Travis Smith and his brothers realized if they were going to change their family’s trajectory and build wealth, they’d need to work together and invest as a group. But once they realized that group investing required a complicated path of lawyers, paperwork, banking regulations and more, they decided to solve a significant problem in investing and create the platform they so desperately needed.
In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, Marc Bautis is joined by Travis Smith, Founder and CEO of Tribevest, a platform that gives family, friends and like-minded people the ability to invest as a group. Tribevest is changing the game for beginners and the most-experienced investors, allowing them to get into more deals, leverage knowledge and “level up” together – as a tribe.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The benefits to building wealth with a tribe, versus as an individual.
- The path to investing with Tribevest, from concept, to launch, to initial investment, to exit.
- The unique benefits to investing using the Tribevest platform.
- And more!
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to The Agent of Wealth Podcast. This is your host, Marc Bautis. On today’s show, I brought on a special guest, Travis Smith. Travis is the Founder and CEO of Tribevest, a platform that makes it easy to invest as a group, and do deals together in as little as 48 hours. He started his career with Morgan Stanley, but realized the most direct path to wealth and financial freedom wasn’t as an individual. The path is as a group, as a tribe. Travis, welcome to the show.
Marc, really glad to be here. Thank you for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this.
Same here. Can you kick us off by giving a little background on what Tribevest is and how you came to create it?
How Small Group Investing Works with Tribevest
Yeah. Tribevest is a platform which you can come together with the people you know, like and trust, to form an investor tribe, pull your capital and invest in things that perhaps you wouldn’t or couldn’t on your own. The idea here is you don’t always have to go it alone, right? Our mission is to turn every single deal on and off the internet into a multiplayer experience. So, this idea of doing things together and not just to get over a capital threshold, but the idea of learning and experiencing together is a big part of what Tribevesting is.
So that’s Tribevest, at a high level. The idea came to fruition during The Great Recession, when my brothers and I wanted to invest in real estate, but we couldn’t do it on our own. In order to break into the industry, we needed capital that we didn’t have at the time. Eventually, we figured out that if we came together to form an investor group, and pulled our capital together, we could make it work. About 15 deals later, the trajectory of our lives changed. We realized that by forming and funding that investor tribe, we unlocked a future we could’ve never dreamed of achieving alone.
Can you invest in anything through Tribevest?
Yes. Our most popular asset class is real estate, which is a very broad category. But Tribevest is popular for people that are trying to get into different types of investments. Tribes are investing in cryptocurrency, NFTs, collectibles, art… I was listening to one of your episodes with the CEO of Vinovest, a wine investing platform. We were recently on the phone with them, setting up a tribe that will invest in wine.
One of the unique things about Tribevest is we are investment agnostic – we don’t advocate for one style of investing only, or exclude types of investors. We have tribes that act like investor clubs – they’re very social, they link their brokerage accounts, etc. We also have tribes that own a vacation home together, or invest in some type of crypto syndicate. It could be anything. It’s really cool.
So, let’s walk through an example. Let’s say I’m out for beers with friends, and we come up with the idea to buy a vacation home together. We decide to use the Tribevest platform. What’s steps one, two and three, to get this thing going?
I mean, that scenario is real. Those types of conversations are happening every day. The first step is for the initiator, who we call the founder, to go to tribevest.com and build the plan. They’ll fill out a series of questions, including:
- What’s the name of the tribe?
- What’s the tribe’s mission?
- What’s the tribe’s goal?
- How many members are in the tribe?
- How is the tribe going to make decisions?
Tribevest gives you the ability to build a plan and share it with your friends, family etc. to agree and align with.
Once the tribe members are serious, and ready to take the next step, Tribevest activates your tribe. To “activate,” you file an LLC on our platform, which we have available for all 50 states in the U.S. Soon, we’ll be opening up FDIC-insured business bank accounts on the platform, too.
After activation, the next step is to onboard all members. The members come to a single dashboard where they can see all the finance information, the cap table, documents, discussions and a record of the decisions being made by the tribe.
Then it’s time to set up a funding round, where the tribe members decide on an initial investment to begin the business. We manage that cap table, so we know how much ownership you have in your LLC and give you all the tools you need to transact as a single entity.
Cool. I assume there are some online and offline activities. For a shared vacation home, the investors will need to acquire the home offline, for example. Is the goal then for the tribe members to transcribe that deal into Tribevest? Or does the support from Tribevest end after the plan is outlined and the funds are secured?
Great question. Tribevest helps in the management from the beginning of the investment – or the investment group – until the investment/project is concluded. So, in this example of a shared vacation home: If the tribe sets up an account with Airbnb, they can link the Tribevest bank account to Airbnb. Maybe there’s a property management company that cleans the house between stays, that can be operated out of our dashboard. There, you can run your business and manage the business ledger.
What Tribevest doesn’t do, specifically for vacation homes, is manage the schedule. The tribe would need to link software tools that can help with that to their Tribevest account. Again, we’re agnostic, so everything you need to operate, transact and record is covered. Anything outside of that is easy to integrate.
