Advisor technology startup Milemarker has hired former Onramp Invest advisory board member and Skience executive Kyle Van Pelt as its CEO, with co-founder and outgoing CEO of the firm Jud Mackrill staying on as managing partner. Van Pelt’s appointment dates to the beginning of the month, WealthManagement.com learned in an exclusive interview with the duo.
Despite not disclosing how many firms have worked with Milemarker, or revealing any of its customers, the year-old company is growing revenue by 30% to 40% quarter over quarter, said Mackrill. Employee head count grew from four employees in early 2021 to 14 employees today.
Van Pelt's experience with overseeing technology integrations for advisors, gleaned through his experiences at Skience, SS&C Advent and Riskalyze, made him the ideal leader for the startup, Mackrill said.
“We need the absolute best leaders in our space who know the pains of integration,” he said. A former Carson Group executive, Jud Mackrill founded the firm early last year alongside Kim Mackrill, chief marketing officer and Jud's wife; Paul Kent Graeve, chief technology officer; and Mark Smith, chief data officer.
Milemarker is an integration-as-a-service company that provides custom integrations across the technologies used by insurance companies, independent broker/dealers and RIAs. The firm helps its clients aggregate and pool their own data, so they can utilize it across their tech stacks in ways that vendor-built integrations won't address.
“Nobody's gonna build 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 different ways of integrating their software with another piece of software. It's just not a good use of resources,” Van Pelt said. “But if you allow the client to control that experience, they can build however they want.”
Van Pelt’s experience with integrations while at Riskalyze from 2015 to 2017 provides an important foundation for his new role, he said. In a period of 18 months at Riskalyze, Van Pelt helped execute some 30 integrations, in what became known as “the summer of integrations” at the firm.
That period at Riskalyze “really highlighted the challenge that I think Milemarker is solving now,” he said. “This industry tries to integrate everything horizontally,” meaning vendors provide data flows by trying to integrate with each other. What is missing, he said, is “vertical integration,” an emphasis on integration between layers of a firm’s own tech stack.
One of Van Pelt’s top objectives will be growing the company, including hiring new technologists, sales and marketing personnel.
The firm targets some of the same customers that Invent.us, which also provides custom integrations and data pooling, attempts to serve. A year ago, Jud Mackrill suggested the two firms might collaborate in the future, but so far that hasn't happened, he said. Salesforce also provides wealth management firms with apps integrations, via its AppExchange.
Milemarker is profitable, Mackrill said, and will remain self-funded with no immediate plans to raise outside money.
Van Pelt said he will be applying two lessons he learned from his period as an Onramp Invest advisory board member: staying focused on one specific problem problem at a time and building “incredible buzz.”
“Onramp could have gone a bunch of different directions. I don't think a lot of people know this,” he said. “There were a lot of directions they could have gone, but they stayed really focused on serving advisors in the crypto space.”
Similarly, he said Milemarker’s data warehousing and technological abilities could “pull you in other directions.” Instead, the firm is focused on bringing its expertise to the wealth management industry.
While serving on the advisory board at Onramp, Van Pelt also saw the opportunities created by “getting people to care about something when it’s a problem that needs to be solved.” In other words, creating excitement at the right moment is just as important, if not more, as creating excitement.
“If we are able to tell our story in a really powerful way, we'll be able to create a ton of momentum,” he said.
He declined to offer further comment on the recent leadership changes at Onramp, noting that his resignation from the startup’s advisory board, in part, was related to his new leadership role.
“I’m trying to limit my outside commitments,” he said, adding that the details behind the leadership changes at Onramp were best addressed by the remaining members of the firm.
The continuing—and accelerating—consolidation of the broker/dealer market represents a standout opportunity for Milemarker. Each sale represents a potential tech consolidation opportunity because the firms aren’t becoming more efficient or integrated, according to Mackrill, giving Milemarker a chance to overhaul antiquated tech systems and workflows.
He stepped back from his leadership role because Van Pelt can “take the company further than I can,” Mackrill said. “I'm not romantic about being the CEO. Neither is Kyle [Van Pelt]. But we know that we need the right leadership.”
Mackrill added that he was more comfortable building companies than leading them. Jud and Kim Mackrill built marketing firm Mineral Interactive in 2015. It was acquired by Carson Group in 2018.
“It's not that I don't believe in myself or anything like that,” Mackrill added. “I want to see this accomplished. I need Kyle [Van Pelt] and a full team of the right folks to make this thing as amazing as possible for our customers.”