In this episode, host Ben Fraser is joined by Leif Hartwig, founder of Wealth VP. Leif created a platform catering to larger family offices, facilitating their investments in venture capital and early-stage seed opportunities. He shares his top three criteria for investment success, backed by an AI with an impressive 80% predictability score. Leif also discusses the hidden power of SaaS companies, comparing their value to other business models, including real estate. Whether you’re an angel investor or interested in venture capital, this episode offers invaluable insights for navigating today’s dynamic market. Tune in to empower your financial journey!
Connect with Leif Hartwig on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/leif-hartwig/
Connect with Ben Fraser on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/benwfraser/
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Ben Fraser: Hello, Future Billionaires! Welcome back to another episode. We got a fun interview today. I interviewed Leif Hartwig of WealthVP. And Leif has created a platform for family offices, generally larger family offices, to invest in venture capital and early stage, you type investments and really create a matchmaking platform to help them get more access to deal flow.
One of the cool things that he really shared is really laying the landscape for private equity and venture capital and where the kind of industry has gone wrong. So if you have any interest in investing in private companies and venture capital as an angel investor. Definitely want to check out this episode because Leif shares his top three things that have, according to this AI that they’re working with, a over 80 percent predictability score of success for companies.
He shares those three things and what they are and why they’re important. But he also shares what’s really interesting too. He said the hidden power of SAS companies and SAS business models as compared to really any other business model, even compared to real estate and the past really. cool perspectives around why that business model is so compelling from a value standpoint as an investor.
So definitely want to check this out. I think you’ll enjoy it and look forward to sharing this with you. This is the invest like a billionaire podcast, where we uncover the alternative investments and strategies that billionaires use to grow wealth. The tools and tactics you’ll learn from this podcast will make you a better investor and help you build legacy wealth.
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We focus on macro driven, alternative investments, so your portfolio is best positioned for this economic environment. Get started and download your free economic report today. Hello, future billionaires. Welcome back to another episode of the Invest Like a Billionaire podcast. I am your host today, Ben Frazier, and I’m joined by Leif Hartwig, who is the CEO and founder of WealthVP.
And really excited for this conversation. Leaf has started this company, WealthVP, and really a goal, he says, to make the world a better place, which I love, but he’s really trying to do this from an investment standpoint, really matching families, high net worth individuals with really good investments.
And really specifically the private equity space initially, but expanding from there. So Leaf thanks for coming on the show.
Leif Hartwig: Hey, you’re welcome, Ben. Thanks for having me. And I love the name of your show, invest like a billionaire. When I had a business coaching company all over the US and Canada, one thing that we’d say is how do you become successful or a billionaire?
You act now as if it’s already happening. And so I love that your show is doing that. Thank you.
Ben Fraser: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. There’s a lot we can learn, right? I think a lot of people just make the blind assumption that, oh, they’re at a whole different level. I can’t implement or. Mimic some of the things we’re doing, but a lot of the things that they’re doing, we can do, and I think one of our big kind of theses and drivers of this show is investing in alternatives, private alternatives that can provide a lot of times better diversification, non correlated assets, better returns than a lot of the public markets, and it’s pretty clear from most of the research that we’ve done that these high net worth families, pensions, endowments, foundations, and Big institutional investors are investing big portions into these assets.
And let’s talk a little bit about your story because I know you come from more of a traditional finance background and then, what kind of led you to launch this and really what’s the vision for this platform building?
Leif Hartwig: One of the things that you’ve just said, we had covered so many facts that I was raising money for startups and getting investors to be involved.
And I backed off and said, this is hard to do what’s going on locally because you can be in a community of the Phoenix area where I am, I’m in Scottsdale, that they’re primarily real estate investors. But we had so many great software companies and I said, wow, this is pretty hard.
How can this happen? So I took a couple of days off just to think and found out that it’s this private middle marketplace, so you’re not public companies are not crowdfunding funding is all word of mouth and networking. Can you imagine that? And so what led me into this, as you said, we want to leave in the world in a better place and great companies were going under because of lack of funding.
