Invest intelligently with Smartkarma

FROM North Korea's economic prospects to India's banking industry outlook and Singapore's property trends, Smartkarma - which is probably the world's only research-streaming platform for investment research - has got it all covered.

The online platform, founded by Mr Raghav Kapoor, 34, Mr Jon Foster, 43, and Mr Lee Mitchell, 40, in 2014, provides institutional investment research on demand.

The former colleagues at global institutional equity brokerage Aviate Global came together over several meetings and discussed the possibility of leading a tech-driven change in the finance industry.

"In the world of investing, what is core to it is good investment ideas and information," said Mr Kapoor, who observed such trends in various companies he had worked with like Citibank, UBS, Oliver Wyman and Religare Capital Markets.

"Today, a large part of its source of information is research departments within banks. But they are downsizing their research teams. At the same time, investors are also seeking more real-time and tech-driven information for investment research."

With Smartkarma, the trio is trying to change the way investment research is disseminated and "in order to drive the change, we decided to start a digital marketplace which allows investors to directly engage with research providers".

Unlike traditional research companies, Smartkarma combines intelligence from analysts, academics, data scientists and strategists on the platform to provide research to client companies who need them.

This helps clients to manage portfolio risk and stay abreast of evolving and complex financial issues without having to subscribe to every voice on the street, explained Mr Kapoor, now a Singapore citizen married to a Chinese Singaporean.

Born in Chandigarh, he came to Singapore in December 1998 on a Singapore Airlines scholarship to study at Raffles Institution. He then pursued a computer science and geology degree at Cambridge University.

Clients such as hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds and asset managers subscribe to the start-up's service, paying an annual fee starting from US$36,000 (S$48,245) to get access to a pool of information by research providers. The research providers, made up of individuals and firms, receive monthly payments based on their contributions to the platform.

One of the firms providing information on the platform is investment research and investment management firm Morningstar.

Its global head of asset management solutions, Mr Scott Burns, said: "The way professional investors access and consume research is undergoing dramatic change. Platforms like Smartkarma are leading the way and facilitating this change by creating new, technology-driven avenues for research consumers and producers to connect.

"Being on it will give our existing clients a new way to search and find our research while also helping us gain exposure to new clients utilising the platform."

Smartkarma, which has a team of 18 who work in departments like technology, content strategy, business development and operations, went live in April this year.

Mr Kapoor said: "We were only open to a select group of companies because we were building the company based on the market needs. We wanted to work with the companies very closely and get feedback from them while we build our product."

Currently, the start-up has over 70 contributing firms, 400 individual research providers and over 100 companies using the platform.

To date, it has raised US$7.5million, with investments from five institutions including Wavemaker Partners, Jungle Ventures, an arm of the Singapore government, as well as several prominent industry leaders such as Trafigura Group's CEO for Asia Pacific, Mr Tan Chin Hwee. Trafigura Group is one of the largest commodity traders in the world.

Smartkarma intends to use the funds to grow its ecosystem of research providers and expand its platform offerings.

These include the addition of sophisticated research applications, complementary data services and engagement tools. It is also planning to set up offices in New York and London.

Even as the team progresses, the challenges never end.

"It's difficult to find good engineering talent in Singapore They're very short in supply. But it's is a terrific place to start a business, there's great access to a multitude of clients and a growing community of investors here that helps start-ups like ours grow and flourish," he said.

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