Pre-Idea Visionaries: Marcus Collins of NestedFunds
NestedFunds is a financial services platform designed to help adult children provide seamless financial support to their aging parents, streamline communication, and plan for future expenses.
Marcus Collins was determined to find a problem worth solving that would benefit the everyday family, specifically in areas where communities of color and second-generation immigrant families were disproportionately suffering.
Collins eventually found that problem — he is now innovating the intersection of elderly care and fintech to improve efficiency and promote financial equity.
After joining the Visible Hands Accelerator, Collins was able to actualize his passion for ideation and startup building by creating the idea and early MVP for NestedFunds.
“A lot of iteration happened in such a short time. I entered pre-idea and spent the first half of the program evaluating and killing bad ideas. By the end of the program, I had completed roughly 40 interviews, created mockups and an early pitch deck, and started growing an early waitlist.”
- Marcus Collins, CEO and Founder of NestedFunds
Since the early days of college, Collins had a contagious entrepreneurial spirit, looking for broken systems in day-to-day life.
“I was one of those students that always had a new idea and was trying to bring in my friends to help me build it,” Collins said.“When I was getting into startup building, the professor for one of my mechanical engineering classes instructed us to keep a little notebook in our pockets. [He told us] throughout the week, start identifying problems and jot them down.”
Collins was hooked. He wasn’t set out to be a CEO; he wanted to build and solve real problems for real people.
“I didn’t know that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, it just became a passion for bringing ideas to life and solving complex problems,” Collins said. “I always knew that if I would start a company, I didn’t want to be a founder with a solution in search of a problem. Instead, I wanted to find the right problem and then work with customers to build the best solution. ”
After college, Collins spent eleven years with various early-stage tech companies, helping hands-on with the experimenting, building teams and processes, and scaling early products.
“That’s when I understood the impact of a startup; all the things that go right, and all the things that go wrong,” Collins said. “I started to wrap my head around this idea of building something with an impact.”
After years of instrumental work uplifting other entrepreneurs, it was finally time for Collins to actualize his vision. Years of practice identifying and exploring real-world problems led him to the idea of financial support for families.
“I talked to a lot of people about family life,” Collins said. “We talked about having kids and sleep deprivation, but we also talked a lot about the switch that happens from us being dependent on our parents, to them ultimately becoming dependent on us.”
As of 2021, in the U.S. roughly 48 million individuals provide unpaid care to an adult family member or friend. Family caregivers spend an average of 26% of their income on caregiving activities. These caregivers are struggling financially or going into debt because of the money that is needed to take care of family members.
Additionally, families of color are disproportionately affected by burdens of family financial issues due to systematic barriers that have created a generational wealth gap between white and POC families.
Collins became interested in the hardships and burdens that were behind the scenes of many average families.
“There is a switch in family dynamics as children are initially dependent on their parents, and then ultimately the aging parents become dependent on their adult children,” Collins said. “One of our key insights is that people see this shift as an elderly problem, but that’s not true for a large percentage of adult children. For many, that switch happens much earlier in their parents’ lives, usually as a result of little to no retirement and savings, and often a symptom of lives spent in poorly paid jobs to make ends meet to support their families. ”
In the U.S., 80% of the people that provide financial support are worried about having enough money to support themselves and their parents. This leads to increased debt, lack of savings, and delaying their retirement, not to mention the stress and anxiety that comes from money issues. This makes elderly care a pressing issue for adult children as well as their aging parents.
NestedFunds is building financial tools for the 30% of millennials and GenXers who currently provide regular financial support to their aging parents. By helping adult children create a ‘clearer line in the sand’ for when and how to provide support, they also hope to reduce the associated familial contention and resentment.
Although not exclusively affecting these communities, it’s often the circumstance most prevalent in communities of color and first and second-generation immigrant families. Symptoms of systematic workplace discrimination and other barriers have resulted in the older population having little or no retirement or savings for themselves.
Why Visible Hands?
As Collins looked for the next move in his career, he realized his passion for entrepreneurship was driving him to support founders full-time, so he had a conversation with Visible Hands (VH) General Partner and Co-Founder, Justin Kang.
“I really love helping founders move from ideation to creation and execution,” Collins said. “So I was originally introduced to Visible Hands because I wanted to join their team. Justin then encouraged me to throw my name in the hat to be a part of the accelerator instead. He told me that I should give it a chance.”
Collins knew he had the technical experience and skill set to ideate and build. What he would need from the VH team was a support system that aligned with his vision and offered him relevant resources and advice for early-stage company building.
