Katie Neilson | Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer | Assure

Katie Neilson: Driving Investment in Startups by Providing Simplicity, Transparency, and Affordability to Funding Process

Today, women-led businesses are seeing significant breakthroughs in the corporate world. With their unconventional approaches, women are continuing to be the shining light in the current market. There are many examples of women making a difference who have overcome various odds to reach where they are today. One such woman is Katie Neilson, the Co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer of Assure, the leading provider of outsourced administrative and transaction services for the private investment marketplace.

Katie launched Assure with her husband Jeremy Neilson in 2012 with one basic principle: ‘Say yes’. Nine years later, Assure has grown from a small back-office transaction services company to an industry-leading platform with more than $7 billion in assets under management. Assure is in the top third of the 2019 Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America, and is the third-largest U.S. fund administrator, as reported by Convergence in 2020.

Saying “yes” has enabled Assure to imagine an innovative, tech-enabled process for syndicated investing that has given rise to the Assure Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) – a faster, easier, and more cost-effective way to structure deals. Assure SPVs simplify the deal process and fund administration so you can focus on what you do best: finding deals and building relationships.

As CRO at Assure, saying “yes” allows Katie to think more expansively about her clients’ goals. Having decreased the cost of SPVs by 90% and completing over 6,500 SPV initial funding events, Assure helps its clients drive investment in startups that are pushing the boundaries of innovation and making a difference.

Technology is the Key

According to Katie, traditional financial service businesses are prime for tech disruption. Assure is an example of this, initially founded as a back-office administration services company, and through technology has become a global platform that has driven demand for what is now one of the most popular and fastest-growing investment structures in the private marketplace.

The venture capital industry, in general, has been slightly slower to adopt technological developments despite being centered on funding the most forward-thinking innovations. As a financial business, if you don’t find a way to adapt and find your place in the new picture, you will be left behind. The new ecosystem is technologically integrated. Users are expecting smart, fast, and efficient processes. Understanding how you operate and interact with your stakeholders via technology has become a necessary core competency.

Unlocking Funding for Underrepresented Founders

Katie mentions that the pandemic accelerated the existing trends, and now there is no going back. A positive trend that they talk about at Assure is the unlocking of funding for underrepresented founders, including women, people of color, veterans, and those in the LGBTQ+ community. They are seeing barriers crumble through innovation and technology spark growth in these areas for two reasons. First, it has become easier for founders to access investors through virtual events and meeting platforms such as Zoom. The pandemic lockdowns have eliminated the requirement to be physically based in traditional VC hubs, like Silicon Valley. Second, Assure’s SPV product has made it possible for a broader range of investors to now participate in supporting these businesses. Today, founders can affordably find investors that have similar passions to their own and nothing is standing in the way of turning those passions into investment capital.

Providing a Private Investing Platform that Eases Funding Process

There are three pillars of focus that make Assure stand out above the competition: Client Happiness, End-to-End Service, and Technology. It truly wants to delight its clients, and its team goes to all lengths to help them achieve their goals. Assure is the only SPV provider that handles your SPV from the formation of the entity to exit. With over 7,000 entities created, it is the only provider that handles all asset types, raise sizes, and structures.

Assure also knows that technology is the future, and it has worked towards providing a private investment platform that offers simplicity, transparency, and affordability to the funding process.

Enhancing Unity by Treating People with Dignity and Respect

Culture is central at Assure on a daily basis. It has a quote on its new hire slide deck that says: “Whether planned or not, all companies have a culture. A culture will form one way or another — the one they want, or the one that develops by default.” 

Assure attracts people who embody similar philosophies; they want to make a change, want to grow something, and have a personal fundamental drive to excel and perform. One of the things the company picked up on quickly was that these types of people want to work with others who share these qualities. So, several years ago, it established a set of core cultural values in an Assure Culture Deck, which outlines the attributes new team members should have in order to contribute to — and strengthen — its culture. At the beginning of its team meetings, it selects and discusses one of these values; what it means, why it’s important, and what recent examples it has seen in action.

Personally, Katie has a note on her desk that says, “Unity is enhanced when people are treated with dignity and respect.” This is a daily reminder to her of how she should treat team members. Katie and her co-founder work to create a culture where people want to come, contribute, be challenged, and be their best selves.

Assisting Founders to Become Educated, Mentored, and Eventually Funded

When it comes to giving back to the community, Assure contributes in a variety of ways. First, its core Assure SPV product is making it possible for previously overlooked founders to raise capital because Assure has decreased the structuring and administration fees by over 90%. Additionally, Assure acquired and now leads BoomStartup, an accelerator program that assists founders to become educated, mentored, and eventually funded. Finally, it also has Assure Syndicates that works closely with the founder ecosystem providing free-of-charge mentorship and fundraising assistance for founders that are prepared to raise capital from institutional investors and venture capital firms.

Adapting to Ever-Evolving Private Investing Landscape

Assure is built to adapt to an ever-evolving private investing landscape. At its core, it is innovative. Katie mentions that it will also increasingly benefit from economies of scale, network effects, and improved technology to consistently improve its offering to the ecosystem. Lastly, and most importantly, it comes down to happy clients. This is a tough problem to solve, but when it works, it fundamentally changes the way its clients do business.

Advice to Future Entrepreneurs

Katie advises emerging entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the technology and venture capital industry to be adaptable. She says, “As a startup, nothing really goes smoothly. When you are pushing the boundaries of what is known, forging into the frontiers of industry, you will make mistakes. You will need to pivot. As soon as you’ve figured something out, it will no longer be relevant, and you’ll have to start over and figure it out again. To be an innovator and grow a business, you have to be adaptable, resilient and gritty.”