The Techride of a Lifetime
Edwin Marcial, the creator and Host of techrides, believes he has something valuable to share with the world regarding technology and entrepreneurship. Given his experience as the Founding CTO of The Intercontinental Exchange, there is every reason to think he is correct. While techrides, his web video series, is fun to watch - a CEO, CIO or tech founder gets in a cool car and is filmed with Edwin driving interesting roads and sites in the Atlanta area – the discussions on entrepreneurship, leadership, and technology are frankly invaluable.
“One of my goals with techrides, is to get to know the guest on a more personal level, and I think riding in a car relaxes everyone a bit, and is a more engaging way to get to know someone.”
Given his experience as a technology achiever, it is frankly impossible to say that the man does not know what he’s talking about, whether about technology or getting people to open up. And techrides is a highly appropriate name for his latest endeavor, given that over the past number of years he has himself been on the tech ride of all tech rides. Edwin Marcial was born in New York City and moved to Miami when he as 12 years old. There, his natural aptitude for math and computers was detected and nurtured through special programs for top students. Although he briefly toyed with the idea of being a doctor or mechanical engineer, he eventually settled on computers and graduated from the University of Florida with a BS in Computer Science.
His first job out of college was for Harris Corporation near Cocoa Beach where he was placed on a team of 200 engineers.
“We wrote a lot of code, but never saw a product ship,” says Edwin. “It helped me realize that I wanted to do something where I could be more impactful, and see the results of my work.”
Leaving Harris, Edwin came to Atlanta and started a remarkable journey. In 1996, he joined a small company called Continental Power Exchange as a software engineer. The company was not doing well – losing $500,000 per month – but in short order the company was bought by a guy named Jeff Sprecher for $1.00 and assumption of all debts. He quickly cut executives and staff. Edwin soon found himself in a five person company made up of himself, Sprecher and just one other developer.
Although the situation looked dire for his company, and he had many job offers, Edwin decided to stay with Continental Power Exchange. “I told Jeff that I had some ideas about what we should do. I wanted to embrace the internet – remember, this was the late 90s – and the internet was not a given. I also wanted to switch to a new computer language called Java. Jeff said, ‘sounds good – you’re the new CTO.’ And so it was done. I didn’t know if it would be successful,” says Edwin, “but I knew that it would be mine.”
Jeff Sprecher saw that the energy business would soon be moving from the direct purchase of power, from each other, to exchanges and forward contracts. Over the next few years, while Edwin was building the platform, Sprecher was on the road trying to sell the idea of investing in his company to the largest power companies in the country. None were interested at first. But then, Enron Online launched – the first Internet based power and gas trading platform. It proved that these markets could be traded over the internet and it also made power players realize that they needed their own platform to compete.
In December of 1999, Goldman Sachs called Sprecher to say that they, together with Morgan Stanley and three other investors, were interested in an oil trading platform. They had heard of the Continental Power Exchange system and wanted to know if it could trade Oil.
“The system was designed to be fairly abstract,” says Edwin, “but it was still a great deal of work to adapt it for these additional markets” Then, the large power companies came calling. AEP, Southern Company, Reliant, Duke Power and a number of others, now interested in a power exchange, invested $20 million. “Suddenly,” says Edwin, “ we had 13 partners. We needed to trade oil, natural gas, power, gold and silver and we were 10 people.”
In April of 2000, Continental Power Exchange rebranded to The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) with a ton of hard work in front of them and no choice about doing it. “I was frantically writing code by day, and interviewing people at night,” says Edwin. “We had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the office every day for the next 6 or 7 years. There was literally no time to waste.”
They delivered the first platform in late August of 2000. The first trade went through for metals and the other commodities followed by December. It was frantic the entire time. “We had dress rehearsal after dress rehearsal that did not work,” says Edwin, “but somehow, like the launch of a Broadway musical, it would all come together on opening night.” The company was at breakeven in three months.
