“Find a Need and Fill It”.

These words were on the Henry J. Kaiser cement trucks when I was a kid in the SF Bay Area.  No entrepreneur lived the phrase more than Henry J., who at one time or another applied his business acumen from dams to dishwashers, but is best known for WWII Liberty ships, Kaiser Permanente Medical program (forerunner to modern HMO), and the Henry J. Kaiser automobile (produced as jeeps during the war).

Another equal compelling entrepreneurship story is that of Stitch Fix, which started as a clothing alterations service, now has 83 stores across Canada, and has gone viral.  Stitch It Clothing Alterations has been a choice for a trusted, convenient, and professional clothing alteration service since 1989, when it began as Stitch It Canada’s Tailor Inc. Their story starts at a first shop in Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. It was inspired to fill an evident market gap in having tailoring services available where clothes are purchased. While this had long been standard at menswear outlets, there were no similar options for the whole family to seek alterations for any type of clothing. After customers kept coming to Stitch It founder Alain Baird’s clothing store asking for custom stitching, he decided to do something about it.

Although mall developers were originally skeptical about the need for a tailoring service located within the mall, Stitch It’s tagline service, “Pant Hems Done While You Wait,” was immensely popular, and lines of customers formed out the door and into the mall. Stitch It then formed a partnership with a major retail conglomerate to meet demands and maintain such overwhelming success. Over the next decade, Stitch It expanded, acquiring one of its competitors, Needle N’ Thread, and branching into a budget alteration service, known as Sew Right, and a U.S.-based service in Minneapolis, Minnesota, under the name of Can Do Clothing Operations.

Now a popular internet site, it personalizes style to the individual family member, serving men, women, and kids.  Customers can fill-out a style and price preference and leave choices to a personal stylist.  Shipping is free both ways.

Stitch Fix makes shopping not just convenient, but effortless. Like other online retailers, Stitch Fix saves trips to the store by shipping items directly to you. Their  Personal Stylists also save you the time and trouble of selecting clothing and accessories. Many enjoy the ease and convenience of automatically scheduled shipments that arrive at a frequency of their choosing. The dressing room is your home.  Stitch Fix has a mobile app to make the ordering more convenient.

Stitch Fix found a niche, provided a needed service, iterated, and scaled their business.  Pure, true entrepreneurship at its best! 💡🎯

For more information on Stitch Fix differentiation, go to: https://support.stitchfix.com/hc/en-us/articles/203317264-The-Stitch-Fix-difference

35 Innovators Under 35, Go Bears!

A Berkeley professor, graduate student and recent alumnus — all affiliated with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences — have been named to MIT Technology Review’s 2018 list of “35 Innovators Under 35.”

Assistant professor Alessandro Chiesa, Ph.D. student Chelsea Finn and 2016 Ph.D. John Schulman were selected for the prestigious honor, which recognizes exceptional young innovators whose work will influence technological advancements for years to come.

Chiesa, 30, is the co-founder of Zcash, a cryptocurrency that ensures complete privacy in online transactions. Using zero-knowledge cryptography, Zcash guarantees the validity of transactions while enabling users to shield sensitive data and protect themselves from identity theft.

Finn, 25, is working out of the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Lab, creating algorithms that enable robots to learn as children do — by building on previous play and observations. Robots in her lab are tackling such challenges as using a wooden shape-sorting toy, and Finn plans to introduce more advanced tasks such as setting a table, in hopes of having robots master tasks by exploring and trial-and-error instead of programming.

A research scientist at OpenAI, Schulman, 30, is developing novel algorithms for reinforcement learning applications, which reward machines for a correct response. Currently, he is using the 1991 video game Sonic the Hedgehog — which emphasizes speed and physics — as an accurate way to test an algorithm’s ability to apply learned skills to different scenarios. Schulman hopes these machine-learning algorithms can eventually be used in areas such as robot locomotion.

Chiesa, Finn and Schulman are featured online at the MIT Technology Review and in the July/August print magazines, which will be available July 3. All honorees will be recognized at the annual Emerging Technologies (Emtech) Conference, September 11–14.


Military Best Entrepreneurship Training Program in America

One organization has produced more business owners than any other single institution in the nation.

It has a proven track record of teaching leadership, strategic planning, creative problem-solving, task execution, and resiliency—all traits essential to business ownership. It is not a fancy MBA or university program.

The organization is the United States military.

