Merc success bursts Google babble bubble

May 1, 2006


Blame it on Midwestern values. Californians babble non-stop about Google going public at $85 a share on Aug. 19, 2004. Google closed Friday at $417.94. Chicagoans barely speak about the Chicago Mercantile Exchange IPO at $35 a share on Dec. 6, 2002. CME closed Friday at $458.

Both companies' successes are fueled by cutting-edge technology and best-of-breed knowledge workers.

Chicagoans save their cheering for losers like the Cubs or occasional winners like the White Sox, Bears or the Jordan-era Bulls. Why tout a hometown moneymaker like the trading industry? Using technology to trade futures is too complicated for conversation at the Cubby Bear or the Billy Goat. A "Saturday Night Live" comedy sketch about Chicago's tech-trading brainiacs is unimaginable.

Chicagoans are captivated by the Ryan corruption case, the Ryan reconstruction effort and foie gras. Celebrate our innovative tech-based trading prowess? Not a chance. We're more likely to see Riverview re-emerge at Belmont and Western.

We've slipped to No. 3 as a convention city, with New York City hot on our heels. Maybe it's time to pay attention to what's happening in trading in town.

Darragh steps up

Local tech entrepreneurship leader Linda Darragh aims to get Chicago talking about the CME's success. Tomorrow, Darragh hosts a program at the CME titled "Exploring Entrepreneurship: The Chicago Futures Trading Industry, Opportunities and Challenges for the Future."

"We are going to celebrate innovation," Darragh says. "We want to make sure Chicago remains the global center for this industry."

Darragh is quick to note the trading industry is changing, and that spells opportunity. "This industry is going virtual. It doesn't have to be located in the South Loop," Darragh says. "Huge amounts of leading-edge technology are required to handle vast amounts of data."

Darragh is program director at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. She's previously held roles at Northwestern University and the Women's Business Development Center. She knows what's what and who's who around town. Darragh sees untapped entrepreneurial gold in Chicago's trading tradition.

"This is an industry below the radar," Darragh says. "People don't talk about the huge economic value it adds."

The Polsky Center is studying the industry and exploring the potential for spinning out entrepreneurial ventures. Darragh wants to highlight innovation at the CME, CBOT and the CBOE. She also wants us to know about emerging firms such as Trading Technologies, OptionsXpress, Thinkorswim and RedSky Financial, which support the trading industry.

Darragh is right to call for more recognition for our trading industry. Next time you use that Google tool bar, put this in your mind. Chicago leads the way in trading innovation.

Is America losing it?

National Venture Capital Association President Mark Heesen says Sarbanes Oxley might push U.S. startups to IPO on off-shore exchanges. In the first quarter, only 10 U.S. venture-backed companies went public on U.S. exchanges.

Says Heesen, "Policymakers are waking up to the fact that U.S. companies do not want to go public in the U.S. as a result of SOX."

Heesen praised U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for "being at the forefront to understand the impact of SOX from the small-company level."

Bits & bytes

What does it take to turn IT pros into business leaders? Paul Glen, Computerworld columnist and author of Leading Geeks, headlines Friday morning's program on the topic at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Glen contends managing geeks requires a different spin. Joining the discussion are local tech luminaries: Allstate CIO Cathy Brune, Motorola director David Lum and former Baxter e-business VP Paul Brenner.

I.c.stars President Sandee Kastrul, Society for Information Management President Ellen Barry and Black Data Processing Associates President Yvette Graham host the fourth annual Capitalize on Illinois fund-raiser tonight at the W Hotel. Speakers include: IBM VP Mike Borman, Chicago Children's Museum CEO Peter England, Hewitt CEO Dale Gifford and United Stationers CEO Dick Goch-nauer. Proceeds will support i.c.stars. community tech training efforts.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2006 Marion Consulting Partners