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Patak Trading Partners, LLC was founded by Michael Patak, a floor trader at the Chicago Board of Trade. Prior to trading on the floor, Michael followed the markets while in college and had a great desire to become a trader of the financial futures markets. Michael moved to Chicago, became a Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group Member, and successfully traded his own personal account for over 10 years.
Patak learned quickly, that anyone from any background could effectively learn to trade and be successful. This eventually led to the creation of TopstepTrader, a global scouting agency for futures traders. At the core of the business is ‘The Combine’. A play on the NFL’s terminology, the Combine is the field where traders come to display their skills and are evaluated for a potential fully funded futures trading account. The Combine is a two or four week program that provides anyone the opportunity to become a live trader by mimicking the actual trader experience with its real-time trading simulator.
MO: Can you tell our readers about the story of how you started your business and how recognizing parallels between sports and trading inspired you to found TopstepTrader?
Michael: Traders and athletes are very similar: both experience hot and cold spells, both industries have people who want to get in but they don’t have what it takes, both are extremely competitive, and both require extreme dedication and focus. As a former athlete at Iowa State University, I learned that people are evaluated based on their skills. With a growing interest in trading, I wanted to find a way to bridge the two together. When the markets tanked in 2008, I noticed everything on the trading floor slowed down and a huge change in the industry was unfolding right in front of us. Electronic markets became the norm, and the shift towards cyber trading was beginning to show that is the way of the future. This increase in popularity allowed TopstepTrader to become a real business.
MO: What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting your own company and how did you overcome them?
Michael: The biggest challenge I faced when starting the company was having the patience to let it develop. I had so many ideas but didn’t always have the patience to let them fully materialize. To me, it felt like a lot of hurry up and wait. I realized you have to let your business come to you instead of trying to force it.
MO: You had the idea for using a simulated market as a teaching tool for nearly 10 years before trying to commercialize it. How did this concept develop and become fine-tuned while working as a floor trader at the Chicago Board of Trade?
Michael: There is a reason why flight schools use flight simulators; people need a risk free environment to learn. Trading is the same idea. I have always thought a simulated market is the best tool traders can have because it is the closest thing to the real market. The simulation lets traders develop, test out new strategies, and become disciplined.
MO: Do you think that using sports as the parallel for trading, targets men more than women as potential traders?
Michael: Not at all. I think women are just as competitive, if not more competitive than men. Typically, women can handle trading better than men and research has actually proven that women make better traders because they exhibit less risky behavior, and don’t have the egos men have.
MO: How does visiting the TopstepTrader interactive chat room each morning help prepare you for your day?
Michael: The chat room helps me prepare because it gives me feedback and information from other traders in the markets. This creates a better self-awareness, curbs my own ego, and ultimately helps me keep my mind open. Working with other traders from all over the world is a huge benefit. Information is key in this industry. The chat room allows me to get information, process it, and maintain an unbiased attitude, which serves me greatly while I am trading.
MO: You’re in the process of looking into expansion into other countries. How is this development progressing so far and how dramatically will it change the company?
Michael: Currently we are working on translating our site to accommodate other languages and looking for partnerships with people in other countries who share our vision of discovering and developing talent. This is a huge catalyst for the company, and I believe it positions us to capture a large crowd of people who want to learn how to trade but never had the access or the tools to do it.
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