What is Pivotal?

Pivotal is a newsletter about data, investing, and startups. It has three underlying themes: the data explosion, markets in everything, and software eating the world.

Some of the topics I’ll be writing about:

  • Data businesses and the business of data

  • Quant hedge funds, alpha, information and edge

  • Marketplaces, networks, narratives, and feedback loops

  • How organizations use, misuse and sometimes abuse data

  • Venture capital, angel investing, and early-stage startups

  • Capital markets structure, incentives and dynamics

  • Software, especially AI/ML, APIs, and the data stack

  • Finance, in all its terrible glory

  • Being a founder, and building a startup

If you enjoy reading Matt Levine, Byrne Hobart and Patrick McKenzie, you might enjoy reading Pivotal.


Who Writes Pivotal?

Pivotal is written by me, Abraham Thomas.

There are people who know data; there are people who know investing; and there are people who know startups. There are not many people who know all three at a deep professional level. I'm one of them. (Modest, too.)

What Pivotal Isn’t

Pivotal is not technical. I might talk about technical subjects — quant finance, market microstructure, data science & engineering, AI/ML, enterprise software — but I try to do so at a level that’s accessible to generalists.

Pivotal is not topical. I don’t plan to write about current events or developments, except on the rare occasions when they intersect strongly with my underlying themes.

Pivotal is not overwhelming. I aim to publish 1-2 posts a month, at an irregular cadence. But they’ll be good posts.

Pivotal is not paid, and I have no plans to ever change that.

Why Pivotal Exists

Pivotal exists because I’m fascinated by data, markets and technology.

Data: As a species, we are defined by our ability to manipulate information: language, writing, software. It's not a coincidence that the word we associate most strongly with human evolutionary advantage — intelligence — means both raw data, and the capacity to act on it.

Markets: Markets are the most effective and resilient mechanism we have found to solve a hard problem: how should society allocate resources in the face of incomplete information and uncertain outcomes?

Technology: Writing, agriculture, government, cities, money, industry: these and other technologies have impacted humanity in profound (and still evolving) ways. We're living through another technological revolution right now: software. And we've barely scratched the surface of what it can achieve.

Despite these big themes, this is not an abstract, 30,000-foot-view newsletter. Instead, it aims to be concrete, detailed and observational.

Why The Name?

I can’t resist a triple entendre. “Pivot” is a word that has a precise and specialized meaning in each of the fields this newsletter covers: in trading (technical analysis), in startups (course corrections), and in data (matrix manipulation).

Sadly, pivot.substack.com was taken, but the adjective form has the additional implication of cruciality. So maybe it’s actually a quadruple entendre!

And Finally

If you’ve made it this far, you’re definitely the kind of reader who’ll like this newsletter. Subscribe!