Sharesies is an investment platform that came through the very first Lightning Lab Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator programme early 2017. Their vision is to give someone with $50 the same investment opportunities as someone with $50,000. Having an investment portfolio is no longer just for the rich. Sharesies makes it easy to start investing – no jargon, $5 minimum buy-in and all online.

We spoke to founder, Sonya Williams about what community means to their team and what their startup journey has been like so far.

What has your journey been like to get to where you are now?

We started Sharesies this time last year after noticing that there was a gap for people starting out in the world of investing. The typical kiwi investing story focuses on ‘getting on the property ladder’. But, with property prices rising, homeownership is becoming less attainable and affordable. The reality is most kiwis will be unable to own their own home – even people earning really good money.  There needed to be an easier way for people to grow their wealth without needing a heap of money to get started.

We formed a team of seven of us, with the skills we needed to create Sharesies, and then entered the Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator to help us turn the idea into a business.

During the accelerator programme, we focused on developing an MVP and getting a product to market, as well as getting Sharesies ‘investment ready’. We launched our beta product in June this year and now have 7,500 active investors on the platform, who have invested over $3.5 million combined.

What does community mean to you and your team?

A community is about coming together with a shared purpose. And it means a lot to us. Specifically, this has meant the supportive community of advisors and mentors that have opened their doors to us and pointed us in the right direction when we needed it. It’s the community formed by our early customers being so open to giving feedback and helping us develop our product into something meaningful (and are continuing to help us do this). And our team, people in the startup community, and government organisations who support us to get where we need to go.

What did you learn about the community and its importance being apart of the KFA programme?

A big learning has been about how willing people are to help out, and also how important those networks are. With so many awesome people around, you don’t have to stew on a problem for too long, you just put the word out, and someone will know someone who has been in that situation (or a similar one) before and are willing to share their experience. And the KFA was great at making these connections.

When you’re starting a business there are so many new things that pop up, and you’re trying to do everything at once, so being able to get advice from people who have been there before is really valuable.

Over the last year, how have you built up an engaged community of investors around your product, Sharesies?

We started building a community around what we were doing, even before our product existed. Money is a part of everyone’s lives, but most people have a negative relationship with it. When you’re dealing with something like this it’s not all about the product, it’s also about the community you build around what you’re doing.

Most people don’t talk about money – but we learn best by communicating with each other. So it’s really been focused on telling stories in a very real way and helping facilitate those conversations.

What’s the most inspiring thing about being a founder?

It would have to be getting great feedback from our customers. It’s so cool when people go out of their way to share feedback about Sharesies and tell us how it is going for them.

What’s the most inspiring thing about being a founder?

It would have to be getting great feedback from our customers. It’s so cool when people go out of their way to share feedback about Sharesies and tell us how it is going for them.

How do you nourish a sense of unity in your team?

We all came together around wanting to solve a problem we all believed in. This creates a pretty strong sense of unity. We place a high importance on building culture and care for each other, which will be especially important as we start to grow the team too. We get a chance to create the type of company that we always wanted to work in, so we put a lot of thought into this.

What tools do you use every day? 

The main way we communicate is through Slack (as well as face-to-face). We use Trello for our roadmap and work planning, and a shared Google Drive for keeping all our docs in one place. For all of our customer communication, we use Intercom, which is the best!

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Kiwibank FinTech Accelerator: 2017
Sharesies: Investing made easy