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Why I Started Hacked.com

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People need a meaningful job to be happy with their lives. They need to feel important, that they have a purpose with their life. For the last years, I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotions, mostly due to my work situation. In 2015 I started a new entrepreneurial venture called “Tailored Message”. It was a news app for youth that I launched in April 2016 in Norway with a small team. I spent more than $100 000 on developing the app, and $15 000 on marketing of the app. We received a lot of attention in Norwegian newspapers for becoming the 3rd most downloaded app in Norway within the first month. After two weeks we had more than 20 000 users. I was high on adrenaline, and we thought we were going to “conquer the world” with our news app.

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Since I’ve started other ventures before, I had a quite short deadline for the venture. I said that within 6 months we would need to have a media partnership with one of the big media companies in Norway (within July 2016). If we didn’t get any media partner by that time, I would shut the venture down.

In June 2016 we received a positive confirmation of a media partnership with “Nettavisen.no”, one of the major media houses in Norway. They were perfect since they control blogg.no which is the largest blog platform in Norway with a lot of young bloggers. The deal was set, and I decided to expand the deadline for the venture with 6 more months. The new goal was to ensure a positive cash flow within December 2016.

I went out to investors, trying to get more funding of the venture. Since we had a media deal, it was quite easy to find investors. I raised approx. 200 000 USD and we started with our first hire. We moved into “Nettavisen” and I believed that we were able to make this a success.

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Then, the problems began to appear. The media deal that we made with Nettavisen, was not being properly followed. They began to delay implementation of what was agreed. Since we were a startup, time is money, especially when you have a small company. We had multiple meetings with Nettavisen and came up with other solutions with new deadlines. Unfortunately for me, we were dealing with a fucking bully in Nettavisen that was only thinking of himself and that couldn’t care less of our startup. He consistently delayed implementation of what was agreed.

My only office was at that time at Nettavisen, and during the fall of 2016, I had to take drastic choices. I fired our only full time employee to cut costs, because we didn’t have enough traffic to ensure a positive cash flow from advertisers. I did hope I was going to turn it around, but Nettavisen did nothing to fulfill their part of the deal. I became quite depressed, especially being around the people at Nettavisen.

During that time, my wife became pregnant. I started to become more worried about our financial future, since I had put so much energy and money into Tailored Message. Of course, I still had CryptoCoinsNews running, and some other small ventures that were doing just fine, but it takes its toll to work so hard for something that doesn’t turn out the way you want it.

Fortunately, I was at a conference with the owner of Wilhelmsen.com that said they were looking for people to work on digital projects for the company. I met the CFO afterward on a meeting, and he made me aware of some open positions in the company. It was my mom that found the job listing on the day of the deadline for the job as a “Digital Trainee” at Wilhelmsen. I’ve never been a full time employee anywhere, and I didn’t think I was going to be one either. But this job spoke to me, and in a time where I was quite “down”, it seemed like a match made in heaven. So I applied just before the deadline in November 2016. That job opportunity kept me up during a difficult time.

In December 2016 I decided to shut Tailored Message down. There’s no need to continue to work on a project that is going to fail. Nettavisen had broken most of the agreement that we made, and I was talking to some of my lawyers about what we could do about it. Unfortunately, in Norway, it’s very expensive to run a legal case. My lawyers told me that we could have a quite strong case, but just the legal process would cost up to $25 000. The investors in Tailored Message did not want to pursue a legal case since they didn’t want to risk losing more money. So, in December 2016 I moved out of Nettavisen’s offices and started the process to close the venture.

It was hard to acknowledge that Tailored Message had failed. I’ve been through that process before with my first major venture called “MyGoodAct” (a crowdfunding platform for social causes I started in 2009 that raised more than 1.5 million USD to different social causes). But with Tailored Message I had investors relying on me, and that was a new aspect I hadn’t experienced before. It was incredibly hard to let them know that this just didn’t work out the way we wanted it. Probably one of the toughest moments of my life.

Things were quite dark at a moment, I had lost a lot of money, almost two years of my life, and I had disappointed people that relied on me. I had also lost money on trading CFDs (stupid me, tried to gain the money I lost, human psychology right). Murphy’s law hit me.