“From that initial conversation with Justin and from what I learned about VH, I could tell I would have a reliable and passionate support system,” Collins said. “For people who are not as familiar with the founder journey, parts of the early stages can become disheartening and seem riddled with failure, when in reality it is imperative experimentation and learnings. I wanted to surround myself with people that were experienced in the vulnerable, early moments of entrepreneurship and could help support me through it.”
How was Visible Hands a catalyst for growth?
Collins entered the accelerator without a set idea or solution, however, he knew he was passionate about a problem. So he used the 14-week accelerator to dive deep into his desire to learn about family struggles and financial burdens.
Michael (Mike) Omenazu, VH VP and Partnerships Lead, was Collins concierge: a member of the VH team who is dedicated to creating a tailored journey and project plan for each founder in the cohort. Their weekly check-ins became essential in keeping Collins on track.
“Mike was a huge part of my support system,” Collins said. “He was helpful in making sure I wasn’t spinning my wheels too much and that I was making progress, even if [it was] just baby steps sometimes. He was also always a great support system and provided those extra boosts of confidence.”
The VH Accelerator needed to be a safe space for failure and growth while also having systems in place for tangible feedback and progress tracking.
“Marcus advanced beyond the curious exploration of multiple ideas — a stage where many stall out — by building upon extensive research of current and future market trends and further fine-tuning via the incorporation of complementary feedback from prospective users,” Omenazu said. “Supporting him each week required extending the full space for movement within his the range of possibility, while offering guiding parameters helpful for him in deciding the next direction during ideation, through facilitated inquiry.”
Collins also found support beyond the VH team. He looked to his fellow cohort members for wisdom.
“I felt privileged to be surrounded by such intelligent and impressive founders, Collins said. “We all have a wide variety of experiences and were working in similar stages [of company-building]. So we were able to leverage each other’s skills and experiences to make quicker, more informed, decisions.”
Building with balance
Collins sees the vulnerability of the founder’s journey as strength rather than failure. He actively chooses to build in public to destigmatize the pressure and stress that is associated with entrepreneurship.
“When you’re building as a solo founder, it’s really important to build in public and talk about your ideas,” Collins said. “The more you talk about the problem space and get it out there, the more you provide an opportunity for people to self-select into helping you. If you don’t talk about it, you rob yourself of an opportunity to validate your idea, and, more importantly, learn from others that are willing to help.”
Although Collins is transparent about his building process, he acknowledges that stress and anxiety are a natural part of any process.
“I’m a bit of a perfectionist,” Collins said. “I want things to be right on day one, but that’s impossible when you’re building a company. It’s always important to challenge your assumptions and be okay with being wrong. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I give myself the evening to feel those emotions. I read a book, watch a movie, or take my dog for a long walk. Then the next morning, I have to lean into whatever was stressing me out. It’s in those moments where I tend to feel the most growth.”
Collins’ views on the founder’s journey go hand in hand with his philosophy for NestedFunds. Family finances are not something that is typically talked about publicly. It can be incredibly isolating and challenging, especially while simultaneously navigating relationships with loved ones.
“Finances are inherently social and intertwined, but we’ve been stuck in a single-player paradigm where tools inadequately address the needs of families,” Collins said. “Finances and mental health go hand in hand, especially when they involve both your own finances and those of the people you love. You can’t pour from an empty cup, but our users try anyway. It’s incredibly taxing emotionally and financially, but NestedFunds philosophy is that you don’t have to be in it alone, and with the right tools these frictions can be assuaged.”
Collins’ background in building startups, coupled with his passion for problem-solving, has created the foundations of an incredible platform that has the potential to improve family dynamics and financials for millions of people. VH was able to give him the space he needed to dedicate his full-time attention to NestFunds.
“From that initial conversation with Justin all the way to the end of the program, being part of Visible Hands and their support has been incredibly valuable and rewarding,” Collins said. “The belief [VH] has in my ability as a founder to build something with longevity gave me the confidence to persevere.”
Since ending the 14-week accelerator in December 2021, the NestedFunds waitlist has continued to grow. If you are currently providing financial support to an aging parent or older loved one, sign up to join as well!
Collins is also always looking to talk to more people experiencing the financial and mental hardships of caring for an aging parent. Please email him here; if you are willing to share, he would love to hear your story.
Additionally, Collins and his team are looking for a lead engineer and a part-time UX designer. Email him here if you or someone you know is mission-aligned and interested in either of these positions.
“We are so excited for Collins and the growth of NestedFunds. Stay connected to Visible Hands by checking out the website, subscribing to our newsletter, and keeping up with our social media channels.”
- The Visible Hands Team