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[VIC - 149] Mountain climbing 🧗

January 20 · Issue #149 · View online
Jeremy Hurst
Buying gold (GLD);
a new trend toward decentralized publishing;
climbing new (figurative) mountains;
pre-paid debit cards.

Business & Money
Gold (and other precious metals by extension) is an interesting asset. Normally, when I make an investment, I want to make money from that investment. And that can happen in a number of ways.
A stock might appreciate if the company experiences earnings growth or perhaps you’ll make income from dividend payouts.
If investing in debt, I hope for yield in the form of interest payments.
With real estate, the income comes in the form of rent.
None of the above is true for gold. You might say it is a nonproductive or non-income producing asset. You only make money if someone is willing to pay more for it at a later date.
That said, there is a flip side to this story, and a powerful one to boot.
Gold is often referred to as a safe haven asset in that people flee to it in times of uncertainty. I imagine this is due to a long history of gold as a store of value. We no longer have the gold standard, yet every central bank on the planet stores hordes of it in their vaults.
I think this story points to investor behavior and investor psychology more than anything else. When people are afraid, they buy gold because it feels safe. And behavior/psychology is likely the most powerful force at play in markets.
I say all of this because I’ve been steadily increasing a gold position in recent months (this is not investment advice). And that’s largely because it seems to be that people are afraid and uncertain. I myself have a hard time not being an optimist. But the masses seem less optimistic about the future. So it feels like a solid trade for now.
The last thing I’ll say here to ensure that you all understand that I’m a novice when it comes to gold and precious metals, is that I’m a novice when it comes to gold and precious metals. This trade is purely based on a mental model wherein human beings are largely irrational actors in the market (perhaps also on the fact that a few people I follow closely share my belief). So given my lack of experience in this realm, I have a stop loss order that will automatically sell the gold (GLD) if it crosses a certain threshold in order to cap my downside risk in what is broadly a poor performing and very volatile asset class.
Human Progress
When I woke up on Saturday morning, I decided to kick off the day by reading the Axios China weekly newsletter. You can see a screenshot below of the beginning of this week’s edition.
I find the bottom portion of the intro (beginning with “And, if you want a daily…”) to be very interesting.
Axios is a media and entertainment startup that launched a couple years ago with a unique strategy centered around email newsletters (I love the email newsletter medium, in case that was unclear). At launch, they brought together many of the top email newsletter publishers (individuals, not companies) into one organization. The first was Dan Primack of former Term Sheet fame, then quickly followed by Bill Bishop who writes the acclaimed Sinocism China newsletter.
The interesting thing to me is that Bill didn’t stop writing his own newsletter when he joined Axios. So he continues to publish Sinocism China daily, in addition to his duties publishing Axios China every week.
This is an interesting and unique strategy. Axios allows Bill to promote his own newsletter at the top of Axios China, and I’m assuming Axios China gets additional reach from Bill’s existing readership.
This is in contrast to the way that most publishers operate. Typically a publisher cares about the promotion of its own brand above that of any individual contributor. But Axios empowers Bill, Dan, and many others to continue building their own brand in parallel to helping to build Axios. I love that idea.
If you think about the rest of the media and entertainment business, this approach runs in direct opposition to the way things normally work. Take musicians for example. The big labels control the industry and take most of the profits, while individual artists are often taken advantage of and spit out by the system. Can you imagine a world wherein an artist could use the resources of a label to promote their own music without a label getting a cut of those sales? Unfathomable!
The same is true in sports wherein most athletes shortly go broke shortly after their careers while owners and GMs continue to clean up.
How fantastic would it be if Axios represents the beginning of a trend toward decentralization in media and entertainment, if creators were fully empowered to flourish without having their legs cut out from under them by corporate interests?
I’d love to live in that world!
I was at dinner with my great friend and business partner a few months ago when he posed an interesting question.
“How many mountains do you think there are in the world that have never been climbed?”
It was less a literal question and more a philosophical one. He was pointing out the fact that it seems that there are so many people interested in climbing Mount Everest or Kilimanjaro, mountains that have already been climbed by tons of people. Meanwhile, there must be hundreds, or thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands of peaks that have yet to be conquered.
It’s a difficult question and one that likely lacks a definitive answer. To my knowledge, there is no centralized database which catalogs all of the peaks in the world and a record of which ones have been climbed and those that have not.
But more importantly, the conversation surfaced what I think is one of the key reasons that we work well together and invigorate each other so. We both have a burning desire to climb (figurative) mountains that have yet to be climbed. We want to place a flag atop a summit as the first visitors. And we will not rest until we do so, or at least die trying.
My Latest Discovery
There are a lot of interesting things going on in the financial technology space. One that I want to learn more about, but haven’t yet gotten the chance to read up on, is the prepaid debit card space. Companies like Green Dot are killing it (up 223% in 5 years). I imagine they are leveraging technology to serve a massive and historically under-served market in those that have poor credit scores and limited access to lines of credit. But more to come on this (perhaps a dedicated business & money segment in the near future).
It's A Wrap!
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