How to Form a Tribe
How do you see people finding or forming their tribes? Friends and family is one way to take, but do you also see passion tribes? If someone is passionate about something, but their friends or family members aren’t, how do they find other people to create a tribe?
As you mentioned, a lot of tribes consist of friends and family – people who have known each other, and dreamed out loud together for a long time. For those people, this platform really solves an issue, because it’s something that can help them achieve their dream.
But what if you don’t have that network? What we’re seeing is there are a lot of communities – on and offline – that attract like-minded people. Whether it’s a group that shares the same passions or a group that wants to learn more or level up. Art investors, wine connoisseurs, collectible investors, etc.
For example, Left Field Investors is a community of people that want to invest passively into real estate. The community brings people together – they can learn from each other, and support each other. As a result, they can find their tribe partners.
So communities are a great place to start, because members have that similar interest and like-mindedness.
In order for a tribe to be successful, does it need to have one or two leaders, even if the investment is truly equal among the members?
It’s about 50/50, Marc. Initially, most of the tribes are equal. There’s always a founder – who built the initial plan in Step 1, above. Remember, this is an LLC, so there are certain things that need to be done. For example, hold quarterly meetings… Anyway, a good number of our tribes remain totally equal. We have other tribes where there’s clearly one person that takes the lead. Maybe they’re the expert on the topic, so they drive the tribe. The other members are still active owners, and still have a say in the business, but have agreed to make the expert the leader. In some cases, this person can make some decisions based on the tribe’s agreed upon operating agreement.
Makes sense. Now, let’s back up a bit and talk generally about group investing. Why does it work, or what are some of the benefits?
The Benefits to Group Investing
If you grew up like I did, in a middle-class, hardworking family, one of the things you may have heard is, “Don’t do business with friends and family.” Right? But the reality is that the wealthy have been investing together for centuries. How can they do it, but it’s not right for the rest of us? Well, they have the country club networks, attorneys at the ready, advisors that they pay for… and they set up group investing the right way. When they do business together, they’re better for it because they’re getting deals they wouldn’t or couldn’t on their own.
Tribevest essentially reverse engineered what’s been done for centuries. We put it on a platform, streamlined it and made it super inexpensive. All the things you need to do, we help you do – like agree on the rules upfront and have an operating agreement in place, so when the “what ifs” or “then what’s” happen, you know exactly how it should be managed. It’s unemotional. You just do business.
Transparency is key, which is why the wealthy are also using Tribevest. Now they can come onto the platform, log in and have visibility into everything. So, we reverse engineered what already worked, and then layered in some transparent technology. That’s what created this wave of people joining the group investing industry.
“It’s an advantage to invest together. You can get into deals you wouldn’t be able to on your own, spread the risk and expand your network – and therefore opportunities.”Travis Smith
Why do you think group investing has taken so long to catch on? Like you mentioned, it’s been successful among the wealthy for centuries, why hasn’t everyone joined in?
Why has it taken so long? Because there’s truth in everything, Marc. There’s some truth in the statement, “Don’t invest with friends and family.” The truth is, if you don’t set it up right, you should not invest with friends or family, because it will not end well.
But now that Tribevest exists, a platform that takes the mystery out of group investing by providing a simple, streamlined approach using transparent technology, it’s possible for everyone to get involved.
So is it best to form a tribe first, or look for an investment/project/deal, then form a tribe?
It’s about 50/50. About 50% of our tribes are formed because the deal has been found. They find the deal, pull a tribe together and get it done. Get this, Marc – you can form a tribe, pull capital and transact on a deal in as little as 48 hours. I mean, that’s incredibly fast. As a result, we’re seeing a lot more deals come ahead of the tribe, and then the tribe forming quickly to get the deal done.
The other use case, which we love and is our origin story, is that a tribe of like-minded people find each other first. That was like my brothers and I. We each pooled $500 a month between the four of us – together that was $2,000 a month and $24,000 a year. Before the end of the first year of group investing, we came across a real estate deal that we put the $24,000 into. After that first deal, we just kept going. To this day, Marc, we’re still putting in $500 a month. We continue to fuel our investment group.
Are you seeing that similarly on the platform, where a tribe will do repeat deals or repeat projects?
Yes. Even the ones that come on because of a deal that they wanted to get done are staying on and staying together – continuing to pull capital to do deals. This becomes a business, another source of wealth, another source of cash flow. I mean, I think people really start to think, ‘Gosh, I shouldn’t be in one tribe. I should be in two tribes. I should be in three tribes.’
That’s one of the things that we’re trying to educate people on. We think 30% of your liquid dollars should be going into a tribe, and the reason we say that is because if it’s going into a tribe, it’s likely going into something you wouldn’t or couldn’t do on your own. Therefore, you can level up in terms of new asset classes.
Not everything, I’m sure, works perfectly. So, what are some of the pitfalls you see, or some of the lessons you’ve seen on the platform that could help someone just starting out?
