April 12, 2023

Episode 235: Manning Field, CEO of Follow

Manning Field is CEO of Follow, a B2C retail investing marketplace that connects influencers with people who automatically want to follow their money moves. Prior to Follow, Manning was the Chief Operating Officer for Acorns, overseeing the business with direct accountability for growth, retention, experimentation, customer service, analytics, project management, and Acorns’ regulated entities.

Manning launched market-leading products and programs at JPMorgan Chase like Chase Sapphire, Chase Freedom, and Chase Ultimate Rewards, and was named an Ad Age “40 Under 40.” He also spent four years in Beijing, China, as CMO of JPMorgan Chase’s consumer team and while there, founded a local credit card business. During his 18-year tenure at Chase, Manning oversaw many departments including Branding, Advertising, Product Development, Marketing, Corporate Development, Innovation, B2B Corporate Sales Strategy, and, lastly, as the Managing Director of Loyalty Innovation. He graduated from Indiana University and he and his wife have three future Acorns investors.

Julian: Hey everyone. Thankyou so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have ManningField CEO of Follow, a B2C retail investing marketplace that connectsinfluencers with people who automatically want to Follow their money moves.Manning. I'm so excited to chat with you and not only learn about, you as afounder and kind of share your experience with the audience, but also whatyou're building at Follow and, and the interesting.

I, I really, the, the change in where weget information, who we get information from and, and how we continue to fosterthat, that, information kind of ecosystem or funnel so that we're making movesand kind of this whole transition outside of kind of traditional, whether it'sinstitutional or traditional means of getting information or action items fromfor individuals, especially on the financial side into.

More of a peer-to-peer connection, kindof like a social proofing in an accelerated form. So I'm interested to hearyour thoughts on that in terms of what you're building. But before we get intoFollow, what were you doing before you started the company?  

Manning: I was working atanother startup that was helping people save and invest.

I was the CEO of a company calledAcorns, and I spent six years of my life helping scale that business and, andworking with that team to to help as many Americans save and invest aspossible.  

Julian: It's so crazy thinkingabout Acorns because I, I'm a big fan of the product and I've used similarproducts.

Acorn is included in like digit and allthese kind of micro saving tools, and it's interesting just to touch on it alittle bit in terms of like financial. Aptitude of a lot of consumers. There'sa little bit of a disconnect between the little things that they can do toreally prepare themselves versus, all the information about big market moneymoves and, kind of like lottery style bedding and things like that.

But describe a little bit about. What isthe change in behavior of people and how kind of, products like ACORN andFollow kind of help impact not only what they know, but the moves that they canmake that are, that are reasonable and within reach for a lot of consumers.And, and kind of, the, the, the average individual who, who wants to be alittle bit more financially and, and, and take kind of positive actions.

Describe kind of what, when did thebehaviors change and how are, how are institutions like, acorn and, and, andFollow helping with those smaller behaviors that, that help in impactsomebody's financial future?  

Manning: Yeah. Well, I wouldsay the, the lack of financial education and, and ultimately, which leads to a.

Confidence in an individual has been anever-present problem. We have 41 states in the country that don't have that,that as part of their secondary curriculum, have no financial literacy in thatcurriculum whatsoever. And so you either are learning from parents or people inyour life or from oftentimes in your own young adulthood, the mistakes that youmake along the way.

And so, so that has been ever. I thinkwith what I would call the rise of, of, of consumer FinTech 1.0, which happensreally kind of started just about 10 years ago is what the power of the iPhoneand the power of the app ecosystem and the ability to get, to reach anddistribution and reach people in a way in which they, they, they couldn't havebeen reached before.

Really started to make it very, veryeasy to help people try to understand how to take a positive action to helpthemselves with improving their financial life. And so the combination ofsocial media and those, those, those app, that app ecosystem and thedistribution that that smartphones give you really is what drove, I think, whatI think is a meaningful societal change in people trying to do the right thingfor themselves.

Yeah. And so, That combined with just, Iwould say, oh, more of a willingness from a younger cohort to actuallyexperiment in that way. To to bank or to trade on your phone. As for someonewho's been doing that for a long time is probably counterintuitive, but for ayoung person, that seems very natural.

Julian: Yeah. And describekind of the how. Acorn in particular in that past experience, and maybe evenwith Follow the, how you kind of really decreased the barriers to entry in alot of ways for people to start using these applications or this consumerFinTech and also the trust building component because as you said, it, it, it'sa big transition from how people were, investing or, or saving money into thissuper easy, almost too easy to use kind of e.

