Litquidity - 2021 Year End Letter

A recap of what I've been up to the past year and where I see the future of the Litquidity brand.

By Litquidity Capital Dec 31, 2021

Fellow LitGang,

I know this is gonna sound cliche af but… what a year it has been.

I want to jot down some of my thoughts to shed light on what’s been cooking in the Litquidity ecosystem and give y’all a tease of what’s to come in the new year. I'm not the best writer out there so pls bear with me. Maybe I should be paying closer attention to those ~how to write better~ threads on "Business Twitter".

From GameStop, to the GS13, to #StolenTweetGate, to ratio'ing a sitting Senator… 2021 was a year like no other in the financial markets and the financial meme space. This was also a year of maturation and expansion for me and the Litquidity brand. 

As some of you may have heard or read on Bloomberg, New York Magazine, Benzinga, Infinite Loops, or PGIR, I left a career on Wall Street in late 2020 for a highly uncommon exit opp: a finance meme account.

You’re probably thinking (and my friends, who largely work at major financial institutions were thinking at the time), “Why leave a lucrative career on Wall Street to… run a meme page? Especially in one of the hottest deal environments on record!" . 

Well boiiiii do I have a response for you. The TL;DR: it’s because I wanted to build something that I could call my own. I wanted a new challenge that blended everything I learned in investment banking and private equity with my love for shitposting on social media and investing.

If you’ve been following since January of this year, you’ve probably seen the announcements, the newsletter plugs, the employee hire (talking about you, Mark), and a lot of other things. I want you guys to know one thing: we are just getting started. Wait until you see what we have coming in 2022.

Now has this past year been stress-free? HARDLY. It’s been a grind at times and I’ve definitely been rivaling Moelis analysts and Apollo associates in terms of hours worked when things are busy. But you'll hear more about that in a podcast episode soon. That being said, grinding to build my own brand is infinitely more fulfilling than putting in another 100 hour week for the corporate bureaucracy. Plus, it’s fun when you can wake up and meme as part of a morning routine.

I initially intended to keep this letter brief but there's a lot to cover. Contrary to the belief of some, I do not just sit around in my underwear tweeting and making memes all day (with the exclusion of some hungover mornings...😎)

Let's dive in.

Social Media

Social media is what everyone here is presumably familiar with. The @litquidity instagram and @litcapital twitter accounts both grew tremendously over the course of the year. It's crazy to think that the audience has essentially doubled to 628k and 187k followers, respectively, at the time of writing. The gained audience includes retail investors (both the curious and the most degenerate apes), venture capitalists, startup founders, and the Wall Street community (penetrating the market deeper).

Growth is attributable to a few key moments throughout the year:

  1. Meme Stock Mania: The year started off strong with the GameStop short squeeze and subsequent meme stock pumps led by the wallstreetbets community. Had to be glued to the meme lab as the situations unfolded (while also strictly staying away from encouraging people to buy or sell the stocks. Not trying to have the SEC at my door!)
  2. The GS13 Leak: This really took off. One day I received an instagram DM from a burner account with a link to a PDF of an internal Goldman Sachs presentation. It was the now infamous GS13 analyst presentation that detailed the miserable working conditions that GS analysts were going through. I immediately posted it on IG and twitter because (1) I've been there and used to prepare slides like that as a joke when I was an analyst so I could deeply relate, (2) it was spicy af, and (3) it was a common theme I was hearing about across Wall Street and wanted to bring attention to it. It was quickly picked up by every major news outlet, and I was lucky to receive credit for blasting it to the audience first. This, along with breaking the news on analyst pay increases ahead of Bloomberg / CNBC / WSJ showed the power of the Litquidity community at work and led to a lot of new followers. I'd like to continue playing a role in bringing increased transparency to the street and improving the lives of junior bankers and professionals in general. Things don't have to suck as bad as they do. All you gotta do is rattle the cages a bit.
  3. Crypto / NFT trolling: From folks who are dumb enough to get "rug pulled" on obvious scams, Bitcoin maximalists who sound like Jehovah's Witnesses on twitter, or people who are shilling dog shit NFT projects, I've been trolling this space all year long. And yet somehow, I've found myself receiving follows from people with NFT cartoon profile pics and crypto hashtags in their bios. Some are absolute degens and some are true builders / thinkers. I'm thankful for all of y'all tho. My thoughts on this space can be found later in this post.
CNBC

