LIT & CRIT : FINANCE : CULTURE
JAMES ALTUCHER
Cryptogenius Guru or
Just A Nice Guy?

Continued from Page 1

 

Listen, before I go on, let me say a few things to keep the air clear: I trust  James Altucher.

 

I trust him because of his honesty, because of his track record, and because of his enviable wealth and disregard for its trappings. But most of all I trust James because he actually told me he was --himself, personally-- not full of shit. And I believe him.

 

So in this regard I am not a journalist, and I admit I have a slight bias. That is why I should say that this is more of a tribute piece than it is a take-down.

 

But I wonder if he dumped just a little in the latest pump? Probably not. And if he did…I guess it’s totally legal. Like in the book Catch-22, Yossarian says you'd be a fool to not do it when everywhere everyone else is.

Let me also say this: As you shall read, this goes way back. Originally I reached out to James in the spring of 2008 to ask him to speak to my clients at Citi Smith Barney when I was a stockbroker there. I'd seen him on CNBC several times and jibed with his contrarian approach.Naturally, he priced me out because he didn't really want to fly out to Los Angeles and stay in some hotel just to please a below-average broker in LA who wouldn't really be able to afford him. So he wisely asked more than I could afford. I don't begrudge that.

Later, he'd admit in writing that he does that to people all the time when he doesn't really want to do something: make it impossibly costly. If they bite anyway and meet his exorbitant demands, well fine. I think that's a great way to decline invites to things I don't want to go to, I do it all the time now.

 

"Would you like to come to my Feline Fiesta?" "Sure, as long as you send a limo over to pick me up I'd love to come. But I can't drive, I'm already drunk." Works great, though sometimes I feel a little guilty hanging the host out to dry like that. I've thrown plenty of parties where I get 0 rsvps too, so I know how it feels.

 

Oh the feline feels.

REASONS

Read on to discover why I immediately signed up for the Altucher Bitcoin pitch when I saw it pop up at the top of MSN. The reasons were numerous. First, I realized: if he's spending enough money to get top of the front page placement for his ads, he's putting a lot of money down on the pass line in the craps game of life. He wouldn't be doing that unless he was sure of the payoff.  Like, literally had it modeled with algos.

Second, when I opened the article to see if I couldn't Stock Gumshoe his tips without actually paying, I saw those charts about investor psychology and I immediately recognized my own line of thinking on Bitcoin was going Superpro via James' pitch.

The idea of colluding with a group of traders on a pump and dump of an unregulated investment vehicle was too delicious to pass up. (As a stockbroker, you learn to care about identifying that kind of thing early.)  It's not like I was the only one with the idea that the BTC Wild West was easier money than a Rodney Dangerfield film; former Wall Street pros are always looking forward to the next big investible wave. We all know a good thing when we see it.  People have been scheming about this since 2013.

 

I remember talking with my Wells Fargo interns about how to game it. Like a surfer, you wait until you can see the swell of the wave nearly hitting you before you take the ride.

 

Well, James Altucher confirmed my bias 1000%.  Naturally, we all just love it when suspicions are validated by a more influential third party, don't we? And, Like I say, I trust James implicitly. Here he was confirming my bias that a sucker is born every ten seconds now (due to increases in population since P.T. Barnum's time).

So as I sat there and read the content he was giving away free --about how we were about to enter the second stage of a three stage mania cycle, and BTC and other Cryptos were going up for realz he promizez-- of course I immediately paid the $49 bucks to see what else he had to say.

 

I bet at least 10,000 others have too, so there's at least revenue of over a million he's already made just for hooking email buy-ins and small time recurring revenue from the initiative.

Shit, if I just stopped right here and said: hey, you should just go sign up for his newsletter right now or something, it's the best thing you'll ever do... you'd probably begin to suspect this was just another paid ad for James Himself, like Fox news does for the Republican party, right? I even was thinking of formatting it like his email ads (but then where would the Amazon and Google ads go? Haha).

