Appo Agbamu recently quit a $75,000-a-year job at U.S. Trust, a dream job for a young associate portfolio manager.
However, Agbamu, 25, has an entrepreneurial dream. He’s founder of ahrvo.com, an investment app targeted at young people that went live at the Google and Apple online stores in January.
“I’m passionate about this,” said the St. Paul son of immigrants from Nigeria. “I’ve bootstrapped this venture out of savings from my paycheck.”
Agbamu, whose father introduced him to investing in high school, prepared for an investment career at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
He studied accounting, economics and finance, was a student director of the $1.6 million Bulldog Fund, interned at an investment company and competed on the Bulldogs track team. He has earned accreditation as a certified financial analyst, or CFA.
He developed Ahrvo on nights and weekends for a couple of years, investing about $25,000 in savings from his day job.
App uses artificial intelligence
Agbamu asserts that Ahrvo is the first mobile app for investors that uses multifactor ranking systems and artificial intelligence to process market and company financial information to provide users with easily understandable stock scores and a “neural network-aided smart price target.”
Agbamu became interested in the concept while interning at a small investment shop in Duluth that used a program to find undervalued, good-quality investments.
He studied the classic work of the late Benjamin Graham and his modern portfolio theory, and Peter Lynch, the legendary Fidelity Investments portfolio manager.
He has put his own millennial twist on things to deliver portfolio theory in a software application. He believes the 18-to-34 crowd, more comfortable with an iPhone than a textbook or even a spreadsheet, will use Ahrvo.
“My inspiration was to create it to empower people of my generation who didn’t have the knowledge or know where to start,” Agbamu said. “Now, they can figure out an Ahrvo score.’’
“An Ahrvo score incorporates and quantifies the analysis of four factors: quality, value, growth and momentum behind a company,” Agbamu said. “It’s basically a way of sourcing investment ideas and to help users make profitable investments at the right time.
“We don’t make money on trades, although people can trade on the platform. It’s more of an educational tool. It’s something university investment clubs might be interested in. This is something I wish I had when I was in college.”
Warren Buffett and other sages say most low-risk types are prudent to invest in a diversified investment portfolio, such as a stock index fund, as well as cash savings, over the long term with systematic contributions as the safest way to get rich slowly over 25 to 40 years.
Agbamu believes his app packs tremendous analytics into a tool that will appeal to younger investors. It’s something that also could be used by amateur and professional traders.
Index funds and ETFs have beaten active portfolio managers since 2009 amid the eight-year market rise. The stock market, with the exception of the energy and commodities industries, has nearly tripled in value since the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
The best portfolio wins?
Many analysts believe the easy money is over from so-called index investing, and going forward the best returns will go to the best portfolios.
“I think we’re heading into a time where it’s about what you own,” Agbamu said, “not just owning a group of stocks because it’s part of a benchmark.”
Joe Artim, director of the financial markets program at UMD, recalls Agbamu as a good guy, a hardworking, determined and competitive student who led the UMD team to the national finals of the CFA Institute stock research competition.
“I do not know much about his new venture but can be assured that he has thought it through very well and will pursue it with all his energy,” Artim said. “He is very smart, so I’m sure he has done his homework and understands the risks he is taking. He’s young, so he can afford to take some risks in life at this point.”
Agbamu is raising $100,000-plus from individual investors to take Ahrvo to the next level over the coming 18 months. He plans to pay himself about $25,000.
He has permitted mostly free downloads of the basic app to get it into as many hands as possible and learn from the feedback. In addition to 1,000 free users so far, he eventually plans to sell subscriptions for advanced versions.
Agbamu’s dad, who has taught adult education and worked in financial services, is an investment buff. His mother, a St. Paul-area school principal, is proud, while at the same time concerned over her son quitting a very good day job.
“She’s a little worried,” Agbamu conceded. “But both my parents appreciate my vision and drive.”