Startups

After shuttering TwentyTables, Alex Cohen is building a retail investment platform

After closing the meal delivery service in March, Cohen teamed with cofounders to create The Terminal. The social platform aims to offer advice and education for retail investors.

It’s official: following a year like no other, DC meal delivery service TwentyTables has closed its doors. Now, cofounder Alex Cohen is building a platform to serve retail investors.

After four years, Cohen quietly shuttered TwentyTables in March 2021 with no plans to reopen, he told Technical.ly, citing pandemic market losses. In May 2020, the company had successfully pivoted to serving meals to hospitals and frontline workers and received an award from the US Chamber of Commerce for best corporate steward for small and midsize businesses. Ultimately, though, Cohen said he decided the company would be unable to continue on long-term. Prior to the pivot, the app was initially designed to offer fixed-price meals from local restaurants, and in the past had partnered with DC-area universities.

“We pretty immediately recognized the long-term impact that this was going to have,” Cohen said. “University fell away, local restaurant dining fell away and that’s the bridge that we were serving.”

But the end of TwentyTables was not the final chapter in entrepreneurship for Cohen. With the closure of the startup, Cohen said he spent some time reflecting on what his next move would be before landing in, of all places, the Reddit retail investment revolution — think the AMC and Gamestop escapades of early 2021. After becoming a leader in a well-known stock forum on the platform (he declined to share which one specifically), hosting a few AMAs and talks with leaders on market trends and structures, he decided to pursue a full-fledged startup on the topic: The Terminal.

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The Terminal is the flagship product of Urvin Finance, where Cohen is a cofounder and COO. The financial company is intended to be a social platform for retail investment, offering advice, data and education opportunities for individual investors. Loosely, retail investment refers to individual parties making investments for themselves, instead of decisions on behalf of a company, organization, fund or other entity.

In an ongoing crowdfunding round, alongside cofounders Dave Lauer (CEO) and Zachary David (CTO), Cohen and The Terminal have raised almost $1.4 million from 1,500 investors via Wefunder.

“Really [The Terminal] is a three-legged stool that builds upon all of our experience over this past 10 months of engaging with retail investors at a very deep, very granular level,” Cohen said. “And what that stool is, is professional quality data and tools, the likes of which retail currently doesn’t have access to.”

On top of offering general investment advice, which fellow users can comment and offer their thoughts on, Cohen said an important aspect of The Terminal is its education component, infused across the platform. The company intends to incorporate things like information bubbles with definitions that pop up with keywords, like “rehypothecation” and “short-selling.”

There will also be a video component, with live discussions and AMAs, as well as recorded information sessions and Ask the Expert portals to create a more interactive learning experience.

“[Information-sharing] is a very collaborative process that is just beginning, because all of the forums, all of the spaces where this collaboration is occurring is not native to the type of activity that’s actually being conducted,” Cohen said. “So with our platform, what we’re trying to do is create a more native environment for this sort of use case, which we found to be very common and really at the forefront of what’s driving new engagement from retail investors. ”

Going forward, Cohen said, the company anticipates rolling out an alpha version in the first quarter of next year, early Q2 for beta and a live launch in late Q2 or early Q3. The Terminal has also already begun hiring Blazer coders. He said it already hired the core development team, but will continue staffing up as the company grows.

As the leaders build the company, one of the most important aspects of The Terminal, Cohen said, is its attempt to push for equality in investing and offer resources to boost access. It’s an ideal which he said is built into the platform given the crowdfunding aspect in which investors received equity, and will be crucial since he only sees retail investment growing.

“We intend to bring that drumbeat into this new environment on behalf of retail investors because they’re not being serviced, they’re not being represented accurately in many different ways,” Cohen said. “Because we know them and we are them and we’ve been with them, we feel that as a block retail investors are not going away…it’s [been] too long that large institutions have been able to siphon off minuscule amounts but tremendous profits off the backs of pension funds, off the backs of individuals. So, this is what we’re trying to do, this is what we’re trying to accomplish.”

People: Alex Cohen
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