For advisors, time is money. They are constantly harangued to outsource their administrative tasks to broker-dealer and custodial partners in order to free up more time for client-facing activities — research among them. But what happens when too much time is spent looking for one particular item, only to then have trouble making heads or tails of the data retrieved?
Shawn Carpenter aims to solve the problem. The former Google executive is the co-founder and CEO of YCharts, a research and information provider that he considers a “Bloomberg for advisors,” only without the static desktop terminal. YCharts' cloud design lets subscribers have access to information “whenever and wherever they need it.”
“Prior to starting this company I was at Google for three and a half years,” Carpenter relates, when asked about the genesis for the idea and the company. “I was part of this group called the revenue intelligence team, and we were the first group to get access to the global query database as well as the ads database. We could take all the information that was coming into Google and try to find opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers in a much more efficient way.”
As one might expect, dealing with billions of queries, the data gets “pretty complex.” Carpenter's and the team’s answer was to visually represent much of what they were seeing in order to make sense of the information. Combining internal data with external public information and then layering in macro-industry information available through government sites took some doing (and time). That’s where the idea for YCharts was born.
“I found I couldn’t get access to a lot of the information I needed outside of Google anywhere, so I figured other people in the investment world probably had the same problem.”
They initially launched in 2009 and in March of 2010, Carpenter, along with co-founder and CTO Ara Anjargolian, brought in the first investment round.
“Users just immediately got the site’s visual nature of the fundamental analysis we provided on of a lot of companies," Carpenter said. "Looking at financial statements really isn’t the easiest way to digest a lot of the information, so we’ve turned it into very visual information with the fundamentals and really allows you to look into companies in the same as you would analyze internal information."
The company got a big shot in the arm in November 2011, when Morningstar took a $3.5 million, 20% stake in the company. That was followed by another investment round in April, which brought in an additional $4 million.
“It’s really helped us to continue to invest in engineering and building the team and it also gave us a lot of credibility. We’ve got close to one million users on a monthly basis and that’s been growing rapidly since we launched.”
YCharts aim to target the market that is below the “high-end terminals that are in the $1,500 to $2,000 per month per seat range.” For most advisors, Carpenter notes, that price point won’t work, “so we’ve been able to be a bit more efficient in term of how we built our system and can offer it at a more cost-effective manner.”
“If you’re dealing with equities and doing deep analysis and you have discretion it is perfect for an advisor like that. We finding a lot of advisors that are coming out of larger entities and setting up their own shop are really adding a lot of value for their clients and gravitating to the platform. They often have had terminals in the past but now they are building a smaller advisory firm; that is the sweet spot for us. Those firms really love YChat and are helping us continue to build out the platform.”
Check out What Big Data Will Mean for Advisors on ThinkAdvisor.