Describe, describe that a littlebit.  

Manning: Yeah. I mean, I wouldsay, and I'm gonna just generalize it a little bit more because Acorns hasobviously been very successful, but, but I think there's been a lot of establishedkind of track records from companies like Robinhood Acorns, yeah. Chime andothers that have, that have just really made it very simple and it's just theact of The act of getting started is, is the hardest step to take.

And a lot of those companies did afantastic job of making it very easy to make that first step. And, and, the,the, the successful B2C FinTech players and all those companies are listed areon that list are because they made it very, very easy. And obviously they did abunch of other things right along the way too.

But, but the first step is like, Hey, Idownloaded. What do I do? How do I get started? Usually there's a fair amountof combination of fear and excitement from the user as they go through thatjourney. And how do you, how do you make it simple? How do you buildconfidence? You're asking for a social security number.

You're asking me to link my bank. Oh mygosh, that feels really scary. So how do you do that? And, and what, what youfind is, Is just using kind of very clear language and be very clear about whatyour protections are as a consumer and why you use information that usuallyhelps people get across the, to the finish line and, and start.

Ultimately the goal is to get them to dothe right thing for themselves.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. And what aparticular, you, you're working at Acorn, you're skilling this company. You,you you are involved in a few different other startups as, as, a consultant andthings like. What inspired you to go into the direction of Follow and startsomething that, that isn't really, I'll, I'll have, I'll let you describe thecompany and what it does cause I think it's super cool.

But and, and kind of, but what, what wasnecessary for your company to really get started as it's not a traditional waythat people say, get information or reach Followers and, and kind of have thiswhole ecosystem describe the inspiration behind Follow. What particularly wasthe necessary formula to actually get a company like that going?

Being that it, it, it's, there's no realincumbent before it.  

Manning: Yeah. Well it, I wouldsay if you, if you zoom out a little bit, the idea of social investing hasexisted for decades. Yeah. I mean, I think you can go back to the rise ofretail investing. It really comes to the eighties and And, in dinner tableconversations and locker room conversations about like, Hey, what are you doingwith your money?

Are you buying this? You're buying thatAnd Right. Sure. You had like moments in 97 when the market crashed and soforth. But, but, but that, that kind of idea of discussions around what are youinvesting in, what are you doing? And that, that being much more retail drivenas opposed to institutional has been around for a while now.

No one's captured that digitally in a,in a, in a way in which. That, that, that allows the benefit. And, and whatI've learned through my career is like the power of behavioral economics andautomation. No one's been able to create a platform to deliver thatautomatically. There's been many companies that have been very successful, havedone great jobs building community and social com communications, companieslike Soc Twits and is a great example.

It's been around for a while. Yeah.They've built, really nice community around that. But, but the ability to havethat community help. The actual investment. And what we like to say at Followis Follow the money. Like is driven through the innovation that we've createdthrough our investment advisor and the ability to automate that kind ofmagically behind the scenes.

And, and what I've learned in myexperiences is the more that you automate things for people, they oftentimeswill be much more successful in making the right decisions for themselves.Because you take emotion and you take decision fatigue out of the way. And,and, and if you study. Richard Thaler and Kahneman and Schmoe and all of thosebehavioral economics experts what they'll tell you is most people don't operatein their own financial best interests.

And so how can use technology, brand andreinforcement to help people make better decisions for themselves, which insome cases means giving themselves out of the way. Yeah. And that's, that'swhere our comes from.  

Julian: Yeah. How, how dopeople act in, in, in a way that is not, of their financial interest and, andis that necessarily.

Because, and, and what do you think, ifyou were to speculate or if you have reasons, what are the reasons that theydon't do that?  

Manning: So, so there's manydrivers behind it, but, but the best, and this is a well researched and there'sbeen lots of papers out there on the internet and that has been published inacademic journals around the, the best example is, is actually people who signup for a 401K through their employer and the opt-in rates.

In America versus if you make the 401kwhen you sign up, at a new employer, you're filling out all your, your healthinsurance stuff and all the other enrollment things that you do. Typically,that's when you enroll in 401k. The opt-in rate is in the mid thirties. Yeah.Which even with like a, an employer doing a match and, and it's just like,it's, it's like stupidly low when someone essentially, you're getting, no, no,no financial advisor and I am also a financial advisor.

