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Tackling ISOs and FTRs

From a development roadmap point of view, Molecule's decision to connect with ISOs and value FTRs was a bit of an outlier. We tend to have a solid understanding of what our customers want, and we use this insight to build features with wild-eyed speed and focused precision. ISO connectivity and valuing FTRs came about in a different fashion, however.

As Sameer, our CEO, and I sat in a room (OR at the table with eight execs representing one of the largest European utilities), the conversation unfolded in an unpredictable way. Deal capture and risk is our bread and butter, so we demonstrated how Molecule automates as much as possible. We believed we had nailed everything around what they could possibly need from a risk management platform, and we felt we had won the room. Our free implementation and implementation time frame (typically 90 days or less) was the icing on the cake. It was a great meeting.

Then someone asked about ISOs and FTRs. At the time, we did not have this feature. The challenge was laid out. Could we add that in the 90 day implementation for a deal to happen? As Sameer considered the industry's need for features around congestion, I held my breath. As you can surely guess, the answer came swiftly: yes.

Our in-house Development Team started banging out code before the ink could dry on the deal. Starting with SPP and PJM, we dived deep into valuing FTRs.

During the implementation process, Molecule aimed to provide support for FTRs, Virtuals, & day ahead power. The challenge landed on the lap of our SVP of Engineering, Paul Kaisharis. Speaking with Paul, he was quick to discuss the challenges around delivering our new solution: "understanding the domain terms and normalizing those terms as well as the implementation across the various ISOs." He was equally quick to discuss what he was most proud of: "creating a standard implementation that allows us to add support for a new ISO in just a few days."

Kyle McRoberts, a key member of our Customer Success team, chimed in as well, "I’d say the most challenging and rewarding part of the FTR implementation was simply the volume. Right now we have close to 7,000 paths available in Molecule, each with a peak and off peak product. The other challenge is that we simply don’t know when new paths are needed until the auction results are posted. We’ve got a process in place now to create new paths when needed (for example, over 500 today) mostly without the customer knowing they needed to be created."

Joe, our VP of Customer Success, was another integral piece in the FTR puzzle. He said, "the challenge: the large number of moving parts involved in this implementation and putting them all together working with multiple vendors as well as divisions within the client organization. What we are most proud of: implementing FTRs with a large number of paths with multiple ISOs for a big multinational company in a short period of time."

We are by no means a custom shop. Molecule builds modern deal capture and risk for everyone. Every customer benefits from our two-week release cycle with free updates and support. Paying for 'future code' is absurd to us. We love our customers. And we listen to them. We take their suggestions and look at the industry with the future of commodity trading in mind. Then we build kickass tech.

What's next? Physical scheduling. Stay tuned.

Top Questions Our Sales Team is Asked

Sometimes you want more information than what a company highlights on their website before requesting a demo and ending up in a marketing and sales funnel. We get it. We want to provide you with more details about Molecule and our platform so you feel good about sending in that demo request (which you can schedule easily right here)!

Here are common questions prospective customers ask our sales team:

TRADES SUPPORTED

Does Molecule support positions tradable on ICE and CME (e.g. lookback options, monthly options, etc.)?

We support pretty much everything on ICE, including lookbacks and monthly options. There has been nothing to date that we can’t support.

Molecule really shines with ICE, CME, on exchange trades, but I have off-exchange/ OTC trades. Can you handle these as well?

We can! Molecule has an awesome natural language processor that handles all OTC/ off-exchange trades in a simple interface. Just type in the search box the same way you would say the trade out loud, and hit enter. It books, position automatically updates, and VaR recalculates. It just works.

FTRs?

One of our favorites! Yes. Molecule connects to ISOs and provides position and settlements. Virtuals as well.

REPORTING

What kind of reports can you provide?

With every subscription, we have custom reports included in the package. We have a baked-in BI tool, and we work with you to set up interactive visual reports. These can be as complex as you want so that you can see the data you need – however you need to see data to make the best decisions.

How long will it take Molecule to calculate and finalize our end of day reporting? We have a specific time reports must be submitted. Can we specify a deadline in Molecule?

Molecule recalculates EOD with every new trade booked in near real time. It’s automatic, accurate, and almost like magic. Since it's ready whenever you want, there's no need to set a deadline.

What VaR models does Molecule run?

Monte Carlo and Delta Gamma.

Can we include our own asset models in the system?

Yes. The platform has an assets area where we can integrate pretty much anything. Some can be rather complex, but we haven’t run into something we can’t include yet. We enjoy working together to figure out each customer’s unique assets and how to integrate into Molecule in a smart way.

PLATFORM FUNCTIONALITY

Some of my team wants to stick with spreadsheets. Is that a problem?

No issue at all. Molecule’s API ties into your Excel sheets. This way you know everyone is on the same page and all information is automatic and accurate.

Can we view different traders’ activity from a management point of view?

There are a few ways you could set this up in Molecule. We can help you determine what best fits your worldview and implement in the right way.

Sometimes we want to roll out new trading strategies. Is there a way we can keep track of these?

Yes! Within Molecule you can set up tags for various strategies and view by tag.

