Jessica and Chris are building a wealth management platform that helps optimize your finances regardless of what state they’re in.
The Uprise team first caught our attention
when it launched
a couple of months ago with a rather bold statement – adding an extra $1.5M to your lifetime net worth for free.
I sat down with them to find out more about how Uprise works and what motivated them to work on this problem.
How and why did you start working on Uprise?
Jessica: My background has been in consumer FinTech for some time. Before starting Uprise, I was Chief of Staff to the Head of Product at Robinhood
. Before that, I was the Head of Product at Earnin, which is a startup that helps people who live paycheck to paycheck make ends meet between paydays. Before that, I was an early employee at Wise
. Having worked at all of these amazing fintech companies, they still very much only solve a sliver of your finances. There's nothing that looks at your finances comprehensively, and can say "Hey, you should do this, or you should do that."
That was actually the number one question people had at Robinhood: how do I start? It's impossible to make that recommendation without knowing your entire situation.
A lot of it resonated, as the child of first-generation immigrants, seeing my parents build up from nothing. Especially my mom, who really took the time to learn a bunch of personal finance stuff. She actually became my financial advisor, she's the person I go to for all of my personal finance questions. I remember I was in grad school, and she calls me up and goes, "Jessica, max out your Roth IRA." It's only many years later, that I realized "Oh, that was the exact right advice at the exact right time." So with Uprise, the idea was, how do I scale my mom? How do I give everybody access to someone like my mom?
What about you, Chris?
Chris: Personal finance has always been top of mind for me. I was raised by a single mom who worked in retail. Making sure we were financially stable was always kind of top of mind, too. After college, I got a Master's in Finance and I worked at a hedge fund. Then I ended up being employee and engineer number two, at Justworks
. One of the things that I saw there were companies offering all these great benefits, like a 401K match. And people would not take advantage of it. Surprisingly few, even though it's a meaningful amount of money. Fixing that and putting some money back in people's pockets felt like a good way to spend the rest of my career! Then Jess and I met through the On Deck fellowship and here we are.
Are there any things that surprise you when it comes to how people usually do their finances?
J: What surprised me the most has been the fact that whatever your financial situation is, there are always optimizations to be made, whether you're wealthy or just getting started. For some reason, I thought that in specific situations, you wouldn't need financial advice. We've been able to find, on average, for each of our plans, $1.5M to add to customers' lifetime net worth.
Something that people think they have to do is keep a balance on their credit cards in order to increase their credit score. No, just pay off in full every month. Also, people think that they should stay on their parent's health plans, instead of switching to their company's free health insurance. There's a ton of stuff like that.
C: Yeah, even if you think you're a financial expert, and you kind of know everything, you can't compete with a comprehensive database and a computer looking through your finances.
Data doesn't lie! Tell me a bit more about how Uprise actually works — what do you have behind the hood?
J: Once a customer comes in, we are deliberate about collecting a lot of information about them. I think different attempts in this space have been all automated. They all collect some information, connect a few of your bank accounts, and then give you some advice. Frankly, it's always garbage in, garbage out. That's because they don't have a comprehensive picture. So we are really, really deliberate about making sure we collect information comprehensively. This includes all of your financial accounts, as well as your employer, your employment information, how much you're making, what kind of bonuses you're getting, and what your employer benefits look like. We also ask questions like "What are your hopes and dreams? Do you want to go to grad school? Do you want to buy a recording studio (someone did that)?"
We have a bunch of different modules built out in the back. There's one that optimizes your credit cards, and one for your savings accounts and checking accounts. And then others on how to take advantage of employer benefits and investments. That's how the personalized plan comes together. And then the human comes in to make sure that the tech got it right.
Do you see a future where the human is no longer needed? Given you have enough data points to make sense of any financial situation?
J: No. I could definitely see a future where the tech gets it 100% right. But even then, I don't think the human should go away. Personal finance is such a personal topic, so you always want to make sure that there's a human there to double-check. And if it catches things that don't look right, we'll keep working on the technology. But I don't see a scenario where the human goes away.
What are some of the highlights and lowlights in building this so far?
J: For me, it's the team. I love working with Chris. We also have Nantha who's our Head of Engineering and joins us from Facebook. Lena, our Head of Design, joins us from Weight Watchers, and Angi, and Caroline, who joins us from Raymond James. She does the financial planning — she's the human. It's fun to be able to build with a small team who believes in making an impact for people and the broader community of customers.
C: Yeah, I 100% agree with Jess on highlights. Our team and our users are awesome. I love talking to them. They're these optimistic people starting out their careers who want to do everything the right way. This is something we wish we had when we were a little younger, too. I really wanted to work on a product that people use to make their life better.
Lowlights? Fundraising. I know a lot of founders go through this. You hear a bunch of no's. Maybe I got lucky in life but I've never heard that many "no's" until going through this process.
Why did you decide to launch on Product Hunt?
C: We knew Product Hunt has a huge audience and tons of really engaged users who are interested in new tech products. I've been kind of a lurker in the Product Hunt community for a while. I'll get involved sometimes, but not actively. I've always seen it as a very supportive community of people who just want to try out new things and surface the best to the top. So it felt like a good match between our audience and the Product Hunt audience.
How did you decide it was the right time to launch?
C: It was only very recently that we built out the infrastructure and the team to really scale things up. So we could have launched earlier, but we would not have had the capacity to let people off the waitlist in a reasonable amount of time. So it felt like the right time.
Were there any learnings from the launch? Maybe things you wish you did or didn't do?
C: The top thing that comes to mind is that I could have talked more about our founding story in the maker comment. I ended up editing it later on, but that's something I wish I did from the get-go.
What are you most excited about? Is Uprise coming to Europe by any chance?
J: That's the number one question we got in the Product Hunt launch too. Every single tax jurisdiction is different. Building up that database of knowledge in every single country will take time. But we'll get there for sure.
What comes next on our roadmap is being able to give out investment advice. That involves getting registered with the SEC. It's the number one thing our beta customers have been asking for. After that, what we would really like to do is be able to help people implement their plans as well. Like moving your cash from one account to another in one click.
The nearest term thing is to let more people off the waitlist. We've already tripled our capacity.
Thank you, both! Can't wait to see where Uprise goes from here. Good luck!