Good morning, friends.
I know you guys read a lot of newsletters every day, so I want to make sure this one is worth your time. If you have a few minutes, take this very short end-of-year survey so I have an idea on whether to make changes going forward. As always, I appreciate you reading week after week, and your opinions mean a lot to me.
Here we go:
— The comedian who is tired of herself [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The man uncovering your secrets
— The investor trying to upend private equity
— The football star haunted by trauma
— The best investor in academia
— The razor companies fighting for relevance
— The $31-million scam
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PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The comedian who is tired of herself: Ellen Degeneres is expected to dance with total strangers wherever she goes — and she’s tired of it. As the queen of inspirational daytime talk, she’s been providing an oasis of positivity and escapist comedy for 16 years. Feeling boxed in by her reputation for kindness, she’s ready for her next act — and it doesn’t involve dancing.
“It was interesting to me that I was more relatable when I was closeted and dishonest than when I came out.”
The man uncovering your secrets: Charlie Santore sees Los Angeles from the inside, by breaking into safes whose owners can no longer unlock them. He gets to see what the rest of us are trying to hide — the incriminating photos, the stashed cash, the Bulgari jewels. “The safe is someone’s little space—someone’s psyche—and not everyone’s psyche is a clean place, you know,” he says. There are some wild stories in this one.
“Maybe you’re the ultimate safe you’re trying to crack. You spend your whole life trying to open one thing, and it’s you.”
The investor trying to upend private equity: Ryan Caldbeck, the founder of CircleUp, is talking about building a systematic fund for the private markets. If it works, his plan could worry Henry Kravis, Steve Schwarzman, and the pioneers of private equity. If you’re an investor, this is a must-read.
“‘A monkey could do this job’ turned into ‘a computer could do this job.’”
The football star haunted by trauma: Tyler Hilinski, a quarterback at Washington State, killed himself in January and was posthumously diagnosed with CTE. His brother is a star recruit in the same position. Football helps him cope, at a cost. On the one hand, the game provides an essential distraction. On the other, he can only compartmentalize his emotions for so long. This profile is raw, complicated, and heartbreaking.
“When I’m on the field, I forget. I say, ‘O.K., I’m going to focus on a slant route rather than: ‘When did it happen? What time of night was it when Tyler passed?’”
The best investor in academia: Timothy Springer, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is a collector of gongshi, or scholars' rocks, from China. As Moderna Therapeutics was preparing to launch one of the biggest IPOs in biotechnology history, Springer was busy giving a lecture about rocks. When the company went public, the academic made $400 million and became the fourth-largest shareholder of Moderna.
“I’m not into ramen noodles, but my friends are academics, so it doesn’t really behoove me to be flashy.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The razor companies fighting for relevance: Gillette used to rule razors. But then came Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club, Bevel, and Billie. Thanks to millennials (sigh), the entire razor industry is flailing. As a society, we are becoming relaxed about hair. Too relaxed, if you are in the market of selling razors. Beards and mustaches are en vogue. The country is getting less interested in pressuring women to keep themselves hairless. Yet there are more grooming innovators entering the market. They are selling, but do we care?
“More casual shaving attitudes logically mean wanting to spend less on a product that removes hair, whether or not it can be justifiably called ‘the best a man can get.’”
The $31-million scam: Blockchain Terminal looked good on paper. It had an all-star team, a product that promised to give Bloomberg a run for its money, and funding to run a massive ICO campaign. It was the perfect product for the next generation of traders. It was perfect, until an investigation uncovered that founder Shaun MacDonald was, in fact, a former hedge funder named Boaz Manor, who was sentenced to prison for running a fraudulent $800 million hedge fund. Didn’t see that plot twist coming.
“No one was aware of his true identity and no one knew his past.”