And we found people on your podcast today, they can’t find companies outside their network that could be. Great opportunities. And so I said, there’s a way in which to do this is called left, right matching, where you’re matching two marketplaces. Amazon does an Airbnb match.
com, so the technology’s been around for years, we found that we could match those two marketplaces and do it in a way that was better, faster, less expensive. And certainly, less time consuming. And about three years ago we started at the research, developing the user interface coding, and launched about a year ago, and now we’re all over the globe, which is great.
Ben Fraser: That’s so cool. I want to pause there because I think it’s really important what you just said. And just to be clear, we’re really talking about with your kind of first focus of these are private equity or venture or companies seeking venture financing, right? So it’s different than real estate, right?
Which is another big bucket for alternatives a lot of people invest in. But even, which is a whole other conversation around even finding good deals there. But it’s even more difficult for companies to, have access to capital without, Going and doing these roadshows with these other networks.
And you actually, you were a broker, right? You had a series seven, I think you said, and we’re using a registered investment advisor.
Leif Hartwig: I was one of their top five guys and very early on got into portfolio diversification and modern portfolio theory, and actually helped companies develop software programs for that.
But what we’re seeing And the other thing in the industry that we found that I think is important to mention is most investors in your audience believe that venture capital companies fund the most of these endeavors. And in fact, the truth is they only fund about 1 percent of all private companies.
And believe it or not, 75 percent of venture funds do not return capital to their investors. It’s amazing. And so we’re finding like you are that alternative investments, both private companies. And by the way, we have another vertical that is a real estate vertical as well for people looking at those two types of alternative investments.
So the markets are huge. They’re very, even though it’s a multi trillion dollar marketplace. It’s really early in this cycle of development and what’s happening in that industry. Interesting.
Ben Fraser: So talk a little bit about, some of the challenges, prior to this kind of democratization or the technology enabled, matching, because from my understanding, I’m a little bit younger, but, even solid, later stages of this, where most of these deals, especially real estate, which is more my background.
We’re driven through broker dealer networks, right? It’s really who you know, which, financial advisor or broker you’re working with and how do you hear about these deals is usually coming through gatekeepers through networks, right? It’s not this very easily accessible platform, but really with the advent of technology with the jobs act in 2012, that’s really allowing more democratization and allowing a lot more to be shared in a more public way.
It’s really totally shifting the landscape and we’re seeing this. With these crowdfunding platforms, with Reg A, and other things that are on a smaller scale. But even with the clients that you serve that are more skewed to the high net worth clients, it’s still the same problem, right?
It’s access to deal flow, it’s access to good operators, and it’s historically been driven by network, but you really wanted to shift this to make it more accessible, make it to where anyone can sign up and start getting matched with the type of deals that they’re looking for.
Leif Hartwig: Yeah, just a great comment.
Years ago, brokerage firms used to sell a lot of limited partnerships. So they had real estate, they had private deals. And then the spigot was pretty much turned off because they couldn’t put those on their statements and mark them to the market every day. And so between the brokerage firms and the banks if you, if everybody understands the investment pyramid that, on the bottom it’s safe things and then mutual funds at the top, it’s that venture group.
It was like the whole industry lopped off the top of the pyramid, just weren’t available. In the last eight years, we’ve seen unicorns, those are billion dollar private companies, grow from 39 to 1, 200. So the market has grown 2, 200%. In the same time period, venture funds have grown from 800 to 1, 000.
Okay, so only a 25 percent increase. So the market outkicked its coverage. If we can say and and then, but where do you find this money? So it’s been this word of mouth kind of thing. And that’s why right now we’re seeing so many people trying to do what we’re doing and democratizing, as you said or digitizing this process.
And we’re not only doing it with our matching feature, but we’re working with the company right now to add some great AI features that not only look at the quality, and I’d love to follow up what we look at for quality, as well as predictability of future success, which is really exciting stuff.
Ben Fraser: I love that.
It’s interesting to me the more research I’ve done on the high net worth, the billionaire investors, right? And what is their portfolio allocation? And generally, these are rough numbers, but it’s pretty consistent across large data sets that they’re investing 50 percent of total net worth into private alternatives.
