clients meet their financial goals. Excitement from the advisor community and the elimination of trading commissions on brokerage platforms in late 2019 gave us the tailwinds we needed to raise outside capital.
Since then, momentum has accelerated. Our team has grown from 6 to over 50, combining talent from the world’s best investment firms (BlackRock, Citadel, Bridgewater, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, DFA, and Vanguard) and tech companies (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Stripe, Uber, Twitter, Airbnb, Dropbox, Compass, and Affirm). Our advisory board boasts the world’s most influential industry executives and academics. Our product features have grown considerably, and most importantly, we have gained the trust of many top-tier RIAs who we serve as clients. Their delight, demonstrated by feedback like this from Aurelien Capital Partners, is my primary measure of success:
Vise is the first portfolio manager we’ve encountered that thoughtfully constructs portfolios based on each clients specific risk profile and funding goals. The main measure of success for each portfolio is its ability to track towards our clients goals, not some arbitrary benchmark.
Despite our progress, we have no illusions that the future will be easy. Within the past two months, each of our largest competitors were acquired by massive, well-resourced incumbents and will benefit from new channels of distribution. Our round of funding will draw scrutiny from competition, consultants, and industry skeptics. Copy cats will attack our client base.
But we’re ready. Over the next 12 months, our team will double in size as we invest our newly raised capital to continue to build out the world’s best combination of tech and investing talent. We will be available on more advisor platforms, and will continue to roll out product features and capabilities to deliver the world’s best personalized investment platform for financial advisors.
This is just the beginning.
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