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.

I’m the co-founder and chief data officer of Quandl, a venture-backed tech startup that built a data marketplace and pioneered the category of ‘alternative data’ in finance. Quandl was acquired by Nasdaq a few years ago in a successful exit.

Before Quandl, I was a coder, trader and portfolio manager at Simplex, one of Asia's oldest quant hedge funds. At Simplex, I specialized in statistical bond arbitrage, and I built some of the industry's first high-frequency (relative value) trading systems.

These days I'm an active (and fairly successful) angel investor in tech startups. I serve on a couple of boards, and advise a handful of VC funds; I also manage a small investment syndicate.

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 3-6 posts a year, 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!

Subscribe to 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.


Abraham Thomas is a private investor, advisor, board member and writer. He's a former startup founder (Quandl, acquired by Nasdaq) and hedge fund manager (Simplex, Asia's oldest quant fund). Currently exploring new ideas and seeking new adventures!