Interview by Paul Salfen
Gust Kepler knows how to keep things simple because that’s how he prefers things himself. You can expect him to be wearing a black shirt, black jeans, and a black cowboy hat every day at his Dallas high-rise office, so it’s fitting that the man in black runs a company called BlackBoxStocks. While he strikes you as a sharp businessman and a Southern gentleman, nothing screams “techie” about him – and there’s a good reason for that. He’s not. He considers himself the litmus test. If he can do it, anyone can. While surrounded by highly skilled software designers, engineers, and high frequency traders, Kepler is still wary of smartphones.
As a follow up to AMFM Magazine’s previous feature, Kepler updates on where the company is, where in the world it’s going, and why keeping it simple makes all the difference – and not just to him.
AMFM Magazine: While BlackBoxStocks seemed like a great idea, it has now finally launched and things are going better than expected, right?
Gust Kepler: Yes. When we last spoke, we were in the final stages of development and we went live in early September of 2016. Prior to going live, we were in a beta phase where we had a couple hundred people giving us their feedback of what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they’d like to see. When we went live and started taking subscriptions, most of the betas converted to paying customers. We added about 1000 members to our system during this soft launch period, which we used to fine tune our system. Our system is $79 for monthly subscribers and $767 yearly, so yearly members save about 20%. We tend to lower the barrier to entry for those that have been curious about trading. Naturally, there are people that will try it and find out that our system is so much easier than what they might have imagined. There are a lot of people that got on the system, love it, and have been with us since day one.
AMFM: The idea was to make it as easy as possible but even the pros seem to appreciate that.
GK: Yeah, we tried really hard to make our system extremely simple for a beginner, but still extremely valuable for even an expert trader. For instance, I’ve got multiple emails from experienced traders and professionals. I got one email from a guy today that said, “I made $12,000 today from a stock that I never would have even known about had I not been alerted to it by your system.” – and he was a broker.
AMFM: That must be a great feeling.
GK: It is. It’s gratifying. We’re not just here to sell our system. We’re here to really serve our customers and make sure they understand our system and are able to utilize it to make money.
AMFM: It seemed to be quite a long launch.
GK: We’ve been in a prolonged soft launch because we were developing systems for other markets. We spent 4 to 6 months developing a system for China that uses our same algorithm on the Hong Kong and Shanghai exchanges.
AMFM: Why China?
GK: It’s an enormous market. There are more traders in China than anywhere else in the world. We’ve got a lot of traction in that market and people over there seem to be having a very high success rate, and many have voiced interest in using our US system as well, so we may offer it to them.
AMFM: Do you have real competitors? No one seems to do what you do.
GK: We never really thought there was anyone doing exactly what we we’re doing. Blackbox is the only system that populates live alerts in real time for specific criteria. Other systems might give you hundreds of alerts in various categories, or specific alerts based on what you program that system to scan. Our system is a master scanner. We scan the all markets – the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, AMEX, and the OTC. The system monitors over 13,000 stocks, multiple times a second and, – of these 3 major markets – we issue about 45 to 60 alerts per day. Not all of our alerts are sustained gainers, but we consistently find the biggest tradable moves in the market daily, and it’s a big advantage for our users.
AMFM: What next post-China?
GK: We have another deal in the works in another massive market. Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate on that at the moment.
AMFM: You seemed to have built a little community within this thing.
GK: One of the most interesting things that happened in the evolution in our beta was when we started testing, we plugged in a chat platform to our user interface. So basically, all of the interface was on one page, and the chat was right there so our beta users could give us feedback instantaneously. The feature became a very beneficial feature. It’s a huge part of our system. What we’ve done for trading is similar to what Peloton bikes have done for fitness. Before Peloton, if you were at home on your exercise bike you were isolated and lonely. Now Peloton members around the globe ride in virtual communities on virtual courses. Traders often felt that same isolation. Now we’ve merged social media and live chat into an analytics platform that’s all on one page. So our users can join a live broadcast, or start one of their own, and talk with or view other traders. So it’s kind of like how you could race someone in the mountains of France, except you’re sharing the trading experience instead of a biking adventure.
AMFM: Do you use this system yourself?
GK: I trade from time to time. I’m not an active trader and never have been. But many of the key developers here at the company trade daily. I certainly watch the system, it finds all of the action, especially anything highly volatile or an anomaly. That’s always interesting to look at.
AMFM: You can’t give financial advice but what should the average person put into it?
GK: We have such a variety of options. If you don’t have a large amount of capital, you can play the smaller priced stocks, or even the OTC, which we refer to as the Wild West. It’s risky though. If you have more to play with, you use leverage and trade higher priced stocks. Those tend to be less volatile. We encourage people to paper trade in the beginning. Don’t use real money when you start. Take it slow. Learn the system. Write everything down, all your potential profits or losses. Get a feel for the system and talk to other people in our chat room. Find moderators or other traders that are giving out their strategies. You can learn by watching other people. This is what we’re all about. Our chat rooms don’t stop when the trading stops. There are people on there at 10 at night talking about what stocks they might look at tomorrow, or just sometimes they’re talking about their dog, or girlfriend or their bass boat.
AMFM: This is an impressive introduction for beginners, but also it really does seem like its own social platform.
GK: I’m really excited because we’ve taken this to a different level. We have an aspect of gamification that we’ve brought to the traders. For gamers, there’s Twitch, which is an app and you can watch other gamers all over the world playing Call of Duty, or hundreds of games they are sharing. There might be 20,000 people watching one expert player and hundreds of them chatting about it. We’ve done that for traders. People can broadcast a stock chart, and tell their viewers about a potential entry point and exit point, so instead of watching people play a video game, our users can watch someone play a game with real money. That is probably the most exciting aspect. That is what our system has evolved into.
AMFM: Congratulations on all of your success – and the international launch. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
GK: Well, we just added a stock options feature, it’s currently in beta. So far, our users are describing it as amazing! And – wait for it – we are about to venture into the Wild west, otherwise known as the crypto currency markets. So there are a lot of things to look forward to in 2018. But as with any feature we add, the complexity is all on the back end. The front end is very simple. It’s still all on one page and everything is easy to navigate. Again, it’s about simplicity.