“We’re building the world’s first stock market to invest in parts of a business, but not the whole.”
Kenneth Book ’22SB (Finance)
“Identifying a problem in an industry as broad as finance and investing, and being able to find a solution, is an opportunity we didn’t want to pass up.”
Ari Wax ’23SB (Finance, Information and Decision Sciences)
Last summer, Kenneth Book interned at Goldman Sachs and marketed derivatives as part of their investment banking division. Book has recruited fellow Goldman software engineer Ben Litvin and Ari Wax — in their respective roles as CTO and COO — to join fintech startup Fluid Markets, where he is co-founder and CEO.
Wax is also the founder of the Aloha Aviv study abroad program, which saw nearly 50 Jewish students spend their spring 2021 semester in Honolulu, Hawaii.
What motivated you to create Fluid Markets?
KB: When you invest in the stock market, you are limited to investing in big companies. If you wanted to invest in YouTube, for example, you would buy shares of YouTube’s parent company, Alphabet, thereby owning Google and all of its subsidiaries.
The problem is that YouTube is owned by Google, which makes it impossible to invest in YouTube but not Google. Take Apple, for example; if you want to invest in the iPhone business but not the Mac business, you can’t do that right now – you can only invest in Apple as a whole.
We’re building the world’s first stock market to invest in parts of a business, but not the whole. We are using our expertise from Goldman last summer, our introductions to the world of venture capital (VC), and the insights gained during my time at YU to change the way personal investing and finance work forever.
AW: Identifying a problem in a sector as vast as finance and investment, and being able to propose a solution, is an opportunity that we did not want to pass up. The idea is Kenny’s, and we’ve been working on the initial idea to make it more viable on a larger scale – you don’t get a lot of opportunities to do something like that in college.
Ari, what led you to create the Aloha Aviv program?
AW: We wanted to give students the opportunity to spend the spring semester in a social environment and due to COVID this was not possible. About 50 students joined us, who were able to take the courses remotely and experience all that the Jewish community of Honolulu has to offer.
As a student leader, we had to take on a lot of responsibilities very quickly, and we weren’t really used to that. We were role models and examples for the entire Jewish community in Hawaii – everything we did and everything the students in the program did mattered. It was important to act responsibly and in a way that resembled Kiddush Hashem.
Can you give some advice to students who might be interested in finance and entrepreneurship but don’t know where to start?
KB: One by Stephen Covey The 7 Habits of Highly Effective is to “begin with the end in mind,” which means imagining where you want to end up and working backwards on how you need to get there. If you are interested in finance, learn as much as you can about the industry and take advantage of YU’s resources – the courses are just the tip of the iceberg – there are other opportunities like the Investment Banking Society, Tamid Group , clubs , and even other finance-interested students you can bounce your ideas off of.
If you’re also interested in entrepreneurship, there’s so much to learn from Dean Wasserman — his book, The dilemmas of the founderis probably the best book I’ve read on entrepreneurship.
Also take advantage of your own network. Don’t be afraid to send cold emails. I emailed former SEC chairmen; one of them answered and is helping us now. You really have to get into it. The more you put yourself out there, the luckier you will be. The more opportunities you give yourself to get lucky, the luckier you’ll end up being, and that’s a great way to build momentum.
AW: Use the SGC and clubs and societies on campus. Work to achieve a high GPA. Most importantly, connect and network with alumni who work in the industry you are interested in. Be an active student; there are so many more who want to work in a specific industry. It’s a long and competitive process, and you need to be top of your class and well prepared. Speak to the upper classes and learn how they managed to establish themselves in their roles.
How did your time at YU prepare you to create your own startup?
KB: I have many HaTov Hakaras at YU. Coming from Virginia, and having no network in the financial world, I had no connection. Coming to YU, being able to start from scratch and end up in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, is really something I have a lot of Hakaras HaTov for; it gave me the resume I needed to try and raise millions of dollars for an idea I had.
I could never have done it without YU – all the investors we talk to were either through an introduction at Goldman Sachs, which I only got from YU, or directly from people I know at YU. I’m extremely grateful to YU for giving me the network to get into something I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
Thanks to the Shevet Glaubach Center for their help.