It’s Quite Okay to Make a Little Bit of Money

James Bond said it was okay, so why  not?  We are going to run this brief Experience interview with co-founder of Trade ChaseColin Smith. Trade Chase are an online BizSpark company that takes a very interesting approach to gambling. TradeChase is a stock market trading game.. They offer a range of day-trading games that pit you against other players to win real money. From their site: "Decide which way stock prices will move, trade your way to big profits, or plan your winning stock portfolio. The best bit? You can make real money from trading without having to beat the market - just beat the other players."

This post was written by Douglas Crets, Community Manager and Editor, Microsoft BizSpark

TradeChase are launching today in the UK. They can't launch in the US, because of gambling laws, but that won't stop them from having a little bit of fun. To announce their launch, they sent me a picture of James Bond with what appears to be their philosophy of life, and their business model. How's that for Lean Startup? The ironic thing about their game is that some would argue that stock trading itself is a form of gambling.  We'll leave that discussion for another time, however. 

Your names?

Colin Smith and James Tromans

Your business and your business url and Twitter handles for people to reach you?

Trade Chase

What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?

Right around the time that we wanted to launch, we received confirmation from our lawyers that we could not operate without a certain license. It is well-known that operating in a regulated industry is expensive and that regulation in the gambling industry is particularly complex and fast-changing. We had to decide whether to operate entirely above-board, or to cut a few corners to get going.

In the end we made absolutely the right decision - don’t launch until we have all necessary permissions in place - but it cost us six months of revenue-generating time. Neither the decision nor the consequences were easy.

How do you know when you are failing in product development and how do you make a correction – do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?

Sometimes you know you are failing in product development because your gut tells you so. More often than not, however, the realisation comes from iterative testing with a focussed user-group who you can trust.

If a decision is particularly controversial or a major deviation from the existing plan, we might discuss that alone as founders first. However, when a decision about product development is made, we strongly believe that the whole team must be party to it, even if the decisions are split. Once all the important points have been put on the table, everyone has to come together and pull in the same direction, knowing why a decision has been made. Trade Chase is lucky enough to have a group of really smart people and a small enough team that makes this approach feasible.

What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?

As entrepreneurs, you have to take a lot of stuff with a pinch of salt. A lot of early customers are family and friends or people just happy to offer their support - as a result they are more positive than normal. In the early days when you are developing your product, proxies such as site usage stats and customer feedback are useful but not enough to signify that you are winning.

The key factor is always whether or not they are buying your product. In other words, sales. Unless your site success is measured by volume or by advertising, you need sales. That being said, in the early days, there are two other things that seem to be strong indicators: Firstly, are people sharing your product through social media? If they are, it means they are willing to put their own reputation behind it. Secondly, do they come back to your site? This is different to how long they spend on it. If they come back, it means they have made the choice again to engage with your product and that is pretty powerful.

What has overjoyed you in the past month?

The last month has been a very busy period for Trade Chase. We have recently launched the website and we are now out of Beta. It has been over a year in the making. Throughout this hectic period, the support we have had from our early adopters, friends and family has been amazing. The number of people that have been happy to help out and share what we're doing has been remarkable and we're truly thankful for the enthusiasm shown for what we do. It is great to know that we are building something together as a team that so many people are keen to try out and use.

Who inspired you the most this week, and why?

One of designers was involved in a nasty accident over the weekend, which resulted in him spending some quality time in A&E. Thankfully he’s almost fully recovered now. One of the first things he asked about when he regained consciousness was how the Trade Chase team were and how long it was going to be until he could get back to his work.

It is such an inspiration to know that the team care so much about each other and what we’re building here at Trade Chase. The right team can be such a huge source of energy.

What came first for your company – the product idea or your existence on the internet?

Strictly speaking, the product idea came first. Although Trade Chase has evolved a great deal from the original idea, by and large the original concept is intact and our “pivots” have not been so large.

However, the very first step in designing our product was to put up a single page that told people what we were doing and allowed them to leave email addresses if they were interested. In that sense, we existed online before our product was even started. It just helped make that initial marketing period a little easier to have a couple of thousand interested people waiting to use the product.

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