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Billionaire SAS co-founder keeps on coding (computerworld.com)
74 points by naish on Sept 20, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

SAS institute is one of those rare companies where the founders did not sell or go public, but still created a hugely valuable business. Just comes to show that there are other routes you can take with your startup and be successful with enough hard work and preserverance.

In addition to this, SAS institute is an absolutely great place to work. All the employees there that I've talked to love it, are super dedicated and have no desire to work anywhere else.

I wholeheartedly agree. When so many seem to be seeking exit strategies, like an IPO or an acquisition, it's refreshing to see that some still think in a more long-term basis and battle to build businesses that will grow more organically throughout their entire lifetimes.

It's a bit like planting sequoias versus planting eucalyptuses. OK, I concede that the analogy may be sketchy, but you get the idea...

Whoever wrote the article is an ass:

Although still a desktop software product, JMP is so robust today that the latest, version 8, can display graphically millions of rows of data.

Although?? It's a desktop software product because the desktop is powerful. The personal computer you have under your desk is a very powerful machine. It's a shame that a lot of software moves as slowly as molasses and isn't coded with performance in mind.


In a similar vein, I've always admired D. E. Shaw. who still publishes single author theory papers.


Quoting David E. Shaw:

"Maybe it was because I was in the financial field. It's a zero sum game. You cannot make money unless someone else is losing money. That's one of the reasons why I like science: it doesn't work that way."

Source: http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080116/full/451240a/box/1.ht...

> It's a zero sum game.

That's embarrassingly false.

   Trading = Zero Sum
   Investing != Zero Sum

Depends. If e.g. we have different appetites for risk, than trading can generate value (though not dollars).

trading is zero sum if you don't count taxes and comission to brokers

Much of derivatives trading is indeed a zero-sum game. Let us not get into financial discussions, because it has been done before. Joe Smith has saved money for many years, and company X wants to expand their business. Joe Smith invests in company X by buying stocks, company X now has the money to buy some more machines and hire some more people, make more money, and Mr. Smith gets the dividend each year. And they live happily ever after...

Thing is, D.E. Shaw was not in the long-term investment business... and I doubt he's that ignorant about Finance. I mean, his hedge fund is quite prestigious...

Yeah, I misread the context of the quote. I thought he was talking about wealth.

It's still an open question whether short term trading is a contribution to finding the right price for something and thus helping to make the system as a whole more efficient. I don't know whether that's actually the case. It may be in some cases and not in others.

It does provide liquidity.

It does, so the reasoning would be that if an asset is actively traded that provides an incentive to invest in it because you know there's a place to sell it if you want to.

This seems plausible, but of course, it comes at a cost. Part of that cost is that for smart people it can be more lucrative to trade something than to make something.

But if they can provide more value by trading than by making, why should you value making above trading?

I don't. I just questioned whether they actually do provide more value by trading or if it just appears that way during a financial bubble.

Don't forget that the sole purpose of trading is to finance making. Trading has no intrinsic value. It's the bureaucracy of capitalism ;-)

That sounds an awful lot like the greek philosophers who did not hold merchants in high regard.

Making is ultimatively just pushing atoms (or ideas), too.

I'm just making a difference between the goals and the means to achieve those goals. The goal is to produce the goods and services we want. Trading is a means to do that efficiently, similar to computing.

Computing, just as trading, has no intrinsic value. It has value only insofar as it achieves its goals. I doubt that trading has been achieving its goals in the most efficient and effective way possible recently.

In 2007 the financial industry in the US made 70% of all corporate profits. Obviously, something was out of balance and it's rebalancing now. Part of that rebalancing will no doubt be a shift of labor away from that bloated financial services sector.

I don't think this critique should be taken as offensive or disparaging at all.

Yes, I agree it was out of balance.

No offense taken.

Confusing post, your example is how there is not a zero-sum game. No doubt Shaw was talking about futures/options and his experiences with hedging rather than finance in general.

What does it mean when the article says "perhaps we can credit it to his Midwestern roots for his drive"? I've never lived in America long enough to understand the differences between Americans from different parts. Anyone willing to give me a crash course?

The short version:

People who grow up on farms or in farming communities are widely supposed to be honest, plain spoken, unassuming and religious.

People who grow up in the big cities of the east coast are expected to be cunning, devious, greedy, atheistic and untrustworthy.

People who grow up in the affluent suburbia of the west coast are generally thought of as creative, decadent, and prone to inappropriate cultural exploration, believing in strange gods, making love to trees, etc.

In reality these regional stereotypes are as misleading as any national caricature.

I thought it had a lot more to do with the puritan/protestant work ethic than farming.

Tom Wolfe has a good intro to it here, using Robert Noyce of Intel as a prototypical Midwestern American: http://www.forbes.com/asap/1997/0825/102.html

"SAS makes all of the money. JMP is the fun product," Sall said.

This guy is my new hero!


An executive vice-president at SAS, Sall remains JMP's chief architect, running a team of 100, including 20 developers

What are the other 80 people on the team doing if not writing code!?

QA, support and probably a lot of pre-sales support kind of roles?

Domain experts?

In Michael Lewis' "The New New Thing", he describes how Jim Clarke, Netscape co-founder was up at 3AM scribbling math equations on how his mega-yacht could have a convincing CG nautical compass. The book has a picture of this crumpled napkin, which is fascinating.

On the same note, queen's guitar player, Brian May, is also an astrophysicist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_May#As_an_astrophysicist

This is a good article that describes the company (SAS) and their culture:


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