In this second installment of our “In Talks” Panel Series in partnership with Morgan Stanley on October 3rd, we will discuss challenges facing Detroit as it grows and evolves. Panelists include leaders, innovators, experts, and startups, with whom we will provoke and entice new directions on financial and business topics pertaining to Detroit. The purpose of “In Talks” is to expand an entrepreneurial mindset as many are looking for the right tools for both their professional and personal wealth management needs.
We kick off the series with an interview of Jason Raznick, CEO of Benzinga. What’s the financial gain for a company’s moving to Detroit? Is there a quantitative measure for downtown office spaces? Jason Raznick, the Founder of Benzinga, says there’s a long game at helping to rebuild an American city. But there’s more to his headquarters location than that.
“Part of being in Detroit is being exposed to what’s going on here and it gets your brain thinking,” Raznick said. “I tell people, go take a walk outside, take a breather and you see people moving and the energy. And what the energy is today, it’ll be 10x that in three years.”
Benzinga is a company of 45 employees coming into a downtown office every day, along with another 20 logging in remotely. They work together at producing financial news written for everyday readers and financially savvy investors alike. All while focusing on smaller publicly traded companies.
“There’s a lot of news out there that covers the Facebooks or Googles of the world,” Raznick said. “But not a lot of information that covers small cap businesses.”
So the team at Benzinga aggregates this information and packages it in a way that gives readers something to act on. But he’s careful about telling people to buy or sell. “We lay it out like possibilities, that’s all,” Raznick said.
People have responded well to this. As of right now, the website has an audience of around three million. But as Raznick shares, there’s more through the licensing of material to Yahoo and Google. The real number of readers may be close to 20 million.
The Early Days of Benzinga
Depending on how you look at it, Benzinga may have been born at the University of Michigan, where Raznick earned his degree. He was posting information on Yahoo message boards about smaller companies and packaging them as financial research.
“And the CEOs would reach out to me even though I was just a kid in college,” Raznick said. “So, I started to wonder why there wasn’t a small cap news feed.”
The growth came years later from crowdsourcing information on a then, quaintly viewed Twitter. Crowdsourcing allowed the content to grow immensely, until eventually it grew into 70-100 articles each day with up to 700 headlines.
“People ask us, ‘what wire service are you using?’ and we say, we are the wire service,” Raznick said.
In the past year and a half, they’ve brought personal finance content into their newsfeed. Now average people can become involved in investing through Benzinga’s resources for navigating the complex finance world.
Growing a Business in Detroit
Growing up and going to college in the suburbs of Detroit, Raznick approached the city in an intimate way.
“I think you can build a business in any city or state,” Raznick said. “You just have to be resourceful and follow through on your execution. But Detroit gives unique advantages. You have people who support you and who are like ‘I want to help you make this happen.’”
Some of the city’s unique issues have become opportunities for Raznick to invest in the community. Through the nonprofit Detroit Fintech Association, he is able to invest in financial education through the Detroit Public School system. He says it’s for bettering the city and, he hopes, for hiring the next generation of Detroiters.
“I like betting on building a company and at the same time impacting a city,” Raznick said.
In terms of timing, Raznick says he jumped onto Detroit’s business world early, giving him the unique opportunities that came with it. Opportunities like a personal relationship with some of the major players in business and situating himself as “a bigger fish in a small sea: helped grow the prestige of his company.
“But this is only the beginning to the growth of Detroit,” Raznick says. With the energy, the vibrance and the economy all shooting for a better future.
He explained that there’s a studio overlooking Campus Martius just for that reason. So that he can always have Detroit rising in the background.