Chris Costello of blooom

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Chris Costello, the co-founder and CEO of blooom, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of blooom – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

I had spent almost 2 decades in wealth management before my co-founders and I came up with the idea for blooom. Over that time, it became clear that most Americans without huge investment portfolios were largely shut out of quality investment and financial advice. Moreover, I kept seeing how many of my peers were making a complete mess of their company sponsored 401k plans. Back in 2013, you were starting to see some firms emerge that were leveraging technology to democratize access to investment management at significantly lower costs, but we noticed that no one had build a tech enabled solution to help the nearly 90 million Americans better manage their critical 401k accounts. In January of 2013, my co-founder Kevin Conard emailed me with this now famous line:

“Wall Street has made a habit of running in the opposite direction of investors with small accounts – maybe we should build something and run towards them.”

The rest, as they say, is history! We now have nearly 25,000 clients all across the country and manage collectively over $4B in retirement accounts for these clients.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

The biggest hurdle was raising capital. I remember reading that fewer than 1% of all startups are successful at ever raising venture capital. If you factor out startups based in New York and Silicon Valley, that number becomes miniscule. Over the course of raising our Series A and Series B, I pitched blooom to well over 100 different investors to ultimately find about 15 that invested.

What does the future hold for blooom?

In the future, we plan to serve many more underserved investors with more and more financial services delivered in a simple, price transparent, digital first format.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Leawood?

Leawood has been the home for blooom since the beginning. We built our team there and are proud to be a part of the Leawood startup community. We like to think of KC as the Silicon Prairie of the US and we know the support of the community has aided in our growth.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Startups are insanely hard if you are trying to bring a brand new product or service to the market. My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to spend your energy on building something you are passionate about and on something that has meaning, not just on something that you think will be sold for a nice exit. The world has no need for another useless social media platform – build something that can genuinely improve peoples lives.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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