AWS Startups Blog

Rally Democratizes Investing in High-Priced Collectibles by Leveraging a Serverless-First Architecture

Ever wanted to own a Lamborghini? How about a signed pair of game shoes worn by Michael Jordan himself?

To the vast majority of people, the answer to those questions is likely, “Yeah, in my dreams.” High-priced collectables have, well, a high income bar to be able to play, leaving much of the population as outsiders to this exclusive world. That is, until recently.

Headquartered in New York, Rally has built a platform that turns collectible items into investable securities, enabling anyone to take part in the potential financial upside of owning high-value assets. From Aston Martins to rare Hermès Birkin bags, Rally users can browse the various categories, select which items to learn more about, and purchase shares in whatever catches their eye, all from the company’s mobile app.

As CTO Vinny DiDonato puts it, “Our mission is to democratize the opportunity to invest in these collectibles for the general public. For people who typically cannot walk into a store and order a vintage Rolex watch or 1982 Ferrari, we give them the opportunity to purchase a piece of the assets and participate in the potential long-term appreciation of the asset.”

The company currently offers items in several categories: cars, memorabilia (such as sports and video games), luxury accessories (like watches or purses), literature (including classic books and comics), as well as wine and spirits. To fill each asset type, Rally employs experts in that field to both find and value potential new listings. Once one is unearthed, Rally then holds an “initial offering”, creating a new entity to hold that asset, then piecing out newly created shares and selling them on their platform.

Vinny DiDonato, CTO

Vinny DiDonato, CTO

Creating new mini-companies for each item offers up a certain level of technical complexity, however. As you can likely imagine, financial instruments are heavily regulated by the government and need to have specific checks and balances built in. On top of that, managing the purchasing of millions of shares poses its own challenges, especially when coupled with limited inventory and high consumer demand.

To help manage all of this, Rally turned to AWS and a serverless-first architecture, per DiDonato “One of the main challenges we had while building this platform out was keeping the costs at an affordable level while still offering the level of service that our users expect. How do you facilitate all these transactions? How do you facilitate the purchases of shares? How do you help buyers/sellers directly transact with each other in a secondary market?

We came across AWS Lambda while surveying all the options on the market. For us, it’s proved to be a very cost-effective piece of our system. From managing asynchronous transactions, like user signups or bank transfers, to working through spikes in activity, using a serverless-first approach and Lambda has enabled Rally to scale quickly, without having to worry about infrastructure management.”

A rather recent example of this need to scale came along with the release of “The Last Dance”, a much-anticipated documentary covering Michael Jordan and his final season with the Chicago Bulls. The wild popularity of the ten-part series pushed droves of fanatics to Rally in search of memorabilia they could invest in, something the startup has in spades. One listing that was especially popular, per DiDonato, was for a pair of game-worn Jordan 3’s (Michael Jordan actually wore them in a game and signed them.) “The buzz and excitement surrounding the documentary generated a significant amount of user activity within the platform, with shares selling out in a matter of seconds, but our system and team are set up to support and manage the influx of interest thanks to AWS and our serverless architecture.”

Looking ahead, DiDonato says it’s all about continually improving the platform for their users by constantly testing new features. “As with any startup, you can’t do everything. But what you can do is test new ideas and double down on the winners, and that’s a strategy we believe will continue to drive us forward.”

Mikey Tom

Mikey Tom

Mikey works on the AWS Startup Marketing team to help highlight awesome founders leveraging the AWS ecosystem in interesting ways. Prior to his time at AWS, Mikey led the venture capital news coverage at PitchBook, researching and writing about industry trends and events.