I had a chance to read an advance copy of An American Hedge Fund, by Timothy Sykes, about his experience as a very young trader and his hedge fund start up. It is the story of a college student who made money on over the counter buy back stocks very quickly, leveraging on short-term market inefficiencies in a very speculative and volatile market. The book made me think about the following aspects of trading:

  1. A trader's ability to adapt to changing market conditions is the key to successful trading.
  2. While many praise foresight, they mistake incredible luck for incredible intelligence.
  3. A speculator succeeds when he/she is able to identify and take advantage of market inefficiencies.
  4. Trading books usually ignore the evolution of marketplaces.
  5. Traders pick up on any consistently successful strategy until it lasts before the cycle changes again.
  6. Short term trades that turn into long term situations often become the source of financial and mental agony.
  7. Sometimes you need to accept defeat and move onto new opportunities.

Sam Humbert adds:

I also read a proof of Mr. Sykes's self-published (why self- rather than Wiley-published is another thread) book on the plane back from Chicago last week, and here's my back-of-the envelope: I liked the book better than I'd expected. It's a fast and breezy read, and had a pleasantly candid and enthusiastic tone. Mr. Sykes comes across as an eager, hard-working, observant market participant with good hondling sensibilities.

Several of his trading ideas, though generally not original/unique to him, are well-presented and explained. The one negative is the long digression about a private-equity situation that didn't pan out, which distracts from the main narrative flow. But I guess those are the facts he had to work with. For a market veteran, it's best read with an empty mind, without preconceptions such as 'what the heck does a 20-year-old know?' and can be enjoyed as such. 

Eric Falkenstein remarks:

Sounds fascinating. I would accept some overestimation of skill vs. luck, but generally many big money situations involve people's being in the right place at the right time — and the recipients aren't morons. But I couldn't see where to buy this book.

Tom Alexander writes:

I also had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Mr. Sykes's book. I think there are several lessons here. Mr. Sykes sent me a flattering note requesting I review a copy of his book. I accepted; flattery works really, really well on my old ego. While I have not had the opportunity to read it yet, my wife found it very readable and illuminating from her lay perspective.

Mr. Sykes is self-publishing his book, allowing him to keep a much higher percentage of the profits. The downside is he has to do his own marketing. He seems to have very effectively figured this out by using viral marketing and the wonders of the Internet to spread the word through blogs.

It is nice to see entrepreneurship alive and well. 


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