At the end of the day, I want to reach individuals who are interested in finance, markets, and business. Those working on Wall Street, ex-bankers, retail / crypto traders, fintech founders, and even undergrads / MBAs who are just getting started. The content will ALWAYS stay true to the Litquidity brand. If I ever start going down a dark path of pumping worthless meme stocks or shamelessly plugging scam crypto projects, pls slap me across the face.

This actually segues nicely to the topic of monetization

Brands are realizing that finding good "product-community fit" through influencers can be an effective customer acquisition strategy. Advertising through social media (whether it be meme accounts or hot influencers) allows brands to closely track impressions, click-rates, and even sales conversions by using custom links. In a data-driven economy, this is much better than traditional advertising channels like outdoor billboards and TV / radio commercials where conversion is harder to track and quantify. 

Morning Brew's Austin Rief sees the tailwinds in influencer marketing as well. 

This trend is most noticeably taking place in the sports betting market where you have DraftKings, FanDuel, and Penn finding ways to grow market share as more markets come online across the US. They're paying up for the most electric YouTubers, memers, and influencers who can drive people to use their platforms. Cutthroat competition has brands negotiating lucrative exclusive deals with leading creative talent.

I see the Finance creator landscape trending towards that direction. However the "financial creator" landscape is highly fragmented and can get incredibly niche. You've got the retail personalities who appeal to beginners, the pumpers who spend their days on TikTok saying "bro trust me, dogecoin is going to $100", the burnt out second year IB analysts on twitter who only tweet about granular WACC builds and virtual data rooms, the PE associates who think they're Henry Kravis while flying Delta+ for diligence trips, the pure shitposters, crypto, O&G EFT, personal finance, etc. The subsegments can go on forever. 

Maybe 2022 is the year we start rolling up some of the accounts who are ngmi without scale 😳 😏. Meme Account M&A sounds lit tbh. Consolidation or not, I'm gonna continue to crank out the memes, don't you worry. It's kinda therapeutic too tbh (might go tweet "men would rather shitpost on social media for a living instead of going to therapy", high banger potential)

Exec Sum Newsletter

Exec Sum is the daily newsletter that I launched in late January (just 11 months ago). You may remember late January as the time when GameStop went nuclear in “The Mother of All Short Squeezes” (shoutout u/deepfuckingvalue), and Melvin Capital got smoked. What a week to launch a newsletter covering financial news / events…

At its core, the newsletter offering is quite simple: summarize the most relevant financial news in as few words as possible. Obviously we plug some ads to pay the bills, but we do our best to understand you, the audience, and bring sponsors that are most relevant to y’all.  Plus, if the ad doesn’t appeal to you, guess what… you can just keep scrolling ;) (although link clicks help us out so help us out, fam 😩🙏).

News and memes have been our bread and butter but we’ve gradually been adding new sections to the newsletter to expand the content (and value) for our subscribers. A few of them below:

  • Job Board: One stop shop for highly-curated job opportunities. Powered by Pallet (one of my angel investments)
  • Exec’s Picks: A wide variety of recommendations curated by the Litquidity team (a mix of organic & paid) 🤝
  • Investment Offerings: The occasional early-stage investment opportunity for accredited Exec Sum subscribers

We’re not giving you financial advice and we’re not writing PhD dissertations. We’re literally summarizing financial news in a way that (hopefully) doesn’t make you want to gouge your eyes out. Some pompous folks say "I just don’t get it, it's summarizing the news" and that’s fine. We aren’t worried about them. We’re here for the bankers / investors who are too busy getting crushed on live deals to follow the news. The college students who are busy partying but also need to prep for their interviews with Goldman Sachs / JP Morgan. The folks who don’t even work in the industry but want a quick five minute brief of what’s going on in the markets. We’re here for you guys.

And it appears to be working. Over 100,000 of you have subscribed to the newsletter this year! 

