When Microseconds Mean Millions
To hear about the importance of reacting quickly to market conditions, Finance Monthly reached out to Vitaly Tyulyaev – the Founder and Managing Partner of ActiveTick LLC. Launched in 2010 with a single product – the ActiveTick Platform, the company has since then expanded into being a leading discount market data vendor for US-based equity, […]
To hear about the importance of reacting quickly to market conditions, Finance Monthly reached out to Vitaly Tyulyaev – the Founder and Managing Partner of ActiveTick LLC. Launched in 2010 with a single product – the ActiveTick Platform, the company has since then expanded into being a leading discount market data vendor for US-based equity, option and future exchanges, in addition to providing order routing connectivity to various execution venues.
Tell us more about the ActiveTick platform? How do traders and investors benefit from your software package?
The ActiveTick Platform is our flagship product that we offer to traders. The platform is a suite of different tools that enable traders to view the markets efficiently and to quickly react to market conditions. At its basic level, the platform provides real-time streaming data to the end user from all supported exchanges, with dynamically updating quote lists, advanced live charts with numerous technical analysis, as well as Level 2 and depth book data. The platform doubles down on functionality with its integrated trading from multiple partner brokers, where users can link their trading accounts with the platform and trade directly from the platform’s charts and order entry screens. Because the platform supports multiple brokers, customers can link their trading accounts from different brokers, and trade in all of them through a single order entry. For more advanced users, the platform offers embedded programming language that allows users to back-test and fine-tune their trading strategies.
The platform suite also comes with its own add-in for Microsoft Excel. The add-in is absolutely loved by our customers because it lets them have real-time streaming data inside their spreadsheets, which automatically drives their calculations with each price change.
Recently, we have added a new addition to our ActiveTick Platform suite – a brand new ActiveTick Scanner product which we have been working on for some time. The scanner is an amazing piece of technology which lets the user choose from over 120 different scan types to be performed on real-time live data, or across from several years of historical data.
Because we control all processes from building everything ourselves, sourcing our own code, running our own ticker plants, managing our own datacenters, and connecting directly to exchanges without middleman present, we’re able to provide the fastest access to data at the lowest prices. Our customers benefit from this arrangement immensely. The majority of our new customers come to us from larger vendors that do not offer as many features as we do, and on top of that, charge them an arm and a leg for the same data that we provide at a discount.
What were the origins of ActiveTick and how did you improve on the existing market offering?
I started my software development career working for a discount broker-dealer called Scottrade. I came onboard with them in the late nineties, and was immediately intrigued by the speed and volume that the trading world moved at. The dot com crash in early 2000 only amplified this for me. I set out to build a trading platform as a pet project of mine, and to my surprise, the owner of Scottrade Rodger Riney welcomed it, and brought it into Scottrade’s product line-up. His acceptance and encouragement allowed me to expand my curiosity about the industry and for the next several years, I coded non-stop, accumulating the knowledge about markets. When Scottrade and I parted, it was a perfect time for me to apply what I have learned and start something new, and that’s when ActiveTick was born. It probably won’t be an overstatement if I say that Rodger Riney had a profound impact on my confidence and thinking, and I am very thankful that our paths crossed.
Starting a new business venture from scratch is not an easy process, especially when it comes to a business where there are ongoing costs from the get-go, such as licensing fees for market data redistribution, and IT infrastructure costs to name a few. Because I self-funded the start-up, it was a race to get to a break-even point, and when it was accomplished, it brought a sigh of relief.
When ActiveTick was created, the mission goal was to provide an inexpensive and functionally better alternative to existing offerings from competition. We had our job cut out for us. In the end, we were able to create such an alternative and pass the savings on to our customers.
What differentiates it from other market data and trading software platforms?
We have several competitive advantages over our competition in market data. First and foremost is our speed. Our datacentres are strategically located at or near originating exchanges, which allows us to tap into exchanges’ data feed multicast backbone with a fiber cable going from our equipment into exchanges’ equipment which cuts our latency to the speed of light. All of our software code that we have developed was written in C and C++ programming languages which provide superb performance. Customers who connect and consume data from us measure data feed latency in nano and microseconds rather than milliseconds. Because we own the whole implementation stack, we can offer very fast data from a large number of exchanges and charge significantly less than our competitors.
In addition to market data, ActiveTick also provides execution routing to over 30 different execution venues from within our datacenters. For one-stop shop experience, customers can connect to a low-latency data feed, access all of our ticker plant services, and route their orders to various destinations.
When comparing our ActiveTick Platform with platforms from some of our major competitors, our toolset matches and often exceeds our competition in terms of functionality and ease-of-use, yet our offerings are priced significantly less.
