The successful build-an-app plan seems to be: take a useful service, make it intuitive and put a shiny veneer on it. Steve deBrun’s StockTouch has done that, in spades. Although if you ask Steve what the entrepreneurial key to app-building success is a top-notch team, the ‘classic trio’ as he calls it: the “designer, hacker, hustler trio”.
Steve is the self-proclaimed tech/art geek who designed the sharp quadrant interface for the StockTouch app. For anyone not familiar with the app, it puts gargled stock market data into an easily readable format, while breaking it down into scannable sectors. That’s the quick pitch anyways; it does some other cool shiznit too, but I don’t want to spoil your fun so just download it. If you haven’t got the $4.99 for download then just keep reading.
I got the opportunity to pick Steve’s brain about the app, its features and his experiences as an app-building entrepreneur, and the results were just brilliant:
For anyone not familiar with StockTouch could you give us the brief elevator pitch?
StockTouch is a dynamic, zoomable heat-map of the stock market that gives you a birds-eye view of the market, and allows you to dive in a view specific sectors and companies. The main interface displays 900 companies across nine sectors, and at any time there are more than 8,500 charts, 14,000 news stories, and over 50,000 tiles of heat.
How did you come up with the idea for StockTouch?
We initially set to work on creating the “mother of all iPad apps for finance” that had lots of different visualizations and data across multiple asset classes. But when we started pumping data through the visualization that became StockTouch, we were excited at the power and insight that it provided, so we decided to turn it into a stand-alone app.
Is your professional background tech- or financially-oriented?
I’m a tech and art geek and have been doing software interface, interaction, information and identity design since the mid 90’s. My co-founder Jennifer Johnson has deep experience in finance, and John Morris, our lead developer, has been building Mac and iOS apps for many years.
What can someone hope to gain from using your app over a financial newspaper or website?
StockTouch enables you to sense the pulse of the market in real time. You can instantly see what sectors are up and down relative to each other and relative to the S&P 500. You can quickly spot outliers – companies that are outperforming or under-performing the overall market. And you can zoom in and get news about a specific company instantly. In this sense the app is also a really powerful news browser.
What’s your favorite aspect or feature of StockTouch?
I love the feature that arranges the view by Winners to see a clear, organized pattern of the companies that have done the best, and worst, over a given time period.
The touchscreen, 9-square grid is beautifully designed, was that done more for visual effects or ease of use?
Each quadrant in our 3×3 grid contains the 100 largest companies in each of the nine key industry sectors. We’ve organized the layout of the sectors to reflect different layers of the economy – Services, Consumer Goods and Healthcare are in the top row, Energy, Tech and Financial in the middle row, and Industrial Goods, Materials and Utilities, the underpinnings of raw materials and power, are at the bottom. We believe a symmetrical layout helps your brain create a more easily navigable map, and also gives a sense of the interplay that happens between sectors.
How has your entrepreneurial journey progressed since starting StockTouch?
I’ve worked with lots of startups over the years, but it’s been a while since I jumped on board as a co-founder and early employee. The days are long and varied and sometimes very stressful, but it’s also a huge boost to know that people really enjoy our product and get real value out of it. Our hope is that StockTouch is one of many really cool products that we produce in the coming months and years.
Is this your first entrepreneurial venture?
I worked as an early employee at a startup called Guru.com in the late 90’s, have started a few small websites on my own, and consulted with lots of startups.
What advice would you give anyone looking to make a similar venture?
Focus on your product and your product-market fit. If you can get that working, you will be able to find collaborators to help you build a business. Make sure your early team has a balance of people with a common vision but not too many overlapping skills (the classic designer, hacker, hustler trio is a good place to start). Be honest and talk about the good stuff and the bad. Have as much fun as possible, as the process is more important than the end result (but still kick butt!).