Visible Market Catches Wall Street’s Eye With Stock-Tracking App

Ever since Jennifer Johnson started working in financial services in the 1990s, she felt something was missing in all the technology available to traders who want to get information about stocks. “With the way [the data] is presented, it’s really hard to get a sense of what’s happening in the overall market,” she says. Sure, programs offered by the likes of Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance make it easy to look up individual stocks in real time, but they present the information in a mostly linear fashion—with lists and hyperlinks related to that one security. “You need to understand it in context,” Johnson says.

So last year, Johnson co-founded New York-based Visible Market and created an app that uses game-like design and animation to display real-time information about securities in the context of broader market trends. In the 14 months since the company debuted the app, called StockTouch, 96,000 people have installed it on their iPads or iPhones and are logging about a half-million minutes on it per month. In 2011, Apple Rewind crowned StockTouch the No. 1 finance app in the app store.

Now Visible Market, which has raised $800,000 in seed funding, is going after a larger and more lucrative market opportunity: institutional finance. Johnson says the company is working on a software development kit that financial-services companies will be able to use to tailor StockTouch to the needs of their employees. “They’ll be able to take it in-house and build their own data into it themselves,” says Johnson, who hopes to roll out the development kit early next year.

Here’s how StockTouch works: The opening screen displays 1,400 stocks sorted into nine industry segments. The industries are organized into heat maps, with each company appearing on a tile that’s positioned and color-coded in a way that corresponds to that company’s stock performance. Touch a tile, and you’re brought instantly to a screen that displays everything about that stock, from its market cap and dividend yield, to links to stories that explain the company’s share performance.

For example, on August 8, StockTouch revealed that the highest-performing stock in the consumer segment belonged to Dean Foods, which by the end of the day was up a remarkable 40 percent. By clicking on the tile and swiping through the collection of stats and stock charts, you learn that the company—which makes such famous brands as Horizon Organic and Silk soy products—way outperformed the S&P 500, which was up by only a fraction of a percent. You can compare Dean’s performance to that of its peers, and pull up stories about the company, including one from Motley Fool titled, appropriately, “Why Dean Foods Shares Skyrocketed.” (Bottom line: blowout earnings and a planned IPO of its natural-foods subsidiary.)

Visible Market incorporates popular features of video games to make StockTouch user-friendly, including sound effects and touch-based navigation. “The user can have the experience of sliding in and out of large datasets,” Johnson says. “It uses the whole screen to communicate information and make navigating through deep sets of information more intuitive.”

Johnson brings a career’s worth of finance and technology experience to Visible Market. Early in her career, she worked on the Philadelphia Exchange and developed corporate structured derivatives for Merrill Lynch and UBS. The jobs gave her valuable experience across a wide range of asset classes, she says.

When the Internet started to take off in the early 1990s, Johnson thought the new platform might be ideally suited to singles in search of their soul mates, so she developed one of the first dating sites, called Web Personals, in her spare time. The site caught on quickly and was later acquired by Toronto-based LavaLife.

Jennifer Johnson is the CEO of Visible Market

When the iPad hit the market nearly two decades later, Johnson had an epiphany much like the one she had back when she founded Web Personals. “Just like the Web was good for dating, I thought the iPad would be incredible for business intelligence,” she says. “It’s the quality of the screen, and the ability for it to be taken to meetings and used at home. The market has the Bloombergs and the Yahoos, but I didn’t think there was anything being done with visualization.”

Johnson says Visible Market plans to raise $2 million in venture funding in the fall. The company is building out the technology to include more types of data visualization, she says.

This summer, Visible Market was one of six companies selected to participate in the FinTech Innovation Lab, a 12-week mentorship program sponsored by Accenture and the New York City Investment Fund, an affiliate of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City. During the program, Johnson and other members of her startup team were counseled by executives from a dozen financial institutions, including Capital One, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley. Johnson says the program provided “a most valuable set of contacts, insights, and understanding of exactly what we can do to position our company in the marketplace.”

More importantly, Johnson says, FinTech Innovation Lab convinced her that StockTouch is entering the market for financial information at just the right time. “People are demanding more data and transparency,” she says. “Every single bank said this would resonate far more with users than the old paradigm has.”

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