The Importance of Passion and Hustle

When it comes to building a startup, its not just the idea that counts. Your idea should be good of course, but its far from everything. Even a great idea doesn’t equal future success.

Execution is far more important.

Which is why your team is so important. Are you right people to pull this off?

A good mix of past experience and raw talent is important. They help you have the confidence to step into the role you are now have to play. They help you put people in the team into the right positions.

I honestly think Malcolm is the most talented app developers around, and I think I am the one of the most talented business minds around, especially in relation to business strategy and strategic moves.

But, that only gets us in the door. That only helps shape our roles. It says nothing of how well DineMob will do.

We have to execute.


Execution really comes down to three things: passion, hustle, and an open mind.

There seems to be one alumnus in particular with a certain aura of respect about him in the Tech Wildcatters headquarters, and that’s TK Stohlman of FanPrint. From what I gathered just from his speeches and anecdotes on an alumni speaker panel here at TW a few weeks ago, is the dude pretty much embodies passion and hustle.

Passion comes first. You have to believe in the idea and have that passion for it. You have to want it succeed. Passion is the quality that drives people to do something “crazy” by others’ standards: like leaving a 6 figure job to start a new company and take $0 in salary for months to get things up and running, or like flying halfway around the world and setting up shop in a new city at the drop of a dime, because you feel like “I need to be here. For this. Right now.”

Passion drives hustle. Nobody hustles for something they don’t really believe in.


DineMob co-founders William & Malcolm


The hustle is key

Here’s a quick humble brag: I graduated in the top 10% of my MBA class at Hult in 2012.

But, it gets more interesting.

At least 50% of our grades throughout the whole program came from team projects. The other 50% came from individual projects.

I’ve seen plenty of smart people go through that program and make excellent grades on individual assignments (exams, papers), but fail to graduate in the top 10%. Their most common excuse: they were on “weak teams” (they had weak teammates).

That’s not the case for me. My situation is almost the opposite.

My individual grades during my MBA program (exams, papers) were good, but often not great.

My team grades carried me into the top 10%. My teams always finished at or near the top of every class project.

In every class. Different teammates. Still at or near the top.

I’d like to think of myself as the common denominator here. Maybe I am. Or maybe I just got lucky and had great teammates.

The truth is: I hustled, and busted my ass for every team I worked on, led by example, and my teammates did the same.

Throughout the MBA program, no matter which course, my teams were often the last to leave the building.

We worked hard.

Now, at the helm of DineMob, here at Tech Wildcatters, I’m seeing similar scripts play out.

Investors, mentors, advisors, other teams, staff here at TW…. I’m starting to feel it: an air of respect, and notion that DineMob is at the top of their minds, and they are on board with what we are doing.

It’s the same kind of respect a white belt in jiu jitsu gets when he steps on the mat with a black belt and shows he’s willing to hustle and he’s willing to learn.

It gets noticed. It gets respect.

But, even more than that, it gets results…


– William Peregoy

co-Founder @DineMob

Prioritize Your Fears

I remember a long time ago when I started my record label and started selling CDs. One of the first things my “mentor” at the time told me was:

Just go out there and talk to people, it’s the only way you’re going to get sales. You can’t be scared of the word “no”.

He used to say that all of the time:

You can’t be scared of the word “no”.

It hit home with me, and I excelled. I had no worries about approaching people to make sales and therefore, I sold a lot. I outsold all of my peers, my teammates, and when I looked around at them, they just weren’t doing it – they weren’t talking to people. They made excuses.

They’re scared of the word “no”.

Is what my mentor said about them. Maybe it was true.

I never understood why, or what they were scared of, why they didn’t just do it.

When I was in China, I saw something similar with learning Chinese. I was studying ad-hoc, downloading Chinese character apps, talking to random Chinese girls I met in the street and really just trying to pick up as much of the language as I could…. for free.

I knew another Westerner who was in town. She was paying a shit ton of money for a private tutor to learn Chinese. She was learning “all the right things”, but I never heard her.

I never heard her speak the language. Not once. I know she had a private tutor and went to lessons everyday. But she wouldn’t speak the language. Not in front of me anyway.

We would go somewhere – even in the taxi cab, I would look at her and say, “”tell them where we’re going.”

She’d look at me with fear in her eyes, “Nooo!” she’d say, “you tell them.”

So I would. In my butchering awful Chinese I would tell them. Sometimes the taxicab drivers would laugh at me and repeat what I said laughing hysterically. Then guess what they would do?

They would pronounce it correctly and try to get me to repeat it.

They would help me say it correctly.

They would help me learn.

This motivated me tremendously and I tried speaking Chinese to plenty of more people in China… with similar results. Yes, a lot of times they laughed – but that never bothered me.

