The American Hindenburgs

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it would be hard to view Donald Trump’s first 10 days in office as anything less than a complete shit show.

The reckless and impulsive nature in which executive orders have flowed out of the Oval Office is more in line with the Friday night actions of a frat boy jacked up on cheap beer and bad Molly than that of the leader of the free world.

These actions have ignited waves of protest as anti-Trump forces organize to resist against whatever the administration is planning to throw at them next. Ostensibly this is a good thing and the sign of a healthy, vibrant democracy in action. But in the real world, it’s a bad substitute for the best defense against an incompetent leader – never letting them take office in the first place.

I hear lots of people arguing these days that Trump is a modern-day Hitler. To be sure, this is a lazy, simplistic argument that not only shows a lack of historical knowledge but does a great injustice to those who suffered and died under the Nazis. However, there are some similarities in the way both rose to power which should be noted.

Heading into the German elections of 1932, the incumbent, 84-year old Paul von Hindenburg – he of future blimp fame – had already served seven unenthusiastic years as president. A former war hero, he represented the old guard of German society, whereas Adolf Hitler was the outsider and champion of the völkisch movement, or people’s movement.

There were many in the German political establishment who saw Hitler as the true threat he was and were determined to make sure he was not elected president. So, who did they run against him? That same tired legacy candidate, Paul von Hindenburg, who by then wanted nothing more than to slip quietly into his long-delayed retirement.

Much of the citizenry was as tired of Hindenburg as he was of holding office and because of that he failed to win a majority in the first round of balloting, coming in with 49.6% of the vote in a multi-candidate election.

Let that sink in for a moment. Hindenburg came within 0.5% of winning an outright majority. Could a better candidate have closed the gap and potentially relegated Hitler to a historical footnote? Instead, election rules required a second round of voting, before which numerous candidates dropped out and Hitler was able to secure several key endorsements.

When the ballots for the second vote were tabulated, Hindenburg won but Hitler had picked up 36.8% of the vote, a strong enough showing to keep him politically viable and emboldening his allies to push for his appointment to Chancellor in 1933. When Hindenburg died a year later, Hitler abolished the office of President, installed himself as Führer, and rained death and destruction on Europe for the next 11 years.

Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg, 1933

Just as the German people were responsible for tolerating a less than desirable alternative to Hitler, there’s a collective American responsibility for allowing our respective parties to foist upon us their frontline defense against a Trump presidency – tired legacy candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, the GOP establishment’s candidate.

Candidates so deeply flawed that they could not beat a thin-orange-skinned reactionary egomaniac with bad hair who has made us the laughing stock of the world.

What does this say about the state of our political system and about us as the electorate?

How could we have stood by as the party machinery on both sides gave us these “American Hindenburgs,” who if they had one more ounce of charisma, vision, or leadership – or one less of scandal – could have rendered Donald Trump a harmless sideshow, reduced to a line item entry in the historical ledger of political oddities.

Once the organizing and the protesting and the demonstrating is over, that is the question we should ask ourselves. That, and how can we do better within our own parties to makes sure nothing like this ever happens again?

Thanksgiving: The Long and Short of It

Something funny happened to me on the way to the half-century mark; Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. Formerly relegated to third-class status behind Christmas and the 4th of July, it’s done an end-around and now occupies the top spot.

Logically, this makes sense, as you get more days off than the 4th, and with Christmas and New Year’s still to come, you don’t get that empty feeling when it’s over, knowing that the holidays are through.

So, in honor of my new favorite holiday, here are a few thoughts on the food, people, and traditions I’ve experienced over the years;

Long turkey. Short ham.

Long mashed potatoes. Short yams, candied or otherwise.

Long corn. Short peas.

Long real plates. Short paper plates.

Long h’dourves. Short Ritz crackers.

Long black olives from a can. Short green olives from a jar.

Long the “big” table. Short the kid’s table.

Long white meat. Short dark meat.

Long good craft beer. Short the variety pack from Big Lots.

Long crescent rolls in a can. Short artisanal bread.

