EmergInvest Emerges, UpDown Raises More Dough, Geezeo Grows—Is Boston a New Hub for Finance and Investing Sites?
Here at Xconomy, there are a lot of mornings when we have to decide whether to publish a bunch of brief stories, or lump the related ones together into what we call “roundups” or trend stories. Today was a pretty clear roundup/trend day, as news piled up from several Boston-area websites that help customers manage their money and learn about investing. Taken together, the reports create the impression that investors and entrepreneurs see the Boston area as a good place to build a finance-related Web community.
First there’s EmergInvest, a Cambridge, MA, startup that was founded in 2007 and came out of stealth mode Tuesday at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco. The company’s free website, which it calls “Yahoo Finance for the rest of the world,” helps investors research companies trading on more than 150 stock exchanges around the globe. The site supplies stock quotes, historical charts, news, and other data familiar to users of traditional finance sites—except that you probably won’t find a lot of data about companies in Kyrgyzstan on Yahoo Finance or Google Finance.
“It was such an obvious value proposition,” EmergInvest CEO Andrew Waterman said in a company statement released yesterday. “Investors wanted access to high-growth markets to diversify their portfolios, and thousands of international companies were yearning for investment. Why wouldn’t we connect them?” In addition to providing information about international stocks, EmergInvest’s site can steer users toward local English-speaking brokerages where they can actually invest, or toward mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that include those stocks.
For people who are interested in the investment process but may not be ready to pony up their own money, there’s another Cambridge-based company called UpDown that runs the financial world’s equivalent of fantasy football. As I explained in a profile of UpDown last year, the free site gives members $1 million in virtual money to invest in a portfolio of real companies. Members earn real cash rewards when their virtual portfolios outperform the market, when their stock analyses are voted most valuable by other members, or when the members they’ve referred to UpDown earn their own rewards. And in an interesting twist, UpDown hopes to make money itself by monitoring which virtual investment decisions by members are paying off most handsomely and using that data to manage its own real investment fund.
UpDown co-founder and CEO Michael Reich sent word this week that the company has recruited more than 75,000 members since its launch last September, and that it has raised another $1 million in funding from its primary backer, Swiss angel investor Joachim Schoss. “The growth we’ve seen in the last 12 months has definitively surpassed our ambitious expectations,” Reich says. “We’re excited about our growth especially since it occurred in a tough environment—the stock market has been extremely volatile in the last year—but maybe that even helped us as members can practice their skills in a risk-free environment and not risk their real money.”
Reich says the company will use the new funds to improve the site and acquire more members. “We also expect to see revenues grow, and we’re aiming at becoming cash flow positive by the end of next year,” he says.
Finally, we heard today from Pete Glyman, co-founder of Geezeo, the personal finance tracking site that we first profiled in August 2007. Glyman said that Geezeo, which got its start in Framingham, MA, and is now based in Hartford, CT, has just expanded to include a new “Marketplace” section—essentially, a comparison-shopping area for credit cards, savings accounts, CDs, and student loans. The information includes not just raw data—the interest rates charged by various banks for their versions of American Express or Visa cards, for example—but also customer ratings and reviews. In the near future, the Geezeo Marketplace will also cover mortgages, auto loans, and brokerage accounts, Glyman says.
“Many people make their most important financial decisions, like which credit cards and bank accounts to use, with very little information and a great deal of uncertainty,” the company explained in a statement today. “The Marketplace will eliminate this uncertainty by simultaneously demonstrating the hard facts of a product as well as reveal[ing] what customers think of a specific product. Our users rate their financial products and provide feedback based on integrity, customer service, and other intangibles not found in a prospectus.”
Along with the new marketplace, Geezeo rolled out a new design for its entire website, including improved charts and graphs that members can use to track their progress toward financial goals. The redesigned site is also more clearly integrated with investment news site TheStreet.com, which made a strategic investment in Geezeo back in April and has the option, under the investment agreement, to purchase the company.