After exiting NewsGator, an earlier startup, Greg Reinacker was ready for something new, and he started trading. After trying many trading styles, he soon found the hardest part of trading for him was not the numbers, but the emotional side. He needed a way to efficiently keep his trading journal, and also objectively analyze his performance, and no tools existed that he found suitable. So he started building one and Tradervue was born. Unlike the venture-backed NewsGator, he kept Tradervue intentionally smaller and product-focused. It’s been just him since the beginning. Growing Tradervue to serve 100,000+ traders, Greg followed his intuition and then sold into the momentum.

Recently we sat down with Greg to talk about how his past tech company experience informed his approach to Tradervue, how building a product for himself turned into something more, and how he knew it was time to sell.

An Interview with Greg Reinacker

You’ve got a super interesting background. Talk to me about how you went from getting a degree in Electrical Engineering at CU Boulder to founding your first tech company, NewsGator?

Ha! Yeah, there was a little bit in between that.

My first job after graduating from Boulder was in microelectronics and firmware design at NCR microelectronics, which later morphed into application development, which was an adventure and totally not what I thought I was going to be doing.

I actually started my first company while I was still working at NCR. This was back in the day when you’d write a shareware application, upload it on an FTP site, and hope people would somehow find it. I ended up selling that first business to a coworker of mine.

After NCR I ended up going to a consulting company where I did training and custom development.

From there, I went out on my own, consulting. This was back in 2000-ish, and a friend of mine turned me on to blogging and RSS. As I started using an RSS reader, it occurred to me, “you know, I should be able to get all my RSS feeds in Outlook” (that’s what I was using for email at the time).

I wound up building a prototype, and I posted about it on my blog and said, “Hey, what do you guys think?” I got a ton of feedback overnight, saying, “Please, please build this!” That was encouraging, so I started building, turned it into a product and started to sell it. And NewsGator was born.

NewsGator grew really fast, and you took the venture capital path with that business. What were your big takeaways from that experience, and how did it influence your approach when you started Tradervue?

Yeah, about two years after I launched, it was me and one other guy, and we did our first round of venture capital. And the rest was the story of a venture-backed company: Raising tens of millions of dollars and growing very, very fast.

At our peak, I think we grew to 120 people or so. After about 10 years of doing that, I decided that the company was really doing fine without me, and I felt like it was time to move on and find the next thing.

The venture-backed path is just a whole different world — the pressures you feel are much different. And I mean, our investors were great. I talk to our lead investor who started the very first round regularly and had no regrets along the way.

But it’s just a different trajectory for a company.

Bootstrapping a company myself, if we got to say, $100,000 in revenue or something like that, then I could have done things differently and backed off my time, and been happy with things at a certain rate of growth. In a VC-backed situation, that’s just never going to happen.

Greg Reinacker, founder of Tradervue on building a SaaS to exit

On Tradervue, building solo meant I had the freedom to build the product I wanted, and the product I thought should be in the market, regardless of how long it took to become successful. That patience isn’t always an option in a situation with outside funding.

Tell me more about building Tradervue. It was a personal project that turned into a business, right?

When I left Newsgator, I decided to take up trading. My philosophy was, “I’m an engineer, right? How hard can this whole trading thing be?”

Well, it turns out the hard part of trading isn’t the engineering and math part. It was trying to find what worked for me, what matched my personality, and the whole emotional side.

You might start a position and have it move against you, and you must have a mindset where that’s either okay, or you need to to snap those positions off and take your quick losses. You have to train yourself to do that.

During that process, one of my goals was to have a way to objectively analyze my performance. Sure, your broker will tell you whether or not you’ve made money that year. But what I really wanted was to be able to dive down deeper to figure out what was working and what wasn’t. That was the start of Tradervue.

So when you built this, you built it for yourself. But I’m sure there were times where you were spending all your time on Tradervue and didn’t really have time for trading, or were you always doing both? How did you balance those two things? Did you eventually move away from day trading and focus more on the company?