Long cranberries. Short Jell-O with ruffies. (Note to self, don’t invite Cosby back).

Long pumpkin pie. Short apple pie. Double short mincemeat pie.

Long Cool Whip. Short Reddi-Whip.

Long leftovers. Short doing dishes.

Long first cousins. Short second cousins.

Long hot aunts (by marriage). Short creepy uncles.

Long menthol smoking great grandpas. Short tofurky eating second wives.

Long giving thanks. Short talking politics.

Long family. Short family.

Long the Twilight Zone marathon. Short the Simpsons marathon.

Long playing football in the street. Short watching football on the couch.

Long a touch of Christmas. Short the remnants of Halloween.

Long relaxing in your pajamas all day. Short the last-minute dash to the store to get more butter.

Long feeling young. Short thinking old.

Long those still here. Short those that passed.

Long making it another year. Short worrying about the next.

I hope you and your loved ones have a great Thanksgiving and I am thankful that you took a few minutes out of your day to read this.

My Notes From Stocktoberfest 2016

It’s Monday and I’ve returned from my sojourn down the Southern California coast to attend the 5th annual Stocktoberfest conference at the Hotel Del Coronado.

In past years I’ve done a recap in which I described everything from the fabulous location, to the beautiful weather, the speakers and presentations, and even the after-hours shenanigans on the Del’s deck. But I’ve never written about the real reason I attend the event each year.

I go to Stocktoberfest to overcome resistance.

In his book, The War of Art, writer Steven Pressfield describes resistance as that which prevents you from achieving long-term growth, health, or integrity.

He adds;

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.

You must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life intended when endowed with our own unique genius. 

Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine. We’re not alone if we’ve been mowed down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here’s the biggest bitch: We don’t even know what hit us.

My particular form of resistance is social interaction. If I had to rank my list of preferred social interactions from least to most desirable it would look like this;

  • Actively networking at a conference.
  • Standing in the corner with acquaintances.
  • Sitting at the lobby bar with friends.
  • Reading a book in my hotel room.
  • Reading a book at home.

You see, I don’t do social well.

I don’t know how to elegantly exit from a conversation when needed, yet I worry that I’m imposing on other’s time that they would rather spend talking with someone else.

I’m not a winker, but at conferences I find myself inexplicably winking (and nodding) non-stop at attendees as I pass by them.

When I approach a group in mid-conversation I worry that I’m interrupting a multi-million dollar negotiation or a bawdy story that only the participants should know.

Before joining StockTwits I’d had only two jobs; running my business and trading my book, neither of which required conference attendance to be successful. Stocktoberfest was the first conference I ever attended and I walked in not knowing a soul.

But I walked away having battled my resistance for the first time and emerging victorious, if only for three days.

Five years later it’s not easier, but it’s better.

For one thing, I empathize with and understand the resistance that investors and entrepreneurs deal with. The best of them push past it with resolve, knowing there’s no guarantee of success, only the certainty of failure if they let resistance – either financial or personal – win.

And I can see the benefits accrued by attacking resistance.

The book and the hotel room’s pull is still there but lessened by the knowledge that now the acquaintances in the corner of the room are larger in number and the group of friends at the bar deeper.

I apparently even appear to have acquired social mastery.

“These events are so tough,” a first-time attendee said to me as we walked into the main room. “I can’t do it like you do. You’re so outgoing, you’re such a people person.”

Smiling I said, “you’ll do fine,” knowing that my secret was safe and that it wouldn’t be believed if I divulged it.

My social awkwardness can still hold me back. For example, I saw Morgan Housel and wanted to ask him a few questions, but he seemed busy and I didn’t want to impose.

And I know it makes me seem detached, aloof, or arrogant at times. So if we met and you came away with any of those thoughts, my sincerest apologies, but be secure in the knowledge that my intention was not to offend, and if anything, it’s a me problem, not a you problem.

I’ve got a whole year to work on it, so hopefully, you’ll give me a second chance when I see you at the next Stocktoberfest.

Notes From The East: The 2016 Benzinga Awards

Most of you know that it takes a Herculean effort to get me out of California. If someone’s not dying or getting married – often hard to tell the difference – the chances of seeing me east of Vegas are low.

