MEET THE FOUNDER
Like many entrepreneurs, Bobby got the idea for Tilly because he was frustrated by a rigged financial advisory system in which the cost of services doesn’t come close to matching the value. He set out to create a simpler, more affordable way for people to invest in their financial futures.
Bobby grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, and worked with his father, a mathematician at North Carolina State University, on his hobby farm, raising cows and vegetables. While driving back and forth to the farm, they’d discuss the ins and outs of investing. Even at a young age, Bobby witnessed his father mailing in small checks to purchase stock in good companies — dollar-cost-averaging over years and years.
While in college, Bobby interned at an investment management firm and learned how the financial industry works. After graduating from Appalachian State University, he became a business banker, and even then, noticed his bank’s financial industry was full of disincentives for most financial professionals to do what was right for the client.
In 1999, Bobby put his disenchanted feelings about the financial industry on hold and instead started a successful industry research company, First Research, which was sold to Dun & Bradstreet in 2007. Then in 2011, Bobby co-founded another research firm, Vertical IQ, and became an active angel investor, which helped inspire his 2016 book, The Hockey Stick Principles, about how good ideas become successful companies.
But over the years, Bobby couldn’t let go of the fact that the financial industry was a bad deal for consumers. He thought, “Isn’t the typical commission charge of 1 to 2 percent of everybody’s money too expensive for what you’re getting?”
For example, a friend, whose family was on a tight budget, didn’t realize he was paying his financial advisor more than $8,000 per year because the $8,000 was being subtracted from his investments’ returns.
Bobby calculated that over a 30-year period, $8,000 per year growing at 7 percent interest is $808,000 — money that ultimately would be subtracted from his friend’s retirement and estate. Furthermore, the $8,000 per year grows each year and is not even included in this calculation. His friend was on track to pay more than a $1 million for financial “advice” throughout his lifetime.
Bobby also noticed that financial advisors spend most of their time selling, not actually planning. He recognized that financial firms pay high office rent, have inefficient systems and processes, and pay their “advisors” and executives big salaries. After all these expenses, he noticed these firms still earn 25–30 percent operating margins each year.
There had to a more efficient way!
Bobby contemplated innovative and more affordable business models. The idea for virtual advice came from where he least expected it: an email marketing software customer success representative named Michael. After Bobby purchased the software, Michael set up a series of 30-minute virtual meetings. Michael was good at his job because he helped solve business problems — not because he tried to build a “relationship” with Bobby. Michael was thoughtful, efficient, and got right to the point. Bobby thought, “This process should be applied to financial advice! It’s affordable, valuable, and scalable!”
And Tilly was born! See how Tilly works.