Motif: Innovative Theme-Based Investing Start-up Company

Hardeep Walia, founder, and CEO of Motif, is utilizing technology to innovate in the financial investing industry. While many in the industry are concerned with an impending crisis, Walia explained that “Motif seeks to inform customers with asset transparency with a human-like platform where technology is bringing down the costs of investing.”

The Road to Motif

In 2008, two things took place in Hardeep Walia’s life that led to the inspiration of an innovative investment company. First, Walia completed the naturalization process to become a United States Citizen after arriving from Kuwait several years prior. At the same time, Walia shared that “a recession impacted the investments of many Americans resulting in around 8 trillion dollars lost in retirement accounts, and despite those losses, Americans then paid 356 billion dollars in fees.” These fees paid by hardworking Americans on top of their loss, in his summation, was “not the American way.”

As a Yale graduate and former Microsoft employee, Walia found himself wanting to invest in the mobile internet and sought advice from those he trusted in the financial industry. The research led Walia to consider innovation within the investing industry. “I never thought of myself becoming an entrepreneur. However, I am a technologist that wants to make investing easier through the use of software which I believe can change the world,” explained Walia.  In 2010, Motif was founded offering thematic investing for customers based on different interests and desires while maintaining transparency on a cost-effective platform.

The Chapters of Motif

Walia considers the start-up journey of Motif to that of chapters in a book. The first chapter was filled with the initial fundraising campaign and development of the company’s algorithms and computer coding that Motif utilizes today. With a 20-page PowerPoint presentation, Walia raised over 125 million dollars in capital to fund the initial work on Motif. At the same time, Walia also researched the world of financial investing. “I learned from financial executives that it is a tough business to innovate because of the large amount of time spent on regulations and compliance,” recalled Walia.
The first chapter of Motif also included the launch of the trading account that offered a thematic investment in up to 30 companies at one time. Hired professionals built the first 100 motifs over the course of a year. After these motifs were offered, customers could then create customized motifs based on different themes. “Motif provides
infinite choices of how to invest….surprisingly, after one year our customers created 85,000 new motifs,” shared Walia.

On the Motif platform, a customer can view how well the motif has done in real-time, interact with the social online community, and also customize within that motif to personalize an investment as low as $250. Along with the Motif themes, Walia explained, “There is an option to see all of your real-time investments listed individually with options to 1-click add or remove them.”

The next chapter of Motif includes the introduction of the Impact Portfolio. In April 2017, Impact Portfolio was launched to provide customers a tool to meet retirement goals while being aware of their personal life values. Along with this new product, Walia and Motif are working together with North Dakota-based businesses to innovate retirement benefits offered by small businesses in the area.

The Fargo Connection

How does a Silicon Valley company get connected to Fargo, North Dakota? Around four years ago, a 6th grade class at Oak Grove Lutheran School caught the attention of Walia when they beat out college competitors in a motif creation contest. Walia explained, “These students are a perfect example of Motif’s success…they chose investments that were important to them and it was simple enough to be used by 6th graders.” After visiting the class in person as well as building a friendship with a local advocate for investing literacy, Walia has built unique connections with the city of Fargo and the state of North Dakota.

Learn more from Hardeep Walia and Motif as he speaks at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Brent McNeal