Stock trading app Robinhood is valued at $ 7.6 billion, but it only operates in the U.S. Freshly funded fintech startup Alpaca does the dirty work so developers worldwide can launch their own competitors to that investing unicorn. Like the Stripe of stocks, Alpaca’s API handles the banking, security and regulatory complexity, allowing other startups to quickly build brokerage apps on top for free. It has already crossed $ 1 billion in transactions within a year of launch.
The potential to power the backend of a new generation of fintech apps has attracted a $ 6 million Series A round for Alpaca led by Spark Capital . Instead of charging developers, Alpaca earns its money through payment for order flow, interest on cash deposits and margin lending, much like Robinhood.
“I want to make sure that people even outside the U.S. have access” to a way of building wealth that’s historically only “available to rich people” Alpaca co-founder and CEO Yoshi Yokokawa tells me.
Hailing from Japan, Yokokawa followed his friends into the investment banking industry, where he worked at Lehman Brothers until its collapse. After his grandmother got sick, he moved into day-trading for three years and realized “all the broker dealer business tools were pretty bad.” But when he heard of Robinhood in 2013 and saw it actually catering to users’ needs, he thought, “I need to be involved in this new transformation” of fintech.
Yokokawa ended up first building a business selling deep learning AI to banks and trading firms in the foreign exchange market. Watching clients struggle to quickly integrate new technology revealed the lack of available developer tools. By 2017, he was pivoting the business and applying for FINRA approval. Alpaca launched in late 2018, letting developers paste in code to let their users buy and sell securities.
Now international developers and small hedge funds are building atop the Alpaca API so they don’t have to reinvent the underlying infrastructure themselves right away. Alpaca works with clearing broker NTC, and then marks up margin trading while earning interest and payment for order flow. It also offers products like AlpacaForecast, with short-term predictions of stock prices, AlpacaRadar for detecting price swings and its MarketStore financial database server.
The $ 6 million from Spark Capital, Social Leverage, Portag3, Fathom Capital and Zillionize adds to $ 5.8 million in previous funding from investors, including Y Combinator. The startup plans to spend the cash on hiring to handle partnerships with bigger businesses, supporting its developer community and ensuring compliance.
One major question is whether fintech businesses that start to grow atop Alpaca and drive its revenues will try to declare independence and later invest in their own technology stack. There’s the additional risk of a security breach that might scare away clients.
Alpaca’s top competitor, Interactive Brokers, offers trading APIs, but other services as well that distract it from fostering a robust developer community, Yokokawa tells me. Alpaca focuses on providing great documentation, open-source contribution and SDKs in different languages that make it more developer-friendly. It will also have to watch out for other fintech services startups like DriveWealth and well-funded Galileo.
There’s a big opportunity to capitalize on the race to integrate stock trading into other finance apps to drive stickiness because it’s a consistent, voluntary behavior rather than a chore or something only done a few times a year. Lender SoFi and point-of-sale system Square both recently became broker dealers as well, and Yokokawa predicts more and more apps will push into the space.
Why would we need so many stock trading apps? “Every single person is involved with money, so the market is huge. Instead of one-player takes all, there will be different players that can all do well,” Yokokawa tells me. “Like banks and investment banks co-exist, it will never be that Bank of America takes 80% of the pie. I think differentiation will be on customer acquisition, and operations management efficiency.”
The co-founder’s biggest concern is keeping up with all the new opportunities in financial services, from cash management and cryptocurrency that Robinhood already deals in, to security token offerings and fractional investing. Yokokawa says, “I need to make sure I’m on top of everything and that we’re executing with the right timing so we don’t lose.”
The CEO hopes that Alpaca will one day power broader access to the U.S. stock market back in Japan, noting that if a modern nation still lags behind in fintech, the rest of the world surely fares even worse. “I want to connect this asset class to as many people as possible on the earth.”
Sisense announced today that it has acquired Periscope Data to create what it is calling a complete data science and analytics platform for customers. The companies did not disclose the purchase price.
