Founders Feature #039 - Alinea
Playlists for Investing
Welcome back to Founders Feature, a weekly newsletter all about the journeys of young startup founders.
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Here’s what Alinea is all about:
🏠 The Basics
There is a major gender and wealth investing gap. The majority of minorities and women are not investing across the US, and the investing space is inaccessible and dominated by a very loud minority.
We’re building the next wave of investing by helping people diversify their investments from the get-go. We’ve created playlists, which are like bundles of stocks based on a theme. We’re also focussing on social investing, and impact investing. Our goal is to bring more underrepresented people into investing. Instead of just creating a tool for investing, we’ve decided on building a network and being community first.
The co-CEOs are Anam, and I and we both studied Economics at Columbia University together and both have some experience working on Wall Street. Daniel, our CTO, studied Computer Science also at Columbia and previously worked at JP Morgan Chase. We have two founding engineers, Ari and Mahir, who went to Columbia University with us, a lead product designer and a few part-time designers and engineers. In total, we are a team of 10.
🚀 The Journey
How did you come up with your startup/solution?
My co-founder, Anam, and I took an entrepreneurship class together in college. As part of the class project, we decided to work together and each find 5 problems we face day to day and choose one that we would work on. Financial wellness and accessibility emerged as a topic we were both most interested in.
So, we started working on Alinea in our final year at Columbia, taking it part-time after college, and eventually decided to pursue it full-time, taking part in Y-Combinator and raising our Seed round.
Why is this the right time for this problem to be solved?
Making investing accessible to everyone is essential to create a more financially equal society. Therefore, there really is no better time than now.
What is a recent success you are proud of?
Building a remarkably strong founding team has been a great success for us. The first few employees can make or break a company, and we’ve been very lucky to grow very close and work incredibly well together.
What is a recent challenge you have faced?
The hardest part is building a product that people truly want. Neither I nor Anam had much Product Management experience going into this, and we’ve certainly got better at understanding customer pain points, doing customer interviews, and building a product roadmap. So, a great challenge has definitely been to learn the skills of a product manager very quickly.
What do you wish you knew before you started and is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight?
I wish I had read the book ‘Hooked’ earlier because it really helped me develop those product management skills I was struggling with. In that light, I also wished I had talked to more customers sooner to directly understand their pain points.
🧠 The Lessons
What is the best advice you have been given recently?
The only way to build a good product is by constantly talking to customers. Don’t build for yourself, build for your customers.
What advice would you give to other young founders?
Make sure to keep a roadmap of milestones for different time intervals. Weekly goals as well as monthly and quarterly targets. If you don’t hit the targets, make sure to understand why you didn’t. It’s the small actions along the way that will make the difference in the end.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
Your time is limited. Use it wisely, and don’t give your time to everyone.
✨ The Inspiration
Who inspires you?
I admire Jack Dorsey, former CEO of Twitter for building incredible products that people want and love to use. I also am inspired by Alexa von Tobel, CEO of Learnvest, for being one of the first women to build a digital personal finance product. And finally, I am constantly inspired by our customers. Helping them is really what keeps us going.
What book do you think everyone should read?
Hooked: Building Habit-Forming Products - Nir Eyal