U.S. News

Web Site Offers Risk-Free Stock Trading Experience

Linda R. Sittenfeld, |Senior Producer

If you ever find yourself concerned about which investment advice to follow, or wish you could tap the collective wisdom of lots of smart investors, well, now you can. Michael Reich, CEO of UpDown.com explains.

What is UpDown?
UpDown.com is a free site that allows users to practice new investing strategies without any risk. It's a social network centered around investing. Just like people in a fantasy football league draft their ideal pick of players, UpDown.com members are given $1 million in play money to create their ideal portfolios, containing their top stock picks.

Ultimately we'll create a system based on the successful investing strategies that rise to the top on the site. It'll be a community-run hedge fund. A mutual fund has to rely on one manager's wisdom, but this will use the collective wisdom of successful UpDown users.

How does UpDown make money?
The company's revenue model includes an advertising/sponsorship component that is similar to those leveraged by most social networking sites.
We need 100,000 regular members to break even. We have 35,000 now.

Can the users make money?
The site pays members whenever their virtual portfolios outperform the S&P 500. In the month of January, 2008 the site paid out over $10,000 to in winnings to top earners, in real money.

UpDown's investors are currently covering the monthly community payouts to members until the company's revenues ramp up. This is real money, paid out as an incentive to continue using the site. Ultimately the money will come from the management and performance fees for the community hedge fund.

With that said, the company's ultimate goal is to leverage the aggregated wisdom of its membership and create compelling investment products and services.

Why is UpDown a good business?
Most people don't realize the power of proper investment and lose out because of fear and lack of knowledge. UpDown.com helps investors to improve their skills through collaboration, competition and aggregated wisdom.

UpDown is going to change the world one investor at a time by empowering consumers to make better investment decisions.

By arming users with greater knowledge and shared insight to build credible investment track records, UpDown.com is putting more power and control in the hands of the individual investor, as opposed to the investment professional. Because of this, UpDown members are better equipped to challenge the decisions/advice given to them by financial professionals, as opposed to "going on blind faith."

Why might VCs or PE professionals or other investors be eyeing the company?
UpDown.com is founded by three Harvard entrepreneurs and is backed by $1.2 million from one of Europe's most successful Internet financiers. The company's business model is sound and will allow for break-even by 2009, less than two years after the public launch of the site.

Launched just last fall, UpDown.com membership has been growing at a continuously increasing rate and has attracted already more than 20,000 registered members.