“The world has changed drastically and what were sure career paths to success in the past look no longer so promising. Along with ever faster technological change, business models are being disrupted at unprecedented pace and scale, sometimes threatening entire sectors. Banking is one of these sectors that is especially feeling the waves of change. In such an environment any aspiring leading manager must also be an entrepreneur. If not by starting his or her own business, then certainly by a mindset that even large businesses need these days.”
(Eric Kohlmann Kupper, Brazilian, German, Master in Finance alumnus at IE Business School, Class of 2014/2015)

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my recent interview with Mr. Eric Kohlmann Kupper, alumnus of the Master in Finance at IE Business School, class of 2014-2015, who is now working at Trinnacle Capital Management, a New York based hedge fund. Eric started his fund after graduating from IE.  

Viet Ha: Eric, what led you to launch your own company right after IE?

Eric: Entrepreneurship has always fascinated me. Even before IE, I worked at a Venture Capital firm in Brazil and was involved in startup-investing in Switzerland. What I learned early on is that entrepreneurship is often a serendipitous process – it can’t be forced, but needs the right ingredients to come together at the right time. I think saying things like “I will work for XYZ and then go to ABC and then after that launch my own business” are completely fictitious because that is not how life works. There will be a moment where you suddenly have a great idea for which the market place has an opening and you happen to know the right partners and investors to bring on board. When this happens, you need to seize the opportunity without hesitation – but no one can plan this years ahead.

In my case, I happened to see such a window right there while still at IE. The idea was exciting but, maybe more importantly, great partners and the right investors were also there to support us. Sometimes you just have to take the plunge – this doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks but to do a sound analysis of the situation: What are the chances of such a phenomenal arrangement to occur again? Some people wait all their lives for this and some find it right after university. There certainly is an element of luck involved.

Viet Ha: Tell us about your fund. What sparked the idea? 

Eric: In my time before and during IE, when I was involved in venture capital, I met with many great startups. The emerging field of big data analytics seemed a promising trend at the time and it still is today, although we are now already seeing the effects of its implementation in everyday business with dramatic consequences. Some particularly promising data sets were targeted purely at improving business decisions in a consulting sort of way. This is where I saw an opportunity of using these data sets in the financial markets. In the first stages, this had to be verified and I partnered with two great friends who are also incredibly smart. Without Joel and Pavel the project couldn’t be launched. Ideas are nothing without execution and that, in turn, is all about the people involved. When our tests turned out pretty good, we looked for seed capital and started planning the launch of our hedge fund in New York. As always, there were many obstacles on the way but we mastered one by one. Of course you make mistakes on the way but that is unavoidable. Most importantly, you need to make sure that nothing major is threatening your business and steer clear of such threats.

Now our fund is fully set up and through months of experiments and building our algorithms, we have perfected our proprietary strategy. I can’t give you too many details on this but a large part of what we do is being creative about the sort of data we collect, then combining them in logical sets and use the information advantage in the financial markets. This works remarkably well as you innovate constantly, but that is true for any industry.

Viet Ha: Looking back, why did you choose to join the Master in Finance at IE?

Eric: I studied physics for my undergraduate degree and then rapidly ended up in the worlds of venture capital and entrepreneurship. While physics prepared me well for this in some respects – I could always understand the technological aspects of companies – it also left me with having to learn about the financial side of things on the go. Preparing financing rounds, working through business plans, etc. was something that I enjoyed and mostly got to know through learning by doing. There came a point when I realized that earning a finance degree would help me to cover this side of the business world better as I understood that there were too many things I didn’t know about. After taking a look at the most prestigious schools out there, IE quickly became my favorite choice. It’s renowned Master in Finance program seemed like the most complete one out there, teaching you about all aspects of finance in a very compact format – exactly what I was looking for. The fact that IE is in Madrid was an added bonus: As I speak some Portuguese, I was keen on learning Spanish and no one can argue with the sunny climate of Spain. After my Masters there, I love Madrid.

Viet Ha: How did the IE Master in Finance prepare you for future career success? 

Eric: What I’m doing now wouldn’t have been possible without IE. Very simple. Launching a hedge fund is now easy task. Even for many people in finance it is a bit on the esoteric side of things. You have to know some bits about legals, taxes, corporate structures, fund management, technology, equities, options, derivatives and many other things. We had to launch about 8 companies across several legal jurisdictions, both on- and off-shore just to get started. IE even had a special class on hedge funds in the electives period, which taught us about common strategies and several other things. This was incredibly valuable and, as it turned out, directly applicable for I did afterwards.

Viet Ha: Do you have any advice for the future candidates to IE´s Masters in Finance programs?

Eric: Try to get as much out of the program as you can. It is very intense and with such busy days, time seems to fly past even quicker than normally. This is why you have to actively meet people, discuss ideas, learn from your professors and study in detail what seems interesting to you. Who knows, maybe some very specific knowledge will help you later in unexpected ways. And finally, enjoy Madrid!

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