It was definitely more of the latter, moving away from day trading and focusing on the company. I think being a successful day trader is a full-time job in itself. It requires preparation before the market opens, lots of time while the market is open, and a bunch of work after the close.

I did that for a solid year, met a lot of people, and got a good feel for what would work for me and what wouldn’t. I knew I needed a tool like Tradervue, so 90 percent of my focus started going towards that. And then in terms of my own trades, I started to slowly migrate to different trading methodologies that required less time. But I tell you what, I am absolutely a better developer than I am a trader. And Tradervue is more than happy to back up that statement and slap me in the face with it!

Ha, so it’s good that you figured that out and shifted your focus?

Yeah, exactly. One of the things I was doing was aggressively trading around the price action after earnings announcements. Apple might announce their earnings, and I might trade them the following morning. I thought I was a genius at this, and I would have told anybody that’s where I made all my money.

And then I looked at Tradervue after getting the data in and realized I’m not making any money doing that after all.

There were a few things like that. I’d be emotionally excited enough that I’d convince myself I was really good at them, but Tradervue would show me that wasn’t the case.

Did you have any idea it would turn into a tool tens of thousands of people would use? When did you first realize it could take off?

I’m not sure there was a specific moment. I just grew it, and I did everything wrong, intentionally. They say, “Don’t just build a product and hope people come.” You’ve got to get out there and drum up all this demand first, and then build a minimal version of your product and give it to all that demand and see if it works.

I just didn’t buy into that. At Newsgator, after we started growing, a big part of my job was being on the road all the time, drumming up awareness and demand at conferences. I liked it at first, but after four out of five consecutive weeks on the road, it got to a point where I just hated it. After that, I spent like seven years in a row without getting on a plane.

So when I started Tradervue, I didn’t want to do those things. I wanted to do the parts that were fun for me. If it turned into a great business, that would be awesome. If it didn’t, that was okay, too. I was just finding the next thing for myself.

Bootstrapped SaaS founder sells trading software business

So I started out to build this product that I thought would work for me. That was my original intent — just build something for me, because I had this need. And, as many entrepreneurs do, I somehow got distracted during that process and built something for everyone.

When I did the very first launch, I think there were three or four people I was actively talking to that I had met through trading. We all traded in similar ways, and I was bouncing things off them and getting feedback. That’s how the business really started.

I spent the first six months or so giving it away for free. Which was the opposite of NewsGator. It’s kind of funny, I did everything exactly backward. When I launched NewsGator, I charged upfront – there was nothing free available. But that was a product with mass-market potential, so I grew it in a way that forced it to grow pretty slowly.

Fast forward to the Tradervue days and I launched the product as completely free. In hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily the smartest thing to do. It’s a much smaller niche market, so charging for it made a lot more sense. It took me six months to figure that out.

Bootstrapped SaaS founder sells trading software company

You kept Tradervue a solo project for years. Was that intentional after growing so big so quickly with NewsGator? Did it make the decision to sell it more difficult? How did you evaluate buyers?

Looking back on the early NewsGator days, I found that a lot of the parts that I liked the most were from when we were really small — five people or less. When you’re small you can turn on a dime and do whatever you think you should do for the product. There aren’t all these competing interests and different things to worry about.

When I started Tradervue, I wanted to focus on the parts that I find fun – doing the development and building the product – not being on the road all the time or managing a team. Those aren’t my favorite things.

So I focused on the things I liked and kept it small, intentionally. It’s been just me since the beginning.

As for selling it, it’s sort of twofold. For one, I’ve been doing it for a long time and it feels like it’s time to go find the next thing for me, whatever that is. Also, there was a massive amount of growth over the last six to 12 months. As a momentum trader will tell you, you want to sell into momentum.

Bootstrapped SaaS founder on selling into momentum

Obviously, a private company is a little different than a stock, but intuitively, it makes sense to me to sell into momentum, when things are going great. That doesn’t mean it was an easy decision. Things were doing great. It was a one-person company growing to where it was making a bunch of money, but I really felt like it was the right time.

