My Bet On Seeking Alpha's Future

by: David Jackson

Summary

This is the personal letter I sent to the Seeking Alpha team yesterday.

I've worked for ten years to build Seeking Alpha. With our exceptional team, we’ve made a difference to millions of people and have transformed the investing landscape.

The role of founder-CEO is all consuming. I want to recharge and spend some time with my family.

I’m excited to promote Eli Hoffmann to be the next CEO of Seeking Alpha. He’s exceptional.

I’m sharing this with our contributors and community with gratitude. Thank you for being such a big part of Seeking Alpha’s success so far.

Wednesday, July 1st 2015

Dear SA-ers,

Today I'm promoting Eli from SVP Content to CEO of Seeking Alpha. My decision to do so is a result of three factors: our opportunity, what we need from a CEO, and what Eli brings to the table.

1. Our opportunity

Seeking Alpha is now the leading platform for crowdsourced analysis of stocks - by a long way. We have massively more contributors than anyone else, including more buy side contributors. Because our contributors are investors, they look at stocks differently from journalists and sell side analysts. They share real investing ideas, and they raise issues about stocks which are critical to investors but which journalists and sell-side analysts have insufficient incentive to tackle. Seeking Alpha also has by far the best investing community. Our community questions and stress-tests contributors' articles, and often adds deep expertise to the discussion.

The net result is a remarkable product: (i) We regularly move stocks. (ii) We have unparalleled coverage. Roughly 30% of all U.S. listed stocks (55% of small caps) lack sell-side coverage, and discussion of those stocks has moved decisively to Seeking Alpha. (iii) We have become the dominant venue for discussion of many investing strategies, such as dividend investing and ETF portfolios.

The quality of our product is reflected in our readership. Investment professionals in over 8,500 hedge funds, 5,000 mutual funds and 3,000 private equity funds get Seeking Alpha's email alerts. About 25% of financial advisors read us every month. Each day when the stock market is open, about 450,000 investors come directly to Seeking Alpha - not via search, not via partner links, but directly to us, because they love what we do.

From the day I started Seeking Alpha, I've always believed that we would have two revenue streams, advertising and subscriptions. We're executing on both of them, but our untapped opportunity is massive:

  • On the advertising side, Seeking Alpha can win the loyalty of tens of millions of investors because our content is simply better than anything else out there. (You see that if you set up a portfolio or watchlist on Seeking Alpha; look at the content you get.)
  • On the subscription side, Seeking Alpha can become a must-have tool for every fundamental investor, for idea generation and research.

2. What we need from a CEO

We had to get four things right as a business to reach this point: (i) User experience - we place users above all else. (ii) Contributors - we view them as genuine business partners. (iii) Distribution - we won early traffic partnerships, and built a base of over 3 million email alert subscribers. (iv) Monetization - we generated revenue early, by selling advertising to high quality advertisers who cared about our readers.

We've also needed to get things right as a company. We have an outstanding team - the best we've ever had. We've established a strong management framework which empowers talented people, based on clear goals, metrics, "ownership" and monthly reports. We created a culture which values honesty, transparency, rationality and respect for every person. And we've consistently applied best practices from the most successful companies to Seeking Alpha.

But past achievements don't mean I'm the best candidate to lead the company from here. Creating and building a startup is all-consuming, and I've been "all in" with Seeking Alpha for almost ten years. I want to recharge, spend some time with my family, and make more room for fresh ideas.

Jason Lemkin says that many successful companies are sold because their founders get tired. I'm tired, but I don't want to sell. I want to bet on Seeking Alpha's future with a new CEO. I haven't sold a single share. I'm planning to provide help and support where requested, attend every board meeting including those in New York, and be an ambassador. I'm heavily invested in the future of Seeking Alpha.

When I think about who could be a better CEO than me going forward, the requirements are obvious:

  • Deep understanding of stocks and financial content
  • Deep understanding of our ecosystem (readers, contributors, community, employees)
  • Passionate about the opportunity to lead Seeking Alpha
  • Very, very smart
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Excellent manager
  • Profound personal integrity

3. What Eli brings to the table

The funny thing about this decision is that it didn't feel like a decision. It was just obvious to me that the role of CEO should pass from me to Eli. He has all the qualities that I just listed, and he can do a better job than I can going forward.

Which leaves only two things to say:

To each of you who has been part of Seeking Alpha so far - thank you. We've built something remarkable together. We've helped millions of people become better investors - to save for their retirement, to send their kids to college, to buy a house, to pay for better healthcare. We've given people community and the opportunity to collaborate and form friendships. We've provided income for thousands of our contributors. And we've enabled open discussion of issues which were previously suppressed if they weren't in the interests of companies or investment banks. In building this, you've been amazing to work with. I feel blessed to have worked with such exceptional people. I'm looking forward to continuing our relationship, but with me as a board member, helper and ambassador, rather than CEO.

To Eli - congratulations! The opportunity is huge. I'm betting on you and the team.

Warmest Wishes,
David