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Exciting Times for HBS Entrepreneurs

While living in Germany at the age of 15, I developed a passion for investing. It was that early interest I feel that drove my desire to create a forum to change the way we know investing today. It was early first semester last year when I came up with the idea to launch a community for stock investors, called the The Updown. We felt that by adding a new and exciting twist to the frenzy created by social networking phenomena the site would be appealing to both investors and college students throughout the country. Our vision is to ultimately create a community managed hedge fund. At a time when “The Up Down” describes the market on a daily basis, more and more people are interested in knowing what the right stocks and funds are and what the market will do tomorrow. We’ve had a lot of support from our section mates and from several professors who helped us get the company off the ground.

This idea grew out of applying the social network concept to the hedge fund industry. Georg and I both lived in Chase and played Squash together and he decided to join me and recruit a CTO. We posted an ad on the Harvard Start-Ups Yahoo! Groups site and found Harvard University graduate Phuc Truong. The business plan was done by the end of last year and it was time to shop the idea to potential investors.

In December of last year, I met Joachim Schoss, successful serial internet entrepreneur & hedge fund manager. Getting the first angel investor took less time than I thought. In early February, Joachim decided to invest in the company. This was a very exciting step forward, but it also put a lot of pressure on me to produce something tangible. Long hours at school and then longer hours at work started taking a toll on me. After I locked down the investor, the pressure started to build. We had to work harder because we had committed to deadlines.

During the summer, we were finally working full time, feeling like a company with a “real office.” We sublet an office in a one bedroom apartment at one Western Avenue from Atish Babu (Section G). We hired marketing interns and developers and at times had 10 people working in that room. The summer provided a lot of positive feedback from student investment clubs who verified that there was no great website so far that meets their needs. When the summer came to an end, I had to make a tough decision: whether or not to take a year off from school.

I knew that if I took a year off and dedicated myself to The UpDown it would give the company a better chance of success. At the end of the day, I knew that in order to launch a successful company I really needed to give 110% of my effort and therefore decided to defer my studies. Balancing both school and The UpDown previously, I had missed out on the social and school related events, and I knew that there was no way I oculd balance the two during an even tougher growth phase of the company.

During the first day of class, The UpDown was launched on CNBC and via a party with classmates at One Western. We were so proud and excited to have camera crews here on campus to launch the website on national television. The producer of the program felt we had a great site and the launch helped to generate a significant amount of exposure for our business.

Part of the launch is a $10,000 Investment Competition for Students. University students across the US and Canada will compete for 20 cash prizes. Ten prizes will be awarded for the best portfolio returns, and 10 prizes will be awarded for the best stock analyses where the UpDown community rates the quality of a member’s insight. We Challenge all you Harvard students to compete!

It was a communal effort and I want to thank everyone for their support and help. It is and has been a great learning experience.

September 17, 2007
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