In late December 2016, I got a call. “You got the job as a Digital Trainee at Wilhelmsen”. Suddenly, I could start focusing on something else. I felt that I was “saved by the bell”. I promised to myself that I should start over, forget what was done, but still learn from the experience. I wanted to create a better me.

If you are an entrepreneur, remember what I learned:

Never ever rely on a third party (like Nettavisen). It’s great with partnerships, but that shouldn’t be a show stopper if they do not fulfill their end of the deal.

I managed to reset my thoughts. I started at Wilhelmsen in January 2017 with three other amazing digital trainees. It was a pleasant experience to become a full time employee. It was amazing to be in a more professional setting with stricter rules and forms. I’m working on some quite awesome projects for Wilhelmsen, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been before. Even though I’m earning a lot less than I did while being an entrepreneur (on the top of my game).

As most of you don’t know, I bought Hacked.com in 2015. I spent 50 000 USD on it. I thought it would be quite easy to start a new venture with a domain like Hacked.com. We started writing a lot of tech news, and one day we had our news article on the frontpage of Reddit.com with more than 1 million views in a few days. But we did not manage to make any money on hacked.com, and I spent approx. 50 000 USD more on trying to build a news site. During 2016 I put hacked.com on hold. And I even put it up for sale during January 2017, since I had almost 0 USD in my savings account due to the mistakes I made in 2016. But after I started working at Wilhelmsen, I got an idea of making Hacked.com into what you see today. A place where people can get real advice and help in planning for their own financial freedom.

People that say money isn’t important is delusional. People living on a bare minimum isn’t happy with their lives. They are stressed, they work too much, they are homeless, they use drugs or alcohol to shut off their own emotions. I wouldn’t wish that for even my worst enemy. Money is critical up to a certain point; I call it the financial freedom ceiling. If you get above your own financial freedom ceiling, you won’t stay up at night wondering if you can pay the next utility bill. I believe we all can reach our own financial freedom ceiling, and that’s my primary goal with hacked.com. To help people get above a certain level, in order to fulfill their own lives.

Even if I reach my financial freedom ceiling, I still would want to work to feel “important” to my society. I want to make a positive impact on the world, Isn’t that what we all want? But you can’t fulfill your life if you are constantly chasing more money. That must be taken care of first. And with financial freedom, you can choose what you want to spend the rest of your life on.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. maxwest

    May 1, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Great story!!

  2. mshiros

    May 1, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    nice to know your story. i presume most of us have a story. i just wasted half a year with a new project,which dint take flight. i was cheated by the investors. just getting back my act together, and to start afresh. but i believe more than anything, if you have a will to do something, to be someone in life, if you really wish for it and never give up, youll definitely succeed someday for sure… god bless… peace

    • Jonas Borchgrevink

      May 1, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      Thank you, and I wish you all the best. You just need to have a goal and be persistent.

  3. Gabriel

    May 1, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    Shit happens! The most important is to understand that no time is ever wasted, as long as you accumulate experience, learn lessons, and keep improving yourself.

  4. And

    May 1, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    Jonas, apparently you are a fighter. Best of luck!

    • Jonas Borchgrevink

      May 1, 2017 at 10:01 pm

      Thank you. At least I’m trying!

  5. gullyfoyle

    May 1, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    Props for your honesty. It is reassuring to know that we are all more similar than we probably realise. We’re all fighting to do better.

    I think learning the hard way is all part of the journey. I spent a lot of time reading hundreds of books when I should have been focusing on skills like Technical Analysis. My job is in Games so it’s easy to get distracted playing games for ‘research’ (nice rationalisation eh?).

    Spent thousands on courses going nowhere before accepting my nature and talents and applying myself accordingly. Lost thousands learning the hard way about markets too!

    Bitcoin really saved me by pulling me out of the hole. Now it’s at ATH I don’t think there is much analysis to help me, some vague targets but we are in unknown territory now. It could flip on a dime now.

    • Jonas Borchgrevink

      May 2, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      Haha, so true. Thanks for the comment. If I were in the gaming industry, I would probably play a lot myself..

