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scuttleblurb business update (2021)

Dear friends and subscribers:

While I consider this my most productive year from a research standpoint, the business side of things was mixed.  Scuttleblurb is on track to surpass $300,000 in subscription sales this year, more than I could have imagined when I launched nearly 5 years ago.  But growth has slowed and subscriber trends look weak. 

It used to be that publishing twice a month and pushing a link out to Twitter was all I needed to grow.  But now it seems more is required, especially given the explosion of competing newsletters over the last year or so.  Slim Charles put it best: “game’s the same, just got more fierce”. There are only so many investment newsletters that one has time to read. As the selection continues to expand, so too inevitably will the number of newsletters that do a better job than I reliably addressing certain readers’ interests, particularly given my broad and thematically inconsistent coverage. Also, newsletters today are clued in to the reality that readers are drawn not only to content but to vibes and community. They reinforce their brands through regular Twitter threads, Spaces, AMAs, podcast appearances, collaborations, etc., activities that I have neglected entirely this year in my hermit-like focus on research and writing (and, frankly, due to personal anxieties around such stuff).

So I was early to this paid newsletter game and shined for a while but am fading somewhat amid the scrum of new talent.  Admitting this feels a bit weird…as if in doing so I am violating tacit norms of the “creator economy”, where one gushes about the infinite reach of the internet and sticks to prescribed ways of calling attention to personal victories in blusterous tweets. Projecting success is good business because social proof is important for subscriber growth and people would much rather support winning projects than prop up stagnant ones.

But I never set out to run a business and never saw growth as an end in itself. I was just striving for “enough”. Scuttleblurb began as a personal research journal that I paywalled to cover rent and groceries as I tried to scale my investment fund, which launched in 2016 with round-down-to-0 AUM.  Scale happened, thanks to the backing of a large institutional allocator that discovered me through the blog.  Along the way, I forged what I expect will be lasting, meaningful friendships.  Because of your feedback, I cringe less at things I wrote 3 months ago than things I wrote 3 years ago.  Scuttleblurb makes me a better analyst and investor while providing for my growing family (the twins are doing great!).  So long as that remains true, I’m good.

I want to give some shoutouts to fellow newsletter writers whose work I appreciate. There are too many great ones to name, so I’ll limit myself to the paid invested-related ones I subscribe to, most of which exhibit an authentic style that sets them apart from the usual bowdlerized sell-side fare, all of which demonstrate that we need not rely on pedigree as a proxy for insight and critical thinking when those qualities are plainly observable in someone’s writing. Abdullah Al-Rezwan [1] at MBI Deep Dives [2] and Alex Morris [3] at The Science of Hitting [4] are generalists who analyze investment opportunities with nuance and intellectual honesty.  Andrew Rangeley [5] at Yet Another Value Blog  [6]is one of the sharpest, most thorough analysts I know, particularly in media and special sits.  Nathan Baschez [7] and Dan Shipper [8] started this online writer collective last year, Every [9], that bundles newsletters about strategy and leadership.  I subscribe to 2 of the strategy ones, Divinations [10] and Napkin Math [11], both thought-provoking and enjoyable reads.  Mule [12] for semiconductors (Fabricated Knowledge [13]); muji  [14]for hhhypergrowth tech [15]Marc Rubinstein [16] for financial services (Net Interest [17]); and Frederik Gieschen [18] for investor profiles (Neckar’s Insecurity Analysis [19]).  Byrne Hobart [20] at The Diff  [21]is reliably insightful about finance and tech.  LibertyRPF [22]‘s eclectic newsletter, Liberty’s Highlights [23], is one of my morning staples, along with Ben Thompson [24]‘s Stratechery [25].    

