It’s been a long term goal of mine to invest in startups led by people I believe in–I even shared the goal in a post last year (I’ll come back to the power of putting your goals out in the universe to manifest themselves in a future post). If you missed it, I shared my first startup investment during an episode of All About Your Benjamins The Podcast with Tyrone Ross.–an investment in the company he is leading, OnRamp. I’d made my investment prior to Tyrone joining me for the episode and the plan was for it to be the “big” announcement of my involvement with the company. It’s funny, I had accomplished a goal of mine and when it came time to share the excitement with listeners I clammed up. It was actually Tyrone who brought up my investment toward the end of the conversation. I’m not sure why I shied away from making it a big deal–I think maybe it was a bit of imposter syndrome that got the best of me. The reality of it is I am beyond excited and honored to be an investor in OnRamp (and my friend Tyrone).
If today is the first time you’re reading about OnRamp let me give you a quick introduction. OnRamp is a FinTech company that is building the infrastructure to allow financial advisors the ability to offer bitcoin (and eventually other cryptocurrencies and digital assets) to their clients. In the current landscape, financial advisors are severely limited in what they can offer and often times are discouraged from even having conversations about digital assets. As a financial advisor who has been following and investing in bitcoin and other digital assets since early 2017, it’s been frustrating to not be able to be able to include bitcoin in client portfolios for clients with the right situations and risk tolerances. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too much longer.
Now that some time has passed by since that episode, I wanted to share some insights as to why I’m thrilled to be involved with OnRamp and what makes me so excited and confident about the impact they are going to have on the world of financial advice.
- The Problem. First, OnRamp is solving a major problem for financial advisors—access to bitcoin for client portfolios. Currently, the options available for financial advisors are very limited. There are a couple of bitcoin trusts available, like the one Osprey Funds has, that offer access but they are often restricted to accredited investors, have high minimum investments, and can sometimes trade at a premium (or discount). I’m confident an ETF is coming at some point, but we’re still waiting–Fidelity just filed for their bitcoin ETF but other attempts within the US have been rejected; interestingly enough, our friends north of the border have a bitcoin ETF, along with Sweden and most recently, Brazil. While an ETF would be nice, I still believe owning bitcoin outright is the best approach provided there are custody and storage solutions to help facilitate ownership. I think the market and investors will love a bitcoin ETF, but I’d prefer to own bitcoin and the keys outright…remember “no keys, no bitcoin”.
- Education. Like many great companies, OnRamp is leading with education. While the product is being built, they are providing an insane amount of education and resources for financial advisors. If you are a financial advisor and haven’t signed up to be on the waitlist, you can do so here and be sure to get all of the great information they are distributing. Education alone is not going to make OnRamp a success but it will play a significant role. It’s important to understand, most financial advisors know just as much, or in some cases even less, than those of you just learning about bitcoin and cryptocurrency. It will be important for financial advisors to understand the benefits and risks of adding bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies) to portfolios, regardless if they end up being an OnRamp user or not. More advisors understanding and making educated decisions on behalf of their clients is good for everyone and OnRamp will be rewarded for their efforts to make financial advisors more knowledgeable in the space.
- The Technology. I appreciate well designed technology and a good user experience. Unfortunately, as a financial advisor I don’t get to experience these very often. The old financial systems financial advisors currently rely on have outdated interfaces and the user experience is less than stellar. We’ve put up with it because we’ve had to—both on the advisor and the consumer side but not for much longer. I’ve seen the MVP for OnRamp and I’m going to really enjoy the platform. With companies like OnRamp and Altruist (full disclosure: my firm uses Altruist for some client accounts and I’d love to be an investor there as well, but I think I’m too late to get in there 😉), financial advisors will be able to offer platforms to their clients that will be able to compete with the Publics and Robinhoods of the FinTech world.
- Make An Impact. I have a personal mission statement that I’ve condensed down to one word–impact. I strive to make an impact in everything I do and being a part of a company, even if it is only as an investor, like OnRamp will help me live out my mission. OnRamp is going to impact financial services by pushing the envelope of what FinTech companies provide for financial advisors and their clients. It’s also going to make an impact through the education it provides to advisors, their clients, and individual investors and expand that impact by bringing access to bitcoin to more people. Finally, OnRamp is going to continue to give my friend Tyrone a platform to do what he does best–inspire, bring awareness to important issues like financial literacy, child hunger, and more. It might seem odd to be excited about the CEO of the company I’ve invested in having a platform to talk about important issues not related to the business–but trust me, when you operate with purpose and passion, good things happen and OnRamp will be one of the many beneficiaries of Tyrone’s purpose and passion.
- The People. I saved the best, and most important, for last. The people. It’s rare that someone like Tyrone Ross finds their way into your life and I’m not sure what I did to be so lucky, but ever since our first podcast together back in 2018 (not surprisingly about bitcoin) we’ve become close friends–texting daily and having weekly calls. His rise and impact he’s made in the last couple of years is amazing but I can honestly say I’m not surprised. I knew he would be doing special things and he’s really just getting started. To have the opportunity to support my friend and indirectly invest in him is one of the coolest opportunities I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget the Friday night he called to tell me I’d have the opportunity to invest in OnRamp. And it’s not just Tyrone. Eric Ervin is a successful entrepreneur and the founder of OnRamp. In addition to Tyrone and Eric, OnRamp has a stellar advisory board led by some of the brightest individuals in financial services: Dani Fava, Kyle Van Pelt, Nate Geraci, and Lex Sokolin with more to be named. To me, an investment in a startup is just as much an investment in the people as it is in the actual business and I feel really good about the people I’ve invested in.
Update: It was just announced Caitlin Cook has joined the OnRamp team as Head of Community and Research Associate; another great hire by OnRamp and further strengthens my excitement about the people behind OnRamp.
The story of bitcoin is still being written each day but I think it’s safe to say with companies like Visa, Tesla, PayPal, and others getting involved, insurance companies putting bitcoin on their balance sheets, and institutional investors taking large stakes in it the case for bitcoin is only going to get stronger. I’m excited to have the opportunity to be a small part of OnRamp who will find itself right in the middle of it all. Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to bring an advisor’s perspective to their business as an unofficial advisor and contribute more than just a little capital.
Keep an eye on OnRamp and I’ll be sure to keep you up to date with the excitement coming out of OnRamp!
Disclaimer: Nothing on this blog should be considered advice, or recommendations. If you have questions pertaining to your individual situation you should consult your financial advisor. For all of the disclaimers, please see my disclaimers page.