The concept behind TradeHero was to create a stock market simulator but inject gaming technology into it. We – Dinesh Bhatia and I – wanted it to be a learning tool where players could follow other people who were doing well and learn from them at the same time.
Some people who play the game are experts or at least very, very good at trading. Those people are the ‘Heroes’ in the game. Other gamers can subscribe, for a small monthly fee, to follow and receive trade feeds from their chosen Heroes via push notifications on their mobile device. These push notifications detail each buy and sell action of the Hero, allowing followers to receive expert trading tips and personal insight into successful investment strategies. The most successful players – ones who have followers – earn real money from subscription fees.
The idea has blown up beyond our wildest dreams, in part because of the software we were able to access through the BizSpark program. Any startup is quite driven to make money and we're no different. But creating revenue is not reality in the early stages; the product is. There was no point in choosing technologies that restricted us so we quite consciously chose Microsoft technologies which we accessed through BizSpark.
Through the program we gained access to Visual Studio, which is very powerful and creates a highly productive environment for software development. BizSpark also gave us a period of free subscriptions to the Microsoft Azure cloud service as well as technical development support from Microsoft experts.
Between BizSpark, Visual Studio and Azure, we were able to scale our service and build what we wanted without having to worry about how we would fund the eventual cost of service. We even looked at other services once we were up-to-speed with Azure and, frankly, none are comparable to the cloud service and support we receive through BizSpark.
When we were ready to think about funding, Dinesh was the one who got things rolling. The division of labor between me and Dinesh is what most startups need. His expertise is people, mine is technical. He was responsible for finding investment money because fundraising is a full-time effort and needs someone who have a proven track record.
Through his efforts, we are now involved with Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Beijing. It was a no-brainer to pitch to them. The program helps startups at every stage of maturity to provide the tools, resources, and expertise they need to succeed and is really cementing our relationship with Microsoft.
Our Series A investors are Chinese, too, and we’re quite lucky that we’re being pushed and guided to work in China. It’s a very different world from Singapore and we couldn’t have even attempted entering that marketplace without having credible investors. It feels like the very first thing we’re doing is taking on one of the biggest challenge in the world: the Chinese Market.
Even if you have the perfect product or feature, it pays to stay open-minded and continually push the envelope for what you’re doing. There’s no silver bullet, no magic approach for us. We feel it’s important to continually iterate our own product and strive for something even better. Everything is secondary to the product; choose the technologies that let you go beyond the norm and build quickly.
In the startup environment, every day is in flux. And that’s okay – it’s part of the process!
I noticed that your app is only available for iOS and Android. Was your use of Microsoft tools limited to server-side development, or did you also use it for the app development with something like Xamarin?