Short Sellers Lose $1 Billion on AMC

AMC stock has doubled in just ten days, extending a 13-fold rally this year:

Investors shorting the meme stock AMC Entertainment are estimated to have lost $1.23 billion over the last week as the shares rallied more than 116% since Monday, according to data from S3 Partners.

AMC was the most active stock on the New York Stock Exchange by far on Friday as more than 650 million shares changed hands. Its 30-day trading volume average is just above 100 million shares, according to FactSet.

With 450 million shares outstanding, the entire company changed hands nearly 1.5 times during Friday’s trading.

More here.

Some of the interest in AMC may be coming from traders rotating out of cryptocurrencies as those markets have fallen:

Pierantoni observed that just as selling of bitcoin and ethereum picked up, retail purchases of AMC jumped — as did the number of people buying risky but bullish call options popular among Robinhood investors.

The rally isn’t tied to fundamentals: AMC’s business is still struggling, with a net loss of over $400 million in the first quarter of 2021 and rent nearly three times as high as ticket revenue. But in a market where armies of retail traders suddenly band together to push up heavily shorted stocks, shorting anything is a fool’s errand. If a trader wanted to express a negative view, put options, where the downside is limited, are likely to be a safer bet.

I do wonder how long it will take the hedge funds to absorb this lesson. Numerous funds got torched on GameStop, with some losing a majority of their capital. And yet others seem to be lining up to get punched in the face on AMC stock. They would do well to remember the (perhaps apocryphal) words of John Maynard Keynes:

The markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.

Happy Memorial Day to my US readers, and a thanks to our brave veterans!

Dig into these posts for more on AMC:

Photo: “Police Stationed outside AMC Theater showing Joker film 4573” by Brechtbug is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

One of the Hottest Tech Startups in the World Calls Hoboken Home

In the birthplace of baseball and Frank Sinatra, on a quiet street near the waterfront, lie the offices of one of the hottest tech companies in the world: Attentive.

We’re used to thinking of the tech startup scene as confined to the Bay Area. Maybe a few in New York City proper, maybe. But one of the most significant new tech companies of today is right here in the Garden State.

A tech startup is a big deal when it becomes a “unicorn,” or reaches a valuation of $1 billion. Of all US companies that have reached that holy grail in 2020 and 2021, Attentive is the 4th largest. Its current valuation is $6.97 billion, a staggering sum for a company that’s only existed for 5 years.

Attentive is a messaging platform that helps companies communicate with their customers. It allows businesses to send personalized text messages that help drive sales. E-mail inboxes are overflowing and promotional e-mails tend to get lost in the shuffle, but customers are a lot more likely to notice a text message. After all, that’s how they communicate with family and friends every day.

Attentive is not the first unicorn this single square mile has produced. Hoboken-based e-commerce site Jet.com was sold to Walmart for $3.3 billion in 2016.

Why has this tiny town of only 50,000 people produced two giant software companies in just a few years? I think the reason is that over 80% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree. Indeed, Hoboken is the 35th most educated city in the country. If you look at the other cities on that list, you see quite a few tech hubs, such as Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Cupertino in California.

The more we can promote higher education, particularly in STEM fields, the more of this type of success we will see. It makes me prouder than ever to be a New Jerseyan. I only wish I had been an investor in this one!

Have a great holiday weekend everyone!

Dig into these posts for more on startups:

Photo: “New Jersey – Hoboken: Washington Street Brownstones” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

India Is Soaking Up Venture Capital Like a Sponge

It’s not just about the Bay Area anymore. Indian startups have raised venture funding at a record pace this year, on track to double from 2020:

Startups raised total investments of $7.8 billion in the first four months of this calendar year, which is almost 70% of the overall corpus of $12.1 billion raised in entire 2020 and more than 50% of $14.2 billion raised in 2019, data from US-based research firm PitchBook shows.

More here.

The average deal size is also near record highs, at $25 million. The most valuable venture-backed startup in India is Paytm, a payments and e-commerce company, at $16.7 billion.

India has seen 13 companies reach unicorn status this year ($1 billion valuation and up), an impressive figure. The US remains far and away the leader, with 288 total unicorns as of last month. China has 133, and India is third at 32.

