Sameer "El Jefe" Soleja

Kicking off 2018

The first week of January is behind us, and like many of you, the end of the year/start of another year has us reviewing the progress we made and highlights we shared as a team in 2017. We are also looking at what is going to take us to the next level in 2018.

Here are some of the awesome things that happened by and to Molecule last year:

Dustin Whipple, our VP Sales, joined our company. He’s joined me on trips to Boston and Chicago (where we got to see BOB FREAKING WOODWARD speak!). We also worked ETOT together in London in November and led a workshop on cloud technology. If you haven’t met Dustin yet, you should email him at

At the end of the year, Molecule found a new home. We’re loving our new digs. And, not just because our new digs come with donuts. The new space will work well for us as we scale up our team.

Our developers and technical talent really help Molecule offer a powerful product in energy trading - and did they ever work hard last year! We rolled out new features like automating your VaR calculations and reconciliations, and we added business intelligence reports. To help our users get up and running with VaR, and to help the market broadly with thinking through how to automate VaR calculations, we hosted a webinar this summer with Dr. Ehud Ronn, a professor at the University of Texas. You can check out the webinar here.

Have I mentioned that we recently won two new clients direct from some of the biggest players in the industry? I’m pumped because (1) our team is awesome and they put their hearts and sweat into making our customers happy and (2) we’ve noticed a shift in the market. People are starting to recognize that cloud is better than on-prem technology for energy trading! Long may that trend continue.

So, what to expect in 2018?

At Molecule, our team will continue to grow with people who are awesome at what they do and fit with our core values.

We have a lot of new features on our roadmap that we will build and rollout. Expect Molecule to be a different beast in 2018. Rawr. It will be easy to argue that we should be a part of every future ETRM discussion.

We’ll also be checking out lots of industry conferences again - both in the US and overseas. So, be on the lookout for these guys:


Looking more broadly at energy trading generally. Because the S&P 500 has grown so much, it is becoming an attractive market for investors. The barriers to entry for commodities is making it less attractive, so we think some funds will face this challenge in the coming year. We’re also expecting to see more market certainty, so there should be more stability in 2018.

We’d love to know what you’re expecting to see. Always feel free to get in touch and share your thoughts. You can head over to our LinkedIn page to connect with our team and other people who are passionate about energy trading, technology, and risk management.

On behalf of the Molecule team, have a great 2018! And don’t go on-prem...


You Buy Now!!!

Are you weighing options for implementing a new risk management platform for your energy trading operations in 2018? You may be considering developing proprietary software or looking at options available on the market. This means you face the build vs buy dilemma.

You may quickly feel like you are comparing apples to oranges, but we are here to help you understand the tradeoffs between these two options and decide which is best choice for your company.

Here are the most important five questions to ask when deciding whether your firm should build a risk management platform (or spreadsheets) or buy an existing software platform.

What are your technical requirements: Do you want a lot of customization? Do you need 99.9999% uptime?

Do you use proprietary valuation calculations that are different than commonly used ones? (PS…. YOU DON’T.) Do you need or want extremely customized software that accommodates 100% of your deals? Do you expect your software to perform like it’s been lean/six sigma mega-optimized for efficiency?

Yes? Your two best options are to either build your own software platform or buy one of our legacy competitors. Then hire consultants. Then be prepared to spend millions (sometimes even billions -- you know who you are).

98% good enough? You have lots of great out-of-the-box options! These may run on Amazon Web Services or other true-cloud solutions, which is considered best-in-class technology.

How quickly do you want to use the software?

When it comes to the time required to implement a new software solution, not all solutions are created equal. You could be up and running within 90 days, or you might be looking at a process spanning several years. Eek!!

2 years from now would be fine. Building would work. Or working with those costly consultants that will help set you up with a legacy vendor.

ASAP with as few hiccups and headaches as possible? Buy! You could be enjoying your new risk management platform in as few as 90 days.

How much budget can you allocate to this project?

Traditional IT-thought suggests that buying software is cheaper than building your own. However, this is not true if you buy one of the large, legacy vendor’s solution. It is not cheaper. There are some infamous implementations that cost over $20 million. 20 million eeks!!

We have about $20 million to invest. Yup - build or buying a legacy option could be the way to go.

Why do we have to pay to get setup on software we’re buying? We agree. There is a strong off-the-shelf option for you.

How big is your company?

The size of your company influences how many deals you track and how many people need access to the system. This increases the complexity of what needs to be tracked and what functionality is “enough” for your team.

Giant - Build or buy...

A Giant in Spirit but not in Numbers - Buy!

Does your IT department have extensive experience managing large, custom software projects?

Yes? Then your team could potentially build this out for you.

No? Don’t risk bad software. Buy a great option.

But, don’t buy legacy…

Honestly, if you decide that buying is the right path for you, don’t buy a legacy software product. You’ll end up hiring consultants anyway. Implementing their product, which inevitably will not meet 100% of your needs will cost just as much and take just as long (if not cost more and take longer) than simply building the perfect solution for your own organization. If you’re as unique as a snowflake and need a solution that reflects that, go be a snowflake and build your snowflake software.

Did you find out that you fall on the buying end of the spectrum? Get in touch with our team to discuss what options are available and would be best for your company.

Spreadsheets vs. Software

Having an unhealthy love for Excel seems to be a prerequisite to get into business school (Go Blue!). However, I am a technologist first and MBA second. That means that as much as I stand in awe of impressive Excel spreadsheets and the odd pivot table, I love good software more.

Since launching Molecule, we’ve seen some “creative” Excel work by impressive quantitative minds. However, our clients have basically been held to ransom by spreadsheets that only quants could use and manage. Or worse (and more common), trade books have been handled by individual traders in silos.

