Are Open Source and Capitalism Worlds Apart?

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2008-02-06 Print this article Print

Panelists at the Money:Tech conference find no inherent contradictions between open source and the capital markets.

NEW YORK - Is the concept of open-source finance a contradiction in terms? That was the question posed to a panel at the O'Reilly Money:Tech conference here Feb. 6.

The question spawned a discussion as to whether open-source technologies were fundamentally at odds with the zero-sum world of capital markets and whether it is possible to make money while sharing intellectual property.

Apparently, the short answer is no. Investors of all sizes are taking advantage of open source to share technologies, ideas and find more profits, panelists agreed, belying the notion that there is a contradiction between the open source and capital markets worlds.

James Altucher, the president and founder of Stockpickr LLC, a subsidiary of, said value resides in the combination of open-source software and the services provided on top of that.

"Companies in this space need to differentiate themselves by building open-source applications that give access to data and providing services around that," he said.

That is the strategy adopted by Graham Miller, co-founder and CEO of Marketcetera, which provides open-source software for automated trading systems.

"The game for us is creating the platform and then supporting others who want to develop on top of it. Anyone who wants to can use any of the pieces of our system they want to as they build their own, which enhances their ability to make money since it just doesn't makes sense to develop everything from the ground up," he said.

Miller admitted that companies need to determine the benefits of using open-source technologies and sharing code with the community versus the benefits of keeping that proprietary.

Stephen Bate, vice president of software development at FOLIOfn, an online brokerage firm, noted that "open source helps people get to market faster, and in many cases lowers the cost."

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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