Power Players

Ray Dalio founded the world's most profitable hedge fund–here's who he looks up to

Bridgewater Associates founder, Ray Dalio.
NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Ray Dalio built the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, which currently has about $150 billion in assets under management. He founded Bridgewater out of his apartment in New York City in 1975, and since then, it has "delivered the biggest net profit of any hedge fund firm ever," Barron's reported in January.

But now, at 70 and with an inordinate amount of success under his belt (Dalio is worth $16.6 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaire Index), Dalio says his "greatest joy" is helping others become successful. He is even mentoring hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs, who himself is worth an estimated $740 million.

But that begs the question, who does Dalio himself look up to?

"The people I admire the most are these people who have great character and they're giving to other people," the hedge fund billionaire said during his mentorship session with Combs, a video of which Dalio shared on Dec. 10. "So, a lot of names come to mind...."

"One guy that comes to mind is Muhammad Yunus, the man who invented microfinance," Dalio told Combs.

Yunus, 79, is the founder of Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. He is credited with inventing microfinance (or microcredit), where collateral-free small, short-term loans are given to the poor to help them start their own small businesses. In 2006, Yunus and Grameen Bank were awarded a Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below," according to the Nobel Prize organization.

Grameen Bank began in part due to a famine that spread across Bangladesh, where Yunus was born, in 1974. To help those in poverty, Yunus started a microcredit program to lend even $25 to borrowers in need.

Yunus also founded Grameen America, a nonprofit aimed at helping women who live in poverty build small businesses through microloans, and Dalio is a former member of its board of directors and has donated profits from his book "Principles: Life and Work" to Grameen America.

Yunus believes "that all people can lift themselves out of poverty through their own entrepreneurial spirit," according to Grameen America's website. 

In addition, Dalio named Geoffrey Canada, 67, the president of Harlem Children's Zone, a non-profit organization providing free workshops, education and health programs for children and families living in poverty in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. He has worked with Harlem Children's for over 30 years, according to the organization's site.

"Geoff Canada, Harlem Children's, he is a shaper and a disruptor and a smart, good man," Dalio told Combs, who agreed.

Canada grew up in poverty in the South Bronx and went on to earn a master's degree from Harvard. After graduating, Canada started Harlem Children's Zone, hoping to "move the needle" and help those in poverty in the area, according to the Washington Post.

In 2006, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg selected Canada to serve as the co-chair of the Commission on Economic Opportunity, asking him to devise a plan on reducing poverty. In 2009, the Obama administration started a program called Promise Neighborhoods, which aimed to replicate Canada's model from Harlem Children's in 20 cities.

Former first lady Michelle Obama also referred to Canada as one of her heroes in 2009, according to the Washington Post.

Dalio previously shared two other "role models" he admires: fellow billionaire, Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, and Thrive Global and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington.

"Marc Benioff is a star shaper – a hero on a hero's journey – who is one of a number of such people that other people can learn from," Dalio said in a LinkedIn post he shared Dec. 11, also recommending Benioff's book "Trailblazer." "The world needs more heroes and role models and to get into their heads to understand how they think, so I like to occasionally pass along those that I think are best."

As for Huffington, she "is another hero/shaper who a lot of people can learn from," Dalio said in the post. "To me, she is a role model for all, and especially women as she is powerful and gentle at the same time. She and I teach each other. Wonderful relationships like this one are huge benefits."

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