Opening Cross: Spare Some Change? Funding Isn’t About Charity; It’s About Strategy

This week, Max highlights one worthy recipient and two worthy seekers of expansion funding.

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The process of winning your heart and mind (and money) has become more sophisticated than only a few years ago. Before, cash-strapped charities employed representatives to hit the streets and sign up potential donors. Then agencies got in on the action, donning the T-shirt of a different charity every day, and pouncing on unsuspecting passers-by with questions such as “Do you care about kids living in poverty?” Of course I do, you reply—but too late! Once you engage, they’ve sucked you in, and before you know it, you’re signing over your bank account information. Of course, they don’t tell you that something like your first year of donations pay their commission before any money actually goes to the charity itself. Hence, these earned the name “charity mugger” or “chugger” for short.

Now, we’ve evolved to spot and avoid chuggers. So they’ve evolved too, shedding the branded shirts, and engaging you as a lost tourist would engage a local. Oh, sure, I can help you out, you say—and too late! They’ve got you again!

My point is, there are plenty of people out there seeking to separate you from your money, and willing to go to great lengths to do it. How do you know what’s worthwhile, and who’ll take you for a ride?

Fortunately, we have a couple of good examples in this week’s Inside Market Data that are deserving of your interest, and perhaps your investment. 

First, tech startup Privitar has recently attracted £3 million in funding to help grow its operations, including new funding from Illuminate Financial Management, the Fintech-focused venture capital firm started by former Icap exec Mark Beeston. Privitar helps address compliance issues around data privacy while also enabling users to mine and share data with other authorized internal users and third parties.

Next, UK-based KB Tech is seeking funding to expand to address data transparency and distribution opportunities presented by MiFID 2. You might recall the original version of its TDI suite, developed by CMS WebView, one of the early ticker plant vendors that was unfortunately hit by exchange demutualization and consolidation. In fact, co-founder David Briggs was a software engineer at CMS, while former CMS chief executive Bob Antell is now executive chairman at KB Tech. But to scale sufficiently to address MiFID 2, and to expand its asset class coverage, the vendor is now looking for a cash infusion.

Also looking to expand its asset class coverage is The Freedom Index Company, a not-for-profit provider of free and open indexes. But in the shorter term, The Freedom Index Co is seeking input from its clients—or “members,” as it calls them—to determine its next move: does it expand its international coverage, or provide more frequent and granular daily data that might make its index data more appealing to those that could contribute more to its operations, such as exchange-traded funds. Either move will cost money, but the vendor wants to determine which will create more support and deliver more “donations” long-term.

While it’s true that the market data and index industries aren’t charities—even The Freedom Index Co, which relies on donations, rather than traditional licensing fees—many say that data sources and index providers do the opposite, and raise fees to what the market will bear, rather than setting reasonable and sustainable levels. For example, exchanges reporting quarterly financial results over the past two weeks fell into two camps: those who grew their overall revenues, including data revenues, and those whose overall revenues struggled, but whose data revenues increased regardless. It seems data is often seen as an area where providers can raise fees to subsidize underperforming areas that rely on transaction-based revenues, regardless of whether an exchange’s market share justifies the fees.

If exchanges and indexes are setting their agenda around data, then why shouldn’t consumers who feel forced to pay whatever the key players demand do the same, avoiding the “chuggers” of market data and spending their money where they want? 

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