In 2008, Natasha Bansgopaul and Sang Lee met during their college years at Binghamton University. After constantly being paired up by their college professor for case competitions, they both realized they would end up entrepreneurs. “We just had no idea in what capacity,” said Bansgopaul. “We made a deal then, that when we started our companies, we’d give each other a call, so we could work together again. When I graduated with my M.B.A. in May 2010, I received a call from Sang in August 2010, and we started to plan our first startup, Return on Change (RoC), a crowdfunding equity company focused on providing direct access to equity investments for startups focused on societal impact.
Embracing the Power of a Pivot
As a startup, one of the best things you can do is take note when market needs or regulatory requirements are changing. Although Bansgopaul and Lee successfully raised a couple of million dollars for a number of startups, they decided to pivot RoC into DarcMatter, a global award-winning platform for alternative investments. Headquartered in New York City, DM also has offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Seoul, where the regional teams work with local investors to provide direct access to cross-border investment opportunities via the platform.
“We built our business from about 150 investors and 10 fund products to currently over 2,400 investors, representing over 62+ countries, and more than 150 fund products live on. We were once a team of three and, currently, we are about 25 people globally. The growth of employees is both exciting and an accomplishment. We look forward to continuing to expand the team as we take on new initiatives like blockchain and more clients on both the LP and GP side of the business.”
Taking the Hassle Out of Investing
“DarcMatter focuses on streamlining the capital raising process for fund managers (GPs) while making it easy for investors (LPs) to access, research, and invest, into quality fund products, online. Believe it or not, in this industry and in quite a few others, people still use fax machines. Yes, fax machines. At its most simplistic form, DarcMatter allows fund managers and investors to complete the entire investment process, online, without needing to go through the traditional processes. These processes tend to rely on “pen and paper” documentation, postal mailing/sharing of documentation, and physical signatures potentially required through facsimile, to name a few of the inefficiencies that can be solved with technology. DM’s platform is used as a means for fund managers to easily reach investors globally, without needing to spend time and money on a traditional roadshow and in-person follow up with potential investors. Therefore, significantly reducing costs, and providing time-savings that allow the manager to focus on the investing part of their job versus the labor-intensive capital raising part of their job.”
“On the Investor side, DM allows investors to play a more active role in their portfolios and investments, by providing investors with direct access to a qualified set of alternative fund opportunities. Investors can request access to documents, chat directly with fund managers, and digitally sign and transact through the platform. This provides investors with the ability to take an active role in their portfolio product selection, and also allows RIA’s an additional pipeline of alternative fund products that they can share with their clients.”
Finding Success as a cross-border Team
“Everything boils down to communication and establishing processes globally. We use a lot of amazing tools such as Slack and Asana to help the global team stay abreast of projects and general updates. The key to our success as a global team has been hiring the right local team leads, who believe in our vision and mission, in order to push the plan forward in the local markets.”
Winning Across the Board
“South Korea is our second subsidiary office. After our opening of the China office at the end of 2015, I moved to Seoul for a few months to open our local operations, build a team, and participate in a local government-funded startup competition focused on bringing new technology companies into the region.”
“K-Startup Grand Challenge was a big win for us, as we were selected as the top 140 out of thousands of applications received worldwide, and later placed top four out of the 140 participating companies at the end of the program. This provided us with additional value as we were building our local team and establishing our local business. This was also one of the many global awards and recognition we received, and also includes wins from NextMoney Hong Kong, TechCrunch Beijing, HFM Technology, and FinTech Breakthrough 2018.”
Leveraging Thought Leadership to Boost the Brand’s Reach
“The DarcMatter Alternatives Conference is held in Seoul annually. This conference brings thought leaders and clients from the Alternative Investments industry globally to Seoul, to discuss local/global dynamics in the market, learn from key industry thought leaders, and meet directly with institutions and investors from South Korea, actively investing into alternative investments. As a U.S. firm entering South Korea, we were able to host a 150+ person conference, with participation from globally recognized firms such as BlackRock, Morgan Creek Asset Management, and Leadenhall. The next DMAC conference is set to take place on Nov. 15, 2018, at the Conrad Seoul.”