Alpha Vantage provides enterprise-grade financial market data through a set of powerful and developer-friendly data APIs and spreadsheets. Whether you need traditional asset classes (e.g., stocks, ETFs, commodities), economic metrics, foreign exchange rates, cryptocurrencies, fundamental data or even technical indicators, Alpha Vantage is your one-stop shop for global market data delivered through REST APIs.
I was born in London, UK and raised in Tokyo, Japan and the Bay Area. I co-founded Alpha Vantage in 2017, an API/dev tools company that was fortunate to be in the Summer 2018 batch. Today I continue to run Alpha Vantage day-to-day while also doing angel investing (mostly YC startups) on the side.
Alpha Vantage began as a passion project started by the founders while they were attending grad school together. The idea was conceived through a shared interest in the stock markets and investing as well as a fundamental desire to make something that the founders themselves would want to use. Truthfully, the founders did not originally build Alpha Vantage with the intention of creating a business out of it, but the exponential user adoption and intensity of usage made the decision to start a business natural and obvious - as well as the best way for us to serve our users (and eventually paying customers).
A close friend and classmate in graduate school, Lee Lin, encouraged us to apply. Lee went through YC in S09 (incidentally, the same batch as Stripe!) and supported us throughout our entire YC journey by providing valuable feedback on our application, giving us practical advice on the interview, and even flying into California just to attend our Demo Day! The written application itself was very straightforward. YC makes it extremely easy with their online application. If you are working on a startup on even just an idea, you having absolutely nothing to lose by writing and submitting an application! I will admit that the interview (in-person at YC’s HQ in Mountain View, CA) was quite stressful. The nervous energy that permeated the air of the lobby and lounge area, mere steps away from the rooms in which interviews were taking place, was palpable. Naturally, the interview was the classic 10-min rapid fire format. I recall one of the first questions we were asked was quite pointed: “Many have tried to build what you two are doing and failed. How are you guys different?” Deep breathe. Do not get defensive. Answer the question succinctly and confidently. The 10 min were over before we knew it. It was stressful, but fair. Afterwards, we went to Castro street in downtown Mountain View to have dinner. In the middle of dinner, we received the call that would forever change our lives (“We would love to fund you guys!”). We immediately accepted YC’s offer of funding over the phone. We ended up having about a month from our acceptance into YC until the actual start of the batch. In the interim, there were some housekeeping items to attend to such as sending copies of our startup’s incorporation documents and other legal documents to YC’s Legal team and Finance team for review so we could receive YC’s investment! While still in the Bay Area, shortly after our interview, I remember attending a pre-batch kick-off event where Michael Seibel welcomed us to YC. I recall Michael said (paraphrasing), “So, technically the ‘batch’ has not started yet officially… but ‘YC itself’ has already started. So… I suggest you all get started! Like, right now! You can literally start booking office hours today! Start building and talking to your customers! We’ll see you this summer!”) Before long the summer came and the formal programming of the batch began. Things moved fast and we quickly settled into what would become a familiar rhythm: Write code. Talk to customers. Write more code. Talk to more customers. Write even more code. Talk to even more customers. Rinse and repeat. The weekly small group office hours and dinner events were highlights of each week that served to inspire and invigorate. The first dinner event featured the co-founder of Airbnb as a guest speaker, and subsequent dinner guests included Garry Tan (now president of YC!), Brian Armstrong (Coinbase), and even a special guest appearance from the legends themselves - Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston! Demo Day and fundraising were the culmination of our three months of hard work during the batch. The event would be split over two days and held at the venerable Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. Sadly, our batch (S18) would be the last batch to be hosted by the museum for Demo Day (due to the larger sizes of subsequent batches). Much like the lobby and lounge of YC’s HQ on interview day, the nervous energy in the backstage green room of the Computer History Museum auditorium was palpable with people pacing back and forth, meditating, or silently rehearsing their pitch one last time. Before long, it was our turn, and the Batch Director fitted the one of us who would be speaking (Olivier) with a microphone and sent us out on stage. The pitch exceeded our own expectations and was