The prevalence of smartphones and mobile apps has been a technological revolution taking place for several years. It’s almost impossible to find anybody today that doesn’t utilize a smartphone app for one purpose or another without giving it a second thought. This App Revolution has been something that Scutify’s Chairman Cody Willard has been pounding the table about for years during his days as an anchor on Fox Business Channel’s Happy Hour.
It’s safe to say now that Willard was ahead of the curve, and being someone who actively managed money navigating the financial markets, he understood that investors needed more innovative ways to find and access information, gauge sentiment, and to connect with other active knowledgeable investors to share ideas. That was the inspiration for Scutify.
Equities.com had the opportunity to speak with Willard to learn more about the first app-centric social network for investors.
EQ: What is Scutify?
Willard: Scutify is a social network that’s built around apps and investors, tying all three of those together–investors, apps and social networking–in one place. We actually have three apps for Android and three apps for iOS.
The first is the Scutify app itself, which is the social network of our website and it has most of all of the features that you get on the site itself. Then we also have the Scutify Hedge Fund Manager app, which is a trading game you can unlock and use. We also have the Scutify Sentiment app, which allows you to vote on and/or check out the sentiment on individual stocks.
EQ: Scutify seems to be providing investors with new ways to see the market through modern technologies. What was the impetus to create Scutify?
Willard: When smartphones hit back in 2007-08, I was an anchor on Fox Business. I talked all the time about the app revolution, and how all you needed to do was get in front of the app revolution–you’re talking about billions of people with billions of smartphones, using many hundreds of billions of apps on a daily basis. At the time, I said that was coming. We’re here today.
When you look at the marketplace you recognize that as good as Twitter (TWTR) is, as good as Facebook is, there is a niche out there for verticals in social networking and apps that really create value around people’s individual interests. Clearly, with my background as an anchor for Fox Business and a hedge fund manager on Wall Street at large, there was a niche I wanted to get filled. I knew I had the extra piece from my experience to help build something to fill that niche.
EQ: When did Scutify launch?
Willard: We consider September 2014 to be when we launched in beta.
EQ: There are a lot of different types of investors out there. Who would you say Scutify is geared toward?
Willard: Really, it’s probably most valuable for the retail investor because we have a lot of professional money-managers–what we call “All Stars” on the site. They’re on there daily, putting out their ideas, answering questions and commenting on the markets and the economy. So they’re helping to create value for the people who are using the app or the social network.
I’m really pushing the word “app” in addition to social network because I think that’s a big part of Scutify. There are other financial social networks out there, but to create an app-centric social network for individual niches, that’s where this future is. People are using apps all the time, and with wearables coming down the road, those will require yet more apps. They’re part of the app revolution, and all of that needs to get integrated. Whether it’s finance, sports, or politics that is going to be happening in every vertical.
EQ: So would you categorize Scutify as more of a mobile-oriented company right now?
Willard: Yes, we are a mobile-first, app company. Well, in some sense, we’re also collating all of the feeds on individual stocks from Twitter and other social networks like Facebook to get sentiment and to track what’s trending out there. Social networking is a small bit of what the Scutify service is.
EQ: In regards to sentiment. That’s a big thing now. People want to go beyond what analysts are saying and what Wall Street is saying now. They want to know what investors, as a whole, feel about a stock. How can an investor use Scutify to help them make better trades and investment decisions?
Willard: Well, our site and our apps are integrated with Tradier Brokerage. You can actually trade from inside the platform. You don’t even have to leave the network. So you can learn about a stock that an All Star says he’s buying, and do your homework right there on the site. You can ask questions about the stock, you can read what people are saying about it on Twitter, and you can look at the sentiment around the stock.
All of those things can go in figuring out whether or not you choose to trade or invest in that position. Putting all of that into one centralized location enables you to become a better trader and investor just by learning and being able to do all of that.
EQ: So really, you’ve created a hub that allows investors to access and organize all this information that’s out there.
