Stock-trading simulation software isn’t new, but Dinesh Bhatia has found a way to make it social, competitive, educational–and global. In just two years, the Singapore-based TradeHero has signed up more than 3 million would-be Gordon Gekkos who use the free app to build portfolios with virtual currency and vie against one another for glory (and cash prizes from sponsors). Expert traders can get other users to pay to follow them; TradeHero shares the fees 50-50. Newbies can research companies on exchanges from New York to Italy to Malaysia, follow top traders’ real-time moves and market commentary, and exchange messages. Translation software allows players to share opinions across language barriers. TradeHero doesn’t provide a conduit for users to open real brokerage accounts, but financial institutions that partner with and advertise on the platform see it as a fresh way to reach future investors. In November 2014, TradeHero launched in the Chinese market and has seen explosive growth–65% of its total user pool is now made up of Chinese users, many of whom are keenly interested in investing but didn’t grow up learning about stocks from their parents or teachers. “The idea of using money to make more money is built into [the Chinese] mentality,” says Bhatia (indeed, gambling revenue in Macau is several times greater than in Vegas). TradeHero offers a safe and fun training ground.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Straight away, while I am in bed, before actually getting out of bed? I always play a five setter of backgammon on my phone. And how fast I lose or win and by how much tells me more or less the state of my brain (like a quick gauge) that morning. Or sometimes if I want my eyes closed, I recite in my mind the alphabet backwards. It’s the same thing–if I can do it quick, without mistakes, all the better.
What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?
You rarely get praise as a CEO–when you do badly, you are roundly blamed, and when you do well, you praise the people who work with you. But I feel really happy when a company I am involved in is doing well. It feels very much like your own child.
What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?
On Twitter, I like @fredwilson for industry tips and observations, @richarddawkins for insightful debates on atheism versus religion and @valaafshar for general technology and news, quite a prolific poster. On Instagram, it’s my daughter, @tasse_lasse who is growing up in Sweden away from me; I observe her life through her eyes.
What are some things you do to refresh your mind when you’re in a rut?
I write metaphysical or love/hate poetry and play freestyle piano (usually sad). It helps rejuvenate my mind so that I can think clearer later on how to get out of the rut since I have already expressed myself about being in it.