Fairfield University Dolan School undergraduate creates real-life simulation game melding the worlds of finance and online gaming
After winning Fairfield University's inaugural Business Plan Competition, Dolan School of Business student Frank Serravalli '13 has spent much of the last year - and $10,000 in start-up fund prize money - building 'The Winning Trade, LLC.'
That has involved calls at dawn to its web developers in South Africa, meeting the needs of 250-plus active users worldwide, and expanding the customer base of the web and mobile-based financial trading simulation game.
Serravalli, a senior majoring in accounting from Seaford, N.Y., noted, "This game prepares you for the real world... It's a trading tool but also a learning tool that has the ability to help everyone."
Offering both educational and entertainment benefits, 'The Winning Trade' combines the world of online gaming with the financial markets, so one can trade in the market virtually and not worry about losing their shirt. When logging in, users are asked: 'Can you beat the Street?' For a $5 dollar bimonthly fee, it allows individuals to come together through the game, create hedge funds, use real-time data, and create performance reports that will prove their skills and set them up for future jobs. For example, for finance majors, the idea is that it'll prove to potential employers that they know how to manage portfolios, and show their successful histories of buying and trading securities. For that reason, Serravalli sees business schools as a major potential customer.
Possible consumers also include people interested in learning about how their 401K plans work and other investment novices. For those who manage their household's finances, it can teach them how to grow their savings in a safe environment with no risk. "I see moms taking care of the finances for the whole house as another big [market]," Serravalli noted.
Upcoming plans include launching an iPhone app of 'The Winning Trade' and developing it into a portfolio management tool. "Sometimes it's hard to do all this and juggle school, but this is important to me," said Serravalli, whose sister, Christina, a sophomore majoring in accounting at Fairfield, is his partner in the venture. "I look at this as the start of my career."
So far, the business has users not only in the U.S., but also in Europe, Russia and South Africa. "When I was studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, I made friends with students from Cologne, Germany, who are using the platform," said Serravalli, who further sharpened his business acumen last summer interning for Barclays. "It has good word of mouth."
Faculty like Joan L. Van Hise, Ph.D. and Walter F. Hlawitschka, as well as members of the Dolan School Advisory Council and business community have served as mentors. Mukesh Sud, Ph.D., associate professor of management and one of Serravalli's teachers, calls him "a sharp entrepreneur-to-be." "This is his initial attempt at entrepreneurship. Don't be surprised if plans change, evolve over time as he interacts with customers and learns what they really need."
Donald E. Gibson, Ph.D., dean of the Dolan School, said Serravalli's entrepreneurial spirit is one that many of his Fairfield classmates share. "Frank won the competition because 'The Winning Trade' was judged to have the best chances to be a viable product in the marketplace," he said.
The competition was founded to encourage students' innovative ideas and support the best ones with start-up funds. It was built as a result of a three-year initiative in the Department of Management to develop students' capacity in entrepreneurship. For a look at this year's contest, visit http://is-dsb.fairfield.edu/fbp/.
Image: Fairfield University accounting major Frank Serravalli, a member of the Class of 2013, third from left, won the 2012 Dolan School of Business Student Business Plan Competition and received a check for $10,000. He stands with his family, including sister Christina '15, second from left, and Dr. Donald E. Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business, left.
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Posted on May 14, 2013
Vol. 45, No. 286