This Man Is Traversing The Country Enticing Unsuspecting Coeds Into His Dark Pool

But don't worry, he's doing it for Good.
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Van image: Flickr user PRORobert Couse-Baker

Van image: Flickr user PRORobert Couse-Baker

If you want to do a startup, the first step is simple: determine how you will change the entire world for the better. If you're doing a stock-trading startup, that trail has already been blazed. In the words of Robinhood, your app should “democratize access to the financial markets” and “shrink the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’” by allowing tech-savvy young investors to stride confidently into public markets and speculate toward a brighter future.

The latest stock-trading app to alter the course of human history: low-cost dark-pool-for-the-masses Ustocktrade. “We bring Wall Street to Main Street,” the website says. Elsewhere: “We started with a vision to democratize wealth by lowering the barriers of entry to stock trading with sophisticated yet affordable financial technology.”

That sounds great! Where do we sign up? College campuses, evidently:

The brokerage said it has signed up students at 236 colleges. To spread the word, Ustocktrade enlists unpaid undergraduates as “campus ambassadors.” They include Boston University sophomore Urja Lakhani. She doles out stickers emblazoned with the dark pool’s blue and orange logo, leaving them for fellow students to discover, and hosts campus events.

See, Ustocktrade is a dark pool brokerage aimed specifically at young investors, particularly those with student debt, giving them an opportunity to speculate on the cheap (a buck per trade) while building their future or something. Of course, a dark pool requires counterparties, and luckily, founder Tony Weeresinghe is happy to play take that burden upon himself:

Ustocktrade tells customers on its website they will be trading with their peers, but there often aren’t enough to make that work. Unlike other exchanges, Ustocktrade never sends orders to other venues for trading. So, as the company discloses in its user agreement, clients end up doing business with a single sophisticated pro, a so-called superuser, Weeresinghe himself.

In all cases, the company said it guarantees it will offer the official best market price, which it shows customers on their trading slips along with the precise second of their trade.

To sum up, it's a dark pool filled with college undergrads whose chief trading partner is the CEO of the dark pool. But before you start asking questions, know that Weeresinghe isn't keeping the profits for himself. Instead, they flow into the Cainan Foundation, which is “dedicated to educating some of the world’s most disadvantaged kids.” According to the website, they've already begun to seek individuals who can offer expertise on a volunteer basis toward the planning of the organization's first school in Sri Lanka. Weeresinghe also runs the charity.

Here's an inspiring quote of Weeresinghe's on the mission of Cainan: “The world takes advantage of innocent children. We want to empower those children to take advantage of the world.”

College Kids Pitched on a Secret Stock Exchange to Help Pay Off Student Debt [Bloomberg]

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