Why Venture Capital Makes Sense for RIAs

How Incorporating VC Investments Can Transform RIA Client Offerings and Outcomes

Written by

Edward Tsai

Published on


7 min

In the face of increasing competition, shifting investor preferences, and market volatility, Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) are continually seeking innovative strategies to provide clients with a competitive edge. Incorporating venture capital (VC) investments represents a promising avenue for RIAs to transform client offerings and outcomes.

In the ever-evolving world of finance, Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) constantly seek innovative strategies to offer their clients a competitive edge. Several dynamics in the RIA world point to a continual need to innovate: increased competition from robo-advisors, the proliferation of fintech firms providing enhanced self-directed programs, and changing investor preferences towards customization and alternatives.

One such strategy gaining traction is leveraging venture capital (VC) investments. These investments represent an extension beyond core alternative investment options and a paradigm shift from traditional asset classes like stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. But what exactly makes VC an attractive option for RIAs?

This blog will explore the multifaceted benefits and considerations of incorporating VC into investment portfolios, delving into aspects such as diversification, potential high returns, and the “alpha” of access.

To learn more about how venture capital might be a good fit for your clients, please join our webinar.


In today’s market, RIAs face several fundamental industry shifts:

  1. Increased Competition: The wealth management industry is becoming increasingly competitive, with new entrants like robo-advisors, fintech firms for self-directed portfolio management, and proliferation of similar “me-too” alternative investment solutions.
  2. Changing Investor Preferences: Investors seek more innovative and personalized investment options, especially for younger generations, which may also seek more socially conscious and thematically interesting exposures.
  3. Market Volatility: Recent economic uncertainty and market fluctuations have resulted in unstable returns from traditional investment strategies, likely causing client dissatisfaction and retention challenges.
  4. Regulatory Changes: The evolving regulatory landscape can impose new compliance burdens, impacting operational costs and flexibility in offering diverse products.
  5. Technological Advancements: Keeping up with technological innovations in financial services is essential but can be a significant challenge.
  6. Client Retention and Acquisition: Attracting new clients and retaining existing ones is increasingly difficult. Advisors need to have a full range of investment solutions to deliver on investor goals.

For RIAs, adding venture capital (VC) product as part of their alternative investment toolkit can be a strategic response to these challenges.

Here are some areas where VC offerings can help RIAs differentiate in a dynamic environment.

1. Differentiation: Standing Out in a Crowded Market

Venture capital investments provide a distinctive edge in the competitive landscape of wealth management. By incorporating VC into their portfolios, RIAs can differentiate their investment offering from traditional portfolios and self-directed fintech platforms. Robo-advisors typically focus on low-fee public market offerings and have limited access to true alternative investments, such as venture capital. Self-directed accounts allow product flexibility, but platforms offer no guidance on product selection. This differentiation is crucial in attracting discerning clients who seek unique and specialized investment opportunities.

2. Portfolio Diversification: Expanding Beyond Traditional Portfolios with an Uncorrelated Asset Class

When an advisor only offers commonly known and standard investment solutions such as stock ETFs and basic bond offerings, clients may find the portfolio too traditional to achieve their investment goals with tolerable levels of risk. Alternative investments, including VC, stand out as diversification tools since returns tend to be uncorrelated to traditional asset classes. Further, venture capital, within the private equity asset class, tends to be less correlated with other private equity strategies. By including exposure to private, innovative startups in their portfolios, RIAs can offer their clients a solution that helps reduce the impact of volatility often seen in traditional markets. This aspect of VC enhances the resilience of investment portfolios while introducing client portfolios to a broader spectrum of growth opportunities.

3. Sticky Capital: Building Long-Term Client Relationships

One common element of venture capital and private equity funds is extended duration. This time allows the investment teams to help portfolio companies execute their business plan and, ultimately, position itself for some exit/realization event. This means investor capital is committed for an extended duration, which could be beneficial for RIAs in two ways. First, these types of structures help protect investors from making untimely buy/sell decisions. Second, it fosters enduring client relationships, as clients understand a longer-term time horizon of their investment portfolio, thereby creating opportunities to build and expand investor relationships.

