I’ve lived the American dream.
Growing up in a low-income family in Akron, Ohio—the city Chrissie Hynde famously declared “was gone”—I’ve witnessed first-hand a massive evolution in the way value is created. My home town did not disappear; it transformed from the tire manufacturing capital of the world to a hub of intellectual property for polymer chemistry.
My great-grandparents left behind hunger and conflict in Europe, seeking a better life in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. My dad has spent 60 years fixing cars with his hands and encouraged me to work with my mind. I went from a family with no college experience to an engineering degree from MIT and a PhD in decision analysis at Stanford, where I first met Clint and other members of the Ulu team. Since then, I’ve been on the management teams of two startups that successfully grew and became key parts of larger organizations, as well as running the data curation function for one of the world’s top quant investment teams. Along the way I’ve had the chance to visit 49 states and 49 countries, learning from people with a wide variety of perspectives.
After moving into the professional world as a strategy consultant, I saw that some business models work far better than others. For instance, the consulting model itself relies on selling the inherently limited resource of one’s own time, with other people taking the majority of the proceeds. On the other hand, investing time in R&D, designing software, and developing intellectual property scales much better and enables a far larger impact on the world. Several consulting projects directed my probability modeling skills toward financial markets, and I saw ways to automate trading algorithms and build market-beating intellectual property through software.
Soon, I found my way to joining another Stanford decision analysis graduate at his startup creating better predictive models of equity markets. Over the past 15 years I’ve been working with data vendors of various sizes, finding and making the best use of those who provide the highest value of information. This information has been key to achieving financial freedom for co-workers, customers, and ultimately a broad base of investors worldwide.
Back in the late 1990s as a strategy consultant, I accurately calculated the full lifecycle value of cable broadband subscribers and helped a railroad company from the 1800s lay the groundwork for 4G and 5G wireless adoption decades in advance. The companies that emerged from that wave of change completely transformed the way we live our lives, and the process is continuing as Web 3.0 addresses the issues and challenges raised by Web 2.0 and 1.0. Schumpter was right; creative destruction and rampant innovation is the fastest way forward.