SEE Change Magazine had the pleasure of speaking with social entrepreneur Tony Weeresinghe, CEO and founder of Ustocktrade, an investing platform founded to fund and support the Cainan Foundation, a charity dedicated to education and building boarding schools for disadvantaged children across the globe.
Representing the next generation of social ventures, the Cainan Foundation, in conjunction with Ustocktrade, were launched with the belief that educated young people can transform their communities for the better and eliminate long-standing cycles of poverty.
What inspired the launch of Ustocktrade, what need were you trying to fill?
I formed Ustocktrade out of the desire to fund the Cainan Foundation, a registered 501(c) (3) charity aimed at building self-sustaining boarding schools around the world to provide first-rate education to disadvantaged children. Throughout my career and travels around the world, I constantly saw the gap between the haves and the have-nots, especially when it came to education. We believe educated young people can transform their communities for the better and permanently eradicate long standing cycles of poverty and ignorance.
To sustain the Cainan Foundation I wanted to start a commercial company. With the skills and knowledge I learned throughout my career working with different stock markets around the world, I decided to create Ustocktrade to democratize the wealth to many. It is a trading platform that could be leveraged by both new and experienced investors.
How does Ustocktrade work and what is its mission?
Ustocktrade is trade execution venue similar to the NYSE and Nasdaq, but not a registered exchange. The technical term used is an “alternative trading system” or “ATS” that makes investing simple for anyone regardless of experience or skill level. Our mission is to bring Wall Street to Main street by providing people with the tools they need to make trades and be part of a dynamic community of users. The platform aims to lower the barriers of entry to investing, while empowering users to make trades.
Tell us a bit about you and how and why you became a social entrepreneur?
I grew up in Sri Lanka and after having worked with Oracle to make their presence known in my country, I went out on my own in 1996 and formed Millennium IT, which was a Fintech Company, providing automation to stock exchanges, clearing organizations, depositories and brokerages. I sold Millennium IT in 2009 to the London Stock Exchange and stayed on to help transform their trading platform technology, and to help them expand in their global partnerships. With the London Stock Exchange, I lowered the exchange’s trading time from 6 milliseconds to 100 microseconds while also cutting the amount of machines they were using to increase speeds.
After moving to Boston in 2001 and continuing my work with LSE as well as the Boston Stock Exchange, I wanted to make a change. My wife and I began to work on a pair of complementary firms – one commercial (Ustocktrade, LLC) and one philanthropic (the Cainan Foundation) with the goal of establishing self-sustaining schools for disadvantaged children.
What are the greatest challenges, in your opinion, for social entrepreneurs today?
The greatest challenge for social entrepreneurs in today’s market is two-fold; awareness and attracting action-oriented consumers. In recent years, there has been a surge in the market of businesses that focus on social change and social entrepreneurship.
In order to rise above the noise and gain awareness in the industry, there needs to be a proper and compelling company differentiator.
Another concern facing social entrepreneurs today is ensuring attraction of action-oriented consumers. In order to be successful and fulfill the established goal, the company needs to attract consumers who are willing to take whatever action is necessary to succeed, whether that be buying a product or investing.
How are ventures like Ustocktrade tackling social challenges in innovative ways and why do you believe it will succeed where others may not?
Unlike a traditional non-profit model, The Cainan Foundation is funded exclusively through profits of a commercial organization, Ustocktrade, LLC. Our unique model ensures we are not constantly in fundraising mode and instead, can focus our efforts exclusively on making a difference and enhancing the lives of others. We believe this will have a positive impact on the way we run the foundation and differentiate ourselves from other organizations.
What is your vision for the company – over 5, 10 years?
It is our hope that average and experienced investors gravitate towards the Ustocktrade platform (which is owned by Ustocktrade, LLC) and we gain not only users, but people who want to contribute to The Cainan Foundation and who hold our same passion for educating children around the world.
The Ustocktrade platform seeks to dramatically increase its user base in the six to 12 months and the Cainan Foundation hopes to have its first school in Sri Lanka built within the next year. It is our hope that in five years, we’ll have three schools built across the globe, with plans for dozens more.
Ustocktrade, LLC makes available securities products and services offered by Ustocktrade Securities, Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of SIPC and FINRA.