For many years, military veterans have become entrepreneurs at a much higher rate than non-veterans. Indeed, a shocking 49% of World War II veterans went on to own or operate their own businesses, according to a study from Syracuse University.

In the modern era, an exciting veterans’ entrepreneurship movement is once again spreading across America. These so-called “vetrepreneurs” are thriving. They have their own accelerators and incubators, their own venture capitalists, their own support organizations and coaches, and even their own Shark Tank stars (shout out to Navy SEAL-led Bottle Breacher and Army Ranger-led Combat Flip Flops).

Vetrepreneurs do things differently. They apply lessons from military service to business. They unflinchingly handle risk. They rely on a tight-knit network of their fellow veterans for support and encouragement. And they understand perseverance like no other group of individuals in the country.

The habits and practices of veteran entrepreneurs hold lessons for every business owner in the United States.  I interact with these incredible entrepreneurs and business owners every day. My company, StreetShares, has funded more than 300 veteran-owned businesses since we launched two years ago.

Financing veteran-owned businesses has become my mission. I served as an officer in the Air Force for nine years and returned from Iraq in the summer of 2008—just as the financial crisis was beginning. My generation of veterans would transition out of military service in the wake of the financial crisis. Unlike prior generations, capital would not be available to us. I spent a couple years at a Wall Street law firm and gained a solid understanding of capital markets. Then, in 2013, I partnered with a very talented and experienced banking executive named Mickey Konson—also a fellow veteran—to form StreetShares.com.

We had a vision for an alternative small business funding platform that would make lending safer by harnessing the social trust that exists within groups of tight-knit individuals, such as veterans. We believed we could optimize the interaction between borrowers and investors in a social-lending model in order to achieve maximum risk reduction on a loan. Lower risk would mean a lower interest rates for borrowers and safer returns for investors. Using this method, veteran-owned small businesses obtain loans at 2-4% lower interest rates. We called our invention “affinity-based lending.”

We were a true startup. We spent the first nine months operating out of the basement in my house outside of Washington, D.C.. We had a skeleton crew of interns and paid all the start-up costs out of our own pockets.

To launch and grow StreetShares, we relied on four key lessons we learned in the military :

  1. Set a clear strategic mission and break that mission down into smaller tactical goals.
  2. Recruit talented people, build esprit de corps, and hold our team accountable for daily progress toward tactical aims.
  3. Keep mission focus at all times, but allow people to innovate in furtherance of the mission—“adapt and overcome” as the military saying goes.
  4. Lead from the front, and be prepared to get dirty.

We hired several military veterans, and we applied elements of military culture to our startup.           It worked.

We have empirical support now that our veterans-funding-veterans model reduces risks. We won a major award from Harvard Business School for the concept, won other awards for our team and culture and we have raised three rounds of equity capital and more than $200 million in lending capital. In short, we have a successful, growing startup built on lessons we learned in the military.

Most importantly, we relied on the military community to make it work. Just as military members on foreign battlefields rely on each other, so too do veteran entrepreneurs. We have partnered with more than 30 veterans organizations to help us reach our customers. These organizations encourage and train veterans in entrepreneurship and business ownership. In two short years, we have amassed a large network of over 16,000 military business owners, entrepreneurs, military spouses and investors in the rapidly-growing StreetShares community. As a result of these relationships, we have found ourselves in the center of the veterans’ entrepreneurship movement in the United States.


Mark L. Rockefeller is the CEO of StreetShares, America’s #1 funding source for veteran-owned companies.  Courtesy of Forbes 8/3/2106.

Innovation Works Even for Small Entrepreneurs.

This article titled Innovation Helps Small Independent Grocer Thrive appeared in Sun., July 15, 2018 Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  It is a wonderful example of how a third generation, rural grocery store can stay relevant, iterate services, and stay ahead of the competition.  Located in the Southwest portion of Georgia, West Foods is the sole grocery store in Edison, GA deep in the heart of Jimmy Carter peanut country.  Their success has been the ability to innovate, something any business can do.

First to sell cooked food, first to include off-site catering, serving hot breakfast and lunch each day, they will order and ship any grocery product (including ground cornmeal and cane patch syrup) anywhere in the world.  The newest line of retail are chocolate-covered, deep-fried peanut clusters, a confection that won the 2017 Flavor of Georgia competition.  Sold on Amazon and Etsy, your can order them in vanilla or chocolate online or buy them in one of more than 45 retail locations.  To say West Foods is a part of its community would be an understatement.