Willard: Correct. We even offer what we call Premium Scuttles. People can purchase actual reports and trading ideas from professional money managers and newsletter writers. We vet it to make sure that we don’t have penny stock promoters, guys running cheap scams or something on the site. You’re able to at least have some sort of assurance that as hard as investing is, you’re not being scammed. That’s what I think a lot of retail investors, especially those who are just learning, end up learning the hard way. It’s best to just avoid the penny stock, Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board microcap promoters.
We specifically say that, and in our Terms and Conditions, we strongly suggest not delving into microcaps under a market cap of $250 million, or any bulletin board Pink Sheets. But other than that, we are open to talking about any stock and learning about any trading style or investment style. It’s all essential, right there for you.
EQ: You mentioned the All Stars, and some of the money managers that are using Scutify. Can you give us some examples of some of them?
Willard: Robert Marcin (Founder of Defiance Asset Management), who has been featured in a couple of Barron’s profiles over the years. He’s a money manager on there on a daily basis putting out ideas, answering people’s questions about his positions and about how he approaches the market.
Jeff Miller (CEO of NewArc Investments), is one of the smartest economists/money managers you’ll ever run across. He’s got a huge following across the internet and all of the major financial sites that publish people. He’s on there all the time. I’m on there 24/7, answering questions and putting out my ideas. There’s dozens more.
EQ: So you launched beta sometime last year. What other additional initiatives, or rollouts, or maybe special events, that users can expect coming down the line?
Willard: Well, since we launched in 2014, we have launched six apps. In addition to that, we’ve created games and unique features on the site and on the apps that you can’t get anywhere else. We’re focused right now on becoming the iTunes of finance, where you can find any major newsletter writer and publisher and be able to purchase it from our site using Scutify credits or your credit card. We’ve got that out there. Now, we’re just focused on critical mass with both users and publishers.
EQ: You mentioned your background earlier. Obviously, most people who are in this industry know who you are. Can you talk to us about the evolution of how you went from a hedge fund manager to a financial media personality to, now, a tech entrepreneur?
Willard: Sure. It’s so funny—and maybe even a little sad, depending on where you stand on this—because I think Madonna is my inspiration for constantly trying to re-invent myself.
I launched my hedge fund into the teeth of the bottom of the markets, really during the crash from 2000 to 2002. I launched in October 2002, just about 10 days before the NASDAQ bottomed on a 75-percent decline. I rode the next five years as a tech hedge fund manager while the NASDAQ tripled, and I had some great years there. I got bearish in 2007. I thought real estate was looking like it was going to crash, and I was worried about Wall Street itself.
Just around that time, Fox Business was launching and I had an agent at CAA who had taken an interest in me and put together an idea of getting me on TV. I ended up anchoring Happy Hour on Fox Business. After doing 528 episodes of Happy Hour, I just didn’t like TV anymore. I was tired of talking about the bailouts and I didn’t like doing the political, Republican/Democrat regime paradigm that you get forced into when you’re on TV.
I wanted to go do something else again. I left that and went back to writing. I’m the publisher of TradingWithCody.com, and we launched Scutify because I wanted to be part of that app revolution.
EQ: The app revolution. The social network part of it is just a core component, but that’s not your primary vision, right? What would you say really sets Scutify apart?
Willard: Several things. We’re a self-policing community. We actively chase out the bad and allow the meritocratic good to rise to the top. We have a lot of different features from blocking people to giving them a thumbs down, and if they get enough thumbs down, their Scuttles disappear from the general population for a day.
We’ve got a lot of unique features that we’re bringing to the table. As I mentioned several times, there’s nobody else that’s got the value-add apps that we’ve got in the marketplace already right now. There’s more to come.
EQ: You guys are doing some really cool things at Scutify. Are there any final takeaways or anything that you want to share with our readers that we haven’t touched on?
Willard: I always just like to tell, especially the retail-investing public, and to remind them in all seriousness to stay away from penny stocks and micro-caps and insider-manipulated questionable things. It’s hard enough making money finding the next Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) that you don’t need to expose yourself to even the possibility of manipulation.
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