One of the issues with our current education system is that we aren’t teaching students about personal finance and investing.
So how can we develop and improve financial literacy, especially among younger students? From learning how to invest, understanding the basics of the stock market, and how to effectively save money, it can be pretty overwhelming.
My guest today is Myles Gage. He’s an entrepreneur who has been teaching young people about these topics for years. He’s one of the co-founders of Rapunzl Investments–a mobile app aimed to help individuals learn about investing and build confidence before they start purchasing investments on their own.
In today’s conversation, Myles and I talk about how students can become more financially literate, how his unique educational experience immersed him in the world of finance from a very young age, and the work he’s doing now to empower Gen Z.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
[00:00:00] Andrew Rafal: And we’re back for our first episode of the New Year. Happy 2022, everybody. And to get the year on the right track, we’ve got a wonderful guest to start off the new year at Your Wealth & Beyond. I had the pleasure of speaking today with Myles Gage, who is an entrepreneur and has spent his working years helping individuals become more financially literate, and that means learning how to invest, learning about the stock market, economics, savings. It’s something he’s been passionate about since he was a youngster growing up in Chicago, where he was fortunate enough to go to the Ariel Community Academy, where he was immersed in first grade about investing. And ultimately, a few years later, they actually were able as a class to choose different stocks, different companies to invest real money.
And one of his, you’ll hear, claim to fame is that his class had the best return out of any of them. And Ariel Academy was actually founded by John Rogers and Arne Duncan, and it has been a foundation for Myles in his career trajectory into now and as an entrepreneur, one of the co-founders of Rapunzl Investment. It’s a mobile app that is aimed at helping individuals, mainly younger individuals, learn about investing and simulate investing in stocks so that they can then learn the ropes and then go ahead and invest on their own. So, we had a wonderful conversation back and forth in regards to a lot of things he’s passionate about. Without further ado, my episode with Myles Gage on the Your Wealth & Beyond Podcast.
[00:01:52] Andrew Rafal: And Myles Gage, welcome to the Your Wealth & Beyond Podcast. How are you doing today?
[00:01:58] Myles Gage: I’m doing alright, Andrew. It’s just like 15 degrees outside, so I’m not leaving my house but I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
[00:02:06] Andrew Rafal: Well, I do apologize. It’s about 72 here in Scottsdale, so I do remember, though, I lived in Chicago back about 20 years ago, so I remember those difficult January, February days, weeks at a time without sunshine.
[00:02:26] Myles Gage: Yeah. It all checks out but I feel like it builds character and if you can get through those 8 to 16 weeks, you’ll be alright.
[00:02:35] Andrew Rafal: This is true and it makes the summertime in Chicago one of the better cities that I’ve ever been to. It’s just everyone’s out and about different festivals and awesome stuff. Well, thanks for coming on the show today. We’ve got a lot of great things that I want to go through with you and introduce you to the listeners. Because it comes on a couple of different things. When we look at the Your Wealth & Beyond Podcast, it’s about being an entrepreneur but also trying to build wealth and find purpose. And a lot of what you’ve done in your young career is tied into that. So, first thing I want to go through with you, financial literacy. Growing up where I did in Cleveland, we didn’t really have that in our curriculum. And I know you’ve got a background where yours was a little bit different where you were actually exposed to some of the financial topics, investing, some of the things that you’ve been passionate about over the last 15 years. So, let’s take the listeners through what you’re feeling is on financial literacy and what your experience was growing up in Chicago with the school that you went to.
[00:03:41] Myles Gage: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, I think financial literacy is just critical to anyone’s development and growth as a person. Basically, for my background, I attended a public school on the south side of Chicago that was unique from other schools in the sense that we had a finance-based curriculum. And the school was co-founded by John Rogers, who’s the CEO of Ariel Investments, and Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education but, basically, they felt that in addition to Math, Science, and English that students needed to be learning about the basics around personal finance, economics, and investing because these are topics that are not taught in schools and oftentimes aren’t discussed in homes, which leads to these perpetuating cycles of poor financial habits and decisions. And so, in order to really break those cycles and those curses is to really bring these topics to the forefront of students at an early age so they can really gravitate to them and really embrace them and integrate them within their everyday lives.
