Some things and ideas: July 2023
Some random thoughts on articles that caught my attention in the last month. Note that I try to write notes on articles immediately after reading them, so there can be a little overlap in themes if an article grabs my attention early in the month and is similar to an article that I like later in the month.
My monthly overview (Monthly recurring piece)
I consider YAVB my “empire” with four core pieces: this blog / substack (the free side), the premium side of this blog, my podcast (also on Spotify, iTunes, or YouTube), and my twitter account. You can see my 2022 vision and goals for the empire here. If you like the blog / free site, I'd encourage you to check out the pod, follow me on twitter, and maybe even subscribe to the premium site!
I try to be as helpful as humanly possible to anyone whose research / writing I enjoy. In almost every post I do, you'll notice I link to other subscription services or investors who I like. I don't get referral fees or anything for that; these are almost always organic links and highlights that I do not because I was asked to but because one of my goals with the (very small) platform I have is to shine light on other people who are doing good work and make sure they have a platform big enough to encourage them to keep doing good work!
If you're launching a subscription service, or a new blog, or you're an investor who has done some really good research and wants to get some more eyeballs on it, please drop me a line and let me know. If the quality is there, I would love to link to your blog post or subscription service or research (and if the quality isn't there, I'm happy to provide feedback! I have done so with several services and I think my advice is good / appreciated / helpful!), and I'd love to have you on the podcast to talk about all of it. I can't promise anything, but most podcast guests / people I've linked to have been very happy about the reception / feedback they've gotten (I've even been called the king of the sub bumps / almost as good as Twitter / a big sub bump, and I've generally heard from investors with LPs who come on the podcast that they're delighted by the response). My DMs are always open, so feel free to slide into them if I can be helpful!
A bonus note: I get asked from lots of people about how to break into the finance industry. I detailed it more here, but my top advice would be to go out and start a substack (substack recently gave me a referral code if you start one; if you use that, awesome! But I’ve been recommending starting a substack long before they offered referrals!)
State of the markets (Monthly recurring piece)
I’ve been doing a state of the markets piece in my monthly links for just over a year (I believe my first one was June 2022). In fact, it’s probably the centerpiece of the monthly “things and ideas” posts at this point (unless you’re here for fantasy book recs, which I obviously fully support!); I used to write lots of thoughts in the monthly updates, but over time I’ve taken those write ups and started releasing them more frequently in my “weekend thoughts” series.
This is obviously an n=1 situation, but with hindsight my state of the markets thoughts from the past year hold up pretty well. I was pretty bullish all through last year, noting that tons of stocks looked cheap and investors seemed pretty fearful. I started getting a little more cautious probably in April of this year. Honestly, I wish I had traded those feelings a little harder!
Anyway, I mention all of that because this month is the first month I’ve been writing the state of the markets and thinking, “damn, things feel a little stretched / it’s absolutely not as easy to find value.”
Whenever someone says it’s difficult to find value, my first thought is always, “versus what.” In 2011-2013, you’d hear lots of people who would complain there was no value in the markets. That was absolutely insane; there were tons of big tech companies trading for single digit P/Es, banks were still trading with scars from the financial crisis, etc. When those investors said there was no value out there, they generally either meant they were perma-bears, or that they missed the easy values presented from the once in a generation opportunities the financial crisis offered when they could pretty much buy stocks with a blindfold and do well.
So I understand that when I say “things feel stretched”, it could just mean “man, last year I could buy a ton of stocks at 10x, and now they’re at 15x and I don’t feel like paying up even if I think they’re ultimately worth 20x or more” or any number of things.
But I turn over a lot of rocks looking for ideas. I actually think my weakness as an analyst is I spend too much time turning over rocks and not enough time focusing on the rocks. But this month is the worst month I’ve had in terms of turning over rocks and finding interesting ideas in a long time…
And perhaps it makes sense that it’s tougher to find value today! Markets have enjoyed quite a run, meme stocks are back in full force, and the “fear/greed” index is tilted firmly to greed.
Bloomberg’s “Stocks are doing so well that it may be time to start worrying” is so well titled that the editor deserves an immediate raise.
