Young Mauritian entrepreneur, Investor, Trader and Author, Ishant Ayadassen is the founder of holding company Aya Trades that wholly or partly owns 5+ different brands including: Afreeca Invest, Aya Curators, Lootnance Exchange, Origins, and HoloPub. He tells Investor’s Mag how he became a licensed stockbroker in the U.S. and why he came back to Mauritius to develop Afreeca Invest to help Mauritians and Africans at large to buy shares in some of the world’s biggest companies. Ishant’s ambition is to grow Aya Trades LLC to at least a $250 million company in 5 years time.
Featured in Investor’s Mag, 20th Edition, March 22 – June 22
You’re a 25-year-old entrepreneur with a successful company of around 20 people. Tell us what Aya Trades does and how it started.
Aya Trades LLC, registered in the U.S., is a group that currently runs 4 businesses: Aya Curators, Lootnance, Origins, and Afreeca Invest. While the first 3 are virtual businesses operating in Lootverse, a parallel universe within the metaverse, the last one is a real-world business that will allow Mauritians to trade U.S. stocks. It all started in January 2021, back when Aya Trades was an educational platform I had set up in the U.S. to teach people about trading. Within a year, as I developed new businesses, I decided to turn Aya Trades LLC into a holding company and put the educational portion on hold.
What sparked your interest in the financial industry and the stock market?
It all started at university when I discovered Robinhood, a trading app that allowed me to trade stocks with a small budget in the U.S easily. When I realized it could become a good way to generate passive income while still studying, I decided to get into economics and finance and teach myself trading. I enjoyed the process of analyzing the stock market, evaluating risk, understanding statistics, and keeping up with daily financial news so much that it became natural for me to dedicate a significant portion of my time to trading. I eventually ended up living off options trading for two years and became a licensed stockbroker in the U.S. in 2020. At the same time, I was also sharing snapshots of my gains on social media and was getting a lot of messages from people who were also interested in investing in the stock market. Although I wanted to help them, I knew they didn’t have access to a trading app in Mauritius where they would be able to start investing with a low budget. For that reason, I decided to come back to Mauritius and provide them with the tool they need by developing Afreeca Invest.
What is Afreeca Invest and how can it help Mauritians achieve financial freedom?
Afreeca Invest is a trading app that will allow Mauritians and Africans at large to buy shares in some of the world’s biggest companies. The goal is to democratize access to the U.S. stock market by providing a user-friendly app that allows people to trade instantly, safely, and with a small budget (as little as $1). There are two ways to generate wealth: selling time and owning capital. While most people only focus on the first one, investing in the stock market is one way of tapping into the other. By investing, people earn a passive income by making their money work for them instead of only selling their time. Moreover, money that just sits around loses purchasing power as the cost of living rises. Investing in the stock market helps maintain the value of one’s money against inflation, and time has shown that no other type of investment performs better. With the right investments held for the right amount of time, achieving financial freedom becomes a reality.
Setting up a trading app like Afreeca Invest is a daunting endeavor. What would you say your biggest challenge has been so far?
Getting the right team to work on the project has definitely been one of the most challenging parts. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the past 2 years but I believe this is what allowed me to get the people I needed on the Afreeca Invest team. We hired both locally and internationally, and I am now lucky to have found the right people and the right talent to move at a good pace. We grew from only 2 people back in 2019 when the idea was born, to now over 10 people who are working full-time on the project since January 2022. Since then, we have grown our social media to over 2000 followers, our waitlist to over 1600 people, and have granted access to the beta version of our app to 125 users. We’ve also been working really hard on the other businesses that are generating revenue under Aya Trades LLC to be able to fully fund Afreeca Invest without any external investor. Another big challenge now remains to get our license from the Mauritian regulators so we can move from the Paper Trading version (demo) to the Live Trading version of our app very soon.
Three of your businesses operate within a metaverse project (Lootverse). How is setting up a virtual metaverse business different from a real-world business?