No financial advisor would ever tell younot to do that. Yeah. But most people don't do that. Yeah. Because part, likelybecause they don't understand. It's, it's, it's embedded and nested in a wholebunch of other decisions and. And, and then they never go back and revisit it.And so the long term effects of that is like a whole bunch of people missed outthe opportunity to get the benefit of compound interest over a long period oftime.

That was free. And that's, that's justobjectively dumb. Yeah, but that's the way people get in their own way. But,but they've studied this in the uk and actually there's some changes herecoming in the US around this is like making it opt out versus opt-in. When youmake it opt out, the adoption rate is in, is is in some cases above 90%.

Wow. And so you think about like thesocietal impact of that decision. That one single decision could be reallymeaningful about how. The quality of living and essentially tax policy and allof these other things down the road for, for, for decades.  

Julian: Yeah. And describe alittle bit more about Following and what the user experiences and, and, who arethe consumers that, that, our audience might not know of and, and kind of howthe, the, how everything kind of works.

Manning: Yeah. So, so really.Was inspired by me and, and my co-founders. But just looking at the rise of thevoice of the, of the social media influencer. Some of my co-founders are, are quiteyoung, and so they actually, in that cohort, I, I have the benefit of livingwith five teenagers between me and my girlfriend.

And so I see the way in which theyinteract with the world and what motivates them to, to make a positive changein their life or maybe even just cook a, a good meal for us. Yeah. And, and itis coming from these platforms and these voices that, that we would callnon-trad. Yeah, and, and so what I was inspired by was the quality of the takesand the quality of the ideas and the spirit of the community within theseinfluencers.

Listen, there's all spectrum here. Sothis is not everything's quality, but, but we choose to work with qualityinfluencers and people have good takes and diverse perspectives. And what Iwanted to do was be able to connect automatically those voices and those ideasand their money. Automatically to help as many people as possible to Followthem.

And, and creating kind of a very naturalsocial media interaction today, which is to Follow somebody. So it's not onlycan you Follow them, you can Follow their ideas on our platform, but how canyou also, ultimately, can you just Follow their money? Yeah. And, and that,that is the core insight that we had, and that's the platform that we've built.

And now the way in which you do this is,is, is pretty challenging because you start very first, and this is what wedid, like understanding the environment and building a, a compliant solution,which, yeah, which is quite challenging. And this is why this has never beendone this way before because the, the, the barrier to entry.

Creativity and the productivity you needto have with, with the SCC in order to get this in a, in a good place is, isactually a pretty meaningful hurdle.  

Julian: Yeah. And a few questionscome into mind, but first is, is what caused the shift from non-traditionalkind of I would say pools of information or advice or things like that intoalmost like a social proofing model with a lot of different people on theseplatforms, giving advice, giving their insights, and people really kind ofleaning towards trusting those voices a little bit.

What caused that shift and why do youthink it's so impactful to have that kind of, ecosystem where, where we're,where we're taking the action suggested by somebody who's either similar to usor, for, for in, in one of, of many ways, whether it's gender, age, orethnicity or what have you, there's so many reasons, background, whatever.

What caused that shift in behavior andthat, that shift towards social proofing?

Manning: Yeah. Well, you knowwhat I, I. I think there's a, a, a, a couple of com kind of converging trendlines that's happening. So I'm not sure there's one single particular driver.There's probably a few flashpoints that we could point at, but, but, but whatyou, what you see is just the rise and the trust of social networks.

Yeah. And, and, and as much as those,the trust has been challenged through the years and particularly on theelection cycle that, that, that, that trust in, in those networks is. Higherand the trust in more likely the people in your own social graph is higher thantrusted institutions.

And actually, if you look at trustedinstitutions, that includes government and financial institutions, there is along downward trend over decades that that trust is continuing to erode. And sothis convergence of my own kind of trust network and the lack of reliability ofthe institutional trust network has kind of risen to, and it's exploded inmoments.

Obviously the Reddit, wall Street betsand GameStop kind of short squeeze that happened a couple years ago. It wasjust, just a, a manifestation of these trendlines coming together. Yeah.Crypto, on some level, you could argue, and I'm not a crypto zet myself, but I,I understand and respect that community.

