Tyrone Ross, formerly co-founder and CEO of Onramp Invest, is tight-lipped about why he abruptly left the firm in March except to dryly categorize the event “co-founder drama.”
“We didn’t see eye to eye on the direction of Onramp,” he tells ThinkAdvisor in an interview, adding that that was “the script” he and co-founder Eric Ervin agreed to “stick to” for the reason Ross departed.
“There may be a day when I’ll talk about it in detail … Maybe I will; maybe I won’t,” he says.
At any rate, Ross, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch early in his career, has embarked on two new crypto ventures, an RIA called 401 Financial, and a tech startup for advisors, Turnqey Labs.
In addition to crypto, the RIA will handle what Ross calls “traditional dinosaur-bone assets, like stocks, and all that other antiquated crap.”
Ervin and Ross co-founded Onramp in 2020 as a crypto asset platform to serve financial advisors. According to Ross, he raised $7 million in venture capital for the firm.
When he left — at which point, Ervin took over as CEO — Onramp reportedly was having financial difficulties and laying off much of the staff.
On the Onramp website, Ervin writes about Ross’s exit: “… we hit a wrinkle. As we began to scale Onramp from the initial phase of conception to the next phase of rapid growth, it became clear to Tyrone that he no longer felt he was the right fit for the role. Therefore, I have stepped into the role as CEO …”
Ross now has no stake in the firm.
He has now partnered with three people — one, the co-founder and CIO of his RIA, and two others, co-founders of Turnqey. He is in the process of raising money from “a select group of great individual investors and potentially, some funds,” he says.
His yet-to-be-launched RIA will target clients ages 25 to 45 with a net worth of $100,000 to $3 million and who are “tech-savvy” and seeking a “customized, personalized experience,” he explains.
The RIA will also help “a subset of people” whose net worth is below $100,000.
“I firmly believe that everyone deserves financial planning,” says Ross, who grew up poor in New Jersey, the son of a sanitation worker and a school bus driver.
That life is worlds away from the crypto universe in which he has immersed himself, and indeed, from his base of operations for the last couple of years in San Diego.
But noting that current crypto sentiment is “awful,” he says in the interview, “we deserve it because there’s so much crap and scams and double-talking and horrible narrative about crypto.”
Yet, he’s “never been be more optimistic” about the currency, he hastens to add.
“I’m still a crypto hippie, always will be. I’ve been buying on the way down and will continue to accumulate,” he insists.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Ross, speaking by phone from San Diego. Here are highlights from our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: Why did you leave Onramp Invest?
TYRONE ROSS: One of the last conversations that Eric [Ervin, co-founder] and I had was that we would stick to the script that it was just misdirection.
We came to a fork in the road, and we went straight. But a bunch of things were leaked to the media.
We [each] just had a different direction for where the company should go, and that was that.
Do you still have a stake in the firm?
I don’t own anything in Onramp. I gave up my equity. I gave up my board seat. I gave up everything. I have absolutely nothing to do with the company. Zero.
I’m surprised that Mr. Ervin hasn’t said more about the split?
There was a lot said, actually. The only one who hasn’t said anything is me.
Did you leave because of personal issues with Mr. Ervin or a business disagreement?
Obviously, it was business. It was just co-founder drama. We didn’t see eye to eye on the direction of Onramp. I wish him the best.
Was it a sudden split, or were things building up over time and finally came to a head?
Yeah, all of that would make its way out at some point. When it’s time for that story to be told, I’m sure it will be.
There may be a day when I’ll talk about it in detail and tell my side of the story. Maybe I will; maybe I won’t.
I just wanted to make sure that people who were let go found jobs. They’ve all found great landing places.
Reportedly, you had a meeting with Jamie Hopkins (managing partner of wealth solutions) at Carson around the time you left, leading some to speculate that you were joining forces with Carson. What was that about?
That trip was scheduled before I [left Onramp]. Jamie Hopkins and I are very close. The trip was about the possibility of doing an RIA with [Carson] and a bunch of other things that we explored.
There were a lot of reasons I was there. Jamie is very big on financial education. So we discussed a lot of things.
Now you’ve embarked on two new endeavors. What are they?
I’m starting an RIA for [retail clients], 401 Financial, and for advisors, a startup, Turnqey Labs.
Tell me about the RIA.
We’re waiting to get the [Form] ADV for it approved by the state of California.
We’ll be very much crypto-forward, digging into the Web 3 type of experience [using blockchains] that we create.
But we’re also going to do traditional dinosaur-bone assets, like stocks and all that other antiquated crap. My partner and CIO will be doing that crazy stuff.