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May 17, 2008 

 Reporter’s Notebook: OCA Ventures Funds Fourth Financial Tech Firm 1/8/2008
CHICAGO – In this week’s Reporter’s Notebook, we revisit the emerging financial technology market and report on the most recent deal in the space by Chicago-based OCA Ventures. We also preview LiquidTalk’s appearance at DEMO 2008 and introduce you to newly launched MaidenNameChange.com.

As a dozen financial services bigwigs prepare to launch an exchange to rival the CME Group, the newly merged offspring of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade will likely respond to the new competition by offering price breaks and trading innovations.

This represents continued opportunity for young companies in the financial technology industry because a premium will be placed on inventions that more easily enable computerized trading. Venture capital investors in Chicago and across the U.S. are circling the space, and toward the end of 2007, Chicago-based OCA Ventures invested in its fourth financial technology company: Evanston, Ill-based Base-2 Capital.

Founded in 2005 by former principals with The Hull Group (the electronic trading firm run by former U.S. Senate candidate Blair Hull), Base-2 Capital builds algorithms and trading systems to help investors manage complexities and compliance regulations in a computerized trading world.

Prior to raising a seven-figure Series A venture capital round exclusively from OCA, Base-2 was funded from founders and from the undisclosed amount of revenue it generates.

“We are transitioning from a pure technology firm to a trading firm that uses technology,” said Base-2 co-founder and managing director Stephen O’Connor. He and his three partners most recently worked at Goldman Sachs after it acquired The Hull Group in 1999. “We were looking for a partner to add value in the next phase of our business, which is establishing ourselves in the equity and derivative markets.”

O’Connor is not a member of the O’Connor family that is a primary limited partner of OCA Ventures.

The venture firm was founded in 1999 originally as a vehicle for former partners of O’Connor & Associates (a Chicago firm that pioneered derivatives trading) and is now investing out of its second fund, which is targeted to be at $75 million. In addition to funding Base-2, OCA is an investor in three other financial technology firms including Chicago-based Cohesive Flexible Technologies, Florida-based TradeKing and Denver-based Selero.

“We continue to see a lot of early stage financial technology deals in Chicago and on a national level,” said OCA Ventures CEO Jim Dugan. Among the consortium of 12 financial services firms forming a rival exchange to the CME are Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel Investment Group and trading firms Getco and PEAK6.

LiquidTalk to Present at DEMO 2008

LiquidTalk CEO David Peak
LiquidTalk CEO David Peak (on left).
Photo by Lou Calamaras/MidwestBusiness.com

In early 2007, LiquidTalk raised nearly $2.5 million to fund its effort to bring corporate playlists to iPods, smart phones and other mobile media devices.

Later in January, the company will showcase its most recent mobile work force software at DEMO 2008 in Palm Springs, Fla.

“People are getting tired of the social media and business-to-consumer stuff out there,” said LiquidTalk CEO David Peak. “People are more interested in how companies are solving the enterprise problem.”

LiquidTalk develops software that allows companies to distribute audio and video to employees in the field. As more employees work from remote locations, the bet is that deeper messaging beyond cell phones and mobile e-mail will increase out-of-office productivity.

LiquidTalk and its nearly 30 employees are based at the University Technology Park at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The company is funded by Sewickley, Penn.-based Meakem Becker Venture Capital. For nearly 20 years, the semi-annual DEMO conference has helped to introduce products from companies including Palm, USRobotics and E*TRADE.

MaidenNameChange.com Debuts

A husband and wife team recently launched a remedy to a post-nuptial nag at the Web site MaidenNameChange.com. Shortly after Chicagoans Pam and Steve Sherman got married in 2006, she was faced with the task of making sure her new last name was updated on all her personal and identification records.

“When we got back from our honeymoon, I took an extra week off from work and I didn’t finish this,” Pam Sherman said.

After getting through the process manually, the couple later conceived of an automated service that – for about 30 bucks – walks users through the bureaucracy. Chicago-based Web design firm Pear Logic helped develop the interface for the site, which is funded by the couple.

While the Shermans are not quitting their day jobs at Leo Burnett and LaSalle Bank (respectively), they hope the niche business will catch on and perhaps eventually be marketed within a wedding planning network such as The Wedding Channel or TheKnot.com.

Feeding the Future

Oak Lawn, Ill. native and Feed.Us CTO John Welborn gave a presentation to the Chicago Association of Web Developers on Dec. 23, 2008 entitled “Content Delivery Platforms: The Key to Web Scalability & Flexibility”.

Content from this article, which first appeared on Monday in the weekly Tech Matters
column by Brad Spirrison in the Chicago Sun-Times, is being published with permission.

Brad Spirrison

Staff Writer
AIM: JSpirrison

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