The two companies’ CEOs met about 18 months ago at a conference, and running similar kinds of companies, hit it off. They began talking and, after a time, realized it might make sense to combine the two startups because each one was attacking the data problem from a different angle.
Sisense, which has raised $ 174 million, tends to serve business intelligence requirements either for internal use or externally with customers. Periscope, which has raised more than $ 34 million, looks at the data science end of the business.
Both CEOs say they could have eventually built these capabilities into their respective platforms, but after meeting they decided to bring the two companies together instead, and they made a deal.
“I realized over the last 18 months [as we spoke] that we’re actually building leadership positions into two unique areas of the market that will slowly become one as industries and technologies evolve,” Sisense CEO Amir Orad told TechCrunch.
Periscope CEO Harry Glasser says that as his company built a company around advanced analytics and predictive modeling, he saw a growing opportunity around operationalizing these insights across an organization, something he could do much more quickly in combination with Sisense.
“[We have been] pulled into this broader business intelligence conversation, and it has put us in a place where as we do this merger, we are able to instantly leapfrog the three years it would have taken us to deliver that to our customers, and deliver operationalized insights on integration day on day one,” Glasser explained.
The two executives say this is part of a larger trend about companies becoming more data-driven, a phrase that seems trite by now, but as a recent Harvard Business School study found, it’s still a big challenge for companies to achieve.
Orad says that you can debate the pace of change, but that overall, companies are going to operate better when they use data to drive decisions. “I think it’s an interesting intellectual debate, but the direction is one direction. People who deploy this technology will provide better care, better service, hire better, promote employees and grow them better, have better marketing, better sales and be more cost effective,” he said.
Orad and Glasser recognize that many acquisitions don’t succeed, but they believe they are bringing together two like-minded companies that will have a combined ARR of $ 100 million and 700 employees.
“That’s the icing on the cake, knowing that the cultures are so compatible, knowing that they work so well together, but it starts from a conviction that this advanced analytics can be operationalized throughout enterprises and [with] their customers. This is going to drive transformation inside our customers that’s really great for them and turns them into data-driven companies,” Glasser said.
Lego’s newest STEM set uses bright colors, friendly shapes, and a simple coding environment to get 11- to 14-year olds into robotics.
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In sessions 3 and 4 of the PPC Hero Summit, members of Hanapin’s Analyst and CRO teams, alongside Fred Vallaeys from Optymzr and Oli Gardner from Unbounce, tackle how to start using scripts to automate your tasks and how to build great landing pages for more traffic and more conversions.
Read more at PPCHero.com
Explore how to build an ad copy template in Excel that will save you time formatting and organizing proposals for your clients or boss!
Read more at PPCHero.com
To create the seamless and responsive mobile site that consumers expect, you need the right tools, like Google Optimize. Optimize makes it easy to test different elements of your site to find the winning combination for the best mobile site possible. Now it’s even easier with our new responsive visual editor – and be sure to read on and learn how two of our clients found mobile success with Optimize 360, our enterprise version.
New! Preview your mobile site on any screen size
While almost everyone has a mobile device, there are so many variations and screen sizes that it’s hard to take a one-size-fits-all approach to optimizing your mobile site. Now, once you’ve created your test page, you can use the new responsive editor to immediately preview what it looks like on any screen size. Or, if you want to see how it appears on a specific device, like a Nexus 7 or iPad, we’ve added more devices that you can select to preview. Learn more about the visual editor here.
Turn ideas to tests quickly
The responsive visual editor in Optimize is just one solution to help marketers succeed on mobile. Our enterprise version, Optimize 360, makes it easy to make improvements to mobile sites efficiently and rapidly.
Dutch airline carrier Transavia Airlines turned to Optimize 360 to try out different ideas on its mobile site. In fact, the team runs about 10 A/B tests each month on the site, all without having to spend significant time or effort. And the best part? Time spent on analyzing the success of site tests has fallen by 50%. This allows Transavia to focus more on testing to improve its mobile site. Learn more in the full case study.
