A Clean River is a Fun River
Thursday of last week we debuted Bowery Capital to the world. I was excited to finally put the past 6 months behind us and get back to work. One of the biggest things we talked about when raising the $33M was our thesis and how it will play out over the next 10-20 years. Above is a slide from our fundraising deck which I think most clearly articulates a big part of that thesis.
Since around 2011, we started to notice a sizable shift in the types of folks we were meeting and their seniority within corporations. Given our focus they were generally marketers and technologists and had started their careers in a junior position or maybe got to a bigger company via M&A. While we had known them for a bit, by 2011 we noticed these same contacts had started to manage people and control budgets. Not huge budgets or entire divisions like the CMO or the CTO would control, but enough dollars to be dangerous. What were they doing to warrant quick promotions and high-level placements? In a nutshell, not thinking about technology tools like their bosses of the prior generation.
These are CTO types like Randy Meech, who founded Patch while at Google, was acquired by AOL and three years later found himself running the Local / Maps division of AOL as their SVP of Engineering. When building Mapquest 2.0 Randy was highly influential in AOLs shift to new tools like Open Street Maps, Mongo/10 Gen, Mapnik, Open Layers and Nominatim.
These are also CMO types like Katherine Bahamonde who came to C Wonder after stints as an eCommerce marketer at Juicy Couture, Lululemon, Sears and Nike (she now serves as their CMO). Like Randy, she has also been highly influential to her company in re-shaping the role of eCommerce within the corporation and swapping older-generation products for new solutions like DemandWare, Magento, Acquity and others.
To summarize, we believe we are in the beginnings of a long shift in corporate hiring best practices in which marketing and IT decision-makers replace “risk and safety” with “growth and leverage” as it relates to spend. It’s this effort that is making the way for the rise of the digitally native CMO and CTO, a phenomenon to be fully realized over the next 10-20 years.
I was drawn to Fred’s post yesterday on returns and ridicule and have been a huge fan of this logic for some time. Fred mentions Bill Gurley and his interview with Om where Bill paraphrases the great Howard Marks and his quote from a 1993 investor letter: “Being ‘right’ doesn’t lead to superior performance if the consensus forecast is also right.”
For those that don’t know Howard, he is an absolute legend in the investment business going back to founding Oaktree Capital in 1995. Here are some other great ones from him throughout the years that have stuck with me:
“A hugely profitable investment that doesn’t begin with discomfort is usually an oxymoron.”
“Inefficiencies – mispricings, misperceptions, mistakes that other people make – provide potential opportunities for superior performance. Exploiting them is, in fact, the only road to consistent outperformance. To distinguish yourself from the others, you need to be on the right side of those mistakes.”
“The thing I find most interesting about investing is how paradoxical it is: how often the things that seem most obvious – on which everyone agrees – turn out not to be true.”
[On why some money managers are not successful] “Unconventionality – Along similar lines, there’s the risk of being different. Stewards of other people’s money can be more comfortable turning in average performance, regardless of where it stands in absolute terms, than with the possibility that unconventional actions will prove unsuccessful and get them fired… Concern over this risk keeps many people from superior results, but it also creates opportunities in unorthodox investments for those who dare to be different.”
“In dealing with the future, we must think about two things: a) What might happen and b) The probability that it will happen.”
“There are two primary elements in superior investing: a) Seeing some quality that others don’t see or appreciate (and that isn’t reflected in the price), and b) Having it turn out to be true (or at least accepted by the market).”
“Certain common threads run through the best investments I’ve witnessed. They’re usually contrarian, challenging and uncomfortable – although the experienced contrarian takes comfort from his or her position outside the herd. Whenever the debt market collapses, for example, most people say, ‘We’re not going to try to catch a falling knife; it’s too dangerous.’ They usually add, ‘We’re going to wait until the dust settles and the uncertainty is resolved.’ What they mean, of course, is that they’re frightened and unsure of what to do. The one thing I’m sure of is that by the time the knife has stopped falling, the dust has settled and the uncertainty has been resolved, there’ll be no great bargains left. When buying something has become comfortable again, it’s price will no longer be so low that it’s a great bargain. Thus a hugely profitable investment that doesn’t begin with discomfort is usually an oxymoron. It is our job as contrarians to catch falling knives, hopefully with care and skill. That’s why the concept of intrinsic value is so important. If we hold a view of value that enables us to buy when everyone else is selling – and if our view turns out to be right – that’s the route to the greatest rewards earned with the least risk.”
Imperfect Information: Whither The Small Enterprise IPO? -
On the first business day of 2013, the bankers at WR Hambrecht+Co. submitted a memo to the SEC arguing for more streamlined methods of going public for smaller companies. Their motivations as deal advisors are clear but their opening point is valid: pre-tech bubble companies tended to raise money…
Probably not a good idea @timberlinelodge
National Geographic Photo Contest 2012, Part II - In Focus - The Atlantic
Catching Fish: Fishermen use fire to draw fish close to the boat and then catch them. (© Chang Ming Chih/National Geographic Photo Contest)