FIA Expo 2020: Overview of Innovator Pitches

Matt Raebel

Matt Raebel

Editor

Correction: TradeX does not hold customer data.

The Innovator’s Pavillion is one of the most intriguing parts of FIA Expo – a small, curated collection of starry-eyed startups aspiring to make their mark. On the first day of FIA’s virtual Expo-V conference, each of nine companies had the opportunity to give pre-recorded “demo day” style presentations to FIA Expo attendees before their “virtual booths” opened on Day 2. These presentations included Q&A rounds from judges.

Here are my initial takes for each presenter.

Bluewater Financial Technologies

Presenter: Alan Gureshi – Managing Partner

Bluewater Financial Technologies is a Minnesota-based fintech firm founded in 2018, and it is the only presenter this year dealing primarily in the Mortgage Servicing Rights (MSR) markets. 

Alan Gureshi, a managing partner at the company and the presenter for the company, said Bluewater wants to drive the MSR marketplace with its product, MSR-X, a trading platform that touts its ability to give tools formerly only available to sophisticated investors to smaller traders and firms, like individual investors and community banks. The platform is also designed to facilitate every step of the MSR trading process front to back; to this effect, it includes automated tools for buying, selling, and hedging. Gureshi also said that the company has “an advisor tech function” where they help banks and large mortgage companies hedge interest rate risk in the futures market; besides that, they have MSR-X, which Gureshi said has recently seen increased demand. 

Gureshi brought up the fact that recently the company has seen increased attention from investors and customers. He compared Bluewater’s early days to attending a party before guests show up; it’s not fun if you’re one of the only guests there, but once people start showing up – that’s when the party really starts.

Capitalise.ai

Presenter: Shahar Rabin – Co-Founder, CEO

Capitalise.ai, a digital trading platform, struck me as one of the more user experience-focused presenters. The main selling point is that traders with limited or no technical knowledge can automate their trading of equities, derivatives, FX, and anything else that can be traded by typing, in English, what they want to invest in and how, as well as how to react to changes in the market. As an example, Rabin said that you can set the platform to liquidate specific positions “if…someone gets elected, perhaps.” According to Rabin, the platform is designed to interpret plain English text input and apply specified trading algorithms to the portfolio belonging to the user of that text.

A lot of trading platforms talk about “democratizing” trading, but Capitalise is clearly trying really hard to make trading as accessible as possible to a wide number of people. Rabin said Capitalise is aimed mostly at retail investors “for now,” but that it could potentially have applications for larger institutions.

Disent

Presenter: Anthony Malizzio – CEO and Co-Founder

Capitalise.ai and Disent were similar in certain ways – both had quirky, innovative platforms to showcase that centered around user experience and data input. 

While Capitalise was all about making it as easy as possible to make the computer do exactly what you want it to do, Disent markets itself as a “digital whiteboard service” that enables its user to see all of their data on one screen. The company’s CEO, Anthony Malizzio, said that Disent is designed to allow users to punch equations or models they want to use into the “digital whiteboard” and have the calculations display “instantaneously” while displaying all other pertinent data in an easy to read visual interface. Malizzio said that the end goal is for the COO of a company to see all the data in one place so they can monitor changes in the market proactively rather than reactively.

OilX

Presenter: Florian Thaler – CEO and Co-Founder

OilX is a crude oil trading platform that the company’s CEO and Co-Founder Florian Thaler said is designed to apply tools used by hedge funds to the physical oil markets. Thaler said the platform is designed to be as automated as possible, taking the human element out of the process of synthesizing crude oil market data.  

OilX uses data from loads of sources – satellites, radar, ship tracking, OPEC reports – even reports from Twitter – to build a cohesive picture of the oil markets at any given moment. The platform is built to take all this data and normalize it, according to Thaler, to meet market standards. 

Options AI

Presenter: John Foley – CEO and Co-Founder

Options AI is a fintech brokerage designed to make options trading more accessible to retail traders (where have I heard that before?)

To the company’s CEO John Foley, democratizing options with zero commission trading is all well and good, but there’s more to making options trading more accessible than lowering the fiscal bar of entry. The platform uses AI to run a real-time expected move chart, which Foley says is the heart of the platform. 

The hook is that investors of all experience levels (it’s clearly aimed at less experienced traders) punch in their trading goals and  are shown multiple spreads that can potentially help them reach their goals, in plain english. Some of the technical details were hard to follow, but it seems like Options AI wants to take the “Autocomplete” function from your phone and apply it to options trading.

Riskfuel

Presenter: Ryan Ferguson – Founder, CEO

The beginning of the Riskfuel pitch presentation felt oddly in medias res compared to other presentations. There was no pomp or ceremony; Ryan Ferguson, the company’s founder and CEO, immediately dove into how his years of experience in the derivatives markets led him to start the company before talking about the product.

Riskfuel’s main hook is that it can generate derivatives valuation and risk sensitivity calculations quickly and with very low latency. It uses machine learning models and can be applied to existing platforms. Ferguson said it can accomplish this at relatively low cost – a claim that just about every presenter made as well. He also said that Riskfuel can be used to speed up models on existing platforms. 

WeMatch

Presenter: Joseph Seroussi – Co-CEO, Co-Founder

The WeMatch presentation was particularly interesting; if you combined chat platforms like Slack with a matching engine, you’d get WeMatch. Basically, it’s a web-based service that uses market analytics and negotiation protocols to let users negotiate product-specific details of a trade via WeMatch’s interface, which boils the experience down to making selections via buttons and drop-down menus. It’s designed specifically for the securities financing, OTC equity derivatives, exchange listed delta one and OTC cleared interest rates derivatives markets.

TradeX

Presenter: Drew Orsinger – CEO

When I began watching the TradeX pitch presentation, I kept expecting that Drew Orsinger, TradeX’s CEO, was going to say “blockchain” or “distributed ledger” at least once; his frequent use of the phrase “immutable ledger” when describing TradeX’s technology at first made it sound like one of the hundreds of blockchain demos I’ve seen after covering the space for nearly three years. Turns out my instincts were correct – TradeX is, in fact, built on a distributed ledger, according to its website. 

Orsinger said TradeX’s mission is to “revolutionize how financial firms receive, secure, and utilize market data.” Off the back of its distributed ledger (TradeX is currently based off of Amazon’s QLBB ledger), TradeX is designed to provide market data more securely than what is possible given current platforms. Orsinger said that data “has a culture of mistrust driven by onerous and costly audits, inefficient pricing, and lack of control, which leads to unhappy customers on all sides.” Orsinger said that TradeX encrypts data as it’s sent, as it’s received, and in-transit to make it as secure as possible. He said TradeX’s distributed ledger also allows data to be sent and received more cheaply and efficiently. Despite being based off an “immutable ledger,” according to Orsinger, TradeX does not hold data. “We don’t want to be a vendor of record, rather we want to be a third-party transaction partner for both sides of the market.”

Sylvera

Presenter: Allister Furey – CEO, Co-Founder

Sylvera is a digital trading platform designed for the carbon markets. Its CEO and Co-Founder, Allister Furey, opened with an overview of how climate change presents a unique opportunity. To reduce global temperatures, he said, there will be a robust carbon market, which means there will be a need for pricing infrastructure, secure and trustworthy data, and market transparency. “We bring transparency with data, we provide carbon accounting and audits…and we provide effective ratings for quality and risk that are forward-looking,” said Furey. “What this means for the market in the short term is lots of arbitrage opportunities where pricing is not reflecting quality accurately.” 

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