There is life after Russell.
Such was the hope when Tacoma-grown Russell Investments left the city, drawn by the bright lights and prestige of Seattle.
Those lights have dimmed, the prestige has withered with gridlock traffic and galactic home prices, and Tacoma has once again become attractive to the investment industry.
Just ask the men at RedQuarry.
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RedQuarry co-founders Chris Tinsley and Jared Potter met in high school, grew up in Tacoma and both entered the financial sector after college. Among other early positions, Tinsley had interned at Russell and graduated to the Gig Harbor-based wealth and investment advisory family firm Threshold Group, while Potter worked at the Seattle tech firm IdentityMine.
“Both of us watched all this talent draining from our community to build infrastructure in another city,” Potter said recently in RedQuarry’s downtown Tacoma office.
“I can’t think of a better place to start an internet company,” said Tinsley, of his hometown.
“I think the tide is turning and people are getting sick of Seattle,” said Potter.
“Both Chris and I have an entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “It’s ‘I gotta own something.’ ”
Noting the time in the late afternoon, he then left the office saying he’d return in 10 minutes.
He was back in nine with his two sons, 9 and 7.
“They do homework,” Potter said.
He can pick up his sons after school and be back in the office for the close of the workday.
“This is the reason I live in Tacoma,” he said.
Working for various Seattle firms, Tinsley recalled what life was like as a commuter, traveling daily from Tacoma to Seattle and then back again.
“We left a little piece of our soul behind every time we got on that bus,” he said.
Later known by other names and recently suffering layoffs, Tacoma’s Frank Russell Co. collected, sifted and distributed financial data worldwide and could eventually count billions of dollars under management.
Like Russell, which revolutionalized the way institutional investors and fund managers gathered and used that data, RedQuarry hopes to spark a revolution of its own.
Tinsley found his own spark after he left Russell for a small, high-end boutique financial management firm.
“We had great tools at Russell,” he said. “Then I work for a family, and we have Microsoft Excel. That whole world is held together with Excel and duct tape.”
He knew there was a solution — a way to provide, manage and store financial management and research data — but he didn’t quite know what the solution was.
“There was nothing to help the research manager,” he said.
Now there is.
RedQuarry CEO Patrick Adrian simplifies.
The company, he said, “helps firms develop a compliant, profitable and scalable internal research capability.”
The company has created “a SaaS, cloud-based and collaborative software platform for investment teams” and provides a “centralized investment research portal,” he said. (With SaaS, or “software as a service,” being a software licensing and subscription model.)
RedQuarry charges per user, per month for its product and now counts 200 users at 15 investment teams who manage a total of $25 billion in assets.
The company is funded through an earlier software consulting agency in Tacoma, 6th Avenue Studios, and through existing revenues.
RedQuarry has not sought and is not seeking funding, although the principals may go to angel markets in the future.
“We wanted to build a product and get users before we go for scale and funding,” said Adrian. “We’re interested in strategic capital, partnerships, alliances, but not plain vanilla venture capital.”
He describes the available market for RedQuarry products as “huge. One estimate (in) one segment of our target market has over 12,000 firms alone that manage trillions of dollars.”
The primary competition in the market, Tinsley said, “is ‘good enough,’ the people who say ‘our system is good enough.’ ”
RedQuarry thinks it can provide something better.
Bruce Kendall, president and CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, said last week that companies such as RedQuarry are important to the economic future of the area.
“It is adding to the emerging high-technology sector here,” he said. “This is another good news story about the ability of companies here to find the talent they need to be successful in the IT space. That word will spread. That story will spread — that you can do it here, you can make it here. If you don’t have the talent, you’re not in the game. The promise is being fulfilled.”
So Potter can pick up his sons from school, and Adrian can commute from home riding his bicycle.
“There’s no price on that,” Tinsley said.
That’s on the positive side.
The two founders have wondered what they could do to attract more former Russelites or refugees from Silicon Valley to the South Sound.
On the wrong side of the balance sheet: They estimate they have each taken a 25 percent reduction in their salaries. They have spoken with former colleagues who continue to commute and have found “the perceived risk (of moving) is high,” Tinsley said.
“There’s a whole bunch of Russell people in Seattle who are ready, and they just need an example that they can come home,” he said.
Deep within the ethos at RedQuarry is an abiding respect for that first revolution and for George Russell, who built a billion-dollar company in his hometown.
“What George did for the industry, we’re trying to carry that torch forward,” said Adrian.
Said Tinsley, “George changed the investment industry, and he did it from Tacoma.”
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535