ThumbTack Fund Report 14 – “Huat Is Your Return”

That is literally what my wife texted me yesterday.

I didn’t know if it was a question or a statement. No punctuation at the end. Or maybe it was a CNY blessing disguised with a word play.

So I replied with a “👍”

And she followed up with “?????”

So yeah, now I know she really just wanted to know. No intelligent word plays, it was a genuine question with a typo.

Anyway, just to illustrate how disconnected my wife is, I asked her, do u know if the US markets were in the green or the red for 2022? And she replied confidently: “Definitely green. Correct?”


CNY is 1 of the very few times in the year when I get a relatively long (read: few days) break from work, and that’s when I rest, recharge, relax and sometimes write some nonsense here. I anticipate that after this post, it’d probably be radio silence for a while. So time to update:

YTD 2023:

SPY: +3.52%

VT: +5.66%

STI: +1.30%

TTF: +18.30%

SINCE INCEPTION (FEB 2020), ANNUALIZED:

SPY: +9.01%

VT: +6.75%

STI: +1.48%

TTF: +30.35%

Note: Returns are MWRs, all figures in USD

TTF’s NAV: USD 2,537,986.77

Deposits/Withdrawals: USD 1,680,551.36

Nett capital gains since inception: USD 857,435.41

For reference, the last fund report: https://thumbtackinvestor.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/thumbtack-fund-report-13-hello-2023/

Since TTF was incorporated in Feb 2020, this means that TTF has enjoyed a nett gain of USD 857,435.41 over a period of 35 months of investment activity, which works out to be USD 24,498.15 every month, or approximately SGD 32.3k per month from Feb 2020 to date. 

Cumulative ROI (Feb 2020 to Jan 2023):

SPY: +29.14%

VT: +21.36%

STI: +4.44%

TTF: +119.47%


TTF started 2023 with a massive bang, shooting out of the starting blocks with some eye popping, world beating returns, as many of my planned longs hit the paydirt. TTF’s AUM increased by 420k USD since the last report, and that was only at the end of 2022. That’s a 420k USD gain in 3 weeks! Hmmm, I could live with that, I think. Hehehe.

I continued applying my market edge, gaining ground over the S&P on every single day of 2023 thus far:

In my previous report (https://thumbtackinvestor.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/thumbtack-fund-report-13-hello-2023/), I wrote that I have 2 objectives for 2023:

  1. Generate an annualized return above the current annualized 3yr average of +19.27%. That’d further increase my long term CAGR.
  2. Increase AUM for TTF to USD 3mil.

Thus far, the CAGR has increased to a massive 30.35%, meeting the 1st objective. AUM has also increased rapidly, and what seemed like a crazy target just 3 weeks ago, is now not so crazy. It’d still require a 500k USD or 20% increase in AUM for the rest of 2023, but I think that’s really now quite do-able. It was a crazy target, but now, I’d be disappointed if I don’t meet it at the end of 2023.

As mentioned in the previous report, I believe that with a small portfolio currently, market beating, outsized, seemingly crazy returns is possible, but I’ve no illusions that this task will get increasingly tougher as the portfolio size gets larger.

And it wouldn’t have to be some super large few hundred mil kinda AUM before it gets tougher. It’d probably be sooner because a lot of what I do currently is extremely effort intensive. It is a intense process, but currently, I can continue to find what I think are market inefficiencies, with a predictable outcome, as well as a catalyst that’d correct this efficiency relatively quickly.


I’d end this short post by replying a couple of comments in my previous fund report (that I’ve promised to reply):

Well, I will have to renege on this a bit, simply cos it’s too much effort, and it’s CNY, and I just feel like eating an excessive amount of Ferrero rocher, drink soju and watch some mindless movie online like what everyone else is doing. Also, the winners are mostly quite complex to understand tbh. They are not straight up longs, or straight up shorts. They vary a lot, and are structured a bit differently from what most folks would easily understand.

Like… what’d you expect man…. u can’t get exceptional alpha by doing normal stuff right?

Instead, I’d just share my list of potential or existing long term longs aka long term Generals:

Now, let me make this clear first. I don’t currently own shares in ALL these names. I don’t have any short positions in any of these names, that’s for sure. But I may not have a long position currently, and if I do, they also may not be straight up equity positions. Some may even be 100% derivative positions.

