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Is The War For Retail Investors Over? Not So Fast, Says PersonaFi
PersonaFi, lead by Ken Mooso, gives Robinhood a run for their money
Ken Mooso (BTW, a world-class DJ), hails from the world of finance. He worked in the space for > 12 years, specifically in wealth management for affluent individuals, and was the only dropout in the company to rise high in the ranks of “God’s calling”. While in the industry, he didn’t like how banks invested people’s money, saying there was all sort os of exorbitant charges/fees and misleading clients to milk a bit more cash out of them. On top of that, banks would just funnel clients’ capital into cookie cutter portfolios. All of these problems stacking up lead to Ken getting sick and tired of the corporate finance world, and turned his attention to (the lack of) social investing, in which he started PersonaFi. With that context, let’s dive into why Ken & his team think the social investing space hasn't been tackled.
Why Hasn’t Anyone Mastered Social Investing?
Ken points to multiple companies over the last decade (dating back to the early 2010s) that have attempted this problem. All fell flat on their face, and there are multiple reasons why:
Post financial crisis. The recession of ‘08 had just hit, and nobody was going to dip their toes into yet another social platform given its saturation, let alone a social investing platform.
Timing was off. Social media was still in its infancy in the early 2010s. Facebook was only at 608M users by the end of the year (a far cry from its now > 2.9B). Friendster was hot and had just been acquired the year before by a Malaysian e-payment company in ‘09, and had a steady 115M users. Club Penguin was one of the hot kids on the block too, having just sold to Disney for $700M. Foursquare had just launched, and immediately went viral, growing at an astounding 3,400% YoY. Tagged had > 100M users, before being acquired. StumbleUpon (respect, Garret Camp) had rocketed to 12M users, before quickly becoming a shell of itself (and Garret founding Uber). And MySpace’s rapid decline had begun; in 2010, it had hit its lowest point in users, just 2 years after it was crowded the largest social networking platform over Zucks Facebook. Clearly, social was not mature.
The smart phone (miss you, Steve). This is wild to me. The fact smartphone’s are relatively new technology (last decade or so). The mobile interface was not mainstream yet. In fact, Apply was coming off a year in ‘09 in which they only had 28M users?!?!
VC’s had a say. Robinhood in fact had a vision of social investing (IE, the mantra of championing for the retail investor). However, when Vlad and Baiju took this model to the bay area, it was rejected. Instead, VC’s pointed the fledgling startup to the broker/dealer path. We know how that played out.
What Does PersonaFi Look Like at Scale?
Despite Robinhood’s current image to the retail investor community, they took off due to the “screw Wall Street bros” mantra. To this day, that resonates with the creator and gig economy community (those who don’t want to work the traditional 9-5), and is a big reason why Mooso’s startup has gotten off to a very solid start themselves. As of this writing, PersonaFi is boasting a highly engaged community of > 6,000 users, and is > 6 figures in ARR. Ken mentions the company is starting to roll out new features to blitz-scale getting more users & a viral loop on the platform, IE their latest rollout of cultivating a place for micro content creators to come grow their audience & monetize in the world of social investing.
Ken doesn’t see this trend going away anytime soon, and the numbers agree with him. He envisions PersonaFi becoming the go-to investment information platform for the younger demographic. Traditional media outlets like Fox, CNN, CNBC, and co are out of touch with the younger demographic. Moreover, that same cohort of people are making choices on what they buy, eat, wear, and live more and more based on influencers they follow on social platforms. PersonaFi is betting the stocks people buy will also have a similar dynamic, IE influencer driven.
What Do You Like Most About JamPad & What’s Been Most Helpful?
Ken is a huge advocate of the infrastructure JamPad has put in place for the startup scene in Arizona, pointing to how it’s become an “oasis for the best local (AZ) founders” that have major league startup chops. The camaraderie of pirates all in a dense part of the valley (Tempe, Scottsdale, and Arcadia) brings a ton of value, especially a support system while founders company-build, which has been most helpful to Ken.
It’s an exciting time for PersonaFi. They’re in product growth mode, looking to attract more users in creative ways to build out their vision. On top of that, they just closed a WeFunder pre-seed of > $600K. It’ll be interesting to see how they multiply their user base in the coming months while maintaining the level of engagement they have currently (it’s off the charts, says Ken). Onwards, PersonaFi!