Should it? I don’t see why. It’s not my native language and I’d only been looking at it for a few weeks… plus, it’s a language everybody considers to be fairly difficult. The fact that I said things that were funny to native speakers didn’t bother me a bit or make me feel stupid. It actually made me laugh as well, cuz I knew that shit must be funny, especially with my accent.

When I look at it, a lot of people have similar fears. Across platforms. In various fields/interests. If you get past it easily, you look at other people who struggle with it and think “dude, what is wrong with you? Just do it!”

But fears are real and everybody has them. You don’t get through them just through willpower alone. You have to find ways around them, tricks to help you out.. and most importantly you have to prioritize them.

I’ve been studying a lot on focus and energy lately. If there’s something stopping you because of a fear, I honestly think you have to determine how bad you want to overcome it. If you do decide you want to overcome this fear – prioritize it.

Make it your main focus. Your main priority.

Put everything else aside. 

I mean it.

Too many focuses will stretch you thin and you’ll never do it. If it is your main focus, act like it. Make it your only focus for a set period of time and tackle it.

Or don’t, but then don’t be surprised that you never beat it.

no fear

Face the world with NO FEAR…



From France to Singapore: One Man’s Story from Surfing Internet 1.0 in 2000 to Becoming Head of Digital Customer Experience in 2013 and Still More to Come…

“We think of success as only measured by your money. / But, money never lasts. / In fact, it’s only last / on the list of impactful things you can ask for / …So, with that – we need us a plan…” – Wale, The Perfect Plan

Welcome to The Many Faces of Success Interview Series: a reoccurring interview series focusing on success in many forms. From entrepreneurs to writers, to travellers who are just living the life they want to live…in this interview series I sit down with people who are living and defining their own success on their own terms, people who I find inspiring, and whose stories I find interesting enough to share here.

In today’s post I sit down with Pascal Ly: Head of Web Marketing for Asia Pacific at the time I have done this interview with him, before he moved into his new role recently as Head of Digital Customer Experience for Schneider Electric. Pascal was promoted to this post at a fairly young age, after stints in consulting, IT, web development, business development, and an early start in entrepreneurship. He is originally from Lille, France, which is where he started his early career in 2000 before moving to Paris in 2006 to continue exploring new horizon before ending up in Singapore in 2010.

I originally met up with Pascal when I was living in Singapore last year and he invited me out to Salesforce’s offices for a chat and share his story with me. I enjoyed it and found it quite inspiring. So much so, that I caught up with him during a recent short trip to Singapore to hear him tell it again in order to write this blogpost. We caught up at a Starbucks on a Saturday, had a couple of coffees, and the following conversation took place:


Pascal Ly


Beginnings: An Entrepreneur by Age 19.

William: Let’s start with your story. I remember you telling me last time, when you were young you started a company?

Pascal: Yes, that’s correct.

The company I created with 2 other partners, it was in the year 2000, just before my 20 years old. It was a company that was offering professional stock charts tool to the general public. All was needed to use our service is a computer, a browser and an internet connection. The users would sign up to be able to create their online portfolios, and would also connect several times per day which was increasing the numbers of page viewed. That was basically our business model – create value to the business with customer data and also generate revenue with ads. I can tell you that business model was almost the single one at that time and the only one valued as every business income was generated by the ads at that time. It was the “everything is for free on Internet” era.

How did the development go?

Well, once that our platform was ready we went down showcasing our services in an exhibition that was focused on Online Trading for the general public interested in personal trading. To be honest, the exhibition was 3 days long and the very first impression I had was a mix of happiness and stress. Our booth was only 10 meter square in a corner of the exhibition campground and we were surrounded by those enormous booth held by those Online brokers which were subsidiaries of big banks. They had tons of resources: manpower, demo, goodies and… names. We were no one at the exhibition, and lucky for us those guys were not our competitors. I quickly realized that we could offer our services to them, having our solutions integrated into their platform and be useful to their customers.

At the end of those 3 days exhibition, we had attracted a lot of interest both from the public and the Online trader companies. I believe it is thanks to that exhibition that we had business angels getting interested in buying our company. So, the company got sold to those business angels, even though I didn’t want it as I wanted to continue making it grow, but my 2 other partners were keen to proceed, so it was sold. They didn’t want to keep the management at that time. They were saying “youngsters, let us do the business and we’ll figure out how to do it even better”. Now looking back into how things went, well it was a good decision because at the end of the day what happened is that the bubble came very quickly and then…

So y’all were able to sell the company right before the bubble?

Yeah, that’s right. And then the bubble came and it all crashed. Like wow, we didn’t see it coming. I remember not totally realizing what was happening at that time.

So sometimes it’s just luck?

