Office Hours: I’m a product leader at Compound. I previously founded two companies, one of which was WiseBanyan, a roboadvisor acquired by Axos. I’m Vicki Zhou. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Vicki Zhou and I’m helping build Compound, where we empower people in tech to make better financial decisions so they have the freedom to focus on what matters most.

Before Compound I founded a roboadvisor called WiseBanyan that helped people save and invest for free starting with just $1. I love building, whether it’s companies, teams, operations, products and more. More recently I led product at a Saas company incubated at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw.

During my downtime, I enjoy spending time with my family. I have a young, energetic toddler who is extremely inquisitive. It’s one of the most exciting parts of life, and definitely the most tiring. I also enjoy spending time outdoors, ideally in the sun. When I have time I love reading long form. I’m a personal finance nerd, so a good portion of my saved reads are about finance rabbit holes.

Ask me anything about wealth management, investing, building companies, or my favorite food spots.

Thanks so much for joining us @VickiZ!Elphas – please ask @VickiZ your questions before Friday, December 2nd. @VickiZ may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
@VickiZ What are some tools and frameworks you recommend to people who are new or fearful with wealth management?What are tactical skills you think are important to grow your career and a company? Sql? Coding?
Hi @NicAmos, both are great questions. In terms of wealth management, there are a few core concepts I always keep in mind:1. It's important to have a rainy day fund. The exact amount you should put away will depend on a variety of factors like your spend, income, appetite for risk, and more. However, the rule of thumb is to put away 3-6 months of expenses.2. Compounding and time are incredible factors on your side. This means starting sooner rather than later (even if starting with less). It also means putting saving and investing into autopilot, using features like auto-deposits, can make a large difference over the long-term. 3. Diversified, passive investing with low fees can be a very powerful way to build your investment portfolio. Diversification can also help reduce risk, and avoid putting all your money into one basket. (Here's a quick read on the differences between passive and active investing: 4. Bonus: Tax-advantaged accounts (e.g. 401Ks, IRAs, 529s, and more) can also be powerful tools if you have them available to you. Overall, use time and compounding to your advantage. And as you build wealth, save, and invest more, continue learning about investing (frameworks, what the investments are, the terminology, fee structures, tax advantages, and more).In terms of career and company: I've always biased towards working on hard, impactful problems when I can and biased towards working with the most incredible people I can. Personally, I've found working hard, impactful problems to be incredibly fulfilling and filled with amazing learning opportunities. (I believe learning, like money, also compounds.) It's a magical experience when I've paired that with working with amazing people -- people who are exceptionally talented, hard-working, high integrity, and kind. I think working with people like that also helps people grow exponentially as teammates and people. (I've definitely found that to be the case for myself.) Lastly, I've had an amazing mentor who's always harped on the idea of "always bet on yourself" and basically always believing in yourself. (I know it's much easier typed than done.) Over the years I've found myself telling this to others more and more.
How can I get an invite to try Compound? 😅
Hi @Wendi, great question. If you're already on the waitlist, you can DM me and I'll follow-up? (If not, feel free to join the waitlist and let me know.) Regardless, we've also created a library of resources available to everyone here: We're always open to feedback, so let me know if there's anything you'd like to see us write about!
hi there! i am building a company around mentorship and connecting with people who have pivoted in their careers. can you tell me a bit about your founding experience and what was the experience like founding the companies?
Hi @michellewong793, excited to hear that you're building a company around mentorship and connections.I've been really lucky to have both started companies with amazing people and work with other amazing founders to help them build and grow their companies. I understand first-hand how hard it is to start, build, and grow a company. I have so much respect for founders and others looking to start or build companies. This is by no means all-encompassing, or ranked, but a few important learnings I've had from founding companies include:1. Work with incredible people. When I say incredible, it means more than just being exceptionally good at the skill set(s) on the job spec (e.g. marketing, product, engineering, etc.). It also means people who are voracious learners, have high integrity, are kind.) Building a team of incredible people means you'll have a much higher likelihood of success. And it's a lot more fun.2. Solve real problems. Solve them well. Solve them fast. Keeping