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The Story of The Last Bear Standing
#1: A personal note and an introduction to the Substack.
Thank you. If you are reading this, you have probably read or shared my content on Twitter or Substack, which means the world to me. As a rule, I will try to keep personal anecdotes to a minimum, but please indulge me for this introduction.
This is the story of The Last Bear Standing.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in, perhaps even fixated on, money. As a little kid, I would dive to the ground at the glimpse of a rogue coin on the sidewalk or wedged under a department store counter. My foray into trading was at the elementary school lunch table where I made a habit of carefully trading up out of my healthy packed lunch (“value snacks”) into the high-fliers of the cafeteria, Twinkies and Texas Cinnamon Rolls. The first stock I bought was BP Plc. A pure “BTFD” after the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill - a bit unseemly I admit, but a good trade.
As an undergraduate, I learned about a thing called “Investment Banking” - this was hallowed ground to the eager and monetarily inclined twenty-one-year-old student. And so, like the thousands of other new graduates that enter the Wall Street funnel every year, I found myself at the bottom rung of the financial ladder as an analyst, spreading comps, turning comments, fidgeting with logos.
While mastering the fine art of PowerPoint and Excel (and to be fair, learning a ton about the practical realities of corporate finance), I learned about a thing called “Private Equity” - hallowed ground to the eager and monetarily inclined twenty-three-year-old analyst. And so, I made the jump to the buyside. For the past seven years I’ve worked buying and selling private companies (or, attempting to), at least when there wasn’t an active fire to put out at one of our portfolio companies.
In my personal experience, the industry is demanding but rewarding; if you are the type that loves business and investing, and you have a motor to grind through late nights and holidays, it is a great place to be. At a minimum, you will learn a lot, fast. For the most part, life was good.
But in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I became deeply concerned about the state of the real economy and financial markets. I spent nights thinking about the possibility of long lasting economic scars from a public policy response of closed borders and businesses, and in my estimation, the diversion between the real economic outlook and financial markets represented a dangerous setup. I had no idea how bizarre things would become, or how wrong I could be, at least in the short term trajectory and timing.
I shared these thoughts with friends and colleagues who indulged me for a while. After exhausting their patience, I did what any loon does; I created an anonymous Twitter account and began screaming on the internet. The Last Bear Standing was an outlet for all of the ideas bouncing around my head that needed to get out.
What I discovered was that many people were eager to listen, share and engage with these ideas. I discovered Twitter’s power to connect people worldwide with similar niche interests, serving as an incredible tool to disseminate and amplify information. I also learned that I enjoy researching and writing about finance. Having a platform allowed me to branch out of the narrow sector I had focused on professionally, opening a new range of topics to sink my teeth into, like volatility, monetary policy or Chinese real estate.
That was a problem.
My hobby began dominating my mental bandwidth – creating good content takes time - and there was much that I wanted to say. However, with a demanding day job and other challenging personal circumstances at the time, I didn’t have time to translate the ideas that existed in abstract form in my head into content on your screen. Further, when earning a comfortable living it can be difficult to find the motivation to devote time to a hobby.
So I’ve decided to be uncomfortable. I left my job and the security it provided. It’s tempting - especially given my public misgivings with certain aspects of the current financial system - to pretend to be a contentious objector, resigning in protest to fight the Man. But this would be a lie. I love finance. In general, I enjoyed my work, and had deep connections with the people I worked with. But as it happens in life, sometimes it’s time to turn the page. And so it goes.
A big part of this new chapter, in addition to some other business adventures, will be writing this Substack. While enterprising self-publishing financial writers seem to multiply daily, I don’t see a crowded market. There is ample demand for deep, high-quality analysis and arguments. Ultimately, whether this publication becomes successful will be decided by the quality of its content – as judged by you the reader.
Or at least that is the official narrative.
A more honest introduction is simpler and shorter. I discovered I love writing - so I’m going to do it. I hope you stick around to read it.
Without further ado, The Last Bear Standing.
What to Expect:
Timing: Weekly, published at Friday at 8:30 AM Eastern Time.
Content: Original financial and economic analysis. This may be specific long or short investment ideas as well as broader economic or market research, musings on monetary policy, or anything I may find interesting and relevant. Think Last Bear Twitter threads, in more complete, proofread form. The only promise that I will make is to create, not regurgitate1.
Format: For all the talk of shrinking attention spans, I think there is underserved demand for longer, deeper content. But there is an inherent tradeoff between depth and breadth and the purpose of a weekly distribution is to force a balance in this tradeoff. There is only so much you can fit in a tweet, yet, there is art in conciseness.
Accessibility: My aim is to be accessible for those with less background (light on jargon), while still being valuable for professionals. Inevitably, different posts may fall on one side or the other of this spectrum based on the topic, and I will also rely on your feedback to help calibrate.
Cost: Free (at least for now). If you make the world’s best chili, can you earn a living cooking it? Sure - there are a ton of ways. You could open a restaurant and sell it by the bowl, you could sell recipe books, or win a grand prize at a chili cook off. However, these only work if you can actually make really good chili, and enough people agree it’s really good. I think my chili is pretty good, but for now I’m aiming to refine the recipe and convince you it’s the World’s Best.
What Not to Expect: The Last Bear Standing is not a “short” research blog, short-term trading advice, a link-aggregating newsletter, or a reaction column on the headlines of the week. While my view on the current market is “bearish”, the “Last Bear” was simply a moniker that felt fitting for the current economic moment. I am a strong believer that equity markets are the best long term home for capital. To borrow a phrase, perma-bears are NGMI.
Or, at least that’s the plan. Over time, all of the above is subject to change based on feedback from readers and the natural discovery process.
Not an Expert
My biography has just one line - not an expert. Rather, I’m just one person sharing his analysis and opinions.
The importance of this disclaimer is two-fold.
First, practically speaking, it is true. I’m not an “expert” in many of the topics I write about - for example, I have no first hand professional experience in Chinese real estate or options hedging. I don’t have inside information - I’m exploring the same data available to all others with an internet connection and presenting my conclusions. Don’t blindly believe what I write. Seriously. I will get some things wrong especially as I branch into newer topics.
Second, and maybe more importantly, this disclaimer rejects credentialing as a shortcut to truth. A concerning trend is the insistence that there are “experts” who hold unassailable answers. Plainly, this is untrue. Two academics who have spent their lives researching monetary policy may come to opposite conclusions on the inflationary effects of central bank policy or outlook for interest rates. Complex systems - such as our economy or financial markets - have far too may variables, all interacting simultaneously and against each other to be able to precisely predict outcomes or determine firm causality; they are complex. We can build models that try to capture broad driving forces, but at the end of the day they remain crude approximations. A drawing of a dinosaur may have four legs and a tail, but it’s not a dinosaur.
We are just the smartest animals of a tiny blue planet, circling a modest star, tucked away in some distant corner of an ever expanding universe. Yet, each day our knowledge grows.
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A Footnote on footnotes: I’ve seen footnotes used by a number of authors as a very effective way of including lengthier asides or elaborations that may be relevant but not necessary to the main text, and I plan to do the same. Consider this opt-in bonus content.