So you know when I tell you I just got back from three days in the Big Apple, there must have been a good reason for the trip. That reason was the 2016 Benzinga Fintech Awards which I attended with members of the SparkFin team.

Though it was a quick trip, it was jam packed full of good people and great experiences. Since I had 5+ hours on the plane to killl, I thought I’d fill you in on some of the highlights of my journey to the not-too-far East.

Here they are, in no particular order.

*Note: Forgive the unusually high number of links in this post, but there was just so much goodness on this trip that I want to recognize. Pretty cool gangsta talk, huh?*

The Event

I’ve been to a lot of industry events. Some suck (think Money Show), but the vast majority fall into a category best described as “meh.” Few are great.

The Benzinga Awards were great.

It’s hard to define why it was such a good show. The location certainly didn’t hurt. As a fan of epic views, the sweeping 180-degree view of the Hudson that presented itself upon entering the venue set a perfect tone.

The food helped. The open bar (really) helped. The insanely evil dessert trays, including a mini-chocolate glazed donut with custard inside it for Christ sake, were a plus. But most of all, it was the attendee list that set this event apart.

Jason Raznick, the CEO of Benzinga, or J-raz as I call him, is one of those rare people whose gravitational pull attracts quality folks into his orbit. Fill up a room with those type of people, and you create a vibe that is nothing short of alchemy.

The MC (Brown)

Statistically speaking, there’s probably the same percentage of A-holes in the financial industry as in any other. However, those in ours are so extreme that at times it seems like we’re over-allocated.

Which is why I like seeing the good guys win, like my pal Josh Brown, he of CNBC’s Fast Money, Ritholtz Wealth Management, and more quality blog posts than any non-genetically modified human should be able to produce.

Watching Josh MC the award ceremony was the highlight of the night. His display of caustic wit – edgy, but always in good fun – was a sight to behold. Here’s just a taste;

After a brief intermission in which a professional mentalist amazed the crowd with feats of cognition I’m still trying to figure out, Josh casually walked back to the podium, paused for a beat, turned, and pointing towards the aforementioned performer who was still packing up his props, yelled….

BURN THE WITCH!!!

Pure JB.

Whether hucking Benzinga balls to the crowd, busting the balls of attendees, or suggesting that NAMBLA was an event sponsor (they weren’t this year), Josh took the event to another level.

On a personal note, Josh was any early supporter of this blog and continues to inspire me with his fearless point of view. Catching up with him is always a treat and I’m glad to call him a friend.

The Peeps

I’m the poster boy for anti-social behavior. If it was up to me, I’d live in a cave, far from the prying eyes of humanity. But I look forward to my rare trips to NYC because I know I’ll see a lot of friends – those I’ve met before – and those I’ve only known online.

Here are just a few of the ones I ran into;

Phil Pearlman – The doctor. My Yoda. The guy you can thank (or blame) for this blog even being here. Phil has a manic Zen quality that I love. The energy he exudes compels, not repels. Deep down I believe I’m his goyim kindred spirit, and it’s always a pleasure to see him in person.

Michael Batnick – A key part of the Ritholtz clan serving as Director of Research, Michael’s blog posts at The Irrelevant Investor are must reads. Smart, deep, and deceptively funny, I was finally glad to press the flesh on a guy who’s work I’ve long admired.

Joe Fahmy – When I was breaking into the online financial community, Joe was one of the first guys to reach out to me. He is such a solid guy, who has a deeper knowledge of the market than most “pros” I know. It doesn’t matter if it’s Cali, NYC, or Vegas, whenever I see Joe Fahmy, my day (or night) gets a little bit better.

The Brothers SwanAndy and Landon may be imposing figures physically, but everything about them is down to earth. Their company, LikeFolio, was one of the standout winners of the night and they celebrated in true Kentucky fashion by sipping – and sharing – a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, a premium bourbon that retails for $1000 (a price Andy made certain everyone knew they did not pay).

