The journey for any startup is never a straight path from idea to success. Founders must be agile and adapt to new information, market changes, and competition from legacy and new players. Adapting can often mean a pivot—moving to an entirely new idea or solution from where they started.
But pivots aren’t reserved for the startup itself. Utradea founder Stuart Mooney made a career pivot from mechanical engineering to finance. This decision led to meeting his co-founder Jack Zhang and the problem that would lead to starting Utradea.
Mooney studied mechanical engineering at Queen’s University and worked in the field for a few years before returning to the university to pursue an MBA. After completing his MBA, Mooney went to work for KPMG as a management consultant.
It was at KPMG where Monney met Zhang. Mooney said their time at KPMG helped develop their understanding of financial data and services—knowledge they put to use during the early days of the pandemic when they spent downtime investing and trading.
“We were doing our own research, and our friends started asking us for advice. We saw that there wasn't one dedicated space for people to discuss and share investment ideas and insights,” Mooney said.
Retail investors invest their own money using various information and data sources, from social media to asking friends for tips. Mooney said retail investors are at a disadvantage because they invest without a dedicated resource that combines stock market data with what’s happening with the companies.
This lack of a central resource gave Mooney and Zhang the idea for what would become Utradea.
“It's a place for your trading ideas, where we combine our real-time data and analytics covering the stock market and the social aspect into one platform. You don't have to have five different windows open trying to keep track of what's going on,” he said.
Mooney and Zhang left their roles at KPMG and started Utradea in November 2020. Mooney said they had strong traction and growth from the start thanks to an eager market of eager customers who had time to manage their investments. But a year into the business, Mooney said Utradea’s growth started to plateau.
“Trying to grow a social network is inherently difficult. We started to see that people had Twitter open on one screen and their brokerage accounts on the other,” he said.
It was time to make another pivot.
The change for Utradea was from a social network to become a platform that generated investment content. Mooney said he and Zhang had developed expertise in understanding stock market data and news. Automating investment content would enable them to take that understanding and scale their content creation.
We built a model that extracts insights from news market data to give you a quick hit recommendation. Let's say Apple’s price has gone up 5% in the last two months. This typically indicates x, y, and z. Utradea automates the generation of that content.
Utradea’s customers typically hire content writers who use the platform to generate content and then tailor it to their audiences. Using AI to create content has generated headlines since the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022. Mooney said they are often asked about the potential impact of generative AI tools like ChatGPT on Utradea’s business.
“The big difference is having the nuance and understanding of financial data and financial markets. It's a bit more nuanced than asking ChatGPT to write an article about why Apple is a great stock to buy,” he added.
The new platform launched six months ago, and Utrade has already made a significant move to advance the business. Mooney said they have entered into a partnership and revenue-sharing agreement with its financial data provider with an intent to merge.
In the same way, retail investors turn to the internet for advice, Mooney said he turned to a Google search for help scaling Utradea. The search led Utradea to the Accelerator Centre’s AC:Studio program. With $10 million in Government of Canada funding through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), AC:Studio partners with innovation leaders from across southern Ontario to bring high-impact startups and founders the critical capital they need to launch their businesses.
“I was looking for startup support services in Ontario and found AC:Studio. We applied and got accepted—which was awesome. It's been extremely beneficial for us,” Mooney said.
The Utradea team needed help in two critical areas for its business. First, Mooney said they were looking for guidance with the merger to understand how to structure the deal and what the revenue structure would look like. Second, the pivot to automatic content generation meant moving from a B2C business to a B2B business.
“B2B has a different sales mentality. The AC:Studio B2B tech sales training program with Uvaro was beneficial. It helped us build our sales playbook. Our monthly recurring revenue (MRR) increased from $5,000 to $40,000 over the last six months. I'd say a big portion of that was just through the mentor support,” he said.
Mooney added that having access to experienced mentors is one of the best parts of being part of AC:Studio.
“It's far too easy to get lost in the day-to-day when you're running a startup. Bouncing ideas off someone is essential, but unless you already have a great network, that's tough to do. It became even clearer through this journey that access to people who can provide support and advice is extremely critical and something I don't think we would have gotten if we hadn't been with AC:Studio.”
AC:Studio is funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and is delivered in partnership with WEtech Alliance, Innovate Niagara, Conestoga College, SnapPea, Uvaro, Bereskin & Parr, RSM Canada, and Gowling WLG.