The site was originally founded in 1997 by Mark Coker, at the time age 32, a long time individual investor. At the time, most public companies did not allow individual investors to listen in on their quarterly earnings conference calls. The problem, as Coker saw it, was that material information was being disclosed on these calls which could cause the price of the stock to fluctuate up or down. Since small investors were denied access, larger investors, such as mutual funds and institutions, could have a chance to profit from this information before the general public. This was selective disclosure, a problem that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would address in late 1998 when they proposed Regulation Fair Disclosure, which mandated that companies should disclose all material (i.e. market-moving) information at the same time to all investors.
Coker got the idea for BestCalls after he was denied access to a conference call from Legato Systems, a storage software company for which he owned 3,000 shares. The company said the call was only open to institutional investors. In 1996 and 1997, Coker tried in vain to convince Legato to allow him to listen to the call. As Coker viewed the issue, it shouldn't matter if an investor owned 1 share or 1 million shares, they were an owner of the company and had a right to attend the call. Frustrated by Legato's intransigence, Coker sold his shares, and used the profits (reportedly $120,000) to create an online service that would list the earnings conference call access information (phone numbers and webcast links) for the companies which did allow individual investors to access the calls. At the time, the most progressive companies were technology companies, such as Cisco Systems and NetApp.
Coker enlisted the help of his 22 year old brother Doug Coker, then an engineering student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to design the database backend for the site which would manage database listings and expirations.
The website launched with much fanfare on March 22, 1999. Using the website and its growing membership as a platform, Coker, a public relations professional by background, became a vocal advocate for fair disclosure reform, and launched what some now call the "Open conference call movement." The movement was an early catalyst for the SEC's Regulation Fair Disclosure, also called "Reg FD", which was proposed in late 1999 and implemented October 2000 .
In April 2003, BestCalls was acquired by Shareholder.com, a firm that provides shareholder communications technology to hundreds of publicly traded companies. In February 2005, Shareholder.com was acquired by the Nasdaq Stock Market. Nasdaq continues to operate the BestCalls.com service.
Mark Coker remained with his PR firm, Dovetail Public Relations, and Doug Coker ultimately became an employee of Google.