Nathan Lustig

A Covid Crossroads in the US

In the US, Covid has gotten much worse in the past four weeks, especially in the Upper Midwest. While there’s some good news, the odds of a non-linear disaster are the highest they’ve been since New York’s first surge.

In the past two weeks, the number of people I know with Covid in the US has gone up massively. As I write, 10 people in my close group of friends or their direct families have active Covid. Most of them took precautions. Luckily, most look like they will escape serious primary health issues. Two look to be pretty sick.

Since March, I’ve been lucky to be able to isolate during this pandemic. The longest I’d spent in one location in a row since from June 2015 until March 2020 was six weeks. Now I haven’t moved in 8 months.

I was going to fly to spend winter in a warmer location. I saw the new numbers, especially the sobering Covid Risk Map, which said that in Wisconsin, there’s a ~95% chance there’s at least one active Covid case in a random group of 25 people, implying ~3-5 active Covid cases on my flight. My friends parents got Covid flying from Florida to Wisconsin. I stayed in Wisconsin.

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Don’t Believe The Polls, Trump Can Win Again

Donald Trump has a very good chance of being our next president. I wrote these same words in August 2016. I’m writing them again in August 2020.

The polls don’t matter. Biden’s 2020 lead is the same as Hillary’s in 2016. Swing states are still extremely close.

Trump has done a great job of riling up his base, using manipulative tricks, exaggerations and lies to try to scare the US into electing him again. He is the Troll in Chief, and it’s working. Again.

His Republican enablers all know that Trump is breaking norms (and the law), taking more personal power and imperiling our democracy.

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No Call Wednesday

Ever since the pandemic, I’ve been “always on.” I can take calls, video conferences, texts at all times. People are available, without many constraints on time. Remote work detractors think that people will watch Netflix all day. But we should really be worried about people working too much, not too little.

I’ve instituted No Call Wednesday so that I can actually get things done. Some of the Magma team has started do it too. It’s been a long battle of experiments, dating back to 2017. No Call Wednesday, and its more powerful cousin Airplane Mode Wednesday, have been life changing.

The Path to No Call Wednesday

In 2017, I was the only full time Magma Partners team member and things started to get away from me. I had too many things on my plate, but we didn’t have the budget to hire anyone new until we did the first close on our fund, in January 2018.

I found myself taking walks to my favorite cafes in Bogota, Medellin, Mexico City, Guadalajara or Santiago every Saturday morning and spending 4-6 hours catching up on writing, emails and the big projects that I never had the brainspace to do during the week. These 4-6 hours were my most productive of the week.

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Ishan Sinha, Point72 Ventures: Investing in Global Fintech Startups, Ep 101

Originally from New Delhi and Kathmandu, Ishan Sinha grew up on the move. Because of his Father’s job, he lived in six countries on three different continents until finally settling in Connecticut. Today, as Vice President of Point72 Ventures, he still normally spends lots of time on planes, but that’s been on hold in light of COVID-19. Under normal circumstances, he travels several times throughout the year to explore markets in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. 

Point72 Ventures is the independent, early-stage investment arm of Steven Cohen’s $16B hedge fund Point72 Asset Management.  The fund –always seeking to be at the forefront of new technology– naturally contacted a lot of startups, which eventually turned into investable businesses. Their first investment in Latin America was in Pierpaolo Barbieri’s fintech Ualá. Ishan, with his international background, jumped at the opportunity to work on the fund’s new global endeavors.

In this episode, I sit down with Ishan to talk about his nomadic upbringing, Point72’s core thesis and decision to explore outside of the US, and his insights on the differences between traditional investing and venture capital. We also discuss how Latin America compares to Southeast Asia, and Ishan gives advice on how to approach the Latin American market.

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