solving.3. Always work on communicating better. It creates clarity, motivation, and solutions. As a founder, leader, or manager, this skill is exponentially more valuable as the scope increases. For example, as a founder I think storytelling is a super important form of communication. Storytelling helps you recruit and hire, drive initiatives, fundraise, and so much more.4. It's not easy. x100. So make sure to always take care of yourself (mental and physical health), which can be easier said than done. Also, find and build a strong support network (friends, family, other founders, etc.) of people you trust where you can, and be honest with them.5. And lastly since your company also focuses on people who've pivoting, it's OK to pivot! There are SO many stories of great founders, operators, companies who pivoted. (For example, did you know Slack started as Glitch an online game? The game didn't ultimately succeed, but Slack (which was supposedly named as acronym of "Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge") grew from one of the internal tool for the game/game company.)
Thanks for doing this AMA! I always appreciate learning about people's individual journeys 😊 Some questions that come to mind:1. When you look at the way people make financial decisions, what are often the problems you see or the things that frustrate you? And how do these observations help shape what you build at Compound?2. Regarding your past experience as a founder and/or your career in general, what were some of the hard-won lessons that you've learned? By that I mean, what are lessons that you feel are best learned through direct experience, as opposed to being taught through conversation or studying?3. What are some of your favorite personal finance resources and why? Books, podcasts, newsletters, etc.4. What are non-finance discussion topics that you wish appeared more in the Elpha community?
Hi @candice142, good questions and thank you for asking them.1. Making financial decisions is hard! One thing that frustrates me is the lack of good resources available to people. I feel like in the last 5-10 years there has definitely been more great resources created and available, but I think it's still not enough. We don't really teach personal finance or topics about money in school or when wee start working our first jobs. It's almost like there's this super level in the game of life that there's no instruction manual for, where we're just expected to know how to do well, while not really talking about it. That's not cool. This really motivates me in terms of helping build Compound and helping build the best solutions and resources for people to help them with their finance and building wealth.2. I'm a big fan of learning by doing. I think reading, conversations, studying are all important (and I still do a lot of that today myself), but I'm always for trying to put those learnings into practice as quickly and effectively as possible, because doing is where the real learning compounds. For example, you can read a 5 step framework. But when you implement it, you quickly learn about what the framework excels in and where it's limited, how to implement the framework, the real "whys" behind it, when to use it or not use it, how to communicate it to others, and more. You often start building your own framework and nuances. It's a flywheel.3. Lots of awesome content out there. I'm a fan of honest, clear writing or storytelling. Here are three I like:1. Here's a fun one, Berkshire Hathaway's Shareholder Letters fill with so many gems: 2. Unlike the other two on this list, this one is not free, but I've found the writing in Holloway guides and books to be exceptional: 3. Biased!! But I also really like the writing in Compound's Manual, written by some of my teammates who are amazing writers. Especially relevant for anyone who works in tech (founders, operators/builders/employees, investors): I love reading real stories about struggles and wins.
Hi Vicki, thanks for sharing your time and experiences with us!What would you recommend to someone who's afraid to take the first step with starting a company?
Hi @tiffanyyhchang, such a good and hard question. Starting a company takes a lot of courage, so I have a LOT of respect to founders building companies and those considering starting their own company. I think regardless of where you are in terms of starting a company (considering it, just started it, 10 years into building it, etc.), it's important to solve real problems. Best if they're real, painful, impactful problems (where people are willing to pay for good solutions!). Many companies big and small started with someone solving a problem, often for themselves or others they know. And then solving those problems even more (more efficiently, faster, better, on a bigger scale, for more people). This goes hand-in-hand with one way of de-risking starting a company, which is to validate. Validate by solving the problem you see in a minimally viable way. Constantly validate and talk to the people who have the problem (hopefully your users/clients or potential users). Then keep building it. Curious what other founders/ex-founders say when you ask them this question!
Thanks for sharing! As a follow-up, how did you validate Compound and WiseBanyan early on, and why did you pick these strategies/rule out others?