I’m absolutely not calling for a crash or anything. I’d never do that; I don’t think you can time markets. But I’m just saying value is harder to find, and money is generally made buying when there’s blood in the streets. It’s hard to say that’s the case today, so having some dry powder isn’t the end of the world.
PS- I do think there is blood in some international markets; I’ve mentioned before how hard looking at international markets can be, but something to keep in mind.
PPS- The Russell has compounded at ~8% over the past ten years, which is around the long term return of stocks. The S&P has done ~13%, which is very good. Obviously lots of different factors go into that performance, and starting points matter, but all else equal those returns probably suggest we’re due for some small cap outperformance at some point. I know, I know; people have been saying that for years! But the math has to matter eventually, right?
FinTwit NYC board game night (Monthly recurring piece)
I am an absolute board game nut, and I’m guessing some of my readers are as well, so I’ve started hosting a FinTwit board game night. We’ve done four so far, and all have been a blast!
Note that you don’t need to be a crazy active person with 500k followers on TWTR to be invited. Anyone in the NYC area who’s interested in investing (so pretty much anyone reading this email!) and board games is welcome to come.
General idea is simple: we’ll meet up at my office (it’s in the Nomad area) around 6, play some board games, and have a good time. I’ll likely order a few pizzas for the crew, and everyone is welcome to bring some drinks if they’d like to!
Anyway, if you’re interested in joining, feel free to send me an email or slide into my DMs and drop me your email there.
I’m planning on hosting the next one in mid-September
If all goes well, I plan on turning it into a bi-monthly thing, so no worries if you can’t make this one!
Nerd Corner (Monthly recurring piece)
There’s no hiding it; I’m a massive nerd. I read 3-4 fantasy books a month, my favorite pastime is playing board games with my wife and friends, and I religiously watch every new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and listen to fantasy show recaps on Binge Mode (so much so that I even did a Twitter Space talking about the MCU!). Plus, I was an eager supporter of the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter (yes, I splurged and went for the hardcover books).
Anyway, I figured a few of you are nerds like me, so I’m starting this segment to give recs of what I’m nerding out over currently, with the hope that you’ll either try it and enjoy it or recommend me similarly nerdy things that I’ll enjoy. This month’s recs:
Absolute fantastic month for book reading (my wife and I went to Europe, so between the flights and downtime I had plenty of book time!). My favorite books were two old favorites.
Will Wight released the 12th (and last) Cradle book. I loved it and I loved the series. Do I think he maybe rushed the ending just a little bit? Absolutely. But all in this is one of my favorite series and I’ve recommended it to so many people and not a single one of them has been disappointed.
The Frugal Wiard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England. Is it the best Sanderson book ever? No, of course not. The stakes are pretty low against the cosmere (which now spans maybe 20 books across five or six different series?), but it’s a very quick, clever, and fun read (and let me emphasize quick; the chapters are very short, and it packs a wild amount of story and world building into a very small container) and I certainly hope we get to visit the world again. Loved it.
PS- outside of my monthly recs, I constantly get asked what my favorite fantasy books are. So I’m just going to throw this list out monthly:
Kingkiller is probably the best series I’ve ever read; waiting for the third is agony.
Gentleman Bastards is right up there with Kingkiller; the mix of fun and world building is outstanding.
Red Rising series is more sci-fi, but my god is it good. I would literally stay up all night to read every book the day they came out (note: I’ve only read the first trilogy; I’m going to read the second when the last book comes out later this year).
If you’re looking for something a little more under the radar (most of the books above are widely regarded as some of the best fantasy books / series ever), the Licanius Trilogy was fantastic.
First Law trilogy is excellent. It can get a little brutal / graphic though; there are a bunch of sequels and spins, but I’ve never been able to finish them because one of them got so brutal I just put the book down and never picked it up again. But the first trilogy is really, really great.
The Cradle series probably isn’t as “good” as the books above, but I binged them and every fantasy fan I’ve recommended them to has said something along the line of “I read all ten books in two months after I opened the first one.”
I’ve also really enjoyed that author’s newest series, Last Horizon!
Other things that caught my eye / links
companies unveil details about supply chain financing (from may; similar story)