Getting a million active monthly users is no small feat, but Techstars Chicago alum TradingView managed to get there without an advertising budget.
A data-driven social network for nonprofessional investors, TradingView has spent years developing the kinds of financial data visualization capabilities that help users spot and analyze trends. In lieu of a traditional marketing strategy, the company provides these visualizations to highly-trafficked finance sites like Investopedia free of charge, gaining exposure to millions of unique users every month.
To co-founder and COO Stan Bokov (pictured right), this kind of partnership is a win-win for all parties involved.
“Our partners get better engagement and a better user experience,” he said. “Traditionally, that [data visualization] cost a lot of money for sites — thousands of dollars a month.”
Bokov estimates that between 15 million and 20 million unique users interact with his company’s services monthly — many of whom end up converting into customers.
Born out of a frustration with the information asymmetry that puts nonprofessional investors at a disadvantage relative to professionals, TradingView lets users share and discuss market insights using a social chart building tool and a collection of chat rooms. The site contains data on everything from foreign currencies and Bitcoin to stocks and commodity futures.
Though this kind of merging of data and social capability already exists for professional users of the Bloomberg Terminal, that tool comes at the prohibitive cost of over $25,000 a year.
“One of our missions is to democratize and bring the advantage back to regular investors and give them the same capabilities that the professional investors are enjoying, yet not charge them the really large sums of money that the professionals are paying,” Bokov said.
TradingView operates on a freemium model, with the majority of the site’s functionality available free of charge. Investors looking for an additional edge can opt to buy additional features like more granular data, with memberships ranging from $10 to $40 per month. Bokov said the average premium user pays around $200 a year.
To ensure that users are forthright when discussing their investing strategies, TradingView does not allow them to delete an annotated graph after it’s been published. In addition to establishing trust among users, Bokov said this permanence has the added benefit of counterbalancing an investor's tendency toward selective memory, making it easier to learn from one’s own mistakes. To that end, each graph has a “play” button that lets users see how a particular prediction played out.
“Everyone’s going to be wrong, and it’s important to understand that,” Bokov said. “You can learn something from a prediction that went wrong — more than you can learn from a prediction that went right. … It’s educational.”
Moving beyond pure education, the company is currently beta testing an integration with Forex Capital Markets, an online currency broker, that lets users perform currency trades directly inside its platform.
TradingView launched the first version of its service in 2011 and was part of Techstars Chicago’s class of 2013, but the company has really been gaining momentum over the past year or so. Last year, its user base grew from around 400,000 to one million. Bokov said the service is currently growing at a month-over-month rate of about 10 percent.
The company raised a $3 million funding round from institutional investors this summer and launched a Spanish language version of its site at the end of July. The Spanish language version is part of a push on behalf of the company to fuel further global growth, along with previously launched versions in Japanese and Russian. The company is currently working to establish supporting staffs in France, Spain, Germany and Brazil.
In Bokov’s view, a localized presence is still crucial for any finance-centered social network looking to become a global one-stop shop.
“English is pretty well spread out around the world, but sometimes the local knowledge of English is not good enough to communicate in a meaningful way about financial markets,” he said. “So we’re focusing a lot of efforts on localizing the site and adding international data to facilitate this expansion and really enable this communication flow.”
Images via Shutterstock and TradingView.