What it Means to Have Strategic Investors

In the world of company financing, investors are—at a high level—generally grouped into “financial investors” and “strategic investors.”

Financial investors are typically venture capital or private equity firms, or banks making loans to companies. These investors believe in the company value proposition, its product-market fit, its management team, and likely their own ability to help the company with advice and industry contacts that they may bring to the table. Their goal is strictly financial, meaning they are looking to sell the company or take it public, and thus cash out with a healthy return, typically in three to five years after their investment. 

Strategic investors, on the other hand, typically include the company’s customers and partners.  They typically believe the same things that a financial investor does about the prospects of the company and are also looking for eventual financial returns, but these investors frequently have more patience (i.e. will stay invested in the company longer than the three to five years typical of a purely financial investor) and, most notably, these investors also have a strategic interest in the company.

Because strategic investors are customers and partners of the firm, the firm’s very existence is of value to their own companies. Maybe the firm will help them gain internal efficiencies or give them better distribution for their own products. Maybe these investors believe the firm will bring about positive market evolution that aligns with their own company views and goals.  

Getting funding from strategic investors has many upsides: not only do these investors care about your firm in ways beyond the financial return they will get from it, but they bring the actual perspective of your customers and partners to the table, and potentially to your Board meetings.  This is extremely valuable. Our investors give us constructive early product feedback and help us explore a range of potential customer use cases. They can also help the firm directly by being customers providing revenue. They can share hands-on expertise with the firm.

At Crux, we count ourselves as fortunate to have all strategic investors. Venture capital and private equity firms bring tremendous value to firms beyond their capital, and many of them have stellar track records. But for getting Crux off the ground, we have found that having savvy strategic investors has been invaluable.

One challenge which comes with having strategic investors is that some customers may feel uneasy that these investors may compete with other customers. At Crux, we manage this challenge by treating all of our customers anonymously within our business.

Of course our Board needs to know how our business is progressing, and they want to see how our customer pipeline is growing, but we anonymize all our customer names so that even our Board members do not know who our actual customers and prospects are, and we never ever discuss specific use cases.

All of this aligns well with one of our key company values: discretion. It takes work to maintain discretion, but we feel it is well worth the effort and, in fact, critical for our business and for our customers.

How to See New Connections in Data

Spotlight: Ezgi Bereketli, Data Engineering Product Manager

Technical and open minded, Ezgi Bereketli applies quantitative and creative thinking to help build a product that delights data users. Her deep understanding of data analysis, statistics, and economics help her anticipate the challenges data users face and develop solutions to guide businesses into the future. We sat down with Ezgi to find out how data users can make new discoveries.


You studied Applied Mathematics at Harvard. What was that experience like?

It was great! I always knew I really enjoyed working with numbers and using all the tools of mathematics to solve problems. When I went to college, I had all sorts of ideas about many things that I wanted to be, and I realized that they all had the intersection point of being quantitative. So I decided that in college, the best thing I could do was to get that foundation strong and learn the toolkit with which you can apply mathematics to problem solving. I chose to study applied mathematics on economics (and did a secondary in French!)

I love that in schools like Harvard, [your major] is about one third of the classes you take. So in addition to studying applied math, I ended up taking classes in a lot of different fields. I think that in the end, a majority of what I studied in college, and what I still like learning about, is how to apply one field to other fields, and [make] connections that might in the first place appear not the most obvious, or the easiest to think of, but in the end, lead to good synergies. I think that’s how I found myself in the world of data as well.


How do you uncover and make new connections in your work at Crux?

The first aspect is as it relates to large market datasets that people have been using for such a long time in specific ways. However, it’s really costly and hard to work with these datasets, and that might limit the time and the ability of people getting insights from them to actually dive into that level of data. So when we help you skip the costly data wrangling steps, there might be much more you can learn from that data.

The second aspect is on the discovery of data. I see a lot of potential in small alternative datasets. These usually come unstructured, and not very productized. Productizing data most of the time means cleaning it, standardizing it, and making it a lot easier to access and use. So I think that’s where we can add a lot of value. All those alternative datasets can be extremely valuable once you can get to the point of being able to read them, read into them, and learn what they have to tell you.