  6. sambkf

    May 2, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Thanks both of your Jonas and gullyfoyle for your life’s insights. Thoses few lines are inspiring.

    I know I critically need to catch up on my programing skills. Engineer and I barely can code in C and matlab. :S
    But I needed a project to motivate myself to go ahead and climb that mountain.
    I have a thought lingering in the back of my mind… code a trading bot, applying knowledge from signal processing & stochastics. 🙂
    Just getting started learning javascripts.

    • Jonas Borchgrevink

      May 2, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      Thank you! That sounds like a good plan, to learn how to program is never wrong.

  7. fredthai

    July 2, 2017 at 8:29 am

    You give me a reason to stick with your website,because of your honesty …

    • Jonas Borchgrevink

      July 2, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      Thank you fredthai 🙂

  8. Renegade

    October 6, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    That was very good to read. I’ve been there myself having put everything into a venture, then having everything ripped out from under me and ending up nearly homeless. I can imagine how that article would be hard to write.

    Nevertheless, I’m out there again putting it on the line in a new venture, and praying it succeeds. I don’t want to have another failure story to tell. Success stories are much better.

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Searching for the Meaning of Life in Dubai

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Last week I traveled to Dubai with a group of people in Wilhelmsen, where I work as a Digital Trainee, for our third module in Design Thinking with Pracademy. We are a group of 24 people which Wilhelmsen considers to be Leadership Potentials. We are fortunate to be a part of this year’s company program, and we have all learned so much about ourselves. In this post, I will try to communicate what we learned during last week’s module. Be aware that this is a four months program, and it’s hard to get the feeling of it by just reading about it. But I hope I can share some of the knowledge that I acquired and get you more interested in improving your own life.

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Find your passion and go all in!

Most motivators and teachers say that you need to find your passion, make work a hobby that you enjoy every single day. I have even caught myself saying that over and over again (on Hacked). However, as I learned during the sessions in Dubai, more than 80% of us do not know what their passion is. I started to wonder if I knew what my passion is. And I’m still insecure about that. I do know that I want to contribute to the world, I want to help and serve people. I want to create things that I know other people will love; I want to leave a footprint on this earth.

I often have this mind experiment where I picture myself as 80 years old with bad health in my nursing home. Do I think that I managed to get the most out of life? Am I satisfied with all the things I achieved? Or do I have regrets and feel remorseful? The goal for every person on this earth is to be satisfied with your life when you’re near the end. I guess most people aren’t in reality. And that’s a big shame. Some people might regret that they worked too much, had too little fun, too few good experiences with their loved ones, too few memorable memories.

I pray that I will be happy with my life and what I accomplished.

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How to find your passion

If you do not know what your true passion is, there’s still hope for you. You can spend years trying to find your ultimate passion. Think of what makes you happy, what you enjoy or care for. My strong passion for creating things started in my childhood. I always drew new inventions on a piece of paper and started small kid businesses. I played music; I was a drummer in a nu-metal band, I started to sing and rap and create songs. I painted and used my creative skills to visualize my thoughts. I traveled during holidays and experienced new cultures, new food. Oh, I love good food. I love cooking a great meal for family and friends.

I could probably achieved anything that I had/have passion for. I could have been a:

  • Cook
  • Artist
  • Painter
  • Drummer
  • Entrepreneur

I chose to become an entrepreneur mostly due to financial possibilities. As being financially independent was and is very high on my priority list. But that does not mean that I wouldn’t have a meaningful life being an artist with less money on my hands.

Economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman researched happiness and money in 2009 where the focus was on US standards, and it’s population:

So, where does the $75,000 come into play? Researchers found that lower income did not cause sadness itself but made people feel more ground down by the problems they already had. The study found, for example, that among divorced people, about 51% who made less than $1,000 a month reported feeling sad or stressed the previous day, while only 24% of those earning more than $3,000 a month reported similar feelings. Among people with asthma, 41% of low earners reported feeling unhappy, compared with about 22% of the wealthier group. Having money clearly takes the sting out of adversities.

