My working hypothesis is that Q is not really Q, but Point72, and has been influenced by them for quite awhile. They were handed a script, and funding to put on the show. Fawce's announcement didn't use the term 'acquisition' but it sure sounded that way, and perhaps was the only way for Q to move forward, given their burn rate. It is a huge win for Q the start-up, but it means that Q is no longer a start-up.
Another working hypothesis of mine is that Q is more of a recruiting tool for Point72, than a diversified crowd-sourced hedge fund. If you think about it, what better way to get your foot in the door than to get noticed by Q, maybe rank highly or win a contest, get funded as a manager, participate in their various training opportunities, etc. From the Point72 perspective, worst-case, Q is a self-funding global recruiting tool. If they end up with a handful of rain-makers on their payroll, it'll be a win. I seriously doubt that they bought into the visionary, unproven crowd-sourced concept as the sole rationale for putting up the money.
Regarding the narrow focus on the "me too" approach of factor-based equity long-short, presumably Point72 buys into the concept, and it would seem to be a natural fit for the Q platform (whereas something like HFT of some exotic derivatives would not). I can see how it is focusing the engineering resources on a single, achievable near-term goal. They've put together a high-level plan, assigned tasks, and are charging ahead to victory. It beats the alternative of chaotic sandbox play from which one might hope for a return on some brilliant innovation, but never get it.
One area of hope for the factor-based equity long-short is that although Q is reluctant to discuss it, my sense is that it will stress their infrastructure, and force an examination of where they should invest in improvements. I have an algo that would seem to fit their profile, but I basically can't run a backtest back to 2002, due to a memory error. And even if I make some compromises to get it to run (taking ~ 45 minutes), it bogs down my browser to load transactions, and I can't load the backtest into the research platform, due to memory limitations. Another example is that of the ML discussion, deep learning, model training, etc. Something's gotta give in terms of the infrastructure, or Q won't be competitive against professionals with real (but still commodity) computing power. The fact that Q is looking for users to sort out, point-in-time, how to deal with up to 1500 equities, and various other data inputs is probably a good thing. They'll eventually realize that their least-common-denominator, one-size-fits-all computing paradigm may not be the best. A small subset of the 80,000+ users would benefit from more horsepower.
One unfortunate turn of events is that the factor-based equity long-short strategy and associated workflow are not being adequately justified and debated with users, in my opinion. The worker bees do their technical postings, but the idea of considering if it is a good idea in the first place, and considering possible alternatives are not supported by Q. It is just a waste of time (hence the blog posting by the chief investment office as received knowledge, with commenting turned off). Unfortunate, but I can kinda see the practical rationale. It is business, not academia or coffee shop debate. And you don't won't the Q troops to lose faith and focus. There is a price to pay, though, in user engagement, buy-in, and leveraging the collective intelligence of the crowd in making high-level decisions.