I also try to understand connections between the needs of our clients. At Crux, we want to integrate the goals of data users and data suppliers into the requirements for our product. It might seem at times that all of our stakeholders have different needs, but being a product manager is about finding the connections.


What advice would you give to someone who would like to work in data, who would like to enter this field for the first time?

First of all, I would strongly encourage them to pursue it! I think data is an excellent place to be right now, and it’s going to be an ever-growing field because its applications are unlimited. It’s very industry- and application-agnostic. Every type of business and every type of industry will have more and more emphasis on data going forward. That’s closely related to how quickly the presence of data is expanding–the sheer volume of it.

As for how to get into data, that strong quantitative background and education is extremely helpful. If this happens in college or school, that’s great, but even if not, there is a lot that can strengthen this background. Learning to code, at least the basics, is also very important— especially learning query languages like SQL, because those will teach you how to communicate and work with data.

Finally, it’s about curiosity—having an open mind about what you can learn. It’s not about, “I’m going to analyze this dataset because I want it to prove my point.” It’s about approaching data with a really open mind: “I’m going to analyze this and see what it tells me.”

Approach data in new and interesting ways, both from an analysis point of view and from a data discovery point of view. Look at different datasets, which you might have thought to be at most tangentially relevant for your business. Having that curiosity goes a long way in making data useful.


Ezgi is passionate about building the best data engineering product to make data even more powerful, delightful, and useful. Most recently, she spent three years at YipitData as a team leader and a senior data product analyst. When not architecting data solutions, she can be found jetting around the world, attending all sorts of music/art activities, and (soul)cycling. She hails from Turkey, but has lived in various European cities.

Being a Learning Organization

We have a number of core company values which guide how we operate and how we see ourselves at Crux. One of these key values is to be a learning organization.

We are committed to becoming the hands-down best at what we do in the world, but we also acknowledge that we don’t know everything. We bridge these two beliefs by approaching each challenge as a learning opportunity for our organization. This means we believe it’s okay not to know a particular thing right now, but we believe it’s absolutely not okay to then fail to go learn that thing.

We are willing to experiment, in risk-managed ways, to try things out, and most importantly, to listen very carefully to what our customers, our partners, our investors, and the broader market are telling us (through their words and actions.) We analyze what we hear thoughtfully, and we incorporate our learnings explicitly and immediately into how we think and operate.

Succeeding at being a learning organization requires being open and curious, having the confidence to know that you can learn new things to get past challenges, being agile in how you react to new learnings, and being dedicated to the idea that ongoing learning is necessary to achieve excellence.

Welcome Exchange Data International to Crux!

Exchange Data Interrnational

We’re delighted to welcome Exchange Data International’s (EDI) comprehensive and complete reference and corporate action datasets to the Crux platform! Since 1994, EDI has been helping the global financial and investment community make informed decisions with securities reference data, corporate actions, and end-of-day pricing services.

Jonathan Bloch, CEO of EDI said: “We see the increasing importance of intermediary platforms which link consumers to manufacturers of data. Crux enables us to reach a market with which we normally do not interact, namely buy-side users of reference and corporate action data. We see Crux as facilitating a faster growth path for Exchange Data.”

Connect to EDI today or learn more here.

August Community Newsletter: How a Data Refinery Drives ROI

Philip Brittan, Crux CEOBuilding New  Partnerships: Hello from the CEO!

As the volume, velocity, and variety of data increase, firms face the challenge to find and use data without taking on its operational burdens. It’s a new-to-the-world problem—one that companies can only solve by building the right partnerships with each other.

Crux enables these partnerships. Our service helps data flow optimally between people.

Crux seamlessly connects people with the data sources they need. Our secure data pipelines validate and standardize data from any source, and deliver that data instantly to our growing network of clients. Connecting to Crux replaces the need for companies to build infrastructure to wrangle data. The right data, in the right formats, is already here, helping people move faster to insights.

Now our team is creating new connections and expanding the network of delightful data for our clients. We’ve built partnerships with three major market data suppliers, providing equity, pricing, fundamentals, fixed income, and corporate actions data. We’re also collaborating closely with leading suppliers of mortgage, risk, and geolocation data. These companies recognize the potential of a network to deliver data more rapidly and more valuably—with less burden placed on the individual.

