Propel(x) CEO, Swati Chaturvedi, on Leveraging Technology to Increase Access to Early-Stage Capital

Swati, tell us about Propel(x)!

Propel(x) is an online investment platform that enables accredited investors worldwide to invest in startups and venture capital funds online. We are leveraging technology to reach a global audience, simplify, streamline and automate the investment process, and make these otherwise inaccessible opportunities available to all accredited investors.

One of our goals is to enable ordinary accredited investors to access the venture capital asset class using small check sizes. We accept as little as $ 5,000 per investment. Ultimately, we are democratizing the venture capital asset class making it accessible worldwide to all accredited investors. Our customers range from individual accredited investors writing checks as small as $5,000 to some of the largest family offices and funds writing checks of a million dollars or more.

Looking at investment opportunities, investors can expect to find deeptech and fintech startups on the Propel(x) platform, as well as venture capital funds. We work across stages with startups, offering Early Stage (Series A), Growth Stage (Series B, C), and Late stage (Series D or later) investment opportunities. Propel(x) portfolio companies have cumulatively raised $1.5B+ from Propel(x) and other sources! 

Finally, I want to point out that our subsidiary Hubble Investments LLC, which makes the offerings on Propel(x), is regulated as a FINRA member broker-dealer. Hubble Investments as a broker dealer is required to keep the best interest of our investors uppermost and is held to a high standard when it comes to curating deal-flow, conducting due diligence, confirming suitability for investors and making sure that they understand what they’re investing in, prior to accepting funds from investors. However, investors must remember that despite all due diligence, privately held investments carry a great deal of risk. They are illiquid and there is a chance of losing the entire invested capital.

Can you give a bit of background on yourself?

Sure! I grew up in India and came to the U.S. for my graduate studies at U.C. Berkley and MIT. Early on in my career I became a Management Consulting professional. This exposed me to the investing business and I went on to do my MBA at MIT Sloan. I started my investment journey with a summer at Temasek Holdings which is Singapore’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. After that I worked at Siemens Venture Capital and a private equity fund in San Francisco.

Very quickly I realized that my passion really lies in startups and how they’re leveraging technology to change the trajectory of humankind. So, I started the MIT Angels group to invest in deep-tech startups. That group was very successful, and that experience eventually led to the founding of Propel(x).

What influenced you to found Propel(x)? What problems in the industry were you seeing?

In the course of running the MIT Angels group, I realized the tremendous gap that exists in funding deep-tech startups, especially at the earlier stages. These are companies that could go on to become the equivalent of Teslas and Illuminas of the world, and yet find it very difficult to raise financing at their earliest stages.

At the same time there are investors who may be geographically separated or who may not have access to invest in these opportunities. And even if they do, the tickets sizes are often prohibitive for most investors.

So, the problem is: we have a system where startups are not able to efficiently access capital, and capital is not able to efficiently access startups!

With this knowledge I launched Propel(x) as a way to enable accredited investors worldwide to invest in deep tech startups online using small check sizes. Along the way, we diversified our offerings to include fintech startups and venture capital funds as well.

What has been the most rewarding part about being an entrepreneur?

I think the most rewarding part about being an entrepreneur is to actually build the vision that you have. It is extremely rewarding to see your dream come alive in front of you as a result of your efforts.

Another very rewarding aspect is the learning that comes with being an entrepreneur. I can safely say that I have learned everything (almost) about running a business: how to start a business, find a domain name, incorporate it, legal work, regulatory work, sales, marketing, compliance, fund-raising, product, technology, recruiting – all of it.

It is an extremely challenging role, but extremely fulfilling also at the same time. I highly recommend everyone to try it at least once!

Where trends are you most excited about in the alternative investments industry?

The biggest change that I see in this industry is democratization. Alternative investments, which were had been limited to only the wealthiest of individuals, funds and families, are now increasingly being made available to more and more investors via platforms like Propel(x) and others.

Historically, financial advisors would recommend a 70-30 portfolio with 70% of investable assets allocated to stocks and 40% to bonds. And this allocation would change over time as your risk profile changed. Those days are passé!

The industry will most likely evolve to include alternative investments as a staple of most investment portfolios. We are likely to see some variation of 60-30-10, where 60% is allocated to stocks, 30% to bonds and 10% to alternatives. These numbers are not written in stone and may change depending on investors individual risk profile. However, the big point I’m making here is that alternative investments are likely to find a place in every portfolio as they become more and more available. This is the biggest trend that I am excited about.

What have you found to be the biggest benefit of joining the EvoNexus incubator?

One of the big benefits of being in an incubator like EvoNexus which is supported by corporate sponsors, is that startups have access to these corporates for learning and collaboration opportunities. This is incredibly valuable. In our case the corporates were Franklin Templeton and RBC. Interactions with both of these entities have been incredibly valuable for us.

Another big benefit is the interaction with other startups and the learning that comes from each other – the community aspect of things. I have enjoyed that tremendously.

Finally, there is the mentoring from the incubator executives. We have monthly check-ins, and I have found them to be very valuable.

Given that we have just entered the new year, what do you hope to achieve in 2022?

Growth. I do believe that the Alternatives industry is going to grow. We have seen a lot of demand from individuals as well as family offices, funds and also Financial Advisors. So, we fully expect this to be a growth year. I’m super excited about it and looking forward!

To learn more about Propel(x), head to their website: https://www.propelx.com/ 

Swati Chaturvedi’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/swatichaturvedi-px/