1000 Important People In My World
AKA Am I an entrepreneur with foresight or just plain stubborn?
Years ago, I started a newsletter. True, I had been publishing online since WWW got underway with some gusto (that must have been 1994) but this was an all singing all dancing email newsletter. The related website was in essence an afterthought (still is — and more fool those who think they have an advantage using RSS I suppose).
Anyway, the subject matter of said newsletter — I hope you can stifle your unbridled excitement, ladies and gentlemen, was a microtopic in comparison to the big wide world, the industry that goes into creating and operating financial market infrastructure — exchanges, clearing houses and the like. True, having been around fintech and ahead of the curve a decade and more before they got around to christening it thus, I could see how it was a key area growing in relative importance as the digital world loves centralised markets. Meanwhile the radical wing says we’re all decentralists now…or at least soon, baby, soon…but an exchange in the mix is vital.
Exchange Invest took a good 2 years of dedicated preparation (and trust me I was no neophyte in the business itself — my c.v. even boasts a brief spell as an exchange CEO). Nevertheless, the initial feedback to my idea was one of pretty consistent revulsion. I considered and ultimately ignored my beta testers (as I discussed here): almost 1200 issues later Exchange Invest is the daily benchmark read across the market infrastructure C-suite from the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange down.
Publishing the daily parish news and analysis, left me with a burning question — who actually matters? You may have considered it yourself — there are EVPs and there are EVPs who matter in every industry throughout the world. I had a burning desire to investigate further.
At this stage the process spiralled a touch out of hand (it was actually coherently managed & budgetary limited but still, a touch out of hand). It wasn’t quite Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo but there were moments when some may have discerned a certain manic gaze around the office worthy of Klaus Kinski at his Amazonian craziest. The problem was the scope for creating a list of the most influential people in the world of exchanges. Now 50 or 100 is not too tricky but it also doesn’t quite cover the world. I now know the top 100 covers 21 nations. That’s a large concentration of the world economy, but it’s 175 short of the UN membership. 250 wasn’t sufficient either. Moreover each leap in size meant processing a lot more data. It’s probably not geometric but it was certainly a “big data” issue for a startup media enterprise! Even at 500 a lot of the “world” was still missing. The west was well represented but there was a dangerous void amounting to multiple decently sized venues south of Moscow all the way to Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore and the Antipodes, while Africa north of Johannesburg was broadly omitted.
That settled the number, 750 wasn’t going to cut it either, it had to be 1000.
A 1000 person influencers list entailed a 7500+ long list being trimmed to a ‘short list’ of 1500. The intention was to avoid subjectivity, deploying a fair raft of calculations en route. Incidentally, no it wasn’t AI, just a fair few algorithms ranking and sorting through different facets for comparison across border, product groups and of course all manner of differing positions/perspectives.
The project team worked away for a year and more in what passes for top secret startup stealth. Nobody elsewhere knew what was happening, asides from a tiny control group. Thus along the way some original newsletter ‘beta’ testers alongside some new faces were briefed. A few loved the idea but most were significantly underwhelmed. I took all the feedback, reviewed it and we pressed on regardless.
Today, Monday 18th September, 2017, is publication day for “EI1000,” the Exchange Invest 1000 Index of Influence in Market Structure. It’s attractively priced for a niche business directory at 195 dollars and weighs in at a fairly hefty 456 A5 pages. The EI1000 list itself occupies the bulk. First up are some introductions and explanations while the headline list is accompanied by 34 nifty sublists applauding everything from the whizziest dealmakers, thinkers, blockchainers and fintech folk to the sector’s leading ladies amongst others. There are also 4 R’s — those who have been Relegated, Resigned, Retired or sadly left us permanently (“RIP”).
Pre-publication momentum was good — a signed limited edition has proven sufficiently popular to render the nearest post office disdainful of our arrival. Some sustained interest across the exchange sector will mean we have a sound annual product going forward. It’s not a Harry Potter bestseller but it delivers helpful cashflow and a further product line to the newsletter. And yes, Volume 2 is already being researched.
That said, EI1000 raises a conundrum for entrepreneurs the world over. The product (and if I may say so myself, I am not altogether bereft of pitching prowess…) met with widespread apathy (at best) when concept ‘road tested’ amongst industry folk. True a few loved it but the overall customer test suggested no viable market. I am not overly concerned with the micro-binary of whether I am stubborn or have a particular knack for seeing opportunities others don’t. Rather the question is, just how can entrepreneurs have a better idea when their product is likely to succeed, even when the incumbent consumers fail to appreciate the concept?
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Patrick L Young is a serial entrepreneur and fintech pioneer with a finger in the media pie @FrontierFinance