Data is an infinitely abundant resource. It flows among us at unprecedented speed and brings the industry tremendous potential. Ultimately, the companies who unlock the true value of data will be those who find new and valuable ways to connect.


How a Data Refinery Drives ROI

Your firm needs a strong data strategy in order to generate ROI on the data you’re purchasing. By 2020, firms will spend more than $7 billion on alternative data sources, from geolocation data from mobile phones, to images from satellites and drones, to social media sentiment and news, according to a study by Opimas. Yet to translate data into competitive advantage, firms need to take the next step: finding an efficient way to integrate data, map data into optimal formats, and seamlessly distribute it to users.

Crux has built that next step for you. Our data refinery service extracts data from any source, cleans the data, applies standards to make the data easy to work with, and delivers the data instantly across your firm to the people who need it. The simplicity and ease of a data refinery removes the vast majority of data’s costs. Firms become free to create value from data, instead of wrestling with its quality and structure. A cloud model replaces the costs of big data warehouses and slow software systems, and frees up data for your teams to use more creatively, helping you make new discoveries.

We’re not surprised to learn that 60% of institutional investors plan to outsource data management over the next three years, according to State Street. With delightful data pipelines and deep data engineering talent, Crux is ready to refine your data and help you generate ROI.


Opportunities

    • Are you intellectually curious and looking to build the future of data infrastructure? Do you love solving complex problems and helping clients overcome data challenges? If so, let’s talk! The Crux team is growing and seeking highly skilled talent that believes data can be delightful. Check out our job postings here.
    • Are you a data supplier looking to reach more clients with your data? Our data supplier network is growing quickly! Crux has a diverse list of datasets ranging from stock quotes to corporate trends to transportation data and more. See our network and create your own profile.

Meet Us at these Upcoming Events


Insights from Industry Events

 

Citi’s Beyond the Basics Conference: May 22, Napa Valley, CA

Key Insight: Banks are shifting data to the cloud, applying streaming ETL tools, and integrating tech systems to help people collaborate. In 2018, CIOs understand that people need adaptable, personalized tech and will quickly move on if tools cannot deliver.

Eagle Alpha Alternative Data Showcase: May 31, Lowenstein Sandler, NYC

Key Insight: By Q4 2018 or Q1 2019, asset managers will embrace the benefits of alternative data. In 2017, more than 78% of U.S. hedge funds made alternative data part of their data strategy. Compare that figure to 52% in 2016. (Source: Quinlan and Associates.)

Fixed Income Leaders’ Summit: June 7, Westin Copley Place, Boston

Key Insight: To comply with the EU’s new MiFID II policy, fixed income traders need clarity into the lineage of their data. Fixed income leaders are seeking more efficient and transparent ways to source data, assess its quality, and use it for competitive advantage.

Battle of the Quants: June 20, Carnegie Hall, NYC

Key Insight: While demand for new, unstructured data sources is rising, traditional market data hasn’t lost its importance. Finding creative ways to combine market and alternative data can lead to more valuable discoveries.

BattleFin Discovery Day: June 20, The Intrepid, NYC

Key Insight: As more and more types of data become available and the data market becomes fragmented, firms across the industry are all trying to access data and get it into a useable form. “The next step for the industry” is a managed service for these common tasks, a “utility where everyone can share,” says our CEO Philip Brittan.

Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Technology Seminar: June 21, Goldman Sachs, NYC

Key Insight: To implement data across your organization, start with a strong data strategy. Every hedge fund needs to plan how to integrate data from multiple sources into a single point, how to map data according to a consistent set of standards, and how to distribute data to relevant users. A sound data strategy makes your fund more efficient, improves alignment among teams, and can drive profitability as well.

The Must-Have Qualities of a Platform Engineer

Spotlight: Jonathan Major, Head of Engineering and Operations

With nearly 20 years of experience in engineering and management, Jonathan Major leads platform engineering, data pipeline operations, and information security at Crux. He’s committed to mastering new technologies, building great teams, and partnering with customers to make their data delightful. We sat down with Jonathan to learn which qualities make a great engineer.

What qualities make a great platform engineer?

It’s the person who is inquisitive, who always has a learning mentality, and a builder mentality as well. Every day, I’m asking, “Have we got a process to X, Y, Z?” If not, then we build one. It’s constant learning. That’s what I like to see in engineers. Obviously, they also need to know what they’re doing—they need to be competent. We like smart, inquisitive, collaborative people.

