October 2018. Pipster’s first finish line was in sight but before we released our app on the wider world, we gave some plucky students a head start. We created a trading game so they didn’t just get a sneak preview. We wanted them to push themselves, to flex their trading muscles. And to really put our tech through its paces.

The first Pipster Bull Run involved students from The London Institute of Banking & Finance, Imperial College Business School , Hult International Business School and the Queen Mary School of Business. It was a business boffin battle royale which pitched students against each other but also asked them to work together as university teams.

For the students, it was a competition which gave them the opportunity to learn the first steps of trading and to refine their investor strategies. And each student stood a chance at winning grand prizes of either £1,000 or an internship with us.

For Pipster, it was a chance to gather essential user feedback, to stress test the system and test out our grand hypothesis: With a simpler trading experience, cutting edge tech and the correct approach to investment, could we improve upon the current industry statistics?

Winning wasn’t just about turning a profit in the short term but being a successful trading investor in the long run.

The plan

Given an account stocked up with £10,000 GBP (of virtual funds) the ‘Bull-Runners’, representing themselves and their universities, were challenged to make the most of our app and test their mettle as a trader.

Rewards would be given not only to those demonstrating the highest profit over the four-week run but also to those demonstrating the greatest understanding of why gains or losses were made from their chosen trades. Other prizes for ‘Team Performance’ and ‘Most Improved’ trader were also up for grabs.

We had some natural concerns that there might be a lack of uptake from the Universities and/or their students. This was partly due to the public decline in both value and status that cryptocurrencies suffered during early 2018. Despite this, we quickly hit our desired quota of colleges participants. Each of the respective colleges being keener than the last to engage in a project which offered genuine incentives towards a learning process and performed within a risk-free environment.

The competition

After enrollment and briefing, the competition got underway and immediately the data started pouring through for us. Active feedback from users as well as passive behavioural analysis told us what we were doing right, where we were going wrong plus plenty of other food for thought in areas we never expected.

Live leaderboards were demanded by the students. They were clearly feeling that competitive edge but they wanted a gauge to understand how they were doing. We were surprised to discover that not many had previous experience in trading, so their expectations were fresh and untainted by what might be the imposed norms set in place by the incumbent market leaders in trading apps. Some tweaks and fixes could be made overnight, while other student suggestions lead to entirely new features for later versions of Pipster.

The feedback

In addition to the suggested software and user-interface (UI) feedback, we also learned many lessons regarding user-experience. A big takeaway for us was never to assume too much in terms of how people will use the spaces and tools you prepare for them. Active user sharing of trading activity in our community section seemed to be disappointingly low for our ambitions. However, some post-event feedback that revealed the competitive streak between university teams and even within those teams, had runners feeling as though it might be best to keep winning strategies to themselves. Perhaps obvious on reflection, but another lesson learned. During the Bull Run we started to award Community Karma points awarded to students who did contribute. This has gone on to be included in users’ scores in the next version of the app.

All-in-all we gained incredibly valuable insight into the potential features and required fixes that otherwise could have taken much longer in our products life-span to realise from the event.

Five lessons learned

  1. Social goes secret when competing: social contribution and open-sharing will be awarded points. Sharing functions will make it easier to share trades and news stories in the app and via social media.
  2. Users love tooltips: we assumed that business students would have experience of trading apps but we were wrong. Our new tips will guide you through every element of our app and encourage you to keep going!
  3. Forex was favourite: a surprise for us as we assumed crypto had greater pulling power. It seems that business students, in particular, want a market which they understand the rules and can base create reasonable predictions not only on data but world events.
  4. Challenges are long term: we’re definitely going to do the Bull Run again this year and it will be bigger and better than the last. More than that, we realised that rewarding our users with points can motivate people. Not as much as profit, of course, but when you do inevitably make a losing trade there’s some small compensation in sharing and learning from your mistakes.
  5. Traders can do better than the stats show: with respect to our project’s ‘Grand Hypothesis’ mentioned above. Against an ‘industry average’ of 74/85% of investors in CFD’s losing money through trading platforms – the Bull Runners achieved an amazing 68% success rate for all trades. Against a rather ambitious target of 51%, the results have greatly reinforced our beliefs and vision for Pipster.

Rewarding returns

As for the students, their feedback during our post-competition review and at the prize giving was both encouraging and inspiring. We’re so glad to actually see the app in users’ hands and being appreciated the ways we’d hoped it would be. So a special thanks goes to all of them and their respective universities. You’ve all been fantastic sports and invaluable contributors to our development. Here’s a short video of some of the winners’ experience.

We’re not yet at a stage to consider Pipster the finished product. But to borrow a phrase, staying ‘always in beta’ is an ethic of ambition and perfectionism that carries well in this ever-changing and dynamic fintech industry.

Start Trading with Pipster Now