Michael Giles

Regular StartupSmart readers will know Michael Giles from his “Aussie in the Big Apple” blog, where he describes his experiences as a start-up in New York.


Giles is now in the launch phase of his sharemarket-based business, Roboinvest. He explains how he’s getting on.


Can you explain the business’ concept?


Roboinvest is a social investing platform that allows you to “look over the shoulder” of top investors in real time.


We allow these top investors called “leaders” to accept followers who pay to see what they are investing in.


Running completely in the background, each trade made by the leader is automatically picked up by Roboinvest and instantly pushed to the web and mobile apps for their followers to see.


CNNMoney referred to us recently as a “broadcast-your-trades” system and we’re the first social investing platform to integrate with E*TRADE.


What gave you the idea for the business?

I’ve been working on a similar concept for about seven years, but most recently what made me think about the idea of Roboinvest happened while at college in New York.


My friends who knew I invested in the stock market would ask if I could invest their money for them which I wasn’t comfortable doing.


So I began telling my friends when I invested so they could follow what I do for themselves.


How have you funded the business?


I bootstrapped the company from its founding in September 2010 in Australia to July 2011 when we changed to a US corporation.


At this time we received an investment from Aftermath, which is a hybrid services and venture company based in New York.


Why did you head to the US?


I originally moved to the US for a study abroad program at a college in upstate New York in January 2011, and when this ended I made the decision to come back and move Roboinvest to the US and base it out of New York.


It’s the centre of the world for finance and financial technology and that’s where I’ve always wanted to be.


What has the experience been like there?


It’s been the greatest experience of my life, and the start-up scene in New York is booming.


The standout moments have been pitching to investors, iterating on the product based on their feedback and getting to that “uh-hah” moment where it eventually just clicked.


That’s when you know you are on to something.


How have you marketed the business?


We released our prototype in June this year, and have been working towards a close beta launch in a few weeks from now.


The extent of our marketing has been to obtain beta users and create partnerships with additional online brokers as well as top investors that have an existing following such as SmarTrend.


For the past few months it has been an iterative process of refining the product after our last major pivot in June.


What has been the hardest part of starting up?

The hardest part of starting up is obtaining enough funding with enough runway to get to the next stage, and then being able to attract the right people.


What are your ambitions for the business?

The immediate goals are to have a successful first month after our closed beta launch in a few weeks.


Following that I hope we can close a round of funding shortly after so that we can execute on our roadmap.


Ultimately, my goal is that Roboinvest changes the way people invest online.