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Upside Is Reimagining What Stock Trading Means for Retail Investors

Answers provided by Robin Harrison, CTO at Upside Technology

Upside is reimagining what stock trading means for retail investors, layering in tools and techniques from the world of portfolio management rather than encouraging users to deposit quickly and trade blindly. We encourage users to engage with a stream of insights, building a considered view on the companies they watch. From these ideas we help them structure an optimally weighted bespoke portfolio. We help users avoid bad habits, and aim to establish the feedback loops that can see them improve over time.

Tell us about yourself?

I went from a Computer Science degree into a front-office software development role in an investment bank. After seven years in this environment building interesting solutions to quite narrow problems, I sought challenges with greater possibilites (from both product and technical perspective). That lead me through a fashion aggregator, a carbon emissions trading house, an app focussed on handling small business financial tasks, and a sports betting exchange. With each of these I found myself increasing less focussed on hands-on software engineering and more focussed on elements of engineering management, hiring, architecture, partnerships and strategy, culminating in me taking on CTO roles. Through the majority of my roles I’ve been involved with finance or fintech, and that’s allowed me to see some real gaps and complacencies.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Build more, minimally, sooner. A few things we over-thought or over-engineered. There’s a lot of value in building the simplest thing that gets you quick answers to questions in the real world with real users. No amount of time in front of a whiteboard or code editor can replace that.

What problem does your business solve?

Retail investors have never had easier or (on the face of it) cheaper access to the markets. But very few of these trading platforms put the right intentional friction in place to make sure investors are expressing their true views. If any ‘research’ is done before these trades, it is at best taken from a disparate and unstructured array of sources, and at worst it’s based on anonymous online tips or passing comments from friends. There is a lot of retail money deployed in the markets, and it deserves to be invested more intentionally and wisely.

What is your magic sauce?

Our magic sauce has a number of ingredients, mainly: the proprietary scoring and feedback mechanisms that have been honed over a five-year period in real-world conditions, our conviction that adding counter-intuitive intentional friction has massive benefits for the investor, and a lean modern engineering function full of talented developers able to deliver features at pace.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

We believe that a huge number of investors across the many (non-differentiated) trading platforms would see huge benefits in investing their money through Upside instead. That gives us a huge starting target within the UK market, but naturally we look to Europe and the US as further market destinations. Other asset classes will follow, and we will broaden the offering to individuals at different stages of their personal wealth and investment journey. Beyond that, we have many plans for what the platform could enable, including the creation of a marketplace for investment ideas where users with real skill and predictive power could be compensated for their involvement.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Given the initial inspiration, we actually targeted the creation of an Investment Idea marketplace before we targeted the retail space directly. This came with the challenge of trying to get a tripartite platform off the ground from zero, with all the associated questions about which user base comes first to attract which other etc. The current approach allows us to address more directly a real need in a single user base.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

We have yet to turn on the execution element of the journey, but our app is now live with most of the features we want to layer in before that. Anyone interested can try the app now, see for details. We’re looking for feedback into what’s there now and feature suggestions for what would layer well on top.

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