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.


How To Learn Everything About Design Without Going To College

In less time than it takes to finish a semester in college, a new school says it can teach all you need to know about digital design.

Students at The Designation pay $3,000 to attend three-hour classes twice a week for nine weeks to learn the philosophy and fundamentals of Web and graphic design, including HTML and CSS, wireframing and design theory. Kevin Yun teaches development, veteran GrubHub designer Zeke Franco covers user experience design, and Reppio creative director JJ Lee handles branding and Adobe training.

The Designation’s first — and so far only — session, now underway, was a profitable one, says founder Yun. Thirteen students’ tuition covers rent at Loop digital agency Manifest Digital, where classes are held, as well as instructor compensation, setup and marketing costs.

Yun is a self-taught designer and senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he’s somewhat reluctantly studying finance. For Yun, running The Designation is more than a summer job. He describes his commitment as “full time at night” as he juggles designing for two other startups, including Fitsby, an exercise app.

Yun sees The Designation’s curriculum as superior training for career-changers or recent graduates. “There’s nobody else really teaching digital design classes in Chicago at the moment,” he says.

Click here to read the rest of the story at Grid!

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!

Can Stock Mfg. Co. Do For Clothes What Farmers Markets Did For Produce?

For decades, the only garments to come out of the 19,000-square-foot military-clothing factory at the corner of Lake and Pulaski in Garfield Park were sewn in muted shades of olive drab, gunmetal gray and navy blue. But in July, there came a whole different look: piles of brightly colored shirts, pocket squares and ties meant for Bucktown hipsters, not Pentagon bureaucrats.

Behind the colorful clothes are entrepreneur Jim Snediker, factory owner Areill Ives and three other co-founders of Stock Manufacturing. The quintet is betting their locally made duds will strike a vein of civic pride. Every piece of Stock clothing comes tagged “Proudly made in Chicago” — and backed by Snediker’s personal quality promise. “I guarantee,” he says. “You’re getting a damn good piece of clothing, and you’re getting it at an affordable price.”

Read more about this plucky new company by clicking here, and pick up a copy of Chicago Grid in this Sunday’s Sun-Times!

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.

CakeStyle Bags $1M to Change the Way Women Shop Online

“Personal shopper.” This phrase, though brief, has sent many a woman’s heart aflutter. The idea that another person, an expert, would look at you and understand your style and figure out your body type and then dress you—the concept is nothing short of a fantasy. E-commerce fashion provider CakeStyle wants to make that dream a reality, by shipping packages of pre-selected items straight to women’s doors. Some might call it the Trunk Club of women’s fashion. I call it the latest Chicago startup to score another round of funding. CakeStyle announced yesterday a $1 million raise from Sandbox Industries’ Sandbox Advantage Fund.

According to reports, CakeStyle boxes range from $2,800 to $3,000 apiece. That’s a steep price tag, but one women are apparently willing to pay—with thousands of new customers and shipments reaching six times the number they were at the start of the year, business has been good. CEO and cofounder Cecelia Myers acknowledges that word of mouth has been instrumental to CakeStyle’s growth. She and her team plan to put their funding to work for marketing and expanding into other cities, and that includes building on this system.

“The first step will be building a strong referral program to turn existing customers in [new] cities into brand ambassadors,” Myers said. “Next, we want to share our style advice in the local markets through press and style events.” Such events will allow CakeStyle to demonstrate how the company can provide customized services to women in cities as different as Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

More on CakeStyle and its plans to expand out of Chicago here.

Target Data Raises $1 Million from Facebook Investor

Moving is a stressful process for the people doing it, certainly, but also for the marketers trying to reach them at that time. Target Data is a marketing solutions company that’s built its business on using big data and analytics to reach people in the pre-moving stage. Their objective is to make it easier for marketers to reach those people—frenzied though they may be—before they move. Their just-announced round of funding, $1 million from Bay Area firm Western Technology Investments (WTI), is a vote of confidence that they’re doing something right.

Last spring, Target Data raised $3 million in a round led by Apex Venture Partners. “We will use the new funds to continue to invest in world class talent, specifically analytics and marketing strategy positions,” said president and CEO Ross Shelleman. “We will also use the funds to launch a new digital offering where we will work with third parties to translate our offline data to online data for targeted display advertising.”

For marketers, movers are a valuable audience. Not only are they looking for a number of services as they pack up one home and head to another, they are also in the market for lots of new goods to stock their new abodes. Their struggle is getting their messages in front of people before they move, and that’s where Target Data comes in.

Learn more about Target Data and WTI here.

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.

The Women Driving Chicago’s Digital Renaissance: Part 1


In this monthly series, Built In Chicago will highlight some of the most important players in our digital ecosystem: the women. From entrepreneurs to technologists, investors to academic leaders, and corporate innovators to developers, women play important and diverse roles in dozens of local organizations. Every month, we’ll introduce you to five women worth knowing. Through these exclusive interviews, get to know these women through their likes, experiences, and maybe even their secrets.

This installment includes Jellyvision’s Amanda Lannert, Motorola Mobility’s Blagica Bottigliero, venture capitalist Ellen Carnahan, BrightTag’s Kelly Davis and developer KD Ironside. Read about them 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.