Some weeks back I was on my couch watching Bloomberg TV and the particular show that was on was Risk Takers. I’m a fan of the TV show and was excited to know who was being profiled this time around as I was expecting to see someone I knew and who is a big shot. Ironically, I didn’t know the person being profiled but you are damn right the story was exhilarating and I was perplexed at the success niche this man built gradually for himself and his Company.
Who else will I be talking about if not Dr Michael Burry (Born 1971), a physician turned hedge fund manager (A hedge fund is an investment fund that can undertake a vast range of investments and trading activities and its usually open to certain investors). He successfully and single-handedly built a hedge fund which made high return on investments (ROI) both for his investors and also for himself. In his early childhood, he developed a tumour in one of his eyes and it was operated on which later led to the loss of that eye making only one eye of his functional. He was always this atypical kid who didn’t really follow the crowd and the norms of the majority. He said he likes to stand out from any group and then prefers to analyse that group instead of being in it; in short, he is what we call nowadays as a man who thinks and operates outside the box. It is not just enough for you as a visionary, a manager, businessman, innovator to think outside the box, you also have to operate outside the box. Significant and lasting successes are built on both of these qualities and not just one.
After his high school, he attended Vanderbilt School of Medicine where he graduated from as a certified and licensed medical personnel. During his undergraduate days he fell in love with financial investments and started studying the trends in the capital market. This became his passion as he then started a blog where he made advises and comments on which stocks will improve and those which will decline as time goes by. Unknown to him, there were some top financial investors apart from other traders who had taken keen interest in him mainly because his predictions about stock value were nearly always if not just always correct. People were reading his blog and trading on this advises and in the process was making profits based on what he advised.
Upon graduation, he did his residency at Stanford hospital at their neurology department and during that period he still created some time (after working hours late in the night) to study more about the financial markets and to operate his blog site. In 2000, he quit his job as a medical doctor in order to pursue his passion and hobby. Prior to him quitting his job he was strongly advised not to by his superiors as they felt he didn’t know what he was doing. Funny enough and truthfully this still happens in a lot of places as people are so comfortable with their status quo and are afraid to leave the known and certain and delve into the unknown. Success doesn’t come cheap as one has to take risks which might either make or break us but if we still summon enough courage to take these risks, the sky will only be our starting point. People tend to say that the sky is one’s limit, this is absurdly wrong as one man once said; ‘don’t tell me the sky is my limit when there are footprints on the moon’.
During his initial days as a new hedge fund manager, he got calls from Joel Greenblat, another hedge fund manager and an investor and also White Mountains Insurance Group and they invested in his company reason being that they’ve been following his blog site and noticed the accuracy of his financial market predictions. From 2000 to 2008, his hedge fund company Scion Capital recorded returns of 489.34 percent (net of fees and expenses) during the time S & P 500 just recorded only about 2 percent returns over the same period. Once your are creative, gifted and skilled in something, people will invest in that which you are as they will believe in what you do and what you stand for. He was also one of the first people to predict the then impending financial crisis that erupted in 2007 way back around 2003 to 2005. He claimed he studied the real estate market appropriately and predicted that when the real estate market values reset, the financial bubble will finally burst leading to financial doom and chaos. He then bet against the Subprime mortgages ( Subprime mortgage is a means of lending money to people who may have difficulty in maintaining repayment schedule) though that period was a difficult and trying one for him as he faced challenges from some of his investors and also criticism from some major makers in the financial market.. The bet finally paid off in 2007 when financial bubble finally burst and Scion Capital made about 800 million dollars as profit with about 700 million dollars going to the investors and 100 million dollars going to Dr Michael Burry personally.
In 2008, he liquidated his company and then closed it down to focus more on his own personal financial trading and investments. He currently has investments in almond farms (California) and sits on the board of some institutions. He says now he has time to focus on his family more and also to do financial trading without restrictions and questioning by investors. He is married and with children and they currently reside in California where he runs his work from.
18th of June 2012 around 11:30 p.m. (Central Africa Time) I began to analyze and closely scrutinize the future of Facebook as a social network, an investment for Facebooks’ investors and also for current and potential advertisers. The more I looked at the prospect of the company and also on their ability to dominate the social network, the more I realize the social media company might actually fade out unless strategic and drastic measures were actually taken out by the management team. The fact is most Facebook social networkers now spend less time on the site as compared to about three to four years ago when users were practically addicted to the social network site.