But, but crypto is a reflection of thatas. Even though there's some misplaced activity in some cases there that's welldocumented. But, but, but, but all of this is, is a broader conversation aroundwhere does trust lie? Because to make the financial system work, it's, it's,it's completely dependent upon trust.

I mean, just look at what happened toSilicon Valley Bank. Like, like that's a 100% like erosion of trust in, inminutes. Yeah. That, that, that, that felt this institution that was prettywell run. Yeah. Even though they made a couple.

Julian: Yeah. And describe alittle bit more about the vetting process. Cause I'm sure a lot of consumersare wondering about these, these, these you call 'em finfin influencers, whichI thought was hilarious.

But, so true. I don't think I, Iwould've coined a different term for that, but describe the vetting process forthese influencers, knowing that, there's been even recent cases of bad actorsin the Yeah. Financial influencing ecosystem that has really. Divided a lot ofpeople, whether or not to believe in, in those who are, promoting a certaintype of action or activity or strategy versus not. Yeah, describe that vettingprocess.  

Manning: Well, listen, badactors exist everywhere. You could be. Bernie Madoff, who was the most, was onCNBC every single day for a long time until he was behind bars. So, yeah, so Ithink bad actors exist everywhere. Yeah. But, but the process that we use is to,first, we wanna make sure that, that, that these folks have quality takes.

And so we, we study their social mediahistory. We make sure that that, they're not kind of talking about recklessbehavior. They're not like saying things like get 300% returns and, and doingthings that just frankly are, are not only illegal, but, but also justirresponsible. Yeah. Because this is not.

Getting short-term gains, this is abouta long-term behavior change for, for our customer. And, and so we look at therethen if someone, if we feel like they've got quality takes and, and they've gota, a good audience, we look for people who have some type of a Following andand then, then what we do is we reach out to them and we usually reach out tothem through social media and, and we participate in a lot of activities.

Things like Twitter spaces and Instagramlive things. And that's how we reach a lot of these, these influencersthemselves. Yeah. We if they're interested on joining our platform, what, whatwe do is we then do a background check. Then we look at their trading history,so to make sure the things that they talked about from their social takes areactually showing things that they do in their own brokerage accounts, just tomake sure that they're, frankly not full of shit.

Yeah. And then, And then we go throughkind of a process where we actually have them trade on our platform before weexpose it to any of their Followers or our customers for 30 days. And just tomake sure they continue to monitor the activities. Now, we there's a few otherthings that we do around ethics and training and monitoring.

So they have to continue to submit whatstatements to make sure that they're not doing anything untoward. We alsorestrict certain activities. So, not every stock that's available. In anyexchanges, things like kind of what they call pink sheets. So these are reallylike low price, low market cap, high volatility, low liquidity stocks.

That's where a lot of the bad behaviorand, and some of the, the recent kind of action by the SCC has been like, wedon't even offer those, those are not even tradable within our platform. Wow.We also don't do any pattern day trading, and so we restrict that. We do noleverage as far as no options and, and or no margin.

So we try to be pretty responsible as.The types of, of training activity we allow. And so what that, what thatactually does on the quality side of things is it becomes a positive selectionbias on who chooses to work on the platform. So the, so the kind of the peopleon the margin and the people that may be a little bit shady, they look at thisand they're like, wait a second, I'm not gonna be able to do all the tricksthat I like to do.

And we're like, yes, you're not gonna beable to do that here. But and we would encourage you not to do that anywayanywhere, but we're definitely not gonna do. Yeah. And they usually have atendency to, to drop out of our funnel.  

Julian: Yeah. And I was gonna,I was gonna ask kind of the Follow up here is what would, why move, why move toa platform?

Like Follow? If I'm already say, asuccessful, influencer, I'm, I've got a large Following, I've got a lot oftraction, I'm doing all this trading. What, what is my motivation to move to aplatform like this? From, from your perspective and from their perspectivewhere the benefits lie.

And obviously I think we can all kind ofspeculate, but I'm curious to hear your opinion.  

Manning: Yeah, well there's,there's a. First is we give them the ability to, to monetize their audience ina way that they're not monetizing today. So we charge a subscription fee, whichwe share with, with this influencer.

So, and, and we charge, we bill on amonthly basis. And so we charge we give them essentially a recurring revenuestream, which most influencers do not have with their, any of their currentmodels unless they're just doing newsletters on. So, so that's one benefit. Thesecond one is, We serve as a point of validation, right?

