You may not expect that the co-CEO of an investing platform with more than 3 million users backed by the likes of Will Smith and Maria Sharapova only started investing after he turned 30. But that’s exactly the case for Leif Abraham of Public.com.
Abraham, an immigrant from Germany, didn’t grow up in the world of finance. “I was very late to the game myself,” he says of investing.
But that experience is part of what he funnels into his work at Public.com, the investing platform he now runs with co-founder and co-CEO Jannick Malling. (Public.com sponsored Money’s Changemakers project.) Since their company launched in 2019, the messaging has been clear: They want to democratize investing. Now, Abraham says, they're also on a mission to democratize access to more types of assets.
Thanks in part to many people having little else to do during COVID-19 lockdowns, interest in stocks and crypto boomed during the pandemic, with retail investors piling into the market to snatch up meme stocks alongside bitcoin and ether. Communities popped up all over the internet as folks got a crash course in investing, learning about both the latest fads and how to build wealth long term.
Public.com allows users to invest in more traditional assets, like stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). But people can also invest in crypto and, most recently, alternative assets like contemporary art, high-end trading cards, luxury items, vintage comics and more. Investing in alts isn’t new, but Public.com helps open it up to everyday investors by offering shares of assets usually only available to the wealthy — like a 2011 Hermes Birkin bag or Banksy painting.
“By giving people the ability to manage their entire portfolio with all assets in one place, it tends to lead to more healthy investing decisions because you have a holistic view on your portfolio,” Abraham says.
The popularity of investments like crypto and GameStop stock have served as “doors,” he says, for people to get into investing in more traditional assets like stocks and ETFs. Abraham believes other assets can be those doors, too. (The company says opportunities in music royalties, real estate and more are coming to the platform soon.)
While Public.com users can buy stocks and more directly via the app like other trading platforms, they also have access to a large community of millions of investors, analysts and content creators. Members can follow one another and see what their peers are investing in, and there’s a trending feed. Users can explore “themes” like most popular stocks or drill down into categories like stocks of firms founded by immigrants. They can access experts, too; the platform’s Town Hall feature allows users to submit questions directly to executives like the CEO of Bumble and have them answered in a live Q&A.
As a growing number of people jump into investing, Abraham says businesses, fund managers and even the media must rethink their approach.
But there are a lot of investors in the middle. Public.com is hoping to reach them by providing context around investing, like scraping filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to provide advanced metrics to members and providing easy-to-understand guides on topics like dividends.
Investing is always changing, and so is Public.com. As the platform develops, it’s not only able to offer more sophisticated features — it’s also catering to a class of investors who joined as amateurs a few years ago but have now found their footing. It’s looking forward (it recently announced it will be available beyond the U.S. in 2023) and focusing on how to bring new assets to investors who want to diversify their portfolios.
Luckily, that’s not a hard sell when a first-edition Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone or pair of Jordans specifically designed for Michael Jordan are the assets in question.