Digital: Disrupted: Leave Data Infrastructure Management Behind with Application Backends
March 17, 2023
In this week’s episode, Paul is joined by Liz Grausam for a conversation around the data procurement challenge. Liz shares insights around her current work with IEX Cloud and gives advice for businesses to consider when selecting and deploying application backends as more companies look to automate data infrastructure processes for developers.
Digital: Disrupted is a weekly podcast sponsored by Rocket Software, in which Paul Muller dives into the unique angles of digital transformation — the human side, the industry specifics, the pros and cons, and the unknown future. Paul asks tech/business experts today’s biggest questions, from “how do you go from disrupted to disruptor?” to “how does this matter to humanity?” Subscribe to gain foresight into what’s coming and insight for how to navigate it.
About This Week's Guest:
Liz Grausam is the head of IEX Cloud, a business within IEX that is giving startups and emerging FinTechs the edge they need in today’s market. She joined IEX Cloud in September 2021 and is responsible for building and operationalizing the company’s strategy. Follow Liz and Rocket Software on LinkedIn.
Paul Muller: When it comes to books about business, one of my favorite authors has to be Michael Lewis. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. Two of his best known books, specifically Moneyball and The Big Short, have both managed to cross the barrier from business to Hollywood, having been made into successful movies. However, it’s a lesser-known book, Flash Boys, that has a connection to today's guest. Flash Boys, for those of you who haven't read it, describes the wave of disruption that swept through Wall Street when high performance computing collided with real-time stock market data. And the data's a really important connection here that creates what we now know as the high frequency trading industry. And it's created a whole raft of new technologies and continues to really push a whole bunch of new technologies that help us process data at scale. And it underpins so much of today's modern web and the apps that we build on it.
Well, those same platforms took probably, I'm going to guess, millions of dollars and hundreds, if not thousands of the brightest minds to build and maintain. Today, we look at how businesses can get the benefits of speed to market and the scalability that brings without all the time, cost, and risk associated with building your own platform. Before we jump into today's guest, I'd love it if you could do me two favors. I've mentioned this before. First, if you do like what you're hearing and you're a regular listener, please do give us a thumbs up on whichever podcast player you happen to be listening on, or even better still leave us a review. It makes a massive difference to the show. And second, please check out the website of today's sponsor, Rocket Software at rocketsoftware.com to see why over 10 million IT professionals rely on Rocket Software every day to run their most critical business applications, processes, and data. With that, welcome to the show. I'm your host, Paul Muller. Welcome to Digital: Disrupted. Our guest today is Liz Grausam, who's the head of IEX Cloud, a business within IEX that is giving developers and, in particular, the FinTech startup world crazy fast agility and scalability when it comes to building apps. Welcome to the show, Liz.
Liz Grausam: Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.
PM: We're excited to have you. I'm excited to learn a little bit more about this connection to Flash Boys in a minute. But before we do that, we have a little thing we do before we get into the meat of each show that we like to call the lightning round to get to know our guests a little bit better. Are you prepared to play?
LG: I'm ready. Let's go.
PM: All right. First question that everyone gets is what would people say is your superpower, Liz?
LG: I suppose I would say it's an unrelenting curiosity. I have a penchant for asking a lot of questions. Perhaps to an annoying degree for some, but I really do love to gather information, dig deep on topics constantly trying to learn and learn new spaces. My career has kind of shown that over time, I've pivoted a lot into different categories, but yeah, I think my kryptonite is boredom and I try to solve that by learning.
PM: I love it. The most disruptive technology of all time?
LG: Probably what a lot of people say. But for me, the internet. I didn't have access to the internet before going to college, my first experience online was my first day at university, but I didn't have a cell phone until I graduated from college., My life has been compartmentalized into kind of an analog youth and increasingly digital adulting. But it was very profound changes in the way you connect with people, the way you communicate with your family, with friends, business. I just think of how different my business life is—my ability to work is different than my parents’. The pandemic certainly put a spotlight on just how transformative the internet can be in creating opportunities. So that to me is, and I spent a lot of time in the telecom industry and telecommunications technology. So that is something very profound and close to my heart.
PM: Clearly. All right, well next question. The best quality a leader can have?