There's a lot of Photoshop happening inTwitter and Red Threads about here's my portfolio. We'll actually no, we'llshow you their holdings, we'll show you their performance. And so a certain setof the validation and almost like, the Good Housekeeping seal of approval thatthat this is a legitimate position and these are legitimate trades.

So there's this point of validation. Ithink the, the other part, which is, which is really fascinating as we got intounderstanding. The platform and, and the community that we're building for isactually one of the things that is most frustrating to an influencer when theysay, Hey, I think, I think, I think meta's a goodbye right now because they'vedone all the cost stuff and, and all of these things and, and I just wish my,the people who Follow me would.

Would take advantage of thatinformation. Yeah. And because there's a fairly large gap in by a lot of thebehavioral economic learnings that I've said, a very large gap betweenintention and action. And what our, what, what our technology provides for, forone of these influencers is just to, they want their fans to benefit from theirinsights.

Yeah. And, and they, because they,they're saying to them themselves, cause it's what they're doing for their ownmoney. And we can prove that they're doing it with their own money and theywant people to benefit from those insights. And if there's, and if there'slearning too, they want them to get the benefit of that learning.

Julian: Yeah. And you, I'm socurious being that, a lot of the compliance around offering financial advice,you have to have a fiduciary responsibility. And how have you incorporated kindof, that either, either philosophy or kind of, I guess, responsibilities intoFollow with people who may not come from a traditional, background that, thatwhere they had to, go through training and, and actually, achieve thatfiduciary kind of.

How have you incorporated that intoFollow and, and what are ways that, as consumers we can kind of trust thatthey're acting in that best influence. Obviously you have all these differentmeasures, but you know, that's something that's almost like, the gold standardfor getting any financial advice is making sure that that responsibility, thatfiduciary responsibility is kind of, there and, and, and standardized.

How have you kind of incorporated thatinto the platform and, and allowed people. Have that trust.  

Manning: Yeah, no, it's afantastic question. And I think, as I was sharing a little bit earlier, I mean,we started with that question, the, the regulatory side of things, which is,rooted in your fiduciary responsibility to look after the, the client'sfinancial best interests.

And so, what I wanna make clear is onour platform, you should think about us as two separate, like entities andseparate experie. We are a publishing platform, which is where all theseinfluencers exist. And think about that as a, essentially, as an analogy, as asubset. And then we have our investment advisor, which is owned by us and runby us.

And that's where all of the execution, automation,and financial advice exists. So an influencer is not an advisor. And, andthat's very, very important to understand that they have good takes, they havepositions. They're not managing your money, they're managing their own money,and they're sharing that.

And when I subscribe to an influencer onour platform, I'm subscribing to just their ideas. Mm. What happens behind thescenes is the influencer shares their trading data with us. It gives real-timeaccess to their training data, what we do inside of our financial. Is weconstruct portfolios that mimic their trading activity.

And then if I choose to as a, as acustomer sign up for the investment side of what we do, I become an advisoryclient. And that's when our fiduciary responsibility, so we serve as thefiduciary. Yeah. And so these portfolios that they have, We manage. And we dothings like suitability. We do things like, understanding obviously your, yourincome, your risk appetite, your time horizon, all of those things, that investment,but that advisor does in a responsible way.

When you're out of sync with someone whoyou might wanna Follow, we, we, we let you know that we give the opportunity tomaybe redirect who you might wanna. And we educate. Yeah. So our job is, is tomake sure that we serve as the fiduciary. Yeah. The influencer is not thefiduciary, they're not a financial advisor.

Yeah. They're managed that way. They'renot paid that way. And, and, and what we are is this kind of. It's basicallyit's platform that connects these two things together. We serve as the groupsharing and any of the things that would fall anything that would view, wouldpotentially viewed as not in the financial best interest.

We take on that liability. We take thatvery seriously and that's what our technology does to make sure that we alignpeople. With the right financial advice and more importantly, the right actionsin their own investment account.  

Julian: Yeah, it's incredibleto see how you've kind of, you've built into this one platform essentially allof the the actions that we would take, outside of this platform, which are, we,we see whether it's a, a portfolio you want invest in, and then we go on toTikTok and all these other platforms to really kind of validate that versus nowI, it's in one location and really.