I am so grateful for your support in what has got to be the wildest time of my investing career. Absurdity cavorts with profundity. Dog coins and various web3-instantiated woo woo are bound up in intriguing frameworks for creating, distributing, and tracking value. Meme stocks were bid to the stratosphere by retail investors compelled by not only hopes and dreams but also nihilism and lolz. But beyond the speculative fervor and techno-utopian themes that have seized the public’s attention, more prosaic considerations like strategy, culture, and capital allocation in established terrains like market infrastructure, coatings, insurance, cable, enterprise software, payment processing, and real estate remain as relevant as ever.

I can’t wait to see what happens next. Have a wonderful holiday season and catch you in the new year,   


Square / PayPal: Part 2

Posted By scuttleblurb On In [PYPL] Paypal,[SQ] Square | Comments Disabled
If you haven’t already, could you please take this survey?  Thank you!https://www.surveymonkey.de/r/MY6XRPR Digital wallets beg to break free from the commerce platforms that nurture them. In 2002, a $20bn eBay acquired PayPal for $1.5bn.  Nearly 20 years later, a $200bn+ PayPal commands 5x eBay’s market cap.  The core value prop hasn’t changed much over this [...]
To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription [26] or Quarterly subscription [27].

quick Everbridge (EVBG) update

Posted By scuttleblurb On In [EVBG] Everbridge | Comments Disabled
I will post Part 2 of my PayPal/Square series either later this week or early next. Before then, I want to talk about Everbridge. Please read my last 2 posts on Everbridge (here and here) to get up to speed. There are 4 relevant pieces of information from a statement that management released after the [...]
To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription [26] or Quarterly subscription [27].

Square / PayPal: Part 1

Posted By scuttleblurb On In [PYPL] Paypal,[SQ] Square | Comments Disabled
If you found yourself in 2009 with the vision of one day dominating payments, where would you start?  For most, I suspect it would be P2P payments or point-of-sale software or some other bits-based service with the conventional trappings of network effects, virality and scale.  Square instead launched with what must have seemed the most [...]
To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription [26] or Quarterly subscription [27].

[SHW] Sherwin-Williams

Posted By scuttleblurb On In [SHW] Sherwin-Williams | Comments Disabled
In some industries you will find one player that uniquely and above all peers excels at something that is foundational to excess returns, whether that be customer service, cost discipline, scale economies or product innovation.  At times, you may find yourself thinking “I get it, X is a much better company than Y.  But Y [...]
To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription [26] or Quarterly subscription [27].

Data, Observability and Monitoring ($SPLK, $ESTC, $NEWR, $DT, $DDOG)

Posted By scuttleblurb On In [DDOG] Datadog,[DT] Dynatrace,[ESTC] Elastic NV,[NEWR] New Relic,[SPLK] Splunk | Comments Disabled
Compared to the monolithic architectures of the on-premise world, cloud computing and the microservices paradigm accompanying it have given rise to more flexible and scalable applications. But those applications often run on complex distributed environments.  A large company like Uber might be running thousands of microservices written in different languages, making it tough to track [...]
To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription [26] or Quarterly subscription [27].

[TDOC] Teladoc

Posted By scuttleblurb On In [TDOC] Teladoc | Comments Disabled
You can think of Teladoc as a router for clinical care, receiving patients and connecting them to the right physicians.  The doctors on Teladoc’s platform work as independent contractors and interact with members through: 1/ Teladoc’s app/website; 2/ CVS’ Pharmacy App, which white labels Teladoc’s technology; and 3/ hospitals/clinics, whose providers interact with patients remotely [...]
To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription [26] or Quarterly subscription [27].

quick thoughts on the IAC/MDP acquisition rumor

Posted By scuttleblurb On In [IAC] IAC | Comments Disabled
I have a writeup on Teladoc (TDOC) coming next week but felt like throwing out some first impressions on the possibility of IAC acquiring Meredith. I don’t normally comment on rumors but I typed up some thoughts yesterday for my personal file and figured why not share. This past May, Meredith Corp. agreed sell its [...]
To access this post, you must purchase Annual subscription [26] or Quarterly subscription [27].