Apps / Education / Finance / Investing / Retail

Meet Amira Invest, built by former finance pros for the rest of us

Regular Joes, this app is for you, cofounders Joseph Hirschi and Joshua Lancaster say.

A look at the Amira Invest platform. (Courtesy photo)
In a post-Robinhood and Gamestop world, personal retail investment is taking on a new role for those attempting to take control of their own portfolio.

But it’s not quite so easy as ditching mutual funds or throwing some coin to Bath and Body Works on a whim. And while answers abound across the internet, on the 2022 web, there’s a lot of content to sift through — and it’s even harder to tell who, uh, actually knows what they’re talking about?

That’s where Amira Invest comes in, said Joseph Hirschi, a former analyst with roles at powerhouses like Capital One.

“The average investor isn’t a professional, so they don’t necessarily have a ton of experience or time to really research,” which comes with a “stigma” in the wider investing world, Hirschi told — “which we think is very unfortunate because the access that people have to the markets is really unprecedented right now and it’s really empowering.”

So, his startup is helping people take the next step: Amira Invest, which is set to launch Feb. 15, is a platform to share information about retail investment. Users can follow trusted content creators and see what they post directly on Amira, as well as any relevant YouTube, Reddit, Substack, Twitter or other social media posts they might make, all in one place.

The general idea, Hirschi said, is to inform people interested in retail investment and provide an environment for crowdsourced ideas and “social” investing.

“We’re not financial advisors; the people on the platform aren’t advisors,” Hirschi said. “But, we can provide a window and let you see how an experienced, successful person is doing it, and that probably will give you a good place to start.”

The app offers a direct subscription model for content creators, so they’re paid per subscriber. In addition to direct follows, users can also search specific topics to find information and new creators who specialize in specific topics — say, energy or tech. But there’s also an added level of transparency: Creators actually display their investment portfolio right on the platform so users can see what they’re trading. Users will even be able to receive alerts when people they’re following make trades.

We're establishing an ecosystem where trust can be built and relationships between the content creator and the consumer can be relationships which can be formed over time.

This transparency, cofounder Joshua Lancaster said, means users can have more trust in the creators, knowing whether or not they’re following their own advice.

“We want to help to eliminate or help at least start parsing through that bias that people may end up having,” Lancaster said, “by establishing an ecosystem where trust can be built and relationships between the content creator and the consumer can be relationships which can be formed over time.”

When it comes to self-taught retail investment, Lancaster, who spent the last few years working at Virginia management firm EJF Capital, thinks there’s also an added personal level to the practice. Many of these people creating content and educating the public are still working full-time jobs, sometimes in the very industry they’re investing in — and “who better to talk about SaaS and software companies than the people using it?” Lancaster pointed out.

“I honestly believe that some of these people’s content is better than the research that you see on Wall Street,” he said. “They’re thinking about it deeper.”

Amira is running through Amazon Web Services and was built on Python, as well as a few data stores. The mobile app will be available on both Android and iOS, although post-launch it’ll only be available to users on the waitlist on a rolling basis; Hirschi estimates just under 1,000 awaiting users so far, based on the waitlist and social media followings.

Following the rollout, which he expects to continue through March, the pair plan to open a seed round in the second quarter. It’s been funded so far by a friends and family round.

But on the whole, both Hirschi and Lancaster see a big opening in the retail investment world as more information becomes available and more and more people seek to be in control of their own holdings.

“People want to be more involved in their finances,” Lancaster said. “They don’t want it to just be robots; they have opinions, they have thoughts, they want to be more involved as part of this.”

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