Meet Manifest — A Demo Day[s] 10 Presenting Startup

This year, FinTech Sandbox Demo Day[s] will take place across two days, April 9 & April 11. The presentations will be virtual and the event, as always, is free. Demo Days are exciting because we get to showcase startups that are on the very cutting edge of innovation and you get to see what they’re up to before they’re discovered.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll highlight a few of this year’s presenting entrepreneurs. Today, we’re talking to Meenakshi Lakshmanan, Co-Founder and CTO of Chicago-based Manifest, which is building the first-ever digital transfer solution for retirement accounts. Manifest is presenting on April 11.

Meenakshi Lakshmanan is Co-Founder and CTO of Chicago-based Manifest, which is building the first-ever digital transfer solution for retirement accounts.

Q.   Meenakshi, tell us a bit about Manifest. What problems are you solving?

A.   Manifest is building the first-ever digital transfer solution for retirement accounts. We are working to make safe, easy, and quick 401k transfers possible for everyone.

Q.   What is your company’s origin story?

 A.   In 2017, while pursuing my MBA at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, I had the opportunity to meet Anuraag Tripathi, who was working on a 401(k) provider for small businesses. Recognizing the potential in his startup, we decided to join forces and collaborate on his venture.

During our journey of serving 300,000 Americans, we encountered a significant challenge in the retirement savings landscape. It took up to 60 days to consolidate 401(k) accounts, which posed a real obstacle for individuals. To understand the extent of this issue, we conducted a survey of 2,500 employees as they left their jobs. The results were eye-opening: on average, most individuals had three old retirement accounts, and balances under $15,000 were frequently cashed out for non-emergency reasons.

Motivated by these findings and the desire to make a positive impact, we founded Manifest. In 2018, Manifest was selected as one of the 11 start-up finalists to present at the prestigious New Venture Challenge at Booth’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. The company’s concept resonated with the judges, leading to Manifest securing the grand prize, which amounted to over $315,000 in seed funding.

Q.   Can you describe what it’s been like to be part of the FinTech Sandbox community?

A.   Being part of the Fintech Sandbox community has provided an incredibly supportive ecosystem tailored to the unique circumstances and developmental stages of a young startup, ensuring we never feel alone in our journey. The access to exceptional data partners, who are not only willing but also responsive to our requests, has been instrumental in accelerating our product development and market readiness. Moreover, the community has opened doors to a high-quality network of friendly and helpful individuals.

Q.   Why is data access important to your startup?

A.   Data access is crucial to our startup because the process of retirement account transfers is fundamentally a data-intensive operation. Having access to timely and accurate data is essential because it enables us to streamline the transfer process, making it seamless for our customers. This accuracy and timeliness in data access not only improve the efficiency of transfers but also enhance the overall customer experience by minimizing errors and delays, ultimately fostering trust and satisfaction with our service.

Q.   What milestones has Manifest achieved so far?

A.   Over the past two years, we’ve made significant progress in streamlining the transfer process and maximizing retirement outcomes, achieving a 70% automation rate. This efficiency is reflected in our NPS score of 94, showcasing user satisfaction. We have access to over 250,000 participants through various employers, we are committed to helping them achieve their retirement goals. Additionally, we have engaged with four out of the top 15 retirement providers, paving the way for extensive market reach.

Q.   What trends in fintech are you most excited about?

A.   Fintech companies are leading the financial industry towards customer-centricity, leveraging technology for more than just cost reduction. Startups are prioritizing user needs and developing products that offer financial ease, automation, and transparency. As a result, these innovative approaches are gaining traction in traditionally overlooked or unprofitable areas, presenting opportunities for startups like Manifest to address challenges like retirement transfers with efficient technology, replacing manual and inefficient solutions.

Q.   How does Manifest think about leveraging AI in a differentiated way?

A.   Our company leverages AI in a differentiated way by focusing on the creation of a retirement concierge service that goes beyond mere transactional support. By incorporating AI, we aim to demystify the complex world of retirement benefits and navigate through the dense jargon that often overwhelms individuals. Our AI-driven approach is designed to provide personalized, easy-to-understand answers to questions about retirement benefits, making the process of planning for retirement more accessible and less intimidating.

Q.   What’s next for Manifest?

A.   From a product perspective, our company is dedicated to continuous innovation, introducing new features to enhance the ways we assist users in maximizing their retirement outcomes. We are also prioritizing the development of high-quality, reliable data pipelines between providers to further streamline the transfer process, ensuring a seamless experience for our customers. On the business front, we are rapidly expanding our reach by forging partnerships with employers and retirement providers to distribute our product effectively.

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To hear more about Manifest and 11 other exciting fintech startups, be sure to register for FinTech Sandbox Demo Day[s] 10!