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.

Let’s dive into the fascinating story of this entrepreneur’s rise to success.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Early Lessons in Discipline

Growing up in Oxford, England, Haigh’s life revolved around music. He attended a choir school where he sang in services seven times a week. The rigorous schedule, waking up early for morning services, and dedication to music shaped Christian’s work ethic and resilience, traits he credits to his success in business.

He remembers performing in the choir even on Christmas Day when everybody else was at home eating Christmas dinner. The cathedral where they sang mass was a great training ground; the discipline instilled in Christian became a valuable asset through his entrepreneurial journey in later life.

He advises founders that building a startup involves several aspects, including a lot of grunt work and discipline, which can get them through the hard times when they have only themselves to rely on.

Founding Legalist: Navigating Challenges

Christian’s entrepreneurial journey began at Harvard University, where he met his co-founder, Eva Shang. Together, they identified a gap in the legal industry and launched Legalist, initially focusing on litigation finance.

The duo started off by working together on a couple of student organizations, and they decided to start a company since they had great working dynamics. Three years into their Harvard experience, they realized that the legal space is an antiquated industry.

In January of their junior year, Christian and Eva started interviewing hundreds of attorneys in Massachusetts who were willing to talk to them and asked them about their pain points and what they struggled with. Most times, the answer was needing more clients.

Christian came across the Massachusetts court record website during one of his courses, which cost ~$70M to build. He realized that its overly complex, antiquated design meant that no one was going to use the data.

Christian started downloading tons of data, ~100 Gigabytes per week. However, once the Harvard University IT Department caught on, they cut off Christian’s internet access. They mistakenly thought he was doing something illegal.

Christian switched to Eva’s internet connection and continued downloading data. Eventually, they were able to develop and launch the product.

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The Legalist Business Model

The Legalist business model was simple. Christian and Eva downloaded new cases on a daily basis. Essentially, they were looking for cases where the defendant didn’t have any representation. They simply reached out to the defendant and asked if they wanted a lawyer.

With this model, they applied to Y Combinator and started Legalist. Christian reveals that Y Combinator played a significant role in shaping the company. John Levy, the general counsel, introduced the duo to the idea of litigation finance and how they could finance lawsuits.

Despite facing hurdles like losing a major investor early on, they persevered. Christian’s discipline and determination propelled them forward, eventually leading to Legalist’s transformation into an asset management firm with nearly a billion dollars under management.

Christian and Eva’s core strategy is investing in lawsuits by providing financing for plaintiffs to be able to get their day in court. Legalist also offers bankruptcy financing where it offers short-term loans to companies that are going through the bankruptcy process to help them exit and close the business.

A third strategy is government receivable financing, where Legalist provides financing to government contractors who need short-term financing to cover cash flows while waiting for the government to pay them. That’s how the company became an asset management firm.

Raising Funding for Legalist

Christian recalls that Legalist’s first fund was ~$10M, and they made around 40 investments with that money. One of their early investments of $150K was lost, which resulted in losing that money.

Despite these setbacks, Christian and Eva continued with dogged determination to succeed and were able to build a large business out of the investment strategy. As Christian reveals, they invest on behalf of several nonprofit and university endowments and many institutional investors.

A large number of wealth advisors would invest their client money in Legalist investment products. However, Christian realized their tech stack was incredibly antiquated, and the job of a wealth advisor has expanded over time.

Building the Tech Stack to Address Point Solutions

Advisors need access to different technology point solutions that buyers can use, such as tools for managing their book of business, a CRM, and a portfolio reconciliation and reporting engine. They also need a trade desk execution platform and a platform to find leads.

Without advanced technology, the client experience is clunky and inefficient, resulting in inaccuracy in the back office of the advisory firm. Christian set out to address these point solutions and the challenges of building a digital native advisory firm.

He anticipated that around $100T of assets would change hands over the next couple of decades from the baby boomer generation to the next generation of clients. This clientele would want a great technology experience to accompany great financial planning and investment management.

Christian identified this opportunity and decided to tackle the problem. He started raising capital and putting together co-founders and a small team. Next, they started going out to market and bringing advisors and their clients on board.

Merging With Compound

As Christian and his team continued recruiting advisors and bringing in clients over the first year and a half, they quickly got to around $700M in assets in management. That’s when they came across Compound, a Silicon Valley startup that was both an advisory and technology firm.

Compound had the same mission of building a digital family office that every advisor could use to manage their book of business. Christian remembers directly connecting with the founder, Jordan, and making him an offer. Post-merger, the two firms have assets of ~$1.7B under management.

As Christian explains, they wanted to build a holistic digital family office with all of the different products and services that high-net-worth clients would want to be able to use. Today, they have liquid investments, alternative investments, tax advisory, tax filing, customized lending solutions, and family office services.

Exceptional Customer Experience

Compound brought clients an incredible dashboard experience similar to They have client dashboards where anybody on the internet can sign up and get value from having all their accounts aggregated in one place.

Clients can keep track of their spending and what they’re spending their money on. Compound has built a similar experience, except that it caters to high-net-worth and ultra-net-worth clients. It includes several equity planning solutions, concentrated stock positions, liquidity, and tax events.

Clients can also aggregate their liquid brokerage accounts, their GP commits, LP investments, and their direct investments so they can get a holistic representation of their net worth.

Christian and his team have built a holistic platform that can accelerate their product development by several years by combining the technologies. Experienced advisors, tech execs, tech founders, and tech employees can use the platform to understand the challenges clients experience on a day-to-day basis.

Integration Execution

Christian recalls how he and his team were determined to execute a successful integration. They navigated the potential challenges with meticulous planning and created multiple spreadsheets.

They came up with a detailed step-by-step plan for how to manage the finances, team, external communications, compliance, and all other aspects. Even so, they ran into challenges, which they overcame when bringing over almost the entire team.

Keys to Success in Fundraising

Christian reveals how he manages ~$2.5B for the combined companies. He credits their success to trust, relationships, and perseverance.

Building trust with investors and clients, cultivating strong relationships, and never giving up despite setbacks are essential lessons he’s learned along the way.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Christian Haigh was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Whether it’s through delivering results, providing value, or demonstrating integrity, Christian emphasizes the importance of earning and maintaining trust in the finance industry.

The Vision for the Future

Looking ahead, Christian envisions creating an operating system for advisors and clients, the next great financial institution akin to custodial giants like Schwab and Fidelity.

He aims to offer a comprehensive suite of services seamlessly integrated into a digital platform, from wealth management to financial planning.

With a focus on innovation and client experience, Christian is poised to reshape the landscape of wealth management for the next generation. Ultimately, they want to offer clients a platform they can use to manage their finances without the need for an advisor.

Lessons Learned and Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Christian’s journey offers valuable insights for aspiring entrepreneurs. Surrounding oneself with supportive mentors and collaborators, embracing challenges as opportunities for growth, and staying true to one’s vision is crucial for success.

By remaining disciplined, building trust, and continuously innovating, Christian has carved a path to success that inspires others to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Christian’s early musical training instilled a strong work ethic that propelled him through entrepreneurial challenges.
  • Despite losing a major investment, his perseverance led to the transformation of Legalist into a thriving asset management firm.
  • The acquisition of Compound enabled Haigh 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.
  • He 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.
  • His story inspires aspiring entrepreneurs to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

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Neil Patel

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