Startup Spotlight: Kingscrowd
Startup Spotlight: Kingscrowd
Meet Chris Lustrino, CEO and Founder of KingsCrowd — the premier investment management company for the equity crowdfunding market!
GH: What is KingsCrowd?
KingsCrowd aims to become the first platform-agnostic, institutional grade research and analytics solution that enables informed startup investment decisions, regardless of investment experience. Think “Morningstar” for the equity crowdfunding market.
GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did KingsCrowd get started?
It was a pretty surreal moment actually. For 2 years I ran a Fintech blog focused on alternative investing and lending. One day in the winter of 2018, I received a phone call out of the blue from John Fanning, Founding Chairman of Napster, and an innovator who has been on the tech scene for 20+ years.
He basically asked me right on the spot if I would want to build the first research solution for the equity crowdfunding markets with him as an advisor. I knew very well what the equity crowdfunding market needed since I have been following the space since the start, and it was clear to me that the time to do this was now.
GH: How did you build your team?
We are just beginning to build our team and recently brought on Sean O’Reilly as Chief Content Officer. He is a former editor from The Motley Fool and has been covering the equity markets for years.
In general our team will be focused across three dimensions, which are technology/ data analytics, content production, and investment due diligence. More broadly, we will look to build a diverse and inclusive team of individuals with varied perspectives and opinions, but who are aligned on the vision of democratizing innovation capital.
GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?
We feel the key to building strong culture is to build an organization that fundamentally believes in being inclusive, diverse, and transparent. The data tells us time and again these are the keys to building long term sustainable businesses.
I also think a word we don’t use often enough in the business world is “compassionate”. At the end of the days being in a startup is about constant failure and learnings. When you don’t have compassion and embrace failure with open arms, you can oftentimes stifle creativity and progress. KingsCrowd is in the business of promoting creativity and innovation by focusing on these 4 pillars.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Since we are so young as an organization, we have not had too many chances to truly stumble in a big way, as I am sure we will. However, we have had some small trip ups, where pieces we published had errors in them or individuals got stuck in our sign up flow as we work through technical development.
The cool thing about those incidences is that I used these opportunities to engage with the user who had an issue, and it has actually led to a couple of them becoming investors. Instead of looking at these scenarios as mistakes, I looked at them as opportunities to engage early adopters that obviously cared about our product. That has been a pretty cool experience to take a failure and make it into a real positive for the organization.
GH: What did you learn from your first customers?
To date, we have grown completely organically and this has essentially been a side project until I was able to transition out of my prior job. During that time, I had the opportunity to see new customers come on board who in many ways seeked us out.
That told me that we are solving a real pain point for a lot of everyday investors who just want quality research and recommendations to help inform their startup investment approach. That product-market fit is exciting to see.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
The Boston ecosystem is incredible. We are actually fortunate enough to have been accepted into the DCU Fintech Innovation Center, which is helping us to be at the center of the Fintech community here in Boston.
Not only are we provided free office space for a year, but we have an opportunity to call on and learn from so many of the other innovators in this community, which is just fantastic.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
There is always room for improvement. I think the community at times can be perceived as very B2B even though there is a strong amount of B2C startups as well.
This at times can take away some of the fervor you may see coming out of the New York and San Francisco hubs who tend to grab more of the headlines.
GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?
It’s funny, for the past 2 years I have asked every Fintech startup founder I have spoken with (probably around 200-300 in total) what their best tip would be for someone starting up, and time and again the answer was to just go for it, and not to be scared. And honestly I completely agree with it. It’s never going to be easy but the experience and opportunity is always worth it, no matter how frightening it may be.
I’m a big believer in being highly selective of the advice that I listen to because so much of the advice out there would never fit the individual I am or the organization that we are. Any of the poor advice isn’t necessarily poor, rather it just didn’t fit who I am or who we are as an organization.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Since we really launched in March of 2018, I will say that the best thing that has happened to date is that we have been well received by many of the platforms having been featured on the website or newsletter of 4 of the top 5 equity crowdfunding platforms to date. This has really been a driver of acquiring our early customers.
GH: What does the future hold for KingsCrowd?
Over the next six months we aim to build a sizeable user base of 10K+ newsletter subscribers and build out v1 of our ratings and analytics product. At that point we will work to begin distributing at scale and become the #1 trusted source of research and analytics for the equity crowdfunding market.
Learn more about KingsCrowd