This past year introduced many casual observers to the expanding world of retail investing, alongside new phrases such as “meme stock” and “non-fungible token.” According to Shivansh Padhi, the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a boom of retail trading activity on major online brokerage platforms like Robinhood, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab. Enabled by these online platforms, more young people began engaging directly with the stock market, buying and selling shares in America’s publicly traded companies.
Yet, America’s trade amateurs are at a disadvantage compared to professional investors who have access to better information and more sophisticated data analysis tools. Padhi, co-founder and CEO of Aventure Trading and BC ’21, aims to change that.
“We’re taking what institutions are doing and bringing it to the retail trader,” Padhi said. “I think that has an insane amount of momentum right now, especially through everything that’s happened with [the pandemic].”
The startup gives trade amateurs investing strategies based on information from the stock market. For the price of a Spotify subscription, Padhi said, Aventure hopes to offer retail investors all of the insights and advice privy to large hedge funds and institutional investors like Point72 and Tiger Global.
“The current alternatives are you’re either a wealthy enough client for an institutional trading account with BlackRock or some private banking firm, or you know how to code [and] have that amount of financial knowledge and the time to do it yourself, which quite frankly, most people don’t,” Padhi said.
Padhi grew up in Mumbai, India, but he moved to Seattle, Wash. in 2007. Padhi said that Microsoft—based in Seattle—piloted many of his school’s educational programs, introducing him to science and technology at a young age.
He became enthralled with finance in high school, competing in DECA and running his school’s hedge fund club, he said. He entered Boston College as a student in the Carroll School of Management as a finance and economics major. Padhi said he initially had aspirations of working in investment banking or sales and trading for a major bank, but he instead pivoted to entrepreneurship.
His freshman year, Padhi and his roommate, Will Messina, BC ’21 and a fellow BC entrepreneur, had the idea to start a credit union for students at BC. Padhi said he and Messina hoped to assist students with responsible money management and build a network of credit unions at different colleges. While the idea ultimately didn’t work out, Padhi gained valuable experience pitching a business venture and gained exposure to the BC entrepreneurial ecosystem, he said.
Padhi met Max Fisher, co-founder and former chief financial officer of Aventure and MCAS ’22, when they both took honors microeconomic theory. According to Fisher, the pair spent many long nights together working on problem sets.
“We were always spitballing different business ideas,” Fisher said. “He had projects that he had been working on, and I just thought it was very fascinating, the idea of someone being in school with a startup. So, he pitched me the idea of Aventure and brought me on [the team] January of 2020.”
While taking a class called Money, Banking, and Finance, Padhi said the concept of fixed-income securities—bonds issued by governments and corporations to raise money which pay out interest—interested him. Bonds are important for institutional investors, so Padhi said he was frustrated when he couldn’t invest well in these fixed-income securities.
Thus, Aventure was initially born with a plan slightly different from what exists today but with a similar mission.
“It started out in democratizing the bond trading world for retail traders like you and me and making it more interesting to trade fixed-income securities,” Padhi said. “We pivoted since then, but the vision has stayed the same. We’re taking what institutions are doing and bringing it to the retail trader.”
While researching fixed-income securities for the initial venture, Padhi discovered a field known as “quantamental” investing.
“It sounds like an AC/DC album, and it’s as exciting, I think, as an AC/DC album,” Padhi said.
According to Padhi, the term quantamental is a portmanteau of quantitative trading—which relies on mathematical algorithms—and fundamental investing, based on metrics like CEO performance. Professional investors have access to these complicated models, as well as proprietary information like satellite images and the trading activity of high-ranking government officials.
The third member of Aventure’s team is co-founder and chief technology officer Maanas Peri, a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a home friend of Padhi, who is responsible for coding Aventure’s smartphone application. The team hopes to build a “robo-adviser” which will give trading recommendations to subscribed investors through the application.
Aventure’s product is functional and trades live money on the stock market, Padhi said. As of mid-November 2021, the platform had outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500, an index of the United States’ 500 largest publicly traded companies and a common benchmark for the success of investment strategies, Padhi said.
The team has been using the investment strategies themselves, but Padhi said Aventure must seek certification from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as an investment adviser before legally offering its services to the public. Padhi said that almost 500 retail investors have signed up for a waiting list to subscribe to Aventure, and college students and recent college graduates—the company’s target demographic—constitute the majority of this waitlist.
The Aventure team hopes to raise a pre-seed round of $400,000, crucial funding for clearing the legal red tape and building out the technical infrastructure to host data and future clients.
“I’m trying to close that round by the time I graduate, which is a little bit ambitious,” Padhi said. “In venture capital and in startups the saying is it always takes double the amount of money and double the amount of time to get anything done.”
Padhi said that the ultimate goal for Aventure is to become a one-stop shop for all strategic investing advice across various asset classes, including cryptocurrencies, real estate, and distressed debt.
The Aventure team benefitted from many different advisers and mentors in the BC entrepreneurial scene, especially in the 2020 Summer Accelerator run by SSC Venture Partners, Padhi said. Aventure’s board of mentors includes Lindsay LoBue, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, and Tom Coburn, CEO of Jebbit and a partner at SSC Venture Partners, whom Padhi met through the SSC program, as well as BC finance professor Ronnie Sadka, who he met as a student at BC.
“Talking to professors, talking to students here on campus, talking to alumni, all that has allowed me to learn so much more than applying to an internship or just sitting in class and doing papers and notes,” Padhi said.
Fisher said Aventure’s advisers were constantly committed to ensuring the startup reached its highest potential, even guiding the team away from multiple bad ideas.
“There were so many times in which we would go into mentorship meetings, whether that be at Shea or SSC, in which we had a set idea, and we were really excited about it and have that idea just absolutely dismantled,” Fisher said. “Not with malice, just our mentors attempting to help us build a better product and a better company, finding flaws with some of the ideas we had.”
Padhi said that learning from mentors and other entrepreneurs has been more rewarding and educational than simply taking classes at BC. For Padhi, entrepreneurship fulfills a lifelong passion for building things, from Legos to Maglev trains, and now to financial strategies.
“I’ve always wanted to build my own thing, and luckily, that one day I was sitting in class, I was like, ‘You know what? Why not just build this thing I see from a personal need?’” Padhi said.
Fisher expressed a similar sentiment, noting that the team has enjoyed the journey launching Aventure and working each step of the way to build the company.
“We’ve really just kind of taken it one step at a time and have allowed it to be kind of like a little journey for us,” Fisher said. “So from that standpoint, it’s been exceeding our expectations and really a path we never truly saw ourselves going down.”
Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab / Heights Editor
Photos Courtesy of Aventure
This article was updated upon learning the Max Fisher had left the Aventure team.