The founder of Reddit’s 4-million-strong Wall Street Bets forum seems in awe that the group could power GameStop’s stock, torch a few bearish hedge funds in the process, and cause some brokerages to restrict purchases in highly volatile stocks.
“It’s a little like watching one of those horror films where you can see the bad guy slowly going up the stairs,” the 39-year-old founder, Jaime Rogozinski, told The Wall Street Journal. “You see this train wreck happening in real time.”
When he created the group, Rogozinski was keen on making some extra money on top of his job as an IT consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC. Tracking traditional index funds didn’t quite tickle his fancy.
“I’d go on different forums and ask them, ‘Hey, what do you think about XYZ?’ And most times the sentiment would be: ‘It’s too risky, don’t try to pick stocks, you’re never going to win,'” he told The Journal.
But he wasn’t enjoying the dry advice from online chat groups, such as the Bogleheads, or from the investment-banking types on television. And so, Rogozinski created the r/wallstreetbets subreddit in 2012.
The group was designed for people to share investing advice, catering to those with a “YOLO” attitude who approached trading as they might with gambling, The Journal said.
Interest in retail trading exploded in 2019 after firms like Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab removed trading commissions. That led to a spike in Wall Street Bets membership, which grew to 1 million during March 2020’s pandemic-induced selloff and to 4 million amid the GameStop retail-trading mania.
“A lot of other places that discuss trading are really pretentious. At Wall Street Bets it’s both, ‘Look at my money!’ but also ‘Look at all this money I lost,’ and I think that’s what’s refreshing to people,” Rogozinski said.
“A massive group of people have organized where they collectively have a seat at the poker table, which was previously invite-only,” he said. “You can’t ignore them anymore.”
But last week Rogozinski got a call from the short-seller Andrew Left of Citron Research, according to The Journal. Left pleaded for help with an angry mob harassing him and his family. The forum’s founder, now based in Mexico, realized there wasn’t much he could do. He was upset by the outcome and thought such attacks crossed the line, The Journal said.
“It’s no longer what it used to be,” Rogozinski said of the group.