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Interested in investing a portion of your long term savings or retirement into high growth startup companies at early stages? Several solutions have emerged to help provide access to these alternative assets, making it easier to invest, but working through existing financial relationships may prove challenging for some. 

Equity funding regulation and the rise of cryptocurrency held promise for open startup investment opportunities to all, no matter economic status. However, most who want to work with a professional financial expert to get help in selecting and managing a portfolio of early stage companies, or alternative investments, options are limited. Innovative investment platforms and funds are the first place to look for access.

Financial Advice Limitations

Most investment firms that have experience with alternative investments require you to be an accredited investor (wealthy as defined by the SEC), and there are few that will actively assist you in selecting individual investments unless the amount you have to invest far exceeds even the SEC standards.

Broker-Dealers:

Traditional investment brokers like Scottrade, TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, Vanguard, and E-trade provide access to public equity, debt, and funds that include mostly mature large companies. Access to higher risk alternative assets like early stage companies are limited through these channels so we explore other avenues. 

Registered Investment Advisors

Ravie Lakshmanan of FinancialPlanning.com writes RIAs: “a mere 2% of financial planners view cryptocurrencies as a viable investment option.”

Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have “banned their brokers from recommending bitcoin and refuse to trade the instrument.” according to Financial Advisor IQ author Bruce Love. He goes on to write, “Most RIAs won’t let their clients anywhere near cryptocurrencies. And there’s a crucial legal reason why RIAs would be hard-pressed to let their clients invest in bitcoin: It might not be fiduciarily responsible. Under their fiduciary duty, putting their client’s best interests first, many RIAs think cryptocurrencies are far too risky for most retail investors.”  “last month SEC Chairman Jay Clayton told CNBC the U.S. regulator would not be defining cryptocurrencies as securities anytime soon – a move which would allow RIAs to actively trade the instruments.”(ibid)

Fees

Economics of advisory is a likely cause for so few certified professionals dedicated to this space. Advisors are typically paid an annual fee based on total assets invested. With a 0.5% (50 bps) fee, a $50 million client will make the advisor around $250,000 a year, while a $500,000 client will make the advisor $2,500. At $2,500 revenue per client, It would take 40 clients to earn $100,000 in revenue. One good financial advisor might be able to advise and manage 40 clients, but assuming overhead costs are at least 50%, that leaves $50,000 per year to pay the advisors salary.

Portfolio management theory is just as important as the reality of fees. Registered investment advisors (RIAs) have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. They cannot allow the investor to be overly concentrated in one investment, particularly risky ones. Thus, they follow the traditional theory which says that any allocation to “alternative investments” must be small, say a maximum of 10% of a client’s investable assets. An unaccredited investor has a legal cap to the amount they can invest in alternatives per year.

Considering the mechanics above and specialty expertise required to provide professional advice we believe it these factors drastically reduce the number of alternative specialists. We look to showcase specialists covering startup equity and cryptocurrencies so appreciate any suggestions or feedback in the comments.

Going It Alone

The economics of asset management explained above reveal why even accredited investors will often have to go it alone when it comes to choosing alternative investments. Assuming you are going to have to go at this alone we have compiled a list of portals and funds to review.

 

Funding Portals & Funds

We list, rank, analyze, and review innovative startup equity and crypto investing portals and funds.

There are three types of funds available for investors interested in investing in alternative funds: Exchange-traded Funds, Private Investment Funds, and Hedge Funds. We highlight some of the most well-known, experienced, and professional providers. Of note, buying a fund puts the responsibility for managing the investments on the fund manager. It also makes the fund manager responsible for all transaction costs and custodial costs.

 

Tax Incentives

Self-directed Retirement Plans:

In order to gain tax efficiency with your investments retirement accounts are a great resource and self directed plans are a great resource for going it alone and gaining access to these high risks investments. SEC and IRS rules govern what can go into an Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), and most IRA managers want, or require, you to invest in their own products. For example, an account managed by Vanguard will allow you to allocate your retirement savings into Vanguard funds. A self directed IRA can allow you control, because you take the fiduciary responsibility away from the manager — you are the manager.

There are numerous organizations, typically Trust companies, that manage the mechanics of investment accounts on behalf of others. While traditional Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) can make money off the fees charged by the assets they manage, the fee structure in a self directed account without and advisor are different.

Goldstar offers self-directed tax incentivized accounts. Companies that provide self-directed RIAs are usually experts in managing the account itself. Additionally, management of custodial services required for the assets you hold and assistance with choosing among possible investments may be covered in self-directed RIAs.

We spoke with Josh Duckworth the Director of Marketing at GoldStar Trust about how to do this. GoldStar Trust is paving the way for individuals to invest in startups through these investment vehicles through self-directed IRA accounts that allow for investing in debt and equity through online portals. They have created accounts to help facilitate these transactions. Gold Star Trust charges 25$ to create an IRA account and $65 per year to maintain the account. In addition to self-directed IRAs, Gold Star Trust offers a solution for escrow and payment services with fees starting at $500 per deal. Their recent launch of CrowdPay, escrow, payments, custody and tax reporting services can be done via API (Application Programming Interface).

 

Startup & Crypto Innovations

I hope you find our list of innovative startup equity and crypto investing portals and funds helpful. While there are limitations to accessing financial advice in this risky space, there are continual changes and improvements through technology that we look to showcase. We appreciate any feedback and input in the comments below.

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