Nautilus

Why a Hedge Fund Started a Video Game Competition

There’s a weird way in which a hedge fund is a confluence of everything. There’s the money of course—Two Sigma, located in lower Manhattan, manages over $50 billion, an amount that has grown 600 percent in 6 years and is roughly the size of the economy of Bulgaria. Then there are the people—financiers, philosophers, engineers—all applying themselves to unearthing inscrutable patterns that separate fortune from failure.

And there is the science and engineering, much of it resting on a towering stack of data. In principle, almost any information about the real world can be relevant to a hedge fund. Employees, so the stories go, have camped out next to harbors noting down tanker waterlines, and in retail parking lots counting cars. This data then has to be standardized, synthesized, and made accessible to the people who place bets on the market.

Alfred SpectorCourtesy of Two Sigma

Building the tools to do this is part of Alfred Spector’s job. As the chief technology officer of Two Sigma, he is responsible for the engineering platforms used by the firm’s modelers. A former vice president at IBM and former professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, Spector has seen software transform one industry after another, and made more than a few contributions of his own along the way.

He sat down with us for a conversation at Two Sigma’s headquarters earlier this month.

Why would a company like Two Sigma run a public game competition?

We started the because we want to be known in the tech community

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