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North Star Podcast

Sep 15, 2017

Listen Here: Overcast | iTunes

Josh Wolfe is the co-founder and managing partner at Lux Capital, which invests in the intersection of science and technology at the outermost edge of what is possible. He partners with innovators challenging the status quo and even the laws of nature. The more ambitious, the better.

Josh is a published scientist himself. He's a founding investor and board member with Bill Gates in Kymeta, a company that makes cutting-edge antennas for high-speed global satellite and space communications. And before Lux Capital, Josh worked in investment banking and capital markets. Afterwards, Josh co-founded Kurion, which used advanced robotics, engineering, and chemistry to clean up nuclear waste. In 2016, the company was bought for $400 million. 

In this episode, we talk about it all: Biology, randomness, finance, consciousness, space, Brooklyn, investing, art, risk, and basketball. We start with what he learned growing up in Coney Island, a working class neighborhood in Brooklyn. Josh then shares his investment philosophy and why he likes investing in industries like lots of intellectual property, high barriers to entry and a limited talent pool. And finally, we talk about biology and the history of it— from single-celled organisms to the nature of consciousness — and Josh draws from his experience as a board member at the Santa Fe Institute. I hope you enjoy this wide-ranging conversation as much as I did. 

Show Notes: 

0:00 - 1:45: Growing up on Coney Island. Science, finance, and The Cyclone

1:45 - 3:15: Josh Wolfe's research background, the importance of persistence, introduction to capital markets

3:15 - 6:45: Learning new ideas. Identifying and avoiding BS. Risk and the value spectrum. Killing failure to find paths to success. 

6:45 - 9:10: Science fiction novels and the pursuit of truth. Gap between science fiction and actual science is closing. 

9:10 - 12:30: Competitive edge is paranoia and a competitive desire to have an information edge. 100-0-100 investing philosophy. Importance of humility and ambition. 

12:30 - 17:00: College and early career epiphanies. Embracing randomness and optionality. Avoid boring people. Dinner with Jim Watson, who discovered the structure of DNA. Appreciation for scrappy underdogs. 

17:00 - 20:00: A lot of fictional influences including TV, movies, and comic books. Avid consumer of information and any and all information. Curiosity born from information anxiety and overall competitiveness. 

20:15 - 21:45: The relationship between art & science

21:45 - 25:05: Mentors are a portfolio of the best ideas and role models such as Richard Feynman. 

25:05 - 29:10: Founding story of Lux. Henry Truman Quote: "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know." Competitive edges in investing. Intellectual honesty at Lux Capital. 

29:10 - 32:40: In history, there is no linear starting point. Red Queen effect and information consumption. Intellectual honesty, non-obvious ideas, and vigor. 

32:40 - 36:50: Consciousness, complexity. Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris debates. Bayesian updating. 

36:50 - 40:00: Complexity is chaotic phenomena with universal emergent principles. Lots of parallels with Entropy and the rest of the world. 



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Thanks to Conor Witt for producing this episode.