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Why hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio loves Silicon Valley

Erin Fuchs
Deputy Managing Editor

With big tech facing a reckoning in America over an array of controversies from data breaches to sexual misconduct, Silicon Valley does not always elicit warm feelings from those outside the world of technology.

But hedge fund titan Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates recently praised the “open-minded” ethos of many Silicon Valley startups, during an interview with Yahoo Finance’s Melody Hahm at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.

“Some of the most successful innovative companies, and then some of the startups that are just getting going, are open-minded and thinking about new and better ways of doing things. So Silicon Valley, I love it, because they really resonate the idea of meritocracy,” said Dalio, who spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt about how to “evaluate talent and make decisions.”

Dalio added, “To know one's strengths and one's weaknesses. To work in a community where there's meaningful work and meaningful relationships. It resonates here. So that receptivity is really big here.”

Bridgewater Associates Founder, Co-Chief Investment Officer & Co-Chairman Ray Dalio speaks during the Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal on November 7, 2018. ( Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In addition to managing the world’s biggest hedge fund, Dalio is a sometimes-polarizing management guru whose 2017 book “Principles” and the so-called radical transparency it espouses have captured the attention of some of Silicon Valley’s biggest leaders. Microsoft (MSFT) founder Bill Gates once tweeted, “I always learn a lot from my friend @RayDalio,” while Netflix (NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings said in a book blurb that “Principles” had a “profound” effect on his leadership style.

That book urges people in the workplace to be “radically transparent,” which Dalio writes involves sharing the information that’s hardest to share and potentially firing workers who can’t handle the truth. In his book, Dalio writes, “Realize you have nothing to fear from knowing the truth.” It makes sense that Dalio admires the ability of some startup employees in Silicon Valley to know their strengths and weaknesses — that is a central tenet of his management philosophy.

The notion of brutal honesty in the workplace has of course invited some detractors. Back in 2017, Vanity Fair’s Bess Levin lamented that “Bridgewater’s nightmarish management philosophy is headed west.” And Ben Waber, the CEO of Humanyze, argued in Quartz last year, that radical transparency can actually ding morale and make it harder for workers to collaborate if employees feel their colleagues have unfairly characterized them as untrusty or poorly skilled.

For his part, Dalio as previously countered criticism by noting to the Wall Street Journal that talking behind a colleague’s back is “so corrosive, it’s just bad.” In Silicon Valley, the hedge fund titan has apparently found others willing to embrace that radical philosophy.

Erin Fuchs is deputy managing editor at Yahoo Finance.

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