The Fintech Finance 40: Igor Tulchinsky and Steve Lau
Igor Tulchinsky, Founder, and Steve Lau, Managing Director, WorldQuant Ventures
Currently ranked: 27
Previously ranked: PNR
Computer scientist Igor Tulchinsky was a statistical-arbitrage portfolio manager at Millennium Management for 12 years before founding Connecticut-based quantitative investment management firm WorldQuant in 2007. Seven years later he launched WorldQuant Ventures, which he describes as “an angel investment firm focused on disruptive companies in technology,” centered on data and finance.
“Quant managers naturally have this in their DNA,” says Tulchinsky, who previously has been a video game programmer, a venture capitalist, and an AT&T Bell Laboratories scientist. “The ability to use technology in our investment process and synthesize data in new, innovative ways is at the core of our strategy.”
With about 40 investments and counting, the venture portfolio fits the fintech mold and shares WorldQuant’s affinity for data and analysis. Examples include data-visualization innovator ChartIQ, earnings estimate aggregator Estimize, information discovery company Dataminr, and customer data and privacy-management system provider Trunomi.
WorldQuant Ventures is, for now, a family office, with managing director Steve Lau running it day-to-day and all investment decisions going through founder Tulchinsky. The pace of portfolio growth is such that the firm has the “optionality” to adopt a different funding or partnership structure and “do bigger things,” says Lau, a onetime market maker with Spear Leeds & Kellogg before it was acquired by Goldman Sachs Group in 2000. He ran proprietary trading desks at UBS and other banks and invested personally in Estimize and Dataminr before moving to WorldQuant in 2014.
“Companies come to us,” notes Lau, indicating that entrepreneurs like the idea of partnering with WorldQuant. “Igor and others here are experts in areas like artificial intelligence, data collection, and data mining. Even big VC firms don’t bring together the kind of expertise that we have within the fund.” Although it is not unusual for firms to explore synergies and encourage collaborations among companies that they finance, Lau contends that the growth in WorldQuant’s number of investments, given what the entrepreneurs have in common, “will increase the value of the network effect.”