I always love to cover entrepreneurs who push the envelope on high horsepower technology. Digital Asset has. Fascinating story!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background did you have?
Yuval Rooz: I was born in Houston, Texas. I have only lived there for 11 months. My parents, who are originally from Israel, decided to move back. My father came to the US to get his PhD degree. He taught Mechanical Engineering in the US for some time.
I grew up in Israel. I had a typical life outside of Tel Aviv on the beach – nothing special. I always knew that I wanted to do something by myself. I grew up in a house with five other siblings.
We had to be independent because both my parents were entrepreneurs. My father is still running his company 40 years after he started it. My mother is now retired. When I finished my military service in Israel, I came to the US to go to school at Georgia Tech.
Sramana Mitra: What years were these?
Yuval Rooz: I was born in 1981. I left Israel in 2003.
Sramana Mitra: You finished Georgia Tech in 2007?
Yuval Rooz: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: The reason I ask that question is that it helps me put things into perspective of what is happening in the world at that time. You were coming out of Georgia Tech in the middle of the financial crisis.
Yuval Rooz: It was way into the financial crisis. My first job was working for a hedge fund, Citadel in Chicago. It’s one of the bigger hedge funds. I used a lot of my background in math, statistics, and programming to build a computer model.
Citadel had been performing so well that they would send a note to the employees showing the performance of the fund. Within two to three months of my joining the company, they stopped publishing it.
During the financial crisis, the numbers weren’t so good. They were not in the positive. The numbers were getting more negative every month. It was an interesting time to join.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you stay in that world?
Yuval Rooz: I resigned within a year. The main reason was that I wanted to learn and get more experience. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It’s in my nature. I was always doing my job, completing what I was assigned to do, but I always had other entrepreneurial ideas that I wanted to explore.
I was in an environment where every time I reached out to my boss, I would get reminded to just do my part of the job, to build models, and that’s it. I didn’t grow up in the US. In Israel, if going in a straight line doesn’t work, then you had to find a roundabout way to get to your destination.
I went to my boss’ manager where I learned my first lesson in corporate America. I got reprimanded and then I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to go directly to the boss above my boss and so I went directly to the CEO of the hedge fund. I waited outside his office.
This company is not known to treat its employees well. I think when he saw me waiting outside his office, he got scared that I was trying to hurt him physically. I just told him that I had this idea. This was just before LendingTree got started. The idea was something similar to what LendingTree is doing. He said that it was interesting.
We explored it, but he ended up saying that it was outside of our core competence area and the company was not going to do that. It was interesting because we sat down and developed the idea. I did get into trouble again for going to the CEO directly with no permission.
At that point, I started looking for another job because I knew I couldn’t stay in that kind of environment.