Interview with Howard Reisman
Mr. Reisman is a Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of Brown University, where he earned degrees in mathematics and in economics.
Shortly after graduation, he founded a company called Heroix, which has now been in business for 35 years providing advanced system management software for large scale corporate data centers. In the course of running Heroix, he designed and developed four successive generations of system management software, all of which were highly successful (Quantum, RoboMon, Heroix eQ and Longitude).
In late 2008, Mr. Reisman, along with Mr. Andrew Martin were frustrated with the tools and web sites available to the individual investor. Being software engineers, they knew they could build a better mousetrap. Mr. Reisman became so committed to the vision of Stock Rover, he transitioned from running Heroix to building Stock Rover. Mr. Reisman remains the Chairman of the Board of Heroix corp. Mr. Reisman also serves on the advisory board for the Brown University Engineering Design Workshop.
Howard, what were your main motivations behind founding Stock Rover? What was it like finally deciding to start a company of your own?
My motivations for starting Stock Rover were really based on my experience as an individual investor. I found using existing web sites to do research, to invest stocks, to be a very frustrating enterprise. The sites were confusing, they weren't well-designed. A lot of them, they had a lot of information that was really hard to to read and gather. I found there was a lot of cutting and pasting, a lot of manual entry into spreadsheets, and the whole process was really unpleasant - to the point where I really didn't look forward to doing any stock research, which I had to do to be responsible financial investor. So I started thinking there had to be a better way, and it occurred to me that in my own work environment - which is software engineering - we use something called the integrated development environment (or IDE), that has a very good paradigm that's very productive for developing applications and code. And I felt that that paradigm could be adapted successfully for individual investors. One of the nice things about it is, things always stay in the same place, the information is very consistent in the way it's displayed. There's different panels that perform different functions, and they're always visible - so it made the whole process much more repeatable and efficient. So we mocked something up and it looked good, and decided that would be a good idea to start a company which I found to be tremendously exciting, because I had started a software company a long time ago but this is going to be a whole new enterprise, a whole new customer base, and I was really energized and looking forward to it. And we did it, so that was great.
Who have been some of the biggest clients and investors you've partnered with thus far?
One thing that's been very interesting in starting Stock Rover is our clients. We had originally targeted individual investors: the people that really did not have access to institutional-grade or professional management, professional investing tools, that many of the people that run money for us in the financial world have. So we were really targeting those people, to give them a much better tool to be able to make, hopefully more informed investing decisions. But one of things we found with our client base is that, while we have captured a large number of those types of investors - we have 40 percent of our investors classify themselves as novices, than 40 percent as intermediate - but a large contingent - 20 percent - and probably our most active population, are actually institutional professional investors that have signed up for our service, because they find that they, even with all the professional tools that they have access to, that Stock Rover is very useful for them to to do the kind of research they may need. So that was a very gratifying thing for us, and that's in a way pushed the product to be more capable and functional, because they have very deep knowledge and specific needs, and it's helped us really understand the markets and the needs of investors better - and I think it's made the product better for everybody. One of things we tried to do is keep the product simple while we do that. On the partner side, we've partnered with Morningstar and Zacks and the IEX exchange and Tip Ranks - really a whole host of small partners that we work with, to help provide the service that Stock Rover provides. We've also done a lot of work with the AAI, the American Association of Investors - so a whole host, really, of people that have discovered Stock Rover and work with us.
Having worked in the software industry for more than three decades, what are your insights on how software can impact the issues facing the data management field today?
What are your main duties as a Board Member of the Brown University Engineering Design Workshop? What is the most rewarding aspect of your work with the next generation of engineers?
With the Brown Engineering Design Workshop, I've just really started in that role, so it's really too early for me to say what I could do - but I have certainly seen the workshop in action, and what the students do there and the capabilities of the lab are impressive. The kids are amazing, as far as hands-on work, to create creations including a lot of 3-D printing technology, as well as more traditional tools. And it's really a core part of the Brown Engineering curriculum, and I think it's a huge benefit for the engineers to get the hands-on experience they do get in the lab. Another thing we've done at Stock Rover is hired a number of interns in the summer - running a summer intern program from Brown engineers - and they work at Stock Rover in various roles. And I found that to be tremendously rewarding, because they bring a completely different perspective and a set of questions they ask, that I honestly never thought of. And you have to think about them in a very intelligent. well thought-out point of view, that are just different from yours because you've been doing it for so long. And I think that I've always found that to be stimulating. It's hard work, because they do a lot of work and they create a lot of work, but they create a lot of interesting ideas, and being in that environment is very stimulating, so I've greatly enjoyed that.
What's next for your work with Stock Rover? What will be your main focus throughout the next year?
So, what's next for Stock Rover? Well, we've been focused on really providing tremendous amounts of data to investors, in a very digestible form across a lot of dimensions of financial investing, so that they can make intelligent decisions about stocks, ETFs, and funds. And I think we've been very successful at that and we've taken a very unbiased point of view towards the data, because people have very different styles of investing - with growth value, strong balance sheet, high leverage - there's all sorts of different things that people feel are good ways to invest, and they all have they can have their day in the sun, so we don't really make judgments about that. So we've really been focused on providing tremendous data tools, so that people - whatever their strategies are - they can get the best data possible to make decisions along those lines. But we've seen that there's a tremendous hunger from our investors for information about what do we think is good, and why? And while we really shy away from making specific recommendations on stocks, we found that we can use our data and create higher-level analytics from the data, that really indicate things that are interesting about a company that you might need to know, such as: might be warning flags, or missing data, or missing estimates, or high leverage, or poor acquisition performance - things that are hard to find - this also might be a lot of volatility in their earnings, or a whole number of things that we think point towards things being better investments or worse investments. So we're starting to score things, and give stocks quantitative scores, based on how they perform. And we're just beginning to roll that out and it's been extremely well received, and I think that's definitely the direction we're going to - is to give people better information about what's a good investment.