Operations Research and Financial Engineering
Robert J. Moore ’06
Founder and CEO, RJMetrics
I graduated from a small public high school in the spring of 2002. As one of the few people in my town with an interest in computers, I was able to build a computer repair business that had just about every teacher in the district on its customer list. I had settled in comfortably as a big fish in a small pond, but in reality I still had a lot to learn. I just didn’t realize it until I arrived at Princeton that fall.
I’ve always been more interested in business than technology, but I always had trouble with the idea of “studying business.” If my high school company taught me anything, it was that having certain skills can open up market opportunities that would not otherwise exist. As such, I decided early on that my best shot at becoming a successful entrepreneur was to become really good at something really hard. I’ve come to realize that, consciously or not, this is what most Princetonians have done by the time they walk through FitzRandolph Gate on graduation day.
I selected operations research and financial engineering as a major. I suspected that graduating from Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science with exposure to finance, economics, computer science, and statistics would challenge me tremendously and give me a wide range of opportunities when I graduated. I was right on both counts.
Within a year, I was learning about things that I didn’t even know existed. I took a liking to the computer science curriculum and ended up pursuing the applications of computing certificate program. I also fell in love with statistics and probability. I was introduced to the world of practical data analysis, in which data that aren’t always perfect can be used to inform big decisions with amazing results.
Gaining broad experience
I also explored my entrepreneurial ambitions while on campus. In my freshman year, I cofounded a company called YesLetter.com that helped high school students navigate the college application process. The summer after my sophomore year, I found success designing software that calculated poker odds and selling it online (and eventually through major retailers in the form of a handheld device). A course I took in my senior year provided me with the opportunity to design more consumer products and travel to Hong Kong with infomercial king A. J. Khubani. The harmony between my coursework and these extracurricular pursuits was tremendous, and I learned much more from each as a result.
By my senior year, I was certain that starting a company was my destiny. However, I still wasn’t sure what company I was going to start. With recruiting season in full swing, I decided to interview with a few of the companies that were recruiting on campus. Only one caught my eye. I accepted a summer internship, and then a full-time position, as an analyst with Insight Venture Partners. Insight is a New York-based private equity firm that invests in software and Internet companies. My job, for the most part, was to find new deals for the firm. This meant exploring market segments, meeting successful entrepreneurs, and examining the inner workings of fast-growing companies. The experience changed the way I think about business and what it means to be a successful entrepreneur.
By sheer coincidence, I was one of the few members of my class at Insight who had a programming background. As a result, I found myself staffed on several deals where I was required to put those skills to work. More often than not, those cases were the ones involving mountains of data (another familiar area from my Princeton days). I gained a new appreciation of how challenging it can be for businesses of all sizes to extract actionable insights from the data they already have. I also got pretty good at doing just that. Just as in high school, here it was again: a market opportunity that seemed custom-made to my strongest skills. Only this time I was in a much bigger pond.
A new challenge
At the end of 2008, I cofounded RJMetrics with a colleague from Insight. We build software that helps online businesses harness the power of their data to measure, manage, and monetize more effectively. The company started out in my attic, soon moved to a small business incubator in Camden, New Jersey, and now occupies a sizable office in Center City Philadelphia. Half of our developers are Princeton graduates.
Not everyone can say that they use what they learned in college every day at their job. I’m proud to say that I do. More than anything I learned in the classroom, however, Princeton taught me how to challenge myself. If you select a major that teaches you the same, I’d say you’ve made the right choice.