Country of origin: Cuba
Year came to U.S.: 1966
Business: TradeStation Group Inc. (1982)
Headquarters: Plantation, FL
2015 revenue: $124 million
Worldwide employment: 391
William and Rafael Cruz are both award-winning violinists.
The Cruz bothers launched TradeStation in a room in their parents’ house and sold it nearly 30 years later for $402 million.
Two Cuban musicians turned entrepreneurs have had a big impact on the small world of high-volume stock trading.
William and Rafael Cruz came to the United States from Cuba in 1966 with their parents and two aunts. The brothers began taking violin lessons in elementary school and practiced four hours a day with their aunt, who had been a concert pianist in Cuba. In high school they won numerous state and national awards and studied with the nation’s leading violinists in college (William at University of Miami and Julliard, and Rafael at Indiana University). It seemed they were destined to be concert violinists.
William’s hobby of following the financial markets derailed the brothers’ musical careers and set them on a new path. At age 18 he began trading stock futures. Looking for ways to improve his trading decisions, William later enlisted the help of a music teacher who was also a computer programmer to develop software to test his trading strategies.
In 1982, the Cruz brothers took a leap of faith and dropped out of college to start their own company, Omega Research (later re-named TradeStation), to refine and bring to market a stock trading software program. William worked on product development while Rafael handled marketing from a room in their family’s home. In 1989, they produced their first trading strategy software. Since then, the company has sold more than $100 million of its flagship product, TradeStation.
In the late 1990s, the company began transforming from a software vendor to an Internet-based brokerage trading platform serving very active, semi-professional traders. In 2011, TradeStation was purchased by Monex Group Inc. for $402 million.