At $75,000, that effect disappears. For people who earn that much or more, individual temperament and life circumstances have much more sway over their lightness of heart than money. The study doesn’t say why $75,000 is the benchmark, but “it does seem to me a plausible number at which people would think money is not an issue,” says Deaton. At that level, people probably have enough expendable cash to do things that make them feel good, like going out with friends. (The federal poverty level for a family of four, by the way, is $22,050.)

So if you live in the US, a goal for financial freedom could be $75 000 or $100 000 as income per year. If you make more than that, you won’t necessarily become happier just because of the money.

However, if you make too much money and you are in an in-group where your peers make much less than you do, you can be in a situation where jealousy and envy will affect your life. And that is not a good feeling at all. I believe that the people in the middle of the scale live the happiest lives. There have been numerous cases where people that won in the lotteries have ended their lives due to envy and jealousy from their friends and family. Where they thought winning a lot of money would make them happier, while it only magnified their problems.

Empathy

In Design Thinking, empathy is a crucial part of the process. The ability to feel compassion for other human beings. To understand their problems, feelings, and emotions and to share their pain, grief, happiness or sadness. I know for a fact that I could be much more empathic and that is something I will improve. See the video below that shows what empathy is:

We saw this video in Dubai, which almost made me cry (we were in a particular mood..):

There’s so much going on in that video. Mo Cheeks felt empathy with the girl singing the national anthem, and he could feel compassion since he had a daughter at that age.

Things change when you get a child, for me that has a daughter who is seven months, I can relate to the video above. You might not.

What characterizes a great leader?

We did a session where everyone in the room in Dubai explained what a great leader is for them. The list included:

  • Good listener
  • Empathic
  • Understanding
  • Good motivator
  • + more

Most of the points we as leadership potentials defined as a great leader had nothing to do with “IQ.” Most of them had everything to do with “EQ,” emotional intelligence. It is mindblowing that we do not learn more about emotional intelligence during school, and that all businesses focus on “IQ” when hiring, not “EQ.” I believe that is skewed and is important to reflect upon.

Mindfulness

We also learned how to be more mindful. They encouraged us to use 30 minutes to sit quietly, close our eyes, focusing on the now. Breathing slowly and try to get as calm as possible. There’s scientific research on how mindfulness can help you become more happier, healthier and more successful:

And then one of the many guides on mindfulness:

Communication

We did a session where we were paired up to use mindfulness to listen and repeat. A was given 6 minutes to talk about a challenge at work, B was given 3 minutes to repeat what he/she heard, A was then given 2 minutes to clarify what B might have misinterpreted, B was then finally given 2 minutes to repeat what A clarified. This was a session that made me realize how easy it is to misinterpret. This can be used in every aspect of your life. It is so easy to misunderstand what a person is saying or meaning, so try to ask a question after a discussion: “Did I understand you right, that you want…” or “Could you please clarify what you meant by…”.

Writing

A professor of culture and psychology from South Korea gave us a session on writing. How writing in a notebook can help you learn better and understand what was communicated. From now on, I’ll always bring a notebook in meetings and write with my hand. Then I’ll add the written information to my computer later on.

Emotions

We often say: “I am angry.” That is a big mistake. We are not angry, but we do feel anger. So whenever you “are angry, sad, or irritated,” say in your head that you are “feeling angry, because..” and you will be able to control your emotions in a much more sufficient manner. Do not let the feeling itself take over who you are. You are not your feelings, you simply feel them and they will pass.

And Finally, you have the Siberian Railroad: SBNRR: Stop, Breathe, Notice, React, Respond.

 

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How I Made It: Multimillion Dollar Cash Flow

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Please excuse the image. It’s not a picture of me nor my car. I own a BMW 318 2009 model with a car seat in the back for our seven months old daughter. It’s been some time since I last published a post on Hacked.com. I want to let you know that I’m going to be more active in the coming months. I’ve just had too many things on my plate, from my Digital Trainee job at Wilhelmsen to Hacked.com, CryptoCoinsNews, MoneyMakers, and family. I want to explain how I’ve managed to create a company with a multimillion-dollar cashflow. Remember, I’ve spent more than nine years on reaching my current level. I’ve had multiple failures, I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I’ve also made a lot of money and recognition.

