A year ago we incorporated this company with a simple idea - individual investors were being underserved and underrepresented, and that we could build a company and a platform to empower them.
Today is Urvin Finance’s 1 year anniversary! What a year!
First, Zak, Alex and I - and the entire Urvin Finance team - would like to simply thank you, and thank everyone who has supported us in this journey, regardless of what form that support has taken. Your supportive and positive messages, your signature on a sign-on letter, your investment in our company, your open and constructive feedback - all of this has made us better as an organization. We wouldn’t be here without every one of you, and we wouldn’t exist without your support. Thank you.
A year ago we incorporated this company with a simple idea - individual investors were being underserved and underrepresented, and that we could build a company and a platform to empower them. We believe strongly that investors can make better decisions if they have access to better data and educational resources. We want to facilitate this decision-making by enabling distributed, decentralized research and providing exceptional educational opportunities. Ultimately, better decisions will lead to long-term wealth creation.
Our First 6 Months (2021) - Building the Company
It took us a few months to start - refining our ideas, engaging with supporters, surveying the existing landscape, and starting to design a better platform for research, sharing and education. We decided to raise a round of crowd equity funding, and that consumed far more time and attention than a simple pre-seed round normally would have. Our round was an incredible success, ultimately raising about $1.25M from about 1,350 investors. It’s given us access to a wealth of experience, knowledge and resources that we otherwise wouldn’t have had, and we are huge fans of this approach. As we make plans to kick off our next round of funding (our seed round), we intend to continue this approach by starting with the crowd equity portion in mid July (more on this soon!).
Ultimately, the second half of 2021, which was the first half of our first year, was really focused on putting in a foundation for our company that would let us build and scale our product over the coming years. We took no shortcuts, and cut no corners. We spent extra time on our data privacy and cookie policies to ensure we were protecting our supporters and users. We went so far as to become GDPR compliant from the very beginning, to adopt the strictest global standards for data protection.
We focused heavily on defining and developing our initial product designs and product functionality requirements. We are not simply building a web application. We are building a platform for research and collaboration, and solving some very serious problems that we identified with existing solutions. We wanted to make sure we got it right.
We also put together a company culture that we could be proud of, and that would attract incredibly talented people. That has been another element of our success, and one I am particularly proud of. We enumerated our guiding values are, and internally made sure everyone understands the actions that we believe will enable us to realize these values:
- Long-Term Sustainability
- Alignment of Incentives
- Transparency, Honesty and Integrity
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Financial Literacy and Education
As our organization and platform have developed, I am confident that we have successfully navigated through some very difficult times, and have lived up to these values.
Our Second 6 Months (2022) - Building The Terminal
While we started basic development of our platform in late 2021, and had some technology we were able to leverage from our past, most of our development team was brought on in early 2022 once we closed our pre-seed funding round. We also made a strategic decision to migrate to a more robust microservices framework in mid March, a decision that extended our timeline for delivering the first version of our platform to our early alpha users. While this meant that it would take longer to deliver our platform, and would mean some other difficulties as we adapted to developing and deploying this framework, it was the right decision for the company to ensure that we would have a full-featured, flexible platform that could scale with us as we grew.
One of Urvin’s founding principles is that individual investors should have access to the same quality data as the professionals. Putting this into action was time consuming and complicated, but we got there. We started by focusing on data vendors and data contracts - a long, and arduous process of identifying the right partners, working with them on a rational commercial model to make their data accessible to individual investors (rather than the institutional investors they ordinarily serve), going through the legal process of getting contracts signed, and then going through the technical process of onboarding these extremely complex data sets.
We were beyond excited to release the initial alpha version of our product on May 20th. While it was barebones and had very little data in it, it was an incredible accomplishment to ship product, a milestone that most startups fail to hit.
This week, just over a month later, we’re releasing a major new update to the alpha platform. This update includes many of the most valuable datasets that we contracted for and integrated, including
- full company financial information (balance sheets, income statements, cash flows, and critical ratios and growth rates),
- real-time news from the top news provider in the industry,
- enhanced charting capabilities that incorporate company events, and
- an early version of our community functionality.
Real-time quote and trade data contracts have just been signed with the stock exchanges, and that will be coming out very soon, along with the historical intraday data for more sophisticated charting.
Further, our platform is designed and built for speed and scale. Even the early alpha platform loads and displays these datasets extremely quickly. We’ve invested in devops to make sure that our platform can handle the scale needed once we open it up to our beta users and then launch to the public later this year. Our system is architected the right way from the beginning, and will provide an extremely valuable foundation for future growth.
Our Perpetual Mission: Education and Advocacy
When we started this company, Alex, Zak and I made it clear that we are a mission-driven organization, and that part of our mission was to educate individual investors, democratize access to sophisticated data and tools, and to work to improve markets by advocating for important changes - even when those changes do not benefit our company. To accomplish these goals, we launched two important initiatives over the past 3 months - (1) We The Investors, a grassroots advocacy campaign for individual investors; and (2) our Education microsite.
We The Investors was launched the first week of March, to coincide with my appearance on The Problem with Jon Stewart. Between that initial launch and the sign-on letter that we wrote to Gary Gensler and the SEC, we have had almost 90k supporters join the movement. This has given us a seat at the table, meetings with the SEC chair and staff, and interest from members of Congress. We are here to empower individual investors, and to make sure that firms who productize those investors can no longer hold themselves up as their representatives. We will ensure that individual investors have the information they need as new rules and regulations are developed to passionately and intelligently advocate on their own behalf, and we will ensure that our voices are heard and accounted for as market regulation evolves.
Our Education microsite was rolled out soon after the alpha version of our platform. It is, and will always remain, free to access. While it is separate from the platform today it will ultimately be integrated into it. Keeping it separate enabled us to launch it sooner, and has given us flexibility to devote resources to it that are not consumed with core system development. We have invested considerable time and resources into this initiative, and have done so in collaboration with an incredible partner - Enable Ed. This ensures that we are not just throwing a bunch of content onto a website, but rather building educational journeys and pathways that will provide resources to anyone who wants to level-up their knowledge of finance and markets. We have also been working with contractors from within our community of supporters who are helping us build novel educational content - including lyrical learning and meme-ified learning - to meet our users where they are at, and provide resources in different forms for different kinds of learners.
This first year has been an incredible adventure. Our ambitions as we began this journey were high - and I believe we have met and exceeded our hopes for what we would accomplish in year one. However, we are just getting started. By the end of the fall, we are planning to
- have secured our seed round of funding (currently targeting $5M),
- launched The Terminal to our new investors and then to our beta waitlist users (currently almost 10k people),
- expanded our platform’s features and functionality to include real-time data, custom data visualizations, the integration of data visualizations with community collaboration, additional datasets, expanded educational resources and partners, and then
- to ultimately launch the full public version of our product.
We will at the same time have focused our efforts on advocacy as the SEC proposes new rules, ensured that the public remains aware of critical issues in market structure, worked with Congress on new bills and oversight activities, and expanded our advocacy platform to include more issues that are important to our community.
Through all of this, we will continue to live our values and focus on our core mission - empowering individual investors with the highest quality data, tools and education, and enable them to collaborate on both advocacy and research.
We want to thank you again for your support and encouragement during the past year. There were many high points, and some low points, and the support of our incredible community has meant everything. We could not be more optimistic about the prospects for Urvin Finance, and for the exciting future ahead of us.