- Data firm Thinknum saw mentions of GameStop start spiking on Reddit days before the stock started rallying again, co-founder Justin Zhen told CNBC.
- "The volume today has been insane, but we see a huge spike in advance of the run-up of the stock yesterday," Zhen said.
- Thinknum launched its Reddit-focused dataset after January's GameStop frenzy.
Mentions of GameStop increased on Reddit days before shares of the video-game retailer took off again, according to Justin Zhen, co-founder of Thinknum, a tech firm that compiles alternative data sets for investors.
"In the last 24 hours, we saw the number of occurrences of mentions for GameStop spike. It actually started spiking about four days ago," Zhen said in an interview Thursday on CNBC's "The Exchange."
"The volume today has been insane, but we see a huge spike in advance of the run-up of the stock yesterday," he said.
Zhen was referencing Wednesday's major late-day gain in GameStop shares, which ultimately closed higher by more than 100%. The stock rallied further during Thursday's volatile session and was halted multiple times. It ended up closing Thursday at $108.73 per share, up 18.6%. It had reached as high as $184.68 intraday.
The sudden surge followed news Tuesday that the company's chief financial officer, Jim Bell, plans to resign in late March. Media reports suggested the departure could be linked to board member Ryan Cohen's desire to see GameStop accelerate its digital transformation.
The stock's big two-day move puzzled some on Wall Street, and CNBC's Jim Cramer contended earlier Thursday that a CFO shakeup is unlikely to be a catalyst for such a significant rally. Whatever the cause, the GameStop resurgence calls to mind the Reddit-sparked trading mania that first engulfed the stock in January, when it soared to $483 per share.
"What happened with GameStop when it went to $480 was one of the dumbest, most nonsensical things that I've seen in quite some time. This is the second dumbest," Loop Capital Markets analyst Anthony Chukumba said Thursday on CNBC's "Power Lunch." He recently dropped his GameStop coverage, citing its disconnection from fundamentals.
"I'm gobsmacked now, just as I was a few weeks ago," Chukumba added.
The late January surge in GameStop put financial pressure on hedge funds and other investors who shorted the stock, which is essentially a bet that it will decrease in price.
The saga has in some ways served as a wake-up call for the hedge fund industry, according to Gabe Plotkin, founder of Melvin Capital. Plotkin's fund got caught on the wrong end of the GameStop trade January.
Going forward, Plotkin told Congress earlier this month that he expects funds, including his own, to more closely monitor social media sites now that the power of forums like Reddit's WallStreetBets have been demonstrated.
"I think they saw an opportunity to drive the price of a stock higher and today with social media and other memes, there's the ability to collectively do so," he said. "That was a risk factor that, up until recently, we had never seen."
Zhen co-founded Thinknum in 2014, according to his LinkedIn, but the company's Reddit-specific dataset went live in late January as the GameStop frenzy was unfolding.
According to a blog post on Thinknum's website, the dataset "tracks the number of times NYSE and NASDAQ tickers are mentioned in the top 100 posts on r/WallStreetBets and r/Stocks in real time."
In Thursday's CNBC interview, Zhen stressed that Thinknum does not claim for its online datasets to be predictive of stocks poised to rally.
"We provide a service where investors can track when the number of mentions on Reddit for any particular stock is increasing. We don't interpret or analyze the data. We don't claim the stock will go up," said Zhen, who used to work at a hedge fund.
"But what we are saying is that there's a lot of chatter around the stock today ... and if you're an investor, you need to pay attention," he said.
In addition to the recently launched Reddit offering, Zhen said Thinknum has about 30 other datasets, such as those focused on product pricing and where companies are opening stores. "Reddit is one oversized sample recently but there are many other data trails that good investors pay attention to," Zhen said.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said in January that it was reviewing the GameStop saga. When asked by CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin asked whether Thinknum has been contacted by the SEC, Zhen said: "We have gotten many inquiries from government bodies, which I can't comment on specifically."
Thinknum also has seen increased interest from investors and corporations, Zhen said. "The interest has been substantial. It's the most I've seen in six years doing this."