IMPLEMENTATION

What are your implementation fees?

$0 - and that’s not a typo! We really charge $0 to get up and running with Molecule.

Really?

Yes. Really!

While on the subject of implementation… how long does your process take?

In most cases, 90 days or less.

SUPPORT & UPDATES

How do software updates work? I’m guessing there are additional fees?

We regularly (approximately every two weeks) push updates live for all of our customers. These costs are all included in our prices, so you don’t need to budget any extra for them… or wait years to see improvements.

Will we have to hire a consultant, developer, or budget for tickets?

We believe software should just work and have won customers on our awesome support team. If you need something, simply let us know. There are no additional costs, and most tickets we resolve in under an hour.

Molecule updates every two weeks? With such an aggressive release cycle, how do you all ensure a stable code environment?

We love this question! Let’s geek out. First, every code change is tested as part of a full automatic regression test, through our Continuous Integration suite. Then, we manually test every change. Next, we sanity-check the app by hand. Finally, we backtest a year’s worth of valuation data using our newest code, just to see if anything would have changed. Our biggest goal is no (bad) surprises. Our QA process is the most robust you’ll find in this space.

After all this, schedule your demo with us so we can answer your other questions.

Happy 2019!

This time last year, Molecule had just moved into a new office, and our team was preparing for what promised to be another big year of company growth. 2018 did not fail to deliver. We did not fail to deliver. It’s always great to look back at the plans you had for a year and see how well you did. Here’s what we expected from 2018.

So what actually happened?

When 2018 began, we had been serving exchange-trading customers for several years, with some exposure to bilateral markets. Our team in Houston consisted of a handful of developers and a small support/implementation team.

In January, Paul Kaisharis joined our team as SVP Software Engineering. We also welcomed new hires to our dev and sales teams. Molecule now has a team of 16 – developers, project managers, implementation & support analysts, team leads, and more – supporting trading in bilateral crude, gas, chemicals, and electricity markets. Our deal volume has risen significantly, as has the diversity of our user count.

Our development team has stayed busy with many software updates, 24 in total. Here’s an overview of our software update process. We use this to push updates live approximately every two weeks -- with more stringent QA testing than typically seen in the industry.

  • Connectivity to multiple ISOs for downloading a variety of products
  • Custom fields on trades
  • The ability to use an IR curve to mark options
  • The ability to batch generate reports/invoices/etc.
  • A new P&L feature, currently in Beta, for YTD/MTD/QTD leg-level P&Ls
  • APIs for uploading trades, additional filters, and more
  • Improvements for bilateral trading, such as better options support, strike interpolation, and VaR
  • Lots of new FCM reconciliation functionality, including supporting new banks, multi-bank reconciliation, and the ability to generate trades from a statement
  • Many performance improvements, such as our “fast lane” for exchange-trading customers, UI-related performance improvements, and chunking for large uploads.

The team (primarily Sameer and Dustin) attended several conferences. You may have spotted them at E-World (Germany), Platts Digital Commodities Summit (US), ComRisk (UK), ETOT (UK), or FIA (US). Sameer spoke at several of them, and the team led workshops at ComRisk and ETOT -- all focused on risk management and the cloud.

In Q4, we launched a new logo and website. If you follow Molecule on LinkedIn, you may have noticed the animated version of our logo. Please follow the Molecule LinkedIn page for industry news, company announcements, and tech tips.

Throughout our changes over the past year, we’ve remained committed to our core values. To that end, we were proud to have signed the Amicus Brief fighting against prejudicial immigration policy. This policy issue is a critical one to Molecule and our customers, because diversity is simply a given in our industry — and it’s core to what we believe about America, our home. We took a stand because it’s that important to us, and we hope to see a change for the better in the years to come.

We’ve gotten lots of great feedback on our product, and our roadmap, as well – and 2019 has lots more to come. We’ve had/are having many conversations with customers about our roadmap, but here are some highlights:

  • A specific focus on boiling down common issues/requests – and fixing small usability issues, system-wide. First up are the Trade entry process and the Trades screen.
  • Finishing our v2 API – which should allow for much faster, more granular interactions with Molecule.
  • Reworking our Confirms workflow. We’ve received lots of feedback on our v1 features, and now have a good sense of what would work well for most companies.
  • Clearer, more flexible decomposition of spreads & swaps, and less-noisy support for hourly power.
  • Continuing work on our physical logistics features.

With that, we wish you and yours a happy, safe, healthy, and wonderful 2019!

P.S. By the way, another awesome highlight is that three(!!!) of us got engaged in 2018.

Things Are Looking A Little Different Around Here

If you’ve been watching us, you’ll notice a few things have changed around our website. Specifically, we overhauled the information architecture to help users answers their questions about Molecule more quickly. Now, you’ll find specific use cases informed by how our customers use Molecule today, directly on the home page.

More work, however, was our long-developed update to our logo and branding! When we launched Molecule in 2012, we had literally no code and no customers, but a strong vision of where we wanted to go. Since then, the many users of our platform have expressed clear preferences of where Molecule should go next: physical logistics/scheduling, and easy connectivity with upstream and downstream systems.

