In The Room with Samir Vasavada of Vise on Building a Fintech Unicorn and the Future of Investing
Vise is an AI powered asset manager that enables financial advisors to build, manage, and explain personalized portfolios for their clients. Vise is on a mission to create financial freedom for all with a platform that allows all investors, regardless of age, net worth, or geography, to access personalized, automated, and intelligent investments across all asset classes. Samir, Runik, and the Vise team are tackling an incredibly big mission that had super scrappy beginnings.
Samir started vise with his cofounder Runik when they were just 16 years old in highschool in the midwest. Samir and Runik met during a summer program, where Runik was working with a professor on cutting-edge AI research. The two paired up and started building together. Samir and Runik started by building an app development studio that built apps for SMBs and conferences. They then built an AI driven low-code app builder, then ended up starting an AI consulting business, consulting investment banks, by recommendation of one of their startup advisors. After consulting hundreds of finance professionals, Samir and Runik realized that AI applications to wealth management was a topic that kept coming up. That topic became the basis of Vise. Samir and Runik decided to bootstrap Vise before raising $128M from funds like Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund, and Bling Capital.
In this episode, we sit down with Samir and discuss topics such as advice for young or first time founders, tips on fundraising & going-to-market, and the mission of Vise and future of tech-enabled investing.
Let’s open the door.
Building conviction as a young or first-time founder
Having founded Vise at 16 years old, Samir is the youngest founder we have had on the podcast and brings to the table a unique perspective on getting started. Instead of going to college, Samir turned down the traditional path to follow his passion in building Vise. With that passion, Samir decided that he needed to take a high conviction bet to do his passion justice.
Samir explains, “In order to do big things in the world, you need to just take blind high conviction bets. Startups don’t really make logical sense. They’re not a rational thing to do. When you think about all of the different reasons why a startup won’t succeed, there’s very few reasons for a startup to succeed.So the rational thing to do would’ve been to go to college, get a job and work into it. The irrational, crazy thing to do was just take a blind high conviction bet and assume you’re gonna figure it out. So I’d love to say that there was some kind of strategy behind it. There was some reason why I did what I did, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I knew that this industry was here to change. And even if I failed, I would learn a bunch.”
While Samir acknowledges that his path to turn down college is certainly not right for everyone, he encourages all aspiring entrepreneurs, regardless of age, to pursue their passion, start working on projects, start talking to potential customers, seek the truth to build conviction to then take a big bet.
Tips on fundraising?
When reflecting on his fundraising journey, Samir’s key piece of advice to early-stage startups is to avoid raising more capital than they need.
Samir explains that fundraising over the past few years was fundraising during a period of hysteria in the markets. Startups were raising tons of money at super high prices, leading to companies being “fat and happy.”
“You start to focus on the wrong things. You start to focus on scaling your team on, becoming a fancy company instead of customers and product. And when your back is against the wall, when you have six months of runway or a year of runway, you’ve got a small team that’s super in it, they’re the ones driving all the progress. That is when the most gets done, that is when the biggest breakthroughs of the company happen.”
As a corollary, Samir also advises companies to focus on efficiency and the right kind of investor. “Efficiency should be at the core of how you think about your business, and you should be able to do with as little money and as small of a team as possible as opposed to raising lots and lots of money. It’s important to get the right early partners. That means not necessarily just pitching until someone gives you money, but finding the right person that understands your business, that knows that it’s going take a long time to build, that knows that it’s gonna be a really hard journey.”
The future of tech-enabled investing
Samir shares that the future of tech-enabled investing is in access and investment diversity. He reflects, It’s going to evolve in a lot of meaningful ways. I think there’s going to be more access, so there’s going to be more FinTech platforms like Vise that are also leveraged by the institutions that will provide access to alternatives, to crypto, to other types of investments, which I think is gonna be a net good thing for all investors.”
In the near term, Samir also predicts free compression and a shift towards personalization. “Because of how technology drives scale, we are going to start to see traditional fees that might have been, 1%, that are now 20 basis points, drop to five basis points. It’s going to be harder to build a really great business in this space. In addition, you’re going to see a lot of the old world mutual funds or old world investment managers start to die out over the next decade either because they will not have evolved their business to personalized portfolios, the direction the industry’s heading, or they are going to see outflows that are so significant, they all start to consolidate with each other into the big asset managers.”