Heidelberg University

The Physics of Entrepreneurship

Sahill Poddar, Parafin, San Francisco


I received my PhD in Particle Physics from the Kirchoff Institute for Physics at University of Heidelberg in 2013. As a member of the ATLAS collaboration, my thesis was to search for signals of new physics with ATLAS experiment at the LHC, CERN. After my PhD I worked as a data scientist at Facebook and Robinhood, both Silicon Valley based technology companies before staring my own business.

In this talk, I discuss how a PhD in physics shaped my thinking about the world and how it was important in enabling me start a new financial technology company in Silicon Valley. The answer lies in leveraging mathematics and code to experiment and solve problems. In the case of physics, mathematics and code enables the understanding of the universe. In the case of entrepreneurship, once an unaddressed need in society has been identified, the leverage of math and code is essential in building and improving a product and getting distribution. Exploring the unknown during my PhD helped me develop a first principles mindset and approach to problem solving that is found in abundance in Silicon Valley and is what makes a large part of entrepreneurship a scientific process. We will touch upon a few different themes namely,

1. Problem solving - the zero to one time

2. Building a product

3. Experimentation and feedback

4. Key differences between Physics and Entrepreneurship.

With this talk, my hope is to demonstrate how important some key mindset changes are, that are developed during exploring the unknown during a PhD in Physics and how to best use them to build a (hopefully) successful business.