Our new branding reflects this while keeping to our core mission of easily, reliably managing risk for commodities portfolios. To talk more about the concept, here’s our designer, Jay Jimenea:

Exchange, transfer, flow, connectedness. Those are some of the concepts we wanted to reflect in our new logo. Those concepts represent motion, and there’s a ton of motion in Molecule. So many trades flow through Molecule on a daily basis, and with physical logistics and scheduling on the horizon, even more data will flow through the application. In addition, Molecule is becoming increasingly interconnected with upstream and downstream enterprise systems via our APIs. We thought we should capture this in the logo. While the methane logo provided a nice chemical icon to represent commodities, it did not visually capture the activity that transpires within Molecule. At quick glance, that logo could represent a chemical engineering firm if not for the word “software.” So, how could we visually capture motion and other desired concepts while maintaining the characteristics we liked from the previous design?

We achieved motion by using a pair of red tracks to form the letter “M” in the negative space between them. The nodes on the tracks are intended to represent points similar to what you might see on routes in map applications, train routes, or circuits on a circuit board. Each node is either a start or an end point. This creates a bidirectional movement between the nodes, guiding the eye back and forth between them. There’s movement created when just looking at the “M.” The nodes are also not far in appearance from the atoms in the methane icon.

Molecule is a software company that prides itself on simplicity for our users. Molecule’s UI removes the extraneous so users can focus on what they care about without distraction. Just like our application, we felt that we could remove from the logo as well. The word “software” was something we could remove if tech was represented elsewhere. The absence of “software” streamlines the design by removing clutter, and the circuit-like appearance of the “M” icon is undeniably a technology statement. That attribute is more than sufficient in reflecting the tech space and, in turn, software.

Molecule is bold in its messaging and aspirations, yet sensitive to human factors in its usability. The acute angles and sharp points of the new icon reflect the bold and aggressive attitude of the company, while the rounded nodes reflect Molecule’s sensible side. The connected “M” and “O” in the typeface was something we did like about the prior logo. It was the one quality that reflected motion, so we wanted to keep that posture intact. Plus, this strengthens the connectedness concept. The same bold lines and sharp angles from the new icon are mirrored in the “M” to extend the attitude into the Gotham typeface. (Sameer likes to call this the Vampire M.) The stylized “O” looks like an eye with its hawkish brow, further complementing the bold stance.

Gotham has been Molecule’s selected typeface from the beginning, and it continues to be. The font will not change in the Molecule application, marketing materials, or website. Gotham Black’s thick lines and wide curves continue to accompany our bold messaging and sensible style all at the same time. We love it.

We also still love our methane icon. We love it so much that it has also been updated for continued use. The new icon takes on a more simplified look, with removed outlines and updated shaping. The outlines were often lost when seen at smaller dimensions, so in the spirit of simplifying, they were removed. The icon will not take center stage as it used to, but it will continue to be seen throughout Molecule’s visual marketing.

Every angle and edge in the new logo is intentional and sculpted to convey exactly what Molecule is. We hope you like it!"

We’re proud of where we’ve come as a company, and we’re proud of our new design. We would love to hear your feedback and thoughts about the new look and feel, so please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@molecule.io.

Molecule's Software Release Process

One of the (many) reasons why true cloud technology is currently the best software platform for enterprises is that providers can regularly push updates and improvements to the software without the customer having to do anything on their end.

One of the (many) reasons why Molecule stands out for energy traders is that we release new versions of our software roughly every two weeks. Our customers don’t have to take any action to get the latest version nor do they pay any extra fees to get new software that frequently.

I recently sat down with our VP of Software Engineering, Paul Kasharis, who we hired in part to ensure that we lead the industry in testing rigor. Here are the highlights of our testing process.

Our testing process is comprehensive, intensive, and automated.

About 90% of our code is tested automatically, every time a change is made (at both the method-level and whole-application-level). Static analysis tests (for security) are run at the same time. Our developers also peer-review every change for approach, performance, and security. Then the team who requested the change, acceptance-tests it. After that, our CS team sanity-checks the whole of Molecule, for security and functionality.

Finally, we back-test a year’s worth of data to make sure that positions and P&Ls don’t change — to make sure we didn’t change something that can affect users’ numbers. We test use cases and business scenarios to make this as robust a process as possible.

We do this, over and over again. Every. Two. Weeks.

Development might be faster in the short term, if we didn’t take this heavy of an approach. But, we value quality extremely highly. We want to release software that delivers the right numbers, right out of the box, every time. Our goal is Zero Customer-Discovered Surprises.

Many competing software companies don’t use such a rigorous process. They rely on people to spot errors. To make development faster (and cheaper), they don’t use unit- or feature tests. Nobody, but nobody we know backtests old data for quality purposes.

Why is this important to us?

Not only are we offended by the ridiculous implementation and upgrade fees that some legacy providers charge, but we also believe that enterprise software should be just as beautiful and fun to use as the apps on our phones. We also believe that software hosted in the cloud is the best technical solution for enterprise customers — from enhanced security to not having to live with bugs that can be easily fixed.

We truly believe that beautiful cloud software is the right thing to provide to our customers. You can read more about our core values here.