As a US-based investor, I see a lot of companies pitch, but not those from India. The American and Indian VC markets don’t seem well connected. I’m not sure how to fix that, but I’m eager to have access to this big crop of quality companies. The most active VC firms in India are a mix of American and Indian organizations. With numerous people from India staffing (and starting) US tech companies, I hope to see more connections between our markets in the future!

Dig into these posts for more on startups and venture capital:

Photo: “Agra – Taj Mahal” by micbaun is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

How the Mormon Church Made Millions on GameStop

There have been a lot of winners in GameStop’s dizzying, over tenfold rise in the last year. An unlikely one is the Mormon Church, which made over $8 million on GameStop shares through its investment arm:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ play for stock in GameStop paid off big-time as the Utah-based faith saw its shares in the video game retailer swell in value from $867,000 to $8.7 million in a matter of months.

Overall, the church’s largest investment fund, managed by Ensign Peak Advisors in Salt Lake City, grew by $2.4 billion in early 2021, continuing a dramatic rebound from pandemic-induced losses last spring and catapulting its total value to $46.5 billion.

More here.

Their timing was superb: Ensign bought 46,000 shares at the end of 2020, just before a short squeeze briefly pushed the stock to prices over $300. The church also scored huge gains on Tesla shares. Ensign Peak Advisors is wholly owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, making it perhaps the only church in the world with its own hedge fund.

The fund’s assets total over $100 billion, greater than the GDP of Ethiopia. The church has banked up over $6,000 for each member, a staggering rainy day fund. This money comes primarily from all members being required to donate 10% of their income to the church, a practice called tithing.

I’ve always found the Mormon church fascinating and have read several books about it. I was intrigued to find out they played a part in something as far removed from religion as the GameStop saga!

Dig into these posts for more on GameStop:

Photo: “Salt Lake City Temple” by SheldonPhotography is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

GameStop Pays Off $216 Million in Debt

It’s no secret that GameStop shares have gone vertical, up more than ten fold this year. Besides making millionaires of a lot of Redditors, this also lets GameStop sell more shares at high prices, enabling them to raise capital with ease.

And raise they did, to the tune of $550 million in April. They recently used that money to completely pay off their long term debt:

The company said it completed its voluntary early redemption of $216.4 million of its 10.0% senior notes due 2023. The voluntary redemption covered all of the outstanding 10.0% notes, which represented all of its long-term debt.

More here.

At 10%, this debt was costing GameStop over $20 million a year. Getting rid of it should give them more room to fund their planned transformation into an e-commerce business, which is being led by Chewy co-founder and soon-to-be GameStop board chairman Ryan Cohen. On the other hand, this share raise dilutes existing GameStop shareholders, making their stake worth less.

GameStop still has $146 million in short term debt and a revolving line of credit, per their most recent annual report, but that is likely under lower interest rates than those long term bonds. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the short term debt paid off early as well.

In all, GameStop seems to be seizing the opportunity to use its high stock price to fund its transformation. Whether they can actually pull that transformation off remains to be seen.

Dig into these posts for more on GameStop:

Photo: “Retail GameStop” by ccPixs.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Visiting Uncle Junior’s Headquarters from The Sopranos

This is overdue.

Tony Soprano

At the driver’s seat of a long black Lincoln, a well dressed man peruses a magazine. Behind him pulls a red SUV. A large figure emerges, walking purposefully in shiny brown wingtips.

This is how one of my favorite scenes from The Sopranos begins, as Tony makes small talk with Mikey Palmice before delivering him a beating he won’t soon forget. Mikey and his boss, Corrado “Junior” Soprano, recently attacked Tony’s nephew Chris and killed Chris’s friend over their penchant for hijacking Uncle Junior’s trucks. After dispensing with Mikey, Tony walks into Junior’s headquarters, the Sit Tite Loungenette, to try to reason with him.

I always thought the Sit Tite Loungenette looked perfect, a true piece of the 1960’s for a man like Junior, a man of that time. Yesterday, I went in search of this piece of TV history.

