Round 11
Winner
Block Transfer app

A new way for global investors to trade stocks directly on the books of public companies.

Budget request:  
$50,000
*
WebsiteCode

Project Stage

Development

Category

Defi & Wallets

Based in

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

Team size

5

Active since

2021
Products & Services

Imagine a world where you can invest in stocks from anywhere (without big hidden fees), settle trades instantly, and earn interest on your holdings. Most investors trade through a broker. But US brokers systematically introduce nine expensive, slow middlemen. We let investors trade directly on a company’s books so they can save ~0.5%/year in slippage. [1]

How we’re different

A normal US stock trade today looks like this: [2]


All these middlemen charge a small spread or fee that you ultimately pay. When a company goes public, they hire a transfer agent to keep a list of investors. You might use one if you have book-entry shares via a direct share purchase plan or employee stock options.

Transfer agents let investors execute private trades:


Simple, yet nobody does it. If you want to trade with old transfer agents, you have to:

  1. Print and fill out a ten-page “stock power” form
  2. Go to the bank with two valid IDs
  3. Meet the other person you’re trading with, who also needs two valid IDs
  4. Bring account statements from the transfer agent for both people
  5. Often drive to a different bank branch with the proper signing authority
  6. Have a banker painstakingly review and endorse all your documents
  7. Snail mail the forms to the transfer agent

[3]

Outside first-world countries, these authorizing banks are quite scarce. So, investors have to pay hundreds of dollars for remote guarantees. [4]

Our solution

We use Stellar assets as a company's official books so you can transfer shares with the click of a button in your wallet. That means you can freely trade on the SDEX, vote shares via memos, and receive on-chain dividends, fully transparently!


Regulation

We've been registered as a transfer agent with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for over a year. [5] Most of what we do is based on highly-upheld laws passed in the 1990s for dematerialized stock. [6][7] By working directly with share issuers, we undermine forced middlemen fees since all brokers are just listed as an omnibus entry on the company books. [8]

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Previous Project(s)
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Progress so far
Goals
  1. Chiefly, release investor app to Google Play and App Store with full portfolio UI functionality given faux backend calls and basic bulletproof seed generation by December 7
  2. Gain Board recommendation on five annual voting proposals to change transfer agents by December 21
  3. Pass full-functionality beta stress test onboarding at least 350 investors with linked bank accounts by December 21
  4. Finish non-custodial wallet signing functionalities, voting transactions/interface, and trade generation by January 29
  5. Create secure VPS to satisfy OTC Verified Share/DTC FAST reporting requirements via Stellar queries by February 18
  6. Onboard with OTC Verified Shares program with at least one OTC-listed company by March 21
  7. Enroll in DTC DWAC program with four sponsoring CUSIPs by March 21, with expected FAST qualification by Q3 2023
To get there, we  will use our requested budget of  
$50,000
*
  to:
  • Create a comprehensive app mockup flow based on prior feedback, existing broker apps, and traditional wallets
  • Design a streamlined onboarding flow that clearly explains how and why to sign up
  • As part of onboarding, embed digital disclosures with a sleek wet signature tool on top of facial verification
  • Integrate secure seed generation with a simple user view
  • Implement and stress test wallet signing functions with local server
  • Establish basic Horizon instance to manage app queries, with design for Tier 1 status in the future
  • Set up backend server to automatically fund new user accounts on-chain, manage trustiness based on existing scripts, and periodically run AML/suspicious activity checks
  • Create secure PII server environment with tokenized FTINs
  • Build secure connection between PII and bank verification service
  • Build IRS FIRE database for prior tax records plus a script to submit annual taxable records
  • Pay significant depository institution registration fees before we can service our first stocks
  • Commission legal review of our client contracts at closing
  • Given a proper investor app, the sales side of the company is confident in closing at least five voting propositions. The issuer portal is much less demanding. It’s not currently perfect, but it does about what the CFOs expect based on our discussions therewith.


Linked below, you can see it query and combine data from Stellar with merged PII from github/stellar-interface/issuers/Example-Merged-MSF. In the future, we want to expand this functionality to support intuitive stock ownership plan management in a SAAS environment.

Overview

In 1602, a Dutch trading company issued the first modern stock. But to transfer shares with the official bookkeeper, investors had to physically travel to a company office, pay about $200, and wait for two board directors to sign a log. [1]

Almost immediately, investors privately traded the first stock futures to avoid these costs. But early futures carried immense credit risk. Agreements were just paper contracts between individual buyers and sellers.

Say you made a big profit when shares soared. The counterparty on the contract could change their name and never pay you. If you tried to pursue them, they could just flee Amsterdam. Moreover, local courts often declared contract losses null and void based on a short-selling ban. [1]

To avoid defaults, investors stopped trading with the average uncreditworthy man. Instead, most people were forced to pay established credible brokers to execute their trades. The wealthy stockholders resolved that these brokers were the only ones they could trust to stay true to their word. [1]

We've stuck by this mentality for centuries, perhaps for good reason. After all, what recourse do most people have against an anonymous stockbroker who sells them fake certificates? But distributed ledger technology finally gives us a new way to record stock ownership without a trusted central party.