Standardizes this ecosystem of research,which is you, you have an idea, you have some kind of investment that you wannamake you, whether it's it came from an influencer or or you wanna validate itwith them. You kind of have this ecosystem that really speeds up the process.And, and how have you seen kind of the time from, intent to action decrease fora lot of your consumers in, in comparison to, I guess, overall kind ofbehavior?

Manning: Yeah, well, listen, I,I want to couch this with the fact that we've been, our app's been out therefor eight weeks, so there's not a, there's not a huge like data set to gointerrogate and answer that question deeply. I can just tell you from myexperience. It, it, it's really important and, and I think what's alsoimportant, just given where the markets are right now and given where themarkets have been for the last year.

Yeah. I, I would say three years ago, thiswas a slightly different kind of problem that that young people had when theystarted to participate in retail trading. And that's when the markets were allup and lots of government stimulus around and people were buying a bunch oftech stocks and buying a bunch of crypto, and yeah, everything was up and tothe right.

But listen, if you built a portfolio of,of, of Tesla and Bitcoin two years ago, right now you're down 46, 40 7%. So,so, so when when, when it was easy, you didn't, you could trust yourself. Yeah.Because you had no real market insight and you're just riding the wade. Yeah.And that felt. But when it comes down to when things are a little bit moreunpredictable, a little bit more choppy, and it requires maybe a bit more of asound strategy about how to think about your investments what, what people lookto is they look for people in their lives to help them navigate when they don'tknow what to do themselves.

And that's the core insight behind theplatform that we've built. And that's why we work really hard to find a diverseset of, of takes and ideas to help make sure. We can represent all of the needsthat, that someone might have when they think about what it is that they wantto do. Yeah. And, and, and that's why we will continue to try to recruit asmany voices that are diverse in not only investments in this style, but diversefrom every way in which you might want to use that word to representessentially the individual Americans out there and the young people today,which are.

Interested in that particular part of,of this idea than, than frankly, older generations are.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Anddescribe, and I know the product was launched, eight weeks ago, but describe alittle bit more or share with the audience the attraction you've seen thus far,and what particularly exciting about that momentum that you're seeingthroughout this year and, and what your plans are.

Manning: Yeah, so we've, we'vegot over 25 influencers on our platform already. And. Since we've launched, we've,we've recruited about another. Wow. And we're doing a couple a day now. As farin our process, it takes a little bit to go through all the vetting that we do.Sure. But Jules's continue to see more traction on what we call like the supplyside of the marketplace.

And we're not spending a whole bunch ofmoney in, in marketing. So if you can listen to podcast, please download theapp. But not spending a whole bunch of money in marketing to to, to really justget the product right and get the relationships right. And, We're reallyexcited about the reception, particularly how the, the influencer community hasembraced us.

And we're looking to kind of find ourway and, and get some traction with the consumer over the course of the next 12months, which you just see lots of product improvements, experimentation, andall the things that one does. We're not, we're not really using capital andplatforms like, like, paid social media and so forth to to drive customacquisition because that environment has, has been tough over the last coupleof years, and, and frankly, we, we are really trying to build this thing asorganically as.

Julian: Yeah, it's also smartthat you kind of set up the incentive structure being that, if you lack acertain influencer, you pay for a subscription. Almost kind of continuallyfeeding this positive kind of loop of, of information rather than say, pay forsome information and don't necessarily have any ties of retention or anythinglike that.

Or part of say a trading which deincentivizes them in making the right bets versus just a lot of different onesand getting a lot of people involved in them. It's such a smart way that to.Kind of create the subscription model for individuals who are continuouslyfeeding all this brilliant information for them to continue. I'm curiouswhether it's external or internal however you see it, what are some of thebiggest risks that your company faces today?

Manning: Well, I mean, listen.The, being a venture backed startup it's been, it's, it's more challengingtoday than, than has been in quite some time as far as raising capital and, andand, and B2C FinTech in particular has taken some, some some, some, some, someshots to the face.

So, so, one, one could argue is thebest. Ever to, to, to build a B2C FinTech. That's, I like that version of thestory. But, but you know, I would say the, just the, the venture environmentand the funding environment is, is very challenging for everybody.  

Julian: Yeah. If everythinggoes well, what's the long term vision?

Manning: Well, the long-termvision of the product is, I believe, very deeply that portfolios of the futureare, are portfolios of people. Yeah. And so I will have, my portfolio will be,I'll have a, probably a, a tech person, a crypto person, a real estate person,and a national person, a bond person, and, and, and my allocation between thosepeople of my money and my investments is gonna be informed by my risk appetite.