Whether an idea of a new startup or an improvement to an existing business, to innovate is to introduce as or as if new.  It is never a single event, but rather a combination that depends on asking the right questions using the Innovation Matrix.

Innovation Matrix w examples

The websites = http://gafriedpeanutco.com/  and   https://westfoodsinc.com/.

Amazon & Uber the Future of Entrepreneurship?

Amazon this week announced the next chapter in its bid to rule the commercial world. The company is looking to create a network of independent delivery fleets, and it wants “hundreds of entrepreneurs” to “start businesses” in support of this.

This represents a major move in the logistics realm, one that will see Amazon go up against long-established players — such as Fedex and UPS — and which has been rumored for a while.

But the language Amazon is using to attract prospective business owners is also notable. The company’s pitch appeals to America’s entrepreneurial spirit while obfuscating the reality of what signing up to the program really means.

It’s difficult to overstate Amazon’s commercial clout. The Seattle-based company claimed around 44 percent of online sales in the U.S. alone last year, according to reports. And with its Whole Foods acquisition, Amazon is making inroads into the brick-and-mortar world. In fact, it has done a stellar job of creating a gargantuan ecosystem of products and platforms to hook users and keep them coming back. And this growing demand is precisely why the company now wants to build out its own logistics network for “last mile” deliveries.

Amazon is underplaying its logistics expansion and largely positioning this as a complementary program intended to round out existing delivery services and help it keep up with demand. But then it has to do that because it still needs its logistics partners — for the time being, at least.

“We have great partners in our traditional carriers, and it’s exciting to continue to see the logistics industry grow,” explained Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations. “Customer demand is higher than ever, and we have a need to build more capacity.”

Amazon is no stranger to running logistics services. It has been operating its Flexpeer-to-peer (P2P) delivery program for a while, effectively letting anyone who owns a car become a courier for a day, a week, or forever — a little like Uber.

As with many other gig-economy platforms, reports suggest that Flex is not all fun — in fact, it’s a lot of effort for not a huge return. Plus, it offers no perks, benefits, or job security. The rates of pay and working landscape vary depending on factors such as where you are based, but the core selling point is consistent: “Be your own boss” is Amazon’s persistent marketing mantra.

And this is a thread we see permeating the gig economy. Big companies need workers — but they want to avoid the commitment of maintaining a traditional workforce, such as offering salaries, medical insurance, paid time off, and so on. One key to sustaining this charade lies in calling their typically low-paid workers “entrepreneurs.”

Uber has referred to its drivers as entrepreneurs for years, despite reports that they earn very little after expenses. Alongside other carefully constructed terminology, such as “partner drivers,” casting freelance gigs as “entrepreneurship” is part of Uber’s plan to make its workforce feel empowered. But it doesn’t paint the whole picture — a New York Times report last yearreferenced an internal Uber slide deck on driver income levels that revealed the company considered its main rivals for attracting new drivers to be McDonald’s and Lyft.

Under the guidance of new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber is taking steps to improve a reputation that has been tarnished by a series of scandals and feuding at the highest levels. In Europe, where workers tend to expect benefits and job protections, Uber is now offering drivers free insurance for illness, jury service pay, paid maternity/paternity leave, and more. This positions Uber more as an employer, despite a great deal of legal wrangling over the term, and is surely a tacit acknowledgment that drivers have been struggling to make ends meet.

A Brown University case study from a few years ago delved into the “entrepreneurial aspects” of Uber’s driver model. Patrick McQuown, an adjunct lecturer at Brown’s School of Engineering, actually spent the summer driving for the company, logging 400 hours and 8,000 miles in the process. His conclusion? The Uber driver model is not particularly entrepreneurial, and top-rated drivers receive no meaningful recognition for their efforts.

“Entrepreneurship means that you create a product or service that’s unique in the marketplace, and you’re rewarded with more profit,” McQuown said. “You simply can’t do that as an Uber driver. There’s no real chance to differentiate yourself financially from other Uber drivers.”


Babson Summer Venture Program

SVP Profile:  David Oksman, ’03

I recently had the chance to speak with David Oksman ’03, a Babson alum, marketing expert, and one of this year’s Summer Venture Program(SVP) advisors. In his interview, David spoke about his love of entrepreneurship, Babson, and helping these startups. Here is an overview of our talk.

