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Human Interest - Retiring Plans Have Never Been This Good


Long sandy beaches or vast verdant mountains - that is what most people want when they punch their ticket for the last time at work.

But if you don’t have a good retirement plan, chances are these will be left as only vivid dreams. Many companies don’t provide employees with a 401(k) plan. Driven by the need to change this, Roger Lee and Paul Sawaya decided to open Human Interest.

This company is built on the idea of helping small and medium-sized businesses form high-quality retirement plans with the lowest cost. It is made with end-to-end technology, aiming to solve administrative and compliance problems and form quality retirement plans for the company’s retired members.

Below is the story of Roger Lee and Paul Sawaya and their humble journey to build Human Interest.

A Different Approach

Most founders are focused on creating something in the sphere of applications and technology, but that’s not the case with Roger Lee and Paul Sawaya.

Born in San Francisco, Roger Lee was destined to become a successful entrepreneur. After finishing his education in the same city, Roger decided not to remain still and got to work immediately. In 2003, Roger and his friends built a couple of websites that reached the top 10 most viewed teen-oriented websites.

His first venture into the world of entrepreneurship was the startup Thunder, where he was one of the co-founders and later president of the company founded in 2008. Thunder built software for other companies with more than 100 publishers at that time.

After graduating from Harvard, Roger had enough of Thunder and decided to take it to the next level. He met with Paul Sawaya, who also lived in San Francisco. Their initial idea was to create something focusing on important things rather than urgent ones.

On the other hand, Paul Sawaya had no previous jobs until he decided to work with Roger but had similar entrepreneurship desires as his partner, making them an ideal combo that would accomplish great results in the future.

Paving the Road to Human Interest

Roger’s Thunder immediately succeeded, but like any other entrepreneur, he wanted more challenges. Upon meeting with fellow San Francisco native Paul Sawaya, they both realized that forming ideas was their most vital characteristic.

Their goal was to create something not focused on tech or helping other startups grow. Realizing that one day they will retire from active work, they decided to make their future after working more practical. Apart from doing it for themselves, they also wanted to help other businesses, focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises.

Using the funds generated from Roger Lee’s previous startup, Thunder, the duo quickly ventured into new waters of entrepreneurship. Both partners quickly sat down and started working on their new project. They were determined to help workers with high-quality retirement plans at low costs by assisting their workplace in providing them with better benefits in the future.

The startup was officially launched in 2015 as a digital 401(k) provider for SMEs, helping them create retirement plans for people in all lines of work, no matter the industry they performed in.

First Challenges & The Road to Greatness

As Roger and Paul’s new startup went live in 2015, challenges and obstacles were looming. First, the two partners were doubtful about which business they should focus on with their latest project. Since the breakthrough in the large-scale industry was hard from the start, the duo settled for small and medium businesses instead.

Then came the second obstacle - determining the plans the platform would offer. After a brief conversation, the duo came up with the intent to implement a built-in system that does the calculation for others because not everyone, especially not SMEs, has the time nor is an expert in finances.

The 401(k)s used to be very expensive, and the problem for the partners was to offer them at a low cost. The solution that the duo came up with was to allow all users to construct their own plans for retirement.

Despite these rough patches on several occasions, the power duo overcame them and rose to the top. Quickly after the final obstacle, the company, now named Human Interest, became the prime place for retirement plans in the United States.

The First Lucky Users

An innovative product is pointless if you don’t have anyone to buy or use it. Roger and Paul knew this, so they worked day and night to get their product on the market. They first offered it to small businesses and then expanded to medium-sized ones.

The first lucky users came from smaller businesses with no finances or a plan to help their retired workers after leaving. This made Human Interest an innovative product for most customers. Plus, it allowed them to form their own retirement plans, making them one of the cheapest 401(k)s in the US.

Soon after, other customers from various industries rushed to try the Human Interest service. Both partners were amazed by the popularity of their new platform, so they sat down to improve it and thus support all customers as fast as possible. Combining their expertise, Human Interest added way more features, such as build-in education, which the duo thought was needed as a major improvement.

The Evolution of Human Interest

After all recent improvements and the rise in popularity of their product, Roger and Paul decided it was time to take the company public. So far, Human Interest has raised $336.7 million through 8 funding rounds with 28 investors, out of which 9 are leading ones.

However, this company is still private, meaning they have yet to enter an Initial Public Offering. The official entrance to the IPO is expected sometime in 2023. And yet, even as a private entity, Human Interest managed to gain huge funds.

The seed round started in 2015, with the lead investor being Y Combinator. This round continued in 2016 when it reached $3.6 million from SV Angel and Uncork Capital. Series A was conducted two years after (2018) and brought Human Interest $12.7 million. This company made $15.4 million through Series B. The next round, Series C, stretched out through 2 years (2020 and 2021). The beginning brought an impressive $40 million but was soon followed by a slight decrease - rounding at $10 million. Nonetheless, Human Interest kept the same round opened through 2021 and managed to get $55 million.

The final funding round, Series D, happened in 2021 and brought this company $200 million from 11 investors. The leading capitalist was The Rise Fund.

According to PrivCo, this company has a post-money value between $1 billion and $10 billion.

How is the Company Doing Now?

Today, Human Interest and its founders, Roger Lee and Paul Sawaya are the industry-leading company for retirement plans for small and medium-sized businesses.

The company now counts over 1000 employees, including Paul and Roger, who remain working at Human Interest to this day. Roger still holds the role of co-founder and creator, while Paul remains the second co-founder and a member of the current Board of Members.

The company’s future looks more than bright, as Roger and Paul never imagined that they could help retired workers save for the future with just a few clicks on their website.

According to that, their plans are simple - keep improving Human Interest so that employees in every SME can finally enjoy first-hand the vast beaches and verdant mountains.