LG: I think the best leaders actively build trust as a key objective in the way they lead. I'm a big fan of Frances Frei and Anne Morriss who publish a lot on trust. Frances is a professor at Harvard Business School, Anne is her wife and co-author on several books. And they spend a lot of time talking about trust. Frances has a wonderful Ted talk on the three pillars of trust being authenticity, logic, and empathy, and practicing those together as how you actively build trust and human connection. They describe everybody kind of has a wobble in the trust category. And I love that language of having a wobble, right?
PM: Yeah, I thought you were referring to my stomach and the consequences of too many donuts, actually. So I got shocked there.
LG: But people have wobbly bits, right? But you can work on them. And there’s this concept that trust can be actively built and managed and that you have components in how you build trust that you may not be great at, but you can work at them. But I think it’s very meaningful to me as a leader, and or leaders that I've really believed in historically, are those that have actively built trust with me.
PM: One of the things I love about doing this show, and one of the founding principles behind it was to bring some people valuable information, even if it's just a nugget out of the sort of 30, 45 minutes people spend with us every week. And I just literally wrote that down. So thank you for sharing that. I'm going to go and look into Frances and what was the name of the other person?
LG: Anne Morriss,
PM: Anne's work. That sounds fascinating. Alright, with that, you've been in this for a little while by the sounds of things, your advice to people starting their careers?
LG: Getting back to my nerdy learning tendencies, I would say get on the steepest learning curve you can handle at any given time. Your life only gets more complex as you age. You age, children, parents, age, and life gets more complicated. So try to lean in as much as possible early in your career to learn as much as you can. Learning has compound interest that pays over the course of a career more than early compensation wins. I think early learning wins give you the best platform for long-term success.
PM: Supplemental question then, how do you work out how much you can handle? And what is the game plan for when you realize you're in too deep?
LG: Yeah, I think the world is becoming more forgiving and cognizant of mental health and checking in with yourself and making sure that you're not burning out, but that you're pacing and enjoying work. I think constantly checking in that you have some balance in life that work isn't taking over your life. I think most importantly, are you having fun? Do you enjoy the work? Is the learning actually giving you something that makes you get up in the morning and say, I want to go conquer another day.
PM: Great advice.
LG: Just check in with yourself frequently.
PM: Yeah, I appreciate that. Thank you. All right. Second to last, the first thought that comes to mind when you think about data?
LG: It's fussy. I have three kids. So fussy is a word that you think of as a word to describe a toddler.
PM: At least it's not wobbly.
LG: Sometimes it can be wobbly, but hopefully not. Data is messy and fussy and needs constant attention. And you want to think of data as neat and compartmentalized and it's in tables and rows and columns and it's neat and tidy, but it's not. It needs constant maintenance. So I think of data as, you want it to be simple, but it never is. I think of it as a fussy toddler at times.
PM: Again, wonderfully thoughtful answer. I'm keeping that one. Last question for the lightning round, but not for the show. If you could use technology to solve one world problem, what would it be and why?
LG: I think the pandemic has opened a lot of our eyes to what's possible with technology and rapid innovation. But I would say the eradication of preventable disease and starvation, there's a lot that we can do. It's really within reach and doesn't require huge leaps of faith. One of my friends from college runs Malaria No More, with a core goal of eradicating malaria. And I think that's such an amazing thing to dedicate your life to because it is within reach and we can do it. And so I think a focus on eradication of disease.
PM: Noble cause. Let's talk a bit now about what you do today. Thank you for the lightning round, that was brilliant. First question, before we talk about IEX and IEX cloud, how does the Harvard grad, physics grad I should say, wind up leading a serverless cloud platform business? How did you get to where you are?
LG: I mean, why not? What else am I going to do? I mentioned it. I've kind of skipped around in my career, but I started fresh with a physics degree as one does. Started out in finance and worked on Wall Street for just shy of a decade. I was an equity analyst, most of it at Goldman Sachs, covering the tech sector. So I was fascinated, as I said, the emergence of mobile technologies, the introduction of packet switch networks. Everything that was happening in the telecommunication space really captured me over the course of several courses I took in university. It's where I focused in research initially out of the gates. So, I kind of just caught technology. I graduated in 1999, caught technology right at the height of the hype. But it was an incredible learning to me too, to see how the markets were so overheated and overvalued in certain ways. But there was still such incredible innovation happening in the market, really changing the way we all do business now, the way we buy things, the way commerce works. So I really got captivated early on in my career at just seeing how much technology changes industries. Then I went to Amdocs, which was a company that I had the privilege of covering at Goldman for my eight years there.