The path to mobile excellence starts with the customer journey
Need some help determining what should test on your mobile site? Google Analytics 360 is a great place to start. You’ll be able to analyze any customer interaction, from search to checkout, to figure out which points of your purchase process need help. Then, once you’ve determined where your site needs work, using Optimize 360 to take action is simple, since it’s natively integrated with Analytics 360.
This is exactly how fashion retailer Mango used Analytics 360 and Optimize 360 to tackle its mobile site: After discovering that mobile visits to its online store had skyrocketed 50% year over year, Mango decided to dig a little deeper. In Analytics 360 Mango discovered that while many consumers browsed product listing pages, few were taking the next step to add products to their shopping cart. To reduce steps to checkout, Mango used Optimize 360 to include an “Add” button to product listing pages. This increased the number of users adding products to their carts by 49%. Find out more in the full case study.
Ready to optimize your own mobile site?
Start testing new mobile experiences with the responsive visual editor in Optimize. This update is one that can help marketers do more on mobile — because whether it’s changing a button or fine-tuning a homepage with quick A/B tests, we’ve learned that small tweaks can make a big impact.
And, if you haven’t already, sign up for a free Optimize account and give it a try.
1 Google / Purchased: “How Brand Experiences Inspire Consumer Action” April 2017. US Smartphone Owners 18+ = 2010, Brand Experiences = 17,726.
Posted by Tiffany Siu, Product Marketing Manager, Google Optimize
Movable Ink has always prided itself on providing marketers with a way to deliver highly customized emails, but today the company decided to take that one step further. It announced an SDK that enables developers to build custom applets to add their own unique information to any email.
The company has always seen itself as a platform on which marketers can build these highly customized email marketing campaigns, says Bridget Bidlack SVP of product at Movable Ink.
“We built our business on making it easier for marketers to add intelligent content into any email campaign through a library of hundreds of apps. With our [latest] launch, we’re really opening up our development framework to agencies and system integrators so that they can create those apps on their own,” Bidlack explained.
This means companies are free to create any type of data integration they wish and not simply rely on Movable Ink to supply it for them. Bidlack says that could be anything from the current weather to accurate inventory levels, loyalty point scores and recent purchase activity.
What’s more, Movable Ink doesn’t really care about the source of the data. It could come from the company CRM system, internal database or offer management tool. Bidlack says Movable Ink can incorporate that data into an email regardless of where it’s stored.
This all matters because the company’s whole raison d’etre is about providing a customized email experience for every user. Instead of getting a generic email marketing campaign, you would get something that pulls in details from a variety of sources inside the company to build a custom email aimed directly at the individual recipient.
Company co-founder and CEO Vivek Sharma says that when they launched in 2010, service providers at the time were focused on how many people they could reach and open rate, but nobody was really thinking about the content. His company wanted to fill that gap by focusing specifically on building emails with customized content.
As Sharma said, they didn’t try to take on the email service providers. Instead they wanted to build this intelligent customization layer on top. They have grown increasingly sophisticated with their approach in the last 8 years and count companies like Dunkin’ Donuts, Bloomingdale’s, Comcast and Delta among their 500+ customers. They also have strategic partnerships with companies in the space like Salesforce, Oracle, IBM, Cheetah Digital, Epsilon and many others.
The approach seems to be working. The company has raised a modest $ 14 million since it launched in 2010, but today it boasts $ 40 million in annual recurring revenue, according to Sharma.
We are still in the early days of cryptocurrency — or at least that’s what all of the startups that are jumping into this space NOW hope. And when there’s a gold rush, there’s plenty of money to be made by selling shovels (or ASIC rigs) to miners. It’s no surprise, then, that we are now seeing the emergence of a new class of B2B startups in crypto, too. Read More
Enterprise – TechCrunch
Facebook says that one of its success stories in recent years involves a relatively small group of engineers. Originally it was just one engineer, Vastal Mehta, who serves as Facebook’s director of solutions engineering and now leads a team of more than 100 people that works with advertisers to build the technology and infrastructure needed to run more effective campaigns on Facebook. Read More
Social – TechCrunch