Lindzon Sees Place for SparkFin in Constellation of Mobile Fintechs

As a broker, trader, and hedge fund manager, Howard Lindzon has long been fascinated by the potential use of social media for collecting and sharing stock tips and related information.

He co-founded StockTwits in 2008 as an online social media network to share Wall Street market insights and ideas, and as a way to track market sentiment. As Lindzon once told me, “If I’m running an institutional trade desk, and following real-time streaming of news, then Twitter is going to rule the world.”

By 2013, though, Lindzon was thinking of ways to diversify beyond StockTwits—or as he puts it, “to create a constellation of mobile fintechs” for sharing information and ideas, and for stock-trading.

Lindzon’s ruminations led him to make seed-stage and Series A investments in Robinhood, a Palo Alto, CA-based startup with a mobile app that enables users to buy and sell stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) with no fees or commissions. Since then, Robinhood has raised a total of $66 million from venture investors, and now has about 1 million users.

At about the same time, Lindzon met entrepreneur Jason Pang at an elite, Silicon Valley networking event on Necker Island, the 74-acre island paradise that Sir Richard Branson owns in the British Virgin Islands. The idea that grew out of their conversations is Spark Finance and its free SparkFin mobile app. The social media startup enables users to create stock lists and to generate other investment ideas, and to share those ideas with their social networks.

Jason Pang

Jason Pang

Lindzon and Pang founded SparkFin last year, and are now closing a $1.5 million seed round to fund the startup’s operations through the beginning of next year. Investors include Lindzon’s Social Leverage fund, Joanne Wilson from Gotham Gal Ventures, Roger Ehrenberg, MATH ventures, and Anthemis Group, said Pang, an engineer and entrepreneur who is SparkFin’s CEO.

“It was the simplest concept,” said Pang, who was previously the founder and CEO of Carlsbad, CA-based Prima Cinema. “Instead of watching the news, reading the newspaper, and talking with your broker, the whole idea is to discover new investment ideas.”

Pang said he initially didn’t know much about financial technology, but that was OK with Lindzon. “Howard didn’t want somebody who understood fintech,” recalled Pang, who came to San Diego in 2000 as one of the first engineers at DivX. “I just like to build good products, and that’s why he wanted me.”

Perhaps more importantly, Pang said they didn’t want to create a typical “fintech” product.

“Nowadays, if you want to play in this ecosystem, you have to have this social aspect,” Pang said. He studied the way that companies like Spotify and Netflix organize their catalogs and user interfaces. With a focus on product design and user flow, Pang set out to make SparkFin’s mobile app equally fast, easy-to-browse, and curated. Users can create investment lists, or “decks,” based on technical, fundamental, and other filters—such as stocks held by billionaires—and publish or share their lists with their stock-trading social networks. Others can “swipe right” to save stocks they like onto their own watchlists, or “swipe left” to skip.

“On the surface, we’re building a … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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