Eric Hazard exits Cognito to join Vested Ventures as CEO

Hazard is the latest in a string of former Cognito staffers to join Vested, launched by two Cognito veterans in 2015.

NEW YORK: Eric Hazard has exited Cognito and taken over as CEO of Vested Ventures, the startup incubator run by financial communications agency Vested. He started in the role this week.

Hazard is responsible for identifying investment opportunities for the unit, structuring investments, and integrating the fund’s portfolio with Vested services, the firm said in a statement.

Vested Ventures has two startups in its portfolio: AI company Remesh and Spare, an app that rounds up users’ dining bills and donates the remainder to charity. Launched earlier this year, Vested Ventures enables the firm to invest in startups and provide communications, marketing, and growth support on a deferred income basis. Its investments are funded by Vested’s profits.

An agency representative noted that Vested earned $3.6 million in revenue in 2016, representing year-over-year growth of 317%. It is also forecasting top-line growth for this year. The firm launched in 2015.

The incubator is looking to invest in startups in financial wellness, literacy, inclusion, and consumer intelligence, the firm said in a statement. It was first led by Vested CEO Dan Simon, to whom Hazard will report, along with president Binna Kim.

Hazard most recently served as MD of Cognito, leading U.S. operations, and he has also worked as a journalist and financial adviser. Hazard also hosts a video series called Focus on Fintech.

"I like that combination of making capital investments and advising on integrated comms strategy," Hazard said. "Putting together my financial background and my comms background was a nice evolution for my career."

Simon and Kim exited Cognito and set up the rival agency in 2015. Since then, Vested has attracted several Cognito veterans.

Cognito founder and CEO Tom Coombes tamped down any rivalry between the two agencies, saying there’s "no bad blood."

"They’re talented people growing a business," he added. "Having competitors is part of the nature of the business. Competition is healthy for agencies and the business in general."

Coombes said Cognito is on-track for 15% growth this year and attributed staffers’ departures to the firm’s "entrepreneurial" spirit, noting it has numerous spinoff companies.

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