The annual South by Southwest (SxSW) conference and festivals is wrapping today, which often features new technologies across a wide spectrum of industries. One of the more interesting startups that I learned about and that launched during the event is an Austin-based company called Rocket Dollar, which enables those who are managing their retirement savings to diversify into alternative investments, such as real estate and, most notably, startups.
I recently spoke with co-founder Henry Yoshida, a serial entrepreneur and veteran of the financial services industry. Yoshida says that there is more than $25 trillion that resides collectively in retirement accounts. He is a proponent of empowering individuals to have more choices about how they invest their dollars.
To be clear, Rocket Dollar isn't for every investor. Some individuals may want to keep the status quo and stay on the traditional path of investing.
However, the company’s most powerful impact may be felt in the startup community. Many new companies rely on friends and family to fund a startup or an existing company in need of capital. Those startups now have the option of going back to friends and family and telling them about Rocket Dollar. Once enrolled in Rocket Dollar, the friends and family can invest some of their retirement savings in the startup.
Does Rocket Dollar inherently compete with banks that are often involved in raising capital for startups and the like?
Yoshida: No. Rocket Dollar compliments banks and other lenders because it provides another source of capital. This ultimately leads to a healthier startup and minimizes the strain on banks and other lenders.
Why isn’t anyone else doing what Rocket Dollar does?
Yoshida: That's a really good question. The solo 401(k) has been around since the 1970s, but it's challenging to set up and can be costly. There are a few small companies marketing this capability, mostly on a regional basis. Also, Rocket Dollar has a commitment to the startup community. We want to help them. In the process, we also get to empower millions of people and help them embrace financial security when it comes to their retirement savings.
How did your experience as a co-founder at Honest Dollar, which was acquired in 2016 by Goldman Sachs, prepare you for the launch of Rocket Dollar?
Yoshida: My experience at Honest Dollar reinforced the idea that there are many antiquated practices in the financial services industry that smart technology can address. A good idea paired with a great technology can revolutionize the industry. What makes Rocket Dollar more powerful than Honest Dollar is that we can not only help investors, but help the startup community as well. There are two winners.