Money gets boring, but markets are endlessly fascinating.
My Investing Background
I fell into finance by accident. After graduating from university, I was (somewhat serendipitously) offered a job as a quant-analyst-programmer-odd-jobs-person at a hedge fund. At the time hedge funds were not as famous (or notorious) as they are now, and I hardly knew the difference between a stock and a bond, but the idea of building mathematical models to predict the market sounded amazingly cool, so I took the plunge.
I loved it. I programmed other people’s models, then created models of my own, then built systems to trade those models, then began trading them myself, and eventually I found myself a full-fledged portfolio manager. I started out in fixed income arbitrage, then branched out into long-short relative value and global macro. I was pretty darn good at it too.
My best trade was my last one. In early 2007, around my 30th birthday, I wound down my portfolio near its all-time high water mark, and walked away. Partly this was because the market as a whole felt unhealthy to me – too much capital and leverage, not enough opportunity – but mostly this was because I was getting bored. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life moving money around, so I left.
I still invest, but only for myself. I don’t aim to beat the market or generate alpha per se; I aim to minimize my maximum regret.
While I’m no longer a full-time trader, I continue to find markets endlessly fascinating. The interplay of logic and reason and psychology and emotion; of mathematics and analysis and fear and greed; the feedback loops and non-linearity; the game theory and dynamic behaviour and emergent phenomena; the newness of every episode but also the deep rhymes with the past; the subtle signals that you can detect if you put in the work – it’s rich and rewarding and worthy of many lifetimes’ study.
My Current Portfolio
(This section will be updated once a quarter – at best.)
At the end of 2019, I moved largely into cash and bonds. As of December 2019, my overall allocation is:
- 57% medium-duration bonds
- 20% cash
- 15% large-cap (public) equities via an index ETF
- 4% small-cap (startup) equities
- 4% residential real estate
Update, April 2020: I assign a higher probability than the market currently does to a deep recession and slow recovery in the USA. My allocations remain unchanged.
My Startup Portfolio
I occasionally invest in startups, thought I don’t consider myself an active angel investor. Here are my startup investments as of December 2019:
- Locus: logistics intelligence (Series B - Tiger Global, Falcon Edge)
- Vue: computer vision for commerce (Series A - Sequoia)
- Doxper: smart tools for physicians (Series A - Alkemi)
- i2e1: internet for everyone, everywhere (Series A - Omidyar)
- Wellthy: controlling diabetes (Series A - Cipla)
- Claro: solar-powered irrigation (profitable)
- AdSparx: online video infrastructure (profitable)
- Daloopa: smart financial models (early)
- Mero: smart building infrastructure (early)
- FastFox: platform for rentals (acquired by Housing.com)
- GoMoLo: IMDB for Bollywood (failed)
- Qyk: marketplace for local services (failed)
- TableHero: restaurant platform (failed)
It’s early days, but so far the outcomes seem to follow a classic power law distribution. Out of 13 investments over 7 years, I have 1 at >20x, 1 at >5x, 3 at 2-5x, 5 at 1x, and 3 at 0x. My IRR on angel investments is over 30% (including the failures), though it’s hard to tell how much of that is skill and how much is luck.
In addition to investing directly in startups, I am an LP in GrowX Ventures, a firm I believe is India’s best seed-stage venture investor.
If you’re a startup founder looking for investment, I’d be happy to chat – with the caveat that I say no to the vast majority of deals I see, and even when I do say yes, I invest fairly small amounts.
I prefer B2B to consumer. I’m most familiar with business models that involve data, APIs and network effects, though I’m open to others. I especially like startups solving tedious problems in unglamorous sectors. If any of this sounds like you, please email me!
I recognize the immense privilege embodied in the first sentence on this page. I have the luxury of saying “money is boring” because I’ve never had to worry about food, or rent, or bills, or debt. This makes me extraordinarily lucky compared to the vast majority of humanity, and I am grateful.