Nicole Sherrod – My pal Sean McLaughlin once tweeted to Nicole that he had an issue with an alert function on the TD Ameritrade platform. He wanted to know if she could “run it up the flagpole” and get his issue resolved. She replied, “I am the flagpole!” Smart, funny, and classy, the things she has done with the trading platform at TD are amazing. Full disclosure, I’m not biased because I write for TD Ameritrade, I write for TD Ameritrade because I am biased.

The Gardening Tips

Watching JC Parets and SparkFin CEO Jason Pang discuss gardening tips during the ‘networking session” was a thing to behold. (You had to be there).

Look for JC’s “Tomato Talk” newsletter coming to soon to Marketfy.

The Source

Three years in fintech is like 100 years in the real world. I don’t even know what eight years would equate to, but that is how long StockTwits has been around.

Once housed in non-consecutive units of a Coronado strip mall – with a massage parlor and nail salon in between – StockTwits is now headquartered where it should be, in the Flatiron District of NYC, complete with a view of the Empire State Building.

The SparkFin Team and I spent Monday morning in their offices, and it made me reflect on how far the company has come, and how early they were to the fintech game. Justin, Dave, Pierce, Sean in Colorado, the king of content, Stefan, in Boston, and the whole team have truly built the closest thing fintech has to an institution.

This fact was not lost on the presenters and attendees at the Benzinga awards who repeatedly invoked that company’s name throughout the night as not only a first mover, but one of the primary champions and supporters of the fintech space.

The Original Disruptors

Times Square may be the worst kind of tourist trap, but for me it also houses my own Mecca, the NASDAQ Marketsite.

For those of us who came of trading age in the 80’s and 90’s, NASDAQ were the original fintech disruptors – before the terms “fintech” and “disruptors” existed.

With an eye to the future and a focus on technology, they were the underdogs in the fight against the staid and stodgy old exchanges of my grandparent’s generation. They were my exchange.

30 years, and who knows how many trillions of dollars in transactions later, it wouldn’t be surprising to find them now fat, happy, and content to rest on their hard-won laurels. That is not the case. They still are my, and a whole new generation’s exchange.

Brandon Tepper, Senior Director at NASDAQ, took the SparkFin Team on a backstage tour of the facilities and introduced us to their team. Not only is their technology still cutting edge, but the team is bright, intuitive, and free from any of the clichés and tropes that are commonplace among those who work for venerable financial institutions.

NASADQ is now!

Watching Artic Cat (ACAT) launch their IPO live from the NASDAQ studios reminded me that a public offering is simultaneously the culmination of years of hard work by management and employees (past), as well as a new chapter in a company’s history, tied into a shared vision with the investing public (future).

For a boy from the mean streets of Huntington Beach who used up his allowance buying newspapers with day old stock quotes, this is was a dream come true.

The City

There is no place on earth like New York City. It fascinates me every time I go there.

From the never-ending construction, to the countless amount of people I see just hanging out on the street at 2:00am, to the evidence of New Yorker’s most human of traits – the need to cultivate even a square foot of greenery in a sea of concrete and steel.

With tight quarters, narrow streets, and constant traffic, I don’t know how anything ever gets done in this town. But it does. The city functions, and does so with an energy and a pulse like no other.

Riding through the streets I can’t wait to see what shop, what art gallery, park, restaurant, bar, or bodega lay around the next corner.

New York makes me curious. It’s the highest compliment I can give to a city.

The Nosh

It’s a cliché’ to say that the best food in the world is in NYC. From the Kogi trucks to Troi Mec, even the most respected food critics will tell you that Los Angeles is currently the golden boy in the world of cuisine.

But no matter which way the trendy foodie winds blow, there are timeless staples that can only be done to proletarian perfection in the cities from where their fame first sprung.

Just as Cali has its In n’ Out and Chicago its eponymous dog, NYC has its standard bearers as well.

Like the bagel. The one I ate at a non-descript deli was perfection, served with a cream cheese that had the consistency of paste, but sat in my stomach like air. They say it has to do with the water in NYC. I thought the Hudson was polluted, but if polluted water makes bagel like that, so be it.

