In the Sydney offices of Zeptonics near Circular Quay, books by the Dalai Lama sit alongside those by Isaac Asimov.
Like the famed science-fiction writer, Zeptonics’s staff is dreaming of new technology that will revolutionise trading on Wall Street, hoping it is seamlessly adopted by asset managers, brokers and high-frequency traders.
Today Zeptonics unveils its first product: ZeptoMux. It is a switching device that that has a latency, a measure of time, of 130 nanoseconds. A nanosecond is one-billionth of a second.
Arista’s 7124SX network switch transmits data at about 450 nanoseconds port to port.
The 23 ports of the ZeptoMux talk to one port. It is an “n to one” device manufactured in Sydney’s Penrith suburb by GPC Electronics. Embossed on the printed circuit board of the ZeptoMux is the company’s logo and a map of Australia.
“We’re proudly Australia,” says David Snowdon, who has a PhD in computer engineering and is in charge of hardware development at Zeptonics.
Matt Hurd founded Zeptonics in February last year. Hurd parlayed his early love for technology, winning an Australian software-design prize at 14, into a lucrative financial career. He worked at Bankers Trust and Citigroup before founding his own high-frequency trading firm Zomojo.
At Zomojo, Hurd’s trading alone accounted for 10 per cent of the average daily volume of South Korea’s KOSPI Index options.
Hurd has 19 people working for him at Zeptonics including Josh Rose, who worked at Goldman Sachs in the 1980s and was a cofounder of the Investment Technology Group.
“We’re former goldminers now selling shovels,” says Rose, who left the bucolic delights of small-town Vermont to commercialise Zeptonics technology.
Zeptonics is aware it faces a great deal of scepticism about its technology, developed not in Silicon Valley or Bangalore but in Australia. It has engaged the Tully Consulting Group to verify its technological products and provides demonstrations to investment banks and high-frequency trading firms.
Rose will not provide any information on the shareholding structure of Zeptonics, its financial backers or its goals in terms of revenue or profits. He hopes the company will be “cash-flow positive” soon.
With just a single web page Zeptonics gets one or two calls a day from around the world from people interested in its technology. It has filed to register half a dozen patents in Australia and the US.
“We’ve got more ideas than people,” says Rose.
Later this year Zeptonics will unveil a sister device to ZeptoMux. Snowdon says it is a “one to n” device, refusing to give further details.
The company is also developing trading software, which provides a platform to match buy and sell orders for exchanges.
Zeptonics also has a consulting business that assists ultra-low latency trading systems.
“Saving a couple of hundred nanoseconds makes a huge difference,” says Rose.