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When I was 16 years old, I started my first company which I registered on my mom. I called it for “Limitless Juggernaut, ” and it was a clothing line that I started to sell in Tønsberg (a small city in Norway). I managed to get my clothes in one shop in Tønsberg, but it did not catch on. I think I sold five to ten pieces and ended up with a loss of $5000. I worked as a phone seller to make the money I spent on my micro startup. In 2008, when I was 18, I started a phone import business where I imported phones from China and sold it on Norway’s “ebay.” I managed to make $3500 in profit each month while attending high school. There was a guy in Oslo, the capital of Norway, that wanted to get into the phone businesses with me. I was young and naive; I put too much trust in a stranger that ended up hustling me. He gained control of my stock, and I transferred some money to him, then I never heard back. I decided to shut the business down.

In 2009 I started studying Entrepreneurship and Business at a college in Oslo. That’s when I founded MyGoodAct which was one of the first crowdfunding platforms for social causes. During four years the platform raised more than 1.5 million USD to different social causes. I managed to sign up the most significant NGOs in Norway, but the main issue was to establish a positive cash flow for the startup. Even though we won awards, was funded by some larger companies and organizations, we never really got the traction we needed. I decided to shut MyGoodAct down in 2015.

In 2013, when I was working part-time for an NGO, I discovered Bitcoin (Cyprus chaos was blowing up the Bitcoin price and made it to the news). I fell in love with the digital currency, mostly due to its deflationary functions. I was sick of the fundamentals of our economy, with fraction banking and the private FED. At that time, there were few news sites for Bitcoin, so I started CryptoCoinsNews. I started writing two to three articles per day, posted stories on bitcointalk.org and Reddit. After a couple of months, the site had 100 to 300 visitors per day, and I managed to secure one advertiser that paid one bitcoin per month for the top banner. After that, I had some funds to pay other writers with, so I started to recruit writers. The site grew, I got more advertisers that paid a fixed fee per banner on a monthly basis. Today, CCN is one of the largest bitcoin news sources in the world. Last month, I bought CCN.COM for 150 000 USD, and we are doing a complete redesign of the site and hiring more full-time writers. I want to make CCN the world leader in cryptocurrency news, just like Marketwatch.com is for stocks.

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I bought Hacked.com in 2014 for $50 000. I saw the domain on Flippa.com, and I had profits from my previous bitcoin investments. I had no plan for the domain; I just thought it was the coolest domain I’ve ever seen available. I was up 24 hours bidding on the frigging domain while watching The 100 on Netflix. The other bidder I was bidding against only increased the price with 50 to 100 USD at the end of each auction period, which made the auction extend with another hour. I became so tired and angry at that tactic, so I contacted the seller and told him that I’d exit the auction if we do not end this soon. I was ready to bump it up with $5 000 or even $10 000 just to be done with it. The seller added a buy now price at $50 000, and I was able to purchase it before the other bidder.

We started Hacked.com as a technology news site, at one point, we had a trending story on Reddit that made it to the front page of Reddit.com. It generated almost a million visitors during one day; our servers could not handle the traffic. However, even with one million visitors, we only made $2000 in ad revenue from Adsense. And, you need to keep pumping out extraordinary articles to keep such a momentum. The prices for such articles could be anywhere from $50 to $500. I did not have the funds to keep funding writers and attract better talent, as the site always operated with a loss. After one year, I decided to put Hacked.com on pause.

In 2015 I started Tailored Message that was a news app for youth in Norway, with gamification and a shop. The idea was to make a clone of “Instagram/Reddit” for news and blogs and let the users earn points based on ads in the app that they could spend on products in our in-app store. We launched the app in April 2016, and we got more than 20 000 downloads, just in Norway, and made it to the top 3 most downloaded apps. I spent almost 100 000 USD on the startup, and in the summer of 2016, we secured 200 000 USD in funding including a marketing deal with one of Norway’s largest media companies worth 300 000 USD. I moved into the media company and hired a salesperson. Unfortunately, the marketing deal that was signed by their director was never followed through. I spent almost six months implement the marketing deal that we already had agreed on. The media company always had excuses for why they could not implement it, and we changed the marketing deal two times without any success. The investors I had became worried, and in the winter of 2016, I decided to shut it down, pay the investors back with what was left, and try to focus on something else. I went to a lawyer in Oslo, and he told me that we could sue the media company for our losses, but that it would cost $30 000 and could take a year or two. I was upset, but I did not want to have a lawsuit to define my next year. I backed out.