PM: A company that not many people have necessarily heard of, but have probably used the output of their software on a daily basis. Cause they pretty much have almost complete market dominance in the telecom segment, don't they?
LG: Yeah, if you've received a telecommunications bill in your lifetime, it probably came from Amdocs. And if you just have spoken to a customer service rep somewhere, they're probably looking at a CRM screen supported by Amdocs. It's a really dynamic company when they started in the Yellow Pages business, the publishing systems for the Yellow Pages, and turned that into really an 800 pound gorilla in telecom billing and have dominated that space for the last 30 years. And it was an incredible opportunity to work with a really dynamic, super intelligent management team in a niche space, but a big niche space. And I was able to manage investor relations for them as well as corporate strategy. And in the corporate strategy position, working with our CEO, we also engaged Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School while I was there. He ended up sitting on the Amdoc board for a while and that was just an incredible experience to be able to work with him. What's the name of the show? Digital? Does it have disrupted in it? It's probably—
LG: Exactly. It only comes from a theory of disruption.
PM: Disruption. Yeah, I'm blown away. Wow.
LG: And Clayton was just an incredible human being and an incredible thinker. And having just partial access to his brain to think about market disruption and what was happening at that time with the hyperscalers entering the market and challenging the telcos in new ways was just fascinating work to be a part of. I spent a lot of time thinking about the video industry as we saw streaming services start to come in and dominate for really changing relationships with the cable companies as well as the telcos who are all entering the TV space. So it was a really fascinating time in my career to lean in and learn. I felt like I was constantly slurping in information and then learning these frameworks from leading thinkers to be able to put that information into some semblance of a strategy.
I left Amdocs when I was pregnant with my third child and commuting to Israel every six weeks was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. It was hard to leave Amdocs, such an incredible company. And I moved to the Lerman group with GLG, which is an expert network here in New York City. And I led the corporate markets business for them, by the time I started I was leading their tech practice, so selling their services into technology companies. Traditionally GLG had sold its services into financial services and consulting companies and then took on the life sciences and industrial sectors as well. There I got to peer into two totally new market segments. Life sciences was totally foreign for me. And seeing how researchers performed across different industries and the striking similarities in product development across industries, very different time horizons and very different research methods that are exploited in different industries. But it was fascinating to run that business and see how different companies learn, see how they're organized, how they're organized to learn, even and see how information gets disseminated across Fortune 500 companies is just really, really fascinating.
PM: I could literally do a whole show about that topic alone.
LG: So, it's again, such a fun job and the ability to just learn from incredible brands, incredible companies. And then I joined IEX about a year and a half ago. Our CFO also worked at GLG with me. He tapped me on the shoulder and here I am. And at IEX I've been lucky to lead the cloud team, doing a bit of work with the leadership team overall and kind of corporate strategy here too.
PM: Yeah. Let's talk about, I mean an amazing career and it's great to hear women leaders in tech blaze such an incredible trail. I'm very curious about IEX, I was surprised to learn about the connection to the Flash Boys conversation. Something I think I'd read probably, I might have even read the book years ago, and completely slipped my mind and then saw when you were coming up as a guest, I was like, oh wow, this is amazing. So tell us a little bit about IEX and maybe the connection to Michael Lewis and the story and let's talk about IEX Cloud after that.
LG: Sure. What compelled me so much in meeting the leadership team at IEX, three of the founders of the company, Brad Katsuyama the CEO, Ronan Ryan our president of the Exchange, and Rob Park, the group CTO at the company is how committed they are to the cause, right? And their commitment to fixing a problem that they observed as customers. They're sitting in RBC and trading positions, and they can't understand how the market is behaving the way that it's behaving and they set out to solve it. So, these are really committed human beings who found a problem in an industry and against all odds, right? I mean this is definitely the story in Flash Boys, against all odds, decided to set out and solve it. And I think almost every successful founder story has some thread of that. You're a customer, you have a problem, it irks you enough that you set out to solve it, and you can still feel it in the culture of the firm. And it's this founder's mentality of serving the needs of the individual investor and putting their needs ahead of others in the market. So yeah, Flash Boys is an incredible story. Michael Lewis, I mean he, I think somebody said he could read the phone book and I'd read it.
