How did 81-c come to be?

The classic boy meets girl, disrupts financial markets story.

81-c was founded by Dan Abbate & Jess Merrell

The Start

Traditional schooling isn’t part of Dan Abbate’s story. He grew up unschooled, free in his young life to pursue things on the simple basis of whether or not they were interesting to him. He learned at an early age that he didn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to do.


Dan learned business process engineering, M&A, and consolidation from his father’s metal stamping business. He entered college at age 15 and took an aggressive course load that would see him graduate as a junior. The dean told him he was “learning too much,” that he would have to slow down and take fewer courses. Despite his pro-academia mindset, Dan left college to continue learning on his own terms.


He started a successful internet company that got hundreds of thousands of pageviews per day, and he sold it to a NASDAQ-traded company at age 19. Using money from that sale, he spent the next phase of his career buying companies to optimize their revenues with new processes and technology. He completed eight acquisitions between 2000 and 2013. Though his approach was profitable, it was fundamentally limited by his time. Who could effectively manage more than two companies at once?


A Better Way

Dan moved his family to Wellington, Florida in 2013 to learn more about business and add more fun to his daily life. He joined Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), a global network of independent businesspeople, to surround himself with similar individuals. He also read widely and talked to other entrepreneurs in local professional groups, searching for people who shared his perspectives. During one group meeting, he crossed paths with Jess Merrell. Though Jess’ background was in global corporate advertising, they connected over shared philosophies of life and entrepreneurship.


Having been raised in a family of successful entrepreneurs, she was the first to climb the corporate ladder. She began her career traveling the country with a VH1 production team to cast for new shows. Full of ambition and an entrepreneurial mindset, she transitioned to a career in media buying, negotiating multi-million dollar commercial airtime and integration deals for clients like Home Depot. Her company moved her to Los Angeles to bring an NYC bulldog mentality to its Lionsgate account, where she managed a growing budget and gained notoriety as a media supervisor.

She was on track to become a CMO by age 30, but her father’s suicide came as a shock that changed her values and outlook forever. Jess moved back to New York to be closer to family, working on content distribution, new media technology, and influencer marketing at the same global media agency for clients like USAA, Victoria’s Secret, and MillerCoors.

During this time, she was identified as a rising star in the media industry by the 4A’s, where she helped create ReSolve, a one-day think tank aimed at tackling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. But it seemed that her professional life was thriving at the expense of her personal life. Why couldn’t she have both?

Jess had set such a specific path for her work that she wasn’t really thinking about her personal life. She left the chaos of NYC and moved to her hometown of Wellington, Florida to bring more intention to her professional life. She worked alongside her mother in her family’s fitness business, learning entrepreneurship as a trial by fire. She plugged herself into the area’s entrepreneurial scene by joining a local professional group where she met Dan.


The pair clicked while talking travel and business, quickly realizing they were complementary in experience, mindset, and goals. As their friendship grew and their partnership began, they started connecting with blockchain leaders around the world and began exploring practical problems the technology could solve.


Eventually their conversations narrowed down to the topic of investing — why was it so difficult for the average person to invest in entrepreneurs? Why were so few companies available on the public markets? Why did the financial elite have so many opportunities that the majority of people would never have?


After realizing how broken the system was, they developed a solution — 81-c. 81-c solves these problems by establishing entrepreneurship as an asset class, letting anyone in the world invest in businesses that normally wouldn’t be available to the public.

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