And so, basically, I got exposed to finance in the stock market in first grade and in sixth grade each class is given $20,000 of real money to actually manage. So, I was on a junior board of directors, which is a small group of students that actually got to allocate and decide what companies do we invest it in on behalf of our class’s stock portfolio. And so, in addition to doing that with the junior board of directors, I also joined Teen Investment Club outside of my elementary school. But given the fact that I got exposed to this in elementary in my school and my older brother would win an essay competition hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, The Money Smart Kid Competition. He was invited to join a traveling youth investment club.
And two years later when I was in sixth grade, I was dragged into the club as well. So, it wasn’t like I just ultimately wanted to do it but because my mom saw like how much of an impact and how important it was, it was like, “You need to do this.” And after a few meetings, I fell in love with the club and I really liked going to those meetings on Sundays because I was making money. So, it was really cool and it was a way for me to really practice and reinforce some of the topics that I was learning at school.
[00:06:12] Andrew Rafal: And so, in first grade, though, they started teaching you the – as a first-grader, what were some of the experiences that they taught you in money and, obviously, that age a little bit different than as you got in the sixth grade?
[00:06:25] Myles Gage: Yes. So, in first grade, we talked about topics like scarcity, supply and demand, opportunity costs, very, very much the high level of topics as it pertains to money management and finance, and then like budgeting and savings accounts. And we would do various exercises with piggy banks and things like that that were digestible for seven-year-olds. But then we got into a little bit more complex topics in sixth grade when we would be reviewing annual reports, looking at income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow, or the statements of cash flow. But it was kind of like a graduated scale so they didn’t just throw us into the deep end but by sixth grade, it felt like a lot of the vocabulary and a lot of the concepts weren’t necessarily foreign.
[00:07:18] Andrew Rafal: Would John Rogers and Arne, would they come in? Did you get to meet them? Would they come into the school and see how things are going?
[00:07:26] Myles Gage: Yeah, absolutely. And funny enough, my brother and I, we were kind of like the standout students. So, we’ve really formed a relationship with Arne and John early on, which is, I mean, I’m still close with them to this day. And as I mentioned, my brother won the Money Smart Kid. He was the inaugural Money Smart Kid winner in 2004. So, him winning that competition is a really good look for Ariel in a sense that it’s like the proof is in the pudding, like it’s the proof of concept, like, “Hey, if you educate these kids, they can get them, they can understand and digest these topics.” So, whenever there will be events at Ariel Investments, the firm, we would often get invited there. And my brother would ultimately get a full-ride scholarship to go to John and Arne’s alma mater, which was the University of Chicago Lab School. And I would also receive that same scholarship in 2008 after I won that Money Smart Kid Competition.
So, we were kind of like the standout students and we got to go to events and we met Warren Buffet. I got to hold his wallet, which was really cool. Then we would have people like Joe Mansueto, who was the founder and I think former CEO of Morningstar. And like all of these types of people come and speak to us. One thing I have to mention is the junior board of directors would go to McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting every year because John Rogers is on the board of directors. So, we got to sit in on the shareholder meeting, and then the CEO of McDonald’s will come and speak to us privately after the meeting, which was so cool as a 12 and 13-year-old to get to interact with these bigwig execs.
[00:09:09] Andrew Rafal: And that’s exposure that even college kids, I mean, you don’t get that. That’s impressive. And the fact that you were able to understand the value of these relationships at such a young age, that’s also something a lot of kids at 11, 12, they would be like, “Oh, this is great but I’m bored and let me go and do whatever it is that I find most fun.” So, that’s great that you and your brother you’ve learned it. Well, he was a couple of years older than you so you kind of watched him. No pressure for you in ’07, ‘08 to try to put in his footsteps there but…
[00:09:42] Myles Gage: Right. They go, “You know, your brother won this competition.” They’re like, “Oh, that’s so great. He was on the news.” And so, it was like that sibling rivalry and it was funny because my mom wanted me to enter it initially but like I really didn’t care. I just want to skateboard honestly. But nonetheless, I was just tired of hearing being in my brother’s shadow, and I could write an essay, too. And so, basically, I wrote an essay about how I plan to finance my college tuition, and my main plan was liquidating my stock portfolio, so I was able to also step up to the plate.
[00:10:12] Andrew Rafal: Now, most importantly, who invested the 10,000 or the 20,000 better? You or his class?
