The Works Demo Day 3(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles spotlighting companies competing in this year’s “The Works” growth accelerator operated by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center {KEC}. The teams will have their “Demo Day” on September 20 as part of the second annual “Innov865 Week.” To register, click here.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The year was 2015, and Mac Bartine was happily focused on Instartly, his latest Internet-based endeavor, when he saw a post from another local entrepreneur that caught his attention.

That individual was John Morris, a member of the Board of Directors of Smart RIA, a start-up launched by Roger Kiger, a Certified Financial Planner and founder of Visionary Horizons Wealth Management. As related to us in this post from 2014, Kiger had packaged 10 years of experience into a product to automate compliance requirements faced by small, independent investment firms or even individual advisors.

“It was more on a whim that I agreed to meet with Roger,” Bartine says. “I was still planning to do Instartly, but I left that meeting fascinated with the opportunity. Roger and I hit it off immediately.”

So, in October 2015, Bartine began separating himself from Instartly, becoming Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Smart RIA.

“When I started, we had no paying customers,” Bartine says. Now, nearly two years later, the CEO says the company is generating revenue – growing 54 percent this past April alone compared to the previous month. In addition, Smart RIA is in the midst of a capital raise and believes it will achieve $10 million in recurring revenue soon.

That’s significant progress for a start-up that has been bootstrapped up to now, although it is something that Bartine sees as a great advantage as well as an attraction for investors.

What’s happened in the past two years?

Smart RIA did a seed capital raise of $250,000 and invested those funds in two ways – an inbound marketing campaign and a substantial revamping of the core software.

“We got very solid advice from a compliance expert on changes to make in the software,” Bartine said. More important, however, was a strategic focus on another group – potential customers.

“We listened to our prospects, especially those that were saying no,” he explained. “They were saying yes to the base product, but no to the bells and whistles.”

As a result, Bartine says Smart RIA revamped the software, eliminating 60 percent of the existing features to have a base product that was rolled-out in a Beta version last August.

“We don’t sell bells and whistles now,” he explains, adding that “they will come back at some point. The goal of our platform is to allow our customers to manage and maintain the basics of compliance as easily and efficiently as possible.”

The results speak for themselves in two ways. Monthly recurring revenue quickly grew by seven fold, and Bartine says $1 million in annual recurring revenue is within almost immediate reach. In addition, users are happy.

“Our customers are telling us it is the best product they’ve seen,” he adds. “They are also saying someone finally made compliance easy.”

As far as the bells and whistles, Bartine says customers are providing input on the features they would like to see added.

Going forward, Smart RIA has an enterprise version that is targeted at compliance consulting firms that can sublicense the software to the financial advisors they serve. Two such firms are already in the fold, and the company is in discussions with eight more. That’s where Bartine sees the greatest growth potential.

Smart RIA also has hired Jeremiah Barnett as a full-time Business Development Manager.

As far as “The Works,” Bartine knows something about KEC’s approach, having served as a mentor in an earlier iteration of the program that was called “MediaWorks.”

“This could be meaningful for our company,” he says. “Even if we only learn a couple of things, it could be the difference in scaling or not. Half way through, it’s already been a very profitable experience.”

Tom Ballard

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer,
Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.

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