‘Bridging the Gap’: How two UW grads are making investing more accessible

In the eyes of many aspiring investors, the stock market and investing in general can seem, despite the allure, a nebulous and convoluted place where investment decisions are made by Wall Street professionals who enjoy the use of data most people don’t have access to. Hedge Funds and Firms spend fortunes to procure the sort of data which enable them to make smart investment decisions, but retail investors who don’t have that kind of cash are often left in the dust.

James and Christopher Kardatdze recognized this, and they made it their goal to “bridge the gap” between Wall Street and everyday investors. The 22-year-old Madison twins are the founders of Quiver Quantitative, a financial technology startup that provides an array of information designed to help make investing easier for everyone. 

Through a combination of cost-free and paid services, Quiver Quantitative helps both seasoned investors and novices make better, more informed investing decisions. On their website, users can toggle between a dozen free dashboards that provide real-time updates on everything from CNBC stock picks to recent government contracts. You don’t need to be an expert to understand the data, either. 

“We definitely want to make sure that everything’s understandable [to someone with just a Robin Hood account] – the casual investor [who just has] a few thousand dollars,” CEO James Kardatdze said. “We want to make it so you don’t need a deep background in finance or data analytics to understand what’s going on on our site. But at the same time, we also do have a lot of users who are professionals who may work at a hedge fund, or may work at an institution.”

James Kardatdze estimated that over 50% of the platform’s users are retail investors. According to the company, numerous large brokerage firms and “billion-dollar plus hedge funds” access Quiver Quantitative data through its API.

The idea behind Quiver Quantitative originated from an experience James Kardatdze had during an internship at a Boston Hedge Fund during his senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he became familiar with the type of data that factors into companies’ decision making. James Kardatdze explained to the Cardinal how hedge funds use what’s referred to as “alternative data,” which refers to everything outside traditional financial data that companies use to make their decisions.

In February of 2020, the Kardatzke’s launched Quiver Quantitative out of the Madison apartment they shared, promoting the company through social media and investing forums. The pandemic, which began the next month, may have helped the burgeoning company, James Kardatdze said.

“I think that one of the things is that the pandemic caused a lot of people to get into retail investing. I think there was [a lot more people] who were really interested in some of the datasets we had available at the time.”

Most of Quiver’s user growth has come through online avenues such as Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and TikTok. With about 430,000 followers on TikTok, 83,000 followers on Instagram and nearly 35,000 followers on Twitter, the company is able to extend its reach far beyond the Madison community. 

When Quiver initially launched, it averaged anywhere between 10 and 50 visitors a day. A newsletter published by Bloomberg that featured their dashboard rocketed their numbers to over one thousand, where it’s been rising steadily since. The company currently has over 300,000 registered users on its site. 

One of the most popular features on their website tracks the stock trading of Congresspeople. As Chris explained it, this feature is particularly appealing to investors since members of Congress have access to all sorts of information that isn’t available to regular people. 

“The idea is that if you can see which stocks the congressman or congresswoman is trading, and maybe do a bit more research into what their background is, and how they might have information that isn’t accessible to the average person, you can kind of get an idea of different investment ideas based on what you think somebody else might know and inquire to hear somebody else who might have insight information,” Chris Kardatdze said. 

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The brothers were motivated to include this feature after news broke about congressmen who sold a bunch of stock right before the market crashed due to COVID. 

“There’s all sorts of instances where you might see someone doing something that you think might lead you to believe that they know something that the average person doesn’t,” Chris said.

The data isn’t just valuable for investors. Journalists have started following the QuiverCongress Twitter bot which tracks the stock actions of congresspeople. Both James and Chris voiced their belief that this feature has applications beyond investing and journalism.

“I think there’s also interesting takeaways from like, politics, economics, civic standpoint, as well,” James said.

In December 2020 they raised $500,000 in seed round funding, and two months ago they closed another round with $2 million. The influx of cash helped the company expand its team, which has risen from just the two Kartdatzes to about seven full-time employees and a couple of part-timers. They recently acquired an office in Capitol Square, though it’s usually just the two brothers in there. 

“Given that everyone’s working remotely right now, we’re not just competing with other businesses around Madison, we’re really competing all over the world to source the best engineers,” James Kardatdze said.

Because of the company’s nature as a software company, maintenance costs are low. They will continue to be able to offer many services for free. 

Looking forward, James said the company’s long-term goal is to make the site into a place where people can get their primary data. 

“Our long term goal is to not just be an alternative data provider, but we really want to be like, the number one destination that retail investors can go to, to inform their investment decisions and really have the same tools available to them as people on Wall Street do,” James Kardatdze emphasized. 

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