The rapidly evolving world of cryptocurrency can be challenging for investors to decipher. Prysm Capital Investments wants to change that. Founded by recent Louisiana State University grads, the New Orleans company aims to make Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies more accessible to individual investors by managing portfolios for them.
In June, the early-stage company received $3,000 in reimbursable funding through the Nexus Louisiana’s Ignition accelerator program to invest in client services and conduct market research.
“Ignition offered us so much amazing information, and it was an invaluable experience with mentors that were the best in the state,” says Prysm Co-Founder and CFO Blair Elise Aguda. “We received so much exposure to other opportunities and built a tight bond with the other founders in the program.”
Building a Better Way to Invest in Crypto
Prysm Co-Founders Ray Eaglin and Ben Hackney have been friends since childhood. Aguda met Eaglin in her business classes at LSU, who developed the idea of direct-to-consumer managed portfolios of cryptocurrency.
At Prysm, they have a clear mission – to create a more diverse and accessible way to invest in cryptocurrency. By offering direct-to-consumer portfolio management services to underserved communities in Louisiana and across the country, the company wants to aid in the adoption, development, and maturation of crypto investment opportunities.
Currently, to buy cryptocurrency, people need to pick a broker or a crypto exchange, which is no small feat given that there are dozens of popular ones to choose from.
1. Exchanges, such as Binance.US, Coinbase and Gemini, are platforms where buyers and sellers meet to trade cryptocurrencies. They may have relatively low fees, but their complexity can be intimidating for new investors.
2. Brokers, such as Robinhood and SoFi, have easy-to-use interfaces, but fees can range widely depending on the broker selected and the account size.
Once investors choose either an exchange or broker, they must then figure out how to buy the more than 6,000 cryptocurrencies available and how they will store the crypto they buy.
Prysm wants to simplify the process by creating managed portfolios with various cryptocurrencies based on investors’ goals and risk tolerances, Aguda says.
Revving Up at Ignition
Prysm was one of 11 startups selected for the first Ignition accelerator program, developed by Nexus Louisiana and LSU. It helps aspiring entrepreneurs evaluate the viability of their business idea through customer discovery and development.
Ignition, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Stone Pigman, and Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, consisted of eight in-person sessions and culminated with participants pitching their ideas at a Demo Day competition. A panel of judges, including MasteryPrep Founder & CEO Craig Gehring, LSU Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute Program Manager Fahimeh Abbasi and Innovation Catalyst CEO Bill Ellison, selected businesses that demonstrated the most viability and scalability.
Innovation Catalyst, a Louisiana-based venture development organization, awarded two startups $5,000 each: Basic Fitness, a virtual platform that collects, stores, tracks and analyzes health and wellness data for athletes and coaches, and Accelerant, software designed to help high school teachers and administrators teach coding. And Prysm received a $3,000 grant to continue to develop its idea into a business further.
“The Tech Park gave us an office space to work out of, and we were there 24/7,” Aguda says. “Throughout the Ignition program, we had an opportunity to really discover who our clients will be and how to more specifically target them for a good product-market fit.”
For example, the Prysm team expected that their primary customers for managed crypto portfolios would be young men. “We were pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of women really want to get into the crypto space. They face barriers, and we want to help them join the crypto community.”
Seeing the Future of Prysm and Crypto
The Prysm team is developing its platform and plans to launch in the first quarter of 2022. The opportunities for cryptocurrency are significant. Bitcoin is only 12 years old, and many investors have yet to add crypto to their portfolios.
Aguda sees the Louisiana tech community playing a big role in Prysm’s development.
“In New Orleans and Baton Rouge, our ecosystem has been growing,” Aguda says. “With Tech Park, all the incubators here along with the Ignition accelerator program, LSU’s venture challenges, and local angel investing groups, we will continue to thrive.”