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July 20, 2018

People of Fintech: William Bissett

Name: William Bissett

Company: Secrest Blakey & Associates

Social Platform (LinkedIn, Twitter etc): @wbbissett,

Background:  Economics, NC State. Private Wealth Management/Fiduciary. I also had a software as a service startup, Principled Heart, I started in 2012.

Connection to Carolina Fintech Hub (CFH): 

Mark Woolen has been kind enough to invite me to a number of CFH events over the last couple of months and my podcast – the Charlotte Angel Connection – has been shared by CFH in the past too.

Main passion:

I love working with people – teaching and coaching. My clients expect it of me and I’ve learned I’m pretty good at it. As such, I find myself coaching my kids during the week and on the weekends in soccer, a little basketball and adding to baseball practice when I can. This means I get to coach sportsmanship, hustle, listening, discipline and having fun.

During the day, I’m working with clients on the personal finance side of things. We talk about personal goals, family values, hard work, and having fun which is similar to coaching the kids in many respects. It gets more interesting because we add in the impact of investments (public and private), taxes, estate planning, charitable planning, global issues, children/grandchildren, and much more.

Why Fintech?:

I started selling insurance and annuities after college – and hated it. It didn’t take me long to realize that personal finance in general was an area better suited for me. I’ve been in wealth management ever since – going back to 2005 – and I expect to be in it for years and years. In 2013, I had my own Fintech startup based around estate administration planning. The company was called Principled Heart and it was picked up by the Charlotte Observer, New York Times and several other popular media but ultimately it failed.

I believe FinTech can help people better understand and utilize money. We live in such a fast paced world that keeping up with wealth creation can be very difficult through traditional means. Leveraging technology allows consumers to take care of the easy aspects of money so they can spend more time on the important points of it.

What aspect of technology will help people understand and utilize money better?

I think artificial intelligence is going to be helpful in this space. There are many redundant things we do and see on an everyday basis and AI seems to be ready to do those things for us. It should free us up to focus on more creative ideas and more fruitful conversations. I’m worried how far AI will go but I think the initial aspects of it can be pretty helpful.

Was it a difficult choice to start Principled Heart? What did you learn from starting your own fintech? How has the experience helped you in your career now?

It wasn’t a difficult decision. I always had ideas but never pulled the trigger as I was scared I didn’t know what to do. Principled Heart was something I knew and understood and I figured if I was going to give it a go this was the perfect first try. Clearly, I had to convince my wife it was worth the risk but she encouraged me to do it pretty quickly into the conversation.

What I learned from starting Principled Heart is there is no such thing as an overnight success. You don’t launch a website and expect 1 million eyes the next day. There is a lot of hard work, stress, late nights, more stress, timing, and luck that goes into it. As such, I’ve been much more patient with things – my kids and family included.

I also learned it’s really hard to do it without a co-founder. There are teams all across the country working on similar problems/companies. It takes a special talent to get a startup off the ground on their own. It also takes more capital than you think it’s going to. I guess my list of lessons is long as I have a lot more but I’ll cut it off there!

Why the Carolina Region?:

I’m from New Bern, NC and went to NC State. My heart is in North Carolina and my kids love Charlotte. With Charlotte’s deep banking roots and the influx of talented kids from the triangle and other areas, this area is primed to take advantage of old banking and new technology. There are also too many talented people in the bank’s corporate offices today who have been sitting on great ideas to build a better banking experience.

What do you think is holding them back other than lack of successful CLT fintechs?

The ‘lifestyle’ it allows people to live is what holds most people back. Many people may not be happy with what they do but it’s hard to voluntarily make the jump when the lifestyle the bank affords is typically at least pretty good.

Once we see one or two successes – and I don’t think they have to be huge successes – or we experience another recession I think the Charlotte market is primed for the floodgates to open with regards to self-made Fintech entrepreneurs linking in with technical co-founders or smart business people. It’s going to be really fun to see happen.

What is the Charlotte Angel Connection and what was the impetus for this? Other than the podcast how can people get involved?

The Charlotte Angel Connection is a podcast geared to the Angel Investor and to a lesser extent the broader entrepreneurial community. The idea came to me one night at an event where Michael Praeger mentioned that no one in Silicon Valley knew about Charlotte’s startup and investment community.

I sat in the back of the room and chuckled to myself that no one in CHARLOTTE knew about it either. I thought a podcast interviewing those who are involved in it would be a great way to introduce the concept to commuters in Charlotte – hopefully many of those in the big banks. The concept has morphed over time but the current set up is a weekly podcast that last about 30-40 minutes. Every guest is interviewed for an hour but the podcast is broken into two parts.

The goal is to figure out what it’s like to be an investor or an entrepreneur. Additionally, we’ve interviewed folks who are building the community to help listeners understand how easy it is to get involved.

Ideally, I want people to listen to it and learn over time whether they should join the movement as an investor, an entrepreneur, or an advisor/supporter.

Click here to check out the Charlotte Angel Connection’s podcasts!

What is Next?…

What’s next for the Charlotte Fintech scene is we need more local investors. The quality of talent is growing quickly. Ultimately though we need to raise a flag making it clear to those sitting in the banks today and those looking to start Fintech companies that Charlotte can be a great place to raise a family AND an easy place for great startups to get funded. You can easily say it’s a great place to raise a family, but talk to just about any local entrepreneur and they will tell you they had to go outside of the Charlotte market to raise money.

Why does Charlotte lack local investors when there are plenty of wealthy bankers in Charlotte that are familiar with Fintech?

The constant argument I receive is that people invest the way they made their money – meaning since we’ve had so few startup successes we have little capital to be invested.

I think Charlotte – and any city for that matter – has a classic herd mentality and the herd hasn’t made the decision to invest this way yet. It takes a few people to start, talk about it enough and get others comfortable. From there it will continue to build and grow. It’s coming. It’s just a matter of time before we have lift off. It won’t be smooth but it’s coming.

As a result, I think you will see several seed level Venture Capital firms set up shop in Charlotte over the next 3 – 5 years. Some of them will be home grown and others will come from established firms looking to get a foot in the door. The homegrown ones need help from local investors to raise their first fund.

What needs to happen in order for these VC firms to come to CLT and fund CLT based fintechs?

The economics have to work for them. They have to believe they can raise money and then they have to believe they need to be here to see the companies on a regular basis. Dan Roselli is awfully close to making it apparent that successful fintech startups are choosing Charlotte. Give him another year or two at most (which is 4 more classes) and ample time for previous cohorts to be successful and I think the economics will make it impossible for at least one or two funds not to be established.

What Advice do you have for others interested in Fintech?

The Charlotte startup scene isn’t on the ground floor anymore. However, the opportunity to get involved and make an impact still exists. You have two choices at this point. Look the other way for the next 10 years only to turn around and realize you missed helping be part of Charlotte’s future or roll up your sleeves and get to work.

To get involved, just start by subscribing to StartCharlotte. Juan has done an excellent job with it over the last 12 to 24 months. It’s a great way for people to see what’s going on in the community every week. Or for those folks who work downtown, take your lunch break and walk over to Packard Place. Look at the calendar, find something that interest you and come back.

The people in this community are extremely welcoming. Just walk into an event, ask someone where they are from and let the conversation go from there!

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Posted by Carson Truesdell