Or the meatballs I had at The Meatball Shop, drenched in a tomato sauce so tasty, I wanted to drink it after the dipping bread regrettably ran out.

I tried a pepperoni square at the legendary Prince Street Pizza. I loved it, but loved more the fact that they didn’t give a shit about how they displayed the celebrity photos adorning their brick walls.

But the culinary highlight of my trip was the 1:00am, random corner pizza joint serving traditional New York style slices. It had the right amount of grease and a crust that folded but didn’t crack.

Heaven in triangular form.

It’s hard to believe that of the millions of Italian immigrants who passed through Ellis Island at the turn of the last century, not one master pizza maker made it out to Lotusland, because I admit…. there is nobody in California that makes New York style like they do in NYC.

(And if there is, somebody clue me in, please).

The Journey

I can’t say enough good stuff about Virgin America. If they would only get rid of the crappiest Wi-Fi in the sky, Gogo ($GOGO), the experience would be perfection. I’d short the shit out of that stock if it wasn’t already down 66% from its highs.

I’m not an elitist, but I am 6’4”. If you can upgrade to First Class, do it. If you can’t, pay for it. It’s worth it, and the only way a 5 ½ hour flight can be described as “pleasurable.”

The End

No matter how great the journey, the highlight is always coming home to the seven and ten-year-old waiting for me. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and if that means that your heart overruns with joy when you hold them in your arms after being away, then yeah, I agree.

No amount of Facetime or Skype can soothe the ache in my heart when I am apart from them. This time, it was particularly bad as I had to leave on the day of my youngest’s birthday.

I fully expect to be the winner of the “Worst Dad of the Year Award,” though I’ll only be awarding it in my own mind. Boy Lund is not yet the sentimental type and a (hard earned) Xbox will surely ease any pain he experienced by my temporary absence.

I will be back again next year to the Benzinga awards and wholeheartedly recommend anybody who works in the fintech industry – or even the fin, minus the tech, industry – attend. However, I will ask my friend J-raz to change the date. One week earlier or later will do the trick, because, hey, you only turn eight once.

Exit Carl, Enter Warren: The Apple Dilemma

Sunday nights are the worst for interns in charge of social media at the big financial outlets. They toss and turn in a sleepless cold sweat, dreading the dawn, when once again they’re forced to begin another mind numbing week writing headlines for an endless stream of listicles and articles – the journalistic equivalent of beige paint.

So imagine their joy when news broke Monday morning that Warren Buffett was taking a $1B position in Apple? That type of headline practically writes itself.

It didn’t matter that the buy was technically done by investment managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, both of whom joined Berkshire Hathaway in the last five years. Anything associated with the “Oracle of Omaha” is headline gold.

But take a moment to scratch below those headlines and this move creates a dilemma for traders and investors alike.

Theories abound as to who drove the decision to buy only the second technology stock, after IBM, that the famous holding company has ever owned. Ultimately, no matter who actually pulled the trigger, it’s likely a difference without a distinction.

The idea that Combs and Weschler would have joined Berkshire intending to veer away from Buffett’s massively successful and widely admired value investing approach, in favor or a more dynamic style of stock picking, seems far-fetched.

It’s more likely that the decision to buy Apple was less about it being a tech stock and more about where it is in its life cycle – a mature company with a predictable cash flow that enjoys a competitive advantage over its rivals. The type of stocks Buffett & Co. love to buy. The attractive valuation just sweetened the deal.

If true, it’s a sign that Apple is no longer your father’s trading stock. Something reinforced by the fact that Carl Icahn and David Tepper – both known as opportunistic, and compared to Buffett, short-term investors – recently announced that they no longer hold positions in the stock.

This makes Apple as an investment vehicle neither fish nor fowl.

Despite the knee-jerk reaction to news of Buffett’s stake, the volatility that traders love as well as the stock’s positive bias – which repeatedly bailed out “buy the dip” investors over the last 10 years – is likely gone.

But this isn’t a win for the retail value investor either. Unless your holding period and need to access invested cash is the same as Buffett’s – meaning forever and never – then putting on a long-term position in the stock might be a bad move.