That’s usually a few different buckets, but mostly it’s real estate and private equity. Which can also include venture capital and that usually makes up about anywhere from say 20 to 30 percent of the portfolio. So it’s actually a pretty significant piece of the pie of these more wealthy investors.
But the average, maybe high net worth investor doesn’t have access to the networks. Doesn’t have, they’re not part of the Y combinator and these accelerators and get the best of the best. And also there’s probably a sense of I don’t really know how to evaluate an early stage company, right?
Because, especially at an early stage or seed, you’re playing a lottery game to a certain extent, right? You want to hope for that hundred X, winner to cover the losses, but you don’t expect maybe all of them to make it at a certain point. And a lot of businesses, small businesses fail, right?
So it’s a little more of a. high risk, high reward potential, but it’s still a big part of the allocation of a lot of these high net worths. Talk a little bit about what you’re seeing and, newer investors coming into this space, what are the big things you want to look at?
How do you evaluate? There’s obviously private equity, traditional private equity, which is, more mature companies. A lot of times they’re leveraged buyouts. You’re coming in with debt, you’re buying existing, let’s say a manufacturing company and you’re just trying to either consolidate or you’re trying to scale it all the way to seed companies that are a lot of times more tech focused, maybe healthcare focused or some kind of niche trying to, create a market or grow into a market.
So talk a little bit about just the world of venture capital, private equity as a whole, and then how do you figure out what fits you and how do you find the ones that are more likely to win?
Leif Hartwig: Great question. So this middle marketplace is really where we’re located and where the billionaire investors are.
And we have a few of those on our platform as well, but they’re a different animal. They’re more like venture capital funds. They get plenty of deal flow. Everybody’s soliciting them. And it’s really the smaller families and high net worth people, not billionaires, but more of the 10 million or the 20 million type.
And what we’ve heard from the marketplace is there’s plenty of what I call list companies, like AngelList, and there’s other ones that go out to investors and say, we have, a million different companies, we can do that, or we’ve got 100, 000 investors that we matched, and they really don’t have access to all those people.
It’s just a list. We, but what we’ve heard from investors in every category is quality. And that comes from your risk reward question that you asked. How do companies that are at this high, they have a high risk. Great investment isn’t high risk, high return.
It minimizes your risk with high returns. And we have spent a couple years looking at companies. All the way from the Y combinators to other accelerators and said, what are the common threads that make a company lower risk and higher with a higher return? And so we came up, actually we looked at dozens of different factors and we came down to three that you must, the companies must have to be on our platform.
Number one, they have to be in revenues, okay? So that really makes them a pre seed or A round and that is that it’s not an idea anymore. Somebody’s paying for the product.
Ben Fraser: I want to pause you there because it’s almost funny to say that, but it’s a big deal, right? Going, Peter Thiel wrote the book, Zero to One, right?
Going from an idea to proof of market to get that first sale is so critical, right? Because until you get those, the first revenues in the door, all you have is an idea, right? You don’t necessarily have a business yet. So I think it sounds funny, maybe if people that are real estate investors predominantly , of course you want revenues. That’s, a lot of times in the industry, that’s not where a lot of these companies are at, but
Leif Hartwig: keep going. Yeah. And I’ve had the opportunity to meet Peter and talk to him about investing. And so it’s, I think that was a great name to bring out.
Second factor is that they need to raise enough money to get them to the next stage of their business. And investors don’t want to invest. In companies that they’re going to run out. And the rule of thumb is pretty clear when you ask people, it’s 18 months minimum of your projected expenses over that time period.
And most people would say, we’re not even going to count your revenues there. So they just want enough runway to get to the next step. The third and absolutely by far the biggest thing that every investor looks at and all your audience should take this as their number one. Feature to check out in companies is management.
So either the companies must have one of two things to join our platform from management that their management direct management or founders have had an exit. So they’ve made mistakes in the past. And they’ve done it before, just like he’s doing this podcast, you could start another one and know how to do it, right?
You made your mistakes in the past. The second qualification, if they don’t hit that and it has to go to our committee, is have they come from high up in their marketplace, and maybe they found a niche when they were at a corporation, or they developed a product that there’s a hole in the market, and then they surround themselves with other very competent people on their team.