PM: He definitely has a way with words.
LG: And I read the story, I read the book before joining the company and before meeting the management team. I read it in a day and a half and it was just a page turner like most of Michael's books. It's the humanity and the personalities that really jumped out of the page and just how committed the team was here to solve a problem.
PM: Not to oversimplify it because there's a number of different things that were going on at the time, some of which relate directly to the mission of IEX Cloud if I understand it correctly. But we're talking literally here about the notion that if you can shave milliseconds off the delay between data being created somewhere and it being useful to a person to make business decisions, in this case largely about buying and selling stocks or equities. But if you could shave a couple milliseconds off, that was worth considerable advantage and therefore potentially money to people. Have I got that roughly right?
LG: Yes. And our exchange doesn't allow that to happen. They built a speed bump. I mean the physicist right from my college days read the book. And the solution to the problem is to slow down.
PM: Make it equitable for everybody.
LG: Make it equitable.
PM: But to do that, of course you've got to be able to ingest vast quantities of data, manage it all in a coherent way. I mean, there's a whole bunch, as I said, the engineering problem is non-trivial, what is essentially then the mission of IEX Cloud and how does that differ from the core mission of the business?
LG: So IEX Cloud was founded in 2019 by Josh Blackburn, who is our C T O on the team still. And he was building a lot of internal applications for the exchange for the management team to be able to visualize data. He's lead designer on the exchange team and he ran into a bunch of challenges in building data visualization tools for the company. Procuring data was a nightmare, very hard to buy data, negotiations with vendors predatory pricing. It's just a very difficult process to acquire high quality data. And then secondary challenges after that are ingesting the data, making use of the data, normalizing data. Different vendors have different systems that are generally proprietary that make it difficult to interoperate data and then deliver.
PM: Yeah, it's fussy, as you said.
LG: It's very fussy and sometimes intentionally fussy. People insert a little bit of friction into the process. And so the exchange had been offering its data through an API, just customers. And Josh wanted to commercialize that business in a more meaningful way and start offering market data and other financial data, fundamental data, and other data sets to the developer community to help them build front end applications that could use financial data, procure financial data easily, and then work with financial data in a much simpler fashion. So IEX Cloud was born initially really to solve that procurement challenge. How can a developer get access to financial data to build the next stock screener, portfolio management platform, risk management platform, whatever the case may be, and have easy access to data. And in the last year we've launched Apperate, which is kind of exposing our backend systems that we've used over the course of the last four years to ingest data, normalize data, and then deliver that data back out performantly exposing those backend services to our customers in a product. So they're able to not only work with the data we provide through our subscription services, but also ingest any other data that they need to work with so they can have one platform in which they work with their financial data.
PM: And the Apperate product is certainly, I've looked at some of the architecture online in preparation for the show at the risk of getting overly geeky. But it looks like, and I recommend that our listeners check it out, it looks to me as though a set of services that I could use to start to build my own applications in what looks to be quite a highly dynamic and integrated way. I suppose you've got a bunch of services there that I can string together to create an application that's very data-centric, very quickly, did I get that roughly right?
LG: Yes. And really focused on real-time data, that streaming real-time data is a very challenging task and market data in particular, which we do provide services both data services and the surrounding infrastructure services to deliver. But expectations have changed for whether you are business users or consumers that applications are real-time in nature. Uber, you're not going to wait for 20 minutes for them to find a car, right? So, you think about the real-time performance of applications, how they need to respond to what users are doing in the moment they need to respond to changes in events that are happening, whether it's the weather or the stock market or whatever. It may be very focused on helping applications that have real-time data requirements and the requisite backend to support that.
PM: And I suppose just to dig in on that a little, when we talk about real-time, there's real time, and I suppose there's real time. I always think about the advertising market, the digital advertising market where somebody types in a search term and in real time the query is shouted out there to the interwebs, to all of the various properties that might want to sell ad space. There's a bidding war that happens and the final page is rendered back to you and we're talking tens, hundreds of milliseconds for all of that to take place. Is that the sort of pace that IEX cloud is designed to operate at? Or is the timeframe a little more leisurely than that?