After all, it's true that James and his crew do use all the tricks good marketers or those without a conscience these days use, including paying bloggers and publishing stuff formatted to look like journalism when it is really just more paid propaganda, plus push email marketing that wears you down until you probably give in. 

 

I think I specifically paid for a package that was not some kind of recurring auto-bill to my credit card scam, but I'm going to have to make sure to cancel my subscription somehow twice etc just to make sure, ha ha. That's the level of trust we're extending here. See, I get it.

Normally, I never pay for any stock newsletter, online or in the mail, even Grant's Interest Rate Observer or Garmin's whatever. Who has the time to read it? Who has the credibility to say they can unfailingly predict the future? Frankly, I can't afford to support all the subscription-model hucksters masquerading as in-the-know research, nor even the ones with a proven track record and some credibility. I don't have the resources to care about the thousands of ahead-of-the-curve technocrats with connections to exploit out there in Seeking Alpha-land. I simply don't have the money, even if I had the time.

On Wall Street, all of us know that speculation is a rank business involving spinning a little sugar into a lot of cotton candy. Just like in book publishing, people can't really predict the future and tell you what will be a hit with any trustable regularity. Not even James Altucher. Not even Nostradamus. Not me. Nobody.

But, as I read his pitch, I was nodding along anyway, mostly because the assumption that there are greater fools in the marketplace just waiting to get swindled matched my understanding of how most marketplaces work. And the crypto-currency marketplace works that way times one million. In fact, there isn't any other there there. 

Hell, I might write a whole Bitcoin article myself one day since I called it lower back in 2013 when it was $1300 and it fell 65% or so from that point (whence I closed my short and said why not go long). And double hell, I wish I had the time to do my own ICO out of thin air and see if Ponzis really do work as advertised just as an 'experiment' for journalism, tee hee. (But, as always, someone else is going to do that better than me anyway).

Also, for the purposes of disclosure, I pledge that I don't own any BTC right now. I can't afford to throw thousands of dollars at a speculative collectible. Who the hell does other than Silicon Valley techno-rats and kids? When I could have, and really thought about it carefully in 2013, I went short instead. At least the upside is that my only bias towards the subject is bitterness and envy at not becoming a devil may care millionaire!

Anyway, that's always been my position: anyone can make money on crypto-currencies if you time it right. They are just a "collectible" and thus the market values them on sentiment not fundamentals. Without going into it deeper, the only way I'd ever want to gamble on BTC daily like some others crowing about their gainz would be when I have several million to waste, or when the Federal government regulates it to death.

 

Nonetheless, all that is neither here nor there for the purposes of this article (which is going to be near novella length anyway). We're supposed to be talking about James Altucher. The point is, when I saw that James was talking Cryptocurrencies up, I realized that his talking them up was going to make them go up. Because when CNBC money gurus talk, people listen and obey. That is the power of the TV set.  So I got out my credit card and for the first time in my life I signed up for an online newsletter.

I mean, I'm so cheap that I admit that I have never even signed up for one of James' multiple pitches before despite trusting him implicitly and now explicitly.

 

This time I was caught in the grip of the FOMO (fear of missing out) that James is an expert at foment and manipulating. I did it because I agreed with him 110% and I wanted to make money too! There was no doubt in my mind that BTC and other cryptos were going up, and there was no doubt in James' mind either.

I went to the Coinbase site that day and even signed up even tho I had nothing to start with (usually a pre-requsite to making more). I was in the grip of greed. While doing so I noticed that in 2013 I still had my old BTC Wallet software in my software folder on my hard-drive that I never used and I chuckled. Some kind of a digital wallet; I remembered researching it back then.

 

I still didn't trust it, but there was no doubt it was headed up. James Altucher's confidence was convincing and more than a little infectious. He's good at it.

That day BTC was $8000 and change, back in early November, I guess.

 

Naturally, it doubled in a month.                                      Click here for page 3

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