Quantopian, Quantconnect and Hot Chili Analytics.

Goodbye Quantopian. So much for “democratizing Wall Street”. An endeavor doomed to fail, still born.

Quantopian still provide what they call an “enterprise” version for the big boys, but the free back tester for Professor Branestawm and wanna be Quants has died. It appears also they may be moving into robo-broking or fund management – we await details.

I am sad to see any good business fail but I never really understood their constantly changing business plan. And let’s face it, it has not been a good decade for hedge funds.

There will always be people seeking to beat the dealer and Quantopian has provided much fun for many happy punters these past few years. Fun, but hard cash? I wonder.

In any event, where will that thundering herd go now? That mixed crew of egg heads and nutcases determined to keep spinning the wheel. Even if only with Monopoly money and back testing.

There are a number of choices and I certainly have good things to say of Jared Broad and Quantconnect. For the stingy, they have a most attractive free tier but understandably, if you want to switch funny money for hard earned dollars, you must pay up for a monthly subscription.

And there is Hot Chili Analytics run by Alan Coppola and majority owned by Alan and his brother Jeff. They were kind enough to contact me at the beginning of the year ) following articles I had written in Stocks and Commodities magazine) and asked whether I might write for them.

I agreed and wrote several articles which can be found on their website, along with a few simple systems I coded.

HCA works, and it has some big advantages. Subscribers get their own virtual computers (AWS boxes) loaded with Zipline Live and many other goodies they will need to design and trade their systems.

Once you have your system, you can paper trade it and then use real money to put on live trades with Interactive Brokers.

Crucially, it enables proper debugging using a real IDE. They have included Wing, which I found invaluable when testing out the systems I had written.

The trouble with Quantconnect is that the debugger sucks. So did the debugger on Quantopian. It isn’t their fault, but what I want with a debugger is to scroll through every line of code to see exactly how the back tester works, and where my system is producing errors. And why.

And it makes life even tougher when logging is limited as it is on Quantconnect – perhaps to prevent you downloading free data. Perhaps simply to avoid overloading the servers. Although if you pay up, a subscription version has more generous logging capacity.

A proper debugger does all this for you. If you wish it will even take you deep inside Python and Pandas, the underlying code in which the back tester is written. And C# in the case of Lean – the Quantconnect algorithm.

Our Jared’s open source software (Lean) is downloadable for free and you can Wing it to you your heart’s content if you provide your own data and manage to get it up and running on your laptop. Same with Zipline. You will need to connect up to the IB API for live trading. A nightmare I would imagine.

But most will want the data side taken care of for them. And as for the terrors of the Interactive Broker’s API, few will dare to enter those dread waters.

Hot Chili Analytics takes care of this all for you. But you must pay for your own data – HCA is currently set up to run with price and fundamental data from Sharadar through Quandl. Currently HCA is set up for US equities only, and for daily data. In time they will migrate no doubt to finer granularity and other markets but for the time being that is what you get.

Easy to set up, it is simple to place your trades through IB (paper or otherwise). Currently HCA envisages that you place the trades by firing up your trading system each day rather than leaving it running 24/7. But the latter is possible, if that is what you want to do. The state will be preserved.

There is no free tier at HCA – difficult for a start up to provide. But it seems to me you get a lot of bang for your buck. And a free trial for a week is offered.

In the interest of full disclosure Alan and his brother were kind enough to offer me a small stake in HCA for my trouble. I am not sure that my meager skills qualify me for participation in anything so complex but it was a generous offer and one I am still pondering.

Take a look – it could be just what you are looking for.

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