RIDGELAND — Greg Ballard drew house plans. Key Ramsey worked in real estate. Both had children that played soccer. But it was a bad penny stock investment that prompted the two to form pennyPI, a Ridgeland-based penny stock information Web site.
“A guy called me with a supposedly hot tip on a penny stock, so I jumped in there with Greg and seven or eight other guys before we really started researching it,” Ramsey said. “I noticed the penny stock went up and down with news releases. Greg was the most computer-literate person I knew and had gotten into day trading over the Internet. One day I dropped by his office and asked if he could help me research penny stock companies, so he started searching message boards and found that there were a lot more penny stock investors in the same boat.”
The two decided to film 11 corporate tours in 33 days and transfer the information to a Web site, Ramsey said.
“We were going to have a little more information, but that was basically it,” he said. “We were sitting on the soccer field one day, watching our children play soccer, and one of us said, ‘If we’re willing to go to this expense, wouldn’t others syndicate the cost of a corporate tour?’ and that’s how pennyPI got started.”
Founded in August 1998, it took more than 15 months to research, gather and consolidate independent, unbiased, credible information, Ramsey said.
“We decided that we were putting all our eggs in one business, so we shut down our other businesses and concentrated totally on pennyPI,” he said. “Greg and I were going to fund it ourselves with $50,000. In six months, we blossomed from doing 10 corporate tours to becoming a data source for OTCBB (over the counter bulletin board). The SEC told us we were undertaking an enormous task, having coverage of so many companies and staying on top of that much content daily. It’s been very interesting.”
The Web site, launched in December, features more than 6,400 non-listed securities arranged in a variety of research products on more than 15,000 pages.
“Most penny stock information sites today are in some way linked to the companies and stocks they ‘profile’ to the extent that many post a site disclaimer detailing such an agreement,” Ramsey said. “Certain sites will list information and/or offer analysis of penny stock companies in return for financial compensation via cash, advertising/sponsorships or free-trading stock in the companies listed. PennyPI accepts no compensation, advertising or sponsorship funding and holds no stock position with any of the companies included in its clearinghouse.”
For a limited time, subscribers can gain access to the site for $20 a month, which includes company profiles, histories and chat rooms to talk with other penny stock investors. Soon, that rate will cover only basic services with pay-per-view options.
“PennyPI’s most unique features include a corporate event timeline, which provides a historical overview of each company with stock price fluctuations, news clippings, corporate statements and events that have taken place since the company’s inception, and a virtual onsite corporation tour by pennyPI’s independent onsite researchers.”
Two months ago, pennyPI shared its business plan with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ramsey said.
“We’ve actually gotten information that we will possibly be an information repository exclusively for penny stocks and microcap stocks, although the SEC cannot give its seal of approval or endorse private operations,” he said.
Ramsey, CEO, 39, of Madison, had been self-employed for more than 16 years, packaging and securing financing for almost 50 FmHA Section 515 apartment complexes.
Greg Ballard, 33, of Ridgeland, had been self-employed for almost 11 years as owner of A Design Co., a residential/commercial design firm.
Ballard concocted pennyPI’s initial business concept plan, which was instrumental in Ramey’s successfully securing $787,500 through pennyPI’s initial Private Placement Offering. A half million dollars has been raised for pennyPI via a debt conversion note through private investors.
“We’re in the process of dealing with investment bankers and venture capitalists to secure an additional $10 million that will allow us to implement the completion of our database, do more marketing and branding and open up the commercial end of our sales,” Ramsey said. “If we become a compliance issue, it will be huge commercially for us.”
In less than a year, pennyPI’s staff increased from three to 11 people, Ramsey said.
“This raise would allow us to hire an additional 32 people,” he said. “Then, we’ll have in excess of 500 corporate tours — the most popular companies based on dollar volume, share volume, and the two discussion boards.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.