[00:10:19] Myles Gage: Our class, the class 2008, I believe to date still has had the highest returns of any graduating class. And I want to say the portfolio started at 20,000 and I think in the two years of us managing it, I think we were like 29,000 to 30,000, something like that because this was like right before like the markets crashed in 2008. So, it was an interesting time for sure.
[00:10:45] Andrew Rafal: I was going to ask there because in ‘07 around October is when the volatility started coming in. So, for you guys to have almost a 40% plus return in those two years, that’s pretty phenomenal in that realm. So, was it actually you guys were trading real money? So, you had a brokerage account that was in the name of the school and you would get together and you guys would decide through on, “Okay. We’re going to invest in this company. Here’s why. And out of the allocation, here’s why we’re going to put this percentage in McDonald’s,” or whatever companies that you chose.
[00:11:17] Myles Gage: Basically, yeah. So, we would have our meetings at the school and then we would go downtown to the Office of Ariel Investments and basically pitch our thesis and the companies that we wanted to invest in on behalf of our portfolio. And then basically, Ariel, the firm, they would make the investments on the class’s behalf.
[00:11:38] Andrew Rafal: And it wasn’t where you were day trading. You would be…
[00:11:41] Myles Gage: No.
[00:11:41] Andrew Rafal: Against the buy and hold, maybe switch a little bit but it wasn’t where you’re like in and out over every other week.
[00:11:46] Myles Gage: No, not at all. I believe it was like two – because it was so long ago, I forgot, well, the structure was but I think we made two big investments or we had two meetings each year. So, I think there was a meeting in the fall and in the spring if we were adding, we’re building, we’re buying more positions or selling. I don’t think we sold anything but we were just buying more stuff.
[00:12:11] Andrew Rafal: So, it sounds like you had the immersion in on a day-to-day basis versus like I’ve been part of junior achievement, which is still a great program but it’s not where the kids are going to school, regular school, and then they’re doing this on the off-time where they only go once a year. So, having that day-to-day-to-day-to-day and learning about it, it just I think not only have you been successful with your path but I’m sure if you look at your peers, all of them aren’t going to be entrepreneurs like you, right, but it’s still giving everybody that foundation?
[00:12:39] Myles Gage: Yeah. No, I would say like I think that that was entrenched in a lot of us. And I wouldn’t even say not necessarily the entrepreneur because I think there are a lot of entrepreneurs. There are not necessarily a lot of people in finance but I think just the school of Ariel and that exposure in seeing John was very empowering to a lot of my peers. Like, some of my classmates have some very successful clothing companies, video production companies like beauty salons and video, all types of different things and it’s really cool to see where everyone’s kind of ended up. And I’ve been talking to a couple of my classmates. I’m like, “We need to have like some type of reunion where we’re showing current students where we ended up and it’s kind of like really paying it forward almost because like John, he have done so much but I think we can even take the baton and even be the beacon of hope for some of the younger generation that is coming up where it is coming up under us.
[00:13:41] Andrew Rafal: Have you ever gone back to the school yourself and spoke to the kids and said, “Here’s my experience and here’s what I’ve seen.”
[00:13:47] Myles Gage: Yeah. Well, prior to the pandemic, I would get invited to be a judge at various business competitions or speak to the investment club, especially given the fact that I ended up developing an app. So, for me, I love doing that type of stuff because without that foundation and without that school, I mean, I really wouldn’t be here today because through that initial exposure to finance had made me, as a 10-year-old, want to be an investment banker. But nonetheless, that has since evolved into other things. But if you’re not getting exposure like at school or at home, any fourth grader is not going to tell you they want to be in investing class. That’s not something you hear. So, that kind of already put me on the track to doing something within this space.
[00:14:35] Andrew Rafal: And then also there is a rule your mom had taught you. You were into sneakers. And so, every pair of Nike’s that you bought, what did she tell you to do?
[00:14:46] Myles Gage: Yeah. Well, she would tell me so, basically, for every pair of Nike shoes that I own, I needed to have the same number of shares of Nike stock. And so, it was funny because for a lot of the shoes, I would grow out of them but I didn’t grow out of the stock. If anything, my shares in Nike made more money. There were some rare sneakers that I owned that I was able to make a profit off of but for all intents and purposes, it was just more so like you need to be taking ownership of the company as seriously as your sneaker collection.
