Newsday - SMALL BUSINESS / ENTREPRENEURS / Lessons Learned Become Dollars Earned by College Students

BY: By Christopher Frankie. STAFF WRITER
DATE: 10-11-1999

DOING RESEARCH on the Internet for an economics course project taught college students Adam Menzel and Ben Nobel more than just numbers. It helped them start their own business. The duo from Port Washington founded the Web site

From their Web site, users can access basic and detailed stock quotes, SEC filings, company profiles and insider trades. Users can also create free home pages with personalized financial portfolios and stock and news tickers, participate in forums, post messages and sort stocks, allowing users to compare their investments. "We're targeting it at the user," Menzel said.

Two of the main features of the site are JavaTicker and JavaChart, according to Nobel. JavaTicker scrolls selected stocks on a 20-minute delay, which is the standard, Menzel said. JavaChart generates graphs for symbols. "On our site, you can generate and graph multiple symbols-which you can't do on a lot of other sites," Menzel said.

Also featured is NewsTicker, and InvestorTicker, which also allow users to track various aspects of stocks.

The idea for the site sprouted from the students' similar experiences researching stocks on the Internet. "We both were taking economics classes that semester," Menzel said. "We had tremendous projects." Home for the summer, lifelong friends Menzel and Nobel met at a local gym.

While riding stationary bikes and watching CNBC, they discussed their similar difficulties and developed an idea for a comprehensive Web site where accessing information on stocks would be easy and interesting. "We built on each other's ideas," Menzel said.

They wanted to avoid replicating the slow, boring, confusing, sometimes expensive and difficult-to-use sites that they had experienced while researching their projects.

After working on some ideas for the site on computers in Menzel's parents' basement, the pair decided to pitch the idea to Greg Leib, a former boss. They had worked for Leib, a former financial consultant from Glen Head, setting up the site "Greg was always interested in the Internet," Menzel said. "He saw it as a great business opportunity." The pair showed Leib their idea, and he decided to invest in it.

"Both Ben and I have always been into the idea of starting a business," Menzel said. "We both really wanted to start something ourselves." But, Menzel and Nobel realized they couldn't do it alone, so they brought in people they knew, such as Illi Eisner, Nicole Cuoco, and Dan Pedisich to help in various ways. Each of the three own a small percentage of the company.

After nearly eight months of preparation and development, the initial site launched on Dec. 30, 1998, as a work-in-progress. "We wanted to see what the response would be," Menzel said.

During the retooling and renovation of the site, the creators took e-mail suggestions and made changes. "We really listen to what people have to say," Menzel said. "We try to stay on top of what visitors to our site need." On Sept. 6, the new site was launched. It receives data and news feeds from Reuters, Marketguide, Zacks, Edgar-Online, Vickers and others.

Nobel, a 20-year-old computer-science major at Middlebury College in Vermont, does script-writing and development for the company. Menzel, also 20, is an economics major at Brandeis University near Boston. He organizes the structure, projects and contracts.

The site generates revenue through banner advertisers and the leasing of tickers. Although the site has a few products for sale, they want to start e-commerce in the future.

"We're getting lots of hits from major companies," Menzel said.

"We have a lot of the same information that other sites have, but you can do more with our site," Menzel said. What makes this company unique is that they answer e-mails promptly, keep the site constantly updated and are "willing to change anything on the fly," he said. "Other sites don't put the time into updating." "We're both really caught up in it," Menzel said. "It's been a tough project, but we've worked through it."

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