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Brian Schardt (’16)
Brian Schardt (’16)

Since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College just five years ago, Brian Schardt (’16) has had a whirlwind career in the high-tech sector, working for several major American corporations, including Walmart Labs, PwC, and Warner Music Group. But last summer he set off on his most ambitious venture yet, launching his own company, Iris, for which he serves as the chief executive and technical officer.

“I saw an opportunity in the marketplace to share real-time investments with friends and family,” Mr. Schardt reflects. “I was making trades, and my friends and family wanted to know about them in real time. So I set out to develop an app that integrates with stockbroker accounts.”

Iris’ principal product is a stock-trading social-media platform, connecting investors the world over. “The app only shows percentages, how much you’ve gained or lost,” Mr. Schardt explains, “not actual dollar totals, personal information, or balances.”

Despite minimal marketing — the company has thus far focused its efforts on refining the product and user experience — Iris has generated enough organic interest to attract more than 50,000 active users who have posted more than $3 billion in stock transactions. “Right now we’re the only app to integrate with Robinhood, one of the top brokers for millennials,” says Mr. Schardt. “We’re also adding a group-messaging platform that will really lend itself to the stock market. Once it’s in place, we don’t think anyone will want to be anywhere else.”

For the time being the startup has nine employees besides Mr. Schardt, two of whom are fellow alumni: his brother Scott (’17) and Aaron Langley (’17). It has thus far raised $700,000 in venture capital with another $3 million expected in June. “We don’t want to be just another tech company,” Mr. Schardt observes. “We’re creating a community of people who create content about the stock market that’s helpful, humorous, and insightful.” The aim is to enable ordinary investors to work together, so that they may achieve returns every bit as good as, if not better than, those promised by professionals.

“Iris is about breaking the common mentality that the retail trader cannot be as good as Wall Street,” says Mr. Schardt. “Iris is showing that we can break this illusion, and that the retail trader can outperform Wall Street.”