But in a nutshell, over the long term, I wouldn’t want to bet against any of these companies. Actually, not even over the short term. I think these companies have long term, durable competitive advantages, and I wouldn’t mind building up a buy and hold position in these names, at the right price.

Pls take note of the emphasis “at the right price”.


Finally, let me share a “short” winner in 2022. I’d obviously summarize it very very briefly, but in a nutshell, this is what transpired and my thoughts on it.

On the 27th September 2022, Biogen, a biotech/pharma company, announced results of their Phase III study on Lecanemab, an innovative new drug in the pipeline, targeting Alzheimer’s disease:

https://investors.biogen.com/news-releases/news-release-details/lecanemab-confirmatory-phase-3-clarity-ad-study-met-primary

Now, some of you paying attention to this space would know that currently, there is a shit ton of research going on, trying to find better treatment modalities for Alzheimer’s disease. And rightly so, it’s a damn disgusting disease, and currently, there is no real cure. It’s especially disgusting because it not only destroys the life of the victim, more crucially, it destroys the life of the caregiver aka your immediate family.

Now, Biogen’s Phase III trial yield good results, as the study of 1,795 people met it’s primary endpoints, as well as all key secondary endpoints. With these good results, the share price skyrocketed on that day:

It ended the day up 41%, but I remember it was up even more crazily intra-day, like well over 60% at 1 point.

This is not surprising though, it’s common for biopharma companies to shoot up or crash in a single day on such critical news.

What caught my eye though, was ANOTHER biopharma company: Acumen Pharmaceuticals

Following this piece of news, Acumen also shot up:

That’s an almost 140% gain on the back of this positive news…………….. from a COMPETITOR’S Phase III study.

The reason for the market’s optimism for Acumen, was that Acumen (ABOS) has a drug candidate for Alzheimer’s too (named ACU193). And this drug compound has a similar mechanism of action (MOA) as Biogen’s, basically an amyloid oliogmer targeting antibody.

A bit of technical stuff here, but basically the beta-amyloid 42 is a sibei damn toxic protein that joins together to form some massive plaques in the brain and that causes Alzheimer’s, so both their drug compounds work somewhat similarly (there are small differences, but if I go into that level of detail, most people will stop reading), and the drug compounds work by targeting these amyloid compounds.

Now, I sat up when I saw the 140% spike in the share price for several reasons. I’d summarize it here:

  1. As mentioned, although they have similar MOA, there are slight differences. The markets are not wrong in assigning SOME optimism to ABOS… but +140% worth? That’s like pricing in a huge chunk of any potential upside already
  2. Even if they have similar MOA, come on, your COMPETITOR gets approved first, that’d at least be some negativity for you, ain’t it?
  3. ABOS is a single drug company, ACU193 is their only drug in the pipeline, so it’s very “clean”. The jump in the share price is purely due to this piece of news. There aren’t any other confounding factors that’d blindslide me.
  4. Unlike Biogen, ABOS is in PHASE 1 trials! It’d be umpteen years before they even reach commercialization, and along the way, any number of things can go wrong.
  5. Most importantly, nestled within Biogen’s loudly trumpeted success, if one bothers to actually peer into the actual data, lecanemab only showed a 27% slowing in cognitive decline in that Phase III trial. Only 27%! It’s good… but 27% improvement is not exactly game changing. Also, with only 27%, you gotta wonder if there will be any PERCEIVABLE improvement in clinical outcomes. You gotta remember, Alzheimer’s disease is mostly a… “qualitative” disease, unlikely something like say…. high blood pressure, where you can measure it quantitatively.
  6. There are some doubts regarding the safety profile: 2 study participants died (I think. Can’t remember the exact number, writing off the top of my head now). There’d surely be some form of “black box” warning label needed as the FDA covers their own ass.
  7. The literature also suggests that all the amyloid targeting therapies are more likely to be adjunctive therapies, aka used in combination with other drugs. Basically, they won’t be your Messi equivalent, more like an Antoine Greizmann.

All things considered, I felt the 140% jump in the share price was way over warranted, and largely due to the optimism from the success of a rival’s drug. I also felt that the share price would likely come crashing back down to a more realistic level after the intial optimism waned.

The only way I’d have been skewered if I shorted at those levels, would be if ABOS suddenly released some positive developments. This was very unlikely cos firstly, they are at freaking Phase 1. Secondly, the company already had the sufficient capital requirements for the next several years, so they’re unlikely to be raising cash anytime soon, so positive news of some debt issue/capital raise etc was unlikely to be announced anytime soon.