LG: It's at web services scale. So really meant to deliver those real-time web experiences that you just described in the context of search or AdTech, not ultra ultra-low latency. It's on the cloud, so there's latency associated with any cloud service, but it really, at the core, Josh took the learnings from building the exchange and the requirements of event processing associated with learning and exchange. Now that's all on on-prem technology and low latency obviously, but taking those learnings and how to port that into a cloud service to serve a much broader web developer community.
PM: And it's probably just worth emphasizing for our listeners when we start to talk about ultra-low latency, we're talking about physicists who worry about the time of flight of a photon. It's a very, very different idea of low latency, isn't it? So let's talk a bit about the challenges that businesses are facing with this stuff, because as I've seen it, there seems to be just this huge array of services that I can build applications on these days. It's almost confusing, I would argue, but there seems to be a lot of effort to try and create these sorts of serverless platforms, whether it's in on Azure or whether it's Amazon's Lambda or any number of other different platforms. What are some of the challenges you think businesses are facing in both trying to select one and then deploy it? Particularly in areas where they're trying to deal with a lot of real-time data?
LG: The biggest challenge I see is the integration of all the services together to get an end-to-end data platform built. This is not historically my area of expertise. So, I spent a lot of time learning about it as I noted at the top of the hour, and it's dizzying. I mean what you just said at look at the services offered by the three hyperscalers, Azure and AWS and Google Cloud. And its mind blowing to see their catalogs, the number of startups that have emerged in the data space. I mean, look at Andreessen Horowitz's picture of the modern data stack or whatever nomenclature they use for it. And it's peppered with logos all over, solving parts of the daisy chain of data infrastructure. I think we see rising in prominence as a lot of these cloud solutions have emerged over the course of the last decade. And this is really pushed forward by databases moving into the cloud over the course of the last decade, is the need for integrated platforms, the need for solutions that solve kind of an end-to-end producers of data to consumers of data and solve everything in between.
Because the integration problem is very time consuming. It requires very specific subject matter expertise in your engineering team, data engineering skills, very strong backend skills that aren't always present on teams. And it just takes time, so much time to integrate multiple products and tune them to be able to deliver against your use case. So, we're seeing increasingly more and more integrated data platforms coming to market. Apperate is trying to solve a specific problem for application developers, building real-time apps and working with real-time data, and particularly those in financial services. They're integrated data products because it just takes so much time to pull it together. Mean when Josh was building, I thought of the early team that we went through three database providers in two years, and we have to keep migrating our entire, all of our data catalog from one database provider to the next database provider as we were looking for performance attributes to meet the rising needs of the business as the user base grows. So just think about the load that place is on a small team, building a product, trying to build partnerships, trying to go to market, and you're doing database migration after database migration. It's really a challenging process.
PM: Yeah, I mean you're talking about you know, you went through three legacy problems in the space of 18 months, which is most people's deployment period. And I think that's one of the things, at least in my mind, one of the hidden gotchas of cloud. Everyone talks about the idea that, oh, if I move to cloud, I can kind of hollow out my IT team because then it's just all about gluing building blocks together and I won't need operations people, et cetera, et cetera. But I like to sort of remind people that Adrian Cockcroft, of course famously at Netflix when he built, moved everything largely off-prem into Amazon, had probably some of the best engineers on the planet working for them, trying to work out how to keep this thing working. And if I understand it correctly, what you're doing at IEX Cloud is saying, look, we've done a lot of the heavy lifting and you continue to do a lot of the heavy lifting on creating that integrated framework so that you can focus on building the apps, not on trying to maintain the infrastructure that you're building your apps on.
LG: Precisely. Our goal in life is to allow developers to move more quickly and not have to build the backend and so much focus and time and attention on the backend services to deliver real-time data and focus on what they were likely hired to do, which is build an incredible product for their end users. And so our focus, I look at our development team and it's the first time I've managed engineers directly in my career. And the one thing you want to do as an engineering leader, I am not the engineering leader, I work with the engineering leader, but you just want to clear hurdles. You just want to remove hurdles from your team to allow developers to move as quickly as possible. When a 10X developer gets going, you want them to keep going and you want to remove impediments as much as possible. So, I think that's probably one of our core beliefs at IEX Cloud is we just want to unleash capacity of the developer community and again, particularly those building in financial services to allow them to just move more quickly.
