Dietzen said that in addition to riding a sea change in an industry, having a way to deliver a product that's at least 10 times more valuable than what's already on the market, and working with a strong team are vital as well, "because only that combination of things can pull it off," Dietzen said.
Offering a product that's new and cheaper than competitors' products helps as well, according to Hardeep Walia, CEO of Motif Investing, a company whose investing "motifs" work like exchange-traded funds.
"A motif, which is a 30-stock basket you could buy at a traditional online broker, could cost you $300. It only costs us $9.95 and for us it's a high-margin business," Walia said. "We have advantages over traditional products in that we're transparent, customizable and definitely low cost, and that just gives you a lot of opportunity to compete on different fronts."
Read MoreCould the next 'worst-case-scenario investor' be you?