Some may call his story a blessing in disguise. Losing a "six-figure" sum while dabbling in stocks in Los Angeles in 2007 opened his eyes to the harsh reality of the industry.
Mr Dinesh Bhatia was driven by the loss to set up a network for financial advice, which was transparent and where trades could be validated. His experience made him realise that it wasn't about market intelligence, but the unfair advantage that institutional investors had over retail investors in stock trading.
"They have access to knowledge ahead of time so they would always win. As an investor, I wasn't happy with how things were and I wanted to create a platform to rally retail investors where they can share knowledge and use it for the betterment of everyone on the platform," said the 45-year-old, who calls himself a serial entrepreneur, having founded several startups such as augmented reality company Mobinex, mobile application studio Eden Pod and more prior to his current venture.
He shared the idea of "the world's first social investment network" with Mr Dominic Morris, 39, whom he got to know through a mutual friend. It resonated with Mr Morris, a British national, who was working in a bank in Singapore at that time but wanted to leave the banking industry in search of other opportunities.
They presented the idea to the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and received $500,000 to fund the start-up.
"We didn't even have an app at that time. We simply presented the idea so once we got the funding, we were even more motivated to get the app up," said Mr Bhatia, a Singaporean, who studied at Anglo-Chinese School.
Along with their personal savings, they launched TradeHero in August 2012. It is a currency trading simulation app that uses real-time stock market and currency information, allowing users to spend and earn virtual credits buying and selling stocks on exchanges around the world.
Users can start with US$100,000 ($140,000) in virtual currency, which is credited to them when they create an account on the free app.
They get to compete with 8 millionother users on 44 different exchanges and currency pairs to make it on the leaderboard. They can follow other users' investment advice on the leaderboard for US$1.99 per month to make real money by mirror trading.
"By paying a fee to access top users' trades and stock tips, there is a tangible monetary value for users on our app, who can make copy trades in real exchanges, with real money. If a trader is doing well, you can even replicate his actions in real life, if you're following him."
The follower fee is split evenly between TradeHero and the punters. A portion of the fee also goes to the app store - Google Play Store and Apple's App Store.
Mr Bhatia, who has a master's in biomedical engineering from Imperial College, added that the app which "gamifies trading" focuses on people who know nothing about it. "It's a good starting platform to see whether you like stock trading. Some people may not like it and they can leave. They will not get burned in the process because it's virtual money."
The mobile stock market simulation app is also a financial literacy education and experimentation tool for current and aspiring traders.
TradeHero has worked with Singapore Exchange to develop a series of videos to educate users on the ABCs of trading. They are available on the TradeHero app and YouTube. Currently, Mr Bhatia said thereare 150,000 users in Singapore. The concept does not stop with TradeHero.
In May, Mr Bhatia came up with another app - SportsHero. Based on the same model as TradeHero, fans can make predictions on games with virtual currency bets. It allows them to make better predictions on the outcome of games by looking at other fans' prediction results. Top ranked sports fans, who have made many correct predictions, are listed on the app's leaderboard and can win prizes.
"It costs US$2 a week for users to follow top ranked users and likewise, if a user is making good predictions based on past performance, you can mirror that prediction in real life," said Mr Bhatia.
It currently only offers baseball and football and various leagues such as the English Premier League and S.League. It will introduce other sports such as basketball, American football, tennis and hockey later.
Mr Bhatia, who shuttles between Shanghai and Singapore, where his offices are, said the free app has 40,000 users globally. On the decision to start SportsHero, he said: "I was trying to think what other industry the idea can apply to and the only other thing that fit the bill was sports. Finance and sports - both are a punt in a way.
"For sports, there is a future event with a score that is yet to be determined, people can predict the event and you will know exactly what they predicted correctly. With trading, you are buying with the hope that things go up. If an investor has bought the right stocks, he will build a good portfolio. Both trading and sports prediction are very definite events."
To date, TradeHero and SportsHero have raised US$18 million from institutional investors such as IDA, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, Samsung Ventures, TMF Ventures, IPV Capital and 500 Startups.
For his innovative financial technology ideas, Mr Bhatia was the only Singaporean who was named among FastCompany's 100 Most Creative People last year.
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