How did ActiveTick attract its first clients?
First customers were very hard to come by because we were a new company that no one had heard of. Our ActiveTick Platform was still very young, and did not offer all the bells and whistles that it does now. Before that moment, my experience in coming up with and drafting up a marketing strategy plan was non-existent. The marketing budget we had was close to non-existent too. Luckily, there was Google’s AdWords programme, so I tried to learn all I could about SEO, CPCs, PPCs, etc., and then launched a modest campaign that yielded some positive results. Over time, we brought on some outside help in getting better optimisations for our website so we can become visible on search engines’ radars, and invested in marketing and sales departments.
What are the challenges that some of your users encounter on a regular basis? How are these resolved?
Some of our customers often mention information overload. Trading today’s markets is a complex task – there are preferred stocks, moving averages, future spreads, dividend yields, to name a few. Unless someone invests time and effort in learning about these things, it’s hard for that person to understand the data our tools show and use it. Our development team continuously tries to come up with better way to categorise information, and present it in a way that is clear and understandable for the end user.
Over the years, what has kept the company moving forward?
I think what moves us forward, is that everyone at ActiveTick has a real passion for this line of work. There are not that many industries out there that expose you to the large amounts of information in terms of size and speed that this one does. For someone like me who comes from a software engineering background, thinking about how to process 10 million messages per second of OPRA options data feed with latency measured in microseconds is quite overwhelming. I feel the same when working on creating a market data scanner that analyses and identifies patterns inside a torrent of market data, and picks needles out of haystacks. However, finding solutions to such problems excites both us and our customers!
Over the years, we branched out into other aspects of the industry. When I started the company, we provided a single market data product that supported display of US-based equities. With time, we linked up with order execution venues, and signed on a few partner broker-dealers which brought trading functionality to our offering. We have expanded from being a vendor for US-based equities to providing data for options, and later – to currencies and futures. Our business also benefited from expanding into custom development work for our customers, where we offer our expertise and coding skills from our development team to solve customers’ specific needs.
What have been some of ActiveTick’s major achievements recently?
In the last year, we have been undertaking a major effort in enhancing our product line with new functionality, and branched out into supporting futures markets with the integration of CME Group’s exchanges. This was a major improvement in our backend ticker plant software to accommodate 24-hour trading, and provide support for trading complex instruments such as multileg intra-exchange spreads. With the addition of future exchanges, we are now able to cover a wide range of different types of instruments, including equities, equity options, currencies, futures, future options, and spreads. Customers who use the ActiveTick Platform, can now see this entire dataset across a spectrum of different exchanges and instruments within a single chart and quote list window.
ActiveTick Scanner is another major project that was completed and rolled out to our beta-tester group just a few weeks ago. This product is a culmination of approximately 18 months of R&D by our development team, and provides customers with the ability to scan the markets for over 120 different scanning opportunities, and filter results using over 150 different filters in real-time or historical basis. In the near future, we are planning on opening up ActiveTick Scanner API to our developers, so that they can run and test various trade strategies using historical data from the scanner. We are very excited about these new recent enhancements.
What do you anticipate for the company in the near future?
Our company is driven by our products and services, and we make it a priority to stay ahead technologically and work on new and exciting things. Our current major near-term goal is to expand internationally, and integrate our backend systems to connect to additional exchanges from Europe and Asia. On a drawing board we are planning adding support for Euronext, LSE, Deutsche Börse, Shanghai, and HK exchanges. Many of our long-term customers have been asking us to support these exchanges, and we are listening to their requests.
With all the interest around cryptocurrencies these days, we are working on connecting with major exchanges and integrating their market data feeds and order routing in our systems.
In addition to expanding with market data, we are currently developing several additional clients for our ActiveTick Platform, particularly an HTML5 web client, as well as mobile clients for iOS and Android operating systems. Deploying these new clients will provide ActiveTick with additional channels to expand our market footprint.
Another effort that is happening inside our R&D, is a push to learn how AI technology can be applied in our business. Because we are also traders who trade our own money, we are fascinated with possibilities of what could be done when deep learning meets large datasets of historical trade data, and learns how to identify patterns. We have been investing capital and time in this effort, and it looks very promising to us. And as we continue to expand our knowledge and understanding, this will trickle into our products that we provide to customers in a form of new features and functionality.
What excites me for the future is that we have very smart people in our group who are technologists at the core, and get enthusiastic about a challenging task ahead. With evolving technology, toolsets, and standards, it is an amazing feeling to be in the driver’s seat for once.