May 23, 2019
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OpenFin raises $17 million for its OS for finance

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OpenFin, the company looking to provide the operating system for the financial services industry, has raised $17 million in funding through a Series C round led by Wells Fargo, with participation from Barclays and existing investors including Bain Capital Ventures, J.P. Morgan and Pivot Investment Partners. Previous investors in OpenFin also include DRW Venture Capital, Euclid Opportunities and NYCA Partners.

Likening itself to “the OS of finance”, OpenFin seeks to be the operating layer on which applications used by financial services companies are built and launched, akin to iOS or Android for your smartphone.

OpenFin’s operating system provides three key solutions which, while present on your mobile phone, has previously been absent in the financial services industry: easier deployment of apps to end users, fast security assurances for applications, and interoperability.

Traders, analysts and other financial service employees often find themselves using several separate platforms simultaneously, as they try to source information and quickly execute multiple transactions. Yet historically, the desktop applications used by financial services firms — like trading platforms, data solutions, or risk analytics — haven’t communicated with one another, with functions performed in one application not recognized or reflected in external applications.

“On my phone, I can be in my calendar app and tap an address, which opens up Google Maps. From Google Maps, maybe I book an Uber . From Uber, I’ll share my real-time location on messages with my friends. That’s four different apps working together on my phone,” OpenFin CEO and co-founder Mazy Dar explained to TechCrunch. That cross-functionality has long been missing in financial services.

As a result, employees can find themselves losing precious time — which in the world of financial services can often mean losing money — as they juggle multiple screens and perform repetitive processes across different applications.

Additionally, major banks, institutional investors and other financial firms have traditionally deployed natively installed applications in lengthy processes that can often take months, going through long vendor packaging and security reviews that ultimately don’t prevent the software from actually accessing the local system.

OpenFin CEO and co-founder Mazy Dar. Image via OpenFin

As former analysts and traders at major financial institutions, Dar and his co-founder Chuck Doerr (now President & COO of OpenFin) recognized these major pain points and decided to build a common platform that would enable cross-functionality and instant deployment. And since apps on OpenFin are unable to access local file systems, banks can better ensure security and avoid prolonged yet ineffective security review processes.

And the value proposition offered by OpenFin seems to be quite compelling. Openfin boasts an impressive roster of customers using its platform, including over 1,500 major financial firms, almost 40 leading vendors, and 15 out of the world’s 20 largest banks.

Over 1,000 applications have been built on the OS, with OpenFin now deployed on more than 200,000 desktops — a noteworthy milestone given that the ever popular Bloomberg Terminal, which is ubiquitously used across financial institutions and investment firms, is deployed on roughly 300,000 desktops.

Since raising their Series B in February 2017, OpenFin’s deployments have more than doubled. The company’s headcount has also doubled and its European presence has tripled. Earlier this year, OpenFin also launched it’s OpenFin Cloud Services platform, which allows financial firms to launch their own private local app stores for employees and customers without writing a single line of code.

To date, OpenFin has raised a total of $40 million in venture funding and plans to use the capital from its latest round for additional hiring and to expand its footprint onto more desktops around the world. In the long run, OpenFin hopes to become the vital operating infrastructure upon which all developers of financial applications are innovating.

Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems and app stores have enabled more than a million apps that have fundamentally changed how we live,” said Dar. “OpenFin OS and our new app store services enable the next generation of desktop apps that are transforming how we work in financial services.”

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Sentieo raises $19M to be the AI-powered Bloomberg Terminal

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To get an edge on the market, investors must look beyond traditional financial info like revenue and profits. Our every online activity generates data exhaust like web traffic, Twitter mentions, app downloads, and search trends. It’s the ability to overlay the old and new data sets to spot surprising trends that will set the best traders apart. Sentieo wants to be their tool.

Sentieo is an investment research software suite that uses AI to scan financial documents, analyze alternative data sets, and create visualizations. The fintech SAAS startup now has 700 customers including top hedge funds plus mutual funds, Fortune 500s, and investment banks who pay around $500 to $1000 per year per license. That’s a lot cheaper than a $21,000 Bloomberg Terminal subscription.

Now Sentieo is ready to crank up its name recognition with a sales and marketing blitz fueled by a new $19 million Series A round led by Centana, a $250 million growth equity firm focused on fintech SAAS. Now with $30 million in total funding, the 160-person startup plans to “Educate [traders] that ‘hey, this product is built by people who sat in your seats’” says CEO Alap Shah.

Sentieo charts Google Trends data on Facebook vs the social network’s revenue

10 year ago, Shah was making the Wall Street rounds after graduating from Harvard in economics. He was an analyst in consulting at Novantas, private equity at Castanea, and worked for hedges funds VIking Global and Citadel. “It became clear that there were some really big holes in my process where software wasn’t meeting my needs. Importantly, there was a hole around search” Shah tells me. “We’ve grown accustomed to going to Google. But unfortunately that’s just not the way the old-school financial data programs are structured.”

Sentieo co-founder and CEO Alap Shah

So he built his own. “I used all the financial tools out there: Capital IQ, FactSet, Bloomberg — each had their strengths and weaknesses. But they were all over 20 years old, so they pre-date the cloud, pre-date SAAS, pre-date mobile!” With Sentieo, he wanted to develop a tool that could understand the nuances of business momentum before it showed up in the balance sheets.

Sentieo does have a traditional financial equity data terminal with real-time pricing. But there’s also a machine learning and natural language processing-powered document search tool that can sort through SEC documents, earnings call transcripts, press releases, and more. It taps Alexa web traffic data, Apptopia app download rates, and Twitter chatter, as well as Thomson Reuters analyst estimates and fundamentals. Customers can annotate files, organize ideas, generate visualizations, and share their insights through Sentieo’s Notebook.

For example, Sentieo could look through all of Tesla’s earnings calls and financial documents for mentions of guidance on Model 3 production volume. It could highlight them all, analyze the sentiment of those mentions, and chart them against Tesla’s share price. Or you could search for all the companies starting to list President Trump as a risk factor for their business, which would surface how the medical cannabis companies are concerned about his Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ stance on legalization.


Sentieo’s synonym library allows it to hunt down different ways of saying the same thing with the goal of not forcing investors — or their dutiful analysts — to read through 100 page 10-Q documents manually. “You can get the same information at 10x the speed with something like Sentieo” Shah claims. It wants to a be a “research management system”, like a Salesforce CRM for tracking investment ideas.

But Sentieo’s 65-person India-based engineering must keep data from all 50 feeds, 25 million documents, and 64,000 equities flowing to keep customers satisfied. There are a ton of moving parts, and Sentieo is competing with much bigger companies. Beyond Bloomberg, there are lots of alternative data providers out there. And Microsoft’s software suite also has plenty of info management tools.

Sentieo’s hope is to emerge as an aggregator of information sources and an annotation tool that benefits from being purposefully designed for what analysts need. If Robinhood is on one side of the spectrum making investing easy for novice traders, Sentieo is on the other end making investing smarter for experts. “It’s really at the bleeding edge of how you get the data today” Shah concludes. “For every company driven by consumer demand, there are all these little breadcrumbs being left all over the internet.”

[Disclosure: I briefly rented a room in an apartment where Shah lived five years ago and I know him from the San Francisco social scene frequented by many Silicon Valley figures.]

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