Neil Patel

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Christian Haigh’s journey from a disciplined choir school student in Oxford to a leader managing billions in assets is nothing short of inspiring. In a recent interview, Christian shared his insights on discipline, overcoming challenges, the importance of trust, and the vision behind his ventures, Legalist and Compound.

The latest venture, Compound, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Davoa Capital, New Form Capital, TeleSoft Partners, and ConsenSys Mesh.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Christian’s early musical training instilled a strong work ethic that propelled him through entrepreneurial challenges.
  • Despite losing a major investment, Christian’s perseverance led to the transformation of Legalist into a thriving asset management firm.
  • The acquisition of Compound enabled him to merge technologies and create a comprehensive platform for wealth management innovation.
  • Christian emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining trust with investors and clients for long-term success.
  • Christian aims to revolutionize wealth management by creating a digital operating system for advisors and clients.
  • Christian’s journey offers valuable lessons on surrounding oneself with supportive mentors and collaborators.
  • Christian’s story inspires aspiring entrepreneurs to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation.



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About Christian Haigh:

Christian Haigh is a Co-Founder & serves as Chief Executive Officer at Compound. He co-founded & served as Chief Executive Officer at Alternativ.

Christian is a Co-Founder and serves as a General Partner at Legalist. He is a programmer, Forbes 30 under 30, and dropped out of Harvard, where he was pursuing a joint BS/MS in economics and Computer Science.

While at Harvard, Christian worked in Professor Latanya Sweeney’s lab. After founding Legalist at the age of 22, he led a team of developers in building Legalist’s innovative data-driven technology for sourcing and underwriting litigation investments.

Christian spearheads all efforts at Legalist around technology, outreach, and operations. He leads the singular mission to create a client-centric approach and world-class experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Christian is also the co-founder and General Partner of Legalist, a private fund sponsor with ~$1 billion in assets under management.

He has been recognized by Forbes 30 under 30 and YCombinator and has overseen 400+ investments across Legalist’s various funds.

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Connect with Christian Haigh:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a very exciting founder serial founder. You know he’s done it multiple times you know we’re definitely goingnna be talking about raisingcing money because say he’s raised quite a bit. He has quite a bit of assets under management. But again, we’re going to be talking about discipline how he got that early on with music almost getting into trouble there with the wifi of Harvard. You know when he was getting started with his company and then how you go about losing a big investor as well as you know, acquiring you know other companies. And growing very fast so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guests today Christian Hague welcome to the show.

Christian Haigh: So thank you Alejandro really appreciate and looking forward to chatting.

Alejandro Cremades: So born in england mostly in Oxford give us how walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.

Christian Haigh: Absolutely um, yeah, um, so I grew up mostly in Oxford um, I went to a choir school there. It was part of the Oxford colleges and um music was a huge part of my childhood and we sang 7 services a week. Ah, we’d get up at about six thirty every morning to to do all of those services and um, yeah, we’d even do music on Christmas day. So when everybody else was at home for their Christmas dinners. We were seeing mass in the cathedral. It was a great training ground to. Become very disciplined and I think um had a big impact on my ability to you know, build businesses today. Um, in terms of you know grinding when things are already hard. So ah.

Alejandro Cremades: And then discipline discipline obviously is a really big one there you know one of the things that you got from being in the music ah space and and waking up at 7 a m well. What did you get out of discipline because I find that discipline is a really big one too. You know as a founder so tell us why you? What did you get? you know from discipline there.

Christian Haigh: Yeah I mean I think that there’s this notion that that building a startup is really cool and it’s really funneled the time and I think that you know there are really great aspects of it that I really enjoy Um, and then there’s a lot of things where you just have to you know do the. Grunt work because nobody else is going to do that for you? Um, and um, you know having discipline gets you through those hard times. Um, and you know helps you to do the hard thing when nobody else will.

Alejandro Cremades: So then for you I mean you ended up a going to harvard but they you know didn’t it didn’t it didn’t unfold the way that you had to hope for because literally while you were there. You know you got the idea of legalist and in fact, you also got into trouble with the wi-fi. So what happened there you know during your time at Harvard. How did you guys come up with this idea and and what happened next.

