Member Spotlight: Evangelos Simoudis (BS ’83)
Name: Evangelos Simoudis
Member Since: 2001
Membership Level: President's Circle
Chapter: Northern California
Job Title: Managing Director, Synapse Partners
Tell me how you first got involved with the Caltech Associates and why supporting Caltech is important to you.
I heard about the Associates as an organization and its goals during one of my campus visits in early 2000. It was about the time that my wife and I had started thinking more explicitly about our philanthropic activities and our deeper interest in education. We are both great believers in the value of combining disciplines in order to address the grand challenges of our time. The opportunity to contribute, even in a small way, and enable the Institute's students and faculty to address some of these challenges was particularly meaningful to us, so we started our involvement with the Associates.
What do you wish other people knew about the Caltech Associates/Caltech
Because of the great demands on our time, there are only a few activities to which we can devote a significant amount of our attention and resources. For individuals who have more than a passing interest in Caltech, its mission to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education, what the Institute represents in today's academic world, and the achievements of its faculty and students who come from across the world, the Associates offers a unique and singularly effective means of contributing, making all these possible, and being part of the Institute's journey at the same time.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Caltech and Associates community?
I serve on Caltech's IST (Information Science and Technology) Council, and I find myself returning to campus often, most recently for Caltech's Alumni College and before that to moderate a young alumni founders' panel event, called TechFest, for the CMS (Computing and Mathematical Sciences) department. For me, Caltech visits are mind nourishment—they provide rich interactions with faculty, alumni, and other members of the community and offer opportunities for me to give back to the students through activities and advising. In all of my educational experiences, I have gravitated toward smaller schools, but it is the Institute's nature of interdisciplinary research that is most inspiring and unique to Caltech.
I also serve on the Associates' Northern California Committee, and through this volunteer role, I enjoy connecting with alumni in the area. As a committee, we help shape events in the region, and I recently had the honor of moderating a panel on the future of driverless cars with Caltech's Richard Murray. It was a successful event and will be offered again in the spring for Associates local to the campus.
Outside of your involvement with the Associates, what do you do?
Professionally, I have been a venture investor for over 15 years. I just created a new firm that invests in startups developing big-data analytic applications. This follows 18 years I spent as an engineer, corporate executive, and entrepreneur. Outside of work and our involvement with Caltech, my wife and I are involved with the San Francisco Opera and the Big Sur Land Trust. These three organizations reflect our interests in education, the environment, and music.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
I didn't know anything about computers—hadn't even seen one—before arriving in the U.S. from Greece in 1978. I have been studying, working with, working on, and investing in computing, and particularly data analytics, ever since.
Do you have a favorite Caltech memory/story/moment?
In 1981, I was taking the VLSI (very-large-scale integration) design course with Chuck Seitz, a principal collaborator of Carver Mead's. We were designing relatively simple circuits using a computer-aided design tool that had been developed at Caltech. Though it was advanced for its time, I found using the tool extremely tedious. To address what I considered to be a problem, I decided to go into computer science and particularly study how to use silicon compilers and artificial intelligence to automatically design circuits. While I no longer focus on circuit design, the use of intelligent tools combined with data became a topic that keeps me busy to this day.