2021 was the year that many "FinMeme" accounts made the move to launch their own newsletters, too. It only makes sense to "own your audience" when centralized, web2 social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter can essentially wipe out your following in 2 seconds if their algorithms determine some content violates their guidelines (even if it actually doesn't). 

One final thing to note about newsletters is the recent M&A there has been in the newsletter space. These valuations are not insignificant. See graphic below:

Newsletters are valuable to media operators because they expand their product offerings and, in some cases, expands their content mix (such as Barstool Sports acquiring a business newsletter). Newsletters are valuable to non-media entities like consumer brands or tech companies because they are Customer Acquisition Cost ("CAC") plays. All about increasing that LTV and minimizing that CAC.

To wrap the section up: we’re going to continue to pack the newsletter with punchy info and bring more value to our subscribers in 2022. We haven’t even turned 1 yet, so we’re still young. If you've found our newsletter valuable and think one of your friends / fam / colleagues should be reading this daily, refer them to the email by using your unique link to earn some free merch!

Quick shoutout to the Exec Sum interns (Christian, Alex, and TJ) who have been instrumental in the day-to-day writing over the past year! They'll be interning at investment banks summer '22. Shoutout to Jack Raines as well for the recent editing work. He'll be... on twitter. And also building out his own newsletter - Young Money Weekly

Big Swinging Decks Podcast

We are branching into audio this January.

We're launching a podcast called Big Swinging Decks ("BSD"), and Litquidity employee #1, Mark Moran, will be the co-host. The title is a nod to the phrase "Big Swinging Dicks" coined by Michael Lewis in his 1989 book Liar's Poker (an absolute Wall Street classic). On BSD, we'll be discussing a wide array of topics ranging from Wall Street happenings, industry gossip, latest deal news, crypto / web3 / DeFi, and more. We'll also have awesome guests on to talk about their backgrounds, their investing experience, businesses they're building, and generally shoot the shit.

Ironically, I’m not a talkative person and I hate hearing my voice. I'm more of an observer and a listener tbh. Luckily, my voice will be distorted to sound like a Colombian drug dealer to help preserve the anonymity! Mark, on the other hand, is a former reality TV star who loves to talk. It’s like a Ying vs. Yang dynamic that we’ve grown to appreciate and we think it’ll translate nicely to audio.

We also have a big podcast sponsorship lined up for BSD. More details about this in our inaugural episode that will be out next week. I’m excited af and hope you all tune in. We’ll find plenty of ways to include the community as well, through crowdsourcing guest interview questions / discussion topics and more. 

Follow us and throw us some love on Spotify and Apple Music (we want to dethrone the boomer finance podcasts from the Top Charts so let's run up the 5 star reviews). 

Venture Capital

Prior to taking the leap to build Litquidity full time, I thought the only focus for the brand would be building it into a high-growth digital media business. Don't get me wrong, that’s still very much a top priority! However, I've also immersed myself in the exciting world of early-stage investing, putting my own capital to work in a very risky and illiquid asset class.

Over the past year, I’ve been writing checks to startups that are building disruptive technologies and promising consumer apps / products that I think have the potential to be massive. Heck, I'm writing this letter on Beehiiv, a creator-focused newsletter platform that recently raised a $2.6M seed round. I was fortunate to already know Tyler Denk (Co-Founder / CEO) through twitter, and I was able to participate in this round alongside Social Leverage and other high profile investors. If you want to read my public investment memo on Beehiiv, check it out here.

I also became a small LP in Banana Capital, a $10M venture fund led by "tech meme guru" Turner Novak that invests globally across all sectors from pre-seed to pre-IPO. Turner has established meaningful relationships with founders and built a deal flow pipeline through the power of memes. Memes and investing? Sign me up. When Turner extended the opportunity to invest in his inaugural fund, you bet I jumped on it. While backed by prominent VCs, angel investors, and operators, the LP base also includes the likes of fellow memers - VC Starter Kit and Ramp Capital

Venture Capital is an entirely different ball game than working on Wall Street. The funniest thing about having worked in IB and PE is seeing how little financial modeling there is in early-stage VC. Adjusted EBITDA bridges, Net Working Capital analyses, Debt Paydown models? lmaoooo what even are those anymore? I've learned that it’s about backing founders, supporting their visions for the future, and having a very forward looking view on the world (whereas Wall Street tends to focus on historicals and perhaps 1-2 year forward projections). I am now speaking directly with founding teams, helping them at the ground level by ~rolling up my sleeves~, and providing product feedback, audience insights, go-to-market guidance and more. Something not really possible in billion dollar public mergers or middle market private equity. 

