Posted by Patrick Brazel
CEO of Zignals

(Cross posted from The Official Microsoft Blog)

Patrick Brazel
Patrick Brazel

In 2008, the financial markets changed fundamentally and completely. The causes will be debated and they of course predate the collapse. But there is no argument that the summer of 2008 is when the market certainties that had prevailed since 1945 evaporated.

It was at this time that my business partner and I had been working on a plan to address what we saw as a huge gap in the financial market. We saw a need to empower individual investors with the online capabilities that were available only to professional or major institutions. At the same time, we wanted to create opportunities for a new class of researchers to earn from its expertise by being paid for the strategies it creates and publishes.

We believed strongly that the model had to change — something different was needed. We had a compelling idea and a strong plan, but were searching for the technology to lift it off the ground.

Around that time, while attending an event hosted by Enterprise Ireland ­ the economic development arm of the Irish government, I was introduced to Microsoft’s IP Ventures program. We learned that IP Ventures identifies innovative technology developed at Microsoft, and provides it to interested entrepreneurs like us to start new businesses. We brought the idea and our financial services experience to the table, and after approving our plans, IP Ventures gave us access to IP assets, as well as the support and business guidance we needed to help us develop our idea into something concrete.

Today, as the IP Ventures program celebrates its five-year anniversary, Zignals — a Dublin-based Web 2.0 and Silverlight finance specialist — is celebrating a significant milestone in our own company history: the commercial launch of our global online service.  The site includes an entire suite of financial tools that just about anyone can use. It also has our marketplace for trading strategies, where a financially-savvy online network is actively sharing its independently rated successful investment strategies. Think of it as an “eBay of finance,” where researchers and strategies are tracked, and all of the trades are transparent and auditable.

By providing us with then yet-to-be-launched Microsoft Solver Foundation technology, Microsoft provided us with the resources to develop personalized communication services and optimize trading. We’ve been able to license other rules-engine and solver-type technologies, which provide the capabilities we need when monitoring and reacting to markets. Silverlight addresses the needs of Web-based traders better than any other technology. Not only does it look great, but the practical advantages of a zero-footprint, no-install implementation are immense. Zignals was a very early adopter and has benefited enormously from the blistering pace of the Silverlight evolution. From a technical point of view, the resources we received through IP Ventures helped us get up and running extremely quickly, much more so had we been forced to develop the technology on our own.

Today, there are more than 20,000 Zignals members who come from all over the globe but share an interest in markets and how to prosper in them. They experience the Web in a unique way with tools and data that once were the exclusive preserve of Wall Street. They collaborate in a competitive marketplace of ideas and strategies, which will prosper because it’s so different.