Today, I thought I’d try something a little different. Part of the reason for starting our website was to connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and investors, and we’ve been doing just that. With that in mind, we are launching our new “Friends of the Falcon” segment, where we will share the stories and opinions of those we meet on our journey. Whether it be inviting them here for guest posts or discussing their businesses, our friends are now your friends.
To get us started, I sat down (ok, exchanged emails) with Thomas Beattie for an interview. Thomas is the CEO of the newly launched investment club app Voleo. Seeing as how we are an investment club ourselves, I thought this would be a perfect match.
In short, Voleo is a mobile-first investing platform that virtually recreates the investment club experience, allowing users to quickly form clubs and invest with friends, all via their smart phone. Thomas shares with us how he got started building an investment club app, how Voleo can help Millennials get into the stock market, his best and worst investing advice, and his love of Peregrine Falcons. Read on to see my entire interview with Mr. Beattie.
Sean: Thomas, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. To get things kicked off, what is your background and how did you get started with the idea for Voleo?
Thomas: I describe myself as a recovering investment banker, which is my way of making light of my early career path while communicating that I have a strong work ethic and am driven to advance projects I am passionate about.
The Voleo idea originated in the mind of a clever securities lawyer, who fatefully showed me his basic prototype on an iPhone 4 a couple of years ago. As ugly as that prototype was, I was immediately drawn to it, and saw huge potential for a polished version. What struck me was how it could be useful to a broad cross-section of the population, each of which will have a different rationale for joining and yet benefit from splitting costs and building portfolios.
Are you currently, or have you ever been in your own investment club?
I actually tried to start an old-school investment club when I graduated from university. The paperwork was several inches thick and trying to corral eight people into filling out their stack and visiting a notary to have their ID verified was all too much for my friends.
So despite the fact I worked for a brokerage firm, the club I dreamt of starting failed to launch…which is why I was so excited about being able to build Voleo. Being able to sign up and manage your own portfolio on your phone so easily is going to change how people look at investing. I’m very excited that Voleo is the first to bring this solution to the masses.
What would you name your club if had started one?
MyVoleo, of course 😉
Duh. Haha. Speaking of names, how did you come up with the name for your investment club app?
We used a crowdsourced naming contest to generate ideas, and while Voleo was not among them it was definitely inspired by that exercise. The word is a phonetic play on ‘voting portfolio’, which completely makes sense once you hear it. One day we hope that everyone will be talking about their Voleo and taking advantage of market opportunities.
Voting+Portfolio=Voleo. Mind… Blown… Somehow I didn’t put that together on my own…
Anyway, do you think investment clubs can really help a new generation of millennial investors get started, or should we just leave the club scene to our fathers?
I strongly believe that everyone should start investing for their financial future as early as possible, as we only get one shot to leverage compounding returns. Those who start investing at 25 instead of 35 end up with way more money at retirement, regardless if they put away a little or a lot each month. Take someone who invests $500 per month starting at age 25, and compare him or her to someone who invests $1000 per month starting at age 35.
Assuming an 8% rate of return growing in a tax-deferred account, at age 65 the early investor has roughly $1.7 million, while the late investor has about $1.5 million…despite the early investor putting aside less money ($240,000 vs. $360,000) over the course of his or her life. If that early investor had put aside the same $1,000 each month from age 25, they’d have a whopping $3.4 million!
Life today for the millennial generation is expensive, there’s no doubt. Even so, financially preparing oneself for the future isn’t an option, that’s why we’ve lowered the barrier to entry by making it possible for people to pool their funds, that way they can get into the markets with less than they thought. When I speak to young people about the reasons they are not investing it always comes down to the same four reasons:
- I don’t have enough money
- I don’t have enough knowledge
- I don’t have enough time
- I am afraid
By combining your money and knowledge and gathering investment insights from your friends and peers, the process becomes an enjoyable one, game-like with a competitive angle; who propose and votes for the best trades?
Voleo provides notable tangible benefits like split brokerage commissions (never paying more than $4 each on a trade) and portfolio diversity thanks to combined resources and insights. It’s worth noting that while robo-advisors do lessen the fees you pay for portfolio management, they still take 10-20% of your wealth over time, a significant amount of money that we believe should stay with the investor.
Our community is the other major difference from traditional investment clubs. Because our patented platform knows how each person voted on a proposed trade, users can leverage Voleo as a learning tool. By managing the hypothetical positions that would have existed if the group had voted with you, you can see what would have happened if everyone had listened to you. We call this a DROID score (definitive return on investment decisions), and you can’t cheat the system. This also enables the top performers to be followed so that others in the community can take those ideas and validate them with their own trusted peers.
What is the best investing advice you’ve received or can share?
“Build a diversified portfolio!”
I made the mistake of concentrating in a sector that I thought I knew a lot about, and when that sector corrected it was an expensive lesson. The amazing part is that I knew better than to do that, as every finance book tells you to diversify and not to put too much of your wealth in the same business or sector that you work in; “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.
What was missing were my friends and family, who have different knowledge; if we’d been working as a team they would have been able to contribute ideas across more sectors. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about Voleo.
The other thing I’d like to share is that there are no shortcuts; if something seems too good to be true, it most likely carries risk commensurate with the possible returns.
What is the worst?
“Let’s put it all on [INSERT STOCK HERE].”
Placing all of your money on one stock is almost as bad as walking into a casino. Yes, if you had put your money into Amazon shares fifteen years ago you would have won the proverbial lottery, but if you had put it into Lehman Brothers shares you’d have nothing.
Diversify across sectors and companies to lower your ‘specific’ risk (and be aware that you are still exposed to ‘systematic’ risk which is changes in the market as a whole).
Now to the hard hitting questions. What is your favorite breed of falcon?
I would have to say the peregrine, as they are so unbelievably fast. If you haven’t seen Planet Earth II, you have to watch the final ‘Cities’ episode where they hunt among New York’s skyscrapers. #awesome
When it comes to birds of prey I also admire the bald eagle and the way they calmly soar the skies. May you have both on your team 😉
I tried to throw you a curveball, and you still turned it into a life lesson. Well played, Thomas! What’s next for Voleo?
We are in soft-launch through our wholly-owned subsidiary, Voleo USA, which recently completed registration across all 50 states. Readers can learn more at http://l.voleousa.com/falcon, which directs to the appropriate app store or site for your device.
We’re also planning a national, simulated university equity trading competition in collaboration with a major US stock exchange…stay tuned!
Anything else to add that I forgot to ask?
Not necessarily but I’ll add that Brooke Harrington, author of Pop Finance and a leading authority on traditional investment clubs, identified a ‘diversity premium’: Clubs that consisted of both men and women outperformed teams of all men or all women by a staggering 2% per year. That could add a lot to your wealth over the course of your lifetime!
I think what Thomas is trying to say is, we are counting on you Amanda!
A huge thanks to Thomas for sharing his thoughts with us! It’s been great chatting with him over the past few weeks, and learning more about Voleo. Expect more to come with us and Voleo as well.
Lastly, be sure to head over to http://l.voleousa.com/falcon to learn more and get signed up. While we already slogged our way through starting Sneaky Falcon, this great investment club app would certainly have saved us time and made things much easier! If you are thinking about forming a club, now is your chance!