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The data game

Before co-founding ADVFN, the U.K.'s leading online financial data portal, CEO Clem Chambers programmed and marketed computer games. The training, he believes, couldn't have been better.

Chambers borrowed concepts from the gaming world -- screen formats, community interactions, client-server technology architecture -- in designing ADVFN (short for Advanced Financial Networks), which opened in 1999. "Have you heard the term 'massively multiplayer'?" asks the 40-year-old. "I coined it while working on multiuser games for AOL. The stock market is the biggest massively multiplayer game of all -- and with real money."

Today London-based ADVFN has 20 employees and annual revenues exceeding £2.5 million ($4 million). With more than 300,000 users, it controls about half the U.K. market for online investor information. The subscribers, mainly active traders and financial advisers, get basic news and quotes for free, but ADVFN hooks them into premium services -- such as historical data, charting, buy and sell signals and Nasdaq Level 2 screens -- costing £5 to £100 a month.

Among the firm's rivals is MoneyAM, founded last year by former ADVFN executive Michael Boydell. But Chambers says his portal has the advantage of "critical mass" to attract advertising from brokerages and other sponsors, which accounts for more than half of revenue. With the service profitable since last year, Chambers has begun marketing in the U.S. Although the U.S. online trading community is bigger and more sophisticated than the U.K.'s, he says, it lacks neutral and independent sources of analytical data and tools like those he can package for about $16 a month.

"There is no clear market leader that aggregates the [U.S.] audience," says Chambers. "We are an aggregator for advertisers, and we become their marketing partners."