Opening Cross: Fresh Season, Fresh Faces, Fresh Ideas

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Regular readers will know that I like to (over) use metaphors to make a point, and one old chestnut I return to again and again is Formula One racing. Though most often employed by myself and others to illustrate low-latency issues, the sport—which gets underway this weekend in Australia—has a variety of uses to entertain or polarize any audience. But the one I’m going to focus on is that the first race of this year’s season is as much a mixer for the new faces in the sport this year as it is a reunion for the old hands.

With race seats at the top teams sewn up well in advance, the fresh faces tend to be at the lower end of the grid, and include Britain’s Will Stevens and Spain’s Roberto Mehri both driving for the Marussia team, and Brazil’s Felipe Nasr at Sauber, alongside Marcus Ericsson (though Sauber may have a third fresh face in the form of former test driver Guido van der Garde, who took the team to court to enforce what he says is a contract to race for the team full-time this year). Finally, two of the new faces are nonetheless familiar: the Toro Rosso team has a completely new driver lineup yet with established pedigree—Max Verstappen, son of former Benetton F1 driver Jos Verstappen, and Carlos Sainz Jr., son of world rally champion Carlos Sainz. And these aren’t the only family legacies in F1: McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg are both following in the footsteps of their fathers—former Stewart GP driver Jan Magnussen and 1982 F1 champion Keke Rosberg, respectively.

Of course, while a racing legacy might help you get a seat in a team, it isn’t necessarily a guarantee of success. And no doubt some of the fresh-faced companies in this week’s IMD are well aware of this fact as they seek to elbow their way into competitive markets.

For example, Toronto-based startup exchange Aequitas NEO can be confident that its management team has previously launched successful exchange ventures—including Alpha Group, which was acquired by TMX Group. And while the management doubtless understands the competitive nature of the market it is entering in terms of winning trade flows and listings business from incumbent exchanges—including Alpha itself—they seem confident of the market’s potential to win at least a five percent market share, since this is the threshold at which Aequitas will begin charging fees for its market data, which will be distributed free of charge until it crosses that milestone.

Money.Net isn’t exactly a new face, but the low-cost vendor is certainly giving itself a facelift of sorts to compete with big-name terminal providers on functionality as well as cost, and in this case, connecting to Goldman Sachs-backed secure chat and messaging platform Symphony to boost its presence among messaging participants—something that chief executive Morgan Downey knows well, having joined the vendor last year from Bloomberg, whose ubiquitous messaging application was one of the drivers for Markit and Symphony creating their own competing platforms.

Meanwhile, the emergence of companies such as Orbital Insight continue to provide fresh faces delivering new sources of content and new ways of deriving and analyzing data—in this instance, by analyzing publicly-available satellite imagery to derive estimates for store sales, crop yields, and construction projects, and delivering results in the form of numbers that traders and analysts can confidently use to support investment decisions.

And in a shameless but short plug for the events side of our business, we hope to see a good mix of old hands and fresh faces at our North American Financial Information Summit on May 20 in New York, both in terms of speakers and attendees. Entry for individuals from qualifying end-user firms is free, so if you haven’t yet booked the day in your diary, please consider this a save-the-date reminder. Either way, we hope to see as many of you there as possible, and to hear your fresh ideas about tackling old and new market data issues.

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