CEO Spotlight: Zak Westphal’s Journey to Success with StocksToTrade

Zak Westphal

Meet Zak Westphal – the trailblazing CEO and Co-Founder behind StocksToTrade, a fintech company on a mission to transform retail trading.

Through determination and a deep connection to the everyday investor experience, Zak has led StocksToTrade in democratizing access to powerful trading tools once reserved only for institutions.

Since its inception in 2012, StocksToTrade’s rise has been remarkable. The company’s trading platform has become a must-have resource for retail investors seeking an edge in the market.

Its engaged community of over 30,000 users speaks to Zak’s vision of leveling the playing field.

In this profile of the Austin-based entrepreneur, we trace Zak Westphal’s journey from fintech upstart to industry heavyweight. It’s a story of recognizing retail traders’ needs, building innovative solutions, and navigating challenges with agility and grit.

A testament to the possible when you combine passion, problem-solving, and perseverance.

What inspired you to start StocksToTrade, and how did you identify the need for a platform like this in the market?

What inspired me to start StocksToTrade was my own experience struggling as a retail trader. I realized the big players had way better intel and tools, stacking the odds against the little guy. I thought that wasn’t very fair.

So I asked myself – how can we use technology to help regular folks trade on a more equal playing field?

I envisioned a platform that combined powerful analytics software with a community to educate and empower individual investors.

The goal was to create an intuitive suite of trading tools while also cultivating a supportive environment where people help each other thrive.

At its core, StocksToTrade aims to promote understanding and help more people unlock their potential in the markets.

I’m proud of the progress we’ve made towards democratizing trading so that anyone with passion and drive can have a fair shot at success. But there’s always more work to do to open up financial markets.

Starting a fintech company is no easy feat. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during the early stages of StocksToTrade, and how did you overcome them?

Launching a fintech startup definitely wasn’t easy. One big challenge was getting traders to trust a new platform. After all, there are just far too many scams and fake gurus out there.

With this in mind, we focused hard on being totally transparent and authentic so people knew we were the real deal.

We put out quality content to educate, built reliable tools, and cultivated a community where traders help each other out. Bringing people together and having each other’s backs.

Navigating complex regulations was also tricky. We had to collaborate closely with legal eagles to make sure we checked all the boxes and kept traders protected.

It was a lot of work building robust systems that align with the rules but still let traders operate seamlessly. However creating a compliant platform traders can rely on was non-negotiable for us.

As an entrepreneur, what do you believe are the most essential skills or traits needed to succeed in the fintech industry?

If I’ve picked up one thing from my years of trading, it’s that resilience and adaptability are essential. Markets shift all the time – you need to roll with the punches.

The same goes for leading a fintech startup: constant changes in tech, regulations, and competition. You have to spot opportunities, pivot quickly, and shake off any missteps.

Cultivating real empathy for what users need matters too. In fintech, you’re dealing with people’s financial livelihood. You genuinely need to understand their goals and frustrations to build solutions that truly help.

Top traders know success comes from getting into other market participants’ heads. As an entrepreneur, you need that same insight about your customers.

Fintech demands constant innovation and boundary-pushing. Like skilled traders, leaders need to eagerly self-educate, run small experiments, take in new data, and capitalize on the upside.

With enough emotional fortitude, patience in making things happen, and sharp situation-reading skills, the trader’s mindset can thrive when it comes to entrepreneurship.

How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals, especially during difficult times or setbacks?

Staying motivated during tough times comes down to keeping the big picture in view. When challenges arise, I ground myself in StocksToTrade’s greater purpose – empowering retail investors and democratizing trading. Remembering that mission helps me push through difficulties.

I also believe in surrounding myself with a strong support network. Having advisors, mentors and a team united by shared values keeps me encouraged and focused.

I try to reframe obstacles as opportunities to build skills and strategize. Setbacks become stepping stones, not roadblocks. Maintaining this growth mentality helps me stay resilient and centered on our goals.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own fintech company or break into the trading industry?

First things first—you really need to understand who you’re trying to help and what their actual problems are. Don’t just slap together an app because the fintech buzzwords sound cool.

Spend quality time listening and learning what really complicates people’s financial lives. Build things that make those pain points go away.

Next up, you need to assemble the right team around you. Trying to go it solo is insane! Having talented people who share your vision and complement your abilities is invaluable. And lean on mentors who can guide you too. 

Also, you have to stay flexible and keep evolving. Fintech changes fast. You won’t know what resonates until you give it a shot. So experiment constantly, gather feedback, and keep improving. Pivoting is part of the process.

But most of all, you need to stay connected to the heart and purpose behind your work. In the daily hustle, it’s easy to get distracted by less important matters. But those core values and goals should drive every big decision. Keep that beacon lit.

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