In a way, I see early-stage VC as the white collar, educated YOLO because you have to be accredited to participate and the outcome can either be lambos or food stamps. That said, I still like to dig in and conduct some good ol' fashion due diligence around the product, roadmap, competitive landscape, industry trends, TAM, etc. Don’t worry, I haven’t gone full degen ape on y’all.  

As for sector focus, I've been most involved in Fintech (B2C/B2B), Consumer Social, D2C Consumer Products, Creator Economy, Digital Media, E-Commerce / Marketplaces, and more recently DeFi / Web3. I believe I can add value through my experience on Wall Street, being a "creator" and community builder, deep understanding of my audience, and more. That said, I'm open to a broader array of industries so feel free to hmu if you're looking for capital. Some of my portfolio companies include:

  • Beehiiv: a creator-focused newsletter platform
  • Iris: a social stock investing app that allows users to connect their personal stock portfolios, follow other investors, and discuss trading strategies with like-minded individuals. Sign up here and follow my "Yolo Fund" that has currently underperformed inflation and major US benchmarks lmao
  • Donut: a fintech app powered by DeFi allowing users to earn up to 10% yield on their savings
  • Payload: a digital media brand covering the business and policy of the space economy

While I may not be leading rounds or writing the largest checks, “LitVentures” (name to be confirmed) will truly be a strategic value-add investor on a startup's cap table. I appreciate the founders who have recognized this and squeezed me into oversubscribed rounds. If you had told me this time last year that I would be investing alongside the likes of Bessemer Venture Partners, General Catalyst, Winklevoss Capital, and other major venture investors, I would've said "nahhhh you trippin bruh 🧢". 

I'm hardly the first "solo capitalist" to be doing this. Over the past few years, emerging fund managers such as Pomp (Pomp Investments), Packy McCormick (Not Boring Capital), Li Jin (Atelier Ventures / Variant), and Marshall Sandman (Animal Capital), among others, have established themselves as value-add early-stage investors backing startups and raising LP capital from traditional VCs and HNW individuals. The main differences are that they are public personalities and did NOT come from a meme background tho.

The graphic below highlights the trend of solo capitalists increasingly having among the best markup rates on deals AngelList tracks:

“If you have an investor on your cap table that brings thousands of people’s attention to your company, that’s a very attractive value proposition that few VCs in general partnerships actually have"

- Harry Stebbings, a podcaster turned VC who recently raised two funds (one venture, one growth) totaling $140M

It’s been an active year, and I’ve allocated WAYYY more capital than I originally planned but that's not a problem! 

In 2022, I plan to remain active through: (1) a To-Be-Announced partnership with a major VC fund that I wish I could’ve announced today (their legal team is off over the holidays, smh) and (2) Special Purpose Vehicles (“SPVs”) that will leverage the power of the Litquidity audience. Many VCs I've chatted with have asked "why not raise a proper venture fund or a rolling fund?" While it's very enticing and definitely something I plan to explore a little further down the road, there's a ton going on in trying to grow a media business. Raising, deploying, and managing a VC fund would add a lot of incremental work on my plate and I ain't tryna work 100 hour weeks nonstop!!! Gonna have to expand the team a bit to help make "LitVentures I LP" a reality. But I believe this partnership and SPV strategy will help bridge that gap in the meantime.

To briefly expand on the SPV point, the plan is to take the next step as a community by putting capital to work together. We'll source and vet early-stage investment opportunities (primarily in the pre-seed / seed / Series A phase) before offering them up to accredited investors in the Litquidity community on a deal-by-deal basis. We're actually in the process of closing our first SPV to invest directly into the seed round of a promising fintech startup with a large waitlist. The round, and the SPV itself, were both oversubscribed. This shows the demand for deal flow and the power of this amazing audience if we work together. 