Yeah. And, and our, and it's gonnahappen on our platform. And, and I feel. Where, where we think about this ideaof social investing is, is, many of my friends and family because of what I do,are just interested in what I'm doing. And then maybe they just wanna Followme. And so, right.

Imagine as a platform, you could just, Imight have an underlying set of people I Follow. Right. Some people just mightFollow me. Yeah. And so this kind of call like inception level layer of asocial network of people Following each other. Yeah. That's, that's what Ibelieve the future is and that's what we're building towards.

Julian: It's ama It is. Alwayslike this next section I'll call my founder faq. So I'm gonna hit you with somerapid fire questions and we'll see where we get. So, just to open it up, firstquestion is, what's particularly hard about your job?  

Manning: Just the, the sheerdiversity of any given moment. The amount of context switching you have to doin any given day is, is kind of, head spinning.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. And I knowobviously there's a lot of information, or, or excuse me, a lot of news around,say TikTok for instance, people have been flooding to that platform to reallyget a lot of information on, on all facets of life. And especially, recentlyit's been popularized on finance and obviously there's, some, some there's thispending doom that TikTok will be canceled and people will no longer be able toget information from.

Creates a whole different kind ofecosystem. But how does that change, your company and your business? Do you seea lot of opportunity and a lot of these influencers kind of flooding to Follow?Or do you see kind of something auxiliary kind of coming up and, and creating awhole new ecosystem with, all that news, not, kind of TikTok being no longer aplace where people can get that information.

How do you kind of see the, the changesthat will happen in that environment affect your business?  

Manning: Gosh, I mean, I'm notsmart enough to predict exactly what's gonna happen, but what I know is gonnahappen, either it's gonna exist and thrive or it's gonna go away andsomething's gonna stand in this place.

Sure. I'm not sure we're the platform todo that, cause we're not really designed to Sure. To be that, that broad reach.We're very focused on financial services, but, but but I'm an optimist and Ibelieve that any, any time you've seen actions taken like this, Like innovationand opportunities have been created and, and I'm excited to see how the worldresponds and I'm not cheering one way or the other.

I do think that there's valid pointsfrom both sides. Yeah. And I do think it's very, very important though thatthat there's not an overreach here.  

Julian: Yeah. I'm curious,what, what made you so confident in Double Downing doubling down, excuse me, onthis whole fin influencer concept being that, a lot of people think it was afad, initially, and people would go back to traditional ways of researching andgathering information.

But I mean, I have my own opinions onit, but I'm curious to hear, what was the, the, I guess what, what made youdouble down on this whole concept of, of using social proof and using otherskind of non-traditional? To get information. What made you feel confident in.Math. Math. Yeah.  

Manning: Look, look at howmany, look at how many people do it.

Just look at the reach. Yeah. There'smore people that Follow influencers than, than, watch the succession show onhbo. So like, it's just math.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Beingthat, you've been a part of scaling startups and, and obviously this is a newjourney that you're but what in particular, in your experience are thecomponents?

If you were to look at a startup as alittle machine, you look into the box and you see the components of it. Whatmakes a successful startup run and scale in a very, healthy and positive wayversus, say the old, the old model of, of startups, which was. Earn a lot ofmoney, burn it, earn it, burn it, raise, and going through this rollercoaster.

Whereas a lot of companies now are, arevery much focused on kind of, sustainable operational, even sometimes lean andbootstrap startups. What makes a successful company scale well.  

Manning: I, I mean, my beliefis really two things. Number one, you need to have a, a culture that is veryperformance based.

Yeah. And, and, and hold every, every,hold everybody to a very high standard of a performance, like looks like, and,and, and make hard decisions when, when, when, when things aren't going the waythat you them to go. The second one is to really do everything you, you can,and that's, this is a big part of what my job is, is to, is to avoiddistraction risk.

Yeah, there's lots of things you canchase and a small team and limited capital environment. Like, there's you, youreally kind of, if you lose cycles, like that's, that's pretty devastating.Cause the most valuable asset we have is our time.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. What'ssomething you know now as a founder that you wish you knew earlier on?

