Imagine a world where everyone had access to a Bloomberg terminal, bringing market data to the masses. A Newark-based startup is working to make that vision a reality.
ThinkNum.com co-founder Gregory Ugwi said his business aims to put sophisticated, customizable tools in the hands of investors, allowing them to track markets at a fraction of a cost associated with Wall Street's prized financial data terminals.
ThinkNum's vision is bold even as its beginnings are modest.
Ugwi says ThinkNum — short for "think numbers" — has landed about 20 clients, mostly mortgage hedge funds paying $200 a month. It aims to attract equity hedge funds, setting a goal of 5,000 total users by the end of 2014.
That's a far cry from the 300,000 or so clients paying more than $20,000 a year for Bloomberg terminals, but Ugwi works on the conviction that modern Web-based technology can provide similar service at lower costs.
Thinknum's core principle is that open-source technology — the underlying systems that power search engines and social media — can be used to track finance, providing less-expensive alternatives than the closed desktop networks that traditional data providers like Bloomberg and Reuters built decades ago.
"The technology is essentially Web technology," Ugwi said. "Imagine the things people use for Twitter and Facebook, the indexing and sharing. Now you can do that with numbers, data and analysis."
It works like this: A client builds a customized model designed to track the chosen securities — say, Google stock — and uploads it to Thinknum's platform. When Google releases its quarterly earnings, the cash-flow models are updated automatically, without the manual adjustments of today's desktop-based systems.
The customers pay to limit access to chosen clients, though Ugwi said anyone can create a free model that is publicly visible.
"Instead of a closed world, now you can get it on the Web," Ugwi said. "So it's the same mission, but different techniques, because times are different."
The technological evolution is consistent with the broader trend of shifting toward cloud-based computing, Ugwi said, reducing reliance on expensive hardware.
"That is the idea," said Ugwi, a former mortgage strategist at Goldman Sachs, "to take what already works on Wall Street and put it on the cloud."
Ugwi said ThinkNum plans to eventually pitch its product to ordinary investors with stock or mutual fund portfolios. But for now, big clients are its first priority.