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Published: Dec 08, 2021 9 min read

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Individuals standing on their coins talking to each other in the cyber world.
Sam Island for Money

If you were anywhere near the internet in January 2021, you likely heard about /r/WallStreetBets, the Reddit forum that orchestrated a meme-studded short squeeze of GameStop stock. It became a 21st-century legend: Through the power of social media, traders made lots of money, stuck it to The Man and — perhaps most importantly — brought the concept of community-based investing into the digital age.

But now, nearly a year later, /r/WallStreetBets is lowkey outmoded. The hottest online investing group is no longer a subreddit. It's a Discord server run by a handful of college-aged Midwesterners.

With roughly 250,000 members, Eagle Investors is a colossal community that calls itself "the next generation of information and data sharing." In the past two years, Eagle has climbed the ranks to become one of the largest finance-focused servers on Discord.

Eagle's executives say the chat platform allows them to cater to a growing population of investors, many of whom may be new to the markets.

"It doesn't matter what your experience level is. You can be a complete beginner or you can be someone who's been trading for over 15 years," says Vishu Namburi, Eagle Investors' chief operating officer. "We try to create a community that's welcoming to everyone."

Vishu Namburi, Samuel Keoleian and Dylan Harish
Courtesy of Eagle Investors

Their mission is ambitious, but spend a few minutes on the server and you'll come away believing it's achievable. While providing opportunities for people to learn, collaborate and profit, the Eagle team is also setting the stage for a major expansion.

Eagle Investors is about to take off.

A chatroom by any other name

There's a Discord server (or two, or 10) for pretty much any topic you can think of.

Fans of BTS, specialty coffee and The Lion King have all formed Discord communities, as have people who love cross stitch, the Yankees and the cozy aesthetic. So when Eagle's execs — most of whom attended Indiana University's Kelley School of Business — began setting up their forum in 2019, Discord was the obvious choice. Its simple, scalable and user-friendly design makes it "very easy to find the information that you need," Namburi says.

Discord is free; anyone can join and start exploring communities themed around subjects they're interested in. It's laid out similar to Slack, with topic-based servers built around breakout channels with targeted themes. Most servers have a mix of text-based rooms, where people exchange instant messages, and voice channels, where users hang out on what is basically a constant conference call.

Eagle's dozens of channels center around stocks, options and cryptocurrency. They're staffed by about 15 contractors who serve as Eagle traders and analysts, posting picks, conducting live streams and answering questions 24/7.

Samuel Keoleian, chief compliance officer, says Eagle hopes to inspire subscribers to come up with their own ideas and strategies. They also aim to discourage copy trading, where people mirror certain figures' market moves without fully understanding the underlying principles. A common refrain on the server is "do your DD," meaning to "do your due diligence."

"If we don't have that focus on risk management, on actual understanding of the products and how to balance a portfolio, all of our clients will end up losing their money," he adds. "We don't want that."

Eagle is subscription-based. Users can get a free 10-day trial, but the cheapest paid tier starts at $27 a month; the more you pay, the more channels and features that get unlocked. Eagle also offers trading alerts as well as courses in technical analysis and options.

In addition to the server, Eagle offers an options sweeps dashboard with data that's "filtered, organized and displayed by a proprietary Eagle process to highlight potential winning trades," Keoleian explains.

It also has its own TradingView algorithm. Oh, and thinkorswim scripts. A mobile app is in the works, and its ledger is a publicly available Google Sheet.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find any other Discord server trying to be as legitimate as us," says Ishaan Sandhir, chief executive officer.

Teaching traders to fish

The server may have a serious vibe, but it's far from stodgy.

Like any good Discord, Eagle Investors loves a silly emoji: The bear-market react is the Chicago Bears logo, while the bull-market one is the Chicago Bulls logo. In the #life-beyond-trading channel, people swap stress relief tips, inspirational quotes and relaxing videos. Traders are encouraged to post screenshots of their gains and donate a portion to charity. They even sell merch.

Courtesy of Eagle Investors

But although Discord investing is fun, there are a few issues with it.

The first is obvious: When you're taking trading cues from strangers on the internet, you're... taking trading cues from strangers on the internet.

You'd be smart to proceed with caution. Danny Devan, the founder of Ace Enterprises, a free investing Discord with about 76,000 members, is especially skeptical of forums with paid trading alerts. If the advisors were that good, Devan argues, "they wouldn't be on Discord charging you $20 a month — they'd be on Wall Street."

Another challenge is that online communities function essentially as decentralized hedge funds, according to Majeed Simaan, an assistant professor of finance at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. However, actual hedge funds are held to certain legal standards. Discord isn't typically a regulated institutional investment environment.

On top of that, Simaan says humans tend to follow people who are strongly opinionated, regardless of whether their opinions are correct. Wisdom of the crowd can help mitigate these effects, but you have to make sure that crowd is not biased.

In order to avoid those hangups, moderators on Discord servers like Eagle and Ace Enterprises focus on education. They put the responsibility on the individual to vet suggestions, hoping to train the next generation to be shrewd — and keep their excitement in check when prices fluctuate.

"We really want to teach them how to trade, to be on their own," Keoleian adds. “And what we’ve actually found is that makes the community stronger.”

Going legit — with help from the SEC

The moment it hit Dylan Harish that Eagle Investors was a success, he was attending the Chicago music festival Lollapalooza in 2019. Sandhir called with an urgent issue. Harish, the chief financial officer, remembers having an epiphany as he ran away from the stage in order to help, thinking, "OK, this is real now."

Keoleian's realization happened last month, when he got an email from the SEC formally granting Eagle registration as an investment adviser firm.

"We didn't know if they were gonna allow it ... How can you explain it [the Discord] to the SEC?" he says. "Now we're 100% compliant, legitimate, we're regulated."

Eagle has nearly 1,000 paying clients, among them high-net-worth individuals and newbies. Sandhir says Eagle enjoys a lot of diversity in age, experience level, gender and location. It has members in Germany, Denmark and other countries.

The setup certainly works for now, but they worry about being exposed to the whims of a third party. If Discord decides to yank access tomorrow, they'd lose everything.

In fact, Keoleian says Eagle is on track to be a fully fledged fintech firm for retail traders. He says they're especially excited about becoming fiduciaries because now "we have to present trades that are in the best interest of our clients." That means people can feel secure in the decision to trust Eagle's recommendations, which in turn expands investors' access to financial education, which gets them more involved in the markets, and so on.

They may be scattered across the U.S. and spend way too much time on their computers, but the Eagle Investors team might just be creating the future of online investing.

"We're taking something that was traditionally very brick and mortar, and we're blowing it up on a larger scale using technology," Harish says. "We're going for it."

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