In February 2015, Brandon Krieg and Ed Robinson walked away from their six-figure jobs to launch Stash, an app that aims to make investing simple and accessible to everyone.
The duo, who met while running the global electronic trading business at Macquarie Group, had been on Wall Street for a combined 30-plus years.
Their co-workers at Macquarie would often ask them where they should invest extra money, Krieg tells CNBC: "We thought this was interesting — if people that work in finance are asking us this question, this is something we need to dig into. "
The Wall Street veterans took to the streets of New York City and started polling people. Krieg says, "We started asking everyday people outside in Midtown, 'Do you invest?' And we kept hearing the same answers over and over again: 'No, but I really want to — I just find it confusing.' Or, 'No, but I'll do it later, when I'm rich.'"
They recognized two key problems. "One: Investing is not relatable — people aren't doing it because it's confusing and overwhelming, " Krieg explains. "Two: People think they need to have a lot of money to start investing."
That's when Krieg and Robinson decided they would quit their jobs.
"The decision to leave was ultimately pretty easy for both of us," Robinson tells CNBC. "We saw this problem that affects tens and tens of millions of people in this country — and we said, we have to address it."
Using their financial backgrounds and experience, the co-founders launched Stash in October 2015. The platform allows anyone with a mobile phone and $5 to start investing in low-cost ETFs, which are essentially baskets of stocks and bonds.
When users sign up, Stash asks questions such as how old you are, what your income looks like and what your risk tolerance and time horizon are, in order to get an idea of what kind of investor you are. The app then recommends investments that suit your risk profile.
While Stash offers plenty of guidance, ultimately, it's up to the users to decide where they want to invest their money. Users can choose from a curated selection of over 30 ETFs. Here's an example of what your Stash portfolio may look like:
"The biggest differentiator for us is that we've built what we call the Stash advisor," Robinson explains. "It looks at you the individual, your holdings and your activity within the app, and will send you specific notifications and tips on how to better create a portfolio for you. What we've learned from millennials is they don't like to be told or forced to do anything — so what we want to do is provide guidance and empower them with the tools necessary to build the right portfolio."
Stash charges $1 a month for accounts under $5,000. If your account exceeds $5,000, it charges 0.25% of your account balance each year.
Since launching in October, the company has accumulated nearly 200,000 users, according to Krieg and Robinson. It also secured $9.25 million in Series A funding in August 2016.
Ultimately, the Stash co-founders want users to understand that putting away a little bit of money each week is "a big win," Robinson says. "Just 20 bucks a week can really start to add up."