I ended up shorting ABOS heavily in many ways as it shot up, and recognizing a near 100% ROI in a matter of days as the markets realized their folly.


That’s all I have for this post.

Wishing all readers and fellow investors a successful and HUAT rabbit year!

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I Lost $620k From Just 2 Holdings In 2022!

This is not click bait, I really did. Sort of.

Decembers are when I make plans for the upcoming new year, thinking about where to find new organic growth for the upcoming year. Januarys are when I reflect on the previous year, and do a bit of data analysis on what went wrong and how to improve my portfolio’s “defence”.

I have several small, negligible mistakes in 2022, and I don’t think much can be gleaned from those. I already know what went wrong, and anyway, many times, the results are not reflective of some error. Small “mistakes” may not even be a mistake, and the same action and thought process could be a big win under different circumstances. I did make 2 big mistakes in 2022 though, and here they are:

Greenidge Generation Holdings Inc (GREE)

As you can see, the share price has been 1 way south the entire way. Well, I didn’t get in right at the peak, adding mostly after it has tanked something like 50% from the peak. At the start, the company was profitable, committed to large capex to acquire more bitcoin miners to expand operations and had the pedigree of an established shareholder and backer. They also had the required financial loans to back their future expansion. Everything pointed to huge growth in the coming years. I thought at that price, it’s worth holding a position, at least for a few years.

Literally right after entering, whatever can go wrong, did go wrong. Whatever you couldn’t think of going wrong, went wrong anyway. From the regulatory and licensing woes, all the way to the collapse of BTC prices… there was just absolutely nothing nice to say about the company. I really can’t think of 1 thing that didn’t go wrong.

On hindsight, what even piqued my interest to begin with, was 1 solitary line in 1 of their early investor deck: By controlling their own energy source, the company touted an average BTC mining cost of $10k USD/btc

I’ve been trying to search through their own press releases but can’t find that 1 powerpoint presentation that said this. But I swear that’s what caught my attention then.

“Mining cost of $10k USD” would mean a massive ramp up in profits because such operations are highly scalable, similar to the big tech kinda businesses. With the “through train” set up, with all the required infrastructure in place, future incremental in revenue and profits doesn’t incur that much expenses.

Well, as it stands, the current price of BTC is way above $10k USD, even after the crash, yet the company is bleeding boatloads of cash, and as the financials stand currently, they’re slated to be on their way to Chp 11. So much for that “mining cost” of $10k USD per BTC. That obviously didn’t pan out.

Was the number touted a lie? Perhaps. Or rather, it’s just “creatively” conjured: the $10k number could be “just” the mining cost as in energy cost, not including all the interest expenses, capex for future orders, and all other operating expenses.

End Result: I took a loss of 99% and sold most of it (still kept some of it). The total quantum loss is about USD 240k or so (Who’s counting the few thousands here and there when it’s a 6 digit loss right? LOL)


System1 Inc

This is the 2nd jilted lover of TTF for 2022.

I don’t think this is a total write off right now tbh, and I still hold a substantial stake, but I did recognize some losses by cutting the portfolio exposure substantially. Business is largely impacted by the cut in advertising budgets globally in 2022, similar to other big tech like Meta.

That’s not the mistake though. The mistake was getting too emotional and attaching too high a valuation when things were rosy. I don’t usually make such a mistake though: I’m just not easily swayed by most things. Not sure what happened here, could be the late 4am nights making me act out of character. Maybe I was feeling too rich and had too much capital to deploy. Even the brightest minds in the world would do stupid stuff that’s totally out of character once in a while.

End Result: Some unrealized loss, some realized losses. Total quantum (both unrealized and realized) is approximately USD 220k.

Collectively, these 2 were TTF’s Thanoses for 2022, combining their Infinity gauntlets to whack me with a -USD460k, and at an exchange rate of 1.35, that’s approximately SGD 620k! Ouch ouch ouch.

Without the losses from these 2 Thanoses, back of the envelope calculations tell me TTF would’ve added another +25% to the annual ROI, bringing it up from +11.94% to around +37% instead!

But that’s not the real story here. I just needed to open with this headline cos people out there like to read/watch others fail. It’s fun.

The real story is, I finally bit the bullet and decided to start cutting these 2 stakes in earnest sometime in end Oct 2022, having suffered the abusive relationship for the bulk of the year.

