New StockTwits CEO Looks to Expand Share of Investor Community

If you do a Google search for AAPL, the stock ticker for Apple, the top search results are typically Yahoo Finance, Twitter, Google Finance—and StockTwits, a social media communications platform for Wall Street traders and active retail investors.

After taking over roughly six months ago, StockTwits CEO Ian Rosen made one of his first strategic moves with last week’s acquisition of SparkFin, a San Diego-based fintech app that provides novices with information on investing. Rosen wasn’t immediately available to talk about the deal, but we caught up with him to talk about his vision for the startup.

Rosen (pictured above) officially took the helm at StockTwits in July, when the company moved its headquarters to Manhattan from San Diego. Since then, Rosen said he has sought to build out the online experiences that engage StockTwits’ growing community of stock pickers and traders. In the seven years since StockTwits started, the company has raised nearly $14 million from investors. It now has 23 employees, including six in San Diego (bolstered by four who joined with the SparkFin deal).

“We started thinking about how do we engineer more for the total community,” Rosen said.  He described the SparkFin deal as a complementary move to MoneyBadger, the website StockTwits introduced late last year to help novices buy their first shares of stock. “The SparkFin app embodies a younger generation, and the way they discover things,” he explained. “It’s more like Netflix or Amazon in the way it lists 10 things to know, for example. It’s the way people buy things.”

Rosen said he’s also moving to organize more events for the StockTwits community, beginning with a Stocktoberfest East investors conference modeled on the annual Stocktoberfest held in San Diego for the past few years. He said he wants to explore what StockTwits can do with additional events, speakers, sponsors, and attendees, “all basic for a media company today.”

StockTwits New York office. (StockTwits photo used with permission)

StockTwits New York office. (StockTwits photo used with permission)

Rosen was previously a co-founder and CEO of the New York fintech Even Financial and general manager at the financial news website MarketWatch. He said he has known StockTwits co-founder and former CEO Howard Lindzon for years and helped Lindzon as an informal advisor at StockTwits before Lindzon persuaded him to take over as CEO.

Lindzon, a fintech investor and hedge fund manager (he invested in Rosen’s Even Financial through his Social Leverage fund), shifted his role at StockTwits to board chairman last year, and moved his family from San Diego to Arizona.

“I’ve known the company for a long time, and I’ve been a champion of what StockTwits can and should be,” Rosen said.

Without any promotional marketing, he said StockTwits has grown over the past seven years to a total monthly audience of roughly 1.5 million users, with just under 1 million registered users. Rosen said there are about 250,000 active monthly users—and the number of unique monthly visitors is growing by 35 to 40 percent.

StockTwits users post about 220 messages a minute during the trading day, but Rosen said the most telling statistic is that active users spend an average of 51 minutes a day on StockTwits’ website. He described it as a sophisticated community that shares tips, insights, and thousands of annotated stock charts.

“This is a very well-regarded brand in its niche,” Rosen said. “It would be really hard to recreate the organic growth of this active community,” which consists mostly of retail investors and Wall Street traders. Rosen contends that the quality of this community of users is what differentiates StockTwits from Twitter, which began competing directly with StockTwits about four years ago when it introduced its own version of the dollar-sign “cashtag” for ticker symbols that StockTwits pioneered.

Rosen said one reason StockTwits is well-regarded is that the company polices its community and deletes tweets that are factually wrong.

“We’re kicking off hundreds of people a week,” he said. Those expelled include the “pump and dumpers” who create multiple accounts for the purpose of promoting a stock (to run up the price so they can sell their shares at a profit), and the people who heckle or harass other users.

“The growth speaks for itself,” Rosen said. “But there’s more that StockTwits can do in terms of the community of active retail investors.”

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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