So those three factors put them, we believe in the upper 5 percent of all private companies out there.
Ben Fraser: And you think you, you believe based on some of the data you’ve looked at has a pretty high predictable, predictability score of success. What would you say is a range of confidence of, this lowers your risk by X amount or whatever your metric is?
Leif Hartwig: I know I don’t have a number like that, but it’s interesting. Using an AI company. I’m speaking with them this afternoon, so I really can’t disclose everything about it, but they’ve worked for four years. With huge data, for instance, they have 500 billion medallions on their platform, checking out startups all over the world, and they’ve come up with the metrics that can predict future success of a company on a scale of one to a hundred.
And they’ve done back tests on unicorns. So think of a company four years ago that really had nothing and they turned into a billion dollar company. They went back with their data and were 86 percent accurate with their projections. How would one of your investors on your platform like to see a company with that kind of productivity?
There’s so many factors in, obviously that VCs check all these things out. They know everything I’ve told you yet. They have a high failure rate. And whether that’s because their metrics are wrong or they don’t get involved with the company as much, I don’t know. I think quality means not only your today’s values, but also how are you growing in the future and do you have those executives that can do that?
And that’s not always quantifiable, but AI, as everybody in your audience knows, is going to give us tools that we’ve never had before. And we’ll be incorporating those into our platform about the quality and then probability of success. And of course it’s an art and a science.
Ben Fraser: So totally. A lot of things are qualitative too.
It’s hard. You can create quantitative measures, but there is a lot of qualitative, especially around the management and the. The people leading it, but you made a comment, before we started the show that, of the VC funds that are in operation and trying to do this same strategy, trying to hit the big winners, find the unicorns, 75 percent of them aren’t actually returning capitals to investors which is a pretty high percentage.
And so my question is someone who hasn’t invested a little bit in VC, not a lot, what, how could I feel confident that I could do better? And a VC firm, where do you think the VC firms, veer off a little bit? Where are the challenges that, maybe, you know their strategy or the thesis or whatever it is, puts them at those numbers.
And how could I have confidence as an individual picking, one individual or a couple of different businesses could do better than that?
Leif Hartwig: Let’s start with VCs and then talk about how we can fix that. We’re trying to fix it because it’s a huge problem. VCs have a structure called two and 20.
Now, many of your listeners may not understand what that is, but it means that they get two percent per year of the total fund that they’ve raised. So if it’s a micro fund, just a small one of a hundred million dollars. They make $2 million a year. Whether the companies do well or not, a billion dollar fund, now we’re, what it 200 we’re at was that $20,000,200 million.
And then the 20 means they get 20% of the, it’s called a carry. So after people receive their money back, they make 20%. So look at a fund over 10 years, it’s a 40% haircut. The other thing that we take exception with is that, and there’s some great VCs out there, so I don’t mean to be building, beating up on VCs, but overall they look at just the dollars and cents of the deal as opposed to the mission of the company.
And as we said, leaving the world in a better place. And when you talk to a private investor, they want to do both. We really like that approach, and it means when a company’s raising smart money from some of your listeners, they get input, they get advice, they get follow up that they may not get at a venture capital company.
So now, the second part of your question was how can you pick these companies with a greater degree of success? And that’s why we developed our company, that we have fields that successful investors have told us about. What should we check out? So it’s things like, do they know what they’re doing with a pitch deck with an executive summary, which is a business plan that their cap table, their three to five year pro forma that they have.
These are all things that every investor out there should look at the total amount. We actually have a data room that investors can access and look at. Plus we link all of the executives to their LinkedIn profile so they can check them out too. The best thing that you can do is to look at this holistically, and then I would say for those unseasoned investors that are just getting into that, look at something you already know.
So if you came from manufacturing you’re going to understand that more than you are up a SaaS company that is in software, right? And so I probably would start out with investing in those things and then just don’t listen to your uncle or your CPA that has something that you’re excited about.
Compare two or three of those. So that’s what our platform does, right? You can take a look at a number of those things and see which one is best. The majority of investors when they start investing, pretty much 100 percent they lose everything because they don’t understand that basic question that you just asked and how to do that.
