James Altucher seems to me a great example of the truism that attention flows to unconventional thinkers. He always strikes me as a nut, his promotions are wildly over-the-top and persistent enough to give me headaches (there was a fun profile of him in Inc. during the first Bitcoin bubble, when he became a self-professed crypto guru and his ads were everywhere), and he cultivates a “crazy guy” look.
This isn’t at all a new thing in the world of financial publishing — every publisher and pundit has no doubt learned by now that extreme statements and hyperbole are what get attention… really, it’s not so different from politics or other parts of the celebrity world: copywriters and marketers know that the worst possible outcome is being ignored, so almost everyone in the business cultivates a strong (and often combative) personality in their marketing pitches, makes extreme claims, and pushes the envelope as far as the lawyers will allow helps to make sure they get the attention of possible customers. And no, I have no idea whether Altucher’s persona is genuine or an act of performance art (he’s been the same for decades, as far as I can tell, so I assume it’s genuine).
Does that mean the investment ideas these pundit personalities pursue are hooey? Not necessarily, we just have to make sure to separate the message from the messenger. And separate facts from hype, as much as we can.
So I decided to take a look at another Altucher pitch today, this one’s about the same satellite internet theme that has been mined by many pundits over the past couple years, inspired by the big investments made by first OneWeb and then SpaceX and Amazon and Telesat in building large low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations to provide internet access to those who can’t get conventional broadband (airplanes, ships, rural areas, etc.).
Most of these pitches, like those from Lou Basenese for Gilat and C-Com in recent months, have highlighted the SpaceX connection — which makes sense, Elon Musk is the most intensely-followed investing celebrity in the world (as we saw earlier this week, when a few tweets from Musk about Tesla’s Bitcoin position caused 30%+ swings in the prices of that and other cryptocurrencies).
Altucher, however, aims at what is arguably the number two celebrity in the space race, Jeff Bezos, and ties his hype to that slightly less brilliant star… here’s the lead-in to the ad:
“On May 26, Jeff Bezos’s Latest Technology will be the talking point at a global event as it could well be the… Ultimate 5G Killer
“On May 26, the Amazon team will usher in a disruptive tech that could bankrupt cellular providers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile. This tech also opens up a unique investment opportunity that could help everyday investors double, 10X, even 20X their money over the long haul….
“Grab the early-mover advantage before the May 26 global announcement”
You’re probably already familiar with Musk’s SpaceX, and with the Starlink satellite constellation they’re building to provide rural areas with broadband internet — that service is already available to beta testers, who are paying $500 for equipment and $100 a month for broadband (Starlink calls the current offering “better than nothing”, to be clear about where expectations are set right now, and it will change quite a bit as thousands more satellites are launched and as the network becomes congested with more signups, but customers seem pretty happy so far).
Amazon’s project is a little bit less well-known, but is similar — it’s called Project Kuiper, and, unlike SpaceX, Amazon has some strong strategic reasons to build and subsidize the service… getting more people onto the internet, and more Prime members, is worth some investment. Whether it’s worth launching a satellite constellation or not,