7 Takeaways From Stocktoberfest 2015

Stocktoberfest

This past week I spent three days on Coronado Island in So Cal, attending the fourth annual Stocktoberfest conference, hosted by Howard Lindzon.

Stocktoberfest attendees are an odd, but surprisingly complimentary mix of stock traders, venture capitalists, fin-tec entrepreneurs, and content creators, with a few traditional financial folks mixed in for good measure.

I think I can say – without any hyperbole – that the collective brain power in the main conference room on opening night was equal to that of a million of our suns.

With so much cranial juice flowing, there were bound to be some cool takeaways.

Nobody Acted like Their Photo 

It’s no secret that when you go to an event like this you spend half of your time saying to yourself, “Wow, [insert name] sure doesn’t look anything like their publicity photo.”  And Stocktoberfest is no different.

Nobody resembled their ten-year-old, auto softened, highly photoshopped image; well, except for Fox on Stocks, because she’s like twelve.

But more importantly, nobody acted like their photo.  The gallery of hard charging, leaning in, Type A personalities represented on the event’s website turned out to be just a bunch of down to earth, easily approachable guys and gals.

There are not too many times you can see a bond manager who runs a multi-billion dollar fund casually chatting with a retail trader, but that’s part of the magic of Stocktoberfest.

Facebook Is Just Getting Started

If there was one consistent theme that ran through the show, it was that Facebook is executing like crazy right now.

They have the vision, resources, the talent, and most importantly, the leadership in Mark Zuckerberg, to keep on growing at a rapid pace for the foreseeable future.

The real excitement though was over the separation of Messenger from Facebook proper, with speculation being that it will become the US version of WhatsApp – a monster in Asia – which hosts native third-party transaction-based apps.

If this turns out to be true, Facebook will add rev sharing to its current monetization model.

Twitter, Not so Much

The term that was bandied about quite a bit during the conference was “Peak Twitter,” as in, “Have we already seen peak Twitter?”

There was a real sense amongst the experts that Twitter has squandered its early momentum, and despite the recent return of their wayward founder Jack Dorsey, not many think it’s a given that he can right the ship.

Don’t Count out Yahoo

On a panel that included Goldman Sachs alum Michael Parekh, former Yahoo CEO Ross Levinsohn, and Raoul Pal of Real Vision Television, nobody was willing to write Yahoo off….yet.

Yahoo still has nearly a billion users and Yahoo Finance is an 800lb gorilla, and Pal made the point that all the company has to do is execute effectively on one major initiative and their fortunes (read: stock price), could reverse very quickly.

People Love to Take Psychedelic Drugs and Freak the Hell Out

Whoops, sorry.  That was from “7 Takeaways from the 2015 Electric Daisy Carnival.”

My bad.

Premium Information Is Now Free (or Really Cheap)

The days when you had to be an embedded analyst at a major Wall Street firm, or pay nosebleed subscription prices to get access to top shelf data and information are over.

Take, for example, Urban Carmel, who writes The Fat Pitch, was named after Pope Urban II by his papal loving parents, and sipped 18-year-old Scotch while Howard interviewed him.  His take on the market is informed, experienced, and insightful, and he gives it away for free.

Or Ben Thompson from Stratechery, who has the ear of Silicon Valley’s insiders, writes 10K words a week on the tech industry, and then gives it away for $10 a month.

Gregor Macdonald on energy. Dr. Brett Steenbarger and Chris Kimble on trading. Herb Greenberg and Eddy Elfenbein on markets.  These are just some of the great content providers who showed up at Stocktoberfest.

Forget about Location, Location, Location

Coronado is a tiny island that sits in the southwestern most corner of the US. (Well, technically there are 14 miles between it and Mexico, but trust me, there are no other cities worth mentioning in that space).

And it is here that Howard has carved out a successful home base built around trading and investing, all while enjoying 320+ days of sunshine and cool ocean breezes.

No longer are you forced to live in New York, Chicago, or Silicon Valley if you want to work in finance and technology.  As one NYC-based advisor told me, “I only live there because I’m a ridiculous New Yorker.”

This fact was not lost on the attendees, and probably why my contemporaneous, and only half-joking, tweet below was highly favorited.

The Cost of Scale Is Dropping like a Rock

The Platinum sponsor for Stocktoberfest was Amazon Web Services, a formerly not too well known component of the company that is now generating over two-billion in revenue per quarter.

It was a strategic choice for them as roughly 75% of the companies that attended use AWS as their technology backbone.  Any why not? Gone are the days when servers and IT infrastructure had to be co-located within a business.

Thanks to the increase in internet bandwidth over the past ten years, companies can now leverage Amazon’s massive server farms, using only what they need, and keeping costs manageable.  Servers can then be “spun up” on demand.

Amazon is making scale a commodity, which drives prices down, enabling more early stage company’s access to top quality technology at affordable prices.

There was actually an 8th takeaway, but I have been sworn to secrecy.  Sometimes you just have to attend to get the full benefit of Stocktoberfest.

See ya next year.

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Brian C. Lund

Brian C. Lund

Great father. Good friend. Decent trader/writer. Lacking husband. Solid drummer. Sometimes funny. Often A-hole. Terrible poker player. Too smart. Punk rock. Work in an ice cream shop.

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