Dear current and upcoming shareowners,
The world is currently experiencing a series of challenging times this year—the coronavirus pandemic, economic recession, natural calamities. For many of us, these things are enough for us to lose hope and focus.
If there is anything that I discovered about myself during my journey in turning ideas into multi-million companies—first in 2019 with Jungle, and now with TFT—it is this: when times get tough, I get more focused and calm.
I discovered my ability to stay still and think clearly during high-pressure situations when my Jungle co-founder asked me why I was so calm despite the fact that we are running out of time and cash to build Jungle.
In October 2019, I found myself in Singapore with less than 30 days to raise $100,000 (Php 5 million) for Jungle to survive. Living in Singapore was expensive, and I had to choose between spending my life savings in a last-ditch effort to raise capital for Jungle or simply give up, go back to the Philippines, find a job, and play it safe in life.
The latter option felt like suicide, so I had to devise a plan that will enable us to raise the funds we needed for Jungle in less than 30 days. After meeting several investors, we received one constant feedback: it’s impossible to raise this amount of cash in less than a month.
With my wife’s and family’s never-ending support and the confidence I had with my plan, I pushed forward. After reaching out to over 200 investors in Singapore, I met the former CEO of DHL and two other notable investors and raised $125,000 (Php 6+ million) in less than 30 days.
We ended up raising more capital days before our deadline.
This story consistently reminds me that during tough times like what we are experiencing today, the only thing that will help us survive, thrive, and drive results is to be calm, rational, and strategic.
This will be the focus of my annual open letter today. I want to share with you my thoughts and strategies The Financial Today will employ from 2021 onwards.
Last October, I decided to raise our first funding round for The Financial Today and do it via two channels: first, via our Wefunder equity crowdfunding campaign, giving the people who believe in me and my company a chance to ride on our potential success; second, via small venture capitalists and accredited angel investors who specialize in digital media.
As a current or upcoming investor, you should expect that the company will have a consistent focus on returns to avoid going after vanity investments that will only give us a good PR but average returns on our investment.
Our capital allocation analysis will be centered on the company’s key assumptions. We will use simple analysis and avoid falling into the trap of overthinking and analysis paralysis. All capital allocation analysis and decisions will be handled by me and will never be delegated to anyone.
Our company will be conservative and will only seek value-creating capital investment decisions that will give us at least a 20% return. Anything less than this amount will not be entertained.
As proof, all of our existing products have high-profit margins that give us enough wiggle room for expenses while still being on target with our minimum return requirement.
TFT’s news portal has a 90% profit margin as of the writing of this letter.
Our content rights deal with Agence France-Presse enables us to publish 300+ news, reports, analysis, and stories every month for a fixed and surprisingly small capital investment.
This gives us a great opportunity to be scalable and profitable by simply focusing on one thing: increasing our reader-base since doing so will not increase our expenses on the content side.
The key principle in our capital allocation is to make the train arrive at its destination using the least fuel.
The Financial Today provides several digital products like our news portal, weekly TFT Magazine, listing and ranking services, and our upcoming premium podcast and online TV shows.
Our approach to management is to delegate decision-making—except capital allocation decisions—to the heads of each product team. This will enable the whole company to act swiftly and produce results that are made by people who are experts in what they do.
We will measure each product team’s performance using only one primary metric: return on investments.
The reason is simple. If we build products and services that people want in a capital-efficient way, they will buy it.
By having this one metric as our guiding light, product teams and the whole company will constantly have to make decisions with our audience and investors in mind.
Winning Combo: Patience & Boldness
It sounds contradictory, but the most effective company is one that is patient and bold.
TFT will exercise patience when it comes to building and finding capital investment opportunities. We will not force the issue, and we will not be influenced by what the majority of our competitors are doing.
Instead, we will constantly remind ourselves of the primary metric this company cares about: return on investments.
However, once a great opportunity arises (a product or asset that will give us at least 20% return on our investment), whether it is building a new product or service line or acquiring an asset, we will be bold and do everything in our power to make sure we grab this opportunity by its neck.
This being noted, you will often find TFT sticking to its existing guns, keeping our aim on finding these kinds of opportunities. We will only fire when necessary.
As a long-term investor myself, I seldom make investment and business decisions that will only benefit me in the short run. All short-term business and investment fantasies often lead to losses and failures.
That being said, the company’s resources—time, money, talent—will be managed with intelligent frugality in mind, but we will not hesitate to invest in assets and activities that will solidify the long-term competitive position of the company.
Therefore, as a private company, we will release financial reports and statements each fiscal-year end and will provide non-financial performance reports every quarter.
This isn’t an attempt to cover any mismanagement activities within the company, far from it.
Instead, this is an effort to build a company culture that fosters long-term thinking. This will enable us to save money from accounting expenses and our time from unnecessary frequent company updates that can be spent wisely elsewhere.
As a company, we know that long-term thinking will penalize short-term gains and performance. However, we are also aware that playing a long-term game will enable us to create significant customer and shareholder value than pursuing short-term wins.
All company decisions will consistently defend and choose customer experience and long-term competitive positions.
TFT is a company for long-term, patient investors.
How You Can Help
Achieving great company success can’t be done by one person alone. It is a team effort. As an investor, you are a vital part of this team, this family.
And as an intelligent investor, you know that money isn’t the only thing that makes a company win. It requires much more than that.
That’s why I am humbly asking for your help in any of the following ways:
- Help us find investors like you, who are long-term players who believe in what TFT can potentially achieve;
- Help us improve our products and services by being one of our early customers and giving us constructive, direct feedback;
- Help us reach our growth goals by inviting your network to be a TFT subscriber. We have both free and paid plans for everyone. Don’t hesitate to share our content to help us reach more potential subscribers;
- And anything that can help the company move forward.
As we spend the remaining months of the year 2020 providing great content and finalizing our fundraising round, we are excited to share this journey with you in achieving all of our milestones for the year 2021.
Before I end this letter, allow yourself to reflect on this quote from Christopher Reeve:
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
In spite of overwhelming obstacles the world is facing today, I am confident that the heroes of our company will always find the strength to persevere, endure, and ultimately win.
TFT CEO & Founder