Stories for a brighter tomorrow | Entrepreneur
Swinburne alum Michael Giles is the founder of Embed
A 12-year-old investing in stocks isn't something you hear about every day. But then Michael Giles has always done things a little differently.
Entrepreneur Michael Giles
An investor grows
From a young age, Michael invested all his birthday money in stocks, and it became evident to those around him that Michael was determined to forge a different path.
While still in high school, Michael bought his first investment property two weeks after his 18th birthday. Another one quickly followed three months later, and it was then that he started to wonder if he could turn investing into a career.
An astute and sharp entrepreneur, Michael barely graduated from his western suburbs high school. Once a straight-A student, he lost interest in favour of investing in stocks and property. While the rest of his friends were applying for university, Michael had other ideas.
As it turned out, a combination of determination and timing saw Michael land a job at Computershare in 2003, where he started to learn the ins and outs of how the Australian stock market worked.
With a fascination for the markets, Michael soon left to launch his first start-up that helped mum and dad investors sell small shareholdings without opening a brokerage account and also tried building a service to automate investing plans. Due to heavy legal requirements, he eventually decided to turn that business into a traditional online brokerage service called OneTrade Stockbroking, obtaining an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL) in 2006.
His fumbling worked, and amid a global financial crisis, OneTrade proved itself an award-winning online brokerage company before being sold off.
Michael worked for the company that bought OneTrade for a few months before realising that it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Soon after, he decided to follow the advice of mentor and former Swinburne Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MEI) graduate Domenic Carosa who told him,
‘’Mike, you’re a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. You should do the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation; it will help structure your entrepreneurial knowledge.’’
‘‘I was 21 when I started it, and there was no ecosystem to help entrepreneurs back then. I didn’t even know what to do; I just fumbled through and didn’t really know how to scale it up.’’
And it did just that.
‘‘The Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation definitely polished my entrepreneurial knowledge.’’
"I had never gone to university. I just went straight from high school to working, so I think it enabled me to come out of my shell.’’
Study abroad creates opportunities
Having previously spent time in the spiritual home of stocks, bonds and trading, New York, Michael decided to embark on yet another adventure. ‘‘While studying, I applied for a Swinburne study abroad grant. I’ve always been fascinated with New York City and felt connected with the place. As a kid, I would get up early with Dad in the morning and watch the market close in New York.’’
Through the Swinburne study abroad grant, Michael attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. With automated investment still on his mind, it was in New York that his second start-up, RoboInvest, was born. It quickly grew into a social investing website with accompanying mobile apps. It became apparent that for Michael, his journey toward automating the investing process would not come without a willingness to adapt.
‘’That was one of the best experiences. Being an Australian in another country was super fun, and it got me out of my comfort zone. It was life-changing. I’d highly recommend it to anybody,” he said.
After selling off RoboInvest, Michael launched his third company, Third Party Technologies, in 2015. While Michael initially created the company to make US financial markets more accessible to Australians, he soon discovered that keeping the focus within the US would be more effective. Thanks to Michael’s hard work, the refocus was successful.
‘’When we realised that our original goal wasn’t going as planned, it was touch-and-go for a while,’’ he says. ‘’Thankfully, our US clients appreciated what we’d built, so it all took off from there.’’
‘‘I think that people who are genuinely interested in what they’re doing will continuously evolve and change and eventually create something that people want.’’
Embed, a game-changer
Third Party was acquired by Square (now known as Block) in 2019, and after a year of helping build and launch Cash App Investing, the most successful feature launch in Cash App history, Michael quickly set his sights on his latest start-up venture: Embed.
Embed is a game-changing financial markets infrastructure company with a mission to enable businesses to offer innovative investing experiences. Michael founded the company in May 2020. By October 2021, Embed had raised $80 million in funding and become an approved member of FINRA, NSCC, DTC and Nasdaq. ‘’It was incredible to see how quickly we garnered interest,’’ says Michael. ‘‘I’m honoured that so many investors see the potential in what we’re doing.’’
Today, Michael is excited to see the launch of Embed’s latest client, FTX US: a leading US-regulated cryptocurrency exchange. ‘’We have a shared vision for bringing more transparency to the securities industry and democratising access to financial services, so it’s a match made in heaven,’’ Michael says.
While it hasn’t been an easy road to take, Michael’s certain that he’s running his own race. ‘‘It’s a grind, and the world moves very fast now, but if you surround yourself with good people, mentors, other people who have done it before, be open-minded and keep a positive mental attitude, you can solve global problems and have fun while doing it. I’m always open to learning new things, and I think it’s made me a better person.’’