The three founding members of Wealthsimple
Brett Huneycutt, a Rhodes Scholar and McKinsey alum, and Rudy Adler, a guy with great design sensibilities regardless of user interface or facial hair, are two of Wealthsimple‘s other co-founders, despite Michael Katchen receiving the majority of the media attention. The assignment of duties is as follows: Katchen is a charismatic executive (and original passive investing guru).
Brett is a man of operations. Rudy is the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Product Officer. As a financial product aficionado with an unhealthy number of financial accounts, I must say that Wealthsimple has the best design sensibility of any financial institution I am familiar with.
Their proficiency in marketing, user interface, and similar areas is a significant source of competitive advantage. Therefore, Rudy is responsible for that. Their copywriting is also excellent, but they will never match OPM Wire’s flair.
Brett and Rudy are friends since childhood. They co-founded the group’s previous business, 1000Memories.com. Michael Katchen, also a McKinsey alumnus, joined 1000Memories as Vice-President, making him the company’s junior partner at the time.
1000Memories was nurtured at the prestigious and selective YCombinator. And it had a list of backers that I would describe as Silicon Valley royalty. Consider two only: Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and “PayPal Mafia” member, has a current net worth of $2 billion. Chris Sacca, another billionaire, invested early in Twitter and Uber. Ron Conway was also a legendary investor.
In two rounds, the company, which was founded in 2010, raised $3 million. The company was sold to Ancestry.com in 2012, when it had six employees. For an undisclosed sum, because, as you know, Silicon Valley residents are reserved and shy.
After a brief stint at Ancestry.com, Katchen relocated to Toronto to launch Wealthsimple, where he was joined by Brett and Rudy. In Canada, they chose to raise capital by essentially cold-calling local financial and software players who had experienced successful exits (though nowhere on the scale of the Silicon Valley types they had previously landed).
Now, you might wonder:
Why did the Wealthsimple Three not return to Silicon Valley billionaires to raise capital?
Did the Wealthsimple Three offer their early investors the chance to invest in their new venture, as common courtesy would dictate?
They had a dispute with the VCs, right? Did Katchen, in an uncharacteristic fit of rage, scream, “I will never do business with you fat scumbags again!”?
How will you turn this Google search into yet another Wealthsimple conspiracy theory?
I am offended by your question, as I do not engage in conspiracy theories. Despite Katchen’s global ambitions, it is intriguing that he did not return to those Silicon Valley moguls.
If I did it, this is what happened, is the title of OJ Simpson’s book. If I had spoken with the Wealthsimple founders, they would have likely explained this to me in the following manner:
Although the 1000Memories exit could be considered a success by any reasonable standard, I believe that by Silicon Valley standards, the investors were likely underwhelmed by the results. To make up for their many strikeouts, venture capitalists need to hit colossal home runs. The two co-founders (Brett and Rudy) made a modest amount of money, according to their own accounts.
Silicon Valley obligates its investors to pursue hypergrowth. They prioritize quick exits in the form of larger financing rounds, acquisitions, and initial public offerings. Facebook backers Peter Thiel & Co. tried to convince Mark Zuckerberg to sell the company to Yahoo for $1 billion (current market cap: half a trillion). This is the mentality prevalent in Silicon Valley.
Occasionally, this hypergrowth mentality compels startups to engage in unethical behavior. Revolut, for instance, has had revelations of a similar nature. Even though 1000memories.com was moderately successful, it likely did not live up to these absurd expectations. Perhaps the founders were unwilling to sell to Ancestry.com.
Katchen recently responded directly to the question of why he did not pursue the traditional VC route, stating:
If you’re not going to be able to generate the kind of returns that venture requires, they will force you to sell yourself, force you to go public before you’re ready, or they will simply forget about you because you’re going to be a write off.
Therefore, Katchen converted Wealthsimple to Power Financial. Power is well-known for being a prudent, patient, and long-term investor. Paul Desmarais During the mid-1980s, I made significant investments in China. There, government officials hold the family in high regard.
This is how far in advance they think. Obviously, as an aging financial conglomerate, Power’s rate of failure is considerably lower than that of Silicon Valley upstarts. Warren Buffett jokes, “What do you look for in a spouse to guarantee a long marriage?” He responded with low expectations.
The average tenure of a bank CEO is a few years, and they are accountable to short-sighted public shareholders. (Although some public CEOs, such as Bezos, have avoided this trap and attracted the appropriate audience.) Also, if I may say so, the majority of bank employees are career-driven, not mission-driven.
I admire Wealthsimple’s long-term perspective, which I believe is a source of competitive advantage due to its rarity. Some aspects of Wealthsimple are easily replicable by banks. Other aspects, they will have difficulty with.
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