Investing as a hobby and profession has gotten more popular in recent years. Yet, not all digital platforms and established institutions make the effort to cater to women and Gen-Zers, who are a growing demographic in the investing world. These existing players’ oversight has led Anam Lahkani and Eve Halimi cofounded Alinea to take address this growing demographic. The New York City-based startup has raised $2.1m from Y Combinator, Goodwater, Harvard, Kima Ventures, Dragon Capital, and strategic investors such as Jonathan Cherki and Philippe Suchet.
Frederick Daso: Since launching, what prominent user behaviors have you been to observe, and have you had any ability to influence them via your “digestible bite-sized insights?”
Anam Lakhani: One of the biggest pain points Gen Z’s and first time investors experience is deciding what to invest in. Single stock picking is a cumbersome task since it often feels risky to allocate a large amount of money into one single company. To resolve this, we offer bite-sized insights which include the C-Suite, how a company makes money, and impact scores. Now we also offer stacks, bundles of stocks that reflect a particular theme or strategy – think playlists for investing.
With stacks, you can own anywhere from 30 to 9,000 companies in one click, allowing you to diversify your portfolio from the start. For example, on the Alinea app, you can invest in the Clean Energy Stack with 37 companies and the Global Market Stack with 9,063 companies from around the world. We also offer fractional shares so investors can start owning companies with as little as $1. Overall, Alinea makes it easy to invest in what matters to you.
Daso: What specific features have you gone on to develop that help Gen-Zs discover investments on Alinea? How have these features begun to change the way users invest on the Alinea app?
Lakhani: For new and young investors, getting started with investing is still very challenging. To overcome this obstacle, we created a guided onboarding process based on a customer’s experience level. For example, if a user is completely new to investing and doesn’t know where to start, we recommend investing in market stacks, which generally follow a piece of the market. It’s Warren Buffet-approved advice – “People are much better off buying a cross-section of America and just forgetting about it.” For beginners, we have a section on the app where users can select from a curated list of market stacks, including Global Market, Mid-Cap Companies, Small-Cap Companies, Top 500, and U.S. Stock Market. On the Alinea app, we also offer themed and industry stacks, including Cannabis, Clean Energy, Women-Led, Empower Minorities, and Innovation. Our users gravitate towards stacks first before entering into single stock picking – it’s a much safer behavioral pattern, especially for new investors.
Daso: There have been several prominent Gen Z influencers in the investing space. Given these young investors have an engaged fanbase, have there been any attempts to learn from them how they build their communities and transfer that learning into how Alinea functions for your average user?
Lakhani: It’s great to see the widespread presence of “finfluencers” (financial influencers), especially amongst Gen Z, and show that the conversation around finance and investing is truly becoming mainstream. Our main takeaway is the casual and motivating manner in which they communicate with their audience. They emphasize that investing is an essential part of financial health and something everyone can participate in. At Alinea, we’re super excited to see this conversation taking place on social media, and we’re conveying this message on the Alinea app. Investing is here to stay, and for Gen Z, it is more than just a way of generating financial returns. It’s championing causes and voicing opinions. Investing is another form of self-expression.
Daso: What has been the most unexpected but useful piece of feedback that you’ve gotten from users so far? How have you been able to incorporate such feedback into the development of Alinea?
Lakhani: Despite investing often being perceived as a technical judgment, the reality is it’s an emotionally charged decision. From getting started to managing your investments, it can be quite destructive if negative emotions get in the way. On the Alinea app, we ensure that you’re in a neutral, positive state from the moment you are onboarded, and we’ve done so by limiting the use of bright, triggering colors such as red and green. Our goal is to ensure decision-making on the Alinea app isn’t impeded by fear or anxiety. Going to quote Warren Buffet again – “It’s an easy game if you can control your emotions.” We’ve also observed that our users are interested in the impact of their investments, and that’s a part of the decision-making process, so we’ve incorporated impact scores for several stocks. We plan on expanding impact scores offering so our users can have much more transparency as they continue to make investments.
Daso: Have you been able to increase the speed of your iteration? If so, what core changes did you make internally to the teams to enable this?
Daniel Nissenbaum: Yes, with the new round of funding, we have scaled our engineering team and put in place first-class product design and software engineering practices. We have started iterating weekly to respond to customer pain points and continually optimize our investing experience. Strong automated testing and robust development practices enable us to quickly build and safely deliver a consistent stream of improvements for our users.
Daso: How has the team evolved since first launching?
Eve Halimi: Since launching on the App Store, we’ve not only grown our team, but we’ve solidified it. We’ve onboarded our incredible CTO, Daniel Nissenbaum, and our founding engineer, Ari Hirsh. Dan and Ari are also both Columbia University alumni and will lead the product and engineering team at Alinea. We’re super excited to have them onboard and ramp up our efforts to build the best investing app for Gen Zs.