What are you hoping for with Tradervue as it’s found a new home at SureSwift — if you could look into the future, what would you want to see?

I think from launch through today, Tradervue has filled a niche that’s really necessary. Active professional traders (and developing traders) need this kind of tool. We do things in a way that’s designed for a very active trader.

That’s who the product was designed for because that was the guy I was trying to be when I was building it. I think moving forward, I would love for it to expand its functionality, but keep its focus on the really active trader.

As an example, maybe that means expanding the different dimensions against which you might measure your performance — fundamental data as well as technical data and things like that.

Talk to me about being in tech in Denver. I’m in the Twin Cities, and I’d say we’re both in places with a growing reputation for tech startups, but that wasn’t the case for years. Do you feel like that’s changing? Did you ever feel like it was a disadvantage in those earlier days?

It’s kind of funny, right? You hear a lot about that. All the people in the Valley will tell you (especially like 20 years ago) that if you’re not in the Valley, you don’t exist and it doesn’t matter what you’re doing.

That came up when we were fundraising for NewsGator. We had done the first round with Mobius Venture Capital, which was right up the road in Boulder. But after that, we were out in the Valley raising subsequent rounds. There was definitely some of the “Why aren’t you out here?”

Over the years there’s been a great startup community built in the Denver/Boulder area, which has grown like gangbusters. As a result, not only is there a ton of startup activity, which is awesome, but larger tech companies are swooping in trying to take advantage of the talent that’s here. So the Amazons or Googles of the world will build a facility here. It’s become a really great place to build a tech company.

Right. Now the pendulum is coming the other way. There’s a guy that moved down the block from me that has worked for LinkedIn for 10 years. As soon as the job went remote, he’s like, “Alright, we’re leaving. I don’t want to pay San Francisco/Silicon Valley rates for my rent. So yeah, I can live anywhere now.”

Yeah. It’s a really interesting time. I think a lot of companies that normally wouldn’t have even thought of going remote, have to do it. Charles Schwab is right outside my window. Apparently, they didn’t allow anybody to work from home. And now ever since April or May, I look at their parking lot and there’s maybe 40 cars in a lot for thousands. It’s quite striking what’s happened.

Yeah, it’s gonna be interesting to see whether it sticks, or people go back to the office, or go hybrid.

I know you’re a gadget guy and a car guy — what’s your current tech set up at home? Best and worst products you’ve tried out this year?

Ha, well — being a company of one, and this being early in the transition, that’s my focus right now. But with my tech setup, I’m totally an Apple guy recently. I’ve got an iMac Pro, which is a fantastic computer, and there are iPhones and iPads all over the house. It’s kind of a thing.

I’m also super into cars, and motorcycles recently. So that’s fun. I’ve become a Tesla guy.

I saw on Twitter recently that you had backed the Tesla out of the driveway without being in it.

Yeah, it’s always fun to try out what it will do.

You’re also a crazy productive guy. What’s your routine look like? How did you stay motivated as a solo founder for so many years?

You know, I’m not sure exactly, routine-wise. If I get myself excited about something, I can obsess about it for an unlimited amount of time, so there’s no real ‘secret,’ that’s how I stay motivated. Over the days of building Tradervue, I think a lot of it was watching it grow, watching people use it, and hearing people say, “this product really made a change in my trading, and that’s made a change in my life.” I love to hear that sort of thing.

Any sense of what’s next on the horizon for you?

You know, when I left NewsGator, I told anyone who would listen that I had absolutely no interest in starting another tech company. And yeah, after this one, I don’t know. I’m still interested in the trading community. I feel like I get them, and I could imagine doing something there.

If I was to do something not in that community, I have literally no inkling of what that might be. But my last two companies, I had no inkling until about three months before I did them. Right now I’m not in a rush to make any decisions. In fact, it might be good to try not to decide anything big for a little while. It’s kind of a big deal selling your company when you’re the only person running it!