MeARKET Lets You Peek At Your Friends’ Stock Portfolios

A new startup called MeARKET wants you to play the stock market with a little help from your friends.

According to CEO Colton Daines, MeARKET is one of those startups that was built in response to a real need in its founders’ lives. Nadav Gur (currently the company’s chairman) had moved to the United States to serve as an entrepreneur in residence at incubator SRI International. He wanted to start investing in the U.S. market, but wasn’t sure where to put his money. So he thought: I’ve got some smart friends. Wouldn’t it be great if I could see their investments?

So that’s what MeARKET does. When you sign up, you enter the stocks that you own. Then you’re connected with your Facebook and LinkedIn friends, you can see their portfolios, and as they buy and sell, you get updated. After all, there’s a good chance you have friends who are keyed in to a particular industry or company, so you can tap into their knowledge for your own investments.

The big vision is to help “retail investors” (i.e, regular folks buying stocks with their own money) make better decisions, and to make the process less intimidating for people who might want to join their ranks. Even if you don’t own stocks yourself, you can still create a watchlist of stocks that you want to track.

For your own tracking, you can also enter the number of shares that you own and the price you purchased them at, but that doesn’t get shared. And if there are people you don’t want to share with, you can always hide your portfolio from them.

Daines argues that MeARKET taps into the social graph in a very different way than social investing sites like StockTwits and Wikinvest, because it’s not focused on discussions among professional investors and analysts, and instead about sharing knowledge with your friends. The service that was probably closest to MeARKET was Cake Financial, but it was acquired and shut down by E*TRADE in 2010.

The site is now opening up its beta test (you still need to request an invite, but everyone who requests one will be let in) today, but it has been running a private test over the last few months. Daines says that in the initial test, he’s actually seen people make investment decisions based on what they see on MeARKET. Usually, it’s not a simple “Oh, my friend bought Apple stock, so I will too” — instead, a trade will spur a larger discussion thread, and that discussion may convince someone to buy or sell.

For now, MeARKET doesn’t connect to any of your brokerage accounts. Instead, you have to enter your portfolio and trades manually. That’s a good way to avoid any privacy concerns, but makes the service a bit less convenient, and Daines says he’s thinking about adding brokerage integration.

The manual entry also means users could conceivably lie about their investments. However, since accounts are tied to your real identity and shared with your friends, it probably won’t be too common.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced “meerkat.”