Stash App Brings $5 Investments, and Advice, to Newcomers to Trading

The ebb and flow of the public markets gets a lot of attention these days, but to novices, understanding stock trading can be like picking up wet spaghetti barehanded.

On Wednesday, the Stash app made its public debut, giving advice on trading and letting people invest for as little as $5.

David Ronick (pictured above), CEO and co-founder, says New York-based StashInvest developed the app in response to a trend that troubled him and his fellow co-founders. “Our nephews and nieces are in their 20s and they don’t invest at all,” he says. “That worried us because investing historically has been one of the best ways to make money over the long-term.”

Ronick says traditional investing services can seem opaque to the general public, leaving them confused about what they are even investing in—especially if someone else is making decisions for them.

With Stash, people can make investments based on their personal beliefs, wants, and likes, he says, to make the process more relatable. For instance, someone concerned about the environment might choose to invest in the Clean & Green category. Underneath the hood though they are investing in the iShares S&P global clean energy index fund. The app lets users choose from some 30 types of investments, a move Ronick says offers them choice without becoming overwhelming.

The app also explains some of the concepts of the financial markets in layperson’s terms to help educate them about making investments. Users can buy fractional shares, which lets folks get started with just $5. Co-founder Brandon Krieg says Stash buys whole shares from the market, and then with clearing partner on the backend, allocates fractional shares to users’ accounts. “By owning fractional shares you still get dividends, so you aren’t missing out,” he says.

StashInvest is not alone though in trying to be a stepping stone for neophytes in investing. New York-based GoldBean, which demoed at last month’s New York Tech Meetup, also gives newcomers to stock trading a way to get a better grasp on buying and trading stocks.

In a way, Stash was inspired by methods used in the weight loss industry, Ronick says. The idea is to help investors take small steps, reach milestones, and develop solid investment habits.

As people sign up for Stash, they are scored on their financial risk, which screens potential investments so they only see things they can reasonably take on. “The user can’t override their risk profile,” Krieg says. Stash will also show users how others with similar risk profiles are investing through the app, he says. “We’re not trying to force people out of their comfort zone,” he says. “We want them to invest in ways they should be investing.”

Prior to StashInvest, Ronick co-founded CreatorBox, an alum of the Kaplan Techstars EdTech Accelerator. Krieg was a co-founder of EdgeTrade, an algorithmic trading company sold to Knight Capital. When Krieg later joined Macquarie Group, he met Ed Robinson, the third co-founder of Stash. The trio founded StashInvest in February.

StashInvest has raised $1.5 million so far from angel investors; its app is available on iOS with Android to follow in a couple of months.

Ronick says the team interviewed more than 100 other people who largely believed investing was confusing and expensive—something StashInvest thinks it can change. He also says 52 percent of Americans do not invest, especially folks under the age of 30, and do not have a lot of income. “Ironically they are the people who need the most help ensuring they have a secure financial future,” he says.

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