Manning: You. I wish I knew wecould work this way in a distributor fashion early on cuz I would've gottenaccess to a much broader set of talent. Yeah. In my career cuz I used to be so,call it radius space and, and, and talent acquisition.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. It'sfascinating to see the kind of whole shift into globalized talent really kindof come to the forefront.

And o obvious. That's because of the aidof a lot of different technologies that, that create such a seamlessexperience. But yeah, a lot of founders with the same thing in terms of theincreased talent pool. So it's awesome to see that.  

Manning: Well, I think it's traI think it's trauma of covid. Yeah.

It took trauma of covid to convince everybody,especially old people like me. But this is a good way to  

Julian: work.  

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Another thing iswhat, what's what's something you spend a lot of time on that you would like tospend less on and something you spend little time on that you would like toallocate more?

Manning: So I would like tospend less time on administrative tasks. Yeah. This is where my hope where,where, where the progress we're making in AI can really help. Yeah. Yeah. Andthen the second one is related to that same topic, is like, I like everybodyelse. I'm just fascinated with kind of AGI and, and where the world is goingthere, and, and, and I.

Especially as I get more and moreremoved from the youngest generation mm-hmm. Like to deeply understand thistopic and, and, and how to apply it to, my own personal life as well as, aswhat it is that we're going to do here at college. Yeah.  

Julian: Yeah. It's incrediblethe amount of ways AI can be used and even integrated in technology to, whetherit's, it's decreased mundane tasks or operate efficiently or, find all thesenew creative ways to connect consumers and, and your product.

I always like to ask this next questionbecause I love how founders extract, information over any bit of knowledge thatthey ingest. What's whether it's early in your career or now, what books orpeople have influenced you the most?  

Manning: So I'm, I've been avoracious reader since I was I, I've been reading like a book a week since Iwas one or 10 years old.

So, honestly it's history books are theones that, that, that, that inspired me. And I was particularly just given allthe activity in Ukraine, just going back and rereading a lot of the history ofbooks of World War I and World War ii. It just like the, the, the amount ofpattern recognition Yeah.

That you can gather from reading historyis an incredibly valuable, and so I have a tendency to focus there and I have atendency to not really. Care too much about business folks.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. I love, Ilove asking that question cuz you know, there, there's a few different camps,but I love the, the founders who extract information from, whether it'shistorical references or even fiction to really kind of extract or get awayfrom the, the day-to-day tasks.

And I think it, it offers a differentlevel of, of. Whether it's refreshing or, or re-energizing or even just contextswitching for the sake of, of improving, your, your performance in what yourdomain is. So it's, I love asking that question cuz it's, fascinating to seewhat people come up with.

But last little bit, I know we're, cometo the close with the show here and I wanna make sure we didn't leave anythingon the table before we give you a chance to give us all your plugs and all yourlinks and everything like that. Is there any question I didn't ask you that Ishould have or that you would have liked to answer? Anything that we left onthe table here?  

Manning: No. I mean, listen, Iappreciate the way in which you interact with the world, and this was, this wasfun.

Julian: It's amazing. Amazing.Appreciate that Manning, and I'm so excited to share this with my audience. So,t please tell us where can we find you? Where can we support, Follow, where canwe Follow, Follow?

Give us your websites, give us yourLinkedIns. Give us your Twitters. Where can we get involved and, and be asupporter of you and, and your.  

Manning: Sure our website iswww follow.co not.com. Cause that was significantly more expensive. our Twitterhandle is I'm sorry, it's @followinvest.

And in the app stores we are FollowInvest. You just type that in, you can find us. It's a nice little purple Ficon. And my Twitter is @manningfield. And please check us out, give usfeedback, help make us better, and support the young people around you byencouraging them to take a positive step in their financial future.

It doesn't have to be with us, it couldbe with anybody, but please. Just get them to get started.  

Julian: Amazing Manning. It'sso exciting not only learning and sharing, your experience as a founder, butalso what Follow is doing and how you're kind of really capitalizing on, on alot of different ways that people are, shifting their behavior to extractinformation, to make the actions that they really are.

Anxious to do. But, traditional means ofinformation really hasn't been doing it behind anything. That social proof,having people to trust and, and make that a platform to, to really facilitatethese actions is so exciting to see what the potential futures could be. Sothank you so much for being on the show.

I really appreciate you sharing. I hopeyou enjoyed yourself. And again, thanks for being on Behind Company lines.  

Manning: Thank you Julian.Appreciate it.  

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