Igor Gonta – Founder of Market Prophit

[quote style=”boxed”]Don’t get me wrong, there is a method to the madness but you have to be able to shift focus and improvise and prioritize as things come your way. But as long as you set long term major goals and milestones and stick to them, that serves as a compass to steer the overall ship.[/quote]

Igor Gonta is a Wall Street veteran who cut his teeth in sales and trading at Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Barclays. He has degrees from MIT in electrical engineering and has always had a passion for solving complex problems. Igor founded Market Prophit, a financial big data analytics company at the intersection of tech and finance, his two greatest passions. Market Prophit analyzes stock-related conversations in social media and generates sentiment (bullish/bearish) signals and buzz in real-time and delivers them in an intuitive platform with powerful visualizations. Market Prophit’s goal is to democratize financial big data analytics and make it available to the every-day investor.

What are you working on right now?

We just launched our website and are working on raising awareness of our powerful platform to the investor community. We are also working on additional features that will help in quantitatively ranking financial bloggers based on their track record of predictability. We’re very excited about this feature which we think is sorely missing from social media.  It will bring a level of credibility and trust to the investment community, especially since the amount of noise keeps rising. Market Prophit’s ranking system will allow our users to identify who is good, who is bad and who to trust and follow. Those with the highest rankings are the “market prophits” or mavens.

Where did the idea for Market Prophit come from?

I came up with the idea for Market Prophit when I was trying to decide on whether or not I should invest in some stocks and add them to my portfolio. In reading about them and trying to make a decision, I realized that I couldn’t possibly interpret and read all of the information out there; especially in the financial blogosphere. I also realized that I didn’t know most of the people writing about these stocks so I couldn’t accurately weigh everyone’s opinions. So I saw a tool missing in the market place to do all of this and to do it in real-time. I started Market Prophit because I wanted to have and use this tool.

How do you make money?

We are currently in beta as we work out our kinks, get customer feedback, and work to launch our additional feature sets. So right now, we are a free service. But we plan to charge a subscription service to access our premium features. So ultimately, we will have a “freemium” model. We also are looking to build out an API so that institutional clients and data providers can access our signals in real-time without our GUI and we will be charging monthly fees for that including at looking at strategic partnerships for the distribution of our data.

What does your typical day look like?

I wish there was a typical day. When you’re a small start-up like we are, every day can and will look different. I describe it as organized chaos some times. Don’t get me wrong, there is a method to the madness but you have to be able to shift focus and improvise and prioritize as things come your way. But as long as you set long term major goals and milestones and stick to them, that serves as a compass to steer the overall ship.

How do you bring ideas to life?

You have to talk about concepts and bounce them off your colleagues and friends. But to finally sketch them out, I actually find it helpful to draw them on a piece of paper. Especially when you are thinking about data that has so many different dimensions, it’s important to display it visually in an intuitive way so that many of those dimensions can be easily interpreted. Otherwise, you’re just staring a boring tables.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