Sometimes it’s just luck. I really believe that sometimes it’s just luck. That also means that you do need to provoke luck. Do nothing and nothing will happen, try something and see what results come out of it. Even though I do believe that a 360 degree view is needed to really understand where your business is standing and what could be the opportunities and threat to your business. Most of the time we only look into one single direction, and that is when you are putting a company in a dangerous situation.

So you quit your studies to start the company?

I was feeling deep inside the urge to create something now. The most difficult part for anybody is to start. I felt I had nothing to lose but a lot to win so I did it.

Act on it while you have the passion?

Act on it while you have the passion, as you never know what can happen tomorrow. So when an opportunity knoks at your door, you have to grab it. And if you fail, it’s okay, because you have to be able to accept that failure is part of the path to success.

This company was created and located in France, right?

Yeah, that was in France. In 2000. Just started at the beginning of 2000, and the end was in 2000 as well.

The Early Internet, Dial-Up Modems, and Big Car Phones

Ok. So what’d you do after you sold the company?

So, after that I moved… However I wanted to stay on the internet industry in a way or another. It was something very new and I could sense the opportunity. My first time I was on the internet I was 16 years old in1996. So I was already on the internet for 4 years before I was starting my company.

What do mean by “the first time you were on the internet”?

Meaning started to surf on the internet, to chat, and to send email. You know at that time we were using the 56K modems, so you know… tick, tick, tick… beeeepp… and then you’re getting connected. I was using internet with 2 other classmate, and actually it’s one of them who had initiated me into internet. No one I knew in my network was using it or even knowing what was internet. At that time, I was already wondering of how we could be able to transfer files without waiting weeks. I was a huge PC gamer at that time and our internet connection was billed per hour (sic) with no online gaming such as MMORPG.

Guess what, I’m still using nowadays my Hotmail email address that I created in 1999.

And you still use the same address?

Still using it. It’s my primary email address and not something I will change. Nowadays thanks to mailinator we can sign up for almost anything avoiding spam. I didn’t had that at that time and so I’m regularly using mailinator nowadays when I sign up for non-important stuff.

Actually, I like to detect early trends. Because, I remember at that time the internet was something, but mobile was also something coming up. My first mobile phone I had it in 1997.

Was it one of those big car phones? Or what was it?

It wasn’t that big. Even though it was like the size of a soft drink can, without the antenna and the keyboard clap deployed and with double the weight. So all deployed it was the size of 2 soft drink can. I discovered that mobile phone gives you freedom with totally new experience. Imagine yourself as a very young adult, if not a teenager still, being able to call your girlfriend in a quiet room without anyone hearing your conversation. So I bought one for my girlfriend and it the experience was amazing. I also remember starting using SMS at that time. It was totally free at that time as it was more used for technical usage, soon to be the cash cow for the telcos when they realized that there was an opportunity for them to create an offer. Remember what I said earlier about opportunities and 360 view? That’s a great example.

Progression into a Digital Agency

So, what’d you get into? You wanted to stay in internet?

Indeed, I stayed in the internet industry. I moved on joining one of France’s leading digital agency at that time – The agency had 150 employees with big names as our customers, and I was lucky to actively participate on the account of Nintendo. Sometime people ask me how come I got embarked into it. I believe it all comes to attitude mostly.

So I went on working with my bosses’ boss and meet with the Marketing Director and his team. The experience was really great, nothing is more worth than the experience compared to the theory – maybe that’s why I was wondering what I was doing at school instead of experiencing real life. Attending meetings, listening to conversations happening was fantastic, especially when the customer is asking me directly questions and encouraging to really voice out what I was thinking. You have to put back in context where internet was still relatively new to everyone, and they needed idea to be ahead in this new media. I learned at that time that any ideas can be good and can be coming from anyone in a room regardless of their position or experience. Review what you know in an unknown context to understand the new rules. This could be applicable for social media nowadays.

This fantastic journey in that agency lasted for about 2 years before it completely shut down. The company grew so fast that it had hired in consequence, and have not seen an important factor in the equation – when a website is done, it takes 3 to 5 years before revamping it. So when you have almost all the big companies having a website already then what do you do meanwhile? When realizing the situation, it was too late. The company had no choice but to completely close down. That was unexpected and sad, however, I’m really grateful to have been part of this company and have worked with people who have mentored me.

So, after that company shut down, then what’d you do?

So after that company shut down, I was still convinced that I wanted to stay in the internet industry. I was lucky to get in touch with Normedia, a traditional communication agency that wanted to operate a shift into digital. The connection between them and me went very well and so we started a new chapter for Normedia together. Then was born Ingeeny lab – the digital section of Normedia.

I had ambition, passion and I knew which direction I wanted to take.