[00:15:24] Andrew Rafal: That’s awesome. Yeah. I wish my mom did that and Nike back in the mid-90s, that’d be nice.
[00:15:34] Myles Gage: Oh, yeah. It would be very nice.
[00:15:37] Andrew Rafal: Okay. So, you have this exposure and you go then to school, University of Illinois.
[00:15:42] Myles Gage: Correct.
[00:15:43] Andrew Rafal: And that’s where you meet your current co-founder of Rapunzl Investments.
[00:15:47] Myles Gage: Well, so I’m going to backtrack. So, after Ariel, I went to a private high school in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood called University of Chicago Lab School, and that’s where I would ultimately meet my future co-founder, Brian Curcio. And we essentially bonded over the fact that, one, we were new kids and Lab is one of those school schools that’s like pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, so everyone’s known each other forever. So, we’re like the new kids. But what was cool is we ended up hitting it off because we were both teen investors. And so, different from my background, Brian got exposure to the world of investing because his parents were investment bankers, right? So, that just goes to that whole exposure piece, unless it’s something that’s discussed in your home. Unless you see people that are in this profession, you don’t really know or quite gravitate or identify with it but that was like the basis of our relationship and our bond.
And we were both precocious in nature in a sense that we wanted to be big financiers after we graduated so we had internships when we were in high school working at different banks, doing whatever things they would let 16-year-old to do at banks. But anyway, we were both on those early internship paths so we remained friends throughout college and he interned at a hedge fund. I interned at a hedge fund but then in 2016, we came together and we had this idea of like, “What if we create it like the social network for investing but not only that, it has educational components? And what if it’s an investing simulator so people can learn about investing in a risk-free environment but also can see what appears on their community or on the community you’re buying and selling to? So, it’s like our generation we spend so much time on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter but we’re not necessarily learning from that. But with Rapunzl, it’s like, hey, each user’s given 10,000 fictitious dollars to buy and sell publicly traded companies, and you can also follow in like people’s trades. And this is a little bit more educational but, nonetheless, it still has those engaging components of social media that millennial and Gen Z really, really gravitate towards.
[00:18:03] Andrew Rafal: And this was obviously prior to 2020 and 2021 where we started seeing all of this blow-up with the individual investors and a lot of this hold community where we’re going to AMC and GM. So, ultimately, what year was this that you guys had the vision, “We want to put together this app,” and create the company Rapunzl?
[00:18:22] Myles Gage: I mean, Andrew, that’s such a great question, because I feel like we were really ahead of our time in trying to get people to care about what we were doing. And so, the idea came about in July of 2016, and I believe we got the beta or the prototype into the App Store in April of 2017. And it wasn’t that great. We used a third-party developer to build out the platform, and then we hired a CTO that was fresh out of college and we didn’t know what he didn’t know. May not necessarily have been the best fit but at the time it made the most sense because we didn’t have any other options, right? And so, we’re trying to figure out how do we go get users on our app in 2017? So, mind you, I won this essay competition hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank in 2008. So, it’s April of 2017. So, we’re approaching like the 10-year anniversary of me winning this competition.
And so, we pitched this idea to the Fed like, “Hey, Myles won the competition ten years ago, and now he’s developed an app to expose more people to investing.” And it’s like, “Hey, Federal Reserve Bank, you still have this middle school essay competition but you don’t do anything for high school students. Why don’t we just introduce Rapunzl to high schoolers and then we’ll go figure out a prize and you all just put your names on it.” And they’re like, “Okay. Cool. You all have to just figure out the prize of it.” And, yeah, we’re about it. We’re definitely on board. So, we then went to the office of Ariel Investments and they basically end up donating $10,000 to our nonprofit entity, which would ultimately be named after which was at the time called Financial Pathways but basically, as you know, for-profit companies can’t donate money to other for-profit entities. So, we were able to structure a nonprofit and get 501(c)(3) status with an agency called UrbanX Learning, and we were able to get 10,000 there.
