Would you try this app out?
We spoke to Kerim Derhalli who is the founder and CEO of invstr, the award-wining financial education app helps users take charge of their financial future in a fun and social way. Derhalli has more than 30 years’ experience in finance and has held managing director roles at major institutions including JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank. Take a look at what he had to say…
1. For those who don’t know what is invstr?
invstr is a financial education app which helps people learn how to become great investors in an easy, fun and accessible way. Our mission is to make finance social by democratising access to information and empowering everyone to take charge of their financial future.
At invstr we believe that we are all natural investors – we are born with an understanding of up, down and the human emotions that drive financial markets. We make investments with our time, energy or money every day. Each time we cross the road we make a calculated risk-reward decision.
Learning to become a great investor is just like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport. We need to get fit, practice our skills and perform.
invstr helps people get financially fit by firstly helping users to understand what is going on in the world from the 50 newswires, RSS feeds, research reports and calendars of economic and corporate events. It then allows users to follow the markets with streaming real-time data on 1500 stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities from all around the world and historical, comparison and technical charting. Thirdly, it adds the social element by allowing people to talk to other people through chat, group chat, public community forums and the social feed.
The app itself allows players to practice investing skills through two games. There’s an investment game, which helps users judge whether a financial instrument is going up or down; and there’s a prediction game, which helps users determine how far an instrument is going up or down.
Finally, invstr allows players to perform for real through a fractional share ownership which means that even with £20 we can start to build and manage diversified portfolios.
invstr has been downloaded more than 200,000 times and we now have users in over 160 countries.
2. How did you come up with the idea behind your business?
After 30 years in the financial markets I realised that money is entirely digital and markets are just about people. So, it seemed obvious to use social technology to connect people to both information and each other and to build a community that everyone could benefit from.
Since inception, the app has developed at an excitingly quick pace and we’ve now branched out to provide a wealth of market information – which is often hidden behind paywalls and specialist providers – as well as provide fun tournaments which engage people who wouldn’t normally get involved in finance.
3. What’s your USP?
Finance has this image as a stuffy world, open only to a privileged few. invstr is shattering that myth and bringing the world of finance and investing to the masses.
invstr is a unique learning tool in that it combines engaging trading games, with a wealth of easy-to-use information and a social element that young people can relate to. Being free to play, it provides a way to learn about investing without the potential pitfalls of losing reams of cash.
4. How do people get involved with the app? Is it free?
The app is available and free to download on both Apple and Android – as mentioned above, we’ve already achieved 200,000 downloads and continue to grow the player base.
We’ve also recently launched the Student Investing Championship, an initiative for students from across the globe which helps them to learn about investing while also helping those interested in finance with their job prospects, through demonstrable skills, networking events and by providing insight into the industry. The students taking part in the trading game tournament have already been proving their excellent talents; in the inaugural championship, the top eight students turned over $13.5bn in virtual trades and took 140,000 different trading positions between them.
5. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about going into business?
Trading and investment is a perfect analogy for the way that business will challenge any entrepreneur. While the trades are going well, life as an investor is easy – but how do you deal with that one bad trade which could wipe out all of the positive progress that has gone before? Business, much like investment, is about taking those failures, learning, and having the confidence to get up and keep going.
6. What’s been the company’s biggest success?
We’ve had numerous successes in invstr’s relatively short existence, but we’re incredibly proud of the tremendous feedback we’ve received from users all over the world. invstr is opening up new possibilities for many people who never thought of investing and being involved in financial markets.
We are also delighted with the response to the Student Investing Championship. We have students from over 100 leading universities involved, and some of them are performing exceptionally well.
The tournament is paving the way for some really exciting developments at invstr, such as the development of an in-app academy which will be packed with learning tools and educational information for people looking to learn more about finance.
7. Have you won any awards?
We were delighted to be crowned Most Innovative Finance App 2017 at the Corporate LiveWire Innovation & Excellence awards, which recognise the most innovative, ground-breaking and client-focussed companies who have transformed the way in which we do business.
We were also ranked ahead of all our major competitors in a Yahoo Finance and Moneywise review of financial apps. That included some of the blue-chip names of financial technology.
8. What failures have you faced? How did you get through it?
For us, the user experience is hugely important and we are determined to make invstr as fun and easy to use as possible. The current version of the app is the third version we have launched, and after each previous version we learned a lot of lessons.
Last summer we changed the entire app navigation, games, social functionality, how we deliver the information, our logo, strapline and colour. I think the only thing that stayed the same was the name.
We are determined to carry on innovating to empower as many people as possible to take charge of their financial future.
9. What do you think is the best feature within the app? What will consumers find most useful?
The best feature is the sense of ease and confidence that the app will give anyone who is interested or curious about the financial markets. It’s transforming that experience from one which was traditionally daunting, dull or both to one that is easy, fun and social. That’s what invstr is all about.
It’s important to understand that all the different features such as the investment game, the social elements and the investment information, need to have the best possible user interface and experience. If the app wasn’t so simple to use, and easy to navigate, all of the various areas would be greatly diminished. That’s the reason we place so much emphasis on the design and usability of the interface.
10. Where do you hope, the business will go in the future?
At invstr, we’re driven to expand our reach and help more people to become enthused and interested in investing and finance. Our strapline is “Take Charge, Make Change” – we want to inspire others to do that very thing.
In the near future, we will be adding our real trading capability, perform
ance stats to help people understand more about their own investment style, an in-app Academy to help people learn more about investing in a fun way and the ability for investment clubs to host their own competitions on the app.
From our beginnings as an app, we’re already branching out and doing more to spread the word; we’re in universities teaching students about investing and helping them to use the app, we have student ambassadors who are acting as sounding boards for others who are unsure about getting involved in finance, and we’re reaching out to people of all ages by growing awareness of our service. Then, of course, there is the Student Investing Championship which is providing another way to engage with students from the UK and across the world.
We’ll continue to develop the app platform, bringing in new features and ensuring the user experience is as good as it can possibly be.