They gave me all the keys so I could create that business unit. I come up with the new name, the new logo, build up the team from the ground. I was wearing different hats to cover all the different role needed from general management to project manager and also sales representative. Competing against others was really thought. To make our place in the market there was only one option: be providing more services than others would do. That would start with a simple mojo: listen to what our customers wants, what is the real issue and how can we help solve their problem. If you can give value to the customer and show them what’s in there for them, then you already have done the most difficult part of the job.

I stayed in the company for 4 years. Growing up from just myself and another guy to nine people when I left.

So this is still in France?

Indeed, still in France. After 3 years and having stabilized the business unit I decide to go back to school attending 1 year study at EDHEC Business School for the Advance Management Program. After graduating I realize that it was time to move on as I wanted to explore consulting and get experience in a multinational company.

Stints in Consulting and Working with Smart People

I left Ingeeny lab and joined a well renowed multinational: Capgemini. My consulting and multinational experience have started with them.

Kind like strategy consulting, but still in the IT or, something else?

It was mainly about IT and my focus was definitely into consulting, getting in touch with decision makers on another level than my previous experiences.

It was the biggest company you worked for so far?

Definitely, I also made my move to Paris to join Capgemini. Being working at La Defense which is the French business district with view on the Eiffel Tower was a blast. I have quickly been appointed as IT consultant assigned to a public function account – basically working for a government body that I will call the Agency. I was in charge of ensuring that all the architectures on the different projects that the Agency’s project managers wanted to implement was respecting the different principles of SOA architecture that we wanted them to apply.

I learned a lot. My colleagues were fantastic as they were always supporting me to acquire the right level of knowledge to cover what I was suppose to cover. I had trust from my management and my team members.

I was teaming up with two senior people. They were very senior: like more than ten year experiences in that field. I was very worried because, I was very junior, in that field. Instead the team was counting on me to help them solve problems. Basically I was conducting and participating in “questions” meeting which had helped them find solutions as we were looking problems in different angles.

This is really powerful. That’s also what I was saying earlier: ideas can come from anybody, because you can help others to generate other ideas, to find solutions when they are just talking with someone else.

One of the things that was fantastic from my colleagues is that they never at any moment questioned why I was in the team. I was part of the team. They were trusting me. There were things that I didn’t know how to do, but I was just pulling up my sleeves, getting into reading books, doing research, getting things done by understanding what those things are about.

So, at the end of the my assignment, which was the one year assignment, I was able to understand and explain to others what was an SOA architecture, how to implement it correctly, and what were the things that we should be doing. I continue on that assignment for an additional year.

So, the thing that made me moved from Capgemini is because it was too technical and still a bit far from the business. I wanted to be much closer to the business. So, I moved into this company, weave, that is a consulting in management and organization.

Okay, so you stayed in consulting?

Indeed, I stayed in consulting.

I joined weave, and was impressed by the number of very smart people I was working with. When you work with smart people you tend to become smarter yourself.

So, basically I joined and then I was assigned to a lot of different kinds of assignments. Finally doing the kind of consulting I wanted. The kind of consulting that is looking into a problem in 360 degree view.

So, this is strategy consulting?

The partners were coming from other big consulting companies with their tools and methodology. The mojo was constructive impertinence. Which I still adhere to nowadays.

I was more in charge of solving problems related to the Information System on first assignement. Even thought it was about IS and IT, we were always keeping in sight the business and the users. It was different from Capgemini where we were keeping in sight the technology.

The entire paradigm is changed and do make sense to me.

Okay and now it’s flipped, right?

It’s flipped. So it’s: “what’s the business requirement? what’s going on? what’s the problem? how can we help to get things working better for the business by implementing solutions that will be adapted to the business’ needs?”

Totally different and it just opens up. You can look into a problem from different angles. Depending on the angle that you take, you will have different effect.

I stayed there for 2 years. I enjoyed it a lot.

The mind set of the firm was very good. They wanted to grow, but not become humongous. You know, you want become taller and stronger, but not fat.

Next Stop: Singapore

Ah okay..

So, I moved out because I just wanted to come to Singapore. I did a transit in Singapore and I found that Singapore was a place that I wanted to be.

A great place for business, or for technology, or for..?

To live. It just felt like home.

I didn’t know Singapore. It was just a Southeast Asian Country I’ve heard about.

But, I was very surprised by the country: the dynamism, the infrastructure, and I was just wandering around the city and it just felt like home.

I just felt that I had to come. On the way back to France, on the plane, my decision was made.

You just decided that you needed to come back to Singapore?

Indeed, I went to see my boss and I told him about my new aspiration to take a new challenge in Singapore.

So, you resigned just to go to Singapore?

Yes, I resigned, moved out my stuff and then I came to Singapore.