What I learned from this experience, which was a very tough period in my life (as I hate to disappoint people that put their trust in me), is that you should never depend on a single deal you make with any company. Especially large companies. In large companies, you have so many different opinions, so many shitheads, so many useless persons that only think about themselves and their KPIs. If you are working with large companies, you need backup solutions. I think the best way to run a startup is to be independent, and just gun for it on your own. Fuck the large companies; they are too slow for a startup.

Well, that’s funny. But I was hired in January 2017 by Wilhelmsen, one of the largest shipping companies in the world, as a Digital Trainee. I had lost most of my cash holdings due to Tailored Message, and I needed something more stable to focus on. My wife was pregnant, and we expected our child in April 2017. I’ve never worked fulltime in a large corporation before, and I thought it would be a great experience to learn how it works. Right now I’m working on a 3D print project where Wilhelmsen wants to 3D print ship parts to the maritime industry, which has been and is an amazing project. I have a leading role there, and I’m learning many new things.

I’m a person that need multiple projects to be satisfied. So after working hours at Wilhelmsen, I pivoted Hacked.com into becoming the service you see today, based on subscriptions. I hired a couple of people, and we started small. After a couple of months, we had a positive cash flow, and I could hire more people to take over some of the time-consuming tasks. And now, Hacked.com is probably the largest paid cryptocurrency community in the world. My initial idea with Hacked.com was to educate people in how they can become more independent of the 9-5 job reality most are living in. This is something that I want to focus more on in the coming years. I also want to host conferences and meetups in 2018. I think we can make something great out of Hacked.com and be supportive of each other.

Right now, both CCN and Hacked.com is generating more money than I would ever dream of. It’s now a multimillion-dollar cash flow business. And I think it’s safe to say that I’ve already reached my long-term goal. Of course, we have large expenses, but the profit is still positive and enables me to invest more in the ventures and improve them.

I’m still working as a Digital Trainee at Wilhelmsen, and please understand that I’ve been working nonstop now for the past two years, I’ve never had one full day off. Sometimes I’ve had to work nights because of DDoS attacks, server problems or similar. I’ve employed more people to take some of the daily tasks I’ve had. I’m also focusing on spending more time with my wife and daughter, as I’ve been absent for an extended period. Money, cash flow, and business is not everything, family, friends, and experiences are what you will remember when you are 80 years old. Remember to enjoy your life.

However, I’m still not satisfied. That’s the way I am as a person. Damaged. Entrepreneurial. I continuously want to improve, want to launch better services, give more people the services that they appreciate. Help people reach their full potential. I think there are some good opportunities in the shipping industry, and I may be able to do something fascinating with Wilhelmsen in the coming years.

Focus on what you love to do, and never look back. Don’t let a shitty job bring you down.

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My first experience with Robot Trading: Up $5 000 in Two Weeks

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Since I’m pressed on time with multiple obligations (job, familiy, hacked.com, CCN, MoneyMakers) I decided for a couple of weeks ago to look into robot trading. I wanted to find one or multiple robots to do the trading for me. I ended up with downloading MetaTrader 5 and buying two different robots from their marketplace. I started with 16 000 USD on the trading account, and after two weeks the robots have made me $5 000.

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That’s a whopping 31% increase within 2 weeks…!

My robots usually trade during the night, and I’ve decided to completely trust them. The 16 000 USD is a sum I’m more than happy to lose if I can learn anything from dealing with trading robots.

When that is said, MetaTrader’s interface really “SUCKS”. It’s so bad, I can’t understand why MetaTrader is considered the best trading terminal for robots. Maybe that’s a good business idea for someone out there? Disrupt MetaTrader.

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So, which robots do I use?

I do not want to disclose that just yet, I need to test my robots rigorously before I can recommend any of them. And if this is a money making machine, we can laugh all the way to the bank.

Have a good weekend.

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