Bloomberg and Excel resilience

Efi Pylarinou is the founder of Efi Pylarinou Advisory and a Fintech/Blockchain influencer – No.3 influencer in the finance sector by Refinitiv Global Social Media 2019. 

Soon it will be thirty years since I started working on Wall Street – 7 WTC, 37th floor, Salomon Brothers, Fixed income derivatives department.

Scary but true. Bloomberg terminals and excel spreadsheets were then the basics. The Salomon Brothers culture and entity has been completely absorbed and has disappeared. I have become a thought leader and influencer in Fintech. Bloomberg and Excel have yet to be disrupted.

Bloomberg is strictly a wholesale finance tool, business. Excel is a tool for both retail and businesses.

We all know that Bloomberg could be replicated with one tenth of the cost (figure referenced by Marc Rubinstein) but it has not happened. Every accelerator and VC, will advise against spending resources to put together the next generation of Bloomberg. It remains private, the anti-thesis of open source, and with no sign of `pay as you go` pricing. Surveys show that most users in the investment, financial world, use a very small part of the $20+k services. And yet, there is no pressure to move to `pay as you go`.

The strong social network (a kind of a boys club) remains intact.

Slack (a public company valued at $18billion and c. x12+ forward revenues) with its business subscription pricing model, could be viewed as overlapping with the core messaging Bloomberg business. However, it does not have any of the data, analytics powers for the financial world, accessible easily like Bloomberg.

Symphony, the private secure messaging Fintech, is much closer to the Bloomberg social network offering. It has raised $461million in funding and the latest valuation figures (2019) were $1.4billion.

Bloomberg`s revenues remain stable around $10billion (over the past 3 years). It seems that they continuously find ways to enhance their offering and keep the network `loyal`.

Now let’s take a look at the Microsoft Excel dinosaur, a much broader and ubiquitous tool that has given birth to a mess of digital copies in businesses and ecosystems. Despite the competition and innovation at the app layer from several tech companies, Excel remains in tact. There are actually more businesses facilitating Excel integrations in workflows (e.g. Zapier, AirBoxr) than ventures aiming to disrupt Excel`s positioning. There are even more innovative tools built on top of Excel.

An example is the newly launched of Money in Excel, which is a move to solidify Excel`s stickiness at the retail level in the finances sector. A partnership with Plaid`s API, and with an add-on, users with MSFT subscriptions can monitor spending and investments on their desktop. (details here)

Another powerful one is the OpenApps add-on, which enables users to build apps and dashboard with no coding. It allows linking various excel sheets.

The closest Excel competitor is Google Sheets (especially at the retail level but also at the business level). Several of the innovative tools built on Excel are also built on Google sheets (like the Open Apps and more, The 20 Most Innovative Tools for Excel and Google Sheets )

The latest Google Sheets integration (in private bets testing mode) is with the OpenAI technology GPT3. The user provides a few (3-4) examples of text or numeric information and then =GPT3( ) fills in the rest. I am mesmerized by this function. It is one and only one function that can search, do research (data and language) and write text.

Fintech & Techfin innovation seems to have made some of the ubiquitous tech tools, even more resilient. Bloomberg and Excel, are two different and distinct examples of this. Bloomberg was-is a narrowly focused business (wholesale financial level) that has strengthened its social network stickiness, data power and analytics. Excel & Google Sheets are further permeating into our lives, with continuous add-on innovations.

This post was inspired by watching the video snippet of GPT3 on Google sheets.

As I reflect on all the above, the question arises whether Microsoft or Google will buy Bloomberg one day. Microsoft teamed up with OpenAI in September and signed an exclusive licensing agreement with them for GPT3. I assume that soon we will be seeing GPT3 capabilties on the Azure platform.

`GPT-3 model – an autoregressive language model that outputs remarkably human-like text. GPT-3 is the largest and most advanced language model in the world, clocking in at 175 billion parameters, and is trained on Azure’s AI supercomputer._` excerpt form the MSFT announcement.

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