I wanted to continue doing consulting but my English was an issue, at least in the consulting world where each word has got its weight and importance.

Okay. So, the jargon and slang..

Indeed, it was really hard to get the correct words and terms while I was doing my interviews. So instead of insisting taking a path that would most likely lead to certain failure, I prefered changing path. For anything I would engage myself into, I would ensure putting all assets on my side.

So, I wasn’t able to pursue anything in that field in Singapore and also wanted to find a way to get into the big ones: the BCGs, the McKinseys. So, I was thinking of going for a MBA. Taking a step back then, I thought about it and though that’s not necessarily what I want.

Again, it’s a question of what’s your objective at the end of the day. You might have zero plans or a very well-crafted one. In many cases plans might fail. One thing that will stay there is your objective. So you have to stick to it and just stay focused on the objective. The plans will come along the way to make you achieve that objective.

How long were you in Singapore looking before you found a job?

3 months. I took on a job that was senior project manager role. The role felt like what I was doing back in France, in previous experiences at Ingeeny lab and Capgemini.

I have had been assigned to work with Philips Lighting, it was exciting to work with another big company but I was wondering what would be in there for me. Well guess what, as soon as I started working with Philips, I realized that I was learning quite a lot. I was realizing that in any situation you can acquire new experiences. It is all about what you want to do about your job that will make it an awesome experience or not. I managed to turn this experience into a really great thing because I felt I could explore and experience a new environment, a different culture, different projects and a different industry.

So how long did you stay?

I just stayed 9 months as then the project was ending and no renewal was proposed, so in this situation I only could quit and start looking around.

So with that customer what markably are they at? Was it the Asian market?

Indeed, it was Asia.

Asia is a very interesting and exciting place to be. Coming to SIngapore and living it from inside as truly been an eye opener. There are wider opportunities and the entire APAC region is interesting, I was working with different people across the world, from Europe to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, also Australia. So it was really interesting.

And, Into

So I moved into taking care of a regional role for the APAC region. For the anecdote, the first role I had at was a position I applied before moving to Singapore, without success though. However the job stayed vacant for almost a year. Feels like the job was just waiting for me to join at the right time and the right moment.

So you moved from Phillips into


For the first time after over 10 years of experience I’m moving into the end-customer side. All my prior experience have had been around providing services to end-customers. Now I’m an end-customer.

For sure my previous experience servicing end-customer is a strong asset, as I do have a very strong sense of service. I know what it is to serve your employees, your peers, your customers, your stakeholders. Actually, service is very strong in my DNA.

When my contract was ending with Philips, I could have started to worry to get into bad time for finding a job again. But the experience I had accumulated and lived with Philips had given me confidence that I could make it here in Singapore and that I could join for a position that seems just to be waiting for me.

So, I joined, and I’ve stayed there for 2.5 years. My first role was Web Production Manager for a year, then I get promoted to be the Head of Web Marketing just a year after. I have held this last position for 1.5 years.

To me, luck means being at the right place at the right moment. If you feel like there’s something to do, then you should be really trying to push for it and to do it. You never know if it will be success or failure at the end. One thing for sure, you won’t have regrets of having tried.

So, in the past, you did a lot of servicing clients, servicing customers and I guess a bit of business development too. Now in, do you think that plays into the business model or customer relationship management?

It’s like what the CEO of, Marc Benioff, is saying, “every role in is customer-facing”. It is so true. The website we are developing is most of the time the first point of contact with With all respect we have to the customers, we need to ensure that everything is ready to welcome them on the website with a smooth experience.

People get in touch with you through the website? So, it’s mostly inbound marketing? or…?

It’s both.

Mainly for us, we are applying an inbound strategy to try to attract people to come to our websites. It’s also asking them to leave us contact details if they are interested so then we can get back to them and that’s how we are generating leads in our business.

Alright… Time up?

Yeah, time up. I really need to run.

Change is always happening

======= UPDATE: from Pascal ======

Since our last interview, I have moved into an amazing opportunity with Schneider Electric. I’m basically making the company get into this transformation journey, shifting the entire company into the digital era. My role is crucial here as I need to ensure all parts are moving along together. This is great to see all the accumulated experience getting a practical case. No more direct reports, but huge amount of people to work with in virtual teams.

It’s been over a month since I’m in this new business. Totally new, with people having huge amount of experience in the business. I’m impressed by the number of years people have been with this company and expect to learn a lot from them.

For sure this new role is a step further towards my objective. The plan changes along the way as opportunity appears, but one thing remains stable – the objective.

Probably will be able to share more in near future, I would be glad to look back into this blog post in few month or years and see how things are evolving.

What Bad Reviews Really Say About Virtual Office Companies; and What It Has in Common With the Financial Crisis

When I was starting this blog, I looked around for virtual office companies

I thought I’d check some reviews.  I did. They were all horrible.

