Josh Gelinas is the CEO and Cofounder of Vestivise, a new FinTech startup aimed at helping people understand their investments regardless of their financial knowledge.
Hey Josh, love what you’re doing in the financial space. For those not familiar with your startup, tell us what Vestivise is all about!
Vestivise is the answer to a status quo that continually leaves individual investors at an informational disadvantage. Wealth management is an industry that often exploits ignorance, leading people who do not know any better into high cost funds and suboptimal allocations to the gain of financiers. Our team has created an Investment Dashboard that solves the various pain points experienced by those trying to understand their investments, such as a lack of clearly stated returns, fees, risks, and explanations. Our web application is free and open for anyone to sign up.
How did your idea came about?
The spark for Vestivise came during high school from my interest in learning about finance that led me to ask my parents about their retirement investments. I soon discovered that they personified the investing informational disadvantage experienced by people of all different educational distinctions. Unable to answer any of my basic questions, they handed me their quarterly reports so that I could seek the answers out myself. In viewing the performance updates and prospectuses that their asset managers provide, I realized that substantial impediments existed to gaining a fully-informed picture of your retirement investments.
What’s the kicker?
Digital wealth management is a highly competitive space because there are so many ways to go about trying to solve the widespread transparency and fiduciary problems. Vestivise is differentiated in two primary ways: we focus purely on analytics for investing, and we consider ourselves more consumer tech than finance. We want investing to be fun and engaging, so we’re building a brand that speaks those values more than anything else. This aligns with some of our other differentiating points, such as beautiful design and built-in educational features. Additionally, our razor-sharp focus on investing allows for deeper insights and better developed information verification processes that don’t exist elsewhere.
Define your market and how you position yourself in it
We define our market as stretching across two major segments: the mass market of households with less than $250K in assets and the mass affluent with assets up to $1M. We focus our current marketing efforts on targeting households that are currently charged too high fees on their investment funds. We’ve been testing multiple marketing strategies, however our best user acquisition method so far has been word of mouth since we launched V1 of the product just a few weeks ago.
Where do you see yourself and your product in a couple years?
If we can deliver on our mission statement to the extent that we anticipate, I believe Vestivise will serve over a million users in the next few years. We will build a company that helps people lower fees, reallocate their portfolios, and understand their retirement investments much more soundly. In this process, we will implement sustainable monetization strategies that create win-win solutions of all our stakeholders: users, customers, and partners.
What is the end goal?
The end goal for Vestivise is simple, and it’s not financial.
When future children interested in finance like I once was start asking about their parent’s retirement investing, those parents will be able to answer swiftly, completely, and with confidence because Vestivise made it so simple.
Now let’s move on to some broader and value-adding questions. What would you tell a budding entrepreneur?
Don’t start anything that you don’t fully believe in. Successful startups are rarely solutions looking for a problem, the problem must be pressing to the point of inciting real and repeat action on the part of your future customers.
Don’t start a company unless you are truly ready to give up all non-essential aspects of your life in pursuit of a single goal, whatever that may be.
Don’t start a company unless you’re ready to live and breathe marketing for a good portion of your first couple years. Solving the puzzle that is customer acquisition is frustrating, time-intensive, rife with failure, and can be capital-intensive at times (depending on the startup). You must be prepared to face this struggle without allowing it to dissuade you.
Are there any tools that improve the way you work?
I’ve used a lot of tools over the years. The tried and true ones for me are Slack and Asana. Staying organized and keeping communication open and easy must be of the highest priority at startups geared for success.
What experiences growing up shaped you into the entrepreneur that you are today?
From a young age, I’ve always attempted to explore and gain experience across many types of entrepreneurial endeavors whether that be charities, film, technology, or finance. During my sophomore year of college, I helped build a newly founded venture capital firm that focused on early-stage companies. This experience, above all, showed me the inner-workings of the technology ecosystem. I realized during my time there that the opportunity to start an enterprise was mine for the taking.
Who were your biggest influences?
Growing up during the height of Apple’s creative preeminence, my biggest influence was Steve Jobs. He’s been covered extensively, but the most inspiring part of his story for me is not what he did at Apple but rather his role at Pixar. That experience, whose success accounted for most of his wealth before his death, is more insightful in my opinion. Pixar was such a success because Jobs, though incredibly difficult to work with, stayed true to Pixar’s long-term mission, established by Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, to make the first computer animated feature film. This took unbelievable amounts of time and money to become a reality, and Jobs provided the unassailable backing and support for a dream that has in turn, enchanted the lives of people across the world. In fact, the individual products made at Apple, though extraordinarily impactful on society, generally last no more than five years, whereas the products created at this Emeryville film studio, last a lifetime.
Lastly, the goal of each Future Sharks interview is to teach the reader something useful. Since you are very familiar with developing business models and financial projections, what are some important metrics to consider when building a business model?
When creating a business model, there are three main acronyms to consider: CAC, LTV, and EBITDA. First, start with CAC (customer acquisition cost) because you must determine how much it costs to acquire a single customer on average. This will probably change over time, and it will be hard to get enough data at the beginning but overtime this will come into focus. Once a general idea of CAC is identified, the LTV (lifetime value) of each customer becomes incredibly important. Some e-commerce companies are simpler in this regard because value can be more easily calculated. For other companies, such as Vestivise, LTV will remain abstract until a refined monetization strategy is rolled-out and tested. However, the future expected LTV must exceed CAC for the sake of having a business that can be sustained in the long-term. Lastly, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) must be considered by determining the expected team and administrative costs, as well as the variable costs to make or sustain your product. Once this is all done, a business model can be realized and specific key performance indicators can be determined and tracked. Metrics are of supreme importance to any company, and the judicious monitoring of these three acronyms will go a long way on the path toward profitability.