AAPL

What is obvious in the monthly chart above is that Apple’s stock price is flattening out as trading volume dries up. This is the type of price-to-volume relationship that can hint at the possibility of a long-term sideways pattern forming

How long?

IBM is down about 14% from where Buffett bought it in 2011.  Cisco and Intel have been in a range for more than 15-years after transitioning from must have tech stocks to mature large-caps. Microsoft is just now barely breaking out of its own 15-years as a dead money stock.

It’s too early to tell if this is that fate that awaits Apple, but one thing is for sure. Both traders and investors better think twice before continuing to treat this stock with a “business as usual” attitude.

Quest For All-Time Highs

When last we met, the market, as represented by SPY, had completed a large “W” pattern and took off like a shot, breaking above the 200-day moving average. If you’ve followed The Lund Loop for any amount of time, this was expected.

I then drew one of my now famous boxes and suggested that some sideways action in that box would be what we wanted to see before attempting to move higher.

And that is pretty much what we got.

(click on any chart to embiggen)SPY

Technically we have some pros and cons.

We’re above the 200ma and have moved out of the box after taking a rest (pro).

But we have now stalled. And though the last three trading days don’t quite form a bearish Evening Star pattern, it looks look a potential reversal pattern (con).

Having said that, a reversal here would not be the worst thing in the world as we have come very far, very fast. If we do reverse, as long as we stay above the 200ma I would not worry.

But as you can see, we are potentially moving back into an uncertain market where the easy money has already been made.

One interesting note, the SPY formed an NR7 bar on Friday – meaning the narrowest range bar over the previous seven trading days. This type of bar usually indicates that buyers and sellers have reached equilibrium – both sides equally matched – for now.

When an NR7 bar presents itself, it doesn’t take much volume, either bullish or bearish, to create a big move. I suspect we will get our answer Monday or Tuesday as to whether we continue higher or come back into that consolidation range – and possibly test the 200ma.

Stay tuned…..

My Elevator Pitch

My Hometown – Huntington Beach, California

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

Still with me? Want to know more? Okay, let’s break it down.

Great Father

When I was young, my mantra was never get married, never have children – something I boasted proudly to anyone who’d listen.

The first of these insane proclamations took a dirt nap in 2002 when I married my wife. The second followed it into the same shallow grave in 2005 when my daughter was born and my son drove a steamroller over it when he arrived in 2009.

I’d heard people talk about having a purpose in life, but I never had one until I became a father, when my kids showed me mine. Thank God, or the healing power of amethyst crystals, that I had them or my life would be an empty, non-candy coated shell.

It’s too early to know how they will turn out, but I think I’m a good dad and I’m doing a good job.  Check back with me when my daughter turns 18 to see if I dodged a bullet or want to eat one.

Good Friend

I have a wide circle of acquaintances, but only a handful of friends. This is partly due to the fact that my father always told me, “count your true friends on one hand.”

The other part of this equation has to do with the fact that I’m not a social person and the effort needed to maintain a large circle of friends exhausts me just thinking about it.

However, if you are my friend, I’m loyal. And more importantly, I’ll trust you implicitly and always give you the benefit of the doubt when the facts are unclear.

For example, say a friend of mine stayed at my house while I was away and had a cocaine-fueled orgy with a group of strippers. If my grandmother’s fine silver was missing when I came home, I’d suspect the strippers instead of my friend.

That’s just the type of friend I am.

Decent Writer

I’ve written a lot of stuff, some of which you are reading now.

I’ve written content for pay and I’ve written stories for free. Most of the content sucked, but some of the stories were good. A few might even be great. In the end I figure it averages out to decent.

I hope to raise my average with this blog.

Lacking Husband

For all of my efforts at being a good husband, so far I’ve fallen short.

I don’t cheat or party all night with my friends.

I’m home when I should be and I’m always where I say I am.

I don’t do drugs or drink to excess.

I help cook, clean, and take out the trash.

I take part in all school functions and extra-curricular activities.