[00:20:21] Myles Gage: And then we hit the ground running. We drove to over 100 high schools in Chicago in the spring of 2018, and then our ultimate grand prize winner came from an alternative school on the west side of Chicago. And her winning that competition, the $5,000 grand prize, basically changed her whole trajectory. She thought she was going to have to join the military to support her family but this scholarship allowed her to continue her education at a university here in the city and go debt-free. And then we introduced her to Ariel, and she got a bunch of internships and we got a lot of media coverage. And that essentially served as the catalyst for Rapunzl in hosting these annual high school investment competitions and ultimately doing private competitions with various organizations across the country.
And, I mean, 2020, the sigh from COVID ended up being like the best thing for us because with the whole Reddit craze and meme stocks, there suddenly became this interest in people wanting to invest in the stock market and people starting to really value the importance of getting the education for investing and understanding the basics. Because previously, we’re trying to get educators like, “Get this in front of your students,” but they didn’t care. But once we saw the whole Reddit craze and everything that went on with Robinhood, certainly, there was this appetite for platforms like Rapunzl and simulators like Rapunzl that would allow people to get their feet wet without actually risking their own money. So, that’s kind of how we got from point A to point B. There was definitely a trek, a grind for sure, but that was the perfect storm for us with the whole Reddit. I mean, we couldn’t have asked for it. I mean, it was so unfortunate what happened because a lot of people lost money but it got people to really care about education, especially as it pertains to financial markets.
[00:22:22] Andrew Rafal: So, looking back to starting the company, names are a big thing for me and like, how did the company come up with the name? So, obviously, we know what Rapunzl is but how does that fit in? Where did you guys come up with that? I kind of have my thoughts on it but tell me what you guys were thinking.
[00:22:41] Myles Gage: I mean, honestly, the name Rapunzl came from the fact that we were watching a lot of Silicon Valley, which is a show on HBO and the name of the startup on Silicon Valley’s Pied Piper. And then there’s this other infamous brokerage company called Robinhood. And so, we were like, “Well, why don’t we just call our company like Rapunzl or something like that, like a fairy tale?” And then we thought about it and we were like, “Wait, wait, wait. That’s a great name because if you think about it, people often view the returns of Wall Street and the stock market as something that’s perched in this ivory tower that’s inaccessible to most people. So, you can think about our platform is rolling down our hair to provide equitable access to the returns of Wall Street.” And that’s like the name and we’ve been running with it ever since.
[00:23:31] Andrew Rafal: And that’s great, I love that, and it’s a name that sticks. Obviously, people have their own connotations of it growing up with fairy tales and so forth. But I like that tying into the Robinhood, which when you started your company, Robinhood was just probably a small imprint and what they’ve grown into. How did you build the app itself? Meaning did you have to raise money? I know you got a little bit of money from Ariel but did you guys take money or is it you and Brian that bootstrapped it? And I know with technology and building apps, it’s never as easy as you said or as cheap as you think it’s going to be.
[00:24:09] Myles Gage: Yes. So, I mean, there was some initial bootstrapping in the beginning just like with designing and putting the pitch deck together to get people to believe in it and coming up with initial concepts. But we ended up using a crowdfunding platform called Netcapital, in which we were able to raise $300,000 to develop the initial prototype. And basically, we exhausted our friends and family networks to get the funds to close that round basically.
[00:24:49] Andrew Rafal: How many people are using the platform right now?
[00:24:54] Myles Gage: So, yeah, there’s 35,000 total accounts on Rapunzl. And we’ve got like little bit roughly 10,000 monthly active users.
[00:25:05] Andrew Rafal: And so, part of it is then using the simulator but then are you guys also, from your end, are you offering education? Are they being able to go watch videos? Or where does Rapunzl fit into that whole process?
[00:25:19] Myles Gage: Yes. So, I mean, when we initially launched the app, we were just going into classrooms and just talking to students about what investing was, what the stock market was, and then we would get a lot of the same questions. And so, it really just dawned on us the importance of like developing a curriculum. And so, there are like so many financial curriculums that already exist, so we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. So, basically, we look and identify like what was currently out there, and we play like our own little twist to it. And so, we built out I want to say at this point, we have like 15 modules to cover an array of financial topics. And then we also worked with a group of high school students this past summer to refine the curriculum and make sure that it was digestible for anyone picking it up. Because as I mentioned, Brian and I had been so entrenched in finance since we were kids that we speak a different language and oftentimes it goes over people’s heads.