Active members of the Litquidity community have a lot of cool stuff coming their way. By “active members” we mean those of you who are here reading this, constantly opening the newsletter, following our accounts, submitting content, etc. Y'all not gonna slide into proprietary deal flow that easily.

We’ll explain our SPV strategy in more depth to our accredited investors list in the coming weeks. In the meantime, since we can’t share deals with just anyone due to restrictions on general solicitation (thanks SEC), we’re asking interested followers / subscribers to fill out this form so we can identify the accredited investors among our community. Button below for those of you who'll glance over that hyperlink.

So my major question here is: What other meme pages are bringing you early-stage investment opportunities???  (Seriously tho, if you know others pls intro, thx) 

Keep a lookout for “LitVentures” on cap tables alongside the big bois. I'm on the hunt for future uni- and deca-corns 🦄🦄🦄 and 2022 is setting up to be an epic year.

If you're (a) down to invest together / exchange deal flow or (b) a founder raising capital, shoot me a note at [email protected] or [email protected].

Pls don't meme me up @vcbrags 😩

Down the Rabbit Hole: Crypto / Web3 / DeFi / NFTs / Metaverse

This space has been an absolute rollercoaster in 2021.

In 2017, I invested in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and a few other cryptocurrencies, despite knowing nothing about them. However, instead of pumping my bags like everyone else on IG/Twitter, I was making fun of Bitcoin and “crypto nerds” the entire time. Just how I operate tbh. 

As Bitcoin broke past a $1 trillion market cap and the entire crypto market surpassed $3 trillion earlier this year, I challenged myself to learn more about the space. It would be negligent for me to simply ignore something with that many zeros in its market cap. And to the readers here, I suggest y'all at least try to understand why this space has amassed such value in just a little over a decade. I still shit on some parts of crypto, mainly the “maximalists” of the major categories who are the weirdest cultist mfs on twitter. Looking at you, Bitcoin maxis.

Yes, there are absolute dog shit coins like Dogecoin, Shiba Inu, Floki, (the list goes on), but beyond this barrier of shitcoins is a fascinating ecosystem of projects and tokens. It's like a puddle of poop you need to jump over to get to the more interesting stuff. 

The Decentralized Finance (“DeFi”) ecosystem in particular caught my attention earlier this year. Part of the allure was because the term DeFi contains the word “Finance”. The other part was dApps, which basically gives function and utility to cryptocurrencies. That's something I hadn't appreciated back in 2017 when everyone in my bubble was essentially just speculatively buying crypto without knowing their applications. DeFi enables users to stake, farm, and pool tokens to generate yields much higher than what investors are seeing in traditional markets. It’s not just “lol, hold coin and pray for moon”, these applications present interesting parallels to their the Traditional Finance ("TradFi") counterparts. 

When I first saw stablecoins offering 8%+ APY on platforms like Gemini and BlockFi (compared to 0.01% at large banks) and DAOs offering like 75,000%+ APY for users staking their tokens, I thought those insanely thiccccc yields seemed too good to be true. But I wanted to learn more and figure out how it worked. 

After a few months of experimenting and participating in the ecosystem, I... still have little idea of what’s going on lmao. While I now understand how the reasonable 8% APYs are made possible through basis trades and arbitrage, deeper areas like Olympus DAO ($OHM) and Wonderland Finance ($TIME) are still over my head (but that hasn’t stopped me from going through all the hoops to get their tokens so I can have some skin in the game). With all of that said, I’ve definitely made more money on interest in a few months than I ever did keeping my money in a checking account 😂 . Will try to keep y'all updated on my findings via the BSD podcast as I spend more time in the rabbit hole next year.

