Between the Lines

You Can’t Kill the Bloomberg Terminal. But If You Were Going to Try, Here’s How.

Bloomberg is one of the best software companies in history, so good luck and best wishes

Byrne Hobart
Marker
Published in
14 min readFeb 27, 2019

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A Bloomberg Terminal on a desk.
Photo: Travis Wise via flickr/CC BY 2.0

“I“I’m going to kill X” is usually a bad business idea. Generally, there are obvious reasons to kill it (it’s profitable, customers hate it), and there are nonobvious reasons nobody has succeeded yet.

Bloomberg is one of the best software companies in history, and it may be the single best service I’ve ever used — the user interface on the Bloomberg Terminal isn’t great, but the customer service is incredible. If it breaks or doesn’t do something you need, the company is willing to fix it or build it.

When people try to understand the Bloomberg Terminal as a product, what they often miss is that Bloomberg is a great business because it has low churn, and it has low churn because its IM function is basically an exclusive club of approximately 325,000 people whose employers think they are worth at least $25,000 per year above their base salary. Like any exclusive club, if you can get in, it’s assumed that you’re probably worth talking to.

There are some ways to make inroads into Bloomberg’s market. For example, Money.net is a solid rendition. Its founder worked at Bloomberg and tracked oil. (His book was one of the sources for my fracking piece.) Koyfin looks great, offers a wealth of data, and has an absurdly responsive site. A broker might soup up their app or website to peel off some Bloomberg users (maybe offering similar functionality for free to customers who pay high commissions). You might build something for tracking and discussing esoteric cryptocurrencies on Urbit (or a similar system that builds identity and exclusivity directly into the protocol). And the Bloomberg killer might already exist in China, which has a big market, lots of institutions, and lots of retail traders. It’s also willing to protect domestic software companies from multinational competitors. Given the network-effect dynamic, I probably won’t hear about the Bloomberg of China until it’s a threat to the U.S. version, at which point it will already have more users.

Bloomberg’s value prop and the…

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Byrne Hobart
Marker
Writer for

I write about technology (more logos than techne) and economics. Newsletter: https://diff.substack.com/