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    商業 - 金融

    高盛等金融巨頭扶植新創公司對抗彭博終端

    Robert Hackett 2015年05月14日

    長期以來,彭博終端就是“金融”的代名詞,然而,一家新創企業或將改變企業的通訊方式。

    ????
    一名金融交易員監控著電腦屏幕上的數據。

    ????自上世紀90年代初以來,彭博一直主宰著金融通訊市場,其終端成為接入世界金融走廊的主要入口。每臺彭博終端的年費為2萬多美元,在安全的即時通訊領域,彭博終端就是行業標桿,超過32萬客戶通過它獲取關鍵信息。

    ????但是,金融機構受夠了這套系統高得離譜的價格,而且去年爆出彭博記者窺探終端用戶行為的消息后,許多交易員至今心有余悸。(彭博對此發表了道歉聲明,并更新了其編輯部守則,以竭力防止此類事件再次發生。)

    ????因此,2014年8月,高盛、美國銀行、貝萊德、摩根大通等全球最大的14家金融機構集體投資Symphony Communication Services Holdings公司,收購名為Perzo的安全即時通訊服務,也就不足為奇。上述企業希望用價格更低廉但安全性同樣有保障的技術取代無處不在的彭博終端。

    ????在彭博“窺探門”事件中抱怨頗多的高盛,豪擲6600萬美元,成為Symphony公司的主要投資者。Perzo(隨后改名為Symphony)于2012年由法國人大衛?格勒(格勒出生于法國戛納,此前曾就職于微軟、湯森路透以及Skype等公司)創建,可能很快推出替代彭博高價通訊工具的專有產品。Perzo的優勢之一在于,該產品使企業能控制其員工如何通訊、與誰通訊,對于那些希望遵守監管制度的企業而言,這一功能極具吸引力。(彭博拒絕對此發表評論。)

    ????格勒本身是個很有意思的人。他不僅曾在好幾家大公司就職,還持有飛行許可證,偶爾執行醫療飛行任務,將移植器官和緊急病患開飛機送到醫院。2000年與比爾?蓋茨會面時,格勒力推統一通信服務的創意,即將通訊、語音和應用程序共享融合在一起。這次會面很順利。格勒表示:“在產品評論會中,比爾經常會說‘這是我聽過的最愚蠢的想法’,他沒對我說這句話,所以結果算是很好了?!?/p>

    ????Symphony可視為上述創意的浴火重生。當時,微軟該項目被命名為“鳳凰計劃”,后演變為微軟Lync企業通信系統。2003年,格勒離開微軟,加入湯森路透領導其協作服務團隊,這是他首次進入金融領域。七年后,格勒加入Skype,領導該公司企業業務部門。一年后,格勒的前雇主微軟收購了Skype,就這樣,格勒兜兜轉轉又回到了微軟旗下。(微軟最近宣布,微軟Lync明年將改名為商用版Skype)現在,格勒再度轉身,重返華爾街。

    ????風險投資公司Merus Capital合伙人薩爾曼?烏拉20年前曾與格勒在微軟Lync項目上共事,后來成為Perzo最早期的資助者之一。烏拉相信,該服務“有望成為企業級市場的WhatsApp”。去年,烏拉所在的Merus Capital公司在種子期向Symphony投資了20萬美元。今年早些時候,Merus Capital加碼,又注入了350萬美元投資。

    ????烏拉表示:“人人都猜測Symphony可能成為彭博終結者,但我們之前甚至都不知道彭博終端是什么。我們之前嚴重與世界脫節?!爆F在,烏拉比較熟悉彭博終端了。他這樣描述自己第一次看到彭博終端界面時的震驚:“我簡直不敢相信,我還以為他們是跟我開玩笑?!睘趵瓕⑵浔茸魇褂蒙鲜兰o50年代的過時編程語言Cobal進行編程。他說道:“這像是老掉牙的東西?!贝_實,自20世紀80年代以來,彭博系統的硬件或軟件界面鮮有更新,這招致了一些批評,甚至促使設計公司IDEO于2007年在Condé Nast Portfolio雜志上暢想了如何重新設計彭博系統的用戶體驗。

    ????就格勒而言,他的志向不光是打敗彭博。格勒計劃在今年夏天發布完整版本,他希望自己這款一體化完全兼容的端對端加密通訊工具能橫掃目前支離破碎的加密通訊市場,取代市場上現有的彭博聊天工具、湯森路透Eikon、美國在線Instant Messenger、雅虎聊天工具、Gchat等多款產品。格勒希望,其產品在消費者中同在企業級市場上一樣大受歡迎。

    ????與封閉的彭博系統不同的是,作為Symphony首席執行官,格勒計劃將該服務開源,以便人們在此基礎上構建內容和新聞內容等功能。格勒還打算在Symphony中嵌入自動化個人助理等有用的情境智能。格勒表示,該服務可能對三個等級的付費用戶免費,他提到了訪問公司通訊簿、無限存儲、合規以及網絡冗余等附加軟件。就付款等級定價而言,格勒預計:專業級定價低于每月10美元;企業級介于每月15美元至20美元之間;企業增強級低于每月30美元。

    ????格勒聲稱:“我說句大膽的話。如果我們最終迫使你使用兩種不同的通訊工具——姑且稱之為收件箱——那是我們的失敗。因為那樣的話,我們未能簡化你的生活,反而使其變得更加復雜?!?/p>

    ????雖然上述說法還有待證實,但各大企業已經對Symphony頗有信心。時任高盛首要戰略投資部門負責人的達倫?科恩曾幫助促成合并,并一直推動各家企業投資Symphony。如今,高盛在一眾企業中率先采用Symphony,并已將自身此前的通訊工具Live Current(該產品使雇員能輕松抓取并分享推特消息,而推特上往往有新聞)并入Symphony。盡管科恩未能對本文置評,但很可能他及其上級對該交易很滿意;科恩隨后晉級為合伙人。更重要的問題是,Symphony能否順利晉級——從一家雄心勃勃的初創企業變身金融業新標桿。(財富中文網)

    ????譯者:Hunter

    ????審校: 夏林

    ????Since the early ‘90s, Bloomberg has dominated the financial communications market, its terminals serving as key entry points into the world’s financial corridors. Costing more than $20,000 a piece per year and connecting more than 320,000 clients with critical information, Bloomberg’s terminals are the industry standard when it comes to secure, instant messaging.