NFTs are a different beast. You have the blue-chip projects like Bored Apes, Crypto Punks, Cool Cats, and ArtBlocks. They’re the most recognizable JPGs on social media rn. They've penetrated traditional art houses like Christie's and Sotheby's, with the "rarest" ones trading for millions. Outside of these major projects, you have a wide open sea (pun intended) of scams, pumps, and worthless generic fugazi. While I've dabbled in some shitty projects myself just to feel something, I did pull the trigger on a floor Lazy Lion recently. This purchase was funded by some of the “free money” I made through claiming airdrops (something I won’t really get into here but let’s just say that throwing a couple of bucks here and there at certain crypto projects has been an incredibly profitable strategy).

Finding the Next CryptoPunks: What the Most Valuable NFT Collections Have in Common | by Christian Jensen | DataDrivenInvestor
Lol whoops, we just screenshot these NFTs

I also have an experimental NFT project that I put little to no effort into. There was no mint, no discord, no hype, nothing. All of these images were drawn on Excel. I may or may not have some plans in the works for a real NFT project and current LitNFT holders may be in for a treat as a token for their degen purchases, but again, will spare the details for another time. 

Looking ahead, it'll be interesting to see how NFTs play out in 2022. I think we’ll see more crappy profile pic projects with generic roadmaps. But I'm most looking forward to seeing more interesting applications of NFT technology - whether it be fractionalized music ownership (like Royal is building), membership / access (like Islands is building), or yield generating tokens. It’s still early, and things are changing daily.

The last thing I’ll say about NFTs: the “right-click save” crowd is ngmi. 

Moving onto Web3. Nobody truly knows what it means, but it's provocative.

It has, however, crossed over to the mainstream financial world, with Aryeh B. Bourkoff (Chairman & CEO of LionTree) discussing it in his widely-read year end letter. Here's a quick graphic from his letter that summarizes the evolution of the web from the first iteration in the 1990s to today:

At the heart of it, web3 is basically putting the creators and individuals first. Web2 saw  VCs and company employees accrue most of the value from the platforms that were built, with the users merely being participants generating data to drive advertising revenue. At least it was free though? Web3 is aiming to flip this dynamic by focusing on community building and having users aligned with better incentives. By offering users upside through tokens and airdrops, you basically have them as cheerleaders and marketing machines for these new platforms. At least that's what the bull narrative is. If you follow Jack Dorsey on Twitter, you'll know he thinks differently.  

As for the metaverse, we all saw that Facebook, one of the largest companies in the world, changed its name to Meta, signifying its commitment to the future. Zucccc might be half-lizard but he's certainly on top of his game and knows where things are going. I think it's still way too early to see how it plays out but you bet I'll be hosting a Metaverse Hamptons party with Bart Fuchs, Karl Smith CFA (Level 1 Candidate), Kenny Lay, Parik Patel and the whole squad once the "leading metaverse" has emerged from the pack. 

The price of the yacht sold on Metaverse broke a record! - Somag News

Trolling the Haters

I saved the best for last.

Time and time again, “the haters” fall for the bait and think I’m either tweeting in my underwear for a living or dressing like a “rich 12 year old” with Air Yeezys (iykyk)

I hate using the term “haters” because it’s cliche af, but dealing with anon IG/twitter accounts who think I spend my entire life scouring for memes to steal, the woke crowd that gets triggered by my memes, and jaded analysts who call me back office af (oh, to be a junior again) has become more routine over the past year. I’m not sure why some folks are pressed these days, but I’ve gotten used to it and like to troll back whenever I’m bored or feeling spicy (I mean it’s called social media for a reason, engagement should be a two way street).

So a quick shoutout to the haters. Y’all really keep me sharp with the comebacks and help add to the content when the news cycle is slow.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO LAUGHING MEME SCENE DJANGO UNCHAINED - YouTube

Alright, so that was a lot more than I originally set out to write, but it feels good to have this down in written form.

If the media / VC endeavor goes to shit, I’ll be submitting this entire post to FreezingFinTake on twitter for public roasting. If it goes to the moon, I hope my followers are along for the ride and this story will be something HBS Candidates read a decade from now as a case study. Actually, HBS blocked me on instagram so that might be out of the question... so Stanford GSB it is then! 

Thank you all for reading and for the continued support throughout the past 4+ years. Excited for everything we've got cooking for the new year and hope that we can all grow together.

Happy New Year!

Best,

Lit

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