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Recent statistics show the number of Americans invested in stocks declining, but Stockpile Co-founder and CEO Avi Lele told CNBC his fractional share trading platform can help change that.
"[In] the last eight years, the tide has been rising. [The] stock market has been doing well, but most of us don't feel rich, right? Because our ships have been in dry dock. They haven't been in the water," Lele told "Mad Money " host Jim Cramer in an exclusive interview on Monday. "And here, to get into the market, I think the easiest point of access is to invest in something you know, something that you love."
Lele's privately-held company is a clinic in making investing more accessible: it makes gift cards, sold online and at various physical locations, that function as fractional shares of stocks.
Consumers can also open a brokerage account with Stockpile's mobile app and start investing at 99 cents a trade. The app offers investing advice so newcomers can learn basic investing rules.
"People are told all the time, 'Start early, diversify and do it for the long haul,' but it's really hard to start early when you're young because you don't have a lot of money and you certainly don't know anything about the market," Lele said. "They don't teach it to you in school and you can't walk into a traditional brokerage saying, 'Hey, I've got $50 bucks, how does the market work?'"
The CEO said he ushered his own children into learning about investing with Stockpile when he realized they weren't interested in investing through traditional firms.
Lele had set up custodial accounts for them through a traditional brokerage firm, but he was the only account holder and just couldn't get his kids interested, he said.
But with Stockpile, "they had their own login. They could check in on their stocks, they could buy things that they knew instead of mutual funds that were hard to [grasp] and they could place trades that came to my phone for approval," Lele said. "All of a sudden, an engaging experience was born. Just a few hundred dollars, but they had skin in the game."
During a visit to his dentist, Lele even thought up a Halloween promotion that he thought would spur young people's interest in his platform.
"I was at my dentist a few weeks ago, and dentists hate giving out candy," the CEO said. "And I told him about the company and he said, 'Wouldn't it be neat if I could give out $1 stock cards to the trick-or-treaters?' And so I'm sitting there looking over here and saying, 'Well, Nike kind of goes well with Amazon, orange and black, you want to give those out?'"
Lele's central idea is that people, including disillusioned millennials, can warm to investing if they're buying shares in companies they know and love at affordable prices instead of the lucrative, but astronomically priced stock market.
"If you're an Apple fan, start investing in Apple. If you're a Nike fan, if you're a sports fan, invest in Nike. Now, that's the on-ramp, " Lele said. "But once you're in, we have a whole series of lessons, many lessons, in our app that are designed to teach you, 'Hey, start diversifying. Start looking at ETFs because they're instant, great diversification. Start investing in maybe other countries' stocks to get some foreign exposure.' So it's a starting point, but then it brings you in and now you're not in dry dock."