Tyrone Ross Jr., the co-founder and chief executive of Onramp Invest, a platform financial advisors use to manage cryptocurrency portfolios for investors, left the company yesterday after a disagreement with its other co-founder, Eric Ervin, about the startup’s direction.
“This is not the way I saw it ending and change isn’t easy, but it’s always necessary,” Ross wrote on Tuesday in a Medium post publicly announcing his abrupt departure.
Over the past two weeks, Ross and Ervin clashed primarily on “one decision that had a bunch of parts,” Ross told RIA Intel. The conflict came to a head last week and Ross decided to resign as CEO. Ervin has been named the new chief executive.
“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,” Ervin said in an Onramp blog post on Monday. Ross confirmed he made the decision to leave and was not asked by Ervin to step down. The news was not widely known or reported on until the middle of this week.
After Ross departed, two members of Onramp’s advisory board also resigned. Dani Fava, head of strategic development at Envestnet, publicly announced her resignation on March 1. Fava declined to comment about leaving the advisory board. Ross told RIA Intel that he recruited Fava, who he called a personal friend, to join Onramp’s advisory board and let her know he was resigning before publicly announcing it. Ross also said that investors, employees, and customers were all made aware before the news went public.
A few hours after Fava resigned, Kyle Van Pelt, executive vice president of sales at Skience, an advisor technology provider and consultant, also said on Twitter he was stepping down from Onramp’s advisory board and cited Ross’ departure. “I have spent the first two months of the year away from social media for a host of reasons and was planning to continue my hiatus, but I can't leave this alone,” Van Pelt said. “In light of the news, I have resigned from the Onramp board effective immediately.”
Wealthmanagement.com reported that Torie Happe, Onramp’s head of business development who joined the company in May 2021, was also “cut” from the company. Happe told RIA Intel she is no longer an Onramp employee but did not confirm when she left the startup or why she is no longer working there.
Justin Castelli, the former Onramp chief of staff and vice-president of marketing, also left the crypto startup last month but told RIA Intel it was for an unrelated reason.
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What the co-founders disagreed on could not be learned. Ross, Onramp, and others declined to share what strategy or decision moved one of wealth management’s most high-profile executives, and a founder, to resign.
“We disagreed rarely, but when we disagreed it was things that we were both passionate about,” Ross said. Ervin said in his blog post that the startup had “hit a wrinkle.”
Nyle Bayer, chief marketing officer at Onramp, declined to share Onramp’s plans going forward, the number of advisory firms using the software, or the number of employees it has. Since it was founded in 2020, the company has grown to 50 employees, according to Pitchbook, a data company focused on venture capital, private equity, and mergers and acquisitions.
In August 2021, the company raised $6 million in seed funding from Ritholtz Wealth Management, Gemini, and Coinbase Ventures. All three companies declined to comment or did not respond to comment on Ross’s departure. As CEO, Ross’s primary duties were to raise capital, build the brand, set the strategy, and recruit team members, according to Ervin’s blog post.
“We couldn't be more grateful for all of the time Tyrone spent with us, on us, and for us. He will always be a part of our DNA,” Bayer told RIA Intel.
Ross still owns a minority stake in the startup and is in the process of determining what he can and wants to do with it, he said.
Ross, who moved across the country to California to found Onramp, said he was disappointed and hurt by what transpired over recent weeks but also grateful for the experience and excited about the future. He plans to continue doing speaking engagements, consulting with RIAs, and he said that he’s thinking more about a business idea that he plans to pitch investors soon.
And Ross is not closing the door completely on Onramp, where he led the effort to provide education, access, and tools to wealth managers about cryptocurrency. (The company published a report in February suggesting that financial advisors who do not advise on crypto could be in breach of their fiduciary duty.)
“I will move on and do something else but if things were to evolve, and there was a way I could, I would go back. I’d do it in an instant,” he said. “And do a Steve Jobs? I’d love to.”
Holly Deaton (@HollyLDeaton) is a staff writer at RIA Intel and based in New York City.