In 2014, I’ve decided to open a twitter account to share my ideas and experiences about trading and business in general. It proved to be a quite successful account and enabled me to connect to many great people worldwide otherwise I wouldn’t have met. Part of the ‘give-back’ to the community included me posting my Nasdaq trades to twitter in real-time and creating this blog so especially new traders can benefit from reading and learning from it.
In 2015, I have acquired StockTraders.net for a considerable sum. The idea was to create something for the benefit of the whole trading community. I wasn’t really sure what that really meant. I have run several polls on twitter and ideas but really haven’t done much with it apart from a few meetings with a few traders in Europe but didn’t go too far from a few concepts as I was getting ready to move back to the UK (from Monaco) I was very buy with my Venture Capital and Real Estate Projects which I am still very busy with my diversified business interests to this date.
Fast forward a few months, Titus, a good friend, great trader and a trading buddy of mine that I know for many years and I started to discuss ideas about StockTraders.NET – We didn’t want just another chatroom as we both simply do not need to make money from a chatroom (without bragging in any way, we are both extremely comfortable financially) and we were both already sharing our trading ideas for free with the wider community. Instead, we wanted something bigger. Much bigger…For many years, I was thinking and was surprised to the fact that the lack of having a one-stop shop somewhere on the net for the new trader. This is where he/she can buy anything from the hardware to charting software, from news software to best brokerages. Think about a Trader’s supermarket where there are lots of tested and tried products in one place.
Additional to that, as a trading community, how we all can start to do ‘Group Buys’ (Think Groupon concept for finance) so that our favourite products can become much cheaper than the normal retail ones. The idea was really good but was it viable? To test it out, I have started to contact many vendors. Most of them were very positive and very much liked the idea and were willing to discount their prices but in return they get volume sales (who wouldn’t?).
All good up to now. So we had a great business model. Potentially a profitable business for us but it also benefits the trading community as a whole and it benefits the Vendors who can sell their product to many new clients. Win-win situation for everyone! Hurray!
Unfortunately, life is only that easy in movies or on fake twitter guru accounts! In real life, life & business are both very hard. This project was no different. First of all, the vendors we have spoken to wanted numbers. I am talking about many hundreds of people to start a sensible conversation about the discounts they can provide for their products. That meant we needed to find many members. Many members mean that you need to have some kind of product so you can get and retain these members. That product could be a portal with a chatroom. A great portal with a fantastic chatroom means a great investment in terms of money and time.
We are not types who give up that easily. Afterall, I had been here many times with a lot of tech companies through my VC. This didn’t stop us. We have started creating, StockTraders.NET v.01 from scratch with a developing team which wasn’t really fit for purpose. We knew this from start however, given the circumstances (and being funding the whole thing from our own pockets,) we thought it was a good way of at least starting and accomplish a demonstrator to see how functionality can work and more importantly we could get feedback from the users so we could build a better version.
We went ahead and built the first version. The v.01 was up and running in relatively short time but it proved to be a very difficult development. The chicken and egg situation is your average coder doesn’t really understand trading. Your average trader doesn’t really understand coding. We had to become the ‘bridge’ in between which was not only nerve wrecking but also exhausting in many ways especially we were also busy with a lot of different projects needed our attention. Rob Research and Goose joined in the core team, who we knew very well (both are coming from financial institutional backgrounds and very experienced traders). Product rolled out, members started to signup (some with many tech problems) and finally we got there at the end…First version was running and feedback for our trading was phenomenal from the users but the feedback for the portal however, let’s say was not as enthusiastic (rightly so!).
Fast forward a few months, we have started v1.0 development with a new development team from London. This particular team came recommended by another business I have invested in several years ago. Professional team in Central London meant that I could be on top of them if necessary and this would be a much easier process. What did we say about Life above? Of course, it wasn’t easy. We have spent very considerable sum of money with these guys and we have got what I would call a half-baked solution. The company was going through a rough patch (which we found out later in the process). The solution was really good in some areas but absolutely rubbish in other areas. The solution worked in terms of growing our community even further and enabled us to have some core membership of about 200-250 people who were with us from the beginning. We are very grateful for their continued support today.
Fast forward a few more months, we have started talks with another developer company who already had a solution but it didn’t exactly fit with our requirements. By now, most of our users were demanding live stream and more education from us. So, we have started working with the new team to build our custom solution. Once again, a lot of money has been spent, nothing comes cheap if you want quality. It is not only the money but also our time that really counts. We have spent countless hours developing and also testing the solution with the team.
In the new solution, we have decided to have 2 types of membership. A free membership (which we always had and will always have) and also the new Premium membership. Paid or Premium membership is only for the members who wants more such as streaming data, streaming widgets, more education, etc… The data doesn’t come cheap at all, and considering a 6-minute video uses about 2.5GB (720p HD) just for one user, you can imagine the amount of Amazon Web Services (AWS) data we will be using to broadcast to many hundreds of people (eventually thousands). Let alone the developments have been done and we continue doing and of course the admin’s time. So, we had to charge and we will keep charging for the premium services as we develop them. This will not really make any money for us in the short term and cover what has been spent so far but it will enable us to sustain the costs. This doesn’t mean that we will stop Free service in anyway. Don’t forget we are not here to build just a chatroom but a Trader’s community portal that benefits us all.
So what’s next? The immediate item on our roadmap is our discount financial products store. This will not be just a normal. ‘add to basket’ type store. Many more functionality (some of which you haven’t seen anywhere else) will be incorporated to this solution. We have done initial agreements with number of Vendors already so their products will start to appear on the shop first then we will roll out many more products as we grow the partnerships.
By now we have learnt our lesson not to give any dates in IT projects, however we are aiming to get the first version of the shop up and ready by the beginning of the new year (if not earlier). So much testing and further development will need to be done by us and the development team, which we are all currently working on as we speak.
As always, I wanted to be as transparent as possible to everyone because: 1) so hopefully this experience can be shared and some lessons can be learned throughout the development 2)so hopefully some more people can appreciate our efforts here and understand what we are doing for what reason 3) hopefully you can join us and help us to grow and build our portal to benefit us all.
Thank you for your time. Very much appreciated.