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From Pitch Competitor to Judge – The Startup Journey of Alfonso Arana Co-founder & CTO of SocialTrader.AI

Posted: September 27, 2023

By Ella Napata

Alfonso Arana Startup Spotlight

When 2020 hit, the Startup San Diego team had to make a pivotal decision to completely adapt San Diego Startup Week to a month-long virtual program while still delivering the same workshops, panels, and pitch competitions for the startup community, that year, San Diego Startup Month was born. We met Alfonso Arana, who at that time was the Co-founder of BizSecure. Alfonso competed in the first San Diego Startup Month Pitch Competition and went against 16 San Diego startups. After four grueling rounds, Alfonso came out on top!

Three years later, Alfonso has successfully sold his first startup BizSecure and is now working on a new venture, SocialTrader.Ai. Coming full circle, Alfonso will be a pitch competition judge at the next San Diego Startup Week Founders Fight Club competition. It’s amazing to see how much founders can grow in just a few years, from pitch competitor to pitch judge.  Check out our latest interview with Alfonso and learn more about his startup journey.

Alfonso, Can You Tell Us About Yourself and How You Got Involved in the Startup Space?

Over the years, I’ve refined my expertise as a cybersecurity engineer, diving deep into the intricacies of NIST 800-53a security controls. My work as a government contractor took me across various governmental agencies where I advised on securing multiple networks using the Risk Management Framework (RMF) process. 

Transitioning from a cybersecurity role, I co-founded BizSecure, a pioneering blockchain venture. Our primary focus was issuing verifiable credentials. At its core, BizSecure was designed as a digital wallet capable of securely storing various credentials – from vital records like birth and death certificates to other significant documents. 

This endeavor brought me into collaboration with some incredibly talented individuals, including lan Calderon, the former majority leader of the California State Assembly, and Dan Hom, whose insights and mentorship in local governance and strategic planning were invaluable.

How Has Startup San Diego and the Startup Community Supported You Since San Diego Startup Week 2020?

Alfonso AranaMy journey with Startup San Diego has been both humbling and empowering. When BizSecure was given the opportunity to pitch in 2020, we felt deeply grateful. As a disadvantaged business, every platform counts, and this was a big one for us.

Winning the San Diego Startup Pitch competition was more than just an accolade. It felt like an embrace from the startup community, signaling they believed in us, our vision, and our team’s potential. That moment was a reflection of our hard work, but it was also a reflection of the supportive ecosystem in San Diego. 

The win provided an amazing momentum for BizSecure. It validated our business model and opened doors that allowed us to forge deeper connections within our local community. These connections, in turn, played a vital role in the eventual exit of BizSecure. 

I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the entire startup community. The opportunity to pitch, the guidance, the support, and the belief all culminated in a trajectory that I’ll forever appreciate. 

Learn more about SocialTrader.AI

Tell Us More About Your New Startup SocialTrader.AI

My current startup is SocialTrader.ai, a disruptive fintech. I am a co-founder and the CTO. SocialTrader.AI is designed to democratize investing by leveraging advanced AI, bridging the gap between everyday investors and the complexities of the financial markets. 

Our three flagship products are: 

  • RoboAnalyzer 
  • RoboTrader 
  • RoboFunds 

As an SEC-registered investment advisor (RIA) in all 50 states, our unique SaaS business model unlocks new potential in AI-driven investment strategies. Features like commission-free trading, fractional shares, and our presence across 25 countries testify to our commitment to democratizing the investment landscape. We currently have over 2,000 individuals awaiting our closed beta launch. 

What Has been a Challenging Aspect of Your Startup Journey?

This journey has been both challenging and rewarding. The uphill battle with the SEC was one that many warned us about, but with a great team, we obtained the permissions we were seeking. This achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication and guidance of my co-founder, Danny Palacios. I’d like to thank him for ensuring our unwavering compliance and steering us in the right direction. 

What Are the Future Plans for Your New Startup?

The future of SocialTrader.AI is not just about advancing our platform; it’s about revolutionizing how individuals perceive and interact with the financial markets. Our vision is expansive and transformative. 

