Covestor Looks to Disrupt Investment Industry with “Mirror” Marketplace

3/26/12Follow @gthuang

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what Advani calls a “trade replication engine,” was in place, but the company focused on getting traction before worrying too much about making money. By 2010, Covestor had about 30,000 users and entered its next phase of growth.

The startup is venture-backed to the tune of about $11 million by Union Square Ventures, Spark Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, and other investors. Its 20-some employees are spread between New York, Boston, London, and Israel. Advani came in as CEO last summer, through his relationship with Spark’s Todd Dagres, a director of the company.

Advani had previously founded CircleLending, a peer-to-peer loan service, in the early 2000s. That Boston-area firm became Virgin Money USA when Richard Branson’s Virgin Group acquired a majority stake. From there, Advani went on to serve as a general manager for Thomson Reuters, where he led teams in new media markets and financial advisor products.

With his background in financial services, new media, and IT, Advani has been working to reposition Covestor as a marketplace and media company that brings transparency to the economics of investing. “We have something no other money management firm does—we’re a platform and a marketplace,” he says.

To that end, Covestor also contributes articles and content—on topics like what its money managers are investing in—to The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, Benzinga, Outbrain, and Yahoo Finance, says Advani. The company acts as a sort of social-media partner for its managers and investment advisors by marketing their brands through blogs, events, and other channels, he says.

Covestor is coming off a free, two-day online conference that it hosted last week, called Next Invest. The goal was to capture what some of the biggest financial conferences do—bringing in high-profile speakers and convening top investors—but also make it more accessible as the “industry’s first virtual conference,” Advani says.

All of this fits with the idea that Covestor is trying to disrupt the broader investment industry with an expanding network of managers and media outlets. But it’s still very early in that game, and Advani is clearly focused on the more immediate challenges that lie ahead.

“We’re growing,” he says. “I’m raising a round.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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