Blogs to watch (part 6): Cody Shirk

Blogs to watch (part 6): Cody Shirk
20 March 2020

How far would you travel for a business lunch?

I recently travelled from Washington, DC, to Miami, for the sole purpose of having lunch with a fellow investment writer.

Admittedly, I ended up doing a few other things along the way. Miami is always a hoot to visit, and the route worked nicely for my onward trip to South America.

In a way, though, I did go there primarily for that particular lunch. And I am glad I did, not the least because there might be a surprise outcome that could prove useful for you, too.

Here is why anyone who reads my Weekly Dispatches should check out Cody Shirk's blog.

How I choose featured blogs

As regular readers will have noticed by now, there are a few criteria that I consistently apply when selecting my 'Blogs to Watch':

  • Independent thought.
  • Lots of free content.
  • One-man (or woman) operation.
  • Written by "real" people who are not backed by corporate publishers.

Outside of that, anything goes.

Cody Shirk ticked all the above boxes. What's more, I am actually a huge fan of his writing – and have been so for years.

Here are the 7 reasons why I like Cody's approach to researching, writing and investing.

1: A self-taught former firefighter turned investment expert

Although he rarely talks about it, Cody used to be a professional firefighter in Los Angeles.

He wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and he did not start his career at a white-shoe firm on Wall Street.

Having worked his way up from a blue-collar job, Cody brings a very different perspective to the table.

He also has a pleasant no-holds-barred approach to saying it as it is.

2: A global perspective

There has long been a myth that only 10% of Americans hold a passport. That hasn't been true for more than 20 years – the real figure today is 42%. Still, the vast majority of American investors have a particularly strong home bias. But Cody is an exception from that.

Recognising that the best investment value can often be found outside your home country, he has pursued investments in South America and Asia. He has done so with a hands-on approach.

E.g., since suitable real estate funds for Colombia are rare, Cody organised a syndicate of investors to jointly buy up a high-yielding apartment building in Cali, the country's third-largest city.

The world has 193 recognised countries, some of which I've learned more about through Cody's writing. I consider him to be another set of eyes that roams the globe in search of exciting investment opportunities.

3: Zero overlap with my research (yet)

Since I mentioned how similar Cody's approach and outlook are to mine, it's worth mentioning that we are looking at entirely different investment ideas and themes. I can't remember a single instance when Cody would have written about something that I had covered before.

Reading his output also gives me something new to look at and learn about. E.g., Cody knows all the ins and outs of the US cannabis market, and took me to a local cannabis dispensary during my visit - an eye-opening experience for me!

(If a report about cannabis-related opportunities appears on my website sometime this year, you'll know who to thank.)

4: An irreverent mix of content

Conventional wisdom says that a publication (or an author) needs some kind of thematic focus.

I find this to be precisely the wrong approach, and I practise it both on Undervalued-Shares.com and my personal website, www.swen-lorenz.com. Another thing I fervently believe in is that by sharing content with an intelligent audience, you get incredibly useful feedback, and new opportunities will come your way.

Cody also believes in the value of sharing your thoughts freely and putting yourself out there by writing about a wide range of topics.

As he wrote in his blog post "Putting yourself out there":

"I have dozens of embarrassing articles posted all over the internet.

But even though I’m mortified by some of the things I’ve said in the past, I can’t tell you how many opportunities I’ve had fall in my lap simply by putting myself out there. 

I’ve met CEOs of major companies that have allowed me to invest in unbelievably exclusive deals. The Chinese government has flown me around the world to speak at their sponsored events. I’ve been featured in major newspapers and magazines in countries where I can’t even speak their language.

It’s just a matter of putting yourself out there. The benefits far outweigh the risks."

In my experience, a blog's audience appreciates if its author experiments with content and doesn't stick to conventional boundaries. If you want to play it safe, pick up The New York Times or any other of the big newspapers. Blogs are for finding the kind of ideas and analysis that are not part of the mainstream yet, but which could become mainstream a bit further down the road. This implies that bloggers also need to occasionally experiment with content and themes, rather than stick to safe, proven subjects

Cody has just started doing this again, by outing himself as a prepper (!) and starting a new series about investing in the time of the Wuhan flu. I'll get back to that at the end of this article.

5: A unique business model and investing alongside readers

After experimenting with conventional subscriptions, Cody has evolved his business model.

His blog articles are all for free. They are often much more valuable than what you get from many paid-for publications

You can also benefit from Cody's occasional events. I once attended one of his dinners in London, and for a paltry USD 100 received the opportunity to make some incredible new contacts – and got fed on top of it. Making money off events isn't part of Cody's business model, which is why he can afford to offer them at cost price.

Cody's model nowadays revolves around a private equity firm he created. He organises co-investment deals, or club deals as I like to call them. Cody invests his own money and takes others along for the ride. If this is of any interest to you, the website of the aptly named Explorer Equity Group has more information. There is no fee to join. You just have to be an accredited/qualified investor under the US' SEC rules in order for his firm to legally share the deals that they are pursuing. Currently, he has investors from over two dozen countries who have deployed capital in opportunities that range from cannabis to e-sports to real estate. You can use his website's contact form to get more information on what Cody is currently invested in and where he has taken readers along as co-investors.

What you are most likely going to be interested in is Cody's writing. All his articles (including a new series, more about this later) appear for free on www.codyshirk.com, and he sends out email alerts

6: Happy to meet readers in person

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to personally meet people that I am dealing with.

Is someone I want to write about available to meet in person? It can be telling if they aren't. (Though some bloggers have legitimate reasons to stay anonymous, which I also respect.)

When I meet people, do they strike me as authentic and knowledgeable?

Whether you are in Europe, the US or Asia, it is not that difficult to get hold of Cod

7: An American take on things

I ascribe tremendous value to getting the views of people from around the world.

On the one hand, there is something to be said in favour of not being on the inside and looking at something with the neutral, curious view of an outsider.

Equally, there is a lot to be said in favour of listening to the views of someone who is on the inside.

When you combine both, you get the most complete, objective picture.

Cody grew up on the West Coast where he held a blue-collar job. He now lives on one of the best stretches of the East Coast, just down the road from Mar-a-Lago and the seaside estates of hedge fund titans. You want to subscribe to authors who don't live inside a bubble. Trust Cody for giving you balanced, informed insights about what's happening in the US

Good news – Cody is upping his output!

Over lunch, Cody and I swapped notes about the investment writing and blogging industry.

When we left, Cody said he now felt inspired and energised to write more and more often. With that in mind, I figured my trip will have already been worth it! I'll now get his missives more often, and you can join in.

Lo and behold, Cody has just started a new, aptly-timed series: "The best investment opportunities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic". This past week has already seen him put out four articles, including his confessions as a closet prepper.

Cody and his family are currently self-isolating to stay clear of the crisis, and they have plenty of supplies to keep them going. Notably, he bought his supplies before the hoarding started, because, well, he is a prepper!

Knowing Cody a bit, we are probably all in for a treat now that he has ample time to wear his thinking cap.

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