So when we say leave the world in a better place, we don’t just mean helping build companies up, but helping investors make great decisions for themselves, their family, and future generations.
Ben Fraser: Yeah, I love all those points you made and I was literally about to say, one of my favorite axioms of Warren Buffett is to invest in what you know, right?
It’s so simple, but especially in this strategy of investing in companies, if you come from a healthcare background, you may have a hard time. Understanding a SAS company, right? And vice versa. And there’s just, there are a lot of overlapping business principles, but understanding a, go to market plan, a, total addressable market, what’s the real need and the deliverability of this particular, product or service, like those are things that it takes understanding the industry to, to really be able to to understand if it’s feasible or not.
So I love that you said that. Cause I, I would say. That’s probably my number one advice for people that are getting started in this is invest start with where you know, right? Because you’re gonna be it’s your point too If you’re coming in with some of these companies and they want more of a value added, Capital or it’s hey, maybe you can be on the board Maybe you can introduce them to resources and now in your network if you come from that background to help them be more successful where you can actually be more value added partner than just You know, a no in a fund, that’s a huge VC fund, so
Leif Hartwig: I love that. That’s such wise advice. And also I would like the founders of these companies, and I’m sure there’s a bunch of ’em on the podcast today, that they wanna know, gee, how do I approach investors and think, be, have empathy and say, what are they looking for? And if you’re hearing this loud and clear, then form an advisory board of people.
Can help you with this because typically the founders are brilliant But they’re not brilliant at raising money and they really don’t understand the investor and they’ll take money from anybody because they’re desperate They’re going to go under if they don’t but the wise founder will find a good fit where the investor Will be participating at the minimum at advice And help them move along in the process.
We call our company’s WealthVP. It stands for Wealth Venture Partners. Okay? We want the two sides of the marketplace to partner with each other. Not just give advice or not just give money. But, if we can do this, and I’ll make a little political comment, I think we gave close to trillion dollars away for people to stay at home, and during the pandemic.
What if that trillion dollars went to startups? Where would our country be right now in the world? Where would our founders be if we could do that? We can’t do it through politics, but we can do it with your audience in a way that can be meaningful and create millions of jobs, great products that can help our lives.
Improve. Right now you could have the cure for cancer and someone couldn’t get funded. So again, for your audience, I think these alternative investments are a wonderful place that you can fulfill your life as well as make a bucket load of money too, right? So what you’re doing right now in this alternative talk is.
Is really helping us move into the future because as much money now is going into the public markets, going into the private markets now. Yeah,
Ben Fraser: absolutely. I love that. I’d love to shift real quick. You said you, you interfaced with Peter Thiel on how much, but I’d love to hear if there any takeaways, if you had a conversation with him or things that he said that were You know, stood out to you because this guy is considered probably one of the best venture investors in history.
I think he famously has a Roth IRA that’s tax free valued, I think what, over a billion dollars or something for investing in Facebook and other of these big unicorn companies. And yeah, just to share a little bit of just a legacy you’ve gleaned from him. Because,
Leif Hartwig: because what we’ve found with ultra high net worth individuals like Peter and others, they want their privacy.
And so that’s number one with our investors when they come on the platform. And it was at a political level, how political he is. So it was at a political fundraising event. But he was very interested in schools. And making life better for people. So he had that. I work with his right hand guy that was with him at PayPal with Elon Musk and we got up for lunch probably a couple of times a year.
And and, but again, at that level, when you have that much money, they come across as more like venture funds. Because, a small investment to them is 50 million. Okay. And if the smaller companies raise one to 5 million even if they got a 10 times return, it doesn’t make much of a difference in their portfolio.
So they pretty much have a different look and that, they invest in, finding a town in Africa with agriculture around it and employing all that plus. Building the roads. It’s a different deal. But I think that’s all I can say . I enjoyed speaking with him.
He was grounded in the need to make the world a better place. I got the sense that he was risk averse as much as you can be in that area. And, but again I don’t want to overstep my bounds about privacy.
Ben Fraser: Kind of the last thing I wanted to ask you and not to put you on the spot or anything, but I do think, for a platform based model, yeah, you, you can create a lot of interest, but a lot of times.
