Weekly Note: Personal News, Reading, Podcasts, Some Sleuthing
I will be traveling and out of pocket for a few days. I am starting to plan a move back to the States. It’s been a strange experience, feeling like a tourist in my own country. There’s much I love about Germany: family, old friends, quaint architecture, nature, the world’s best bakeries.
But I don’t feel quite at home. More like I am on a sabbatical. It feels finite. I indulge in things the way I would on vacation (Tiramisu ice cream after pizza on a weekday? Glad you asked!). The continued lockdown is part of it, I’m sure. But half a year after making the move I still feel unsettled and disconnected from the world. As if my apartment existed in its own little world, far removed from the city right on my doorstep.
Almost everything that captures my interest is happening online, in English, and in a different time zone. Case in point, I did a Q&A with @hidenotslide and missed out on the audience questions which started showing up hours later, when I was asleep at 1am CET.
I plan on going back to New York, at least for a few weeks to see how it would feel being back. But the next few days I will spend with extended family, to the extent allowed.
I hope you’re all doing well!
Weekly reads and podcasts:
I tweeted about the final years of Julian Robertson managing Tiger (1997-2000).
A useful if overwhelming chart of cognitive biases.
John Griffin’s ‘hedge fund analyst checklist.’ "Does waiting for the new financials feel like waiting for Christmas? IF “YES” —–> ADD." "Draw a time line of expected events and dates. What might go wrong and when?"
Market history nugget: podcast with Eric Rosenfeld, one of the co-founders of LTCM.
Enjoyed this podcast with Lex Fridman and Risto Miikkulainen on “evolutionary computation.” I’ll be the first to admit that I had to google every other word… They talked about modeling evolution and learning. For example, Risto described a model of “digital hyena agents” in an environment with zebra and lions. Can the hyenas figure out how to band together to hunt or steal prey from the stronger lion? Do they learn how to bond and trust each other? There were other fascinating topics such as whether advanced AI would lie to humans and the connection between language and vision.
Lastly, I’d recommend John Hempton on Odd Lots, on the collapse of Greensill, Bill Hwang, and surviving the retail bubble as a short seller.
Old letters by Bill Miller.
Many great companies had trouble raising seed money.
Some sleuthing: an update on Vy Capital
To be clear: this is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities. This is not investment advice. Be sure to read the disclaimer at the end. Furthermore, SPACs by their nature are speculative and on average bad investments! Full disclosure: I own common stock, units, and warrants in Vy Capital’s SPAC Vy Global Growth. I may buy or sell these securities at any time without notice.
Why an update? Couple of reasons. First, SPACs as a group have traded down and issuance has stopped in its tracks. As the retail bid disappeared, pre-deal premiums vanished. It’s a reaction to massive supply, regulatory pushback, and deals starting to go sour. The charts of some former high-flying stocks SPAC plays like NKLA or QS are something to behold (speaking of EV stocks, I once wrote about George Soros, Steve Jobs, EV stocks, and storytelling “What is the connection between electric vehicle stocks, George Soros, and Steve Jobs’s raid on Xerox PARC? Reflexivity.”).
So why do I still care about a SPAC? As I wrote before, I think Tamas is uniquely well-connected yet under the radar. And he has been quite active recently, including two particularly interesting deals: Reddit and Blockchain.com. A target at the intersection of social and crypto would be square in Tamas’s sandbox. Could it be Reddit? There are lot of innocuous ties between the two companies.
Tamas was interviewed in 2019 about social media platforms, democracy, and using blockchain for a platform-neutral "digital manifestation": “Another company where I'm currently invested in, for example, is Reddit, whereby you have communities which are moderated by people that take that community seriously. And you will find different kinds of communities. And some of them have an amazing amount of dialogue amongst people. And it's very different than if you go into the common section of other social media sites which, oftentimes, is the bottom pit of humanity. If you want to lose faith in humanity, that's where you go.”
Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman is on the board of VYGG.
Reddit is planning to go public and has been hiring accordingly. Going public: “We’re working toward that moment.”
CEO Huffman in the WSJ: “Being a public company might just be a better fit for Reddit generally, in the sense that our users feel a real sense of ownership over their communities,” Mr. Huffman said, referring to the passion of the platform’s users. “It would be fitting if the ownership that our users felt—if they had the opportunity for that to be actual ownership in Reddit.”
Justin Kan, founder of Justin.TV and Twitch, is on the board of VYGG. Justin has a podcast on which he interviews his friends. (I would actually highly recommend the pod – Justin shares very personal and rich conversations, often about ambition, ego, addiction, trauma, family.) For example, he interviewed Steve Huffman (Reddit CEO, fellow VYGG board member). Also, Michael Seibel, his Justin.TV co-founder and CEO of Y Combinator. Seibel was appointed to Reddit’s board last year.
As to the crypto angle:
Reddit wants to “bring the value of blockchain to its massive monthly visitors through a partnership with the Ethereum Foundation".” And look who commented on the news – Vy Capital partner and VYGG CEO John Hering.
Justin’s a crypto enthusiast. You can buy hit first video "Getting arrested with the Reddit CEO proved Justin.tv worked?" as an NFT.
Tamas has also been deep in crypto: he once brainstormed an ICO with Telegram’s Pavel Durov (the transcript of their text messages was shared in court. Tamas’s name is redacted in the transcript but mentioned in the list of exhibits).
Importantly, VYGG is allowed to do related party transactions: "We are not prohibited from pursuing an initial business combination or subsequent transaction with a company that is affiliated with Vy Capital, our sponsor, founders, officers or directors."
I have never spoken to any of the individuals involved (I did congratulate Garry Tan who recently appeared on Justin’s podcast). Spend enough time tracking a group of people looking for a deal and you start seeing Pepe Silvia all over the place. Reddit might file for an IPO tomorrow and my post will look like Charlie’s mad scribblings. That’s the game. But the digging was too much fun not to share.
Speaking of digging, check out out Paul Enright’s thread on edge - which he frames as “dig, think, act.” (as well as his excellent podcast appearance with Patrick O’Shaughnessy).
“Today you can sit at your desk and have signals sent to you all day while you develop a finely tuned filter. Or a filter bubble.”
This is not a recommendation to buy, hold or sell any securities or other financial instruments. This is not investment advice. I’m not your advisor or fiduciary. Always do your own research and ask your investment advisor.
I may at any time transact in any of the securities mentioned. I am currently a shareholder in VYGG (common stock, units, warrants). I may transact in any of these securities at any time and without prior announcement. I may exit this investment at any time.