I recently celebrated my 10-year anniversary as a full-time private microcap investor.
Successfully supporting oneself on your own capital is one of the most fulfilling and challenging occupations on Earth. It is the ultimate test as it forces you to answer the question: Can you survive and thrive on your own capital and expertise? I have for over 10 years. It is an amazing feeling. Now I’m ready to do more.
As with any successful business, to be a successful full-time investor your lifestyle and investment strategy must be in harmony. Ultimately the process forces a better investor out of you while further developing a methodology that differs from a large portion of the investment community.
A year ago, my wife asked me what I wanted to accomplish professionally in the next 10 years. I inverted the question: What would I regret not doing in the next 10 years?
After a moment of introspection, the answer was obvious. I would regret not starting an investment management firm dedicated to microcap investing. Specifically, a firm focused on the smaller half [the better half] of the microcap ecosystem.
I thought long and hard about it. This would be a serious undertaking. In the past I’ve always dismissed the idea of managing other people’s money. It certainly sparks the question: Why now?
Here is the short answer: I’ve been a full-time investor for 10 years and have developed a unique set of skills and resources. I’m still young. I want to do more. I want to help others. I’d like to build a team. The microcap arena is incredible. The investment opportunity is far greater than my personal net worth. I think we can kill it.
I became a full-time private investor in late 2008. In hindsight, this might seem like the perfect time, but I can assure you it was a scary time. Deciding to cut my safety net, a salary, wasn’t easy. But I had been waiting for a bear market to test myself and my strategy. A strategy that can be tested is a strategy that can be trusted. I survived the bear market, so I cut the safety net. Next to marrying my wife, it was the best decision I ever made.
In 2011, I launched a private online investment community called MicroCapClub.com. I also started writing educational articles on the blog. The purpose was simple. As a full-time investor, I wanted to see more microcap ideas.
Microcap investors are an eclectic bunch, and getting them to post under one forum was a unique challenge. When MicroCapClub launched, many investors joined but few contributed. I provided 90% of the content the first year. It was frustrating, but I kept grinding.
This is when “I” changed to “We.”
As time went on, we slowly attracted some high-caliber microcap investors that were eager to participate. Our membership has since profiled more than 600 microcap companies. Some of our individual company discussions have more than one thousand comments. Today, MicroCapClub is an incredible community with several hundred participants from around the world. In 2015, Mike Schellinger joined me in operating MicroCapClub and together we are working towards the long-term purpose and mission: To find great companies early while bringing credibility and respect back to microcap investing. I will continue to be active on MicroCapClub. We have a lot more to accomplish.
Microcaps are small businesses. The smaller the company, the more important management becomes. In 2015, I read an article by professor and fund manager Sanjay Bakshi describing intelligent fanatics. The term “intelligent fanatic” was first used by Charlie Munger to describe a world class business builder. I became obsessed with studying these individuals to help fine-tune my qualitative lens for investing. The ultimate goal is to find these leaders early, in the microcap arena.
As luck would have it, I was introduced to Sean Iddings and found he was equally fascinated with intelligent fanatics.
In 2016, we wrote a book together: Intelligent Fanatics Project. In the book, we highlight the intelligent fanatics Charlie Munger mentions in his speeches. We retell their personal stories while highlighting how they built their businesses. We also studied competitors in the same industries that failed. We learned a lot. People enjoyed the book, so we wrote another one: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.
In 2017, we launched the IntelligentFanatics.com learning community. We have now studied 100+ intelligent fanatics from different time periods, industries, and continents. To paraphrase Mark Twain, success doesn’t always repeat the same way, but it certainly does rhyme. We have found that intelligent fanatics share some common behaviors, characteristics and strategies. Over the past year, several hundred people have joined the IntelligentFanatics.com community. We now have a great team of contributors. The intelligent fanatic stories and lessons are both educational and inspiring. Sean is doing a great job leading the community. We have a third book coming out later this year. We have a lot more to accomplish.
People often ask me how they can gain exposure to the types of companies I invest in. This is an interesting question. Most investors turn to a microcap ETF. I think this is a mistake.
Microcap is defined as “public companies with market capitalizations less than $300 million.” The average market cap of a company included in the iShares Micro-Cap ETF (IWC) is $450 million. This isn’t exactly “micro.” In fact, 35% of companies included in the IWC are smallcaps. Furthermore, the IWC holds positions in 1,450 companies.
What does this tell us? Microcap ETF’s, as well as most institutional microcap offerings, are built for scale. They are built for institutional asset gathering, not performance. Unfortunately, due to this they can’t take advantage of the greatest strength of the microcap ecosystem: the small illiquid microcaps.
A true microcap focused strategy should be built for performance, not scale. It should be focused on the greatest area of inefficiency in the public equity universe: the smallest microcaps. In doing so, the strategy will be capacity constrained.
Ultimately a strategy such as this is not an institutional product offering. It is an entrepreneurial product offering, and it must be managed by a person or team that has the discipline to say ‘no more’ when it reaches capacity.
Some of the best things in life don’t scale very well.
INTELLIGENT FANATICS CAPITAL MANAGEMENT (IFCM)
I’m excited to announce the launch of Intelligent Fanatics Capital Management (IFCM). Looking back, this firm is the product of over a decade of work. Only in hindsight does the journey look crystal clear. Over the past year, I’ve spent countless hours in thought while connecting with individuals I respect to help me structure and navigate the process of launching an investment strategy. The time is finally here.
I’m the first money in and am seeking a small number of individuals to invest alongside me.