The main difference is that pre-established norms and legal frameworks less restrict a virtual business within the metaverse. If all activities are limited to only being within the metaverse project itself, many regulatory hurdles are avoided. It is like investing your fake dollars on a fantasy stock market within a game. The business only abides by the regulations implemented by the metaverse project itself instead of abiding by a large number of real-world regulations and all its complexities. There is much more room for innovation which allows business owners (portal operators) to try and test new business models. Moreover, the business should be able to adapt fast because it’s operating within a rapidly changing environment.
Here is the riddle: operating a business within a metaverse project essentially means operating a virtual fantasy business within another virtual business, while both are owned and operated by different real world businesses. Cryptocurrencies, NFTs and Blockchain technology in general help power these ecosystems.
Aya Curators currently holds the record for the 3 top-selling artists in Mauritius with a combined sale of Rs 6,000,000 on 3 artworks. What do Aya Curators do, and how did you and your team react to such an achievement?
Aya Curators finds talented content creators around the world and helps them expose their work as NFTs in Lootverse. Once minted on the blockchain, anyone around the world can buy these NFTs. We were extremely happy when we saw the numbers, but we weren’t surprised as we worked really hard to get there. We might share some of these artworks with the public through an exhibition. We’ll communicate more info on the event when the time comes. The biggest reward remains seeing the artist benefit from this project, and we are proud to have been able to change the lives of numerous artists in Mauritius through our efforts. We accompany our artists on their whole journey through this digital world in an attempt to help them focus solely on their creative skills. We introduce them to Blockchain, crypto and NFTs; we curate their work; we build the strategy; we build fantasy stories around their creations; we handle the marketing; we do all the administrative work and handle all the costs; we manage the auctions; and finally we continue supporting the creator in other ways after the sale.
Aya Trades is now running 4 businesses. How have your priorities changed since the start of your journey?
We are moving so fast that my prediction for July 2022 is that Aya Trades LLC will have 4 businesses that are valued at more than $1,000,000 each and the group itself will be valued at almost $25,000,000. We’re currently growing our team to ensure we have all the necessary resources at our disposal to continue expanding fast. We currently have several open positions, and we plan to become a team of over 25 people by the end of the month after everyone we need joins. My priority right now is to ensure that our team remains healthy and happy, as this is what will ultimately push our businesses forward. Working with over 25 people is also a huge responsibility, not only in terms of funding, but also in terms of ensuring that everyone is happy and comfortable at work. We’re a very young team (average age of 24), and young people often take time to figure out what they really want to do. My personal goal is to make sure I help them get to where they want to be, even if sometimes it means re-purposing them within the company itself or letting them go. I have to admit that it is extremely thrilling for the team and myself to be operating at such a high level while being at the forefront of cutting-edge technology and innovation.
As the Founder and CEO of an extremely fast-growing tech company, where do you see yourself and your company in the next 5 years?
If all goes well with Afreeca Invest, we would have already expanded to other African countries by then. We already have a few target markets in mind but we’ll re-evaluate them as we get closer to taking that step. We will also keep on innovating to help build Lootverse through Aya Curators, Lootnance, Origins, and possibly Loot Analytics later on. As for the group, Aya Trades LLC, we hope that in 5 years, we would have been able to positively impact the lives of even more people around the world, both those within the company and those we help through the services and opportunities we provide. Ultimately, our goal is to have grown Aya Trades LLC to at least a $250 million company.
What words of advice can you give to other young aspiring entrepreneurs?
If you believe in your idea and know-how you will execute it, start executing and keep pushing. Many people have great ideas, but what really makes a difference is how they execute on their ideas. Never give up when challenges arise and be solution-oriented. There’s always a solution to every problem and everything happens for a reason. Having a successful start-up is very time-consuming. If you want things to come together, you will have to work really hard and really fast. Being an entrepreneur means making your work your number one priority. The only way to make it is by putting in the hours and staying focused.