I don’t forget birthdays or anniversaries.

I like my mother, father, brother, and sister-in-laws.

Yes, I’ve definitely fallen short.

Solid Drummer

The closest thing I have to a passion – besides my kids – are the drums. They’ve been the one constant in my life since my left foot started tapping at the age of eight.

After all these years I should be a better drummer than I am. Perhaps it’s due to my ADHD that I didn’t study harder and practice in a more focused way.

But I didn’t. Each time I sit down I just want to beat the shit out of the skins, not practice.

That having been said, I can keep a pretty steady beat and have even been known to get in a groove from time to time. I’ll leave it up to you to make the call.

Sometimes Funny

If I were walking along a deserted beach and found a lamp producing a Barbara Eden type genie promising me one wish – but only a wish that benefited me personally, so that I didn’t look like a dick for not ending world hunger or something – my wish would be the power to make people laugh at will.

That’s how much I like the funny.

I especially like the wrong type of funny. The dry funny. The sarcastic funny. The dark funny.

This is probably why I’m sometimes funny – because my type of humor doesn’t resonate with a good chunk of the population, my wife included (remember the lacking part above)?

It might also be because I subscribe to the “comedy train” philosophy, which isn’t so much a philosophy as something I just made up.

It states that when you are trying to be funny, and all you hear are crickets – never give up. Keep driving that train down the comedy track until you finally land something that works, or the train goes off the rails.

I’ve been known to go off the rails.

Often A-hole

Seems like this would be related to the previous point, but it’s not.  I have separate A-hole side, completely unrelated to not being funny.

In the past, this was because I had a lot of deep-seated insecurities I was trying to mask. Nowadays, thanks to the wonders of therapy, it’s more due to the fact that I speak my mind more often than is prudent in today’s society.

The flip side though is that you pretty much know where I stand on most things and I won’t bullshit you. Those who appreciate this quality, well, they’re my biggest supporters. However, the other 87% of the population thinks I’m just an A-hole.

They’re probably right.

Terrible Poker Player

I’ve played poker for over 30 years. In friendly home games, not so friendly pickup games, and in card rooms from Cali to Vegas. And I suck.

I suck because I love the concept of poker; a night out with the boys, knocking back some drinks and taking down huge pots. I love the concept. I hate the reality.

I don’t like to sit still. I don’t like paying attention to the players. Tracking the cards. Analyzing the bets. Reading the faces.

I want to chat with the guy next to me. Flirt with the waitress. Listen to music on my iPhone. All of which make for a shitty poker player.

(If you didn’t pick up on it yet, I’m using poker as an analogy to illustrate my ongoing struggle to see myself as I am, not how I think I am. Deep huh?)

Too Smart

At the age of sixteen, I was the smartest person in the world.

I held this title year after year until the age of thirty when it first donned on me that maybe I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.

Since then it’s been a daily battle to unlearn what I know, and more importantly, what I think I know.

It’s been good for me. I’m more open to new ideas. I’m more tolerant of others foibles. And best of all, I spend almost zero energy on the type of pointless arguments that neither change people’s minds or affect their lives.

I say “almost” because from time to time I still fall into the trap of thinking I know everything.

So as you have probably figured out, the title of this section comes with the implied amendment “….for my own good.”

Punk Rock

What can I say, I was born and raised in HB.

Work In An Ice Cream Shop

It’s the easiest way to explain what I do at parties.

But if you still care.

Why The Tech IPO Is Dead (Or At Least Very Sick)

1

There was a time in this country when beer tasted like swill, Donald Trump only threatened to run for President, and tech IPO’s were rocket rides to the financial moon.

Now we have arguably the best beer in the world (good), The Coiffed One is actually running for President (yet to be determined, but probably bad), and tech IPO’s are dead money (definitely bad).

For me to write these words is almost incomprehensible given the incredible history of the tech IPO.

There are men out there to this day, on their third former nanny new wife, whose only problem in the world is deciding between the lobster and the cracked crab for lunch because they attached themselves to the right IPO in the 80’s.