A trend that really excites me is the ability to store and analyze obscene amounts of data in real-time. I think we are just beginning to scratch the surface of the kinds of analyses that can be accomplished and the kinds of insights that can be quickly garnered which can inform better business decisions.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job I ever had was actually my first job. I worked at a shoe store during a few summers when I was in high school and I remember how tough it was run up and down the warehouse in the back multiple times to find the right style, size, and fit for the customer. It was definitely a workout. But what I learned from that job was a few things. One, I learned that if you want to accomplish something, you have to hustle and push yourself; you’d be surprised at what you can achieve. The second lesson that I learned is that there is no “one-size fits all” (pun intended) when it comes to figuring out what works for a customer. You can’t just push a product that does well on average to everyone; you actually have to listen to what customers want because that makes for a good sales person and a good product designer. At the end of the day, you’re selling people in whatever business you do so you need to make sure you’re delivering what they want.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I started again, I think I would have started a website earlier. Time is of the essence and it’s a competitive world. So no matter how good you think your idea is, chances are there is someone else that has the same idea and is working on it as well. Being early should not be underestimated.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I am constantly polling people’s opinions of my idea, my business strategy and the overall demand for my product. You can never have enough feedback. Markets and sentiment change on the drop of a dime and you need to make sure that as you are developing and building your idea and that it is still something that people want and will use. Now I’m not saying that you can tell the future and predict long-term trends. But being more informed in real-time is a better way to go when you’re taking risk.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’d say that I didn’t start earlier. I had been toying with several ideas for startups for a while but I didn’t solicit enough feedback from my friends, colleagues to try and gauge which way to go. It wasn’t too long before I chose to pursue my current company but a head start would have helped.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I don’t know if they have this already but it would be great if you had a child car seat that had automatic adjustments of the belts so that you could just control them with a remote. This would save tons of time in having to pull out seats, take off covers, rethread the seat belts through the variety of holes for different heights etc. I hope that someone makes this!

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would build electricity infrastructure en masse all over the world. There are so many nations that lack basic services such as electricity which I believe is the foundation to advancement and prosperity. GDP is directly correlated to electricity consumption so it all starts with electricity.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I did comedy improv for a long time (both in college) and after. And I actually had my own troupe in NYC for a few years.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

1) I love Google Analytics. It gives you a ton of analytical and segmentation capability to really help inform and improve your website.
2) Buffer is great because it lets you schedule publishing your content to social media so you don’t flood your stream.
3) Camtasia Studio from Techsmith. This is a great screen capture and video editing tool that lets you easily make instructional videos about the functionality of your website.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend to read “Nobody Is Perfick” by Bernard Waber. Yes, this is a children’s book and I must admit that that is pretty much the only books I read these days (I get all other commentary online and via social media). I think this is a great book because it has a simple message that’s right there in the title. It teaches you that nobody and no process, and no plan is ever perfect, and that things might go wrong along the way but as long as you recognize this one simple truism, then it will be easier to deal with difficult situations objectively and not dwell but “move on” and find solutions.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@elonmusk – He is truly a visionary ala Steve Jobs. He made electric cars cool, gadgets, not transportation and a “must have” which has rarely been said about cars.
@Nouriel – Nouriel Roubini is one of the few important counterweights to stock market and economic analysis which tends to be biased too bullish. He gives perspective so that you can understand the overall economic picture from a macro perspective.
@sacca – Chris Sacca is a great speaker, a shrewd investor, and is incredibly thoughtful about the entire entrepreneurial landscape. He tells it like it is which is refreshing.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

My son loves to eat and he usually has multiple snacks after dinner before he goes to bed. But he doesn’t call them snacks. He calls them “dinners”. So I laugh when he announces while he is eating his snack that he is having “4th dinner!”

Who is your hero, and why?

My wife Nadia is my hero. She’s a Rabbi by profession and she always gives me spiritual as well as emotional guidance in everything that I do. She’s truly someone I look up to because of her unique perspectives on life.

What is the biggest difference that you have noticed between doing work at a job as opposed to school work in college?

The biggest difference is that unlike in school, when solving problems you won’t always be given all of the variables and components that you will need in order to come up with the answer. As an entrepreneur, you have to work most times with imperfect and missing information. So the level and type of reasoning changes and there is an element of risk taking that has to be assumed because of the multiple probable outcomes. But learning to think this way is key to navigating uncertainty of which there is a lot of when starting a company because it gives you the confidence to take risks.

What is your favorite hobby and why?

I actually play a lot of poker. It may sound like a stressful way to relax having to constantly sit and concentrate and make decisions which is what I have to do on a daily basis in my business. But even though it requires endless concentration and thought, it helps me take my mind off of other things because of the concentration that it requires. It’s like going to the gym and exercising your brain.


Igor Gonta on Twitter: @MarketProphit
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