For Investors, TradingView is as Addictive as Facebook

What inspires someone to uproot a company and move halfway around the world? For the trio of Russian co-founders behind stock charting site TradingView, the answer was opportunity.

Having already built a successful business that provided charting tools for American investors, MultiChartsStan Bokov and his teammates wanted to create a platform that had a lower financial barrier to entry and additional features. Thus, TradingView was born. They created a system that offered superior charting tools combined with the ability to have conversations right in the web app. Bokov thinks TradingView is the answer to existing charting tools, which either cost $1,500 and up, or are limited in scope, like Yahoo! Finance.

“What always bugged us is that you can’t talk to anybody,” Bokov, now TradingView’s CEO, says. “You still have to call a trading firm or somebody who understands it so they can explain it to you.”

Having solved that problem with new technology, the TradingView team wanted to light a fire of growth, not wait for a slow-burn success as they had with MultiCharts. While CEO Dennis Globa was already living in Columbus, Ohio, the rest of the team was back in Russia, looking for a way to get in front of the right American markets. That’s when they were accepted to TechStars Chicago.

Read more about this innovative technology company at Built In Chicago.


A Pricey, Exclusive Gym That’s Keeping Out Those Who Can’t Weigh In

Walk past most gyms in Chicago, and you’re liable to get into a staring match. Wide windows frame hard bodies galloping on treadmills in a constant advertisement to passersby.

Walk past Downsize Fitness in the West Loop, however, and you won’t see much. The windows are frosted, and low-resistance treadmills face a wall with few mirrors. Downsize is not a place to see and be seen. Indeed, that sense of privacy is one of the gym’s selling points. Others include extra-large towels, private showers and seated elliptical machines.

Everything about Downsize caters to people who are overweight. That’s because the gym doesn’t accept members who aren’t trying to lose at least 50 pounds. Francis Wisniewski, who owns Hard 8 Trading and Forty 4 Asset Management, financed the gym himself in 2011. Wisniewski has since added a second location, in Dallas. Now, he’s interested in taking Downsize national.

Read more about this unusual fitness center by clicking here or picking up a copy of today’s Chicago Sun-Times!

Def Jam Co-Founder Russell Simmons Talks Partnerships And Leveraging His Successes

Long before “disruption” became a Silicon Valley buzzword, Russell Simmons, 55, was upending paradigms left and right. His Def Jam record label introduced hip-hop to a broader audience, while his Phat Farm clothing line blurred the line between urban and prep. They also made Simmons a wealthy man. Forbes reckons he’s worth about $325 million.

Simmons discussed the evolution of his career and his intentions to upend digital with two new companies, Narrative and All Def Digital, at the Digitas xCulture anniversary celebration on March 27. After the event, Simmons took questions from Grid.

In this case, “Grid” is yours truly! Click here to read what Russell and I talked about.


Braintree Acquires Venmo, Plans to Conquer Mobile Ecommerce

Braintree, Chicago’s own leader in online payments, is acquiring New York City-based mobile payments company Venmo for $26 million. This news comes less than three weeks after Braintree announced it would more than triple the size of its Chicago office. Both companies are backed by Accel Partners.

Earlier this month, Braintree CEO Bill Ready told us mobile commerce was one of two macrotrends on the minds of anyone in the online payments space. Already, mobile comprises one quarter of the $4 billion in credit card transactions Braintree processes per year. With his company’s acquisition of Venmo, it seems Ready and his team are pushing to take the mobile shopping challenge head-on.

And how will they do it? By pairing their processing power with Venmo’s digital wallet. While Braintree facilitates credit card payments for everyone from Disqus to Belly, Venmo makes it easy to swap funds with friends using a smartphone, and it’s the marriage of these separate but compatible services that looks to be a winning combination.

“By combining forces, Braintree and Venmo can continue to make the mobile shopping experience better for both merchants and consumers,” Ready said. For example, existing Venmo users will soon be able to use their digital wallets to place payments with any of the thousands of online merchants who utilize Braintree to process transactions. Ready sees this acquisition as an opportunity to bolster his company’s mobile offerings, by keeping up with the growing practice of mobile shopping and giving developers and consumers “a different set of tools to thrive in a mobile world.”

Read more at Built In Chicago.

Social Entrepreneurs, Start Your (Impact) Engines

If for-profit social change sounds unusual, that’s because it is. Purists may think that profit and social change can’t coexist, but a new Chicago-based accelerator program called Impact Engine disagrees. The 12-week crash course offers support ($20,000 in seed capital worth of it) to companies taking on societal and environmental issues with for-profit business ideas. Program Manager Elizabeth Riley says, “We believe for-profit business solutions are crucial to solving problems [such as climate change and poverty] because they have the potential to be sustainable,” unlike governments and not-for-profits, who frequently face resource shortages.

Yesterday, Impact Engine announced the eight companies that comprise its inaugural class, known as Impact 1. The class, which takes off in September, is varied in its details, but a current of societal improvement runs through each company. For example, Ithaca Education offers a challenging but individualized literacy curriculum via its online platform, CERCA. POMS allows users to transfer funds in real-time, directly to the recipient’s mobile phone. And Raise5 matches micro-volunteering with fundraising, allowing participants to exchange a small task for a $5 donation, all on their online platform. See the rest of the list here.

The caliber of these companies speaks to the strengths of Impact 1, but that’s not to say putting the class together was an easy task. Explains Riley:

After Impact Engine launched in October 2011, we spent a lot of time engaging with entrepreneurs through our “Start Your Engines” event series. This gave us the opportunity to share our vision while getting to know potential applicants. We began accepting applications in May and received just over 175 in two months. Each application was rated on the overall idea, team, profitability, and potential for impact. After narrowing down the applications to 30 finalists, we spent four days interviewing candidates. Then we had to make some really tough decisions. The process was really inspiring for all of us. It’s great to learn about people’s passions and how they want to change the world.

Learn more about Impact Engine’s resources, goals, and challenges here.

Startup of the Month: InContext Solutions

Built In Chicago and Marengo Hampshire Partners would like to congratulate July’s Startup of the Month: InContext Solutions! An award-winning technology firm, InContext Solutions, seeks to lead the industry in best in class analytics and market research. Their unique take on research centers on providing clients a way to test various scenarios in a virtual store with real customers before going to market.

For many companies, high costs or a lack of resources are obstacles in the path of testing hypotheses, meaning a lot of ideas never get explored, let alone realized. InContext Solutions wants to demolish that roadblock, making it possible for companies to virtually “see” how a store or product change would affect their businesses. Sophisticated 3D modeling and using the open expanse of the World Wide Web makes this possible in a way previously unthinkable.

In 2009, Tracey Wiedmeyer founded InContext Solutions with Bob Gillespie and Rich Scamehorn “with a vision to revolutionize how virtual simulations could be used by leading businesses across the globe.” Last November, Hyde Park Venture Partners and Hyde Park Angels co-led a $1.5 million investment in InContext Solutions, which brings their funding to date to a total of nearly $2.7 million. Today, they work with many Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and retailers, the kind whose products fall into consumers’ hands daily, to imagine new futures for their businesses.

Learn more about InContext Solutions’ business and goals via our Q&A with co-founder and CTO Wiedmeyer. Click here to read it.