Brian Conlon
Chief Executive Officer
First Derivatives

For more than a decade and a half, starting in 1998, First Derivatives was a sales and services partner of Kx Systems, whose high-performance database software is widely deployed by Wall Street banks and others in the securities industry. In October 2014, First Derivatives upped its minority stake in Kx to 65 percent, and 13 months later First Derivatives CEO Brian Conlon assumed the same position at Kx, with an eye on growth opportunities not only in finance but in other sectors with a need for big-data analytics, and in the emerging Internet of Things. “We retained the Kx brand because we know the value and have always respected the philosophy and ethos” of Kx and its technology, says Conlon, 50, a former SunGard Data Systems consultant who founded Newry, Northern Ireland–based First Derivatives in 1996. “The Kx team has really embraced the fact that FD is ready to invest in the technology and bring it into many interesting and exciting areas.” Indeed, Conlon says sales in oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and utilities were instrumental in the 41 percent increase in revenue, to £117 million ($171 million), and 51 percent rise in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, to £23.3 million, in the fiscal year ended February 29, 2016. IEX Group (see Brad Katsuyama, No. 24) has used Kx’s kdb+ platform since its 2013 launch as an alternative trading system; the Securities and Exchange Commission became a customer last year; and in April, Thomson Reuters (see David Craig, No. 12) chose First Derivatives and Kx to power its Velocity Analytics streaming data service. First Derivatives unveiled its R&D division, FD Labs, in Ottawa last September. Teams there and in Dublin and Sydney are working on machine learning and robotics, and on what Conlon terms “an inhibitor to the propagation of blockchain”: the limited number of transactions that can be registered on the distributed ledger at a given time. “Because our software is focused around volume and velocity of data, we’re trying to come up with some interesting techniques,” Conlon says.

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