Today I am thrilled to announce that Adam Nash has succeeded me as CEO of Wealthfront. When Dan Carroll and I co-founded Wealthfront, we had one mission in mind, to democratize access to sophisticated investment management. We knew that to achieve our audacious goal would mean building great software and fostering a culture that would attract outstanding talent. We also knew our limitations.
Prior to co-founding Wealthfront I was a career venture capitalist who retired to teach entrepreneurship at Stanford Graduate School of Business. My background prepared me to find product/market fit, but I knew I wasn’t the most appropriate person to scale the business.
So we were unbelievably fortunate one year ago to have Adam join us as our Chief Operating Officer. In fact I actually wanted Adam to join as CEO, but he felt the infrastructure we needed to build would require his full attention in the short term. We ultimately agreed to a one-year transition where he would concentrate on building out the team and product and I would focus on external issues.
Oh boy, what a year it was. We raised $20 million from a premier group of venture capitalists, grew our assets under management by 450% to $538 million, recruited a truly experienced and first-rate management team, created a more tax efficient asset allocation, launched stock level tax-loss harvesting and grew our engineering team to the point where we can now deliver a steady stream of services that historically were only accessible to the wealthy. None of this would have been possible without Adam’s leadership.
Adam was tailor-made for his role as CEO. He has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Computer Science from Stanford and worked as a software engineer before getting his MBA at Harvard Business School. He then played a critical product role in helping build two of the iconic players in the consumer internet, eBay and LinkedIn. He was even mentored by one of the best, Reid Hoffman (who subsequently became a Wealthfront investor). Companies all over the bay area invite him to teach his approach to product management. It’s as though Adam is the embodiment of everything we recommend in our Silicon Valley Career Guide. Even so, what really sealed the deal was his passion for personal finance.
Prior to joining Wealthfront, Adam also built an enthusiastic following for his personal finance blog. In addition to his seminar on product management, Adam is often invited by companies to give his personal finance for engineers talk. Yahoo Finance even wrote a popular article about his personal finance presentation to the engineers at Twitter which led a large percentage of them to sign up for Wealthfront’s investment management service. Adam’s combination of technical know-how, product expertise and passion for finance made him an ideal fit for Wealthfront.
You see, we purposely don’t hire people from Wall St. We don’t want them bringing along their biases — the same biases that drive clients crazy.
To build an outstanding investment management service with a software-based approach, we believe you need to marry an accomplished investment team (our CIO literally wrote the book that launched passive investing) with Silicon Valley’s best engineers who can codify their recommendations into software. To build a great culture we look for people with a strong technical background who are passionate about what we are doing. Perhaps now you can see why Adam is so ideal.
But it doesn’t stop there. A great leader needs to exhibit vision and attract outstanding people. A great indication of a leader’s ability is whether his past reports want to work for him again. Such was the case with Adam — two senior execs from LinkedIn who ran growth and a big chunk of engineering, Elliot Shmukler and Avery Moon respectively, volunteered to follow him to Wealthfront. In October Fortune smiled on us again: Andy Johns, another top growth expert in the Valley, asked to join us because he wanted to learn from Adam and Elliot. As someone who backed a lot of successful companies during my venture capital career I can tell you this doesn’t happen very often.
Now that Adam has built out our infrastructure, installed a product process that should delight and amaze our clients and achieved clear market leadership among software-based financial advisors, it’s time for him to take the reins. Over the past few years there has been a growing sentiment that only founders can run successful companies. I completely disagree. I believe every founder needs to look in the mirror and ask herself what it is she is trying to accomplish and are her skills the best suited to achieve her goals.
That decision was easy for me. My desire to build a great company that could change the financial services industry was far more important than my title. In my new role as Chairman, I get to focus on my greatest strengths, developed over 25 years as a venture capitalist: Serving as a sounding board for the CEO and as an ambassador for the company. And yes, I’ll also continue to publish quite a few blog posts.
Adam, congratulations on your new position. Our teammates and clients couldn’t be more fortunate to have you at the helm.