What is your role in the Summer Venture Program and within the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Boston?
In the Summer Venture Program my role is to advise five amazing ventures on a day-to-day basis and support others as it relates to the marketing, branding, and e-commerce spaces. I approach the advisor role as a teacher, mentor, and supporter would. I want to be a resource for these rising entrepreneurs in a time where their businesses are just getting started.

In terms of the larger Boston ecosystem, I have worked in both the corporate and startup sector. Some of the big name brands I’ve worked for include Life is Good and Reebok.  Even in these corporate environments, I like to tackle problems with an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. I also advise a handful of startups and currently serve as interim CMO of Sidekick, a venture founded by a Babson alum.

What excites you about the Summer Venture Program? What made you want to serve as an advisor?
I love the Babson community, specifically what lies in the heart of it—the startup community. Within SVP lies so many brilliant startups that constantly excite me every day.  I wanted to give back to Babson as they gave so much to me during my time as an undergrad. Along with business, I have a passion for teaching. I wanted to help students craft and create their dreams, help them change the world, by sharing with them the things I’m good at. I am strong believer in the idea that nobody can do it alone – this ultimately lead me to serve as an advisor for these startups.

What advice could you give to teams participating this summer or any aspiring entrepreneur?
For the SVP startups, be true to your purpose. You got into this program because you cared about something deeply and wanted to solve a problem. You are going to be challenged and have to lay the basic foundations for your business. Although this many not always be exciting, have the conviction to see purpose in all that you do. For any aspiring entrepreneur, do not be afraid to ask for help. Be real and honest about what you know and don’t know, and most importantly, be open to finding people who can help you. Ultimately, it is about the journey, not the destination. Although cliché, the saying is true. Have fun along the way because one day you are going to get to the finish line and wonder where did the time go – make the journey as good as where you want to get to.

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is about the creators, the builders. It is about those who see things differently and have a passion and focus to show others their point of view – whether that be through a new product or service or just a different way to approach a problem. You do not need a startup to be an entrepreneur.

What does the world need from entrepreneurs today?
The world needs to realize that for profit companies could be the biggest drivers of social change. Things are changing. Let’s lift up humanity together.

What do you do for fun?
I have a 13-year-old son who loves soccer. For fun, we watch and play soccer together. I also love to be outdoors, run with my wife, and spend time at the beach by my cottage in Maine. Most importantly, I am an avid Boston sports fan.

Describe yourself in four words.
Optimistic, passionate, creative, and grateful.

Anything else people should know?
It is a gift to be able to advise these kids. I learn a lot from being around them and seeing them approach challenges. I am so thankful to be a part of their journeys.

 Entrepreneurship empowers students, kids & adults.    See http://clintoneday.com 

Why Entrepreneurship?

What has five letters and is the solution to growing our economy, reducing inequality, and fighting poverty?  “ESHIP,” as we say at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, or entrepreneurship, is the key to tackling each of those challenges.

Why entrepreneurship?

“Entrepreneurship creates jobs, it fosters growth, and it levels the playing field,” says Victor Hwang, vice president of Entrepreneurship at the Foundation. “We can take control of our economic destiny by supporting our entrepreneurs.”

Every month, three out of 1,000 Americans decide to start a new business. Hwang says in order to increase entrepreneurship, aspiring entrepreneurs need to take the next step and seek help in starting a business.

“We found the success of entrepreneurs depends a lot on what the 997 do to support the work of the three,” Hwang said. “If you can’t be one of the three, then be an awesome member of the 997.”

At TEDx Augusta, an independently organized TED Talk in Augusta, Georgia, Hwang offered four insights into what we know about entrepreneurship and shared ideas for how to support the makers, doers, and dreamers

1. New businesses create new jobs

Hwang referenced a study conducted by the Review of Economics and Statistics that found new jobs come from new businesses instead of older businesses. A study conducted by the Foundation found that new businesses contribute to all net new job creation and 20 percent of gross job creation.

“They found that virtually all net new jobs are created by businesses younger than five years,” Hwang said.

Supporting new businesses is the key to stimulating our economy. When we support entrepreneurs, we help build our economy and provide opportunities for others.

2. Plant fresh ideas in new spaces

In order to expand productivity and innovation, Hwang suggests that entrepreneurs and those who support them should look for new places for their ideas to take root.

He said that net new jobs used to be spread out across 30 major cities. Now, net job growth has been limited to five of the biggest cities: New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas.

“Most cities are starving for new business,” he said.

By supporting new businesses in our own backyards, we can help grow our economy by spreading productivity throughout the United States.