First and foremost, our immediate focus is on opening the doors of our platform to the thousands eagerly awaiting our closed beta launch. Every name on our waitlist signifies trust in our mission, and we are committed to delivering a user experience that surpasses their expectations. 

Continuing to Evolve

Beyond our initial launch, our three flagship products – RoboAnalyzer, RoboTrader, and RoboFunds – will continually evolve. We’re already eyeing integrations and advancements that harness the latest in AI and financial tech to ensure our platform remains current and ahead of the curve. 

Making Hedge Fund Strategies Accessible

As mentioned earlier, a defining moment for SocialTrader.AI was receiving our SEC RIA approval. This wasn’t just a regulatory green light; it fundamentally changed the game for countless potential investors. Traditionally, many hedge funds have been out of reach due to the stringent legal requirements of being an accredited investor. Our unique business model cuts through these legal intricacies. With our RoboFunds marketplace, we’re pioneering a subscription-based model that makes hedge fund “like” strategies accessible. It allows hedge funds to tap into a previously unreachable market segment of investors who might not have qualified traditionally. Conversely, it gives potential investors an unprecedented chance to delve into hedge funds with a simple subscription fee, breaking down the barriers to access that once stood in their way. 

Partnering in the Fintech Space

Strategically, we’re actively discussing with notable investors in the fintech space. Their insights and collaborations will be pivotal in shaping the trajectory of SocialTrader.AI. Partnering with the right minds and entities will amplify our potential and reach.

Sustained Innovation

In essence, the future of SocialTrader.AI is about sustained innovation, meaningful collaborations, and, most importantly, empowering our community of investors. We’re on a journey to make the complex world of investing straightforward, insightful, and inclusive. The road ahead has immense potential, and I’m thrilled about the prospects. 

What Advice Do You Have for New founders?

Being a founder is both an exhilarating and humbling journey. I’ve walked this path from the early days of BizSecure to the inception of SocialTrader.AI, and each step has been a learning lesson. 

New founders should be authentically themselves. In a world buzzing with advice, success stories, and paths to ‘sure-shot’ success, it’s easy to lose oneself. But remember, every founder’s journey is unique. What worked for one might not work for another. Listen, learn, but ultimately, trust your gut. 

Engaging in Customer Discovery is Paramount

It’s tempting to fall in love with your idea, but it’s more crucial to fall in love with the problem you’re solving. Engage with your target audience and understand their pain points, desires, and feedback. This will help you craft a product that resonates and fosters a deep connection with your community. 

Be Open to Pivoting

This was a lesson I learned firsthand. Just because you started down one path doesn’t mean you can’t change direction. Sometimes, the most unexpected turns lead to the best destinations. This was a hard lesson for me, as I lived through this exact problem with our current startup, SocialTrader.AI. We originally started off as a crypto-only copy trading platform, which was what our hearts were set on. Right before the launch of our copy trading platform, we decided to pull the plug, go in our current direction, and become fully compliant with the SEC, which was the best decision we have ever made. So be open to change! 

Embrace Resilience

Lastly, embrace resilience. As a founder, you’ll face numerous challenges, rejections, and even moments of self-doubt. But remember, every setback is a setup for a comeback. Believe in your vision, trust in your team, and move forward with unwavering passion. 

Every entrepreneurial journey is like a story being written in real time. Make yours a story worth telling. 

Do You Have Any Call to Action or Ways People Can Connect with You or the New Startup?

Absolutely. More than a business or a venture, SocialTrader.AI is a community. It’s a platform born out of passion, experience, and the genuine desire to empower people in their investment journeys. Every individual who joins us doesn’t just become a user but an integral part of our ever-evolving story.

I personally invite each of you to be a part of this vision. Join our waitlist at SocialTrader.AI. It’s about getting early access and joining a community that seeks to redefine how we engage with financial markets. 

I’m always open to feedback and insights. Your thoughts and ideas could shape the future of our platform. I like to cultivate a space of innovation with others. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing others’ perspectives. 

Our aim with SocialTrader.AI is to revolutionize investing and build a close-knit community of informed, empowered, and connected investors. I hope your readers become a part of this exciting journey, and let’s shape the future of investing together.