How are you helping make data delightful for our clients?

Reliable. Robust. Secure. That’s my mantra. Coming in as one of the founding engineering members of Crux, I’ve seen this company grow. I’m learning all the time. I’m not scared to take on opportunities. I’m bringing to bear my almost 20 years of experience to make [Crux’s]  engineering and culture delightful. For our customers, it’s not only [about] their experience with the API or the UI. It’s also when I meet with them.

What’s an important lesson that you’ve learned from your experience in engineering?

Engineers have a tendency to build things as they want to use them, which can be wrong. So the lesson is to stay customer focused. It’s okay to ask questions. We want that questioning culture where people ask, “How do you feel about this?” That goes into having a context-driven engineering team.

It’s a partnership, so [it’s about] asking questions, learning from customers, and partnering with product management to really drive down to the ask. Engineers can create applications with unicorns and castles, but that’s not really what you want. The client wants a very efficient way to solve their problems.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

I’m family oriented. I’ve been married and have two kids who are nine and eleven, so we have a lot of family time–and travel. We just spent two weeks in Cape Cod and Montauk–that was great. Coming from Europe, I’ve got my parents coming over next week from Ireland.

My wife and I, living in the Bay Area, have got lots of opportunities to try new and interesting restaurants. So we do enjoy the local restaurant scene—although I don’t buy expensive avocado toast!


Jonathan still misses his Sinclair ZX81 computer—but these days, he puts up with engineering large-scale distributed systems. He loves “rubber ducking,” sprint planning, fixing bugs, and keeping up with new technologies. Jonathan has worked at financial firms such as IBM and Lotus in Ireland and has held leadership positions at Barclays Global Investors and BlackRock.

Charging Up Mountains

I like to think of getting projects done as ‘charging up mountains.  I appreciate the intense concerted effort and determination needed to do that, and I especially enjoy the unequivocal feeling of doneness when you reach the top of the mountain.  You know you are on top: it’s down in every direction from there (just have to be on the lookout for ‘false peaks though those are usually quickly found out when you look around a bit).

For this reason, inside Crux we refer to our Platform releases by names of American peaks that are at least 14,000 feet tall.  We are in the midst of slowly working our way up from the shortest of those (Sunshine Peak in Colorado) to the tallest. When we summit Denali, maybe we’ll do international peaks 🙂  

SafeGraph now on Crux!

We’re delighted to welcome SafeGraph’s geolocation data products to the Crux platform! SafeGraph is a geolocation data provider that maintains ground truth datasets for human movement, physical places, and visits to places of interest. Connect to SafeGraph or learn more here.

ETL → EVLS TTT

In the world of Data Engineering, the acronym “ETL” is standard short-hand for the process of ingesting data from some source, structuring it, and loading it into a database from which you’ll then use that data. ETL stands for “Extract” (ingest, such as picking up files from an FTP site or hitting a data vendor’s API), “Transform” (change the structure of the data into a form that is useful for you), and “Load” (store the transformed data into a database for your own use).

At Crux, where we are serving the needs of many clients, our approach is slightly different, designed both to gain the economies of scale that we can leverage as an industry utility, serving multiple clients across multiple sources of data, and to give individual clients the customized experience that they’d expect from a managed service to meet the needs of their specific use cases.

“EVLS TTT” stands for Extract, Validate, Load, Standardize, Transform, Transform, Transform… “Extract” here is the same as above (ingest data from its source). “Validate” means to check the data as it comes in to make sure that it is accurate and complete. If a data update fails any of the Validation tests we run on it, our Data Operators are notified and corrective action is taken immediately. Examples of validations include ensuring that an incoming data update matches the expected schema, ensuring the values in a column conform to expected min/max ranges (for example should numbers in this column always be positive), or making sure that enumerated types (such as Country) fall within the accepted set of values. Validations also test data coverage: does the date range in the update conform to what is expected? If the dataset is supposed to cover companies in the S&P 500, does it in fact cover all those companies, no more, no less? Validations also look for unlikely spikes and jumps in continuous data, identifying outliers for closer examination by our Data Operators.

