An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Eric Satz (founder and CEO) of Alto Solutions, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Alto Solutions – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Like many entrepreneurs, I initially got into this business to solve my own problem. I tried to use my IRA to invest in what we call ‘alternative investments’. I realized it was not at all a simple process, and an attempt to make alternative investments more accessible for my own portfolio has turned into trying to solve the retirement crisis in America. I founded Alto with the mission of enabling individuals to reach their financial goals by empowering them to rethink the way they invest for a better financial future.
The majority of investors have no idea they can use their IRA to invest in alternative investments such as startups, crypto, art, real estate, even farmland. We are excited to help them diversify their portfolio by investing in alternative assets via Alto, and to make it easy and accessible for anyone with a retirement account to do so.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
It is never easy turning a complicated, bureaucratic process into a simple one. We encountered many challenges along the way trying to shorten a stretched and exhausting process into a hassle-free investing experience. When running a startup, there is a constant contrast between how far you want to go and just how fast you can get there. You need to plan ahead while staying true to what reasonably can be done today. Large players in the investment industry have not entered the IRA alternative investments arena for a good reason. It is extremely difficult to manage. However, with these large investment platforms, your self-directed IRA is limited to the broker’s investment committee. We are proud to say that thanks to our hard work on democratizing investment opportunities, individuals can now invest in the same assets that ultra high net worth individuals, VCs, pension fund, and endowment fund managers have access to.
What does the future hold for Alto Solutions?
We are seeing a huge increase in demand. Total active investors on the AltoIRA platform have probably grown five times in the last 12 months. From a deal sponsor perspective, Alto investors invest four times the amount that non-Alto investors do, per investment. Individual investors are increasingly interested in holding assets outside of public stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
With that said, companies raising capital are eyeing the opportunity to unlock $30 trillion that sit in retirement accounts in America. While alternative assets give retirement investors more ways to diversify, they also provide companies with more funding resources and growth possibilities.
So, with investors’ growing level of sophistication, more businesses seeking capital, and favorable new regulations on crowdfunding, we see this market growing massively in the future. Our partner list is growing at a rapid pace and we already have more partners in the pipeline who are looking to utilize the growth in demand.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Nashville?
I love Nashville. I think everyone from New York and San Francisco should go home. Just kidding! We love it when curious, engaged, smart people come here. I moved here 18 years ago because it had an entrepreneurial spirit that, although mostly healthcare-focused, was amazing nonetheless, and most of the rest of the country had no idea. We’ve always been referred to as the next Austin. We’re not the next Austin. We’re not the next Silicon Valley, nor Silicon Alley. We’re Nashville. Period. There’s a reason why companies like Nissan, Alliance Bernstein, Amazon, etc. want to be here, and you can talk economics all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s the people. You can get the best rent in the world for a retail location, but if there’s no foot traffic (people) or parking (infrastructure) it doesn’t matter.
Our community leaders paved the way for the growth we’ve experienced over the past decade, and I expect that it will continue – all you have to do is walk around one of the many Industrious or co-working spaces in Nashville and you’ll find hundreds of startup companies working on the next new thing. The ecosystem has passed the tipping point and some really large and successful companies are being built here.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?