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Friday, May 27, 2022
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‘Bridging the Gap’: How two UW grads are making investing more accessible

With Quiver Quantitative, James and Christopher Kartdatze want to make investing more accessible for everyone.

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 types of data that 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 Kardatzke recognized this and 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 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 [for someone with just a Robin Hood account] — the casual investor [who just has] a few thousand dollars,” CEO James Kardatzke 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.”

The idea behind Quiver Quantitative originated from an experience James Kardatzke had as an intern at a Boston Hedge Fund during his senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. James Kardatzke 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. 

“Historically [that data] has not been accessible to anybody who doesn't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to go out and acquire that data. So that inspired us to go and start Quiver, which initially was the idea that we want to bridge the information gap between retail investors and Wall Street, and make it so that everyone has access to the same tools,” James Kardatzke said.

Most of the data is publicly available, but difficult to access. James Kardatzke recounted the contrast between his experience at the Hedge Fund and when he returned to campus.

“Going back after the internship, [and] trying to get access to some of these same data sets [made me] quickly realize like, even though it's public data, a lot of the providers out there charge just exorbitant prices to get access to it. There's not really any options if you're a retail investor who wants to start using these alternative data sets,” he said.

What Quiver Quantitative does is write code that extracts information from these sources and compiles them into a presentation that’s easy to access and understand. 

“Basically, what we're doing is we're writing code to kind of automate the process of collecting this public data, and putting it in a format that people can use,” CTO Chris Kardatzke explained. 

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

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“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 around 430,000 followers on TikTok, over 83,000 followers on Instagram, and nearly 35,000 on Twitter, the company is able to extend their reach far beyond the Madison community. According to the company, numerous large brokerage firms and “billion-dollar plus hedge funds” access Quiver Quantitative data through its API, though James Kardatzke believes the majority of the platform's users to be retail investors.

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 tracks the stock trading of congresspeople. As Chris Kardatzke explained, this feature is particularly appealing to investors since members of Congress have access to stock 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 Kardatzke said. 

The brothers wanted 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 Kardatdze voiced their belief that this feature has applications beyond investing and journalism.

“I think there's also interesting takeaways from a political, economical, 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 Kardatzkes 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 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 Kardatzke said the company’s long-term goal is to make the site 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 have the same tools available to them as people on Wall Street do,” James Kardatzke said.

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