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Fintech Innovation, Cryptocurrency Adoption Made Us Expand to Nigeria-Passfolio CEO, David Gobaud

Passfolio recently launched in Nigeria to offer its commission-free US Stock trading service. David Gobaud the founder of the startup who previously ran a Y-Combinator-backed company and worked for President Barrack Obama in this exclusive interview with Techawk talks about why they decided to expand to Nigeria, how Nigerians can invest in US Stock via Passfolio and much more. excerpts

You founded Passfolio in 2018 and the service is available in over 170 countries. How has the journey been so far in building your startup?

Building Passfolio has been an incredibly exciting journey! We started with just the idea of bringing commission free US stock trading to the world and within less than a year we launched the service to people in over 170 countries. We quickly added cryptocurrency trading and today have an amazing team that allows us to quickly expand and add new features.

We’re just getting started on fulfilling our mission of democratizing investment opportunities worldwide and have many exciting new features planned such as an investment advisory service. We also plan to add other country’s stocks to Passfolio to create a truly global international investment marketplace available to anyone – not just the rich.

Passfolio- Please tell the digital novice about your service.

Passfolio is a United States company that offers access to 3,800+ stocks, ETFs and REITs from the US stock market, with no commission fees on stocks priced at least $5 and no minimums to start so you can buy $1 of any stock.

We also offer trading in and deposit of 25 cryptocurrencies. ‍Passfolio Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC, which protects securities of customers of its members up to US$500,000 (including US$250,000 for claims for cash). Explanatory brochure available upon request or at www.sipc.org.

Passfolio just launched in Nigeria. What prompted you and your team to make your service available in the country? Are there plans to expand to other African countries?

As we looked around the world for where to expand Nigeria stood out for its incredible economic growth, tech, and especially fintech innovation and adoption including cryptocurrency, and startup ecosystem.

The reception from Nigerians has been amazing – they love the commission-free stock trading and are applying to work at Passfolio even though we don’t have any jobs posted.

We definitely plan to expand to other African countries – as Jack Dorsey the Twitter founder said, “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!)” and we’re excited to help form that future!

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What were some of the challenges you faced in launching in Nigeria?

Luckily since Nigeria has a lot of fintech innovation and advanced banking infrastructure it wasn’t very hard since we operate over the internet!

Investing in US-stocks is definitely new in Nigeria even though we have other startups who are offering the service. How do you intend to convince Nigerians to buy stocks on Passfolio? What makes you stand out from your competitors in Nigeria?

The main advantage of Passfolio is commission-free US stock trading on any stock priced less than $5 and a very high volume and liquid cryptocurrency exchange.

Other companies charge extremely high fees on stock trading such as 1.5% of every trade. We are often asked how is it possible to offer commission free2 US stock trading to anyone in the world? When people hear about our service they may not believe it and think it is too good to be true.

Passfolio’s mission is to democratize investment opportunities so we believe charging high trading fees is unfair and unjust. If US citizens are able to invest commission free why can’t you? The simple answer is there is often no reason other than foreign brokers lining their pockets.

Of course we need to make money to run the business so how do we do it?

A. We use innovative technology to offer fast, easy, and secure3 commission free2 US stock trading to anyone in the world. I have a BS in Computer Science from Stanford University, a JD from Harvard Law School, worked for President Obama and created a White House software automation team, and co-founded a successful YCombinator backed gas delivery company so I know how to build innovative, efficient, and highly regulated services.

When I decided to democratize investments I leveraged my Silicon Valley, Harvard, and White House professional network to build an amazing team that makes security a priority3. We have also been a globally decentralized team since our founding so are very familiar with efficient remote work which you can read about in our blog.

B. We make money in three primary ways:

i) Interest on the uninvested cash in user accounts through a sweep account.

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ii) Foreign exchange fees through some of our deposit methods.

iii) Premium subscription features that are launching soon – stay tuned!

C. Passfolio is funded with ~$40 million dollars from the success of a previous product, so we don’t have pressure from investors to charge exorbitant fees and make a profit right away. Our mission is to democratize investment and we know it is going to take a long time.

Right now we are fully focused on investing in and building the best and most accessible investment service possible – not on profiting from trading fees.

So if you or a friend are currently paying high trading fees to some foreign broker you should ask for a refund, transfer your accounts to Passfolio, and start investing commission free2 today! Please see this page for information on transferring your account and if it has over $2,000 in it we will cover transfer costs up to $100.

If you have any questions or need help transferring your account please contact our amazing support team anytime at support@passfolio.us or if you have a question about our mission you can email me at david@passfolio.us

Kindly take us through (or breakdown) the process of buying stocks on Passfolio including the amount to invest and fees?

To invest using Passfolio users sign up at https://web.passfolio.us/ and once approved can deposit money and start trading stocks and cryptocurrencies through the app (web platform coming soon!).

Passfolio is a self-directed investment service meaning users pick their own investments. No guarantees about return on investment can be made – users can lose money. We offer commission-free US stock trading on stocks priced at least $5 and charge $0.02 per share on stocks less than $5. Nigeria bank transfer deposits cost 1.4% (max ₦2,000) plus 0.2%.

Nigeria bank withdrawals cost 0.2% plus ₦55. Instant deposit and withdrawal cost an extra 0.5% (minimum $1, maximum $10). Cryptocurrency deposit is free. Cryptocurrency market orders cost a minimum of $0.99 up to $2.99 or 1.5% and limit orders cost 1.5%. Passfolio’s full fee schedule is here https://www.passfolio.us/fees.

Since you are based in the US, do you plan to have any presence in Nigeria in the near future?

We are a US company. We don’t currently have plans to operate in Nigeria but possibly in the future! Customer support is handled through email at support@passfolio.us or phone at +1 (256) 530-2387.

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Fraud is a huge problem because we are in the internet age. What measures has Passfolio put in place to prevent fraud and guarantee the investments of Nigerians.  

Fraud and security are extremely important ‍topics and Passfolio has made significant investments in these areas to protect customers. First Passfolio Securities is a member of FINRA and SIPC, which protects securities customers of its members up to US$500,000 (including US$250,000 for claims for cash).

Explanatory brochure available upon request or at www.sipc.org. Passfolio Securities’ SEC and FINRA registration can be verified on FINRA Broker Check at https://brokercheck.finra.org/firm/summary/299874.

If Passfolio for any reason ceases to operate, the assets of the clients will be transferred in an orderly manner to another registered brokerage firm. Passfolio keeps their clients’ securities and money separate from their own. This way, even if Passfolio fails the clients’ assets are still safe.

In terms of technology passwords are never stored in plaintext – they are hashed using the industry-standard BCrypt hashing algorithm. Sensitive and private information such as your BVN are encrypted before they’re written to disk. All of our apps, websites, and servers securely communicate using the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. For account login we require multi-factor authentication. Our mobile app supports TouchID, FaceID, or a custom pin code for unlocking.

What are your short and long-term plans for Nigeria? 

We are extremely excited about Nigeria’s fintech innovation and adoption of cryptocurrency! As of now we have no plans to open an office or operate in Nigeria. We are a US company that works over the internet to offer commission free US stock trading and cryptocurrency trading to users in over 170 countries. We are currently working on launching a premium subscription and investment advisory service in 2021 for all users!

Musa Suleiman
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