    ????Still, financial firms are tired of the terminal’s exorbitant price tag, and many traders are still wary after Bloomberg reporters were caught snooping the activity of terminal users last year. (Bloomberg issued an apology and updated its newsroom rules in an effort to prevent such an incident from reoccurring.)

    ????It’s not surprising, then, why 14 of the world’s biggest financial firms—including Goldman Sachs , Bank of America , BlackRock, J.P Morgan Chase , and others—bought a secure instant messaging service called Perzo in August 2014 through a venture called Symphony Communication Services Holdings. They want a cheaper, yet equally secure, technology to replace Bloomberg’s ubiquitous terminals.

    ????Goldman Sachs, one of the most vocal gripers in the Bloomberg affair, shelled out $66 million to became the principal investor in Symphony. Founded in 2012 by Frenchman David Gurle (who hails from Cannes and previously worked at Microsoft, Thomson Reuters, and Skype), Perzo—since renamed Symphony—may soon offer a proprietary alternative to Bloomberg’s premium messaging tool. One advantage: the product grants enterprises control over how and with whom their employees chat, an appealing feature for those looking to comply with regulatory Chinese walls. (Bloomberg declined to comment.)

    ????Gurle is an interesting figure himself. Not only does he have a background at several big-name companies, he’s also a licensed pilot who occasionally flies medical missions to transport organs and patients from airfield to hospital. He initially pitched the idea for a unified communications service—one that bundles messaging, voice and application sharing—at a meeting with Bill Gates in 2000. It went well. “If you’re in a product review with Bill, you’ll hear him say, ‘This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard,’” Gurle says. “I didn’t hear that comment, so it was a very positive outcome.”

    ????Symphony can be considered a rebirth of that initial pitch. “Project Phoenix,” as the Microsoft endeavor was dubbed, evolved into Microsoft Lync, a business communications system. After leaving the software giant in 2003 to lead collaborative services at Thomson Reuters for seven years—Gurle’s first foray into the financial world—he joined Skype, where he headed the company’s enterprise business division. A year later, Gurle’s former employer Microsoft purchased Skype, bringing his career full circle. (The company recently announced that Microsoft Lync will be renamed Skype for Business next year.) Now Gurle has turned another revolution, returning to Wall Street.

    ????Salman Ullah, a partner at the venture firm Merus Capital who two decades ago worked with Gurle on Microsoft Lync and later became one of Perzo’s earliest funders, believes the service “has the potential to be the WhatsApp for business,” as he put it. Last year, his firm invested $200,000 in Symphony’s seed round. Earlier this year, the firm upped its contribution, injecting an additional $3.5 million.

    ????“Everybody has speculated about how Symphony could be a Bloomberg killer,” Ullah says. “We didn’t even know what it was. We were so decoupled from that world.” Now Ullah is more familiar. He describes his shock at first seeing the interface of the Bloomberg terminal: “I couldn’t believe it. I thought they were pulling my leg,” Ullah says. He compares the experience to coding in the démodé programming language Cobal from the ‘50s. “It’s like clay tablet era,” he says. Indeed, the Bloomberg system has seen few updates to its hardware or software interfaces since in the 1980s, a fact that’s illicit some criticism and even prompted user-interface IDEO to imagine a possible UX redesign for Condé Nast Portfolio magazine in 2007.

    ????For Gurle’s part, his ambition exceeds unseating Bloomberg. With plans for a full release by this summer, he would like his end-to-end encrypted messaging tool to sweep the currently fragmented landscape (cluttered with Bloomberg chat, Thomson Reuters Eikon, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo chat, Gchat, etc.) with an all-in-one, fully compliant alternative. He hopes it will be just as popular with consumers as businesses.

    ????As CEO of Symphony, Gurle plans to make the service open source, so people can build features, like content and news elements, on top, unlike the closed Bloomberg system. He also aims to embed helpful contextual intelligence in Symphony, such as an automated personal assistant. The service will likely be free with three paid tiers, he says, mentioning add-ons like access to corporate directories, unlimited storage, regulatory compliance, and network redundancies. In terms of the paid tier pricing, he expects: Professional (less than $10 per month), Enterprise (between $15 and $20 per month), and Enterprise Plus (less than $30 per month).

    ????“I’m going to make a very bold statement,” Gurle declares. “If we end up forcing you to use two different communication tools—inboxes, let’s call it, for lack of a better term—then we have failed,” he says. “Then we will not have simplified your life, we will have made it more complicated.”

    ????While that statement has yet to be proven, major enterprises are already putting a lot of faith in Symphony. Darren Cohen, then head of principal strategic investments at Goldman Sachs and who helped spark the merger tête-à-têtes, has been a firebrand within the consortium of investing companies. Goldman Sachs now leads the pack in adopting Symphony, and the company has already folded its former tool—Live Current, which allows employees to easily grab and share tweets (where news often breaks)—into Symphony. Though Cohen was unable to provide comment for the story, odds are good that he and his superiors are pleased with the deal; he has since been promoted to partner. The bigger question is whether Symphony will see a promotion of its own from ambitious startup to the new gold standard of the financial industry.

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