Mike Alfred graduated Stanford University in 2003 and like many jumped into the financial field. He spent years working as a financial advisor and investment manager at several firms including his own, Alfred Capital Management. However he had always had an itch to be a web entrepreneur and with the help of a little Maker’s Mark and Monday Night Football that became a reality…
Could you describe Brightscope and what it does?
BrightScope is the leading provider of retirement plan ratings and investment research. We’ve quickly become the standard rating for 401k plan quality and we market a suite of web-enabled software products to Fortune 1000 employers, investment companies, consultants, and financial advisors. In addition, we provide free ratings and analysis to 401k savers at our public website www.brightscope.com
How did Brightscope go from idea to reality?
I’d always thought it would be cool to be a web entrepreneur. In 2007, I was working with my brother at our investment firm when we were introduced to Dan Weeks. Dan had been working at HP for 25 years and was ready to try something new. With a little prodding, he convinced us to take a closer look at the 401k space over our initial objections. After months of exploring the space, we were drinking Maker’s Mark and watching Monday Night football when the idea struck us like a lightning bolt. Why isn’t there a Morningstar rating for 401k plans? How can there be over $3 trillion (with a T) invested in 401k plans and no comprehensive database of 401k information available to help the average person analyze their plan? We knew that someone had overlooked a massive opportunity.
Was it hard to build credibility in the financial industry at a young age? If so how did you overcome this?
Definitely. I remember the first time I pitched a prospective client on my investment management services. They asked me how old I was. That was the first sign that I wasn’t going to win the business. As I developed, I almost never got asked. There is a certain confidence and aura that only comes with experience. Pay your dues!
What do you think is the biggest reason for you and Brightscope’s success?
I like that saying about 99% perspiration. But that doesn’t mean I believe it. In our case, it’s about the right idea, the right team, and the right time. And of course, we’re willing to outwork anyone who tries to come in to the space.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to people starting a company? How can they overcome this?
Fear. Find mentors.
If you could give 1 piece of advice to a young entrepreneur today what would it be?
Stop telling yourself what you need to have before you do something. Just do it. If I waited until I had money to start a company, I never would have started one. Instead, I got the maximum limit I could get on as many credit cards as I could qualify for. Suze Orman would kill me but that’s how you get rich in America.
Care to brag at all? User numbers? Sales numbers? Big achievements? Press?
I’m usually shameless about self-promotion but I don’t want to overdo it. We’ve had a lot of success with our PR efforts but this month I’m just really proud of my sales team for hitting a major sales milestone that we weren’t supposed to hit until late in the year.
Favorite business book?
I don’t think I can add anything too new here. I like Jim Collins, Ram Charan, Bill Taylor, etc.. But I’ve gained unique insights from reading books about the more notorious figures in American business – books like Den of Thieves and Smartest Guys in the Room. I also swear by Fortune magazine as the best place for young entrepreneurs to learn about and understand big business and corporate America.
What do you to in your spare time?
I run ultramarathons. Ultramarathons are running races longer than the standard 26.2 mile marathon distance. I’ve finished a 50 mile and 100 mile race and last March I won a 50k (31.25 miles). If I’m not working, I’m probably running on some mountain trail.
What are the future plans for Brightscope?
We’re building the next great data business. The sky is the limit and I don’t want to put an artificial cap on it.
Where can people find you online? Twitter, facebook, email etc…
@brightscope on Twitter