Investing in the stock market can be intimidating. Vancouver-based Blossom Social is part of a growing group of FinTech startups that believe they can make it more accessible for retail investors by constructing a community around it.
Blossom Social was founded in 2021 during the height of the Reddit-fuelled meme-stock craze by founders inspired by a spike in the popularity of retail investing. The company aims to replicate the social investing model in Canada that has been deployed in other countries by much larger firms like eToro, Public, and Shares.
Blossom Social aims to replicate the social investing model in Canada that firms like eToro, Public, and Shares have deployed in other countries.
Now, with $750,000 CAD in pre-seed funding, Blossom Social hopes to prove its thesis amid a much different macroeconomic environment. In the face of more challenging market conditions, Blossom Social co-founder and CEO Maxwell Nicholson forecasts headwinds and opportunity for the startup as it looks to build a stock trading platform with an embedded social community.
In an interview with BetaKit, Nicholson acknowledged that this downturn is “obviously not ideal” for Blossom Social as a company. But at the same time, the CEO believes that during the downturn, communities like Blossom Social that are designed to help people become smarter investors are more important now than ever.
Blossom Social’s latest financing, which closed in September and was raised as a simple agreement for future equity (SAFE), saw participation from Ryan Holmes and Manny Padda’s LOI Venture and popular stock market investing-focused YouTubers Brandon Beavis and Shay Huang. Nicholson described Blossom Social’s most recent funding as a “proper pre-seed,” though the company also raised a prior $150,000 round in January that the company previously identified as pre-seed financing but has now reclassified given the larger size of this new round.
This capital brings Blossom Social’s total funding to about $1.1 million, which also includes financing from previous investors Pareto Holdings, which is run by Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer, and angel Zac Dolesky.
Founded in 2021 by Nicholson, CTO Kartik Bhutani, and COO Annika Ng, Blossom Social offers a mobile app that enables Canadian retail investors to share and discuss verified stock portfolios, trades, and investment strategies, and learn more about how to invest in the stock market.
Unlike Reddit, Discord, and groups like WallStreetBets, posts on Blossom Social are backed by real activity from users’ linked brokerage accounts. The startup’s platform links to Canadian brokerages at the country’s five big banks, Canaccord Genuity, Fidelity, Wealthsimple, and Questrade.
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Following the completion of its beta, Blossom Social launched its platform around when the economic downturn began in May, on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Over the past five months, amid choppy public market conditions, the startup has amassed more than 2,000 unpaid users and experienced 10 percent week-over-week user growth.
Blossom Social was also recently selected for Google’s latest Women Founders accelerator cohort.
According to Nicholson, many of the conversations taking place on Blossom Social these days are currently focused on diversification and risk management, which have become especially important for investors during the market downturn.
“There has been less interest in the market because less people want to open their portfolios when it’s in the red, but I would say it’s even more important for investors to find community now than in the time when things are going really well,” said Nicholson.
The CEO pointed out that all investment platforms, from Wealthsimple to Questrade, experience ups and downs as market conditions change, and being able to “weather those fluctuations” is key to building a sustainable business. “For us, it’s timed quite well, because even though we’re launched, we’re still in building mode, because the next big phase is to become a brokerage.”
Blossom Social’s platform currently offers the community component and links to other brokerages. But the startup has its sights on allowing users to buy and sell stocks directly through its app by becoming a registered full-service brokerage with Canadian investment regulators.
By becoming a brokerage, Nicholson believes Blossom Social will be able to capture more of the market. He noted that the firm is currently working with the law firm Osler to pursue registration as an investment dealer with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC), in a process the CEO estimates will take between 12 to 18 months.
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As Blossom Social looks to build “Canada’s first social brokerage” in a market still largely dominated by the country’s big banks, Nicholson said he sees Wealthsimple as the startup’s biggest competition. Compared to Wealthsimple and other online brokerages, the CEO said Blossom Social’s thesis is that “social is a strong enough differentiator.”
Blossom Social plans to leverage investing influencers to expand its reach. Nicholson sees the “influencer route” as being one Blossom Social’s biggest growth channels going forward, noting that Beavis—who has nearly 200,000 YouTube subscribers—has already been a “huge help” in connecting Blossom Social with other popular and reputable stock market investing-focused online figures.
The CEO acknowledged that investing influencers “can get a bad rap,” noting that there are a lot of personalities out there “that are dogshit, for lack of a better word, and who are peddling dangerous information.”
“We’re very, very focused on partnering with the right influencers rather than just any influencers,” said Nicholson.
Feature image courtesy Blossom Social.