Pelican wades in with social trading app

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The founders of a new social financial trading tool that has potential crossover appeal in the sports-betting world say they believe they have a product which can bridge the gap between financial spread betters and messaging apps.

Pelican soft-launched its product launched in March and is the first social-media based trading platform to be licensed by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Using the platform, users can chat and share live trades in customised private groups.

Founders Peter Read and his brother Mike Read told GamCrowd they started out with the aim of designing an app that could make financial spread-betting more engaging. “The spark was that when we were doing market research, we found there were lots of traders forums on the internet that were of dubious quality,” says Peter Read. “It was people using Skype and WhatsApp accounts to keep a number of followers informed of what they were up to.”

That process is ultimately very disjointed as the members of the chat group are never able to see the actual trades, only what people said before and after the fact. “So, we thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to see the trading? But we wanted an integrated experience.” 

Peter read said Pelican hoped the app would fall somewhere between the offering of IG, which is for the high-end spread-bettors, through to eToro, which is more mass-market and follows an execution-only, fund management model.”

The Read brothers both come from City backgrounds, having worked on the corporate finance and analyst sides, and since setting out on their own the brothers have run a financial software development business with clients including Gain Capital (the owner of City Index) and London Capital Group (the company behind Capital Spreads).

Pelican has some interesting backers. Among them are ex-IG senior executives Andrew Mackay and Will Armitage, the latter of whom is now a well-known angel investor with a series of successful investments under his belt. The company has also received backing from start-up guru Tom Fleming.

Mike Read said the app had already been in development for a year and that getting it launch-ready had been the hardest part of the process. “That was utterly miserable,” he added. “We had the idea two years’ ago, we started the build one year ago, and now we are almost there. We have found, the more you build the slower things become. We had to completely junk one set of code. That was massively painful. We had to start all over again.”

Though the development process had been akin to “running a marathon”, the brothers believe they now have a product where the sum of the effort is greater than the parts. One element of the site they feel is particularly exciting – traders can copy and challenge other members of their group on specific trades. “With copy and challenge, we think that is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Peter Read. “We think we can move the goalposts on IG. We will bring interaction and execution into one place, one app.”

He added that one of the the “top, top comments” that had been received during the market research and testing period had been whether they were looking at introducing the app to the sports-betting market.

“We’ll see,” Mike Read added. “The product has been on the app store since March. It’s a controlled launch. Feedback is really important.”

“The first objective; get the traction in the UK, and then build out quite quickly,” he concluded. “We’re looking at Europe, Australia and Canada. We’re die-hard fans of giving people what they want.”