The current system is broken

In 2013, Dole Foods went private for $1.2B. The company only had 37M shares outstanding, but brokerage investors held 49M shares. [2][3] Similarly, two investors bought nearly 1.5M shares of Global Links Corporation through their brokers, despite the company issuing under 1.2M shares. [4][5]


More recently, one in twenty GameStop shares trading did not exist on the company’s capital books. [6] In another case, a fifth of Overstock.com shares trading did not truly exist. [7][8] The problem is so big that the leading transfer agent organization suspects more shares voted than exist in over three-quarters of annual meetings. [9] In an election at Taser International, brokerage investors cast 82M votes despite only 61M shares existing. [10]

These recurring, systemic miscounts stem from the broker-founded monopoly that settles effectively all US trades. [11] We see similar trends abroad. [12][13] The problem is current regulations allow this to happen at the clearing level.

But the SEC quickly shuts down transfer agents with such record differences. [14] Accordingly, we can guarantee everyone has true shares using book-entry digital assets.

We must act now

Based on our client discovery interviews, public American CFOs have varying frustrations with their current transfer agents. CFOs at smaller companies focus much more on price. They don't want to waste valuable shareholder dollars on mandatory accounting.

At medium to larger companies, CFOs care much more about transfer speed and reliability. These executives tend to think more about employee stock incentive plans, asking for more nuanced services.

These CFOs have the power to change their agent at will, and they've been ditching "The Big 4" for new transfer agents very quickly in the last few years.


[15][16]

Most new agents attract business through deeply-discounted rates, which traditionally can affect service. The issuers we've talked to appreciate our new technology, and many said we would be worth more than competitors with a working app.

However, thanks to the efficiencies of Stellar, we can charge these companies less than the competition while still offering free investor accounts. In particular, our major hard costs are:

  1. one-time identity verification,
  2. one-time bank account verifications,
  3. account base reserves,
  4. bank deposit/withdrawal infrastructure,
  5. required depository fees per security,
  6. XLM transaction fees,
  7. annual proxy mailings, and
  8. lost investor searches.


We can spread the first four costs out across the companies we service since one bona fide account can hold any of our stocks. We also plan to cut polluting letter mail expenses by strongly pushing eDelivery and blockchain dividends.

Moreover, by offering banking connections for all issuers, we immediately enable firms to create a share purchase program with their existing treasury stock. According to an industry veteran who only negotiates transfer agent contracts, this alone is a huge feature most prospective clients lack.


Potential threats

  • Over time, traditional market makers may flock to the SDEX to maintain trading revenues. This could place more stress on the network without widespread SPEEDEX adoption.
  • There is a company marketing a similar solution to ours which has raised over $100M. But they maintain manual medallion stamps and implement trading using a broker-sponsored alternative trading system. These additional registrations let the competitor charge 1% trading fees.

We think finance should be open to everyone (no matter where you were born) without compounding fees. Vote for our project if you agree.

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Block Transfer

Block Transfer is a flat organization founded by Georgia Tech students. We focus on remote work due to significant Web3 developer talent abroad. Investing should be open to everyone, so our code is public. We've received generous support from mentors and accelerators around tech-savvy Atlanta. These connections help us get in front of public executives. Initially, we don't want to deal with the legalities of new issues. As such, we target the CFOs of companies listed on any OTC or NASDAQ market.

Team

Follow our project’s business announcements on LinkedIn, or connect with the team below:


Nipun Chhajed (npnpnbanana#9130)

Full-stack development

Experience in machine learning, cloud computing/distributed systems, and scripting. Recently interned at Visa working on distributed systems (docker/kubernetes) and full stack development.

LinkedIn


Zeman Li (lizeman#9082)

Backend development

Systems expert with experience modelling complex financial algorithms to identify quant trends. Recently developed officer route optimization algorithm with regional Atlanta police chief.

LinkedIn


Luke Rutherford (lukerutherford#6899)

Client acquisition

Hands-on socializer with background in resource management sciences. Specializes in data-driven decision making and precise financial forecasting.

LinkedIn


Rahul Sunkara (RahulSunkara#2016)

Full-stack development

Experience with process design, machine learning, data science, and pipeline development. Previously built and deployed employee management and individual task record keeping apps.

LinkedIn


John Wooten (John Wooten#5411)

Marketing & blockchain backend

John originally built a basic prototype on Ethereum two years ago, but the technology wasn’t up to par. He’s now committed to Stellar and been an active member of the stellar-dev mailing list for a year. John used to trade exotic financial instruments which emphasized inefficiencies in middlemen.

LinkedIn