delivered with gravitas, poise, and even a touch of humor. The successful pitch was all thanks to the generous time and support of many partners, most notably our group partners Aaron Harris, Adora Cheung, and Yuri Sagalov, but also other partners including Dalton Caldwell. As soon as we finished our pitch, the “likes” from investors came flooding in through the Demo Day software. Fundraising is usually a tough slog and one has to usually deal with many rejections for every “yes” that they receive. The whole process can take several months to upwards of an entire year. We were very fortunate to be in the top-third of our batch in terms of ease of fundraising, with far more “yes” than “no” responses and we were ultimately able to wrap up our fundraising in less than a week. I will note that success in fundraising at Demo Day is not necessarily predictive of future success as a company - so do not get lulled into a false sense of security just because fundraising comes relatively easier to you at Demo Day. There is a quite a vast distance between the moment that one decides to start a company and the moment that one actually sees it get off the ground. Unfortunately, the reality of startup life is that the journey across this distance (and beyond) can often be emotionally brutal; rife with feelings of intense loneliness which have to be balanced against a massive faith in what you are doing – a faith that is hard to sustain alone. We can truly think of no other partner we would want more than YC in embarking on such a journey. Special thanks to our group partners Aaron Harris, Adora Cheung, and Yuri Sagalov. They did NOT read drafts of this write-up, but we can unequivocally say that we would not have made it this far if it were not for their support and wise counsel.
After our YC batch formally concluded in Sep 2018, we have kept in touch with the YC community through YC’s internal social network Bookface (think of it as a combination of LinkedIn, Quora, and Wikipedia). > Olivier: “I check Bookface at least once a day and it has been an invaluable source of knowledge, tips & tricks, and sometimes much needed humor/relief from the occasional ennui that comes with the territory of being a founder.”Alumni Demo Days (a dress rehearsal / practice-run of Demo Day in which the audience is made up of YC alumni / affiliates instead of professional investors) are also another excellent way for alumni to remained connected with the YC community. > Olivier: “I have attended every single Alumni Demo Day since becoming an alum. For the W19 and S19 batches, I was fortunate to attend in-person in San Francisco. These were very fun, well organized events and doubled as a kind of ‘YC mini-reunion’ of sorts - I miss them greatly. All subsequent batches (W20, S20, W21, S21, W22, S22) I have attended were done remotely through Zoom. Remote Demo Days have also been well organized (and with great music!), but naturally, they cannot compete with the experience of being in-person!”
Alpha Vantage began as a passion project created over winter break while the co-founders were in grad school together. Our first major inflection point came less than two months after Alpha Vantage went live, when a large incumbent/competitor called Yahoo Finance abruptly pulled the plug on their market data API, resulting in a massive influx of self-proclaimed “Yahoo Finance shipwreck survivors” (users who were previously using the Yahoo Finance market data API) coming to Alpha Vantage. Seemingly overnight the number of our active users and the number of API queries processed jumped by over 10x. We have never looked back since.
High quality financial market information (e.g. stock price data of publicly traded companies) has traditionally been available only to large organizations/institutions and generally inaccessible (or very high friction to access) for individual end users. Companies such as Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters have created multi-billion dollar businesses catering to these large organizations/institutions and a specific type of user: the Wall Street trader. Traders in the modern day; however, are different. Traders today more closely resemble software developers who would prefer to access data via API as opposed to a closed-system such as a Bloomberg terminal (an expensive piece of financial hardware that one would find in virtually every financial institution). We know this for a fact because the exponential adoption and the intensity of usage of our APIs from the earliest days of our company all the way to the present have proven this time and time again.
Cloud-based financial data platform
Alpha Vantage provides APIs for historical and real-time financial data, stock quotes, quantitative/technical indicators, and all data required for developing and testing trading strategies.
We have been working on this full-time since March 2017 while also managing our commitments as full-time students. We are very happy with our progress to date, but we both graduate in just 6 weeks and look forward to 80-100 hour weeks of complete dedication to building the product and team.