So, we gave it to some 16 and 17-year-olds to look over it and review and kind of synthesize some of those concepts for us so they were digestible to a lot of people. And then we also have quizzes on the app and there are some videos that exist. I know we took some down from the app but we did create a lot of video content and are working on making more for people to follow along. But like with our curriculum, we have teacher notes a minute to create a self-guided learning experience. So, anyone like I said were to pick it up, they could. Even if it were a teacher picking it up that really is financially illiterate, it’s designed for them to be able to teach it to other people.
[00:27:05] Andrew Rafal: What’s Rapunzl’s business model? How do you make money?
[00:27:09] Myles Gage: Right. Okay. So, basically, to-date we have been doing like white label bespoke competitions for private entities. So, like this past summer, we worked with McDonald’s and we did custom programming for them. We worked with some organizations in Michigan, done private competitions. But in addition to that, we have a partnership with a platform called Investor. So, they’re full-service brokerage account. So, basically, once a user is comfortable using the Rapunzl platform, if they open account via a link on Rapunzl and open an investor account, we get paid per account creation. And we’re working on a similar structure with a couple of cryptocurrency platforms as well, as we plan on rolling out cryptocurrencies in the near future on Rapunzl. So, that’s basically kind of like how we’ve kept the lights on.
And then like with the nonprofit structure, as I mentioned, we were able to solicit donations from various banks and financial institutions because we work with underserved communities and that satisfies a lot of their corporate giving requirements. So, they’ll donate money to the nonprofit. The nonprofit pays out a portion of those proceeds to scholarships to kids, and then the nonprofit will pay Rapunzl data and implementation costs associated with running those competitions. So, we just had to be flexible with how we go about keeping the lights on. And, yeah, but basically white label competitions and then referrals and then the nonprofit angle as well, or the fees associated with running competitions for underserved.
[00:28:53] Andrew Rafal: As you saw Robinhood the growth trajectory that they were on, did you guys ever think back to like, “Hey, should we have established something like that where we can actually become the platform?” I know it’s easier said than done but…
[00:29:09] Myles Gage: There were moments when we thought about that but I think at the end of the day, there’s just so much red tape and regulatory and compliance things that are associated with being a full-service brokerage account. And we saw a lot of the flak and a lot of the heat that they took and we were like, “Okay. Let’s not go into their lane. Let’s stay over here because I think we are in a very interesting space where we’re not under the same scrutiny and don’t face the same regulatory issues that they have to, that they encounter.” And it’s really cool because then we also are able to work with educators and work with schools, and that’s something that they can’t do. So, it’s like we’ve got to trust the educators and teachers really like what we’re doing because we’re coming at it from an educational standpoint. It doesn’t seem like it’s predatory. So, I think that in itself is really invaluable.
And I think that allows us to really get ingrained and entrenched in education systems and really work with high school students, ultimately, stay with them into college or until they’re 18 and once they’re comfortable, then that’s the time when they go open an account. But I think that creates a nice little cycle for us.
[00:30:23] Andrew Rafal: You know, growing a business, being an entrepreneur, what’s been for you, what have you enjoyed? And then what’s been some of the challenges of trying to take a vision and putting it and building it? And now we’ve got to run the company?
[00:30:38] Myles Gage: Yeah. I think my answer for what I like and what I don’t like is the autonomy of running your own business and being in charge of your vision. But at the same time, that is also scary too because there is no real direction. Obviously, you come up with your direction but you’re building the plane as you fly, so you don’t necessarily know if what you think is going to work works, right? And so, when an idea doesn’t work, you have to fail quickly and go back to the drawing board and adjust and reconfigure and try something else. And that’s also what I do like about it, too, because it’s like no two days are like the other. There’s never a dull moment. And that’s the really exciting part. But at the same time, it’s like, I feel like I’m driving my own ship. And that part, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else, honestly.
[00:31:31] Andrew Rafal: And I know Chicago’s got a really good tech and startup community. There’s a great network there of companies that have done and made it. And then there’s just a lot of money that a lot of people don’t know is in the Chicago tech space. So, have you found anything in that realm that you’ve had, even though they may not be in the financial services realm, have you been able to rely on that community and get some advice and some networking and some peer leadership?
