Social investment platform eToro: Israel’s most widespread export?

With customers in 80 countries, eToro may be the Israeli online innovation that has reached more people than any other

Screenshot of the eToro OpenBook platform (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Screenshot of the eToro OpenBook platform (Photo credit: Courtesy)

It might seem strange that the largest online foreign exchange platform would have been the brainchild of two Israeli brothers. But considering the fascination Israelis have always had with foreign currency, it makes sense that eToro, which provides users with a platform for easy trading of forex, commodities, and stock indices, would have been invented here.

Now eToro is a global corporation, with offices in New York, Australia, India, and Cyprus, as well as in Tel Aviv. It needs to be, says company co-founder and CEO Yoni Assia, in order to ensure that it can provide its trading platform to people all over the world. “We work with banks and brokers all around the world, to serve our clients in 80 countries,” Assia told the Times of Israel. “We’re now the largest social investment network in the world, with 2.5 million users sharing data in real time. We’re proud of having built a big international company that caters to people from all over the world.”

eToro is one of a number of new social investing platforms that rely on the “wisdom of crowds” to dispense advice and guidance to all users. eToro’s specialty is foreign currency trading, with users flipping dollars for euros for pounds for yen, and so on. You can see the recent trades each user has made, and how successful or unsuccessful each position was. It’s an outgrowth of general social networking, applied to something far more serious and personal than Facebook’s updates and photos: money.

Which is why it’s a bit surprising that eToro would attract so many users. After all, there’s nothing more intimate than money, and traditionally people have gone to great lengths to keep money out of their social relationships with people they know, much less to perfect strangers on the Internet. But the world is changing, Assia said, and people are a lot more willing to share intimate details online. “And eToro doesn’t require you to reveal information about how much money you earn or have. We just share your trades, so that others can see what you’ve done and learn from them. Sharing information about transactions is helpful, not harmful,” Assia said.

eToro’s main feature is its “OpenBook network,” which lets users see what trades users are making and how they are ranked. But the most innovative aspect of the platform is that it allows users to “copy” trades made by successful traders. So if a user likes the trading style of a successful user, he can copy them to his own account and activate the same trades. You’re allowed to invest 20% of your funds (real or virtual; you get $10,000 in online money to practice when you open an account) in this manner. Of course, copying the moves of others can be risky if you don’t know their strategy or long-term plan. But it’s a good way to learn the system, and to learn about forex trading in general, said Assia. “Our tools, including copying, have simplified the world of trading an investing for users, making it global and connected,” Assia added.

So does it work? Most definitely, Assia said. “We have statistics that show that copy trading is profitable, more so than manual trading. It makes sense. Instead of people making their own decisions, they can delegate their trades to more experienced traders.” That’s the power of social networking as applied to a site where users can make money, Assia added.

Assia said that he got the idea for eToro when he was still a kid. “I started trading when I was 16, in the late ’90s, during the dot-com boom. Since then I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of online trading, and in 2007 I started eToro with my brother Ronen. We started with a vision of trying to make it easier for online traders to succeed, and when we saw there were no solutions, we started eToro.”

That an Israeli company has been able to make it as a worldwide platform, with customers in over 80 countries (including many Arab countries), is a sign that eToro is on the right track, providing useful tools for the average investor, helping them to improve their lives. “We believe we have the potentipal to get to hundreds of millions of people,” Assia said. “Our site is just the beginning of the online social finance revolution.”

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