PM: So, one of the things that you talk about, so as I said, I had a look at the architecture the block diagram, and as I said, it made a lot, not only a lot of sense, it was actually really powerful diagram both in its simplicity but also in what it was trying to communicate. One of the things that jumped out at me is the phrase data infrastructure appeared quite a bit. I have to admit, it's not a phrase I use on a regular basis, what is a data infrastructure? Why do I need one and where do I get one from?
LG: You know, you most likely start with some database place. You store the stuff and build around that. So I think of whatever your database technology is as the core of the heart of it, any system. But then you need to think beyond the database, how data comes in and how data comes out. Because just being stored there's no value in data sitting in a box in the corner. There's only value if the data is being extracted and used and analyzed or is delivering experiences or whatever the case may be. So, when I think of data infrastructure, data platform, it's really trying to solve from a data producer, some source of data to a data consumer, the end user of data, what has to happen, what journey does it traverse between where it started and where it ends. And one thing that really struck me when I started working with the IEX Cloud team is how much focus there is on where it ends. When you're thinking about a web app, the demands of where data ends up really informs all of the infrastructure back from it.
You often think of reading from left to right or you start with a source and then you go and go, but really you have to design everything from the end use case backwards, right? Because that defines the requirement for how data is being used. And it struck me a lot in thinking about the real-time dynamics. I've been a user of BI tools since I stepped foot out of college. Pull up dashboards, whether it's Tableau or Looker or whatever you may use. And that data experience is rather slow generated. You have a lot of things happening behind big BI tools and there tends to be a ton of operational data and a bunch of competing resources at a firm demanding different things from BI. But it tends to be kind of cumbersome and slow to an end user when you think about a web experience as we were describing earlier, very, very fast. And so you have to think about the design of every component leading to that experience, again from that data producer to where it ends up. So there's a lot of thought that goes into the design of the proper infrastructure to serve each use case. And so again, this is where you're seeing a lot of generic tools in market that solve components and then you have to stitch together those tools to reach the end result that you required.
PM: Yeah, I was going to ask that question. Sorry to interrupt you, but one of the things I was thinking as you were speaking is there doesn't seem to be any shortage of tools in this space, but okay, so the problem you're describing here is not so much a shortage of tools, it's the fact that the market today presents customers with a toolbox and says have at it. Good luck with that. If they don't talk to each other, that's a you problem, not a me problem.
LG: And it requires a lot of skill to understand even the selection process. And you go into a database selection process. There's this wonderful chart that I often reference that goes through the decision tree of which database to select and you're in like SQL and no SQL and then there's columnar and this and that and graphs and be like for somebody that didn't spend their life procuring databases, it's pretty dizzying. And that's one step of the journey just thinking about the database selection.
PM: And you've just lost 3, 6, 9 months just on that holy war, if I use that phrase.
LG: Selection process alone can take three to six months of an evaluation, you're going to spin up to a few, you're going to spin up those services, test them. And so it's a lot of work to do it. And so I think there's an overabundance right now quite honestly of tooling on the market and a lot of, as you said customer, you have endless choice. Good luck. Yeah. Have at it.
PM: You have endless choice and finite time and resources, which is the worst part. So I mean obviously the driver behind building your own adventure, choosing your own adventure is that there is a sense that it's yours, it's fit for purpose. How are IEX Cloud, how are you and the engineering team and the product management team thinking about managing that trade off of being all things to all people, which often leads to, I don't like the word mediocrity, but you sort of almost tend to look a lot like I'm going to call them your competition, but effectively some of your peers like Amazon and Google Cloud as we just spoke about, versus being so highly specialized that only two or three companies in the world can use you because you built them specifically for that.
LG: That is a hard question and hard tradeoffs to make. I think at our core we have subject matter expertise at IEX and financial services.
PM: Got it.
PM: You have focused on that market segmented particular use case.
LG: On those needs and market data has very specific attributes and its size and shape and speed. And so we've, I think we’ve very much focused the product in solving those problems. It doesn't mean it can't extend into other industries. Often if you solve problems in financial services, those can be applied in other industries that have similar attributes. But I think the knowledge of financial data and financial systems is what I think when I came to the firm, what I think sets apart the team in understanding how to build services to deliver.
PM: Yeah, look and if I was Jeffrey Moore from Crossing the Chasm fame looking at this, I'd be saying knock that bowling pin over. Be really specific in your solution, be really focused. And if there's broader applicability over time, then great, but do one thing. Do it really, really well, be clear of who your customer is and make sure you do a great job for them. And let's be honest, there's no shortage of organizations trying to accelerate application development in the FinTech world, whether it's the existing banks or some of these new entrants, that's a very dynamic space.
