The Benzinga Global Fintech Awards are a yearly showcase of the greatest advents in fintech from leaders and visionaries in the worlds of finance and technology. This year, we have executives, developers and innovators from the likes of Facebook, Amazon, IBM, JP Morgan, Zelle, TD Ameritrade, TradeStation, Fidelity, and so many more.
In preparation for its biggest installment yet this May, we’re profiling the companies competing for the BZ Awards. In this feature we focus in on Elsen.
What does your company do? What unique problem does it solve?
Zac Sheffer, CEO & Founder: As massive amounts of data becomes more accessible, financial firms are aggressively moving ahead with using it to define investment strategies. Quantitative hedge funds are just one great example — they’re now responsible for 27 percent of all U.S. stock trades by investors, up from 14 percent in 2013, and are set to surpass $1 trillion under management this year. Most firms agree that data is their most valuable strategic asset, but admit that they’re having trouble deriving value from it. This is what drives Elsen’s success; it democratizes data for anyone in finance.
Elsen provides technology that allows large financial institutions to quickly build and deploy web-based applications that make it easy for anyone to harness, understand and make quick decisions with vast quantities of financial data. It allows any financial professional – including people in investment, research and analytics roles — to transform the way they work by letting them use data to guide investment decisions without having to rely on teams of expert programers.
Who are your customers?
Sheffer: We work mostly with large financial institutions. Some of them use our technology, the Elsen nPlatform, to build applications for their own employees, while others use it to develop products that they can sell commercially. The most notable impact of our technology to date is through a partnership with Thomson Reuters, which falls into the latter category. Thomson Reuters QA Point Powered by Elsen is a web-based application for backtesting systematic investment models that allows professional investors to introduce cutting edge quantitative research and analytics to fund management. This type of analysis would traditionally take hours or days of work with expert programmers. But with QA Point Powered by Elsen, it’s something that any professional investor can accomplish in minutes.
QA Point became available to Thomson Reuters clients in North America in April 2017 and was rolled-out worldwide throughout the rest of the year – months ahead of schedule based on early business results and outstanding customer feedback. We heard things like, “It’s so fast and easy even my mother could drive this.”
How long have you been in business?
Sheffer: I founded Elsen in 2014 with a couple friends from Northeastern University. We began developing the idea at the school’s student-run venture accelerator, IDEA, after I did a stint at one of the world’s largest investment banks and saw just how outdated the industry-standard technology was. It was shocking to see that the technology we were using in school was often more advanced than what these industry-leading companies were using, so we seized the opportunity to do something about it.
Where are you located?
Sheffer: We’re based in Boston, and the city’s strong heritage in both finance and technology was a great asset to getting Elsen off the ground. One of the most important relationships we developed was with a nonprofit called the FinTech Sandbox. It’s an organization that was founded by leaders in the local financial services and venture capital community to promote financial technology innovation by providing free-access to critical data and resources. In 2015, Elsen was selected as a member of the inaugural class of FinTech Sandbox, which helped open a number of other doors, including our relationship with Thomson Reuters.
Who is your company’s leadership? What kind of experience do they have?
Sheffer: I’m a mechanical engineer by training, but I got the finance bug early on. And after working at an investment bank for a while, I knew it was for me. Bringing my love of technology and finance together is the perfect combination. One of my other co-founders, Ryan Johnson, led user interface and user experience design for both early-stage startups and large international companies. His experience has been key to our overall mission because he’s been able to help put an intuitive interface on top of our sophisticated technology so anyone can use it. To fill-in our team, we’ve brought other experienced executives on board like Jim Comstock, who’s been at Dell/EMC, NetApp and Sun Microsystems, and Jane Hood, who’s been CMO at a several fintech startups after working at MasterCard and American Express for a number of years.
We also have some great investors guiding us too, like Jack Klinck who became chairman of our board after leading a recent investment. Jack previously founded State Street Global Exchange and was CEO of BNY Mellon’s European operations.
Who are your investors, if any?
Sheffer: We’re backed by a combination of venture capital and hand-picked angel investors from the startup and financial community including Accomplice, Boston Syndicates (BOSS), Hyperplane Venture Capital, Launch Capital, Sequoia Strategic Advisors, and Bret Siarkowski.
Is there anything else Benzinga should know about your company?
Sheffer: Elsen’s platform-as-a-service, called nPlatform, is fundamentally different than anything on the market. Creating custom applications that allow investment, research and analytics professionals to quickly and easily work with massive amounts of data currently requires expensive infrastructure, teams of professionals to manage it, and extended periods of time to build applications on top of it. Financial institutions are still left with tools that require expert users and hours or days to analyze data.
With Elsen nPlatform, institutions can quickly build and deploy intuitive, point-and-click applications that anyone can use to enhance and transform traditional investment workflows, strategies and results. And they can do it without the investment and ongoing maintenance of expensive infrastructure, or the expertise required to cleanse and manage data.
With major validation of our technology through the Thomson Reuters partnership, a fresh round of funding and an experience team behind us, Elsen’s in a great position to help financial institutions get fantastic insights from vast amounts of data.
To meet with the minds behind companies like Elsen and others testing the cutting edge of fintech, grab a ticket to the Benzinga Global Fintech Awards May 15-16 in New York.
This article was originally published on Benzinga by