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Discovering a Constellation

March 21, 20235 min read
Discovering a Constellation: Meet Art
Meet Art, one of the engineers behind our product.

A constellation is a group of stars that form a particular shape in the sky. Though each star has its own orbit, they come together to create something incredible. That's why we’ve created the Discovering a Constellation series - we hope you use these pages to get to know the luminaries behind Starlight.


What do you work on at Starlight?

As the newest member of the engineering team, I try to get involved in as much of the codebase as possible, whether it’s front-end, backend, or “blockend”. Fundamentally, we all write code to ensure funds are SAFU, while seeking a delightful user experience from top to bottom.


What were you up to before you joined the team?

Before joining Starlight, I was a derivatives trader, portfolio manager, and strategist. My TradFi career spanned the dotcom bubble, the GFC, and the Covid-19 global shutdowns. I invented or co-discovered several numerical/computational techniques for finance. One of my extensions of the textbook option model is still used today, to handle a type of risky cash flow.

My last role at a global bank was as a product owner for global multi-asset investment strategies. I produced strategies using machine learning, to allocate investments across asset classes. Another product used cryptographic hash functions to provide secrecy and randomness. This allowed us to protect institutional clients against the front-running of their trading strategies.

As DeFi Summer unfolded, I found that Web3 offers a chance to re-build values from an earlier era of the internet: openness, transparency, and participation, plus composability.


Why did you choose Starlight?

I landed at Starlight because I was looking for:

  • founders with vision and grit
  • a small team of extremely high performers
  • a meaningful project with the chance to have an outsized impact

Also, my social media tagline is “plays a mean game of ping-pong” and the first thing I noticed in the office was a legit table tennis setup.


What’s your favorite Starlight memory?

Looking at the Starlight team from outside, it's easy to tick off the fintech / crypto / Ivy League boxes. But for such a small, goal-focused group, people's life experiences are incredibly diverse. This leads to an incredible environment for building a new product.

One person is a member of a band. Another has a YouTube channel. My favorite Starlight memory is finding out that someone studied ballet. He was definitely not my first, second or third guess!


Who is someone you admire on the team and why?

In line with our individual coding styles, people’s phone choices are very on-brand. One engineer uses Android, of course. My own phone has a family picture on the lock screen, and is always protected in a military drop-rated case.

Dom's phone is au naturel. He keeps it the way Jony Ive intended: simple and elegant. There are tasteful flourishes, but to wrap it in a case would be an abomination. His approach perfectly melds form and function.Dom's code is similarly clean and attentive to details. It rarely gets bogged down, as he thinks hard about smoothing out the roughness before starting construction.

He also has the best hair out of all the engineers.


What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I listened to the Paisley Park concert at the stroke of midnight on Y2K.

Prince is the Mozart of our generation — difficult musical fathers. Out-of-this-world proficient. Frilly blouses. Composes and performs multiple instruments. Infamous musical rivalries.

Prince Rogers Nelson. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


What has been your greatest source of motivation?

A young Hakeem Olajuwon landed in New York City from Lagos, Nigeria. It was too cold in New York so he cancelled his visit to St. John’s University, and went to the Univeristy of Houston instead. Alongside legendary Coach Guy Lewis and future Hall-of-Famer Clyde Drexler, Olajuwon founded Phi Slamma Jamma, the Cougars men’s basketball team that made it to three consecutive Final Fours.

One summer while he was still in college, Hakeem visited a game at UCLA where pros played during the summer. He arrived at the gym after the game had started, and L.A. Lakers superstar Magic Johnson had to tell him sorry, rules are rules, it doesn’t matter how far someone has come. They wouldn’t allow the big guy from Nigeria to play that day.

The next day Hakeem made sure to get there on time, locked down hard on defense, and got nearly 20 blocks in one game against pros and college players alike.

I admire this episode in Olajuwon’s journey of personal excellence: overcoming setbacks; successfully directing his inner fire into productive outcomes.


What is your proudest accomplishment?

As a junior trader, my team was market-making a brand new product: options on credit default swaps (“CDS swaptions”).

We were using the textbook options pricing model, which had an important and previously unknown flaw: cash flows in an interest rate swap are discounted at the risk-free rate, but cash flows in a credit default swap can disappear. Since the option premium includes the value of the discounted cash flows, illiquid in-the-money receivers would appear to trade at the wrong implied volatility, in comparison to the liquid out-of-the-money payers.

We had lost a small, but significant, amount of money due to this mistake. After fixing our models, we looked for ways to apply our new knowledge to make up our losses.

We improved our bids for deep-in-the-money receiver options that appeared to be many vol points too high in the old model, but would actually lock in arbitrage profits for us in the new (corrected) model. We maintained this setup for several quarters. One by one, our competitors figured out the mistake and stopped trading against us. Though this was not before we grew to have the two largest (offsetting) positions in the market.


Originally posted on LinkedIn and starlight.money

Life at StarlightDiscovering a ConstellationGray Tiff Joanne Marcella RandellBen Dom Nam Zhang Jakub
長話短說 (short + sweet):
Thanks for reading, anon!