In order to understand the tech IPO’s fall from grace, you first have to understand how the landscape of capital flow has changed in the last 20 years.

The original purpose of an IPO was to give up and coming companies access to public capital – on a scale not easily available in the private world – in order to grow their business. In essence, IPO’s were the first form of crowdfunding, raising money from thousands, if not millions, of individuals through share ownership.

Because of this, companies usually IPO’d relatively early in their growth cycle.  Take for example, Microsoft, which first went public in 1986 when their revenues were $196M (about $425M in today’s dollars) and they had 1,442 employees.

Not a small company by any means, but certainly not a monster.

Five years later they had revenues of $1.8B and 8,226 employees – a gain of over 900% and 500% respectively.

Five years more down the line and they were coming in at $8.6B – 4300% higher than when they went public 10 years earlier.

So, if you were an investor in their IPO, and held, you would have seen an exceptional return on your investment.

But nowadays, things are different.

Access to private capital has expanded on a scale that most would never have imagined.  And money always seeks the best return, even if it takes it a while to figure out where that return is. Thus, capital has naturally gone downstream to early stage tech – which should be a surprise to no one.

By the way, I make no value judgement on this phenomenon. It’s neither right or wrong, it’s just the way it is.

This early access to capital means that the majority of growth in tech companies previously seen post-IPO, is now taking place in private.

And when a company like Square goes public, it’s a liquidity event for private money, not a growth opportunity for retail investors like it once would have been.

Sure, you will still see a lot of hype on opening days, with bullish reports of shares of XYZ Company rising X% over their offering price, because it’s in Wall Street’s best interests to keep the air of opportunity wafting around the IPO market.  The more shares they place the more they can justify their underwriting fees.  They want you to keep thinking that Debbie Gibson is ruling the charts instead of Adele.

But in reality, most tech IPO’s will disappoint because they are too far down the road to grow at a rate high enough to justify their share price.

Even the most notable exception, Facebook, can’t keep up the pace of old school tech IPO’s.

When Facebook went IPO in 2012, their stock price was $38/share, giving them a market cap of $104B. Three and a half years later they trade at $107.32 with a market cap of $304B – about 300% growth since IPO’ing.

This is nothing to sneeze at, but will their stock price go on the same type of tear that that Microsoft – or any number of 80’s/90’s tech IPO’s – did back in the day? Will they be a $900B company in a year and a half, because that is the number they will have to hit in order to match Microsoft’s growth.

And Facebook is the gold standard of tech IPO’s. The only other company in their league yet to got public is Uber, which credible reports suggest might have as high as a $100B valuation by the time you and I can buy it.

The fact is, most tech IPO’s going forward are going to be busts – at least relative to how they used to perform – a trend that is already taking place.

Tech IPO's

So what is your takeaway?

In 1975, Paul Stanley, of the band KISS, is heard in the interstitials between songs on KISS Alive, addressing the crowd, and telling them that backstage, before the concert, somebody told him that the people in the audience liked Rock n’ Roll.

In 1996, I fulfilled one of my childhood dreams by seeing KISS in concert on their reunion tour. And on the night that I saw them, Paul Stanley, of the band KISS, told us that backstage, before the concert, somebody told him that the people in the audience liked Rock n’ Roll.

Point is, automaton-like behavior might work for venerable rock bands, but it won’t cut it in the market.

Times change, markets change, and you have to evolve with them if you want to be effective in your investing. You can’t just blindly buy a tech IPO and expect it to take you up a few tax brackets like it once did.  No matter how much you like Rock n’ Roll.

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.

The Worst Thing That Can Happen To An Investor

Those of you who have followed me for any amount of time know that I am an unabashed fan of StockTwits. Recently I sat down with my friend and StockTwits’ Director of Community Sean McLaughlin for a wide ranging interview.

We covered a number of topics including how I got involved in the markets, what it’s like to be a West Coast trader, my experiences with “social trading,” as well as the worst thing that can happen to an investor.  I had a lot of fun doing it and I hope you enjoy it.

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About Brian Lund

About Brian Lund

Great father. Good friend. Decent 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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