When you’re working on a team, transparency is important. Everyone at the fund should have confidence that the numbers on their screens – like positions – are accurate. In a spreadsheet, dissecting complex formulas is a headache. Manual data entry is error-prone.

Even worse – we’ve seen funds using incorrect risk calculations for years because of a small error in a spreadsheet. Obviously, the risk that something goes wrong with your spreadsheets increases as the number of traders goes up.

I think that spreadsheets can work for new funds with a trader or two, but there is a breaking point. Here are some signs that you’ve outgrown spreadsheets:

  • You have to keep someone on your payroll just because they’re the only one who can manage your data and reporting.
  • You’re always yelling across the room, “Resave the spreadsheet!”
  • You’re not 100% sure that your numbers are correct, but in your head you have a sense of the risk of the organization.
  • You’ve realized that software offers a much better way to manage your business.

I typically see this transition point happen around the time a company adds a third trader, or reaches $10m in AUM.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar, and you’re ready to explore software options, take a look at our recommendations for running (or not running) a risk system RFP.

Of course, we’re also happy to talk to you about your process and software options. Feel free to email us at Having a weird love for software may seem like a prerequisite to email us, but it’s not! You’ll be in a much better place when you know the numbers on your screen are right.

Tools we Use: Asana

In April, I shared Molecule’s Core Values with you. One of the ways that we Do Things A Certain Way, is by building or buying tools to do work for us. It gets a little crazy. We recently counted over 50 apps we use around the company -- to communicate better, to automate repetitive tasks, and to stay organized.

Some of the big ones: Slack, Asana, Pivotal Tracker, and ProsperWorks. One that I personally have a love/hate relationship with is Asana, which we use for project management.

Why we needed a project management tool

When we started Molecule, we basically only did one thing -- write software. No invoicing (because there was no product). No deal tracking (because there were no deals). You get the picture. Everything that wasn’t related to writing software was done by one or two people -- and managed on their personal to-do lists. There were no project managers, and nobody had any desire to run Gantt charts.

Then we got bigger. Delegating non-software tasks became a thing, as did checklists and due dates. Today, we have a team of people working on marketing, business development, account management, design, and operations -- in addition to making software. That’s a lot of stuff to coordinate!

Transition to Asana

Early last year, we decided to try to coordinate our non-development tasks in a better way. Project management tools seemed like they were built for this, and we tried several (including some with Gantt charts). We finally landed on the one recommended by Mercury Fund at their CXO Summit -- Asana.

We tried it on a small team for a couple of weeks, then had a training/brainstorming session where we gave everyone the basics, and had them offer ideas on how to use it. We also got back together a couple of weeks later, to see how people were using it.

We had all non-developers move their tasks to Asana, and to make sure it was really adopted, we started building processes that were wired to the tool. Our release checklist. Our customer implementation schedule. Our ops checklists. We wired some of these to Slack, too, in a more-or-less unholy way.

While Asana became part of my workflow immediately (because I use a task list to clear my mind), it took a while to get adopted by the rest of the team. It took creating rituals around our to-do lists -- in 1:1 meetings and in release planning -- and then drawing people into the tool by using notifications and commenting features, to start to reap the communication benefits we were looking for. Multiple channels (email, Slack, whiteboards) started fusing into logical places. Lots of scattered notes around the office suddenly became actionable, follow-up-able, to-dos -- and we still didn’t have Gantt charts.

We’re still getting used to this type of team communication, and there’s a long way to go. Also, there are things we both like and don’t like about the tool. Here’s the rundown:

Things we like about Asana

  • Everyone can see the same to-dos
  • Good commenting and tagging features
  • Easy to assign tasks and see status
  • Shortcut keys! (this might be just me)

Things we hate about Asana

  • Terrible UX
  • Slow load times
  • Mobile app and notifications system leave lots to be desired

Lessons Learned

  • Have a clear purpose for adopting the tool.
  • Create simple, bright lines: when to use Asana, when to use things like Slack or e-mail.
  • Commit -- test the tool, then move everything over at once.
  • Find situations to use the tool, and remind people to use it.
  • Profit!

American Freedom is a Free Internet for America

Today is a sort of grassroots Internet "Day of Action" related to Net Neutrality.

There has been lots of ink (including my own) spilled about the wonky details of the concept. There has also been a lot of fearmongering about what might happen if, despite massive public outcry, Ajit Pai at the FCC weakens Title II protections for the Internet.

Here's the thing: it's not fearmongering. It's all true.

In America, if you're part of the 83% of the population lucky enough to have decent internet, you likely have the choice of one or two carriers, each of them among the most reviled companies in the country. These companies provide terrible customer service, jack up prices, charge you exorbitant fees, sneak charges into your monthly bill, and even try to prevent cities from creating competition. They maintain their oligopoly power through coordinated lobbying efforts.

Now, the FCC wants to hand these companies more power, essentially saying that they should promise an open internet in their Terms of Service (the agreement you click through to sign up for internet service) rather than have their behavior monitored and regulated, as it currently is. The idea is, presumably, that "unshackling" these well-meaning companies will somehow result in lower prices to the consumer.

Regardless of party affiliation, there's something clearly wrong with that assumption, for these particular companies. This whole mess smacks of the same Things That Are Wrong With America, that I hear from people on both sides of the political spectrum complain about:

  • "Crony Capitalism"
  • Government in the pocket of Lobbyists
  • Some Executive Trampling on my Rights, and
  • "Comcast only lowered my price when I told them I would drop my service."

The open Internet conversation is a small version of the broader debate we're having as a nation, and that is important.

Now to go wait on my AT&T technician.