My pet peeve is: Bureacracy Something people don't know about me is: I sail competitively
Democratizing access to alternative investments
EMBRACING ALTERNATIVES. Perrin Quarshie's company, RealBlocks, is leading the way in helping make investing accessible to everyone. Where several platforms have successfully democratized access to the stock market, RealBlocks is achieving it with alternative investments (private equity, private credit and hedge funds and venture funds) by building technology that provides access to mass market consumers who have historically been shut out.
Perrin's idea for RealBlocks sparked during a research project in grad school at MIT Sloan. His previous career as a nuclear engineer designing tech solutions had given him a problem-solving mentality, but after becoming interested in investment management, he realized his passion lay in leading his own company to solve a big problem.
"I started by investing in private funds on my own, and they did very well," Perrin recalls. "So much so that my holdings there quickly exceeded those in my 401(k) while working as an engineer." But while he was excited by the success of those investments, he was disappointed by the "tremendously archaic" processes in place. "Everything we do today is being automated, but there just didn't seem to be automation occurring here."
While at MIT, Perrin set out to digitize these processes. And during a summer internship working in investment banking, he noticed many managers were creating products for retail but lacked the technology, further motivating him to make the MVP for RealBlocks.
After building out the product at Techstars in New York, Perrin boldly chose to beta test it with a major player in the business, LaSalle Investment Management. "The goal was to raise around $10-$25 million, but LaSalle raised over $100 million using our tech. That really proved the value proposition." Soon after, RealBlocks was selected to cover and automate their entire $77 billion institutional business.
Five years after Perrin founded RealBlocks, the firm currently has just under $80 billion in assets under their administration, and they're continuing to grow at a rapid pace. As well as setting out to improve risk-adjusted return and decrease volatility by investing in alternatives, he's proud to be helping founders by opening up investment opportunities in early-stage tech companies that previously wouldn't have had access.
FREEDOM TO THINK DIFFERENTLY. Perrin credits the near-instant early success of RealBlocks to a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive, safe-space culture that enabled them to be agile and make adjustments to the concept along the way.
"Inclusion is a very sacrosanct value of mine. RealBlocks is about financial inclusion and giving people access to better investment options that will improve their outcomes. But I also want RealBlocks to focus on inclusion within the company, from the team to our customers to training and mentoring. I want our mission to catalyze other work that the company and I can do to help foster more of a culture of inclusion, especially where underrepresented founders are concerned."
Similarly, Perrin admits that being an underrepresented founder and building a company in the historically conservative financial services world hasn't been without its challenges. However, akin to his ever-optimistic nature, he believes facing adversity can embolden a person to be more creative in achieving their goals.
"When a person overcomes challenges, it builds creativity and character. I absolutely think that I've benefited from those things. In sectors where there is less representation, it presents an opportunity for people who have been left out to innovate and make positive changes that benefit everyone and move the entire industry forward. At RealBlocks, we've worked very hard to gain credibility and votes of confidence from some of the harshest critics who have eventually become customers. Sometimes, you have to change people's minds by doing!"