4. Customization for High-Interest Areas: Personalizing Investment Experiences

Venture capital allows clients to focus their investments on specific sectors or industries, catering to their personal interests or convictions. For example, a client passionate about general technology, artificial intelligence, or biotech can participate in these sectors through investing in VC. This level of investment customization enhances client satisfaction and deepens the client’s engagement with their investment portfolio.

5. Education, Excitement, and Future Potential: Learning About Innovative Ventures

Venture capital is synonymous with innovation and cutting-edge technology. Investing in startups and emerging companies offers a sense of excitement and participation in potential future success stories. This aspect of VC is particularly appealing to clients who are keen on being part of transformative industry changes and groundbreaking technological advancements. Additionally, innovation naturally lends itself to more opportunities for engagement with the client through educational webinars reviewing new trends and technologies.

6. Appeal to Younger Generations: Engaging the Next Generation of Investors

Venture capital has a distinct appeal to younger investors, often the children of existing clients. This generation is typically more attuned to technological advancements and disruptive business models. By offering VC investment opportunities, RIAs can effectively connect with and cater to the interests of this younger demographic, securing continuity in client relationships across generations.

7. Higher Return Potential: The Allure of Outsized Rewards

While venture capital investments come with higher risks, they also offer the potential for significant returns. The success of a startup can lead to substantial financial gains, making VC an attractive option for clients aiming for aggressive growth in their portfolios. By offering VC products, RIAs can cater to clients with a higher risk appetite and looking for outsized returns.

8. Early Access to Emerging Technologies: Staying Ahead of the Curve

Venture capital can provide a gateway to emerging technologies and sectors before they become mainstream. This early exposure can help some RIA clients that might be interested in trends and innovations impacting their business. By including VC in their offerings, RIAs enable clients to capitalize on these non-portfolio-driven, value-add opportunities.

9. Networking and Community Building: Beyond Financial Returns

Investing in VC often includes opportunities to connect with a network of entrepreneurs, fellow investors, and industry experts. This aspect extends the benefits of VC beyond financial gains, offering clients a sense of belonging to a community and valuable networking opportunities.

10. Value Add for the Client: Reinforcing Trust and Loyalty

By providing access to venture capital, RIAs offer their clients exposure to complex and often less accessible asset classes. This enhances the perceived value of the RIA’s services, reinforcing client loyalty and trust. Clients appreciate the comprehensive, expertly navigated investment landscape that RIAs can provide, differentiating their services in a competitive market.

11. Access as Alpha: Venture Capital Driven by Proprietary Access and Value-Add

Unlike the public markets with assets that are generally open to investment by anyone, the venture asset class is driven by access to proprietary deals. When a strong startup accepts venture financing, it likely has multiple VC firms competing for allocation. Storied venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Accel have the benefit of a strong track-record building new companies, which helps attract entrepreneurs seeking great partners. “Access” thus is a source of alpha, and venture funds who have better access to investing in compelling startups as an established VC or alongside have a benefit of potentially higher alpha and returns.


Integrating venture capital into investment portfolios represents a significant value proposition for RIAs. It offers a blend of differentiation, diversification, potentially high returns, and access to emerging technologies, which can all significantly enhance client portfolios. More importantly, VC investments resonate with clients on a deeper level, aligning with their interests, engaging them in exciting growth stories, and building a sense of community and partnership.

For RIAs, leveraging VC is not just about financial gains but about forging stronger, more meaningful client relationships. Please join our upcoming webinar on Venture and RIAs to dive deeper into this topic.

This communication is from Alumni Ventures, a for-profit venture capital company that is not affiliated with or endorsed by any school. It is not personalized advice, and AV only provides advice to its client funds. This communication includes forward-looking statements, generally consisting of any statement pertaining to any issue other than historical fact, including without limitation predictions, financial projections, the anticipated results of the execution of any plan or strategy, the expectation or belief of the speaker, or other events or circumstances to exist in the future. Forward-looking statements are not representations of actual fact, depend on certain assumptions that may not be realized, and are not guaranteed to occur. Any forward-looking statements included in this communication speak only as of the date of the communication. AV and its affiliates disclaim any obligation to update, amend, or alter such forward-looking statements, whether due to subsequent events, new information, or otherwise.