I think the most common situation is the founder had a conversation over happy hour, or at that vacation home, and their “tribe” said they were interested. But then, when they started a tribe on Tribevest, there were a lot more questions that people had, and maybe some people weren’t in a position to get involved.
The more communication you can have with your tribe upfront, the smoother the onboarding, and aligning of the expectations will be, and therefore, the better the journey.
I say align, align, align. Align early and align often. Once you get going, we help the tribe align throughout the journey. But the more upfront, the better.
We can always get on the phone with you and your tribe to talk through things and answer questions. We’re willing to share stories and share those pitfalls that you want to avoid. We can help with a lot of concerns that are out there.
Yeah. I’m sure everything over cocktails sounds good, but when it comes time to sign documents and write checks, people have more questions.
That’s right. It’s a good place for it to start… If we can harness those ideas and turn them into a good business practice, we’re onto something.
Yeah. So I know you mentioned real estate, wine, crypto and art. Are you seeing any other asset classes people are using for group investing?
There’s not much we haven’t seen on Tribevest. NFTs, every type of real estate you can think of, race horses, sports franchises… Big aspirational things. I’ve seen tribes invest in collectible cars, which they probably wouldn’t have done individually, but they’re buying a car with five other buddies, putting it in a garage and splitting thel access to the car.
I don’t know if I mentioned this, but tribes also invest in stocks. That’s a big application. Again, investing as a group creates this opportunity to socialize – talk about stocks, learn about stocks and have fun with it.
The social aspect of group investing is such an important part. By making investing a multiplayer experience, it becomes social, it becomes fun. For my brothers and I, it’s what brings us together. That’s a unique thing, right? That all of a sudden, investing can be a social event.
Tribevest Fee Structure
Yeah, definitely. And what is the fee structure?
We’re currently testing all sorts of pricing models, but right now it’s $249 to launch and $29 a month per tribe thereafter. That’s $29 a tribe, not $29 per member.
How does a tribe end? Does Tribevest help in the dissolution of the tribe?
Yes. From beginning to end, we’re there to service your tribe on our platform. When it comes to an exit, we help the tribe manage and work through it. We file with the state to close the LLC, we zip up all of the tribe’s documents – like records of discussions and decisions – and all of the transaction history. All the members get a copy of the documents for their records.
Do you see that people are members of multiple tribes, or do they typically form a tribe that they do everything with?
20% of the members that are invited into a tribe on our platform start a new, additional tribe. So there are a lot of people with more than one tribe on Tribevest. They get pulled into a tribe with their family, then decide they want to invest with their friends. Or, perhaps they see an opportunity and they’re like, “Whoa, I should Tribevest this. Who should I Tribevest this with?”
We’re talking about friends and family members, but I’m wondering if you see more formal tribes, like a project put together by a company, for example? Do you see people using the platform to do business that they otherwise would have to manage on their own, and Tribevest makes it easier for them?
We’ve made forming a business so easy that we have individuals coming on to do just that. Our platform is easy, quick and inexpensive, when it comes to filing an LLC, getting a business bank account and starting transactions. Just in that application, we’ve learned Tribevest is light years ahead of everybody else. So, we’re not surprised when we see those other applications, but we are true to the collaborative tribe nature of our business.
I think a lot of real estate investors, or angel investors in startups, have integrated Tribevest into their business. As an angel investor finds a startup they’re interested in, they’ll get a few of their friends and pull capital together, for example. So yeah, I think people are finding all kinds of neat applications for what we’ve simplified and streamlined.
Do you see any people using the platform to procure funding for their own company?
Yeah, franchises. Where the business owner is the operator, Tribevest is not an awesome fit. Remember, tribe members are part-owners of the business. So, what you’re talking about is looking for investors to invest in your business… I mean, it depends.
What we do see though is family and friends that want to invest in one of their family member’s or friend’s franchises.
More often than not, people are using Tribevest to put their money to work into a business, versus forming a business.
The Future of Tribevest
You mentioned the mobile app, what else do you have coming down the pipeline for the Tribevest platform?
The mobile app is going to be a really big deal for us. It will be available soon, on both Android and iOS.
After that, we want to work on helping our tribes get to their goals faster. As an example, we have a lot of crypto tribes, so adding a crypto wallet to the platform would benefit them. Another example is additional services, like lending connections and insurance, for our real estate tribes. We want to bring anything our customers need on the dashboard to the Tribevest platform.
Alright, we’re just about out of time. Travis, I want to thank you for being on the show, you provided some really cool information about group investing with tribes. How can my listeners find out more about Tribevest and about what you do?
Go to tribevest.com to check us out. Explore the Our Tribes page, which has about 18 different tribe stories. They’re inspiring, and you get a really good feel for how Tribevest helped make their dream a reality. Then, when the time is right, start a concept page, share it with potential tribe members, and we’ll be there when you’re ready to launch.
Awesome. We’ll link to tribevest.com in the show notes. Thanks again, and thank you to everyone who tuned into today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review of the show. We are currently accepting new clients, if you’d like to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with our advisors, please do so below.