LG: A lot of new businesses challenging the incumbents. The incumbents have a lot of challenges with their existing infrastructure being large, old, cumbersome, you know, put a lot of compliance around legacy data services within an organization. And so devs need to move quickly. There are ways to work with both kinds of the incumbents in their innovation practices and also with new entrants in the space who are really trying to challenge the status quo. And when we see both at IEX Cloud, which is exciting, and we've really focused on new FinTech innovation as our area of expertise.
PM: So two questions without notice and they might put you a little on the back foot, so if we need to defer this to another time, totally understand. But the first thing that was going through my mind is I'm listening to you talk about the FinTech space and data, I have enough experience in this industry, add that in healthcare to immediately my brain goes to compliance. A whole bunch of issues related to, as you say, as the data comes in or is being consumed, there's a whole bunch of regulatory regimes that sit around that. How much consideration have you had to give to that? I'm curious.
LG: Modest to date, given where we are with, certainly we have a lot of considerations in our data products, working with exchange data, our exchange data, other exchange data and the regulatory environment around that and permissions. So we pay a lot of attention to that. I think it's often misunderstood in market data and financial data, just how much compliance there is around it and how tightly controlled it is. So, we certainly have an incredible legal and compliance team as you might imagine at IEX. That helps us with a lot of that consideration. I think we're in early stages of considering it from a customer data standpoint. That is what data our customers are bringing into the platform. We'll work with our customers over time to build the requisite permissioning, et cetera, around the system to make sure that users have the right permissions, whether they be end users or internal users of the platform. But you can do that through permissioning structures largely but it is a huge concern and with the changes in regulation GDPR in Europe, it's a constant focus for any platform operating in this space.
PM: Yeah, it's a bit of a moving target because as we just talked about, not only as we move from industry to industry, but country to country, there's a sort of giant matrix, isn't there? That's a challenge. The other thing that was going through my mind was how are you balancing the needs of, I guess open standards, open services? What was going through my mind was as I'm starting to build my application on Apperate, I'm having a great time and then I realize I need to plug in some of these external capabilities. How do I get the benefits of an integrated development in platform or capability like Apperate, but not sort of pen myself into a walled garden when it comes to bringing other things into this space? Does the question make sense?
LG: Yeah. Most of that work for us is again, kind of how the data's coming in and where the data's coming out, making sure that we have open integrations as much as possible to allow users that flexibility. We don't want to hold anybody's data hostage, that’s not the point. Yes, we want to be able to move things in, move things out fluidly and make sure that those connections grow over time. And so working with open source standards for that, working with the community over time to build those connectors, again both in and out of the system will be very important to our success and we're working through early stages of that and how to keep the system open but still protected.
PM: So fabulous stuff. How long has the platform been available and up and running for? I'm just curious as whether you've got examples of customers and what they've been doing with it.
LG: Apperate launched, our beta product was launched, in August of 2022 and then we just released our GA on February 15th.
PM: Oh, congratulations.
LG: Thank you very much. Very fun for us to have the product fully out in the world. So we are in early stages of customer success stories. I think looking internally for a minute, I think one story from my perspective, again as a business leader, a year ago we faced a need to decide whether we were going to migrate from one data provider to another data provider. Prices were changing, we needed to make that evaluation and going through the evaluation, we really explored the engineering time it would take to migrate from provider one to provider two and the cost of the engineering time actually was far too high to justify moving vendors even though there was cost savings on the vendor agreement, which was a hard lesson to learn as a new leader and thinking through all of the different really full comprehensive ROI or TCO analysis and evaluating move, we had a similar situation and that was, we were in the process of productizing Apperate at that point and there were a lot of competing resources for engineering and it just didn't make sense for us. A different data vendor issue for us in Q1 of this year and we were able to make the decision and migrate data providers over our weekend.
So I had a decision a year ago that it was going to take two to three months to do a data migration and cost tens of thousands of dollars of allocated engineering time to migrate. And now using our own systems and services, we can make that decision and migrate over a weekend. Granted, with a very experienced and wonderful senior engineer who was leading the project, but kind of a game changing business evaluation for me in being able to make a decision that had thousands of dollars of cost savings associated with the business that I wouldn't have been able to do last year.
