ACHIEVING THE MISSION
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT TROUNCEFLOW
Mike TrounceFounder and Chief Executive Officer
If you want to know more about the core team at Trounceflow, how the company is organized and our advisors and governance, then this is the place.
If you want to know more about the industry we serve, the business model of the company, and our go-to-market strategy across our product, clients and pricing, this is the place.
If you want to know which 'angels' have backed Trounceflow, and what our investor exit strategy is, you'll find it here.
Finally, if you want to know what the plan for 2021 is, then you'll find an overview here.
For more details on any of these and more, get in touch.
£500,000 OF 'ANGEL' EQUITY RAISED TO DATE
£150,000 at £1m valuation, then £350,000 at £2m valuation
INVESTMENT & HEDGE FUND CIO's / ADVISORS
INVESTMENT BANKERS / MACRO TRADERS
FRIENDS, FAMILY AND ANGEL INVESTORS
Chief IT Consultant
Group Risk Director
Trounceflow's software, delivered through our platform, is at the heart of the company. So yes, we are a SaaS company, although what we are building is very specific not just to a specific industry (vertical), but to a niche-within-a-niche: the investment decision. So if we are only serving a niche, is this worth investing in?
Vertical software markets tend to have winner-take-most dynamics, where the vertical SaaS business that can best serve the needs of a specific industry often becomes the dominant vertical solution
Bloomberg is a great example of how big this can get if you do it right. They were ahead of everyone else and they executed well in a large market. Their product helps investment professionals get their work done on day one, and over many years they have grown to provide a huge range of services to the same vertical. They basically invented Vertical SaaS for the investment industry, decades before the Cloud.
I wonder if 500,000 people in the investment vertical want to pay $25,000 each a year for this?
They say better to have a good market than a good idea. We have a good market. The investment industry has been under pressure since the Great Financial Crisis, and industry giants are dominating with low-cost products. But the industry itself is still huge, and that means investor-behaviour matters ever more, the larger the low-cost index-tracking funds become. All the more important to know how buyers behave, then, and that's where we come in.
Well that went well.
PRODUCT: LAND & EXPAND
This is a long journey, and we started with the specialist fixed income market where we know the people and the products: emerging market debt. We then added international bonds, because what 'tourist' investors do matters to EMD-dedicated people. We added frontier market debt, a special subset of EMD, and added emerging market equities because EM FX people care about overall flows, not just EMD flows. Our biggest 'land-and-expand' was the move to cover high yield debt. A client was happy with the EMD service and asked us to add High Yield, which we did. It meant we didn't have to pay for a salesperson to pitch High Yield services to clients. Rather, we could devote our resources to improving the product and serving the existing client.
CLIENTS: BE A SOURCE OF TRUTH, FAST
To start with we used an outbound strategy
We are moving more towards inbound
- we cover a niche, making it unusually easy to target the right prospects (that's why we used outbound)
- we weren't producing enough easy-to-consume content at the start: it was good, but harder to consume
- we've got the early adopters
- we're in a better position to produce easy to consume content
PRICING: ENTERPRISE-LEVEL SUBSCRIPTIONS
The facts: an enterprise-level subscription is $35,000 per year paid annually upfront. That gets as many users as you need (generally 5-20 for an Emerging Market Debt team at a buy-side asset management company) receiving content through the Email, Website and Excel channels, along with the Help, Explainers and API calls.
The thinking: we're open-minded about whether this is the right pricing strategy. Pricing began in 2017 at $25,000 per year, and it was competitor-based pricing: that's what one Bloomberg terminal costs, so we anchored it there. We push prices up around 10% per year, but feature growth and usability is more like 50% per year; almost all our wage bill is to improve features, not to maintain existing products or to buy sales. SaaS companies are advised to move to value-based pricing, but we are keeping it ultra-simple for clients at the moment to add more users, as we are happy for the good news to spread.
Network & Congestion Effects
One question a lot of people who invested in Trounceflow - and a lot of people who have not - ask about is the congestion effect: does your data become less valuable the more users you have?
This is a great question. In theory, yes it does. The more people know what positioning looks like, the less valuable our data is, as it loses its proprietary value. However in practice we've never had this objection from a paying - or not paying - client. Clients seem to differentiate between the existence of the data, and knowing what to do with it. They all spend a lot of time looking at standard widely available fundamental data, not because it is private, but because they feel they can squeeze more out of it using their private methods. They view our data the same.
One thing to think about is the positive (network) effect of positioning being 'a thing'. As more people become familiar with the new idea that positioning is 'a thing'; it is something that can be measured and analysed, rather than just speculated about, then they become more willing to look at new datasets and tools that Trounceflow can provide.
What's your Moat?
- TRUST - we'd like and we'd hope to think that ...people not only see us as knowing a lot, but also being upfront about what we don't know
- USER EXPERIENCE - it's quick to get to the data
- PACE OF INNOVATION - we move faster
We are also actually a LOW COST provider
Investor EXIT STRATEGY
Companies like this get funding and exit big
The facts: there have been a number of exits by companies like us in recent years. The financial data company EPFR Global was bought by FTSE 100 company Informa and now runs as one of their specialist divisions. The economic data company CEIC data was bought by Euromoney. Macrobond was a startup ten years ago, and was bought in recent years by a private equity firm. Meanwhile the emerging-market-bond-focused electronic trading platform EMBonds was launched, built and sold to interdealer broker BGC within the space of a few years.