Regus, Servcorp, DaVinci – it didn’t matter. They all had loads and loads of pissed off ex-customers.

Maybe I’ll just stick with Starbucks, I thought….

But, there’s something more interesting than just the loads of bad reviews – and those are the occasional good reviews, and the often rebuttals from the company.

Essentially all of the bad reviewers are just idiots who didn’t read the fine print in their contracts. Clearly they’re problem.

Oh, except for the fact that there’s now loads of bad reviews online about these companies, possibly steering away new clients.

What should the companies do to address such a problem?

They should first determine who their target customers are. A quick glance at all of the bad reviews – they were mostly written by cash-strapped start-ups who got very frustrated at being nickel and dimed and can’t get out of their contracts on time.

You could say, their fault – they are all idiots who didn’t read the contracts they signed. And the legal teams would all agree with with you.

But, what about the court of public opinion? These companies are receiving complaints on every fraud site. They look like corporate assholes who don’t know how to work with customers.

So – these companies should do a few things. Look at the customers you’re bringing in. Determine if you even want them as customers – do you want cash-strapped start-ups as customers who are likely going to pay you for awhile and then get sick of you and leave you a bad review online?  Is this good for future business?

Why are your sales teams pushing these people into contracts? How are you incentivizing your sales teams?

Similar to the financial crisis – the GFC happened because people were pushed into houses they couldn’t afford by salesguys and loansharks, because they were incentized to do it.

You could write them off as idiots who should’ve known they couldn’t afford half-million dollar houses. But, hey, nobody told them otherwise.


Are cash-strapped start-ups your target market? (probably, you sell virtual office products – they would seem to be a market interested in such)

Then, change the way you interact with them.  Tell them what all the costs are upfront (don’t hide them in small print), remind them when certain costs are set to take place, or when their contracts are set to renew (and when they need to cancel by, if they want to cancel).

You think it sounds like a bad idea – to remind your customers that they can cancel, and to not hide costs, etc:

but doing so will:

1. Improve customer loyalty

2. Bring down the bad online reviews


The Day the Earth Stood Still: The End of My First “Career”


I was once an equities trader…

Three and a half years ago, I was an equities trader. It was my first “job” out of college. I did it for a couple of years – I had some great months, had some crap months. It was fun. It was tough. It was… money.

And not just any money – but real money. Hundreds of thousands. Millions. Or at least dreams of it.

I hardly talk about it much these days. I haven’t looked at the market much at all since I left it. I heard the dow hit highs earlier this year. I’d short that.


The other day a young twenty-one year old dude at my hostel made some mention about how he wants to start a business, learn to trade stocks and forex, and some other things.

My response, “I’ve done all of that….”

I don’t know why I said it like that. It just came out.

I’m passed that phase in my life of chasing a quick buck. I did that for too long.

He kept asking me about it, and I told him the one story that popped in my head, the one that really stuck out. A day I lost about $8,000 because I was early and got shook out and then sat there as the guy next to me made $300,000 and the guy across from me made $1 million. In one day. Yes, they keep most of it.

It sticks out to me – because it was essentially the last day I traded. I mean, I stuck around for maybe a month or so after that – but mostly I didn’t come in the office much anymore. After that I was pretty much done. Pretty burnt out and ready to look around and pursue other career options.

After I told him that story, he asked me a few more things about trading and I figured – maybe I’d have something on my computer to show him to give him a feel for what I used to do. Not sure what I still had from those days, I went digging.

Interestingly enough the first thing I stumbled on was my trading journal from that exact day.

I figured it’d make for a good blogpost. It’s interesting to see something written so long ago from me. It’s interesting to read it and try to gauge how I felt at the time. It’s interesting to give up on your career when people around you just had “career days.”

It’s all in perspective. But, here it is. In full glory. Unedited from then. My thoughts on that day. The only thing changed is the names of people in it.

From the archives. May 6, 2010 (yes, those who recognize the significance of the day this was the “Flash Crash“)

I think it starts with this trade in EDD… but it gets better.


EDD – Spiked down, so I bought 300 at 14.80.  When it bounced a bit, I covered 100 at 14.94.  I was trying to hold the rest, but it went back to my breakeven price and I got out of it.

LPL – Was selling off, so I picked up 100 shares at 19.09 to watch it and play the bounce.  Changed my mind about it and covered at 19.04.

BCS-  – BCS- was down a lot on the day, as all the BCS preferreds were.  I had just seen them sell off yesterday morning and bounce all the way back, but today’s move had lasted longer already and was selling off further.  I bought 100 at 19.25 in order to watch it and get in it bigger when it did start bouncing.   A few minutes later it looked like it could be bouncing, so I picked up another 200 at 19.38.  Then, it sold back off to new lows.  I still felt like it was going to bounce and I felt like the whole number 19 could provide some support, so I picked up another 200 at 19.16 and another 200 at 19.08.