3. Opportunity combats inequality

While entrepreneurial growth can create new jobs and innovations, it can also tackle old problems which have divided our communities for years. Hwang said entrepreneurship is imperative, because our long-term economic well-being depends on being able to start and grow businesses. Research has shown that there’s a correlation between new business starts and decreases in poverty, he said.

4. Renew the spirit of entrepreneurship

Despite the benefits entrepreneurship can bring, Hwang said the rate of Americans starting new businesses has been falling over the last 40 years. He attributed the decline to America losing its entrepreneurial spirit. According to census data, new firms’ representation fell 8 percent.

“Individual actions matter,” Hwang said. “If you’ve been thinking about starting a new business, take the next step.”

As for the 997 that can support new businesses, Hwang challenged them to help local entrepreneurs by testing out new products, expanding their network, and sharing their work with other consumers in their community.

Thanks to the Kauffman Currents for this article.

Lori Greiner (Shark Tank) Talks Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age

“When someone tells you that something can’t be done, all it really means is that it hasn’t been done before.” ~ Lori Greiner

The digital age has transformed how business is conducted in powerful ways. Thanks to new technology, more educational resources, and alternative fundraising options, it’s now easier than ever to start a business. With so many people launching new startups, savvy business investors like Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner are speaking out and advising entrepreneurs on how to be successful in this digital age.

I had the unique opportunity to interview the “Queen of QVC” about how entrepreneurship has evolved, mistakes to avoid when pitching investors, and her surprising advice for women entrepreneurs.

Greiner took advantage of the digital stage early on when she launched “Lori Greiner’s Clever and Unique Creations” on QVC in 2000. “There are so many venues that can play a role in your selling strategy, but in my opinion, there is simply no better selling medium for a new inventor than a shopping channel like QVC,” Greiner told me. “Once you know how to market something out of a certain medium, then it becomes easier to continue marketing other products out of that same medium.”

Using her flair to communicate and present well on air, Greiner leveraged her QVC success into becoming a Shark Tank investor and a mentor and role model for entrepreneurs worldwide.

“The emphasis on entrepreneurship has grown tremendously over the last five years,” says Greiner. “Everybody can relate to having an idea they think could be worth millions, but several years ago people probably never seriously considered that it would be possible to get it off the ground, but now we’re showing that it can happen.”

What makes a great Shark Tank pitch?

Having witnessed hundreds of pitches on Shark Tank and thousands personally, Greiner concisely revealed what constitutes a great pitch. “Be energetic, captivating, honest and informative, but brief. A great pitch is when a person can describe what their business or product is within two sentences,” Greiner advised. “Draw the investors in with enthusiasm and passion. Remember that whoever you’re pitching has spent either little or no time thinking about your product, which you may think is the greatest on the market. Be succinct and to the point, but make it exciting and informative.”

When I asked Greiner if she felt that investing in the entrepreneur was more important than investing in the product, she responded, “I look at both the product being pitched as well as the entrepreneur pitching it, as they are equally important to me. For the product or business, I look for several different things…

  • Something that has broad mass appeal
  • Something that solves a problem
  • Something that is unique or different
  • Something that can be made at an affordable price

“For the entrepreneur, I love to see someone who is energetic, passionate, honest and driven. I want to feel that they will do whatever it takes to make their business a success,” Greiner said.

3 biggest pitch mistakes

As viewers know, negotiations on Shark Tank can quickly get heated and, even though the drama makes for great entertainment, I was curious to know how those moments can affect the relationship with the entrepreneur after the deal is made with the investor.

“Heated moments can come out in a positive way for the entrepreneur,” claims Greiner. “I think so because you always learn from your experiences. There are always valuable lessons to learn from every experience, and I think that even though sometimes the questions from the Sharks or what happens can seem quite difficult, I think you will walk away learning a great deal and correcting what went wrong. You learn the most from what you consider failures or difficulties. I look at them as the greatest and most valuable lessons. There are no failures in life, just great lessons.”

When asked what she believes is the biggest mistake people make when pitching investors, Greiner shared not one, but three fundamental mistakes every entrepreneur should avoid.

1. Being unprepared

According to the QVC queen, the biggest mistake individuals make is that they don’t know everything there is to know about their own product and business. “You should know your product or business inside and out, and be prepared to answer any question about it,” says Greiner. “Whether the question involves finances, manufacturing, inventory, or processes — you should know every single detail.” Not being prepared, Greiner says, is her biggest pet peeve. “It shows a lack of commitment and caring and is reflective of their work ethic. It also lets me know that they would probably not be successful.”

