Following its inaugural round last year—which resulted in new partnerships, investors and customers for some of its participants—the second cohort of the Founders Arena WealthTech Accelerator is now being assembled.
A grant-funded nonprofit based in Arlington, Texas, the Founders Arena is focused on providing early-stage wealthtech companies with resources, mentorship and opportunities for collaboration.
In 2023, a half-dozen companies participated in the 10-week program, including Charityvest, out of Atlanta; InvestSuite, of Leuven, Belgium; Lumiant, headquartered in Sydney, Australia; Manifest, from Chicago; Sora Finance, of San Francisco; and TaxStatus, out of Frisco, Texas.
Pamela Cytron, president of The Founders Arena, said the common element between several of the entrants in the first cohort was that they were entering less crowded territories in wealth management and exploiting openings in the market.
Charles Almond, the founder of TaxStatus, an IRS account monitoring service, said the accelerator was beneficial because it had made them more aware of the emerging market of tax planning in wealth management (the company had started out in the banking sector).
“They helped educate me and my team on ways that the wealth managers can use the product,” he said. “They were an absolute godsend to be honest.”
A mere three months after the WealthTech Combine was held over two days in October, graduates of last year’s program are already basking in the spotlight. During the recent Technology Tools for Today (T3) conference in Las Vegas, Sora Finance was honored with the T3 Emerging Technology Award for its AI-powered liability planning software.
“With all the movement in interest rates over the last year … this is an opportune time for advisors to reconsider spending more time on the liability side of the balance sheet,” said Joel Bruckenstein, co-founder of the T3 conference, before presenting Sora Finance with its award.
Cytron said the selection criteria for this year’s cohort will remain the same as the last. Unlike most traditional accelerator programs, the companies selected have all been previously funded (an average of $6 million, according to the Arena), and already have an annual recurring revenue of $1 million. She said they will be looking at post-revenue companies who are involved in a seed or Series A round of funding.
“We’re focused on how we get them in front of the buyers of the product,” she said.
The companies involved in the first cohort have already started to fundraise, with one completing an angel round.
Two of the six selected last time, InvestSuite and Lumiant, are international companies (though Lumiant already has a US presence and offices), something Cytron said she hoped to continue this year. One area she said she hoped would be expanded was representation of female founders. Of the 90 applicants in last year’s round, only one was founded by a woman. Unfortunately, that lone female founder's company was pre-revenue, and thus, did not meet the criteria for the program.
“We can’t just select on that measure alone, but I do hope that we can find a little bit of balance in that because I think it’s good for the program and wealth management,” she said.
At the Founders Forum, Cytron said it was their job to arrange a minimum of 50 meetings with what she referred to as VIPs, potential buyers of the services of the cohort participants. These meetings, she said, could provide valuable insights into how these companies are presenting themselves.
“When you go through the process, you learn more about them,” she said. “One of them needed help with their pitch. We got that feedback from those VIP visits. We like what they do, but they put a 10-minute video in their demo. It put people to sleep.”
This year’s cohort will now last an additional month, for a total of 16 weeks. Applications are being accepted through March 8 and the program will begin in April.