Regional Report Western August 2010
For a decade, western North Carolina has tried to brand itself as a magnet for creative, digital-age businesses. Wall St. Cheat Sheet (wallstcheatsheet.com) fits that category. In November 2008, two South Florida natives, brothers Damien and Derek Hoffman, started the financial-advice website in Asheville. It now attracts more than 100,000 visitors a month and has been cited by The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, USA Today and other media outlets. Editor in Chief Damien, 32, has a bachelor’s in public policy from Duke and a law degree from the University of Miami. CEO Derek, 28, earned a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Michigan. They don’t disclose revenue but say their business is profitable.
Damien: I’d gone to Duke and loved North Carolina. I worked for an investment bank called Inner Circle LLP but got burned out on New York. My wife and I wanted to start a family and didn’t want to do it in Manhattan. We loved Asheville and thought this would be ideal. We came in January 2007.
Derek: I followed a year and half later from Chicago. I’d studied in Australia and visited New Zealand. Asheville reminded me of New Zealand. I’d worked for Procter & Gamble and Gillette and wanted to go out on my own. Damien and I started brainstorming. We’d always had an interest in economics and finance, so we launched Wall St. Cheat Sheet.
Asheville isn’t exactly a financial center.
Derek: It doesn’t matter. We’re in the digital era now, and we can communicate and work with other people online and through laptops, cell phones, social media. It’s the future — the mobile desk.
What stage is your business in?
Derek: We’re in the “garage phase,” just pulling the car out of the garage. We work with about 10 people on a contract or part-time basis.
How do you make money?
Damien: We sell subscriptions to our flagship newsletter — $15 a month, the cost of a stock trade — and sell premium products, like our precious-metals reports. That’s $29.95 a month. We get probably 70% of revenue from premium products, though that’ll probably become 50% as advertising revenue, sponsorships and partnering grow.
What’s your typical day like?
Damien: I check the news wires before I go to bed. About midnight, I look at what’s going on in Europe and Asia. I wake up early, hit the wires and try to figure out the top one or two financial stories of the day. Markets in the U.S. open at 9:30, so between then and 10:30 we follow up with three to five posts. There’s another wave of posts after lunch, based on what’s coming out of Washington, then between 4 and 6, several more. We have another wave at about 10:30. Then the process starts all over. We have contributors to the site, but it’s safe to say, we’re working 15 hours a day.
What will restore confidence in the market?
Damien: In the ’80s during the S&L crisis, more than a thousand bankers were jailed. Today, we’ve had only a handful of people handcuffed.
You’re big on precious metals.
Damien: There’s a lot of caution in the market now, given the European debt crisis. We’ve always found gold to be a haven, in addition to cash, in a cautious market.
ASHEVILLE — The city won a bid to host the Southern Conference Basketball Tournamentfor three years, beginning 2012. However, it must spend $5.5 million to upgrade its 36-year-old Civic Center if it wants to keep the tournament — and its expected annual economic impact of $4 million — past the first year.