ICE was now in a head to head battle with Enron, the company that had gone first. What many thought would be a dramatic fight did not last long. Caught in systemic fraud and corruption, Enron filed for bankruptcy in December of 2001. ICE obtained all of Enron’s customers and gained time to improve.
“in the early 2000s we found that we needed to greatly improve the speed of our trades,” says Edwin. “There was more futures trading and it began to function like a stock exchange. Our average transaction time was about 500 milliseconds, and the only way to become faster was to rebuild the platforms again. Over a two to three year period we did just that and got trade transaction time down to 25 milliseconds and eventually sub-millisecond.”
In 2005 ICE had the largest IPO for a Georgia company up to that time. ICE now began acquiring some high powered names in the financial services industry. “Everyone knows that we made a lot of acquisitions but two stand out for different reasons. First, we bought the New York Board of Trade in 2007. Integration was tough because it was not electronic – it was all open outcry, like you see in the Eddie Murphy movie, Trading Places,” says Edwin. In fact, the scene from the movie on the trading floor where the Duke brothers try to corner the market on orange juice is based on trading pit of the New York Board of Trade.
‘Then in 2013 we closed the purchase of the New York Stock Exchange,” he says, “which made headlines all over the world.”
By 2014, with the integration of NYSE going smoothly, Edwin began to reflect on his journey. He had been at ICE for 18 years, had seen it go from a low of 5 employees to over 5,000 and the value of the company go from $1 to $26 billion (now over 6,000 employees and $42 billion).
“I had been on the ride of a lifetime but ultimately decided that I wanted to do other things,” he says. “The company had become a juggernaut and wasn’t the fit for me that it had been before. I wanted to explore some other things.”
After traveling a bit, Edwin joined the board of Year Up, an organization whose goal was to provide more opportunity to urban youth. “I had been taking interns at ICE from Year Up but thought that we needed to do more to assist them, so I started a program to teach them software development. I even did some of the teaching myself,” he says.
Edwin also got involved with the technology startup scene in Atlanta. He is now an investor, advisor or board member on a dozen companies. Given his background and success, Edwin was now constantly in touch with successful people in the business of technology. He was having many cool conversations and he thought “wouldn’t it be great to do this while driving in a cool car?”
Approximately one year ago, Edwin created techrides to tell the stories of the inspiring technology leaders that he encounter on a regular basis. Each episode of the web video series features a technology leader discussing leadership, entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation. They do it while riding in a cool car.
“My first guest was Jeff Sprecher. Not only is Jeff a brilliant businessman, he’s also a huge car guy. It just made sense,” he says, “and it worked better that I had even hoped. I’ve known Jeff for 22 years. During the drive-conversation, I learned things about him that I never knew while he drove his 1992 Carerra Cup Porsche.”
Other interviewees include Adam Ghetti, the CTO of Ionic Security and Don Panoz, Founder and Chairman of Green4U. New episodes include Stephen Pair, CEO of Bitpay, Marc Fluery, the creator of Jboss and Jim Nasr, Vice President of Technology at Synchrogenix all driving Teslas and all discussing blockchain and crypto.
“I even have episodes featuring three kids who learned development from Year Up, all talking about what the Year Up experience meant to them, and what they are doing now. All three are now employed as software developers with large companies.”
Techrides has been well received. “My approach for now is that I’m going to keep doing this as long as it’s fun and interesting to do. Who knows where it will lead” “When Jerry Seinfeld was first trying to gain traction for ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,’ he got no attention. A few years later, he sold it to Netflix for $100 million,” says Edwin.
He currently has a crew of two camera people, one sound person, a producer and an editor and is actively looking for companies to partner with for product launches, public relations and other areas.
“Techrides is a startup. As with any startup, you have to find your audience and cater to their wishes,” says Edwin. “The good news for now is that people are coming to me. I’m open to see what happens as long as I can work with people that I like and respect, and we are all having fun.”