Check out how TTF’s performance has fared since then:

Without the albatross of losses these 2 Thanoses have been dishing out to TTF for almost the entire year, TTF’s performance took off like a freaking rocket! no shit man, my methodology and analysis has been working like a charm, yet for every dollar I earned, these 2 Thanoses had been losing 2 for me.

At the start of November 2022, TTF was still at a -22.56% MWR, far underperforming the SPY index. Yet by the end of the year, TTF has far surpassed the index. (https://thumbtackinvestor.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/thumbtack-fund-report-13-hello-2023/)

The coincidence is not coincidental.

Lesson here is this, and it’s going to sound amazingly simple and even stupid to many folks reading this: When you have a Barca team with a frontline of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, supported by Iniesta right behind the front 3… don’t go into the transfer market looking for another striker or playmaker, go look for better defenders or a keeper!

Find a Javier Mascherano or a Claude Makélélé to sit in front of the back 3 perhaps, or just find a Jaap Stam to front your central defence. Whatever it is, get out of the way, just watch your backline closely, replace the ones at the back not doing their job and let your frontline do their job.


TTF has generated double digit money weighted returns every year since inception:

2020: +89.83% (https://thumbtackinvestor.wordpress.com/2021/01/02/thumbtack-fund-report-6-rose-of-jericho-2020/)

2021: +24.91% (https://thumbtackinvestor.wordpress.com/2022/01/07/thumbtack-fund-report-10-hello-2022/)

2022: +11.94% (https://thumbtackinvestor.wordpress.com/2023/01/02/thumbtack-fund-report-13-hello-2023/)

For 2023, it’s only been 4 trading days into the new year, but TTF is firing on all cylinders, proving the methodology and edge over the markets exists:

Just 4 days into the new year, TTF has generated returns of +8.05%, outperforming SPY’s +1.45%, and along the way, added a very cool USD 193K (growing from $2.11mil to $2.30mil) to the portfolio’s AUM, in a mere 4 days.

(This chart above is TWR, not MWR, cos I’m lazy to go generate another report from IB, but for 4 days, it won’t differ much anyway)

As one can see on the chart above, on days when the S&P has gone down, TTF has gone up slightly. On days when S&P has gone up, TTF has gone up even more.

As I’ve mentioned right at the start, TTF was always structured as a long-short fund. On top of that, I’ve tried to make it into an all weather portfolio: one that’d do ok, maybe slightly underperforming or slightly outperforming the markets during periods of bull markets, but showing it’s true class by staying in the green when the markets are tanking and everyone’s portfolios are bleeding.

By compounding outperformance on the red days, even if it’s small quantum wise, whilst matching or even slightly outperforming on the green days, over the entire year, the alpha would be massive.

To achieve this though, risk management is key. This means, in my experience at least, giving up on POTENTIAL alpha, even massive alpha, if it’d mean massive losses if I turn out to be wrong. At the end of Dec, that’s exactly what I did: Covering a short position with a key crucial event coming up. As it turns out, the key event turned out to be nothing, and I could’ve garnered an additional gain of USD 40k in a matter of 2 weeks if I didn’t cover the short position. Yet if I was wrong, the losses would’ve easily been closer to 6 digits. (Yes, it’s a pharma company. What else could’ve this sorta
key events”?) I couldn’t afford to risk that, and covered the short position early.

Currently, TTF is still a puny fund and with such a small AUM, it’s easy to generate massive alpha by applying an edge over the markets in little known, little talked about areas of the markets. I don’t do too many complicated stuff, but instead, look out for a very specific, precise situation, and such a situation presents itself, sometimes, in a very transient manner. So yeah, it is time sensitive in that aspect.

This approach is not just time sensitive, but also very much effort intensive. But with a small AUM, it’s still pretty much do-able. I think I can still find places to deploy capital efficiently. As the AUM gets larger though, I foresee I’d have to adapt and change my approach. It’s going to be very very hard to still do the exact same things that I do right now, when TTF’s AUM reaches say $10mil, and still achieve the same results. I just don’t think there are so many opportunities in what I’m doing for a larger portfolio.

Warren Buffett famously said that if he was managing only USD 1million, he is confident he could generate 50% returns annually:

So WB says he could GUARANTEE 50% on $10mil AUM…

I don’t think I can beat WB, so I guess, I’d have to “settle” for maybe annualized CAGR of 30% from now till $10mil.

That’s really fine by me. I think I could sleep very very well with that. Hehehe.