Christian Haigh: Sure. So um, you know after growing up in england um I took a gap here um spent a year traveling the world and and you know doing music and then after that gap here I ended up going to Harvard University and um there I met my co-founder for legalist. Um iva shang and um, you know we worked on a couple of student organizations together and decided that we really liked working together and decided to start a company together. So three years into my Harvard experience. Um. We um set about trying to do something in the legal space. We were both interested in. You know, um, what we felt was an antiquated industry that um, ah you know did things in somewhat of a backwards way and so you know in January of my junior year. We started interviewing um hundreds of attorneys every attorney who is in Massachusetts who is willing to talk to us and would ask them. You know what are your pain points. What are you struggling with and they’d all say you know we want more clients and and so um, you know. Through one of my courses I realized there was this website the massachusetts court record website. Um, which was you know I think they paid about $70000000 to build it. Um, but it was for this antiquated system that was really hard to navigate and we thought there’s no way that anybody else is using this data for anything. So.

Christian Haigh: I started downloading data and we downloaded a lot of data about one hundred gigabytes a week. Um, and at some point you know the harvard university it department caught on to the fact that we were downloading so much data. Um and cut off my internet access. Um I think they were they thought we were doing something illegal. Um, which we weren’t but um, you know then I started downloading data on iva’s internet. Um, and at some point we actually launched the product and the initial idea was okay. So. Lots of lots of these lawyers want to be able to find more clients. So let’s just download data on new cases that are occurring on a daily basis. Um, find cases where there is a defendant who hasn’t um, got any representation and say to those clients hey do you need a lawyer. Was the the first iteration of what we did and with that idea we got into y combinator um and started legalced Today. It’s very different but that’s how we got started.

Alejandro Cremades: And how do you think that the Y combinator you know shaped a little more the the idea of legalist.

Christian Haigh: Ah, why cominator was huge in terms of you know determining what we ended up doing um ah the most important thing was that the general counsel there John John Levy introduced us to the idea of litigation finance this wasn’t something that we knew about. Um, we had no idea that you could finance lawsuits ah but after getting introduced to that concept. Ah, you know we decided to ah pursue it and that’s actually you know a big part of what we do today. So today Legalist is just under a billion of assets on a management. Um, our core strategy is litigation finance. So basically we invest in lawsuits and we provide the financing for plaintiffs to be able to get you know their day in court and then we also have 2 additional strategies. 1 is bankruptcy financing so we provide. Short-term loans to companies that are going through the bankruptcy process to help them to you know, exit and um, you know, stop being a ah business again and then the third strategy is government receivable financing and we provide we provide financing to. Government contractors who need short-term financing to cover cash flows while they’re waiting for the government to pay them. Um, so yeah, legalists sorry why c was incredibly instrumental to um, you know ultimately ah taking the path of becoming an asset management firm.

Alejandro Cremades: I Know that the um journey of raisingcing money you know for legal is was not easy. You know In fact, yeah, you know at the beginning you know one of the investors you know, fell apart. You know you guys were thinking about going back to school you know as the plan B So what? what happened there.

Christian Haigh: Yeah, so um, you know we we make a number of um litigation finance investments and um, you know for our first fund it was a $10000000 fund and we made approximately forty investments out of that fund. And 1 of our early investments that we made. Um you know lost and if a case loses then we lose all of our investment in that investment. Um, so we’d we’d invested. Ah I think about 150000 in that case and um. Yeah, when we lost we thought oh no like we have a bad track record. We’re an asset management firm. Um, and we live and die by our track record. Um, and so we were worried that um you know that would be the end of our investment firm and that we’d have to go back to school. And I remember that day we went to Costco um, and we went and bought $1 fifty hotdogs and we thought this is our life from now on. Um, and um, ah you know I remember for the next couple of weeks we would um, lie on the couch and eat ice cream. Um. Sort of ah a consolation prize. But yeah, ultimately we got through it and um, you know I think that obviously you know now we’ve got 3 different strategies. Um, and um, you know we’ve been able to build a very large business out of ah you know.

Christian Haigh: This This is an investment strategy. So ah, things definitely turned around.

Alejandro Cremades: So at what point does the idea of maybe you know, starting something else. You know come about because I mean Legal is now is one of the things that you’re doing you know and then also compound. But ah what point does the id of doing something else. You know come.

Christian Haigh: A.

Alejandro Cremades: Come into play.

