Gustavo Ballvé on February 2nd, 2011
Corporate Strategy, Diversified financials, Food for thought, Home, Industries, Mental models, Portfolio Management

We’re glad to post a recent story from new Blogroll inductee Simoleon Sense. This blog is a great source for thought-provoking, multidisciplinary everything. This post is a video interview with James Simons of Renaissance Technologies, the famous “quant” fund. Mr. Simons’ talk goes about how he started his life with a passion for mathematics and how that eventually led him to investments. We’ve embedded the video and highlighted a few moments inside.

Back to Simoleon Sense: in the “Dear Reader” section for new readers, blog author Miguel Barbosa says he is “blogging to challenge the conventional ‘silo’ approach to learning.(…) I’m a renaissance thinker, an aspiring polymath, and a diligent researcher – as such I believe in the importance of consilience. Successful decision making centers on understanding problems and searching for solutions via a broad frame work of mental models.” – We agree, and given his history and company name, James Simons probably does too.

The video (1h 03min)

We like the way Mr. Simons has built Renaissance and its culture. The MIT host jokes that the world’s best Math and Physics “departments” belong to Renaissance, but that wouldn’t be enough. Mr. Simons highlights that he always wanted to build a company with “the best possible people, no compartmentalization (or “silos” as Mr. Barbosa says), with an open atmosphere, with everyone sharing information and what they’re doing.” That is still not enough: he highlights he’s paranoid about “having the best infrastructure in place – office space, technology, resources – and about paying people very well but based almost exclusively on overall company profit” (to foster collaboration).

He then briefly spoke about his foundation, where he is now full-time (and “busier than ever”), and again the concern with fundamental, basic science is clear. Not surprisingly, the former Math researcher and teacher is very concerned about Math education in the US.

Finally, he closes the talk with 4 “principles”, of which we highlight number 3. That search for the “truth”, for solving problems, for being the first to do something is something we’ve seen in most brilliant and driven people. Unfortunately the Q&A session that follows is mostly rubbish… The principles in summary:

1) Do something new.

2) Collaborate with the best people you possibly can. “Working with these people is FUN”.

3) Be guided by beauty. “(…) it’s a terrific feeling and a beautiful thing to do something right, like solving a math problem, he says.

4) Don’t give up.

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