Spotlight on: Cole Mattox

Cole Mattox. Photo Credit: All Star Code

Cole Mattox is the founder & CEO of North Tabor Capital. He is an alumnus of the All Star Code Summer Intensive at Goldman Sachs in 2015, and will be an incoming freshman at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in the fall.

You just graduated high school, right?

Yeah, last Sunday, June 3rd! Seton Hall Prep. It’s the oldest all-boys Catholic school in the state.

Did you grow up in New York?

I was born in New York, but my family moved to New Jersey right after I was born. Raised in Montclair, New Jersey, and haven’t really left. Meanwhile my older sister and family have been travelling and I’ve been working, playing lacrosse…

And starting a business. Can you tell me a bit about North Tabor Capital?

I was inspired by family, and a lot of professionals that I had met in the past. I realized I had a knack for finance, and once I learned to code I began using quantitative and mathematical models, asset-pricing models. Once I started generate some pretty good returns, I decided to file as a business, and put some capital behind it.

When did you realize you had a knack for finance? Was there a moment?

There’s a company called Quantopian, really interesting company, that aims to democratize financial data. They have a conference every year in the spring, and I attended the conference, and I was the only high school student there, and a lot of the other people in the room had PhDs, or came from really prestigious universities…

That must have been intimidating.

But when I started understanding a lot of what they were staying, I thought hey, maybe I am pretty good at this! So that was my ah-hah! moment.

What did you do next?

At that point, I had already founded the business, so it just gave me confidence to pursue the quantitative approach. Just speaking of professionals in the business, through All Star Code, I met tons of people at Goldman Sachs, and through the network I got to meet some great people at Microsoft. Talking to different professionals really inspired me to go out and do this stuff.

That’s awesome. So you’ve been working with the All Star Code Alumni network?

Yeah, I work a bit with two guys from my cohort, just working on code and various little projects.

Tell me a little bit about your experience with the program. How did you come to All Star Code?

My dad showed me a news segment on All Star Code. It was the first summer of the program, and one of the guys ended up interning at Microsoft. My parents were like, You have some semblance of an interest in computer science, you have to apply! You need to do this. By the time I filled out an application, there were 500 kids who applied, and my cohort was 20 kids. I got placed at Goldman Sachs, and my uncle worked at Goldman so I called him up and asked if he could introduce me to people in the world of finance… and from there I got to meet some wonderful people. I learned a lot too, not just code but other skills, like how to deal with people, how to give a good presentation for work and not just for school. It’s a very different set of skills, and it taught me a wonderful foundation to build on.

Is there any one of the soft skills that stands out as particularly useful?

Working together in an actual work environment, which I’d never done before. I’d been in school, obviously, and worked in a lacrosse store, but having to work and coordinate with other people, dealing with scheduling, figuring out how to do our final project outside of work.

You had this feature on CNBC written about you recently. How have things changed since then?

I’ve been inundated with emails. I’ve had 200 follow requests on Instagram. I’ve had follows on twitter, tons of people trying to message me… It feels good, y’know, but it also comes with a lot of scrutiny. Some people are skeptical, and as they should be. I would be skeptical of me too. At the same time, we’re gonna keep doing what we’re doing.

What would you say to people who are skeptical of your business?

I just tell them to look at what we’ve done in the past, or have them talk to someone who’s since been satisfied. But there always will be people who are skeptical.

Do you find that being a young man of color factors into your investing, or the way you move through the business world?

I’m certainly conscious of it as I move through the business world. I’m grateful to have met with some wonderful professionals who have given me advice, and some have wanted to meet with me because I’m interested in investing and a young man of color and that was enough for them to want to talk to me. All Star Code made me conscious, too, that there were other young men of color who were interested in finance and wanted to do it. Most of the other executives I meet are also of color, and have been keen on helping me out.

It’s really great to see people giving back, especially if you’ve established yourself. Is there any one piece of advice that you were given that you’d like to pass on?

I spoke with someone from Los Angeles, who was also a man of color, and who’s done very very well for himself in personal investing. He’s an Ivy League alumni, and has done just tremendously. And he said that the reason that I went to college was because of my skin color. I could have read every book in the curriculum, I could done all the work myself, but I went to college because sometimes, as a young man of color, you need that piece of paper for people to take you seriously.

One last question: we’re about to start our Summer Intensive, this July, with 180 new kids. What do you think they should know, going into this program?

That this is only the start. I sort of felt like towards the end of the program that I was tapped out, that this was the coolest thing I’ll ever do now… but it’s just the beginning. Where you are now is where you grow from, not where you’ve ended up. Knowing how to code, for those who don’t, opens up a tremendous new world for people. But often people who do know how to code don’t necessarily know business skills, or interpersonal skills. And also, have fun! Build what you want, have fun, talk to as many people as you can, always be the person asking questions on the site visits. Talk to people about what you’re interested in. You might just find, or become, an expert in it.

Cole Mattox and Christina Lewis. Photo Credit: All Star Code