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Excited for drones? Green energy? Motif lets you invest in ideas, not stocks

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The financial world has invaded our phones, and now you can trade stocks, invest spare change, and check the latest tickers all from a growing list of investing apps. There’s yet another investing app on the block now, but this one is quite different from the rest. Rather than trade the stocks you know or invest in automated funds, Motif (for iOS and Android) is an investing app that lets you invest in ideas — yours or others. The app will even help you make money from designing your very own stock portfolio.

Trading ideas instead of stocks

For decades, investing has more or less depended on you or your broker standing by a computer, making trades and checking the news for information on how to move your money. In the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of investing apps hit the mobile world in an effort to bring investing to our smartphones. Although it’s easy to make an app that trades your stocks or mutual funds, designing and strategizing your own stock portfolio is more challenging. Motif wants to enable anyone to design and trade their own ideas or visions, rather than stocks alone.

“In our app you can search and find a motif with 30 stocks all about drone manufacturers and innovators.”

“Whenever anyone wants to start investing, they often have an idea of something they know about or want to invest in, but they can’t easily do it. They’re often told to just invest in Apple or some popular Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).” Motif CEO Hardeep Walia told Digital Trends in an interview.

Most investing apps offer only a few ways to design your portfolio. You can buy and sell specific stocks, or invest in a select group of ETFs with apps that do all the thinking for you. In contrast, Walia wants anyone to be able to invest in their ideas, whether it’s a technological innovation, a commodity, or major political event.

These ideas are what Walia calls “Motifs,” a collection of 30 stocks or investments that are packaged around a core idea, algorithm, or other strategy. The Motif app offers an easy way to find these motifs and invest into them, all without calling up a broker or paying fees on each individual stock or fund. Motifs can be designed around either fast-moving stocks or long-term retirement strategies

“Let’s say you’re really into drones. In our app you can search and find a motif with 30 stocks all about drone manufacturers and innovators,” noted Walia. He added that there are more than 200,000 different motifs, and each one offers at-a-glance information about the stocks chosen, why they were chosen, and how it performs. When you perform a search, you can see how well each motif is performing.

Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends
Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Motif also supports what Walia calls “human language” investing. Just as you’d go to Google and type in something like, “What is the capital of New York?” Motif supports human requests when making investment decisions. Rather than buy and sell shares of stocks, you can ask for specific dollar amounts, as everything in the Motif app is handled in dollar amounts rather than share amounts. For example, if you ask for $500 of Apple, you’ll get that equivalent amount in shares and you won’t have to worry about doing the math yourself.

“We’re trying to design something that’s sort of like Peter Lynch meets Jack Vogel,” added Walia.

The 200,000 motifs are about more than just innovations and investing ideas, too. You can even invest based off your political beliefs and alignments.

“Let’s say your anti-carbon, like my wife. We offer motifs that let you invest in companies that have publicly shown their anti-carbon values, LGBTQ-friendly values, or even the political parties they donate to.” said Walia.

Unlike Robinhood, which has no fees when you buy or sell stocks, Motif does charge $10 anytime you buy a motif, re-balance your accounts, sell a stock or stake in your motif, or anything else of that sort. Walia notes that its fee is still far lower than any brokerage that offers a way to choose or build your own portfolios.

In reality, comparing Motif to a brokerage is a bit complicated, as a typical Charles Schwab, Fidelity, or another firm will charges for almost everything you do to an account, depending on if you’re buying from one fund or multiple stocks. Still, most brokerages charge more than Motif for an individual stock, and if you’re trying to design your own stock portfolio as you would on Motif, Charles Schwab and Fidelity would charge more than $200 for such a trade and $50 when selling a stake in a fund — far more than Motif’s $10 price tag. The only advantage these brokerages offer over Motif is if you use one of their specific funds, where they often waive the associated fees.

Democratizing the Investment World

Here’s a crazy idea: What if you could sell your investing ideas? If you went to any brokerage they’d probably laugh you out the door, but Motif is totally into it. Not only can you choose among the app’s many motifs, but you can even start your own motif based off any idea, vision, or strategy you want. Although many of the 200,000 motifs on the app marketplace are made by Motif’s own financial advisers, there are thousands of user-made motifs. Anyone with an investing idea can put their money where their mouth is on the Motif app.

Anytime someone buys or sells a stake in your motif, you’ll receive $1 out of the $10 commission.

You can even make money off your motifs. Anytime someone buys or sells a stake in your motif, you’ll receive $1 out of the $10 commission. The same rule applies for anyone that Motif partners with. Motif even sells its own professionally made indexes and motifs to investing firms right on Wall Street.

Some of the community-made motifs include strategies such as high-risk investing, medical marijuana, and commodities like oil and gold. It’s democratizing the way anyone can go out there and find investing ideas, and Motif plans to help content providers turn their blogs into motifs, where their own investing stories can revolve around their tailor-made investing portfolios.

This is all just the first step in Motif’s vision to create a social world around investing. Motif users can actively participate in community and professional motifs, discussing current events, sharing tips, and even sharing their love or hate of a particular motif.

Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends
Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Right now those features are still being designed for the mobile apps, but Motif hopes to launch them soon. Already Motif allows bloggers and writers to share their favorite motifs in their news articles and add to a growing community of investors, especially on other investing websites like Seeking Alpha and The Motley Fool.

Not your parent’s investing app

Motif shifted its app to become the centerpiece of its investing operation in the months ahead. The new iOS and Android apps offer an easy way to sort through these motifs and give investors new ideas, as well as complete control over their entire portfolio — no matter where they are.

There are no advisers to call, no one algorithm that Motif ties to financial success, or a webpage to constantly depend on. Walia wants Motif to be the only place an investor needs to go to for their investing ideas, retirement fund, and investing news. Each motif can offer not just stocks, but bonds, trusts in commodities like gold and oil, and other financial instruments, so Motif really tries to fit any investor’s specific portfolio needs.

Related: Visa’s bringing its payment expertise to Internet of Things devices

“We want to build a platform that allows anyone to follow the information they care about, invest in what they care about, and provide a social community for those who love investing.”

Joshua Sherman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Joshua Sherman is a contributor for Digital Trends who writes about all things mobile from Apple to Zynga. Josh pulls his…
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