FTX rolled out its first spot market this week, a standard BTC/USD orderbook. On the right hand side of FTX’s futures markets you’ll find an informational box displaying things like leverage and collateral. That obviously doesn’t apply to spot markets; and so instead you’ll see a box with basic information about your balances, and buttons to deposit, withdraw, and convert your BTC and USD:
I think it’s a pretty cool box: you have the ability to manage your BTC and USD balances right on the BTC/USD market page. It’s not really anything revolutionary, but I think it’s a good feature.
The thing I want to highlight about the spot market info box, though, has less to do with what it has and more about where it came from. For a while “spot markets” was a card on our FTX Asana board. We rolled them out last night, and until then I’d never seen the spot market page UI; in fact no one had except the dev working on it. There wasn’t any “try adding buttons to withdraw, deposit, and convert the coins” comment on the Asana card, or any spoken conversations about what a cool feature would be; it just happened. And again, this isn’t going to make or break the exchange. But it’s clearly a good feature, and it’s also a feature that relies on an understanding of what sorts of things a trader would like to be able to do when looking at a market. And it didn’t require any prompting or input from a trader.
This sort of thing happens all the time at FTX. Asking for ‘an automated OTC portal’ was enough to get something remarkably similar to the current FTX OTC system, complete even with a good suggestion of the initial set of parameters to price it with. Suggesting a leaderboard was enough to get a leaderboard along with a few creative solutions we’ll be rolling out soon, and our upcoming mobile app’s UI is being designed without the need for any trader management.
None of this is that surprising, though, because it’s been happening for years at Alameda. Suggesting a lower latency trading system was enough to get, well, a lower latency trading system; bots were later redesigned to operate independently on time scales too fast for them to communicate while still remaining in synch with each other. Managing margin can be really complicated on many exchanges--some have as many as 50 different margin wallets that aren’t fungible with each other! But one day a system was designed to manage this process in a reasonable way, saving hours per day of manual effort.
I think one of the keys to our technology is that the people writing the code actually understand the product they’re building. This is commonplace in some startups building systems for everyday use but it’s really tricky when building products (exchanges, trading systems, etc.) that most people have no experience with. We put a lot of time into communication between our different teams to make sure that our employees have as much of the picture as possible when making decisions. There’s a cost to this, obviously: it makes it much harder to outsource our work! But the advantage is that it helps us build the systems we want the first time. I like to think it’s something that permeates FTX: a withdrawal system that doesn’t suck; a straightforward API with sufficient ratelimits; a clean, efficient wallet and margin system; and tokens that can automatically manage margin for you.
A lot of this traces back to Alameda's founding in 2017. A handful of us were huddled up in a three bedroom apartment, trying to building a global trading firm in a few months. Some of us were trading around the clock; some were going from bank to bank, trying to find someone who was OK with crypto; and Gary, our CTO, was tasked with writing an entire quantitative trading firm's software--from algorithms to front end UIs to trading systems to API connections--more or less autonomously. Our tech infrastructure has come a long way since then but in the end we were able to turn on a fully fledged system capable of trading multiple percent of all crypto volume after just a few months.
Another big part of this is that FTX culture doesn’t care about “points”. Employees aren’t valued for the number of tasks they complete or for how many times they agree with their boss. They’re valued for, well, the value they add. And this means that we all naturally take ownership for what we do and care about doing it well, not just getting it done.
And so it isn’t surprising that developers, traders, and operations staff with great ideas actually make them happen without instruction or overhead. It isn’t surprising that our devs, none of which came in with trading experience, soon become proficient in it out of their own interest to build the best systems.
And this is shockingly rare in crypto: the land of stuck withdrawals, dysfunctional matching engines, giant clawbacks, and coins that can take 24 hours to move. There are some other examples of products designed by people who know their shit; Bitfinex is a good example. But for every robust margin system there are three that require you to collateralize your BSV margin position with, well, BSV.
FTX will never be perfect--no platform is. But we strive to keep improving, to keep rolling out new, innovative products, and to keep responding to feedback: if there’s a feature you really want to see, probably others do too. We’re really grateful for all of the support FTX has received from the cryptocurrency community; and as long as you keep giving us the chance to revitalize the exchange industry, we’ll never stop pushing forward.