How it looked in The Sopranos
How it looked yesterday

This location used for the Uncle Jun’s headquarters is in Jersey City, NJ, and today the building is a Chinese restaurant called Asian Kitchen. Aside from the signage, the exterior looks exactly the same as in the series. It was thrilling to be on the same sidewalk as Tony and Mikey’s fight, gazing at the exact building I had seen so many times in one of my favorite shows.

Where Tony gave Mikey the beating of his life

The interior of the building appears to have been heavily remodeled, with a different layout and flooring. Most of the building is a kitchen and only the very front is accessible to place orders. Still, getting a chance to see it was awesome.

Inside

You see the Sit Tite a second time in the series, when Tony comes to tell Uncle Junior he wants him to be the boss of the family after Jackie Aprile’s death. With a determined look, Tony loads his pistol as he enters, unsure of the reception he’ll get from Uncle Jun.

If you’re in the area, check this great spot out!

Exterior, down the street

Dig into these posts for more on The Sopranos:

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Why Are There Cars Full of Bulletholes in Ringwood State Park?

As I walked up the beginning of a trail covered in red and orange leaves last fall, I saw a dark form to my left. What is that, a rock, a downed tree? As I got closer, I realized it was the shell of a vintage automobile.

Coming closer, I realized this was not your average junker. The car appeared to be from the 40’s or 50’s, and it had more than mechanical trouble. Along the side was a series of large holes that appeared to have been made by a powerful firearm.

Did the car belong to an old time mobster, perhaps rubbed out in some gangland dispute and then dumped in the woods? If so, was there also a body nearby? And are there more cars in this woods?

This interesting find occurred to me again last night, so I did some Googling this morning but was unable to find any information about junked cars or dumped bodies in Ringwood State Park. The park is under an hour from New York City, so it seems entirely possible that it could be a mob graveyard. But the secret may have died with whoever was in that car many years ago.

Mysteries aside, Ringwood State Park is a beautiful and accessible spot that I highly recommend. Its undulating terrain affords beautiful views any time of year but especially in fall. Despite its proximity to New York City, I’ve found it to be generally uncrowded and quiet. The trails are not always marked well, so I’d suggest bringing a GPS unit if possible, although we were able to manage without one.

If anyone knows anything about the history of this area and what’s going on with that car, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Dig into these posts for more on the outdoors in New Jersey:

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Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

A Hidden Castle…In New Jersey?

As you round a clear blue lake, a second, smaller path winds away from the main trail. Up this path, on a peak covered with flowers, lie the remains of a vast stone edifice.

This is Van Slyke Castle in Ramapo State Forest in Oakland, NJ, just 30 miles from midtown Manhattan. I visited with a friend last week and was mesmerized by the spooky ruins and the beautiful natural setting.

Van Slyke Castle was built by a wealthy stockbroker named William Porter at the beginning of the 20th century. After his death in a car crash, his widow Ruth married attorney Warren Van Slyke, who lent his name to the manse.

After Ruth’s death, the castle fell into disrepair, and burned down in 1959:

Ruth died in 1940, leaving the castle without an owner for nine years. It was finally purchased in 1949 by a couple who subsequently resold the property two years later to Suzanne S. Christie. She abandoned it shortly after. No one knows why she left the place, though it’s suspected it could have been the result of a bitter divorce.

After years of desertion, the mansion met its fiery demise when vandals broke in and set the place ablaze.

More on the history of the castle here.

The stone ruins are expansive. Though the structure is overgrown, the pipes are still visible and behind the house is the remains of a large swimming pool.

Beautiful flowers are everywhere. Perhaps Ruth Van Slyke planted them? From the peak, you can see the New York City skyline in silhouette in the distance, a marked contrast to the woodsy surroundings.

My friend and I lied on a rock near the castle and enjoyed the sun, flowers, and beautiful lake view. As we descended, I reflected on how amazing it is that inside this beautiful woods was a grand castle we could’ve easily missed.

If you haven’t been to Ramapo State Forest, I strongly recommend it! The scenery is beautiful and the hiking is easy. Add great views and the odd chipmunk, and it’s hard to beat!

