Friday, July 8, 2011

SumZero: No English Teachers Allowed

(diary post, I suggest ignoring) 

SumZero is an online community for equity analysts.  It's kind of like Seeking Alpha but you are required to provide a write up, yet less rigorous than the Value Investor Club where getting a membership is very competitive. I had applied to the Value Investor Club a couple of months ago but I got rejected. I had filled out my information for SumZero about a year ago but never finished my application.

Being a part of a larger and more professional financial community appealed to me. I got a great group of friends I e-mail with and a nice message board I follow, yet I wanted to try my hand in a more professional arena. Working as an English teacher in Taiwan, your day job is easy but intellectually unfulfilling, at least if I join SumZero I could constantly have new ideas to read about.

So I applied.

One of the odd things about SumZero is, you need to include an employer. Originally, I had put down "private investor" but since they updated the system, that was no longer an option unless you listed your previous employer. Thinking that "Follow Me English School" or "Giraffe English School" was just going to push my idea right into the ignore-basket or eventually cause my account to be deleted, I decided to write "Wallis Capital" as the name of my employer. No harm, no foul I reckoned.

Since I had already written up about COGO I used that as my application idea. Once you've completed this part, your idea needs to be graded by other members of the community. So during the follow week I started to get graded: 7, 7, 10, 9, 5, 10, 10, 9, 7, 9, 10...all pretty high marks and it felt pretty good to be recognized.  After spending your day throwing sticky balls at white boards and asking eleven year old Taiwanese students to correctly use the phrase "Yes, she does. Mary likes to eat ice cream." You start to wonder if you are just a bit crazy spending your nights reading 10Ks.  

Then one day I got this message:

Dear Josh-

My name is XXXXXXXX XXXXX and I am a PM/Analyst at XXXXXXXXXX Capital. I've been on the buyside for the last 9 years and a member of SumZero for 2 years. I have found the site to be extremely helpful in further developing my ideas, sourcing new ones and meeting like-minded investors. I am such a fan of the site and feel there is so much potential from its growth, I have volunteered my time to lead the new SumZero Contributor Program.
With that introduction, I would like to say Congratulations! The founders of SumZero and I would like to invite you to join the Contributor Program. Contributors are members that have been selected (through both a quantitative as well as qualitative process) and identified as being within the top 5% of the entire community. As an active member of the site, you realize the power of this community from both an idea generation standpoint as well as networking tool. The Contributor Program is one of the ways we can assure a constant flow of new ideas while maintaining top notch quality.
Benefits of the Program
* Recognition on the site as being a member of the SumZero Contributor Program. 
* A great resume/CV differentiator. Given how competitive the investment community is, being able to say that you have been selected as being in the top 5% of the 4,500+ analysts/PMs on the site could be the difference in getting your next interview, job or investor. 
* CNBC partnership. Once a month, one of the Contributor ideas will be featured on a CNBC program. Nice way to gain addition exposure for you, your firm, and your idea. 
* Yahoo Finance partnership. All contributor write-ups (NYSE and NASDAQ listed names) will be submitted to be featured on Yahoo Finance. The investment idea and analysis will show up as an article whenever anyone does a ticker search for company you have written about. Once again a nice way to gain exposure for yourself, your firm, and your idea. 
* Free 3 month trial to Value Investors Insight (not available to current subscribers).
* An annual idea dinner and networking event with other contributors and high profile portfolio managers 
* More to come...we will be adding additional benefits as partnerships develop. 
What we need from you
The requirements for the program are fairly simple. First we need a solid commitment from you. Second is a minimum of 4 well thought-out ideas per year. Considering you have been selected to be part of the program you likely are already fulfilling the requirements so isn't it a no-brainer to join? 
If you are interested please let me know and we'll schedule a time to talk a little more about it and we can get started. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Needless to say I was thrilled. I kind of had that feeling you get when you get your first job or you find out some girl you like, likes you too. Yet, then realized I am an English teacher in Taiwan. As much as I wanted to join this program, I thought it was better they know who I am.


Seems interesting and I'd like to talk about it. One thing I want to be up front about. I don't work for a fund or have my own fund. I wanted to post on SumZero but I had no fund name, so I just made up one. I understand if that disqualifies from the contributors club or even SumZero altogether. I am actually just an English teacher in Taiwan.
If you want to talk that's great, if this disqualifies me I understand.
- , skype: XXXXXXXXXXXX or call me at +866XXXXXXXXX

Who knows, maybe they won't care who I am. They said they liked my write up, right? It definitely wasn't like I worked at some prestigious fund or I was someone well known in the investment world. It was my idea that got me the e-mail. I was pretty hopeful and I felt good about being honest with them.

I got my reply back today.

yeah can't have you in the program but really nice writeup




  1. Don't get discouraged. If you need an inspiration, read Michael Lewis's The Big Short. Michael Burry was a resident physician. He started investing and posting his ideas on his off times. Eventually, he was seeded and became a professional money manager.

  2. That sucks, but I would of just kept lying. It's a silly rule anyways.

    Actually, it wouldn't be hard to set up a psuedo hedge fund. You could draft papers, some even use Buffett's template from his partnership, sign it and put a dollar in or something. I don't know if this is possible in China but in the US it would be simple.

    Anyways, Sum Zero used your write-up as their weekly idea that they email out. So they really liked it.