IN THE CENTER OF THE MARKETSPHERE GALAXY — Lane Mendelsohn has enjoyed playing God.
In three years, the 28-year-old Wesley Chapel resident created a whole planet for a community of people who love to make money. No, it's not the Ferengi, that profit-driven race of Star Trek lore.
It's for humans drawn to trading stocks, commodities and currencies.
Land on traderplanet.com and you'll find a place with a topography that includes Profit Peaks and Volume Valleys.
Here's how the site describes itself:
A popular destination for internet-galactic tourists, TraderPlanet's gravitational pull is several times that of Earth. Its strategic position in the Financial Universe between the Bull and Bear constellations makes it an ideal environment to breed successful traders on a collaborative quest for education to help themselves and others.
"It's kind of like a MySpace for traders," said Kristel Messer, 23, a recent graduate of Indiana University, registered user of TraderPlanet and a beginning trader.
"I've found one of the best things to do is to watch a stock and really research the history of stocks before you buy," she said, adding that she enjoys the practice trading feature the site offers.
It's the brainchild of Mendelsohn, whose father, Louis, was a trading software pioneer and is now president of Market Technologies, where Lane is the vice president.
But the younger Mendelsohn is adamant about his site not being an arm of Market Technologies or any brokerage firm.
"We wanted to be independent and unbiased," he said. "A lot of stuff out there is tainted. And we wanted to provide high-quality content."
Here's how it works: Registration is free for users, who may access any part of the site, including expert analysis, tutorials, quizzes, online seminars, e-mail and blog spots. Users also can post photos and profile information about hobbies, favorite books and movies and family.
Mendelsohn is selling ads to support the site, which is led by editor-in-chief Darrell Jobman, an editor at Futures magazine for more than 15 years.
"He's a legend," Mendelsohn said. "He has no ax to grind, no product to sell."
Since the site went active a couple of weeks ago, 500 people have signed up as users.
To some, an economic downturn might not seem like the best time to launch a site devoted to trading. But to Mendelsohn, a perpetual optimist, the timing couldn't be more perfect, especially as retirement programs such as Social Security and traditional pensions shrink or disappear for his generation.
"Now more than ever (users) need to become educated and can benefit from the edge TraderPlanet provides," he said.
It's not Mendelsohn's first foray into the cyberspace. Three years ago, he started TraderEducation.com with the same goals in mind. But that site lacked a real-time aspect, which Mendelsohn says is critical in today's economy. TraderPlanet is an upgrade. On the new site, users can exchange instant messages and get up-to-the-minute trading information.
One feature that Mendelsohn says is unique to his site is its support for charities.
Members can use the site's currency, called Mendels, to donate to charities such as the American Cancer Society. One Mendel is worth a penny. Members can accrue Mendels by buying them or by contributing material to the Web site. Mendels donated to charity are converted to real money by the site's operators.
"There's a lot of greed in this industry," said Mendelsohn, who, despite his family's wealth, drives a 1999 Ford Expedition. "We want to encourage members to be successful but also to give back."
Lisa Buie can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4604.