Wellington, Florida is far more associated with the equestrian business than with tech startups.
When the media covers business titans, they usually come out of big tech hubs like New York, San Francisco, or Chicago. Billion-dollar unicorn companies get all the attention, while small-but-successful businesses in Wellington and elsewhere fly under their radar.
81-c is one of those companies, established by two people who saw a broken financial system and wanted to fix it with financial inclusion. They weren’t motivated by money or fame. They simply wanted to make their mark on the world and provide something that lasted.
Dan Abbate and Jess Merrell started down this road in 2016 and haven’t looked back since.
Who is Dan Abbate?
Dan realized early on that he didn’t have to learn anything he didn’t want to learn. He started homeschooling in fifth grade and let his interests guide his education. This “unschooling” led Dan to pave his own path. He started college at age 15, then dropped out in his junior year when they told him he “was learning too fast.”
Abbate kickstarted his career by pursuing internet technology and business. He sold his first company at age 19 and used that money to start acquiring companies. By 2013, his entrepreneurial skills and mindset were in place, but he wanted more.
He and his family moved to Wellington, Florida. He joined the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), a global network that helps leading entrepreneurs learn and grow by connecting with industry experts and (most importantly) each other. He also connected with local professional groups to expand his entrepreneurial connections. That’s where he met Jess.
Who is Jess Merrell?
Though she grew up there, Jess didn’t plan on moving back to Wellington. She was chasing her dream in New York City, working on becoming a CMO by age 30. The only member of her family who took a corporate job, Jess was ready to prove herself and barreled through the ranks of her media buying agency, Initiative. She managed big client budgets for commercial airtime and integration deals, and learned how to assemble and motivate a team.
She was on track to achieve her goals, but her father’s suicide shocked her family and changed everything. It brought a new filter to her life and she found herself asking, “What’s really important? What do I truly want from life?”
After a second stint in NYC, Jess moved back home to bring more intention to her professional life. She worked alongside her mom in their family fitness business, where she learned how to run a business. She also joined the local professional group that connected her with Dan.
They both agreed that being successful, enjoying your life, and making an impact on the world didn’t have to be mutually exclusive things. So what would they do with this shared passion and entrepreneurial mindset?
81-c was their brainchild.
Dan was so excited about blockchain that Jess got the chills when he talked about it. In the same way that the modern internet changed the world, blockchain could keep this disruption going. They didn’t waste any time taking advantage of this special technology.
They dove into the world of securities to learn everything there was to know: how securities work, how the SEC regulates them, and how the market responds to them. They also hired Jess’s childhood friend, Gabie Ervesun, to set the stage for scaling their company. Eversun’s previous experiences as a Director of Supply Chain for ASR-Group, the world’s largest supplier of refined sugar, would be crucial to standardize processes and tools for the company and its growing list of entrepreneurs and businesses.
The idea behind 81-c started in 2016 with the goal to create a model that would change how people invest and empower anyone to lead a purposeful life.
What’s in a name, anyways?
81-c isn’t a name or conventional word. It’s actually the name for a self-inflicted eye poke of the Three Stooges variety.
Today’s companies are so focused on making a name for themselves that they forget how important it is to be relatable. Too many professionals try to sound smart by adopting industry buzzwords, turning conversations into cryptic nightmares. They’re making things harder to understand, figuratively poking us all in the eyes.
What happened to the days when everyone could exchange ideas without relying on jargon-heavy sentences?
81-c endeavors to be an understandable, relatable company that wants to help any investor support small- and medium-sized businesses through an investment in 81-c..
How does 81-c change the investment landscape?
Dan and Jess realized something very quickly: curious investors can’t actually invest in anything they want, because the opportunities are slim. The current investment system is fundamentally broken. It’s impossible for everyone to have the same access to the value generated by entrepreneurship and rising companies. Only large investment banks and wealthy individuals get access to it.
81-c needed to level the playing field. They could do their part to achieve financial inclusion by letting anyone get value from early-stage investing. Now it could be an option for everyone.
Dan and Jess believe that you shouldn’t have to be a career investor to participate in the value generated by companies today. Whether you’re a high-profile investment banker in NYC or an entrepreneur in Wellington, Florida, your options and access should be the same.
A broken system won’t fix itself.