Why Alex Feinberg left Google for a blockchain startup

The former professional baseball player and entrepreneur explained how technology and risk analysis changed his career.

Why Alex Feinberg left Google for a blockchain startup

Dan Patterson talked with Alex Feinberg, COO of Petram Security, about leaving Google for the startup.

Watch the video, or read their conversation below:

Patterson: So you went to Google long before that move was cool. You left a hedge fund to do it, why?

Feinberg: Yeah, it was really interesting. When I first joined the hedge fund, I was like 23, about to turn 24 years old. I'd majored in economics, but really my major was baseball [Feinberg played baseball for his university, Vanderbilt]. I didn't really understand finance or banking that much. I couldn't tell you what an investment bank did when I was 24 years old and I was interviewing with Goldman Sachs. I really couldn't tell you their business model. I could just tell you that I wanted a job there because older people suggested to me that that would be a good place to start my career.

As I started understanding what investment banks did and as I started understanding how the banking system was constructed, and as I understood how money was created, it became apparent to me that the US government, the US banking system was in a bind. It was in a bind and based on our investment of 2010-2011, we thought the financial sector was still ham-strung. We thought the economy was still bad and it wasn't going improve substantially for quite some time. What we thought was going to happen was that the Central Bank would continue to do quantitative like QE2, QE3, QE4, QE5, QE6, QE10. We thought that that was going to happen and if you understand how many move around financial markets, one of the end symptoms of money being created by the trillions of dollars is this money is going to seep into different classes. I really thought that the assets that were most sensitive to cost of capital decreases, e.g. tech companies, companies with negative cash flow or companies whose profitability was multiple years down the line. I thought these companies' evaluations would benefit most substantially from quantitative easing that we expected the Federal Reserve to do and to continue to do.

SEE: Launching and building a startup: A founder's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

In 2011, given I had entrepreneurial inklings myself for years. I actually started and ran a small business when I was in school. I thought, 'Great, I'm going to move back to Silicon Valley, the fed's going to keep interest rates low for a long period of time.' Lots of capital are going to come into the space and there are going to be a lot of career opportunities because of how much money is being poured in. The money is being poured in specifically because of what the Central Bank is doing.

It's actually because when I moved back to San Francisco in 2011, we were starting to see some tech protests about the cost of living going up. People were starting to blame Google, starting to blame Facebook. I remember thinking to myself, 'they should just walk up to the Federal Reserve building which is just three blocks down the street from Google because those are the people who are creating the fuel that is sustaining this tech market.' I thought, 'Google's a great place to start, given I'm not a computer science major, but I can speak to people an with my athletic background,' I was actually able to elevate our pitch my way into a roll, which I just dumb Alex, using my old heuristics that I had for baseball. I thought, 'Well, if I look good in a suit, which is very important to scouts, if you look good in a baseball uniform, they'll draft you like three rounds higher.'

So I had my custom-fitted suit that I got for $450 from Hong Kong, 'cause it's cheaper to get a nice fitting suit there than a poorly fitting suit in the US. I walked in with my leather binder, with the invitation of another Vanderbilt graduate and basically in 30 seconds, I was able to make more progress than I was in the 30 days prior, kind of cold emailing. You know, email addresses that would never read my resume and give me a call back. I ended up joining there in a sales role to start.

Also see:

  • What is blockchain? Understanding the technology and the revolution (free PDF)(TechRepublic)
  • The enterprise shows little interest in blockchain technology: Gartner (ZDNet)
  • Blockchain: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
  • RSA yet to be sold on magic pixie dust qualities of blockchain (ZDNet)
  • Interview tips: How to land your next tech job (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
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