Philippe Laffont: from ‘repressed computer scientist’ to top tech investor

Philippe Laffont: from ‘repressed computer scientist’ to top tech investor
Philippe Laffont: from ‘repressed computer scientist’ to top tech investor

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As a teenager, Philippe Lafon dreamed of working at Apple, but after graduating from MIT, he was turned down by Apple five times and later became a major investor.

“I’m a mediocre repressed computer scientist,” the 55-year-old hedge fund manager told the Financial Times in an extensive interview from its New York headquarters overlooking Central Park.The office was released in 1976. It showcases a wide range of Apple products that have been refurbished, as well as devices that were once pioneers but are now discontinued.

A mild-mannered, attention-seeking Frenchman, Lafon has built one of the world’s most famous technology-focused hedge funds and is growing a business investing in private companies. . In December 1999 he started with $50 million in his Laffont’s Coatue Management assets, and as of May he is over $70 billion. Nasdaq Composite.

But growth investors like Lafon, who are trying to identify a handful of companies that can deliver exponential returns while shaping the future, face the math. The era of cheap money is over and we are adapting to a changing regime of rising interest rates and high inflation.

The Nasdaq Composite Technology Index is down 30% this year. Beloved hedge funds such as Tesla and Meta, which were among Coatu’s top 10 assets mid-year, have fallen in value by more than half. Also, many of Coatue’s private investments have yet to be revalued, reflecting a significant decline in the public market.

Lafon’s office overlooking Central Park is decorated with Apple products © Laura Barisonzi/FT
Laffon has already experienced booms and busts in technology. After a brief stint at McKinsey in Madrid, she began her career in the late 1990s as a communications analyst at her management of famed investor Julian Robertson in New York, Tiger, before her telecoms boom. became independent in his later years.

Two months later, Kotyu has climbed to her double digits. Lafon thought this would be a no-brainer before the Nasdaq plunged four-fifths of her way from high to low from March 2000 to October 2002. .

Lafon survived with his reputation and business intact. But the experience left a lasting impression.

“His first three years of managing his own money are like a tattoo that cannot be removed,” he said. “It was a constant reminder that trees don’t reach the sky.”

His attempt to temper Silicon Valley’s optimism with macroeconomic attention influenced Lafont’s approach to money management.

He wakes up at 3 a.m., checks his Bloomberg terminal, and goes back to sleep. Deep down in his heart, he says, he’s always thinking, “What could go wrong?”

In 2020, something unexpected happened. The coronavirus pandemic has swept the world, forcing governments to introduce quarantine measures.

Lafon said he had underestimated how quickly life would return to normal, and that the fund missed a big stock market rally in 2021.

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