DNP – Sold off sharply on no news, so I bought 500 at 8.80.  I covered 300 at 8.88 on a bounce a little while later.

RBS-F – This stock also sold off on a sharp leg down, so I bought 500 at 18.89.  It bounced a bit and I covered 200 at 18.99.

LINE – another stock that sold off on a sharp leg down.  I bought 300 at 23.43.

HTD – Another one that sold off sharply that I picked up 300 at 13.08.

BAC-I – this sold off on a sharp leg down as well and it went into slow quote, while the ECN’s were still trading above where the specialist was printing.  I threw some orders at it and got filled on 3,000 shares at 21.07, but as soon as I got filled the ECN’s were down there now too.  I made the decision to hold it along with the other preferred and funds I was accumulating, because I still expected a nice bounce to occur.   Then, it sold off some more against me, so I grabbed another 1,000 at 20.70 in order to get my average price down.    I was scared of this because of how much size I was in.  I knew I was in more than I wanted to be in earlier than I wanted to be, but I made the decision to hold it since I expected a nice bounce to happen.

PFF – The preferred ETF was selling off hard as a lot of the preferred and funds were taking these sharp legs down.  I figured something was going on with PFF or it’s holdings – somebody was dumping preferred shares?  PFF was rebalancing or something?  I figured something was going on with this and had a flashback to that day last October when PFF and it’s holdings went up strongly and then eventually came all the way back.  I got long 700 PFF at 35.39 in order to watch it and my plan was to get big once it looked to really be bouncing.

FTB-C – another holding of PFF that did the same leg down type of move.  I picked up 200 at 24.15.

BAC-J – another one.  I picked up 200 at BAC-J.

Now, I was holding all of these positions – 4,000 BAC-I, 700 PFF, 700 BCS-, 200 DNP, 300 RBS-F, 300 LINE, 300 HTD, 200 FTB-C and 200 BAC-J, and more preferred stocks and small thinly traded funds kept making the same move.  A quick sweep down.  Then, they would bounce a bit, but not really go anywhere.  It kept happening, but I was in so much BAC-I that I couldn’t pick up any other stocks, I already felt like I had a lot at risk and I was already down enough in my positions to be past my loss limit.  PFF took another leg down and I decided to hold it, since I was past my loss limit and wanted to be in it when it bounced.  The stocks kept selling off on me, but I was holding out for the bounce.  I was turned off at this point and couldn’t open up any new positions, so I got up to talk to my coach to see if I could get turned back on when things started to bounce so that I could load up, particularly in PFF since that’s what I thought this move was based on still.  I was trying to hold for the bounce, but my positions just kept going against me.  I got down over 1.5 points in PFF and then I really started hurting when BAC-I took another leg down and I was now down a point in that position.  I was really watching my P/L now and trying to draw a line in the sand.  I was down $7K now and so I started to lighten up.  PFF and the others took another leg down as the whole market really started to sell off and pick up steam.  I covered everything once I saw my P/L go down over $8K.  Once I was out, I was down about $8.5K on the day.   I was definitely disappointed with how that turned out.  Pretty much as soon as I covered the market really started nose diving – the Dow went from being down 200 pts. to 400 pts. to 600, 700… all in a matter of minutes.  The market was tanking fast.  The Pit yelled out that the circuit breaker would be triggered once the Dow was down 1050.  Brad and Kyle start yelling and telling people to buy before the circuit breaker got hit, I thought that was a good strategy, but at this point, I was cut off and way past my loss limit and too devastated and disappointed to even think about opening another position.  The Dow went down as much as 998.5 I guess, it moved so fast, I saw it down 980 and then it was only down 930, then only 850 – It was bouncing back hard – V-bottom type of move.  Kyle yelled out to buy anything that was down, and next thing I know, my coach went from being down 10k on the day to up 30k.  Sam who sits next to me bought some PG and some GE at really low prices and was already up a lot now that they were bouncing.  I really felt like I was missing out on the action, so I went and talked to James about getting turned back on and he gave me a little more room, but the Dow was only down 400 now and I had missed most of the move and most of the craziness, but I was able to place the following trades:

CSX – CSX and plenty of other stocks were showing umode, so I went through them and tried to hang out orders on both sides away from the market and to the specialist.  CSX was the only one that printed me.  I got short 14,000 CSX at 52.50, and started covering instantly at 52.27 and 52.29.  It took me awhile to realize how much size I was in and how many times I had to hit my button to cover it all and the ECN’s bounced on me some, so that my last fills were at 52.48.  My average cover was around 52.40, so I pretty much made 10 cents on 14,000 shares.