[00:32:01] Myles Gage: We’ve tried but I think like, well, there are some big players in fintech in Chicago. But I think a lot of the initial investors aren’t necessarily, they’re not the same as the ones on the coasts in the sense that I think a lot of these seasoned and angel investors are very open to new concepts and new ideas versus I think there is a more of a rigidity here that if like you don’t have a proven monetization strategy, that people aren’t necessarily going to gravitate towards your idea. And in our infancy stages before we were doing private competitions, a lot of people didn’t necessarily understand our revenue model but it took like a lot of trial and error or just going back to the drawing board and revamping, retooling things, reconfiguring, getting the partnership with the investor.
Then people start to see your vision and people start to see like, “Oh, how you can monetize and how you can scale that.” But initially, I think people were apprehensive and receptive to just getting involved or maybe didn’t necessarily understand how they could get involved. But I think at the very least, we were very much involved in the tech space in Chicago, met a lot of people which we have been able to leverage to open various doors. So, I mean, I’m grateful for that in general but nonetheless, each company is different. So, there are some businesses that would be received better within this investor community and within the tech community in Chicago. But at the same time, it’s also growing and where it’s at today is also not where it was at in 2017, either. So, there’s that.
[00:33:53] Andrew Rafal: You mentioned crypto. So, at this point, Rapunzl hasn’t fully dived in on that but it’s on the radar and you guys are going to be allowing the simulator to bring in the crypto side?
[00:34:06] Myles Gage: Correct. Correct. I mean, that should be launching by the end of the month. Actually, that’s something we’ve been working on, so.
[00:34:13] Andrew Rafal: And is it going to allow them to trade? Is it just the big or are there going to be the big exchange? You’ll have the big exchanges allowed or you’re going to have the altcoins and…
[00:34:24] Myles Gage: We’ll have the altcoins. Yep.
[00:34:26] Andrew Rafal: Interesting. And then tying into the platforms like you are with Investor, that’s ultimately like it sounds like it’s like a referral fee of some sort without you guys having to be licensed.
[00:34:36] Myles Gage: Correct.
[00:34:37] Andrew Rafal: Well, that’s great because it’s something that I think especially for millennial and Gen Z they’re entrenched in it, you know, the NFT market. Maybe it’s phase one of Web 3.0 but we know that the blockchain is going to be there. You know, whoever is going to last, we don’t know but I think you guys are smart to continue to get into that realm and to continue building out the platform. So, what do you see over the next five years for you, personally, professionally with Rapunzl? Like what’s your vision?
[00:35:10] Myles Gage: I mean, I love the work that I do. There have been some potential acquisition offers, so I think that’s something that we are looking at just because we know to really achieve the scale and the impact that we have, that we’re probably going to want to work with someone that has more resources than us or has done that before or have relationships. So, that’s something that we’re open to. But I think at the very least like the ultimate vision is Rapunzl being kind of that one-stop-shop or the go-to point when you’re thinking about finance and education. So, I still want to do that and we want to do that for different asset classes, especially because as we mentioned, like cryptos, NFTs, thinking about how this works in the metaverse. Also, other products such as like life insurance and like having all that education stuff.
So, when you’re thinking about like, “Okay, taking the reins in my financial future,” download Rapunzl. I think that’s like our biggest mission and our goal. And I feel like every day we do get closer towards that. Sometimes some periods are slower than others but at the very least it’s moving and I can definitely look back and say where we’re at now is a lot further along than where we were at like at the beginning of 2020. And it’s cool to see that, to see the growth and see the progression there.
[00:36:38] Andrew Rafal: I think that’s smart. You know, the investing is a big piece but what we do at Bayntree, it’s about the financial plan. And obviously if you’re in your 20s means something different than someone in their 50s. But as you go down and helping educate individuals on not just the investing side but here in the financial planning side, as you start building a family, we need potentially like term insurance. Do you have a will? What’s my 401(k)? What does that look like? I can’t trade it per se day-to-day but why should I invest and contribute? And if my company’s matching? Like, these are things you know but how many people out there don’t even know? It’s like a foreign language to them. And so, getting that ability for you guys to educate the people that already trust you is huge and that could be tied in with fintech and having the planning software and getting them with you and trusting you, and then you’ll be able to provide those ancillary services in the future.
