The startup has recently won a slew of awards and recognitions that are helping to grow the business; Bold Penguin, an insurance startup, is also growing with new staff.

TribeVest LLC is gaining traction. It was named to VentureOhio’s Startups to Watch list for 2018; won Columbus Techstars’ Startup Weekend in May; was selected for the Startup Academy sponsored by Money2020, a global event for executives in payments, fintech and financial services; and it’s recently become a client at Rev1Ventures.

A matchmaking and relationship management service for people who want to become investors, TribeVest has secured business-to-business partners for its two-sided approach, which has the potential to generate revenue from consumers and partners. MVB Financial Corp., a $1.6 billion financial holding company headquartered in Fairmont, West Virginia, will serve as its banking platform. LegalZoom will provide services to the company’s so-called “tribes” of investors. And the people using the service will pay monthly and annual fees.

Founder Travis Smith—with a deep background in financial services at companies like Monett, Missouri-based Jack Henry & Associates Inc., the $1.5 billion firm that serves as the fintech platform for thousands of U.S. banks—built TribeVest. Set for a public launch Jan. 1, TribeVest began when five relatives decided to pool their resources, each saving $500 a month to invest. The agreement was fruitful. They’ve been able to purchase investment properties, become partners in a physician’s practice, even buy a prize-winning racehorse.

“It’s been life changing,” Smith says.

Will TribeVest achieve startup success?

“The idea behind TribeVest is simple and compelling. The potential market size is very large. Time will tell if Travis has tapped into something big, but we’re excited to see what happens and to help him all we can along the way.”

Potential investor: Bethany George, senior director, investment funds, Rev1 Ventures (has taken TribeVest on as a client but has not invested in the company)

 “In my experience, the strength in numbers not only reduces risk in investment, but it provides a greater diversity of group thinking that is a powerful force exerted over long periods of time. TribeVest’s model combines all of these factors to facilitate a peace of mind for real estate investors.”

Potential user: Kory Stead, CEO, A Steady Hand Ltd.

 “I love what the platform aims to accomplish in terms of alignment of investors, coordinating the formalities and pooling their money to make investments they may not be able to make individually otherwise. Success will ultimately come down to building the right product for the right user with the right team. They’ve got some solid partnerships in place, but the true test will be their distribution/sales strategy and how they acquire the investors/users.”

Industry expert: Matt Armstead, partner, Horizon Two Labs and executive director, Fintech71


Bold Penguin Adds Staff

Following the announcement of a capital infusion by New York City-based Pivot Investment Partners this fall, Columbus insurance technology startup Bold Penguin has attracted new customers and has grown to 70 employees with plans to hire 30 to 40 more in early 2019.

The investment (amount not disclosed) is funding the hire of software engineers to focus on advancing Bold Penguin’s goal to make commercial insurance policies fast and easy to buy and sell by digitizing back-office functions.

Since the Pivot announcement, the company has entered into agreements with insurance brokers, including Walnut Creek, California-based Heffernan Insurance Brokers; Kansas City, Missouri-based online insurance adviser Mylo; Chicago-based Hiscox Insurance; and San Francisco-based Bizinsure.

“It’s a testament to our technology and our vision,” said Ilya Bodner, Bold Pengiun founder and CEO. 

Bold Penguin’s platforms can be integrated into an agency’s management system to reduce the time it takes to carry out data entry and risk identification, supporting brokers in their efforts to write policies quickly.