I decided to keep a topic to talk about my life as a college dropout, starting last week, for my own introspection, as well as to yield some insights/deterrences for others. Just some background: I was an above-average physics freshman, not the best but also not the worst. I was pretty ambitious in freshman year, and had 11 classes one semester, doing well in various senior/graduate classes. But the problem was already stirring at this stage - my education was rather unstructured, and I was partly rebellious, while my advisers never knew my name. I took classes in quantum chemistry, fluid mechanics, statistical mechanics, differential geometry etc., and I never cared about my graduation credits. At the same time, I had some involvement in extracurriculars. I was selected to represent our college at the Putnam Competition twice, I attended the International Mathematics Contest in Bulgaria, and I had an AIP award and publications under my name by the end of my first year. I became president of our SPS by sophomore year. Halfway through sophomore year, I realized that quite a few of my classes wouldn't help my graudation requirements - foolish, really - and my expected graduation date would be stalled if I had wanted my double degree. I turned around and churned at humanities courses, PE requirements and so on and hoped I would find some way around my graduation. A problem never solves with time; and I soon changed my mind and decided I should perhaps still graduate early, but give up my physics degree in favor of mathematics. But graduating with a physics degree has always been my high school dream. At this point, I was just wrestling with the frequently-encountered college mistakes. Nothing unusual. But a series of events changed my views completely: - My mother lost her first job, my father became terminally ill, and we got poorer. - The APS petitions against budget sequestrations, the Bell Labs shutdown etc. My research adviser, a young but ambitious guy himself, decided on his own to market our research to the military for $20,000, and I became very disillusioned with the purpose of our work. Simultaneously, I happened to be at New Orleans for the Joint Mathematics Meeting in 2011, where I first learned of "statistical arbitrage" at George Papanicolaou Gibbs lecture. The enigmatic story of astrophysicists Nunzio Tartaglia whatnot captured me, and I began an aggressive reading of quantitative finance and so on. I remember the part in his address where he joked that there aren't many seminal papers in quantitative finance nowadays, because "When you find out how it works, you just want to go out there and do it." It turns out to be true. Coincidentally, I made a close friend while I was traveling inbetween my research stint. I went on and on about my views about mathematics and arbitrage - before I found out that he was a successful hedge fund manager. I learned a lot from him. He lived with me as I was doing my research, and at one stage, we were making more money trading at 2-3 AM than my research adviser was trying (futilely) to get funding from the military. He spent months writing proposals. We spent minutes getting there. The experience was surreal. I won't talk much about the ethical issues - there are people out there who think that what we do is immoral - but I'd say that monetary reward has never been my priority, even all through the financial difficulties from my family situation. Instead, I've always valued my autonomy most in my career, and it just happened that I was able to pursue my own interests more easily in this path. Besides, there are only a few ways to move capital between those who hold it and don't - and without our contributions to market efficiency, debt will be expensive and equity will be scarce. Capital markets are there for a farmer to protect his crops, for insurers to be insured themselves, and for airlines to be protected against fuel costs, and I don't see it immoral. As (<- edit: typo) this went on, I finally decided that I had a good shot at this at one point. My girlfriend, who was working at Goldman Sachs' asset management division at that time, was the first one to convince me that I won't be happy working for a financial company nor in research. I eventually convinced my parents that I want to take a shot at this, or fail trying. I adjusted my classes so I would have time to focus on this, took classes that the MFE students were attending, dropped my research and slept less than anyone for the entire semester. I had my reservations though - I felt that the networking opportunities of an internship were valuable, too, and that it would buy me more time to become confident and more prepared to set out on my own, but a chain of rejections made it clear to me that I would have as much chance trying on my own. So I made up my mind to start my financial company by the end of this year, beginning this summer. I weighed my opportunity costs, asked around for advice, and finally decided that it was naive of me to choose a college that cost all of my parents' life savings and more. I take about $96.3m of trades per month (makes sense: leverage is huge), and this was going to be the biggest trade I would take: to pool all of my education costs into my startup. I promised my mother that I would first see to it that she can retire at ease, and that I would one day go back to college to finish my degree, then a physics PhD. I fear success as much as failure - because if I succeed, I would probably have too much on my hands to go back. They agreed that I would struggle to find the money to finish my double degree unless I had concentrated on my work full-time. I tried to be a regular college student for the last 2 weeks of my time there. I did homework, attended classes, got home at 9 PM, and would spend all that time until 2 AM (when the Eurex opens) reading on quantitative finance, trading, business, whatever I can find. I backtested for hundreds of hours, programmed several strategies, even if it required learning 3-4 different programming languages in short shrift. Day 1: I went back to college to pack up the things that I had left behind at my friends' apartment and clear my mailbox. On my way, I made a transcript request - a copy might come to use - and picked up a leave of absence form. I spent the rest of the evening with my girlfriend, watching some films. Day 2: The next day, I listed what I considered my talents, personality traits, marketable skills/completed projects, and started to think about how to find a way to penetrate a market that has incredibly high barriers to entry. I still haven't found the perfect area to start up in, but I have to pursue several things at the same time for my self-improvement. I made some substantial breakthroughs in my trading strategy, and hoped to trade the Friday open - though it wasn't the right setting. Then I wrote some 300-400 lines of code for a nonlinear optimization problem in portfolio selection - I decided to diversify into equities, as well - and filed for my equities trading account in the meantime. I talked to one of my ex-roommates at Harvard, showed him some results, and he decided to throw in $30,000 for our fund. We decided that he would have involvement in the trading itself, so I would take a 10% performance fee - that's smaller than the industry standard. 10% isn't a lot - I would take home a pittance from his investment, but having an extra $30K under management is a good start. I figured that the best setup is to open a third brokerage account, colocate my algorithm to his apartment at London, while I booked a flight to Tokyo for a mix of reasons: I could more easily carry out discretionary trading without being up at 2 AM whatnot, and I needed a small break from everything. I picked up a book to learn Japanese. I told my friend that I am now barely making enough to pay for my rental (Cambridge is an expensive place to live in) and day-to-day living without much growth in my operations - so I need to figure out a way to earn more, and fast. I plan to raise enough to hire an accountant and incorporate, hopefully in less than 6 months. I reiterate that I still haven't figured out exactly what I am doing, but it doesn't hurt to be doing some small trading activities while I am at it. I wrote my first goal in large font: do NOT become a daytrader. I always view daytrading as a job that doesn't require much ingenuity, and that doesn't run well with my physics background.