Tars Go Startup
Six Tars are on staff at Sam Hocking ’87’s financial tech startup, iMATCHATIVE
by Rob Humphreys
The epiphany came on Seventh Avenue.Using a science-driven, automated platform to match institutional investors with hedge fund opportunities, Sam Hocking ’87 would start his own company.
For the former Rollins soccer goalie and president of Phi Delta Theta, launching San Francisco-based iMATCHATIVE must have felt like George Clooney’s mission in Ocean’s Eleven: Assemble a team—built on mutual trust and highly specialized skills—to conquer the impossible.
Focused on revolutionizing the financial industry, Hocking went about the task with precision. One of his first recruits: longtime Rollins friend Pam Weiss van der Lee ’85.
“Pam and I [were] one year apart in school,” Hocking says, “and from the time I met Pam in 1982, I have always admired her.”
From October 2008 to May 2012, Hocking served as managing director at BNP Paribas, running global sales for its prime brokerage. He and van der Lee had remained close since their days at Rollins, both working in Manhattan a few years ago.
“We’d see each other for lunch periodically,” Hocking says, “and I had a real moment on Seventh Avenue when I said, ‘One day I’ll start my own company, and I really want Pam to be one of my business partners.’ When I was thinking of leaving [BNP Paribas], I had a circle of people whom I knew I’d want in my company. Pam and I started talking about it, and thanks to a little pestering and tenacity on my part, she agreed to join.”
Before joining iMATCHATIVE in February 2013 as its chief marketing officer, van der Lee spent 11 years in the nonprofit sector before holding vice president-level positions with Viacom and Nickelodeon.
“Sam is 100 percent responsible for me entering the world of startups,” van der Lee says. “I had taken a break from the corporate world and didn’t have a startup in mind at all. I wouldn’t consider re-entering the for-profit world unless I could work with someone who had the integrity and passion I was looking for. Sam totally fits that bill.”
Together, Hocking and van der Lee—along with John Attwell ’80 who came out of retirement to be iMATCHATIVE’s chief operating officer—have built a pipeline from Winter Park to Silicon Valley. Of the 22 people on staff, six have ties to Rollins: Carla Borsoi ’92 ’95MBA serves as the vice president of customer experience; Ryan Dodds ’06 ’11MBA is director of client services; and Justyn Engl ’12MBA joined the company’s operations division in December.
“We’re importing from Orlando,” Hocking says with a chuckle, adding that iMATCHATIVE, which has raised $11 million and is about to launch a new product, could hire up to 50 people by year’s end.
Part of what makes the company unique can be traced to the deep bonds shared by its Rollins graduates—a gathering of some of the College’s brightest minds in marketing, analytics, and finance.
“When you start, there are naysayers and a wave of forces against you,” Hocking says. “To counter that, you need people you have a really long history with who won’t be swayed by the negative forces against you.”
“The Rollins connection is deep and strong within our company,” van der Lee adds. “Whether you go to school during a different era or not, you definitely have a shared experience and attachment.”