Sunday 20 January 2013

Software is about to eat the NYSE

The renowned VC firm, Andreessen-Horowitz, formulated a hypothesis in 2011 that "software is eating the world". Their hypothesis has since spawned many versions such as software eating fashion, software is feeding the world and, my personal favorite, Jack Dorsey is eating payments. Software however can have less of an appetite depending on where you do business in the world.

New York City's financial businesses have always been harder to access for software startups due to a number of factors (of which, I'm sure, culture and incentives play some part). One such man, Jeffrey Sprecher, appears to have broken through that divide and was profiled in the New York Times on Sunday, January 20th, 2013. The NYT article is a great story on business success, but embedded within it is the notion that software is currently "eating trading" (that is, the art of human trading within exchanges) and software will eventually eat the vast majority of this human activity over time. An important consequence of all this trading exchange gastronomy is that wealth gets redistributed more quickly to the victor... in this case, it is Mr. Sprecher and his firm ICE: IntercontinentalExchange.

After reading the NYT article, I'm reminded that the best software products aren't always enough for success. Technology alone conquers nothing; timing and deep market insight are the other essential pillars which, when combined with technology, create a powerful catalyst for creative destruction. As markets begin to shift, new opportunities arise. Those of us who see these opportunities more clearly (and that's really the hardest part) have the ability to act by finding a software-based solution that fits that opportunity. This software then has the ability to eat just about anything in its path towards profitability.

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