The thinking: exits don't happen by themselves. We're constantly talking to potential partners and acquirers. We're still small and niche, so this is some way off, it's not three or five years, it's at least seven. But the exits happen at high prices, so that should mean good returns for the early investors.
B2B information: Warburg Pincus private equity has acquired a controlling stake in Reorg Research, a bankruptcy analysis and deal intelligence start-up. The deal is rumoured to value Reorg — which expects 2018 operating profit of some $20m — at between $375m to $400m. In just five years, the privately-owned, US-based Reorg Research has become a leading information provider on distressed debt and leveraged finance. Research data is hot.
Trounceflow was born in the cloud. Mike lives in London and connected with developer Max in Moscow and analyst Oleksii in Kiev early on. Services like Slack, Zoom and Github enabled remote work to take place from the start, and we found it productive, so as the company expanded, Pawel joined as CTO from Warsaw, and Olga from St Petersburg, we just carried on with what works. We found that productivity was high and costs were kept very low.
We tend to gather once a year where team members live. Martin is from Serbia, so we gathered there. Vahe, Armine and some other team members based in Armenia had joined by 2019, so we gathered in Yerevan. Finally, Whitney came over from Colombia for our first stakeholder meeting in London at the end of 2019 (hence the coats!)
ANNUAL OPERATING PLAN
2021: ADD FUEL TO THE FIRE
Our fifth year begins on 1 October 2020, and the plan for the year is to lower the cost of customer acquisition through making the product more useful, easier to self-educate and use, and so easier to evangelise. For COVID and environmental reasons, we're moving away from having Mike on a plane every week, and it makes business sense too. We'll keep listening to clients about what new features to build, and what's not working yet, and focus on improving our service to existing clients, and helping them succeed.
The team will stay at a fairly constant size, although we will hire opportunistically on the client success side and we will spend more on software development now that we can see clients like the prototypes of some new products we've built. This is working, so it's all about adding fuel to the fire.
Numerous software services help us operate. Some of them are used by our developers, some by our other team members, and some by everyone. Some are free and some are subscription services. Here is a list of the significant chargeable services:
Software for developers
Most of the chargeable software services are used for the operation and development of the Trounceflow web application trounceflow.com/app. But most web application operation and development is conducted using free tools. One of the most integral aspects of web development is web programming, which is achieved with the help of programming languages. The programming language that accounts for most of the Trounceflow code base is Python. Web development takes place in a framework, and we use Django, a high-level Python web framework. Our servers are Virtual Machines hosted by Google Compute Engine.
Datadog is a monitoring service for cloud-scale applications, providing monitoring of servers, databases, tools, and services. We use it to quickly figure out whether things are going abnormally in any of our subsystems: e.g. when our data source changes the format, we're able to quickly catch it.
Digital Ocean provides us with computational capabilities to deploy and scale applications in the cloud.
Github is a web-based hosting service for version control using git.
Google Cloud Platform provides us with services such as Google Compute Engine which hosts our customer-facing website, Google Cloud SQL which helps us administer the database, and Google Container Registry which stores data and/or code for multiple isolated test environments.
SendGrid enables us (and services we use, like Sentry) to send emails (e.g. if a user's password changes).
Cloudflare provides DDoS protection and traffic acceleration for the entire network infrastructure.
Spidering and Parsing
Uses free tools and expensive people.
The Trounceflow web application trounceflow.com/app displays data, and some of it is discovered and collected (and then parsed) from raw files/documents on websites by a process called web crawling or 'spidering'. Parsing is the automatized extraction of meaningful data from raw documents people create, so we often talk about 'spidering and parsing'. We can pay our software developers to write 'automations' (spiders and/or parsers), which they will build using free tools, or we can pay our other team members to collect the data manually. It is much more expensive to pay a developer to write a spider than to collect it manually, but it can potentially be a good investment in the long run, even though spiders and parsers can 'break' (especially if target websites or files change).
We use Requests, Beautiful Soup and Selenium. Requests is a Python HTTP library for sending HTTP requests. Beautiful Soup is a Python package for examining HTML and XML documents for meaningful content. Selenium is a web browser automation tool that we use for web crawling when Requests is not sufficient. For parsing we use pdftotext for reading PDF files, xlrd for reading Excel files.
Raw files that contain data, such as factsheets, need to be stored, as well as the parsed data itself. We use both Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Google's G Suite to store raw files. Amazon S3 is a reliable cloud-based object storage service provider. G Suite is a set of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products.
Parsed data storage: We use PostgreSQL to store and aggregate data. PostgreSQL is a powerful, open source object-relational database management system (RDBMS).
Other things used for web development
Heroku - used to host all infrastructure there, but now we use only 'Proximo' plugin. It allows to have a static IP-address which in turn, allows us to make requests to Bloomberg.
Celery - Python library that allows running tasks scheduled and asyncroniously. For example: running spiders and parsers, import from Bloomberg, import from XLS/CSV files.
Docker - used for testing new features isolated from main branch.
Drone - runs system tests and also generates Docker images that can be deployed afterwards.
NameCheap - hosts our domains: trounceflow.com and trounceflow.tech
Sentry - provides bug-monitoring and error-tracking software to help app developers investigate problems.