How to create your own personal investment thesis

The term ‘investment thesis’ is a now a fairly common sight on the internet, particularly in the world of venture capital.

These investment theses tend to update every few years, often at a similar cadence to companies undertaking a rebrand (after all, a new investment thesis is itself a rebrand of sorts). [1]

Previously, a firm’s investment thesis tended to be held more privately.

But as the internet continues to open up all kinds of industries, and differentiation for all sorts of companies (including investors) is both harder and more important than ever, the open source investment thesis is far more common.

Besides, as many investors themselves will tell you: ideas are worth nothing; execution is everything.

VCs deploy financial capital  into their investment (and increasingly human capital too – this article on a16z is a good example), and the investments are largely in keeping with the thesis they’ve set out.

That’s the point of a thesis; it’s a premise to be proved [2].

What’s less common though is a personal investment thesis – a summary of where an individual is looking to investment their time, energy and resources over a period of time (perhaps 2-3 years)

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Pressing pause on Tetris scheduling

Many of us run our calendars like a game of Tetris: find open slots and fill them.

We’ve had digital calendars to help schedule our time for a few years now, and by this point we’re generally pretty good at allowing for things like travel time, delays and overrunning meetings.

However, we’re still surprisingly bad at allowing for, let alone even recognising, recovery time.

One of Paul Graham’s much-cited essays ‘Maker Schedule, Manager Schedule’ is a good way of thinking about how to better run our schedules and the cognitive overhead of context switching, but there’s still more we can do when it comes to allowing for recovery time.

A good start point is to recognise the different levels of rest we need.

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Life Advice from Underground Resistance & Marcus Aurelius

The DJ Lee Burridge posted this epic 5+ hour mix on his Soundcloud page a little while ago.

Like many good DJ sets, there are a few purple patches where a sequence of tracks come together that make the listener feel they were created exactly that way.

Part of the joy and skill of putting tracks in the mix is that it’s possible to make the weird wonderful, the wonderful weird, average good, the good great, the great… even better.

One of these sweet spots is around the 1hr 40 mark, where a re-edit of a Nils Frahm track is overlaid with the acapella of Underground Resistance’s classic track ‘Transitions’.

Listening to this in my office one afternoon (as opposed to the Tibet mountain that Lee suggests), the ‘Transitions’ lyrics struck a chord, especially as I’m currently reading Marcus Aurelius’ incredible book ‘Meditations’.

One of the magical things about music is you can listen to a track 10,20 or 100 times, and then in a particular place, space, time or mood it’ll suddenly take on a completely different form. That happened this time.

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Career Fuel: 3 elements for making deals as a freelancer or consultant

Today my pal Tom came over to my place for lunch. [1]

Tom is a digital marketing & strategy consultant, and has lots of interesting thoughts about the practice of independent consulting (in fact he’s writing a book about it – for a primer check out this blog post).

We got chatting about a few of the challenges faced by the new breed of independent workers, including;

  • How much to focus on frequency vs craft when writing, podcasting or doing other kinds of creating around your freelance work
  • When ‘seeking clients’ becomes ‘Seeking clients’ or ‘seeking Clients’, i.e. moving from surveying the landscape, to accepting just a few inbound opportunities, focusing outwardly on a very specific sliver of prospects, or scaling up to a much larger degree
  • How to appropriately price yourself when you’re not doing what may be called ‘discrete’ freelance or consulting work – i.e. when a problem or outcome is not at all clearly defined, or a client isn’t sure if a problem actually exists

This final point brought me back to some recent thoughts I’ve  had on figuring out how to value yourself in different situations as an independent, particularly when traveling to perform a service of some sort.

I wrote about this topic here where I quoted the DJ John Digweed:

I don’t charge for DJing, I charge for flying to get there now.

The traveling is the aspect I charge for; the DJing is free.

 

Returning to my capitalized ‘seeking clients’ concept for a moment, herein is again that challenge of balancing the ‘work’ and the ‘Work’.

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The Player-Manager’s dilemma

Sunday League (image: The18)

Each weekend thousands of teams play on pitches like this.

There are many different reasons to play, but some common ground too: a sense of camaraderie; the opportunity to escape the stresses and strains of every day life.

Whilst abilities and commitment levels vary, the core of the park football team setup is simple.

The players go out and play, each taking up their position.

The substitutes wait their turn, eager to show what they’ve got.

The manager is on the sidelines: overseeing, directing, strategising, motivating.

The referee takes on their inevitably thankless task.

Everyone knows what they are there for. Roles are clear.

But the player-manager is different.

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Untangling Time & Energy

Somewhere along the way you’ve probably been asked a question along the lines of ‘where are you spending your time & energy right now?’

You may have asked it yourself.

Time and energy are often paired together.

The answer to this question may contain a few elements, or it may contain one.

If we take a moment to think this question through, there are almost definitely multiple answers.

Time and energy may be connected, but knowing where the differences are is important.

And even if on face value the answer is the same, splitting these apart allows something else to appear that we may not expect.

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3 elements of a successful entertainment venture

Last week I got a call from the founder of a new podcasting company.

As he explained the concept, I noticed there were 3 things he kept coming back to. They felt familiar.

I thought back to a meeting I took several years before with the CFO of a sizeable entertainment company in the UK.

At the time I was exploring options in the ‘buy’ side of the business (I’d spent the previous few years on the sell side as an agent).

As we discussed various nuances and fine points of building live event properties and marketing to millennials, the CFO took a pause and said;

‘You know what; there are only really 3 elements that matter. Talent, production and marketing. We can cut them up any way we like, but that’s what it all comes down to.’

This is reflected a number of times by CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz in his memoir ‘Who is Michael Ovitz?’ – from his formative work at CAA, to the ill-fated spells at AMG and Disney, and onto his roles with technology companies in Silicon Valley.

Whether it’s movies, festivals, podcasts, TV, eSports, conferences, or just about any creative endeavour that’s being put out into the world, you need that blend of Talent, Production, and Marketing.

And the real magic? Finding the alchemy between them.

From Code School to Podcast School

Think back a decade or so.

How many kids did you see coding computers or hardware devices for fun?

Maybe you happened to be around a passionate engineering community, or instilled this curiosity in your own children at a young age, but chances are it was a pretty rare sight.

There were IT classes at school of course, but a lot of the focus was on learning how to use Microsoft Office, or perhaps writing some Perl or PHP script.

For the majority of young people, this was mandatory stuff to be done in their early teens. Something to tick off on the list of subjects to be studied and the grade to be acquired. Miles away from Final Fantasy and Football Manager.

And the barriers to owning your own computer were still pretty high.

Now it’s different.

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Why you should say less than necessary

In Robert Greene’s best-selling, controversial book ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ is the law ‘Always say less than necessary’.

Whenever I think of this line, and the book more generally, my mind jumps to Marlon Brando in The Godfather, or Niccolo Macchiavelli.

But it runs more deeply than just being a power play. The more important lesson to be heeded from this rule is about listening.

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The rise of Edutainment

Education as business development (and beyond), teachers becoming more than just the new DJs, and the foundations of a big shift that’s here to stay.

 

At the start of 2018 I drafted an article entitled ‘Education is the new business development’.

It sat in my draft posts folder for way too long (this post explains why).

Here’s a taster of what I put together:

 

Media publishers can no longer rely on display ads, and a brand are less interested in just the media buy.

As a B2B sales software startup you can spend months trying to explain the benefits of your offering succinctly, let alone closing a deal.

If you’re tasked with heading up innovative ideas in a large company, a significant part of your workload is putting together information for internal teams to understand just what you’re up to and why they should care.

It’s tiring.

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