In mid-September, Rumi Morales of CME Ventures sat onstage at Chicagos Merchandise Mart alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his London counterpart, Sadiq Khan, discussing what government can do to encourage entrepreneurship and technology development in the two cities. Executive director of the venture capital arm of derivatives exchange operator CME Group, Morales talked about the important role that financial innovation has played in the Windy City. In this regard, its a very exciting time to be an entrepreneur, a very exciting time to be an investor, and a very exciting time to be in Chicago, says the 40-year-old, who joined CME in 2010 to work on international business development before becoming a member of its venture team. The core mission of CME Ventures has remained the same since the units January 2014 inception: to invest in emerging technologies that can have an impact on CME and, more broadly, financial services in three to five years time. This is really very much looking at the future of our industry, says the Wellesley College grad and New York University Stern School of Business MBA. Its about transformational innovation. CME Ventures, which will invest as much as $5 million in an early-stage company, has focused on three general themes: digitization, which incorporates real-time payments and blockchain; advanced or adaptive security systems employing techniques like behavioral analytics; and what it calls the next generation of big data, including quantum computing and neural networks. CME has grown its portfolio from six to 11 companies in the past 12 months, adding investments in Digital Asset Holdings (blockchain applications), Digital Currency Group (blockchain and Bitcoin), Fortscale (cybersecurity), Orbital Insight (big data), and SparkCognition (security analytics). The group enjoyed its first financial exit this year when chip maker Intel Corp. reportedly paid as much as $400 million for Nervana Systems, a California-based deep learning company that CME funded in 2015. Whats great about Nervana is not only that they were acquired by Intel, but we are actually working with them in-house, at the CME, exploring some use cases, says Morales. This is an indication of what were trying to do as CME Ventures, which is to inform the organization.
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