Nest Egg Guru produces affordable, client-facing software that helps financial advisors increase client engagement, improve education, and make their client relationships stickier. Their current three applications are merely the first rollouts in the product suite.
Name: Nest Egg Guru, Inc.
Location: Honolulu, HI
Product / Service Offering: Financial Advisor Software (SaaS/B2B)
Co-founder Interviewed: J. R. Robinson, CEO, Co-founder
Other Key Management Team Members: Efi Ben-Dor, MBA Product Manager, Co-Founder; Jack DeJong, Jr. PhD, CFA, MBA Programmer, Co-Founder; Christopher Grozdon, Social Media Marketing
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
Like my teammates, I have been a lifelong serial entrepreneur. My most successful previous start-up (and my avocation) is Financial Planning Hawaii. The disruption taking place in the financial planning space is a large part of what drove me to create Nest Egg Guru. Disruption is coming from the rise of automated investment platforms and from consumers who are becoming increasingly savvy and increasingly demand to be engaged in the planning process.
As a domain expert in the field, I am aware of the applications that are available to financial advisors. I am motivated to provide my planning industry peers with applications that are affordable, that improve client engagement, and that add “stickiness” to their client relationships.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
Nest Egg Guru was formally established as a Delaware C-Corp upon entering the Blue Startups accelerator program in October 2015. However, the idea for the first Nest Egg Guru applications were born out of research papers that I co-authored with three professors from the University of Hawaii’s business school, including eventual co-founder, Jack Dejong. The papers, which were on retirement income sustainability, won research awards and were published in academic journals. When we were writing them, it occurred to me that the methodology we were using would lend itself well to an advisor app. This might present an improvement over the apps that are available to planning professionals. I approached Jack about programming the app for professional use, and the idea for Nest Egg Guru was hatched.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
We produce affordable, client-facing software that helps financial advisors increase client engagement, improve education, and make their client relationships stickier.
Our current three applications are merely the first rollouts in our product suite.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
Our first three apps, which are retirement and college planning tools, feature a unique simulation methodology. We have several other important differentiators as well, including unique functionality and superior UI/UX.
While the Indy Financial Advisor software space is a crowded market, we really don’t have any direct competitors. Nest Egg Guru is the only company that is focused on providing affordable, client-facing engagement software. Our applications can complete or supplement the advisors’ more expensive broad financial planning software.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge that we face is how to effectively reach the 300,000+ Financial Advisors in our market. Branding and product differentiation continues to be our biggest challenge. Through trial and error, we have been figuring out what strategies work (organic traffic, media exposure, and webinars) and which ones do not (Facebook/Twitter advertising).
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
Blue Startups was incredibly helpful. I recommend a startup accelerator program for all first time tech startups.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
Aside from a nominal amount of funding, $25,000 from Blue Startups, we are entirely bootstrapped. We have an advantage over traditional startups to the extent that our founders are already successful, established, business and professional people. We have sufficient capital to establish the business without having to immediately give up our ownership interest and control to VCs. This enables us to focus on building our business instead of focusing on pitching now and building the company later.
I am not sure there is anything I would do differently. There is very little angel or VC capital in Hawaii, and competition for capital in Silicon Valley is fierce and often irrational. We would very definitely like to raise capital, but we aren’t trying to win a beauty contest. We are building a company.
I feel like we know the market space better than all of the firms that are trying to enter the market without ever having sat behind an advisor’s desk. The leading legacy apps in the Indy FA fintech space (eMoney and Money Guide Pro) were founded by advisors. Our position is that angel investors or VCs would be wise to bet with us rather than against us.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
We had no idea how difficult and sophisticated UX design is and how important QA is. We are very fortunate that Blue put us in touch with a fabulous UX mentor, Lisa Brett.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Our biggest challenges are how to efficiently reach our target market and how to get our market to quickly and easily understand our value proposition.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Outsourcing to foreign developers has saved us a fortune. Our development teams are based in Vietnam and Ukraine.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
In the past year, we have been featured in Financial Planning magazine by leading fintech journalist Joel Bruckenstein, in Advisory Quest, and in Journal of Financial Planning (twice). We have established partnering relationships with the major FA website design firms (Advisor Websites, Advisor Products, FMG Suite, and Twenty Over Ten) and with the Financial Planning Association (FPA). In June, Investopedia listed me among the Top 100 most influential financial advisors in the U.S.
In the next few months, we will be rolling out Planning Matrix – a cross marketing platform that bundles Nest Egg Guru with other complimentary a la carte software applications. By year end, we hope to roll out two more applications that are designed to make client relationships stickier.
Are you familiar with other startups you believe should be spotlighted? If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them in the comments below!