PM: That's a fabulous story. That's really incredible and you did remind me again with that little story, just how a lot of people I talk to, this is not necessarily related to Apperate, just how many people I talked to who are still, I would call them, well you used the word hostage before, is you’re sort of held hostage to an application or a service because the cost of migrating from it is, I've had, I remember one client that said to me back a long time ago, “look, we could be given the competitor's software for free and it still wouldn't stack up just given all of the costs.” We'd have to switch this, the old one off. Despite all of its benefits, it's incredibly expensive stuff and if a platform like Apperate can help me confer some agility in that situation, that's a huge advantage.
LG: Yeah. Again, eye-opening for me, when you really do the line item by line item analysis of the costs and the time, it wasn't just the cost of engineering, it was that it would take three months and we didn't have three months, we just didn't have the time, we did not have the time to take on that project at that point in time in our history. So again, it's exactly as you said, giving companies and developers that agility to just move as quickly as possible. Again, no goal of holding people captive or holding data captive or hostage. Really just a goal of moving people along as quickly as possible to make progress and not waste time testing ideas, testing them as quickly as possible.
PM: Amazing stuff. Just curious as we start to wrap up a little, unless you have any other insights you feel might be particularly of interest to the listeners, we're talking about financial services and the FinTech marketers. Obviously your home turf and you're delivering great value to them today. I'm just curious whether you've seen or are exploring other adjacencies where you think, well actually you know what twist this a little bit here and we've got a really great solution for another interest. I'm just curious what you and your team are thinking about as a potential next step.
LG: Yeah, I'd like to nail it in financial services first and then have the ability and the right to explore other spaces. Almost all companies use financial data. You don't have to be a financial services firm to use foreign exchange data or to require company data or to look in financial analysis. I mean, when I was an investor relations officer, I was doing financial analysis all the time, looking at the PnL’s of other companies and competitors and understanding the world around me. So, there's no captivity for us, anybody who wants to come in and play we welcome users across the board. I think the scale at which financial services firms use data and the type of data that we supply is just different. And so we'll keep our focus there in meeting the expectations of that community. But I hope other industries do come take a look.
PM: Do check it out. As I said it was, I had a bit of a play around on the website. Really, really great stuff and congratulations on the launch. These things are, it's often underappreciated if you're not in engineering or close to it, just how much care, love, and attention goes into launching a product and how it's always easy to go, but if we just wait another day, we can do one more thing. So pushing it out the door, shipping it is a big thing. So congratulations on that.
LG: Thank you. I'm lucky to work with engineers who are eager to get their ideas into the world. So we like to push the button and get it into production, which is very good and fun but it is hard. Products can be as big as you let them.
PM: Labor of love. We, we've actually run a little along. My apologies, I've really enjoyed the conversation, so thank you so much for your time. As we sort of reached the top of the hour here, I just realized you've got your day to get on with, so I will ask you a couple more questions as we wrap up if that's okay. First, most important, where can people go to learn more?
LG: Come to IEXCloud.io, that's the best place. It's our website. We just relaunched the website in the last few weeks with the general availability. You'll see a lot of new information. Even if you've been there in the past, you'll see some new stuff. So, we greatly encourage you to check that out. Go into our documentation too, if that's your pleasure, and definitely explore what we have to offer.
PM: It is very cool. Literally the last question. Now, the show sponsor Rocket Software, and we do give them a huge amount of thanks for sponsoring the show. They've got a set of values they talk about that matter to them—Empathy, humanity, trust and love. I'm just curious, Liz, it doesn't need to be one of those four. What matters to you right now?
LG: Alright, I'll go back to trust. I think trust is really, really important for all of us.
PM: I'll take that. Liz, thank you so much and thanks again to Rocket Software for bringing us another episode of Digital: Disrupted and thank you all for listening in. If you like what you've heard do give us a thumbs up. As I mentioned at the start of the show, on any of your pod catchers if you want to, you can reach out to me on the Twitter @Xthestreams. I'm still there, or our show sponsor @Rocket. So if you've got any questions for our guests such as leisure or ideas for topics you'd like to hear covered on future episodes, we're always happy to hear from you. With that, we'll see you all next week. Stay disruptive, everyone.