Follow the Money
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
Monday, March 22, 2021
Sunday, February 21, 2021
A Bitcoin for Your Thoughts?
I am not a crypto fan for a variety of reasons; for one it feels like a pure Ponzi scheme, for another it has no ties to a physical commodity (think gold standard), and it can be seized electronically at will by almost any major government...but there is one trait that is very, very interesting about Bitcoin: The IRS wants to know on your 2020 1040 "At any time during 2020, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?" Unfurl the red flags.
Why does the Deep State want to know whether you have virtual currency? Well dear readers, taxation is a by product of any benefit. This first example of this phenomenon in the United States sparked the Whiskey Rebellion in 1791. Whiskey had become a store of value; tilled fields planted with rye ultimately harvested and distilled into whiskey became in many respects this country's first portable, stable, and universal currency. Naturally the government wanted to tax this store of value. Hence the brewing discontentment which resulted in the Whiskey Rebellion.
Ultimately a paper currency was introduced which was backed by silver and gold; this metallic standard lasted well into the 20th century until under the Nixon administration the gold standard was revoked in order to pay for the escalating costs of the Vietnam War. The result was disastrous for working Americans as their purchasing power collapsed and inflation raged. The amount of paper currency, fiat money, in circulation exploded.
Friday, February 12, 2021
A Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) model is turning the traditional Wall Street monopoly on Initial Public Offering (IPO) deals on its head...and heads are rolling in angst. Consider the recent hit piece by Bloomberg "Investors in SPACs Need to Know the Real Deal." Or any of the various rants by Jim Cramer on CNBC about why he doesn't like SPACs. But wait, a host of recent traditional IPOs (those birthed by traditional Wall Street investment bankers) like DoorDash, Airbnb, and most recently Bumble all soared on their first day of trading. Great for retail investors, right? Not so much.
(Intentional?) Mispricing by investment bankers has led to massive single day pops on issue, leaving the IPO company in a lurch (yeah, those are dollars they left on the table, rather than going into corporate coffers) while the investment bankers make a killing (all the money is made between the lines) for a service that could have been accomplished via a direct listing like Palantir accomplished or...gasp...via a SPAC. Oh yeah, one more thing...how about all those retail buyers (read as the general public) who had to pony up to pay the premium price for a new issue? Hosed. Their only hope now is to bet on a high price going higher.
In a raging bull market, proximity to the deal flow is vital. Everyone knows this, that's why there is so much demand for IPO deals. That's why the margins are so fat. That's why traditional investment bankers crush it. It's an easy algorithm, get as close (early) to a deal of a good issue as possible. Retail investors know this well. And about a year and a half ago a SPAC launch occurred that first kinda appeared under the radar...Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corporation was to acquire SBTech and DraftKings. This seminal event ushered in a new wave of investing for the retail investor and the small company. It was a renaissance moment. Since the DraftKings deal went public, literally another hundred SPACs were launched. More are on the way.
Are SPACs risky? No doubt. Like any new issue without a track record, investors need to be cautious. When owners, founders, venture capitalists, private equity managers, hedge funds, AND retail investors, however, all are on the same page, it definitely seems like the investing world is thinking different (like Steve Jobs advised.) The one player traditionally clear and present, however, is noticeably absent...the investment banker.
SPACs are a great democratizer. And the Bloomberg article is quite right on one point; if investors still want to buy, so be it. One of the great legacies of the previous administration was the creation of an investing environment that put an emphasis on less regulation, less red tape, and more freedom. The result of this philosophy has begun to take root and bloom. The big potential losers are the static, entrenched monopolies which have maintained their status via ever-increasing market size fueled by bolt-on deals...who just said Microsoft...and bales of cash to lobby DC preventing competition. The big winner? You.
Sunday, February 7, 2021
Reminiscences of a Stock Operator
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
When the Fringe Goes Mainstream
When fringe ideas go mainstream lots of money can be made. Buckets full of money. The resulting services and products from what were once considered fringe ideas have fundamentally changed society when they were embraced by the mainstream.
Consider the societal impacts of Bitcoin, electric vehicles, sports gambling, pot (rebranded cannabis), and even gourmet coffee. All of these products or services originated in previously fringe sectors of society. They were what the mathematical, specifically the statistical community, have labeled outliers.
Outliers traditionally have been considered data (or even people) that are significantly outside the average or median set of data. Consider the image directly above. The data clustered in the bottom left would equate with a point or even slope if it was two-dimensional on the graph. Notice the point on the upper right of the chart. In the study of statistics, this is know as the outlier.
An outlier is an extreme value that is either much higher or lower than other data points. Not to get too complicated, but the outlier typically skews the mean and median. Traditionally outliers are discarded from a data set because of this effect. My experience has been to embrace the outlier. As a matter of fact, I suggest investors keep an eye out for outliers.
The case for keeping outliers on your investing radar screen is strong, because as alluded to in the first paragraph mucho dinero can be made getting in on trends early. That is typically when prices are low, because demand is virtually non-existent. In fact, the trend may be so early there may not even be a way to monetize the idea into a product or service yet. That makes investing in a nascent idea tricky. Often investors will pony up benjis for corollary product or service that aren't necessary the real thing.
In any industry created from a fringe idea, the birthing process is difficult and fraught with failure. The commercialization process of converting a fringe idea into a business can be best summed up as loony. It's like the primordial proteins, enzymes, heat, pressure, and time aligning to create a new life form, which of course is what a fringe idea converted into a new product or service most resembles. It is at this point when its product or service is launched and ownership can be had, whether in private equity or via purchasing the asset directly (Bitcoin), or licensing it (McDonald's franchise) that an investor can now gain exposure.
Ideas aren't two dimensional like most data on a chart. They aren't even three dimensional. The bridge between mathematics and ideas is tenuous at best. Ideas embrace at least length, area, volume, and time. The world as we know it has three dimension; length, width, and depth plus one dimension of time. String theory postulates that the universe operates with many more dimensions. Ideas are definitely at least three dimensional, consequently traditional statistics has been a poor utility to identify fringe ideas that will become mainstream. A better litmus test is needed that incorporates both mathematics and humanistics. Arthur Schopenhauer famously said "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
Since I am not as smart as Schopenhauer, I use something called the "Laugh Test." The "Laugh Test" is if I laugh out loud when presented with a fringe idea. I almost immediately put that new idea on my investing radar. The "Laugh Test" for me has proven to be an accurate predictor of potentially ground-breaking products or services, plus it also has produced countless failures. This litmus test, however, is also why I think certain environments are fertile ground to create new products and services, and also why AI will have trouble cloning this distinctly human gut reaction to what is funny, what is love, what is scary, etc. Emotions are a key factor in converting a fringe idea into a mainstream product or service. And once the mainstream embraces a fringe idea, its products and services typically change the course of history.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Georgia On My Mind