“Load” is as above (store the data into a database). “Standardize” is a set of special Transformations that get the data into an industry-standard form that makes the data easy to understand, easy to join across multiple datasets from multiple vendors, easy to compare, etc. Examples of standardization include data shape (such as  unstacking data and storing it all as point-in-time), entity mappings (such as security identifiers), and data formats (such as using ISO datetimes). We do of course store the raw data exactly as it comes from the data supplier, which customers can access as easily as the cleaned/standardized version.

We leave a gap between the “S” and the “TTT…” because at that point the data has been loaded, checked, and put into a form that should suit the needs of most customers as is. We call this spot “the Plane of Standards”. The “TTT…” are any number of specific Transformations that are required by individual clients to suit their own use cases (mapping to an internal security master, joining several sets of data together, enriching data with in-house metadata, etc). Those Ts give clients the ability to have a customized experience when using Crux.

The goals of all this are to be able to gain economies of scale and mutualize the effort and cost of the commoditized parts of the process, making it cheaper and faster for everyone, while still giving clients the ability to get a bespoke output to serve their individual use cases. Crux does not license, sell, or re-sell any data itself: Data Suppliers license their products directly to customers, maintain direct relationships with those clients, and control who has access their data on the Crux platform. We work in partnership with Data Suppliers to help make their data delightful for our mutual clients.

Spring Community Newsletter – Creating Data Harmony

Hello from the CEOPhilip Brittan, Crux CEO

The Crux team has ramped up our rhythm, and our efforts are reverberating in the marketplace. As you may have heard, Citi invested $5 million in Crux earlier this year. This support from Citi affirms the resonance of our services for leading companies. Helping people work in harmony with data creates meaningful movement forward.

My musical metaphors here are intentional. An unknown fact about me: In addition to several decades working in finance and tech, I’ve learned a lot about business from many years of composing music.

A composer has to keep their vision clear in their head as they work, and make sure that each element they develop truly supports it. While building a rhythm that flows and uncovering the notes that resonate, a composer relates these technical processes back to the larger purpose of the work.

I founded Crux with a meaningful mission: to create harmony between people and data. Now my role is to make sure that every element of our business works in harmony to achieve that goal. Every day, I conduct our talent, skills, and resources to flow together towards our purpose. When I face a challenge, I remind myself how it fits into the big picture and consider how my decision today can affect our company’s core goal.

Crux can orchestrate your data supply chain to deliver more value to you. We help data flow in a way that enriches everyone. That’s music to our ears, and we hope to yours too.


Crux Insights Blog: Core Access Service

Data is an unlimited resource. It holds the potential to help companies move faster, investments produce rewards, and people make smarter decisions. If only data were easier to wrangle, your business could tap into that potential now.
Welcome to Crux, where your data is ready for action. Our Core Access service delivers your business clean, organized, normalized data instantly in the cloud. So you can say goodbye to hours of busy work in the back office, and hello to the work that creates value for your business.
How does the Core Access Service for data work? Crux’s experienced data engineering teams extract, validate, load, and standardize your datasets. Insight-ready data flows into your business, empowering your front-office teams and technology. No more need for your company to build, buy, or maintain costly data infrastructure. Just plug into Crux, and you’re ready for research, risk analysis, and trading.
Click here to sign up, and bring greater efficiency to your researchers, quants, and portfolio managers. Read on to find out more about the traditional and alternative datasets we can offer you through our single access platform and API:

Crux Community

Are you curious? Do you love solving complex problems and delivering white glove service to clients.  If so, let’s talk. The Crux team is growing and seeking highly skilled talent that believes data can be delightful. Check out our job postings here.

Have data to share? Our data supplier community is growing by leaps and bounds.  Our diverse datasets range from stock quotes to corporate trends to transportation data and more.  No data is irrelevant.  Check out our network and create a profile of your own.


Out and About

 

 

STONE POINT CAPITAL FINTECH SYMPOSIUM – April 5 | The Park Hyatt, NYC

 

 

 

BENZINGA GLOBAL FINTECH AWARDS – May 15-16 | New World Stages, NYC

 

 

MBA’S NATIONAL SECONDARY MARKET CONFERENCE & EXPO 2018 – May 20-23 | New York Marriott Marquis, NYC

 

 

 

DATADISRUPT – May 22-24 | Lerner Hall, NYC