Are Open Source and Capitalism Worlds Apart?

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 TheStreet.com, 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."