Scott Walchek: Unlocking the Treasure Trov of Half of the World’s Wealth

A Few Numbers For You To Chew On:

  • $230 trillion: the rough amount of personal wealth around the globe.
  • $115 trillion: the rough amount of that wealth that is tied up in hard goods.
  • $30 trillion: the rough amount that will change hands between the Baby Boomers and the current work force (or those who will soon enter it) over the next 20-30 years.

To characterize Scott Walchek as a money guy, to me, seems like a woefully inadequate, if not an altogether misleading representation of a man who has proven to be so much more than that. He is a man who is, by any standard, a brilliant, pioneering visionary with his hand on the pulse of the ever-evolving and increasingly co-dependent landscapes of the financial and technological worlds. And yet, on some level very near to the core of all that, Scott Walchek is, indeed, a money guy. He has an intuitive, real-world understanding of its value, its potential and its complexities. And, with regard to the above figures, the one most central to his latest entrepreneurial endeavor is the one in the middle.

One hundred and fifteen trillion dollars.

That is serious money, people. That’s the kind of money that kicks your imagination into overdrive thinking about all the things you could do. Forget buying jets and mansions, you could change the world with that kind of money. If only it were, you know, actual money. Remember, there is $230 trillion of personal wealth around the world, but only half of that is in the form of cash or its equivalents. We’re talking about the other half, the properties and classic cars, the artwork, the watches and handbags, the fine wines and jewelry, that mint-condition, 1951 Mickey Mantle rookie card. By creating what is, in essence, a personal storage cloud that collects, values, and ultimately connects these traditionally non-liquid assets to a vast digital marketplace, Walchek’s current venture, Trov, is positioned to be the world’s first tangible wealth management platform.

“In today’s (digital) climate, it’s hard to get above all the noise,” Walchek tells Jetset. “Finding that big opportunity is difficult. But being an entrepreneur for so long, you learn to trust your hunches. And if you add really smart people around a hunch, you’re able to change really major parts of the universe. In terms of digital opportunity, we think this could be one of the last vestiges of a generation.”

“Facebook captures what we’re doing … Pinterest captures what we want. Foursquare captures where we’ve been … But nothing out there captures information about the things that we own and are acquiring.”

– Scott Walchek

Perhaps coming from another source, talk like this might be dismissed as the hyperbole of an overly ambitious dreamer. But Scott Walchek is no dreamer. Rooted in 25 years of Silicon Valley experience, some of his most successful ventures include one of the most popular shopping search platforms, sold to Inktomi (now Yahoo!) in 1998, and Baidu, which became China’s most dominant search engine and completed the most successful IPO by a foreign company in NASD history in 2005.

Scott’s public resume, in his own words, is lined with successes, but he interestingly points out that it also conceals the important failures from which he has learned the most. It’s the perspective only a grounded man can have, but with all due respect to Scott’s admirable humility, this guy doesn’t swing and miss often. Once again, Trov has all the markings of a revolutionary movement.

“If you think about it, Facebook captures what we’re doing with our lives. Pinterest captures what we want. Foursquare captures where we’ve been and where we’re going. But nothing out there is capturing all the information about the things that we own and are acquiring,” Walchek says. “The possibilities are almost endless when you talk about what can be accomplished by collecting and putting a value on those things.”

The way it works is simple. First, Trov — which the company calls “The Personal Cloud for Every Thing You Own” — caters to the affluent consumer in providing a truly exclusive, velvet-rope experience, so you have to be invited, perhaps by a top-tier wealth manager, concierge service or property and casualty insurer. Once you accept the invite, Trov’s “magic” starts to work. You give Trov a little (a photo, an electronic receipt, some info about where you shop online, your home address, etc.) and Trov gives you back a lot in the form of documentation, current values, detailed descriptions, and even “vanity photos.” Suddenly, all the tedious work is done for you, and the information is kept current as values continue to appreciate and depreciate.

“Finding that big opportunity is difficult. But being an entrepreneur for so long, you learn to trust your hunches.”

– Scott Walchek

The beauty of this is that instead of all that information just sort of floating around in the vast, digital galaxy, untapped and in many ways unvalued, it has been corralled, organized inside your own digital locker, your Trov (pronounced trove, as in treasure trove), and ultimately connected with the wide ecosphere of Trov partners — some of which include Invaluable, which powers over 90 percent of online auctions for collectible art and jewelry; Benchmark, which provides prices for all collectible wines; eBay, which has current sales prices on millions of items; and MyClassicGarage, which draws upon 82 points of data in the valuation and dealing of collectible, high performance cars.

So now that 1965 Jaguar Roadster that never leaves your garage has not just a real value, but a platform and marketplace to make it something more than a trophy. Now your cloud, as a whole, has its own worth. You can manage it from your mobile device. With the click of a button, members can donate. They can buy, sell and trade among each other. To Scott’s point that the possibilities are endless, think about the impact that this will have on the insurance industry, now that all these hard assets have an organized, definite value. With literally half of the world’s personal wealth suddenly freed up to actually be used, to be potentially liquidated and, in turn, leveraged, think about the impact that could have on lending. Think about how it could affect advertising, if businesses could be allowed (with your permission) to see precisely what you own and what you’re acquiring and market directly to your desires, rather than relying on the horribly inexact practice of random ads and commercials, which statistics suggest more than fifty percent of people don’t even watch anymore.

“If we sent you a note and said, ‘it’s coming to the end of the year, and we’ve spent the last 12 months indentifying four really important (charitable) causes,’ but instead of asking you to write a check, we ask you to identify three things in your Trov that you could live without, and then we liquidated those things for you. Imagine the impact that could have on global philanthropy,” Scott says. “That’s what we mean when we talk about changing the universe.”

Scott says that in his 30s and 40s, he was very focused on the liquidity of his companies. But now? In his 50s? He believes in creating a company that serves not just his shareholders with a great liquid outcome, but also produces “a significant value to the world at large.” So, do you see now? Do you see why it’s hard to call Scott Walchek a money guy? Sure, he’s lived the jetset lifestyle, but he sees the bigger picture.

A father of four, a grandfather to three, a husband of 32 years, he’s a family man first. His grandkids run around his office. And perhaps above all else, it is this sentiment that lies at the core of what he does. As noted, roughly $30 trillion will change hands between the Baby Boomers (Scott’s generation) and the current work force (his kids’ generation) over the next 20-30 years, and Trov stands to be at the heart of this massive intergenerational wealth transfer. Assets will be collected, valued and passed down with a previously unknown transparency and organization. Children of the digital age will be set up to succeed. The legacy Scott has built, and continues to build, will have a genuine impact on the lives of the people he set out to take care of in the first place.

And in the end, how can you put a value on that?