Financial platform Thinknum encourages communal approach

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 8:23am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 April, 2014, 8:23am

If the 2008 global economic crisis proved anything, it's that the fate of the financial world is often based on logical guesswork - financial valuations and projections based on assumptions of how well a company will perform.

In the industry, they're known as "financial models" - sometimes the models are right and everyone profits, and sometimes they're wrong and billions of dollars are lost.

But in our rapidly developing technological world, these models are almost always anachronistic: updated by hand and e-mailed back and forth in the form of spreadsheets.

When former hedge funder Justin Zhen hit the New York trading floor, he was appalled by the outdated system.

He quickly partnered with Goldman Sachs strategist Gregory Ugwi, and together they envisioned a system that would harness the global power of the internet to push forward financial analysis methods communally. The result of this is Thinknum.

"Thinknum is a collaborative web platform for financial analysis. There is an abundance of financial data and information on the web, but it is extremely scattered and it comes from many independent sources," Zhen says.

"Thinknum aggregates all of this data and puts it in one place, presenting it to our users so they can create unique financial insights on our platform. By having all of that on one platform, it enables users to generate powerful observations."

Thinknum is currently in beta testing, but already it's seen impressive traction. The platform is available in free and paid-for versions, with the latter giving users additional security in how they share their insights, and a number of major financial firms in New York and Hong Kong have signed up.

The ability to develop and share spreadsheet-like valuation models, as well as discover indices to compare and correlate data, is important to them. But the platform's main appeal is its access to high-quality data.

Financial start-ups can't afford the resources of major providers like Bloomberg. But through the collaborative power of the internet, Thinknum gives them the ability to access such key data.

"Thinknum takes full advantage of the web's resources. It enables us to reach out to a global audience - with a larger pool of insights, the best ideas will rise to the top," Zhen says. "The web also has specific technological advantages - for example, taking a financial model for Google and applying it to Apple is not a trivial task in a spreadsheet.

"With Thinknum, that's a click of a button away. And users can run complicated models in a fraction of the time that it would take on a local machine."

Thinknum's creators are keeping things small for now, but their ambitions for the web platform are endless. They hope that the service will be used by everyone invested in the finance world - not just those whose job it is to cover the markets.

"We see Thinknum as a major financial analysis platform that has unique data and insights from investors all over the globe," Zhen says.

"We'll become a channel for a domain expert in Hong Kong to share her expertise with someone in a cubicle in London.

"Instead of having only 20 analysts cover a stock, we want thousands of people around the world covering the same stock on Thinknum, creating more efficient markets as a result," Zhen says.