Startup Roundup: MobileArq and DriveWealth

Photo: Niru Mallavarupu, cofounder of MobileArq Photo Credit: Courtesy MobileArq
Niru Mallavarupu, cofounder of MobileArq | Courtesy MobileArq

Software development company MobileArq (Summit), a TechLaunch accelerator graduate, is spreading the word on app development and entrepreneurship. Cofounder Niru Mallavarupu is running a two-week summer camp this year at MONDO (Summit) for some 20 local high school or advanced middle school students who will learn how to build a mobile app. After the two weeks, she will work with each student an hour a week for an additional six weeks via a webinar to help the student market his or her app.

She told us, “This isn’t about just programming, although we feel that coding is a critical skill. But programming is only a small part of the summer agenda. What I’m offering these high school kids is a way to learn about the whole cycle. They will be able to build an app of their own. Then they will be taking it to their communities. They will be getting feedback and they will see how the whole cycle works. Then they will learn how to release something like this [in the Apple App Store or Google Play] and how to sell it in the market.” They also will learn the soft skills associated with the business of app development, she said, because they’re as important as knowing how to code.

Mallavarupu told us that she decided to create a curriculum for a summer program after she had gone to several science fairs. “We met so many high school students that stopped by the booth and asked how they can learn to do what we do.” She explained that the course uses MobileArq’s platform, which has excellent graphics and is designed in a building-block style, making it easy to learn. “We give them a chance to use these building blocks to build their own app. One of the things that’s challenging about releasing an app is that there are so many moving parts, and it’s hard to release a quality app that has the right graphics and is ‘consumable.’ We let them use the platform and we offer all these sleek graphics.”

Since MobileArq specializes in creating online directories, the kids will be creating a directory of sorts. They could build an app for any community, she said.

Photo: Westport, Conn., PTA volunteers won the "Outstanding Green Community Hero" award from Project Green Schools for implementing a paperless directory with MobileArq for their district. Photo Credit: Courtesy MobileArq
Westport, Conn., PTA volunteers won the "Outstanding Green Community Hero" award from Project Green Schools for implementing a paperless directory with MobileArq for their district. | Courtesy MobileArq

In other news, MobileArq is shifting to a self-service model for its online directories for parent-teacher organizations (PTOs), selling the software for a modest price so that schools can upload their own directories. The school PTOs will do all the work. In addition, Westport, Conn., PTA volunteers Denise Baer and Joanne Heller won the "Outstanding Green Community Hero" award from Project Green Schools for helping roll out a paperless directory with MobileArq for their district.

Photo: John Shammas, Lead UX Engineer at DriveWealth spoke at the NJ Tech Meetup in February. Photo Credit: Courtesy DriveWealth
John Shammas, Lead UX Engineer at DriveWealth spoke at the NJ Tech Meetup in February. | Courtesy DriveWealth

DriveWealth: DriveWealth is an online U.S. broker-dealer based in Chatham that offers brokerage-as-a-service, but with a twist.

It works like this: Users invest in fractional shares. By investing in terms of dollars, not shares, users can invest in the brands they care about, according to the startup’s website. They just enter the dollar amount they want to invest and receive the corresponding fraction of a whole share at the current market price, not the end-of-day or average market price.

DriveWealth says that its users receive reduced brokerage commissions when they invest in a fractional share of any stock, exchange traded fund (EFT), or American depositary receipt (ADR). The tradeoff is that users don’t have any voting rights for stocks they purchase fractionally.

“Our main goal is to make the U.S. stock market truly global,” John Shammas, Lead UX Engineer at DriveWealth, told NJ Tech Meetup back in February. The startup, which employs 36 people, has a mobile app that is available at Apple’s App Store and on Google Play. The app was one of the Best of Show winners at FinovateEurope, in February.

DriveWealth partners with e-commerce websites and financial firms around the world that want to offer U.S. equity trading to their customers. The partners give the startup access to more than hundreds of thousands of potential customers in 140 countries worldwide, Shammas noted.

 “We’ve seen an incredible demand, especially in countries like China, where before their stock market took a turn for the worse, they opened more than 30 million brokerage accounts. Many of our customers have never had access to the U.S. equities market before, but they know and love many of these successful brands like Apple and Google and Visa. Because of the high barriers to entry, it’s been hard for retailer investors internationally to get in on these stocks. DriveWealth makes it easy for customers around the globe to invest in companies like these,” he explained.

DriveWealth was founded in 2012 by Robert S. Cortright, Michael J. Dugan, Kevin Cortright, Stephen Cortright and Barry Mazza, and has received $8.4 million in two rounds from three investors, according to CrunchBase. In June 2015, the startup closed a Series A round funded by Route 66 Ventures (Alexandria, Va.), Neuberger Berman (New York, N.Y.), Fenway Summer Ventures (Bethesda, Md.) and SenaHillPartners (Rumson).

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