Dig into these posts for more on the outdoors in New Jersey:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Welcome to Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero’s Chop Shop

A heavyset man sits in a seat pulled from a junked car, reading Waste News. Around him are cars in various states of disassembly. A Mercedes pulls up…

This is Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero’s body shop from The Sopranos, Cleveland Auto Body. It features in one of my favorite episodes, where Pussy and Tony commiserate on the difficulties of rearing teenagers. Later, after Pussy is killed for being a government informant, his wife Angie takes over the body shop and nearly becomes a mobster herself.

The location for Cleveland Auto Body is on Cleveland Avenue in Harrison, NJ, just outside Newark and a short walk from the location used for Satriale’s. I had the opportunity to visit this Sunday, excited to see where these scenes really took place.

Today, it is Mavis Discount Tire, and has gotten quite a facelift. The old Cleveland Auto Body sign is gone, along with the junk you saw in The Sopranos. In its place is a clean, modern tire shop.

Here’s how it looked in season 2:

And how it looks now:

Across the street, you can see the exact same houses as in the Sopranos scene. They don’t seem to have changed a bit. It was a lot of fun to see the same backdrop as some of my favorite characters!

Seeing how Tony pulls into a bay directly across from the houses above in this episode, I think this is a new building. I don’t see bays facing in that direction now. But, it’s hard to say for sure.

The neighborhood is halfway between industrial and residential, with a newer, upscale apartment building nearby. Between the classed-up auto shop and the new neighbors, the neighborhood is a little fancier than it was in Big Pussy’s day.

It was a great time seeing the exact same spot where some of my favorite scenes took place!

Dig into these posts for more on The Sopranos:

f you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

Liftoff: How Elon Musk Built SpaceX

At 1310 East Grand Avenue in El Segundo, just south of Los Angeles, sits a large white building. In 2002, it housed only about a dozen people. There wasn’t even a receptionist.

Deep in this building was a small group of cubicles, staffed by about a dozen men. This tiny group had an audacious goal: sending the first humans to Mars.

Their leader was a young internet entrepreneur named Elon Musk. He had just made $180 million from the sale of PayPal. Many men in his position would buy an island and relax, or perhaps begin a career in philanthrophy. But Elon toiled away in this nondescript warehouse instead, building the future.

This is the subject of an outstanding new book I just finished called Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX.

From this tiny team, Musk built SpaceX, which now does two thirds of all commercial satellite launches in the world and owns the most powerful rocket on earth, the Falcon Heavy. That small group of employees has mushroomed to nearly 10,000.

To go so far so fast, Musk needed the best people in the business, and he focused like a laser on finding them. One engineer’s wife got a job at Google in the Bay Area, which meant he couldn’t accept Musk’s offer to work at SpaceX. Undeterred, Musk called the CEO of Google and got the engineer’s wife a transfer to Los Angeles. Sure enough, he got the engineer he wanted.

Musk went so far as to personally interview the first 3000 people SpaceX hired. Musk paid less and his company was unproven, but he excelled at inspiring people to join him to revolutionize space travel.

Even with Musk’s drive and a superb team, SpaceX faced many struggles. By 2008, they had three failed flights and barely a month’s worth of cash left. Even Elon’s considerable fortune had run dry supporting both SpaceX and Tesla. But Musk and his team stayed focused and successfully launched a rocket into orbit in the nick of time. This achievement won them a NASA contract that kept the company alive.

SpaceX questioned everything about how business is normally done in aerospace. Most companies buy parts from established suppliers, but SpaceX built almost everything itself, substantially lowering its costs. For the parts it did buy elsewhere, SpaceX ignored common practice as well. Instead of paying in 30 days, SpaceX paid in as little as 24 hours. This got their orders prioritized, which helped them move faster than other rocket companies.

Today, only one other private company, Rocket Lab, has reached orbit. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, despite all his money, has never reached orbit. Indeed, SpaceX is so dominant that customers sometimes spread around a few of their orders, just to make sure its competitors don’t all go out of business.

If I had seen Musk in that empty warehouse twenty years ago, I would never have believed what SpaceX would become. But Musk saw it, and stopped at nothing to get there.

When the first man steps on Mars, will it be Musk?

Dig into these posts for more on Elon Musk and space:

Photo: “SpaceX Dragon Propulsive Descent Landing Test” by NASAKennedy is marked with CC PDM 1.0

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