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Ex-Apple coder and Fidelity VP launched fintech firm that feeds data-hungry traders

Fri May 12, 2017

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In the hypercompetitive world of trading, everyone is looking for an edge, from quants with data science PhDs and market makers who operate at microsecond speeds to fundamental investors who want to determine the optimal timeframe to put a position on. A new breed of business-to-business fintech firms has cropped up to meet that demand, providing other potential landing spots for tech-savvy traders, developers and data scientists looking for their next position.

Barry Star is the CEO of Wall Street Horizon, a data and software provider specializing in trader-oriented information about corporate events such as earnings releases, conference calls, board meetings, stock splits and dividends. His firm currently has about 25 staff and he expects that number it to continue to grow.

“Our team primarily includes client-facing staffers, technologists and researchers, who use both our proprietary technology as well as high-touch methods to uncover and verify the more than 40 datasets that we track,” Star said. “For the research staff, we look for individuals who are both precise and resourceful in their approach.

“For example, one of our longtime researchers was a medical transcriber before we hired her, largely because she had to be incredibly detail-oriented in that role, and she’s been a star for us for close to ten years now,” he said.

From management consulting to Apple and then from Fidelity to fintech

After beginning his career in management consulting, specializing in the strategic use of information technology, Star joined Apple as a software developer.

“I wrote software for the first Apple computers, selling disks that I carried around in little plastic baggies and was at Apple when Steve Jobs rolled out the first Mac computer,” he says.

Star went on to work as a vice president at Fidelity Investments for five years.

“I created two large business for Fidelity – the first being the Fidelity OnLine Xpress, the first PC-based online retail brokerage for clients in the market,” he said. “I was then asked by the Chairman to start the RIA business, then called Advisor Resource Group, which remains one of the fastest-growing parts of Fidelity today.”

Star left to become the CEO of Star Development Group and then founded OneCore Financial Network – an online banking service for small business “about 15 years ahead of its time” in 1998 – and Wall Street Horizon in 2003.

“I founded OneCore in the height of the dot-com boom, and raised $40m from the likes of CMGI [now ModusLink Global Solutions], Merrill Lynch and Paine Webber [which was acquired by UBS in 2000],” Star said. “OneCore was another step along the way for me.

“Probably the biggest lesson it taught me was that most of the time for an entrepreneur, you’re much better off trying to solve people’s problems, no matter how seemingly unglamorous they might be, rather than trying to perpetually chase the next big thing,” he said.

OneCore going under in 2001 led Star to start Wall Street Horizon based on the premise that traders, market makers and institutional investors had demand for event data. The firm tracks more than 40 different event types and provides both forward-looking and historical dataset for events such as earnings dates, dividend dates, options expiration dates, splits, spinoffs and investor-related conferences.

“Event dates are volatility events, so the common denominator for our client base is any investor who’s looking to get visibility into approaching volatility so they can capitalize on it or avoid it,” Star said.

“Options traders in particular find value in our data since contracts that have priced in an expected date can go a bit haywire, at least temporarily, if it unexpectedly changes and crosses an expiration date,” he said.