It’s important, I always advise investors to look at what the incentives are, is there alignment of interest? And if, depending on how you guys are structured, I’d love to hear how you guys make money and how maybe create a alignment of interest for investors to where it’s not just, it’s one thing to say, here’s our standards for the deals we put on the platform, but it’s another thing to.
Abide by it and compensation, those kinds of things. Can you just maybe disclose a little bit of how you guys structure your compensation as a platform and how you’re relying on interest?
Leif Hartwig: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for that question. The industry needed to be disrupted, right?
Because the pain point now is too high for companies. We just, in our great country, they can’t get funded. And so we already talked about the 2 in 20 model and we decided not to do that. So we are a matching, connecting platform. With a mission to get people funded, but we want them to stay outside the SEC rules of investment advisory.
So how do you do that? So we are a SaaS company, Software as a Service. Interestingly enough, the majority of investors I talk to fund our company don’t know what that means. Okay. And why we are that way is because there’s not many companies out there that would do what we do. So we charge either an annual fee for investors or a monthly recurring fee for companies.
We take no carry, no two, none of the two and 20 and both sides like that because they know we’re unbiased and they know we’re not taking part of the deal. And so that bodes really well for both sides that we can do that. And that again, For our company as a valuation, I’m going to digress and tell everybody out there, why SaaS?
Is, has a better leverage than real estate and anything else out there. And if you were to go to Google the unicorn list of names and see 1200, you won’t recognize 90 percent because almost all of them are SAS. So why SAS versus the EBITDA or multiple of earnings model? And I’ll just give you a short story.
So if you built a company 10 million in revenues and it’s an EBITDA model, you get about five times that bottom line. So let’s say it was producing 2 million bucks. The company is worth about 10 million, and there’s of course exceptions. A SAS company, because the gross margins are so high, in other words, cost of goods, they get in a normal market.
It’s lower today, but let’s say in a normal market. They would get 10 times hopline revenues and imagine that a 10 million company is now worth 100 million. And that’s probably the best kept secret in the marketplace today that private investors don’t know that SAS companies on average get the unicorn club of a billion dollars.
On average, they get there in four to five years. With a fraction of an, so again, to all your listeners, this is, it’s like the matrix you want, the blue pillar, the green one, you just got exposed to a marketplace that is, will continue to be the focus of investors over the years because they, you have a reliable cash flow that you don’t have to continue to sell.
It can continue to grow with lowered churn rates.
Ben Fraser: Awesome. Levi, this has been really good. I loved your kind of top three things to look for in a company. I think that’s super valuable along with everything else. What’s the best way for folks to learn more about WealthVP and just to be clear who you serve?
I know you skew more towards the high net worth, ultra high net worth, but for someone that heard this again, I do want to get more exposed to venture and private equity. Even if you said you have a real estate vertical, what’s a, a range of net worth that makes sense to even start exploring some of this with your platform at least?
Leif Hartwig: Yeah. On our platform we work with ultra high net worth individuals and family offices. And by definition that starts at about 30 million of assets under management. And yet the beginning of next year. So if you’re not in that group, hang with us because it’s very possible that we will go to a lower tier and invest in diamonds in the rough companies as well.
The methodology that we talked about should work for anybody. And we take a pitch book type of approach that if a family were to do this on their own, they’d have to hire a whole team that’s going to be a minimum 250, a year with a lot of work. We can do it for 25, 000 a year, better, faster, less expensive.
On the company side we have two tiers. One is at 300 a month, And that just comes with the software at a thousand dollars a month. They not only get the software, but they get a relationship manager. As every one of our investors, we’ve added the human being relationship. So not only the software, but we will help hook you up to other investors, help to form syndicates and hook you up with companies on and off our platform.
So it truly is not just software, but a service that goes beyond pretty much anything we’ve seen out there.
Ben Fraser: Awesome. And then what’s the website?
Ben Fraser: Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on. We’ll put that in the show notes and appreciate you sharing perspectives on the market and just what you guys are doing to disrupt and hopefully bring a lot more transparency and in better deals and education for everybody.
Leif Hartwig: And I’m honored you’d have me here.