With Vested, 4 Asian American students show compatriots back home a way into US markets

indica News Bureau-


Vested, a 15-month-old startup based in Mountain View, California, is simplifying investment in the US stock markets for Indians.

Started in Aug 2018 by four Asian students of the University of California, Berkeley, Vested claims to be the first online brokerage that allows Indians to make commission-free investments in US equities. It also lets clients undertake fractional investing, which means investing in a fraction of a share of equity.

The company has an office in Mumbai in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

The Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, allows citizens to invest up to $250,000 per annum in overseas stocks. This means a family of two can put in half a million dollars in US stocks annually.

Vested aims to capture this market by allowing users to carry out these transactions quickly, directly and securely.

On Vested’s web- and-app-based platform, a user can create an account seamlessly. It requires no minimum deposit, charges zero commission, and has a simplified remittance process (INR to USD) via top Indian banks (ICICI, HDFC, Axis, and YES Bank).

The startup credits a complimentary $5 to the user’s account as soon as it is opened. Viram Shah, Vested co-founder and CEO, told the website YourStory, which covers the startup space in India: “We’re the first platform that enables Indians to invest in US stocks and ETFs directly and legally.

“Owing to fractional investing capabilities, partnerships with Indian banks, and a curated list of stocks, the international investing process is now 10X easier.”

The platform has curated a list of 120 US stocks across sectors like tech, real estate, health care, finance and telecom. These include companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, and some of the world’s most valuable brands like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Netflix.

Vested claims it already has “thousands of brokerage accounts” on its platform and is growing fast. It says more than 25,000 users have subscribed to its emailer. Besides India-born Shah, the other founders are Darwin Arifin from Indonesia, Eric Huynh from Hong Kong, and Yinghan Lin from Singapore.

“We were classmates in the Bay Area and started up from our houses in Berkeley,” Shah revealed. “We all have similar backgrounds and are connected on the same pain point.”

Shah said the co-founders spent the first few months simply interviewing potential customers. “We found that there were two core pain points: foreign investing was too expensive and the process was cumbersome. People would think about it and then give up.

“Also, no platforms allowed fractional investing. I wanted to buy an Amazon share, but it cost Rs1.5 lakh, and I couldn’t.”

So, Vested decided to allow micro-investing or fractional investing for as low as $1. “That’s how you enable access and build trust,” said the CEO.

In less than three months, Vested’s app has recorded more than 10,000 downloads on Google Play Store. It offers a simple dashboard to track portfolio value, total investment amount, cash amount, analysis of daily returns, total returns for each stock or ETF invested in, stock performance charts, investment data, share information, and more.

The app also shows sector-wise breakdown of US stock performance and brings the latest finance news and insights from The Financial Times, Bloomberg and other sources.

Investors can even generate tax documents on the app to submit to tax authorities every year.