Christian Haigh: Sure. So um, you know when you’re working on a business. Um, you know you probably have thousands of different ideas of other businesses. You could do um a lot of them are bad ideas. Some of them are good ideas. Um. But you know one of the things that we kept on noticing at legal last was that um so with our investor base we we invest on behalf of a number of nonprofit endowments university endowments um a lot of institutional investors. But we also invest on behalf of a a large number of wealth advisors who would invest their client money in our investment products and um, you know over time. We’d just see the same challenges over and over again. Um the the main one being the you know wealth advisors. Um. They work with the technology stack which is incredibly antiquated and as the job of a wealth advisor has expanded over time. Ah so has all of the different technology point solutions that they have access to there’s maybe you know hundreds of different point solutions that and buys or would use to. Ah, manage their book of business their crm their portfolio reconciliation and reporting engine their trade desk execution platform. Um, you know what they use to to find leads and because of this sort of proliferation of point solutions.

Christian Haigh: The end result is a very clunky client experience and a very inefficient and inaccurate back office for the advisory firm and so you know two years ago I set out to solve that problem on the one side we saw this this problem of all of these. Point solutions and the challenges building a digital native advisory firm and on the other hand we saw that you know over the next couple of decades something like $100000000000000 of assets is going to exchange hands from the baby boomer generation to the next generation of clients. And so you know we’ve given that you know that’s a clientele base that would want great technology that would want to a great technology experience to accompany great financial planning and investment management and so you know where we saw that opportunity. We’re like okay this is something that we should build. Um, we have the right skill set and the right? Um, ah you know partners to be able to go and tackle this problem. So I started raising capital put together. Um a couple of cofounders and you know a small team to really tackle that problem. And then you know started going out to market and bringing advisors and their clients on board.

Alejandro Cremades: So I guess how did the whole idea to you know come about because there were some calls at 2 a m happening you know in the in the early days as well. So what happened here.

Christian Haigh: Strain as well.

Christian Haigh: Yeah, so um, you know so over the first year and a half. Um we were recruiting advisors and bringing on clients and we very quickly got to about 700000000 of assets on a management. Um. And then we came across this firm called ah compound and ah they were also a Silicon Valley startup um both technology firm as well as advisory firm and we realized that you know they were taking the same approach that we were in terms of. You know trying to go after that next generation client and really build a platform and a technology experience that next generation clients would want to operate with and um, you know I heard through one of our investors that they might be looking to sell. So um, you know I had ah a number of um. Connections that I tried to ah, utilize to to reach out to the founder of that business to see if he’d be open to selling to us. Um, and after you know I wasn’t able to get in touch with him through any of those connections. I um I called emailed him myself and asked him if he’d be interested in having a conversation. Um, funnily enough he responded and said yeah, let’s have a conversation but I was in italy at the time it was July fourth weekend and you know a few friends and.

Christian Haigh: I had decided to go to July to go to italy for July fourth. So um, you know we had a lot ah several two am conversations. Ah you know in italy just trying to see whether you know there was alignment in terms of how we thought about the industry. How. Ah, Jordan the co-founder of compound thought about the industry and where he wanted to take that business and after a couple of months we realized that yeah this was something that we wanted to do um so we negotiated to acquire his firm.

Christian Haigh: Um, we spent about a month going through those conversations both with Jordan and then with the board of compound several of his largest investors were you know, interested in learning about our business and what we wanted to do if we merged the 2 firms.

Christian Haigh: And then we spent a month doing due diligence and seeing you know is this ah is this business compliant is it? Um, ah you know do the the numbers work out. Um, do we really understand what this business is trying to do and after those two months we acquired the firm and um. You know now we’re um, you know between the 2 firms and you know what we built together were about one point seven billion of assets under management and we continue to recruit great advisors who have existing books of business. Um, and then provide them with a great technology platform and resources. Ah, to be able to run that book of business on our rails.

Alejandro Cremades: So why? why were they so important to you guys I Mean why do you wanted to acquire you know compound.

Christian Haigh: Yeah, it’s a great question. So um, we had you know? Ultimately what we want to build is a holistic digital family office with all of the different products and services that are pay net worth and I’ll trynet worth client. Would want to be able to use and today we have liquid investments alternative investments tax advisory tax filing um a lot of bespokes of lending solutions and family office services. Um, and what compound brought. They had built an incredible client experience. So think of like or personal capital. They have client dashboards where anybody on the internet can sign up and can get value out of having all of their accounts aggregated in 1 place. Can see how much they’re spending and you know what they’re spending their money on and compound have built a similar client experience but very very tailored to high net worth and ultra net worth clients. So um, you know they built a lot of equity planning solutions and. You know how do I think about what my concentrated stock position. Um, you know will do over time given liquidity events or you know given tax events. Um, and they’d also allowed not just aggregation of liquid brokerage accounts but also of.