[00:37:31] Myles Gage: Absolutely. And that’s definitely something that we’ve discussed as far as like creating this like tie-in product that we can give to financial advisors, especially as to the kids of clients, especially as we know with this great wealth transfer that’s currently taking place and a lot of that next-generation not necessarily understanding what to do with their money. But again, I think there are so many different directions in which we can go. So, it is very exciting and I’m excited to see what’s in store for Rapunzl.
[00:38:05] Andrew Rafal: As an entrepreneur. It’s never a dull moment. You know, there’s challenges but that keeps it fresh, keeps the energy flowing. And as you guys add more employees and have the trials and tribulations, that makes the success all the more sweeter. So, as we end today, if you were to give some advice to a high schooler that doesn’t and didn’t have the ability, the education that you had, what would it be somebody who’s got no direction from the school itself and maybe mom and dad aren’t doing what your parents did?
[00:38:38] Myles Gage: Yeah. I mean, obviously, I would download Rapunzl. I think that’s the first place to start. But at the very least, if you’re thinking about investing or whatever, think about companies and brands that you support on a daily basis and then start paying attention to financial news like look at the Wall Street Journal, look at MarketWatch, read The Economist because all those things like tie into the overall economy and micro-level like individual companies’ performance, and whatnot. And as we mentioned, and we think about like Web 3.0, also think about that, start to educate yourself in that as well because it’s happening right now. It’s happening right now. And that’s definitely not being taught in school. So, use the web because there are so many tools that have been afforded to us by the internet. They give us access to so much information, so just try to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as around these different topics as it pertains to building wealth and acquiring assets.
[00:39:42] Andrew Rafal: Great advice. And, listeners, don’t go down the Reddit rabbit hole, though. There’s a lot of bad advice out there on some of the stuff that we see. So, make sure it’s trusted advice that provides you maybe unbiased but not following somebody who thinks that you know there’s some ulterior motive of some sort. Always be careful of, is that education? Yeah. What’s funny is my daughter, who’s 16, I’m trying to get her to understand the NFTs, get her to dig in on that. And she works here on summertimes and sometimes after school. So, I pay her a little. She makes money and then I fund a Roth for her. So, last year, we bought, like you said, we bought what stocks should we buy? We buy index funds but we bought things like Starbucks and Lululemon and Ulta Beauty and Nike, and all of a sudden she goes from like six…
[00:40:34] Myles Gage: Some good companies.
[00:40:35] Andrew Rafal: Yeah. It was like my daughter is like winter, we start with 6. “You’re at 7,000 now.” She’s like, “Okay. Let’s sell it all.”
[00:40:44] Myles Gage: No. Keep it. Hold it.
[00:40:47] Andrew Rafal: But it’s like getting her – those are getting the younger kids to do that. Lastly, then you talked about the not-for-profits. Is that The Destiny Project? Is that your not-for-profit?
[00:40:56] Myles Gage: Yes.
[00:40:57] Andrew Rafal: Okay. That’s great. So, Destiny Project and then the GCE Lab, those are the two things that you’re using as a 501(c)?
[00:41:03] Myles Gage: Correct. Yes, exactly. So, GCE’s formal name is UrbanX Learning. An UrbanX Learning is the 501(c)(3) that basically we’ve been able to build out The Destiny Project under. So, we still have that. There may be some rebranding in the near future but right now that’s kind of the vehicle that we used to really have that social impact and host scholarship competitions for high school students and also provide access to careers and mentors in the financial services space.
[00:41:37] Andrew Rafal: Awesome. Well, Myles, I know the listeners probably enjoyed it as much as I have. You’ve done a lot in your short years of working here, so I commend you and you and Brian are doing great stuff so continue. As an entrepreneur myself, continue the entrepreneurial spirit there, keep doing and putting your passion into building out the technology, creating the relationships that you are, build out the national brand. And I look forward to maybe getting on with you in another five more years and seeing what other success that you have. So, thanks so much for spending some time with us on the Your Wealth & Beyond Podcast. I really appreciate it.
[00:42:10] Myles Gage: Absolutely. Thank you for having me today. This is great.
[00:42:13] Andrew Rafal: And stay warm in that 15-degree weather.
[00:42:15] Myles Gage: Oh, I’m not leaving the house.
[00:42:18] Andrew Rafal: Well, at least the internet didn’t freeze, so that’s beautiful. All right, listeners, stay tuned for a brand new episode of Your Wealth & Beyond later this month. Happy planning, everybody.