2. Lacking enthusiasm and passion

“I’ve seen the greatest ideas fall completely flat when presented by someone who lacks enthusiasm,” explains Greiner. “But, on the other hand, I’ve seen great entrepreneurs convince others to buy or invest in things that they would never have under any other circumstances, but for their passion.”

When I asked if there was a single pitch or experience that impacted her, she replied, “The craziest pitch was that squirrel zapper! Michael DeSanti, an aerospace professional turned entrepreneur, created a squirrel-proof bird feeder that deters squirrels from eating bird food by delivering a harmless static shock.”

“Ryan ‘Cowboy’ Ehmann was one of the funniest and most crazy,” Greiner also recalled. “I couldn’t figure out what he was selling, and Daymond John gave him a deal for his rodeo-themed Cowboy gym — go figure!”

​​​3. Having an arrogant attitude

“Remember, if you’re trying to convince someone to invest in you, they need to not only like what you’re asking them to invest in, but they also need to like you and believe in you,” Greiner told me.

“If entrepreneurs don’t listen to questions asked during a pitch, they aren’t going to hear you down the road, and they’re not going to be a good partner.” Greiner also mentioned that it’s a big turnoff if they appear difficult to work with. “It doesn’t matter how great a business idea or product is, if the entrepreneur is going to be a problem, nothing is worth it.”


The Rise of the Robo-Advisor

Artificial intelligence is changing the world of retirement planning. By using improved datasets and algorithms to efficiently deliver solutions tailored to people’s needs, AI can help them save, invest and retire better. One of the hottest trends to emerge in this area in recent years is the use of robo-advisors. These are software programs that use the data supplied by clients to create and automatically manage their investment portfolios. They’re gaining in popularity, but are they better than human advisors?

“Robo-advisors are a potential solution to the complexities of financial decision-making,” particularly in retirement planning, said Jill E. Fisch, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “But at the same time, there’s a lot we don’t know about robo-advisors — exactly how they work and how effective a solution they’re going to be.” She and other experts from Wharton and elsewhere spoke at a conference hosted by the Pension Research Counciltitled “The Disruptive Impact of FinTech on Retirement Systems.”

Robo-advisors, or robos, are online services that use algorithms to automatically perform many investment tasks done by a human financial advisor. Initially offered by startups, robos are now part of the suite of services offered by major financial institutions such as Vanguard, Schwab and Fidelity. Since they are less expensive than a human advisor, they democratize access to financial advice. Robos can take on customers with little savings since adding one more person wouldn’t cost much more.

Signing up starts with consumers filling out detailed questionnaires online about their financial goals, risk tolerance and investment timeframes. Robos take the information and use computer algorithms to come up with an asset allocation that fits the customer’s needs. Once the portfolio is created, robos also manage it, doing things like rebalancing the portfolio, executing trades, performing tax-loss harvesting and other actions.

“This is really something that’s welcomed by the vast majority of retail investors who find themselves inadvertently … tasked with the responsibility of managing their financial well-being,” Fisch said. “People don’t want to do this and they don’t want somebody to give them advice on how to do this. They want somebody to do this for them. That’s the space … robo-advisors are going into.”

Robos came on the scene about a decade ago, and two early startups were Wealthfront and Betterment. Today, there are dozens of robos in the market, Fisch said. There are pure robo services, as well as those that offer the option of talking to a human advisor, with or without an extra fee. Since they’re automated, robos can more easily avoid conflicts of interest that could beset a human advisor, who might push investments that pay the highest commissions.

Robo fees can range from zero — if the investor has less than $10,000 to invest — to as high as 0.89% of assets under $1 million in some cases, said Brett Hammond, research leader of Capital Group. But 0.25% to 0.30% of assets is more typical, he added. (The fee is on top of the cost of the investment itself.)

As for performance, it’s a mixed bag with some robos doing better than others, Hammond said. The big question is how they will do in the long run, especially during a big market crash, since they don’t have an extended track record yet. “We don’t know in a complete cycle what these [robos] are going to deliver,” he said. “The real issue is, does it improve outcomes?”

Kent Smetters, Wharton professor of business economics and public policy, has his doubts. Robos put investors into ETF portfolios for “professional fanciness” but they are “not really a better value” than three Vanguard index funds invested in the U.S. total stock market, international securities and bonds, which are more tax efficient and costs even less, he said.