Christian Haigh: Um, all of their gp commits lp investments and basically a true representation for a high net worth I’ll try a net worth individual of what their total net worth is. Um, we had focused on the back-office and middle office technology for advisors. How do you make an advisor more efficient. How do you Um, make it so it’s more seamless for a client to invest in an alternative asset. Um, and so by taking the back-office and middle office technology that we had built and then combining it with. The client experience the compound had built. We realized that we could have a full holistic platform that would accelerate our product development by several years and so we acquired their firm. We combined the technologies. They also had um. You know, several really experienced advisors who were focused on um, high net worth and all try net worth tech execs tech founders tech employees. Um, and so they were well-versed in the kinds of challenges that those kinds of clients experience on a day-to-day basis and so. Um, you know as a mix of the technology. Ah the the team that we were able to bring on um, being able to combine the au m so that we were over a billion of assets on a management. Um, there were a lot of good things you know and in in that acquisition.

Alejandro Cremades: So so obviously acquisitions most of them fail right? because they fail on the integration part. How did you guys go about ensuring that the integration would succeed What were some of the things that you guys put in place.

Christian Haigh: I.

Christian Haigh: Yeah, um, yeah, a lot of a lot of acquisitions fail and um, you know we have a lot of advisors who advise the company on um these kinds of challenges. Um, and yeah, it was a big warning to us hey like this this may fail and you may find that you’ve spent a lot of time only to um, you know have the acquisition fall apart for cultural reasons or you know it’s just not ah a good mesh of of Technologies. And so we spent a lot of time planning for the acquisition. Um, we had spreadsheets upon spreadsheets. Um that we had built out with you know, Step-by-step This is what we’re going to do. Um, on the finances side. This is what we’re going to do for the team. This is what we’re going to do for the external communications. This is what we’re going to do for compliance. Um, and you know every single item that we’d itemized had an owner. Um, who would handle that particular aspect of the acquisition and. So a ton of planning went into it. Um, we had a really great team on both sides both On. Um you know our company side as well as on compound side who was spearheading each of the different aspects of the acquisition. Um, but even then you know even with all of that planning.

Christian Haigh: We still ran into unexpected challenges and hiccups. Um that we’ve been working through over the past six months um it’s actually a testament to the team and how well they were able to plan that we were able to bring over almost the entire team. Um, as well as you know. Ah, very quickly integrate to all of the technology. Um and not run into more hiccups than we did. Um I would say that you know the biggest part of it was just planning um spreadsheets spreadsheet spreadsheets.

Alejandro Cremades: And in terms of fundraising I mean now as you were saying you know you you got like close to 3000000000 which which is amazing between both companies when it comes to raising capital. What are the 3 biggest takeaways that you’ve gotten you know from from so far from your experience raising money.

Christian Haigh: Yeah, um, well ultimately the way that I think about um, you know either the asset management or Wealth management. Um, it’s a trust business. Um, and so you know everything that you do is on the basis Of. Of Trust. Um, and trust can be built in in many ways. Um, right, It’s about the stories that you tell and the marketing that you do, um, it’s about how much em you have assets on a management. Um. It’s about you know, doing right by your customers over and over again. Um, so that you can have you know great references and um, you know people who really want to showcase what you do to other people and refer you more clients and it’s about the team that you have um. You know, can you get really great people who have a track record who can help you to build who can help to you know, make your offering more and more sophisticated. Um, and so um, you know when I think about um, you know either fundraising or bringing on. Ah, investors in helping to manage their Networkt worth um, all of that. All of it is about um building trust ah building those relationships and ah you know getting to a point where yeah you can add value to them. Um, yeah, maybe on the investments management side.

Christian Haigh: Ah, providing them with a sleeve within their portfolio where you can, Um, you know provide them with access to a new asset class that they don’t have they don’t have exposure to on the wealth management Side. It’s about you know, solving pain points for your clients and um. You know building The Trust. So then you can manage all of their net worth um and then you know it’s about doing that over and over and over again over a long period of time. Um, so that you can then work with more and more clients. Um per similar.

