Only one in ten of us own shares, according to figures from the Share Centre. Ruzbeh Bacha believes that one reason for this relatively small number is a lack of timely and accessible information for private investors – which prompted him to set up CityFALCON.
“Investors want to see a product before funding, but a product requires funding – coding solved this problem"
According to Bacha, a former Skype executive who’s also worked for KPMG, Nokia, and Microsoft, the SME “democratises” access to financial news and creates a level playing field in financial news for all investors, institutional and private.
Until CityFALCON, retail investors were at a significant time disadvantage compared to institutions such as pension funds and insurers. The latter could access real-time and relevant financial news. Financial news suppliers weren’t interested in retail investors as they had less money to spend in information. Bacha is of the belief that access to this data should be available to all who need it, not simply the institutions that can afford it. The platform is completely free for retail investors, with CityFALCON making money by providing its technology to other businesses.
“While I was learning to code, after I left Skype, investing was my only source of income,” said Bacha. “When a stock in my portfolio went down ten per cent, as a retail investor I was nervous and not sure whether to buy more, sell or hold. Typically news comes out on search engines at least 30 minutes later. Most other websites will charge you a lot to get access to financial news. I found that very frustrating. I also saw that people recognised this problem and there was a community of users on Twitter who were trying to solve it by tweeting breaking news.”
He realised, though, that Twitter didn’t provide any financial tools and wasn’t built for a financial audience. He began to wonder what would happen if these retail investors had better tools to solve this problem, and he started testing the idea.
Bacha, who grew up in India, had been preparing to leave the corporate world for sometime and was only waiting for his visa restrictions to be lifted. “I figured that 2013 was the best time in my life to do so because I was single, not burning too much cash each month and the vibrant startup ecosystem in the UK,” he said. “Also, given the skills gap in the UK, I was fairly certain that I would get a job back if things went bad.”
His ability to code gave him greater control over the development of the company and allowed him to experiment so that he was able to make alterations and pivot the business quickly and easily, avoiding the need for a long and complex feedback loop to developers.
It also helped with investment. “Investors want to see a product before funding, but a product requires funding,” he said. “Coding solved this problem for me as I had a minimum viable product before I raised seed capital of around £200,000. Most of the money came from my own network – friends and friends of friends.”
Read more about funding and investment:
- Fundraising: How, where, when
- Four tricks to avoid getting into bed with the wrong investors
- Bank borrowing alternatives: What is best for you?
The company currently employs ten people. One of its biggest breaks was coming second in Twitter’s global startup competition in San Francisco. There were only two companies from the UK in the final ten, and CityFALCON was the only finance technology or “fintech,” company. Its product is built on top of Twitter and validation from the company has opened several doors for it, Bacha has found.
However, identifying and recruiting fintech talent has not been easy. Banks pay consultants in this sector up to £1,500 a day and Bacha has had to compete with US companies that have greater financial backing and deeper pockets. “Most investors in the UK are risk-averse, and even the so called ‘venture capital’ in the UK is actually ‘growth capital’,” he argued.
CityFALCON is now scalable and is including in its offering code and widgets that will allow any business to access its information and have financial news running on a platform within 48 hours. Bacha has been nominated for the Great British Entrepreneur of the Year Awards and the company has a waiting list of clients.
As fintech develops rapidly and the internet allows financial information to become more democratic and accessible to all, a growing number of retail investors may well find themselves consulting CityFALCON. Meanwhile, for anyone thinking of starting their own technology business, Bacha’s experience offers a strong argument for joining the growing numbers of people who are learning to code.