Please tell us about your background and the career path that has brought you to your present position.
I started my career in a banking program, which after a few months I found too slow pace for me and not fulfilling. An opportunity came up at the Chicago Board of Trade and I jumped on it. I landed a job there working for the exchange in market data. It was just before Y2K and everyone was nervous regarding the millennium bug and any impact it might have on the exchange’s systems. Nothing happened. It was also the dawn of electronic trading for the CBOT, and our crosstown competitor the CME soon went public in 2002, making for some exciting times, with plenty of opportunity and activity. At an exchange, you get to work with a lot of clients, partners and vendors, so it’s a productive environment to establish a strong professional network. I worked with over 100 market data vendors, plus hundreds of brokers, banks, hedge funds and trading firms, so I had to learn about all of these companies and I also established a great network of contacts throughout the industry. At the same time, I knew I eventually wanted to work somewhere where I can really help grow a business, something more entrepreneurial, and after a short stint at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, helping them establish their futures exchange, I joined Barchart, when we had around 15 people.
Tell us about Barchart.
People are surprised by how much data we provide and the quantity of products we offer. Some people know us as www.barchart.com and think we are just a website. Well, our website is one part, and it is a large part, as that is where we started, in 1995, with www.barchart.com. Although our original roots go back to the early 1980s, when Davidson Lowdon started Logical Systems which turned into Barchart. So Barchart.com was one of the very first websites to bring futures market data and related tools online. The site has grown into one of the largest public websites for financial market data, charts, technical analysis, and news, as well as one of the largest for futures market data. The site is key to our business and has helped us grow a thriving B2B division. Once we brought futures market data online in the 1990s, we had other firms coming to us, like exchanges, brokers and media asking us to do the same thing for their websites. That established our website content business, essentially providing solutions to integrate market data content and tools into third-party websites in a seamless, yet hosted manner. From there we segwayed into sourcing real-time exchange data feeds directly, as our vendor sources not only had quality issues, but also licensing restrictions. With direct feed access, we built our data feed format named Digital Data Feed (DDF) and began providing firms with real-time, delayed, end of day and historical data feeds. That was the early 2000s and we’ve steadily built our market coverage, and we are about to release a new, modern data feed specification, named OpenFeed, to replace DDF. At the same time, we are releasing a new Barchart.com. The new version is a complete rewrite and redesign, completely responsive as well and it will support future content and financial tools growth. With our heritage in commodities, we also have a thriving agricultural technology business unit that provides solutions to firms involved in the grain markets, like corn and soybeans. This unit, AgriCharts, essentially manages spot market pricing for 1,000s of grain buying locations across the US and Canada, as well as provides price distribution services, web content, management and hosting, and real-time trading software to grain traders.
What is your current business focus?
Over the past 2 years a lot of focus has been on our API business, as well as mobile solutions. Our Barchart OnDemand API business is doing well, serving both B2B audiences who want to migrate to web services based APIs from the cloud, as well as individuals who want API access, whether they are developers, quants or just learning to work with APIs. On the mobile front, both our core Barchart.com website has a mobile version, both iOS and Android, and the new Barchart.com will be completely responsive as well. Our real-time trading platform, Barchart Trader, has a phone and tablet app, and our AgriCharts unit has an app named AgMobile, which is for farmers and recently won a first place award from the Association of Agricultural Editors. We are also building semi-custom apps for agribusinesses through our AgriCharts division. The two other major initiatives include our new data feed format, OpenFeed and a retail/farmer facing product named Grains.com, which connects farmers to grain buyers in an online marketplace.
What are your current strategies for delivering market data to your clients?
Well, in many ways, any way they want it. Starting with the connection, whether it is internet based, leased line or a cross connect, we can support any mode of transportation. We can then deliver streaming feeds using TCP, UDP or WebSockets, query based or on demand feeds using HTTP or files using FTP. Our streaming data is available raw in multiple APIs like .NET or Java, while our web services APIs support XML, JSON and CSV format. We also package market data and related information and tools into what we call hosted website solutions for third-party websites. Essentially, we design, host and maintain control over this type of content that is seamlessly integrated into a third-party website. And, users can of course access our market data from our software and apps.
Who are your target clients?
Of course, any financial firm needing market data or trading software, but also media and a wide variety of commodity related firms. Once you open up the commodities category you have many sectors including grains, livestock, coffee, cotton, sugar, crude oil, natural gas, ethanol, electricity, gold, silver, copper, and many more areas. All of these sectors have trading firms, brokers, producers, processors, media and software firms. We serve all of them.
Where do you see Barchart in the next 5 years?
We want to continue to grow as a leader in market data and trading technology. In order to accomplish this we need to continue to provide superior technology, products and client support. Of course quality and reliability go hand in hand with this. We also need to continue to add new content and market coverage to both grow with our existing clients’ needs and to open up new relationships. We have big plans for our retail services as well, this includes Barchart.com, Grains.com and our APIs for individuals. Our plans are focused around providing robust platforms that are content and feature rich, plus very well designed, and are either free, thus supported by some type of advertising, or priced right.