BID – I tried to get a good fill on BID as well, but was only able to get 100 shares from 34.40.  Covered at 34.29.

HHH – HHH spiked all the way to 156 and it was normally a $56 stock.  I shorted some  at 116 as soon as I saw it, but I knew those prices would break, so I tried to wait for it to go back lower in order to get more.  I shorted another 800 at 62’s and then another 1,200 or so at 56.50 and 56.38.  Everything above 60.08 wound up breaking, so I didn’t get to keep my 62’s.  This didn’t break until way after the market closed, so I held the 1,200 from an average of 56.42 overnight.

SLM – I got filled long in SLM with 4,100 shares at 11.22, but was down about 10 cents as soon as I got filled, so I just covered.  Looking at the chart, I wasn’t long from a great price by any means.

BRK.A – I got the closing print on BRK.A, short 1 share from 113,500.  I pennied the bid at 112,500 and covered my share at 112,501. So, I made 1,000 pts. on that 1 share.


Three and a half years have passed. But reading this still spikes my adrenaline. Crazy. I remember a lot of it vividly – not the details and particular stocks, but the action on the trading floor and what was happening that day: where I was at certain times, who I was talking to, etc. – all of that is very vivid in my memory.

It’s hard to tell where I ended up on the day – because I made some of it back from the downward peak of being down $8,500 – including ending the day with a quick $1,000 trade on 1 share of Berkshire Hathaway.

But, basically what happened is this was a career-making day in a slow market. 2010 had been a shit slow year of watching paint dry. And this was the day. Some traders made their whole year’s income in this day. You just can’t miss days like this as a trader…. and I missed it. And, it wasn’t the first time – and I was sick of it.

That’s ultimately what ended that career. Missing out on too many “career days”.


Life goes on…


Don’t Bet Against Apple Yet

Apple’s stock price has been sliding. Down almost 50% from its peak. Analysts have cut estimates and changed their forecasts. Apple recently announced a new stock incentive plan for CEO Tim Cook. One than only offered more down-side risk to him and nothing beneficial. Cook was all for it.

Some are worried that Apple’s run may be over. That they may be faltering.

But don’t count them out yet.

Don’t worry about them.. yet.

For the past 15+ years Apple built an eco-system, under Jobs, that turned the company around; that brought it from the brink of bankruptcy all the way to the most valuable company in the world.

Jobs and Apple did this by controlling the user experience – and creating their own eco-system from innovate products, to software, to stores.

That eco-system is still on top and still offers Apple a lot of advantages that other companies don’t have.

Sure Samsung finally dethroned them from the top spot of the mobile industry (in terms of market share), but that’s hardly a cause for concern. Other phone manufacturers have put out well-put together products for years that competed on specs with the iPhone, but it wasn’t until the Galaxy that somebody finally put the right marketing push behind one. Samsung got it right. They marketed their product very well, and they’re a big player now.

It’s a two-horse race – but Apple is the more integrated company. And the more innovative one.

But, it’s only a two-horse race between Apple and Samsung from a mobile phone hardware perspective.

It’s a two-horse race between Apple and Google in the mobile phone software space.

It’s still a two-horse race between Apple and Microsoft in the personal computer space – one which Apple hasn’t since the early 80’s. And, actually that’s just from a software side. From a hardware perspective – well, its arguable that Apple has done better than any of its competitors. IBM sold off their PC division to a Chinese company. HP and Dell have floundered. Apple has actually done better in the transition from desktops to laptops than anybody else has.

And, when it has come to tablets and portable music players – nobody has touched the iPod and iPad yet.

The Apple eco-system has worked well. And it’s not going away anytime soon.

All that Jobs put together is not lost on Cook. He was along for much of that ride. He knows why Apple’s strategy worked so well. We’re not far enough off from that yet.

I haven’t even mentioned what the Apple Store has been able to do yet – with selling apps and music.

Apple is getting a lot of bad press. They lost market share to Samsung. Then, they lost lawsuits to Samsung.

Their latest ads suck.

But none of that matters.

Here’s why:

Apple spent the last 15 years building an eco-system. They practically invented and dominated whole industries: portable music players and tablets.

They made the transition from desktop to laptop as well (if not better) than any other hardware company out there.

They saved the music industry. And as of today, account for 64% of all online music sales and 29% of all music sales worldwide.

They’re still the “cool” company.

And they are the company with the MOST cash on hand. In the world.

Yet, they are currently trading at a P/E of 8.

Facebook and LinkedIN are trading at P/Es of 200+.

Microsoft is trading at a P/E of 17. Microsoft isn’t even cool anymore.


Full disclosure: yes, I own a Mac