Alejandro Cremades: So I guess hey you know when it comes to to vision is a big one. No because that’s what ultimately you know people are betting on you know customers employees investors.

Christian Haigh: Anyway.

Alejandro Cremades: So if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of compound is fully realized what does that world look like.

Christian Haigh: Yeah, so our vision is to really build the operating system that advisors use to manage their book of business and that clients use to manage their net worth. Um, and so when I think about the great the the last great financial institutions I really think of the custodial platforms like Schwab and fidelity who you know they’ve had such a great track record of um building institutions that um. You know in a name brand that everybody recognizes. Um I think there are very few people out there who don’t know you know who fidelity or who Schwab is um and I think that the next generation of financial institutions. Um are going to be a technology platform. Um. That ah you know is in the advisory space that really help ah clients to manage their money. Um and manage all of the other aspects of their wealth management. Um in 1 place and um and so that’s what we want to build. Um, and today the way that we’re doing that is to um, you know recruit advisors with existing books of business as well as to, um, you know provide ah a great client experience where anybody on the internet can sign up for a dashboard and manage their money today. Um, even without the.

Christian Haigh: Help of an advisor. But ultimately what we want to do is to go to firms who are adjacent to wealth management and say hey you don’t offer wealth management services today. Um, but you could and we can help to provide that platform. So that you don’t have to build out the compliance Infrastructure. You don’t have to build out a team of Advisors. You don’t have to um, build out a great technology platform we can provide all of that to you? Um, and you know we’ll we’ll take a cut the advisors get. Um, you know, client Leadflow. Um, and those firms are adjacent to wealth management like you know Insurance Wholesalers Insurance Brokers Community Banks Um, you know second-tier banks um will get a Full-service Holistic Wealth Management platform.

Christian Haigh: Um, that is geared towards that next generation of client who really wants a great technology experience to a company. You know great financial advice.

Alejandro Cremades: So obviously we’re talking about the future here but I want to talk about the past and doing so with ah learn so reflection if I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time to that moment where maybe you were in the hallways of Harvard. You know, just figuring things out and let’s say you’re able to stop that younger self. Younger Christian that is thinking about maybe starting something if you could stop that younger self and give that younger self one piece of advice for launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.

Christian Haigh: Yeah, um I would say um, you know it’s really critical when you’re first starting out to figure out. Um, who can really help you on your journey and who can’t oftentimes when you know you’re first starting out. Um. The ideas that you have seem crazy when we started legalist. Um, you know it’s kind of ridiculous that a twenty and twenty two year old could go out and start a litigation finance company. Um, when we started compound. It was kind of ridiculous that you know we would. Go into the wealth management space and ah, really build something that was a better offering than um, you know all of these you know thirty billion one hundred billion two hundred billion au wealth management firms currently offer. Um. But ah, you know there are people out there who will um, you know be supportive and try to like help you along your way. Um, whether that’s you know with their time with their money. Um with their advice. Um, and then you know there are other people who are in those industries who are like. Don’t bother just give up like why are you doing this It’s stupid. Um, and so you know it’s really important to to get the right people inside. Um, who will help you on that journey because you know it’s not a journey that you can do alone? Um there’s an incredible amount of um, you know people in.

Christian Haigh: Both of the Journeys that I’ve had so far who have really been incredibly helpful along the way. Um and without them. We would never have been able to do any of the things that we’ve been able to do um and you want those people on your side and as many of those people as you can find and you want as few of the people who are going to tell you. Don’t Bother. You have no idea what you’re doing um because you know ultimately they’re just going to. Um, yeah, not not help you on your journey.

Alejandro Cremades: I hear you so Kristen for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Christian Haigh: Yeah I mean you know if you’re um, ah you know if you’re a high net worth or all try Neworth and you know you want to a digital dashboard a net worth Tracker or um, you know want financial planning and investment advice.

Christian Haigh: Um, compoundplanning dotcom is ah a great place to go to you can sign up for a dashboard and get started today. Um, you know if you want to talk about other things whether it’s you know, investing in the firm whether it’s um, ah. You know, exploring other ways to um, you know, help out or become part of the team. Ah, you can always connect with me on Linkedin. Um, I’m Christian Haig the Ceo Ceo of compound planning and um, you can find me on Linkedin and um, feel free to shoot me a message.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing, well easy enough Christian well thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.

Christian Haigh: Yeah, appreciated al Hondra and um, yeah, appreciate the time.


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