Episode 3 | Life of the Mind with Joe Sroka

There are some conversations that you cannot plan, and this was one of them. I thought that my guest Joe Sroka would be interesting to chat with about finance (he is currently the Chief Investment Officer at NovaPoint Capital) and his career in/through finance. But Joe ended up giving me (a foreigner) a tour of the post-Soviet-Union world from the American perspective that I didn’t anticipate (#awesome). We talk about East German refugees (there’s some hope in there for the current refugee crises), the Bond villains in a world where there were no enemies (can you guess which one?) before getting to finance.

But there’s another side to this conversation that’s just as interesting on the nature of recessions, business cycles, board governance, investment management vs investment bankers, portfolio investing, and investing using AI/machine learning.

To ponder further, on information vs. noise in decision making: if you can’t support your decision making with data and it’s completely qualitative, it’s noise/speculative. (If you’re betting your money on a stock that has bad technicals, bad financials, but feel-good stories, you are investing on noise.)

Episode 2 | Life of the Mind with Keenan Pontoni

I got incredibly lucky and had a chance to jam with Keenan Pontoni, a fellow UChicago alum. We talked a lot about UChicago and if you went elsewhere… well, let’s just say we’re #happyclients and you might spend the first few minutes in envy. But this conversation went deeper than I’d have anticipated on statistics, economics, and politics.

One particularly insightful nugget: an old way of organizing campaigns is to focus around precincts but Keenan argues that precinct boundaries are no longer relevant in a world where we can micro-target to the level of the individual.

Also interesting: modeling political behavior and the not-entirely-rational voter; the changing expression of civic responsibilities (in defense of the millennial citizen); social media and new pathways of information sharing and information consumption.

And for those who might not be following the race Keenan’s currently fighting, here’s a piece from the New Yorker on it.

Episode 1 | Life of the Mind with Neal Idnani

In my first conversation for Life of the Mind, I jam with Neal Idnani, Founder of Naan Stop, a chain of fast-casual Indian restaurants in Atlanta. We talk about the way in which Neal built his business and the struggles of growing a business while balancing the instinct to grow quickly against the risk of growing too fast. Neal’s crisp articulation of why his business exists will be appreciate by other entrepreneurs who are currently soul-searching the vision-mission-culture questions.

I hadn’t heard of Waverly Deutsch before, but Neal credits her class as one of the inspirations for his leap into entrepreneurship so for the students at UChicago still, you might want to check out her class. And finally, we both feel pretty bullish about Booth and entrepreneurship. I’m curious to get thoughts on that.