How Tom Sosnoff's team is taking to 1 million users in just two years

by Carlin Sack
February 24, 2014

After founding online brokerage thinkorswim in 1999 and financial media company tastytrade in 2011, Tom Sosnoff, is now onto his next - and likely his last - fin tech venture: visual trading platform dough.

But this “last stop,” as Sosnoff calls it, isn’t going to be a quick one. In fact, dough is “about nine months to a year away from the product we want to have,” Sosnoff said.

Since its January launch, dough’s offerings, which include interactive video lessons and real-time strategy sessions on trading, have lassoed over 20,000 users, a number that Sosnoff said took thinkorswim over six years to reach. With dough, 15,000 were already signed up at launch.

dough has its very own team to thank for those impressive numbers. The experience of CTO Linwood Ma (the former CTO of thinkorswim who Sosnoff calls “a self-taught genius”) and President Kristi Ross (also tastytrade’s President and CEO) have produced a “pretty good following,” Sosnoff said.

“We have reached a point in our careers that I think people know this isn’t a fluke,” he said.

Just as is expected from Sosnoff and his team, they will be pushing the platform to be even more than it is now - in terms of user numbers and in terms of offerings for interactive learning.

“We are going to build a dough brand,” Sosnoff said. “We hope to have a million users on dough by the end of 2015. Dough is going to be a financial product that’s going to scale through its technology and that helps with any level.”

Dough’s technology is powered by an experienced team made up of lead developers from thinkorswim and top recruits from Chicago’s financial development pool, Sosnoff said. How the team will achieve this million-person feat is by building technology that appeals to more and more users or, in other words, technology that makes finance more accessible (yet not necessarily making finance easier).

“We take a different approach to building technology,” Sosnoff said. “Most people build technology for the lowest-hanging fruit and then try to get business that way. We actually build it top-down for the smallest piece of the funnel. We are going to move that down over time to get more and more users. Right now, we are testing and tweaking and improving the technology.”

As they continue to tweak, improve and rack up more users, the company is gaining more local support too, like financial backing from local tech fund Lightbank - despite their low-to-the-ground marketing approach.

“We are not as young as we once were, so we are trying to grow quickly,” Sosnoff said. “We’re not that social either. We kind of have that old-school mentality of if you build great product and if you differentiate yourself through your technology, you can grow. Great products scale. We learned that in the past.”

By building upon the team’s past experiences, they are hoping to leave behind a legacy with dough (as if they haven’t already left one with thinkorswim and tastytrade).

“This is a clichéd change-the-world effort, but it’s also our legacy,” Sosnoff said. “To be fair, if we can change the world of financial content we will do everybody a favor. We’ve been building fin tech since 1999. We can build stuff that nobody else can even do.”


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