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Charlottesville father-son duo launch BrokerBotics, an automated stock-trading platform

Most fathers teach their 8-year-old sons on how to throw a football or catch a baseball. Siddharth Dalal was teaching his son Ahan how to code. At 9 years old, the younger Dalal had already created a computer game: "Blob Attack."

Five years later, the father and son have launched BrokerBotics, an online platform that will automatically trade stock options based on a client’s personalized goals and preferences.

It all started one day when Ahan Dalal forgot to do his daily chore: trade options.

“Market hours are during the school day, so I always forgot to do it or just never did it,” Albemarle High School student and CEO of BrokerBotics Ahan Dalal told The Daily Progress. “He would always ask if I did it every single day when I got home from school. So this was a good code project to do, and it solved that problem.”

While most kids may dream of a robot that will wash the dishes or fold the laundry for them, Ahan Dalal spent roughly two months writing a code that would automatically execute specific kinds of trades to run on his father’s account this past spring. After seeing that the program was running successfully, Ahan Dalal decided to start charging his father some commission in order to purchase an iPhone.

“That’s when we really thought of this business idea, because if he was willing to pay for that service, there was a chance other people would too,” said Ahan Dalal.

The two began collaborating on a code that would allow for new clients to sign on, which after five months of coding, was finally ready to launch last week on their website

Over the summer, they attended the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program put on by Virginia’s branch of the America’s Small Business Development Centers at George Mason University, which brings together and assists the commonwealth’s technology and innovative startups. Through conversations and interviews with potential customers, Siddharth Dalal, chief technology officer of the fledgling company, realized “that this is a viable business.”

So, in August, he stopped his work providing software consulting for other technological startups and dedicated himself full-time to BrokerBotics.

“That’s the most fun work to do and space to be in,” said Siddharth Dalal, who received his master’s in computer science from the University of Virginia, about working with startups. “So it was a great time to be a part of my own startup and to get to do it with Ahan, which is great.”

BrokerBotics today only has one partnership, with Tradier, a platform for active traders, so potential Brokerbotics customers must first create an account with Tradier to then connect with BrokerBotics. After that, it takes just a few clicks for the Dalals’ program to start automatically trading options.

While the code is running smoothly, the startup has hit a few bumps in the road when it comes to customer acquisition.

“Not a lot of people are willing to open a new brokerage account just to try BrokerBotics, which is a brand new company started by a teenager,” said the elder Dalal.

Thankfully, Siddharth Dalal has plenty of experience explaining difficult topics to those who may not understand them, seeing as how he managed to teach his son how to code and navigate the stock market by the time he turned 14.

“I taught him how to code when he was 8, and it was really a kind of frustrating experience because I didn’t know how to teach a kid that young how to code,” said the father.

So, he wrote a book, “Elementary JavaScript: Programming for Elementary and Middle School Kids.” It’s a how-to guide that differs pretty significantly from his other publication “The Beginning of My End,” a paranormal thriller. Ahan Dalal also followed in his father’s literary footsteps with a novel he wrote during the pandemic called “Accidental Superheros.” Though the book is available on Amazon, the younger Dalal plans to pursue his computer passions in the future, starting with BrokerBotics.

In case clients, and most people, are unfamiliar with options and how to trade them, the Dalals are currently working on adding short, animated videos to their site to educate people on trading strategies, various stocks and other terminology.

“An option is a contract to buy or sell a stock at a certain price by a certain date,” explains Raina, the avatar from the first video uploaded to the website.

One week in, BrokerBotics already has two active clients and five that are going through the application process. The burgeoning brokers aspire to gain 1,000 new clients in 2024, and a recent partnership with 434 Accelerator may help them turn those dreams into a reality. The accelerator assists early-stage, technological startups in Central Virginia through a nine-month program that includes a $20,000 grant, mentoring and networking with others in the industry.

"Sidd and Ahan are a great combination of technical skills, knowledge, and passion — making them a great fit for the accelerator program," 434 Accelerator Managing Director David Touve told The Daily Progress in an email. "As a parent, I am absolutely inspired by this father-son team."

With over 20 years of experience working in software, Siddharth Dalal is hoping to gain some advice from 434 on the business aspect of BrokerBotics.

“With the two of us, it’s just not enough, even with me being full-time and Ahan working part-time,” said Siddharth Dalal. “Being new and first-time founders, it’s difficult, so we hope 434 will help us with guidance on achieving our goals: getting clients, helping us get future funding, connecting us with investors and the state grant program.”

In the past few months, a couple part-time employees expanded BrokerBotics’ staff. Siddharth Dalal met Conor Welch through a Charlottesville group on the messaging app Slack and brought him on as chief marketing officer. Finley Underwood, a graduate of UVa’s McIntire School of Commerce, also became a part of the team as director of marketing. Underwood is also the founder and CEO of Utopia Co., an apparel company focused on reselling high fashion.

The early months of 2024 will be critical to the startup’s growth. The Dalals hope to target larger brokerage companies, such as E-Trade, which could bring more attention and clients to their business.

“A lot of it is experimentation,” said Ahan Dalal. “So we’ll have to see what works in getting users and what problems users might have that we have to fix.”

Another potential obstacle the Dalals may have to work through: making sure Ahan Dalal spends some of his free time coding as well as playing video games with friends.


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