Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Dec. 6 edition of Preston Hollow People.
After spending more than two decades climbing the corporate ladder, Sam Hocking turned an entrepreneurial dream into reality.
The Preston Hollow native has launched iMatchative, a high-tech finance company aimed at developing online innovations that merge science and business.
Although his new company is based in San Francisco, Hocking returned to Dallas in November to debut its first online tool, known as altX, which uses an algorithm to match hedge funds with investors in a crowded marketplace.
The idea for iMatchative had been simmering in Hocking’s head before he attended a lecture on transformative leadership at Harvard Business School in early 2012, given by professor Karim Lakhani.
“I’d really been thinking over the last couple of years about creating something that was transformative,” Hocking said. “His discussion really got me to thinking about doing what I had thought about doing for the last two years.”
Six weeks after the lecture, he resigned from his job as managing director of global sales for prime brokerage at BNP Paribas in New York.
“From there, I started going around the world, picking people who I wanted to work with me solving this problem in the market,” Hocking said.
The Hillcrest High School graduate has worked in the finance industry since 1997, including more than three years at BNP Paribas and another nine years as the head of global sales for prime brokerage for Bank of America.
In the 1990s, there were fewer than 1,000 registered hedge funds available to investors, he said. Now, with a dramatic shift in the market, there are about 36,000.
As the CEO of iMatchative, he began assembling experts with a variety of specialties who shared his vision for the new company, including Lakhani, who acts as a consultant. Hocking started putting the staff together last fall, and the company has spent much of the past year developing altX.
“He’s got a big idea,” said Eric Alt, managing director at San Francisco-based Hall Capital Partners, which builds investment portfolios for families, endowments, and foundations. “Sam has taken a world that is very fragmented and is very opaque and complex, and he’s created a tool to help people make better and more efficient decisions.”
Essentially, the tool is a search engine that Hocking said saves time for investors while allowing them to maximize the potential of their investment. It matches investors with hedge funds by using financial information, investment preferences and behavioral assessments, and then analyzing data from a database of more than 20,000 hedge funds worldwide.
“You’re saving a lot of time and effort, and you’re introducing new and novel data sets that create matches that intuitively you couldn’t do,” Hocking said. “Now that we’ve come into this data world, we need tools and platforms to help our decision-making and give us some insight.”
The company is in the process of marketing altX and has started some trials with customers. At this point, it’s designed more for institutions than individuals, although credited investors could benefit as well.
“He’s combined data filtering with some behavioral psychology,” Alt said. “If his idea kind of comes together the way he envisions it, he’ll have a tool that doesn’t just help you filter the data out there, but also helps you understand your own decision-making in a way that would be unique.”
The technology is actually similar to the way a dating website works, only for money instead of romance.
“That’s a search exercise. How do you go about meeting people and narrow down the pool of possibilities? The old dating sites are really search engines,” Hocking said. “Who wants to go to a bar or church every night? There’s a huge pool of funds, much bigger than it’s ever been. This will allow people to do it faster and hopefully better.”