Profile: Kerim Derhalli, CEO & Founder, invstr

What’s your background in finance?
I got into finance straight from university. Between 1983 and 2008, the industry went through a remarkable period of growth driven by declining regulation, increased leverage, tremendous product innovation, the opening up of new markets as the world got flatter, and increased trading volumes, especially by hedge funds.

My career took me all over the world – I lived in Tokyo, Singapore, New York and London and travelled everywhere else in between! I was lucky enough to meet a lot of very smart people with very diverse backgrounds. The things I enjoyed most were interacting with clients and colleagues and learning new skills in the many roles I performed.

I built and ran businesses in Foreign Exchange, Fixed Income, Credit, Commodities, Equities and Emerging Markets. I learned that when we can come together with a common purpose, motivated teams can achieve remarkable things.

Tell us about invstr?  How long did the platform take to develop?
Our mission is to democratise access to financial information and promote financial education. The financial world is changing. Money matters to all of us and yet the financial industry has yet to experience the social revolution that has fundamentally transformed the way we live other aspects of our lives. We have all become better informed.

We like to share our experiences and learn from others. We like to feel empowered to make informed decisions for ourselves. These experiences have taught us to be more independent and social at the same time. Within the financial industry this is being reflected in an unstoppable trend towards self-directed investing. The experience of the financial crisis has also made us more suspicious of allowing other people to manage our money: 83 per cent of people in the UK trust either themselves or no one to manage their money!

We set up the business in early 2013. We are headquartered in London with a development office in Istanbul. We have 20 full-time employees and several consultants. We started serious work on the development of the app in November 2013 and launched a live beta product in August 2014. We launched globally on iOS8 and Android in December 2014. We currently have live iPhone, iPad and Android phone and tablet apps in the App Store, Google Play and Amazon App Store.

What’s the big selling point of the invstr app?
We believe that there are three things that as investors we all want: access to high quality information, the ability to communicate seamlessly with a community of like minded people and insights that will help us make money. invstr delivers all three things through a mobile first, pay-as-you-go, multi-source, cloud-based platform.

invstr is the first app to deliver market data and news that was previously only available to users of expensive subscription terminals directly to mobile devices. With invstr, financial professionals and independent investors have expansive, on-demand access in one app to live market data, news from leading financial outlets and sophisticated research reports – as well as a transformational crowdsourced predictive marketplace that helps investors gauge market convictions in real time.

What information does this app provide that people otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford/have access to?
• Live on-demand market data on 70,000 individual stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities, as well as millions of delayed priced instruments from markets around the world
• Completely free financial news database that enables users to search and read articles in Dow Jones News, including the Wall Street Journal & Barrons, The Financial Times and other leading outlets
• Research reports on more than 60,000 listed companies available on-demand
• Market predictions on individual stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities from other users through a unique crowdsourcing function
• Social networking and encrypted messaging functionalities that allow users to share information and chat

Who’s going to buy the app and spend money on in-app purchases?
The invstr app is free to download, though users are able to pay for premium content and game enhancements. Accessing a research report costs between $0.99 and $4.99. Market commentaries are 5 cents each. Real-time data on stocks or bonds are 1 cent, per security, per day. For the first time, the most casual investor, student or the financially motivated can access financial information on an affordable per need basis.

Doesn’t it still require knowledge of how financial markets work and how to manage money — how can this app be useful for the average person?

The app is designed to demystify the financial markets. We use gamification to create a fun learning experience and we provide access to all the resources that people might need to understand the financial markets. By making it a social experience, we also provide invstr members with the ability to learn and share insights with each other. Users can play, learn and share their views by making predictions on the invstr game, keeping up to date with market data and news, and joining topic discussions in our social network that is open to professionals, independent investors and students.

What’s the advantage of it being an app? 
The financial markets move every second of the day. the invstr mobile app means that we can all be connected to what is going on in the world and how people are reacting all the time, wherever we are. As a native iOS and Android app, invstr offers a social mobile experience for the financial markets that we have become accustomed to from other social networks.

You’ve spoken about democratising access to financial information — is that really realistic?
Yes. The invstr app is free and provides in-depth financial news, market price predictions, real-time market data and sophisticated research reports that until now were only available to users of expensive subscription tools.

What’s take-up been like in the UK?
The feedback from customers has been incredibly positive. We have launched globally on iOS and more recently on Android, Amazon and Blackberry OS. Since invstr launched globally last month on iPhone and Android devices, the app has been downloaded nearly 50,000 times. The UK is our second largest market after the US.