The world is evolving rapidly and new technologies are erupting out of US, Europe, Israel and Asia at a fast pace. What will actually decrease the number of users of Facebook and the time they spend ‘facebooking’ is actually the invention of new mobile devices with distinct and innovative social network software and also the emerging of new and dynamic entrepreneurs. An example of this occurred some years ago when Blackberry broke out from just supporting and providing services for mobile phone companies into actually coming up with their own brand phone which comprised of features such as blackberry messenger, chat and other tech applications. The public welcomed the idea of this social networking as that period was what I called ‘The Blackberry Craze’. Not only did they support the public socially but was also a business boost as it made business communication and contacts much easier and efficient. This was so evident that almost everywhere that one happens to, you would see people just pinging (as that was the popular slang then). I can remember being in the bank at a time and I was on the queue waiting to make some deposit only to see that one of the bankers in front of me was so engrossed with his blackberry and he rarely concentrated on what was going on around him. Lecture rooms, buses, taxis and parks were not left out as people got so attached with this mobile device due to its social network functions.
People want the idea of having their friends and practically the ‘whole world’ (I use this literally) at their fingertip. Good enough, Facebook team recognized and understood this as they also came up with Facebook mobile software for phone users and this helped to avert the crash of the use of Facebook to some extent. The problem with the Facebook mobile application is that it was a setback for potential advertisers and consequently Facebook investors as they could not advertise on the mobile device. They failed to realize that people no longer have to carry their laptops or even tablets everywhere they go just so as to keep up with the social trend, people prefer to use their mobile devices to do this and in such way it makes more sense, it’s more practical and virtually far easier.
I agree that there are currently about 901 million Facebook users, but if you check the stats on the exact active users and the time they now spend ‘facebooking’, you will know there has been a decline. Not to my surprise, about a month or so later I was watching Bloomberg when there were reports about the skepticism of Facebook investors and also advertisers on how effective the adverts they place on their social network site is. The stock value compared to their IPO value was even more devastating as it had almost halved (and currently it’s about $18 or $19) and analysts including myself are expecting it to drop even further. Andy Borowitz (not a business analyst) an hilarious speaker who also writes for the Newyorker made one statement on his twitter account which sounded funny but actually that was the ugly truth. He commented ‘ facebook investors are not happy about the drop of the stock to $19, they should be rather happy/satisfied for something that is actually worthless. Another observer commented; Facebook is like the boyfriend you no longer like, but are scared to dump because you’ve invested so much time in the relationship. All these are pointers to where Facebook is headed unless the management team starts coming up with new ideas, innovations and strategies as new and emerging tech geniuses and IT entrepreneurs with mind dazzling and innovative ideas will take them and the social network world by suprise.
In everything you do whether it be a skilled job or an enterprise, you must apply the right business principles if you want to have high returns for all your efforts. When you know that you have a skill in doing something and you know the best you can reach, you don’t have to come out fully at that best for everyone to see during the period that you emerge from obscurity. You just come out a little above the former way things have been done before and keep people at suspense on what you intend to bring in next or what you want to achieve next.
The simple illustration I can use to clarify this is Usain Bolt. I read that he’s the only track and field athlete to make ten million dollars a year. Do you think that he made these ten million dollars last year because he was better than other athletes who broke world records before him? Definitely Not. The reason as I see it is mainly because he has agents with good business IQ and acumen who didn’t follow the paths of other agents in this line of sports. When he ran (i.e. USAIN BOLT) 9.78secs or so, and then ran 9.69 and 9.58 seconds later, did you think that he accidentally ran this far record beating records period after he just broke one with the 9.69secs? Definitely not. My guess, he and his agents(PACE Sports Management) and trainer knew all along his capability to run that 9.58 sec but coming out with your best truly at first is not the best business strategy.
I have to tell you that sports and business go together. If you happen to just say that you are a good sports man without also combining the attributes of a good business man or not consulting a business expert to help foster and package yourself well to your fans and to the public, then you will only achieve great trophies in your line of sports with little or nothing to show for it when it comes to your bank account. When Usain first came during that record breaking time, did you notice that during the 100m dash, when he was about ending the race and he noticed he was leading that he slowed down to finish the race? Of course he could have ran faster to even achieve a far greater world recording time, but that would mean not being able to keep his would-be fans in suspense and in the long run not maximizing the amount he could earn as a sport professional. This made him to break the record three times (including breaking his own record two times) and also breaking the 200m record.
This was all systematically and strategically planned by his sports trainer and agents to fully maximize his returns in terms of his earnings from breaking world records, being an advertiser for sports companies such as Puma, Rocklive, Virgin Media and doing adverts for various companies. He became the most talked about athlete not because he is the only person to break a former world record but because he used a business approach to it. The same way in anything you do that you are skilled and professionally good at, try and consult a business expert on how you can package and market yourself to your audience or target market so that you won’t only be good at what you are but your bank account would also testify to it too.