When Roger Cawdette returned to the Harvard campus for his sophomore year in the fall of 2019, all his Gen Z classmates were jumping on a new social trend: investing. “Most of them were relying on their friends through group chats over text message, GroupMe, and Discord,” he says. Not so much Motley Fool or CNBC. “Seeing all of this and reflecting on our own experiences, we realized that there was a large opportunity to build a platform that would make investing more social.”
That opportunity is now Finary, a community for young investors backed by Upfront Ventures, Dash Fund, and Y Combinator. Roger dropped out to build what the team sometimes describes as “Discord for investing,” and says, “What makes the concept so exciting is the fact that by working to achieve this end, we’re also making the stock market a less scary, more appealing option for young people like us.”
Tell us about Finary’s decision to come to New York. What drew you in and what unique opportunities are you seeing unlocked so far?
New York is the financial capital of the world, and with us setting out to build the world’s best investing community, it seemed like the best place for us to set up our HQ. But beyond that, there was also the consideration of talent. Something that we’ve noticed is that many of our friends and a lot of the young talent coming out of universities are incredibly eager to work in New York. Considering this, the decision was clear.
What’s a key piece of early advice you’d want to give a new fintech founder on day one?
Learn as much as you can about DeFi right now. At Finary, we spend most of our time thinking about how consumers will interact with financial services in the future, but we’ve also started to think more about how the underlying mechanics of the technology itself will look as well, and it’s clear that decentralized finance will play a large part of that.
What are a few key documents and/or processes you’d suggest founders focus on at early stages? Tips for making them most effective?
I’ll always be a big fan of the core startup philosophies they teach at Y Combinator. Things like ‘make something people want,’ ‘do things that don’t scale,’ ‘raising money does not equal product market fit.’ So on that note, I’d highly recommend consuming a lot of the content from the YC Youtube channel and reading both Michael Seibel and Paul Graham’s blog posts.
What’s one thing you learned as you did your first few seed-round pitches? What do you think investors most want to see from fintech founders at this stage?
Founder-investor fit is real. Investors can be great at their job but not be the best fit for you and your company. I’d recommend looking for those who not only share your vision about your space but have also thought about it enough to excite you with their own vision. A lot of investors want to collaborate with founders, dig into the details, and get their hands dirty, not just write a check and come back in ten years. For us at Finary, we feel very grateful to be working alongside the teams at the Dash Fund and Upfront Ventures, they take an active approach to helping us grow this world of social investing.
What tools, resources, and communities should startups in this space know about?
Startups are incredibly hard, and that isn’t really advertised or made clear at the start. A big thing that I did when we were first starting out, and something that I still do, is consume a lot of content about other founders. In particular, I love listening to podcasts like Guy Raz’s How I Built This and Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale, and also reading books from successful founders and executives like Ben Horowitz and Bob Iger.
What fintech trends or predictions are you thinking about most right now?
Investing as a form of social capital, activity, and entertainment. The emergence of Wallstreetbets was a major inflection point in retail investing history in that it has really blown open the door to the world of social investing. The hype has died down a bit in the last few months, but we’re bullish about the space and its impact on pop culture in the long run.
I’ll also mention this point again, learn as much as you can about DeFi right now.