Joe Mahavuthivanij: “Don’t be afraid to throw stuff out”

Alternative assets like rare and appreciating vintage comics, collectible cards, and fantasy art have been outperforming traditional asset classes like the market, gold, and real estate over the past 10+ years. However, due to their high-value and rarity, these assets have only been available to an elite select few. We’re democratizing investment access to these beloved […]

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Alternative assets like rare and appreciating vintage comics, collectible cards, and fantasy art have been outperforming traditional asset classes like the market, gold, and real estate over the past 10+ years. However, due to their high-value and rarity, these assets have only been available to an elite select few.

We’re democratizing investment access to these beloved pop-culture artifacts, making it possible for the fans who love them to engage deeper into the fandoms they love.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewingJoe Mahavuthivanij.

Joe is the co-founder & CEO of Mythic Markets, an investing platform that turns high-value, geeky assets like vintage comics, collectible cards, fantasy art, and e-sports teams, into stocks that almost anybody can buy.

Prior to co-founding Mythic Markets, Joe worked in venture capital, investing in fintech and enterprise SaaS startups,. He’s a serial entrepreneur across various industries, headed product and growth at startups of all stages, and was the host of the VentureForth podcast.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I never went to business school, but I was always surrounded by business one way or another. My parents owned a string of small businesses, including a couple of restaurants and a video store. There were good times and times when we struggled…

I learned pretty quickly that trends don’t last, that you have to adapt and always keep an eye out for opportunities, sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose. We thought we were flying high with the video store until Blockbuster came to town. Then Netflix happened. You just never know. All you can do is work hard and stay vigilant, and not take failures too personally.

I thought I was going to own a small business when I grew up, because that’s what I knew. I spent my formative years at the video store rewinding VHS tapes, then graduated to my version of a lemonade stand, selling booster packs of Magic cards on the schoolyard. Over 20 years later I’m still running my own business and playing the game!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In my very first job out of college, I worked in marketing at a mid-stage startup in the events industry. It was a poor fit and I was fired less than a year into the role. Shortly after, I joined a tiny, 7-person startup. The relationships and experiences from that one company would become the foundation for the rest of my career.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Our investing platform leverages new regulatory rules (Regulation A+) to make it possible for fans to buy fractional shares in assets that were previously only available to high net worth investors. This is done through a legal structure that creates a mini company that owns each asset, is split into shares, and securitized. This structure provides a strong legal framework and corporate governance, protecting shareholders from fraud and disputes with other investors.

How do you think this might change the world?

Alternative assets like rare and appreciating vintage comics, collectible cards, and fantasy art have been outperforming traditional asset classes like the market, gold, and real estate over the past 10+ years. However, due to their high-value and rarity, these assets have only been available to an elite select few.

We’re democratizing investment access to these beloved pop-culture artifacts, making it possible for the fans who love them to engage deeper into the fandoms they love.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

In a completely dystopian world where everything is publicly owned and traded, it’s possible that soulless markets form where all intrinsic value of these beloved assets is commoditized and traded, leading to the erosion of any real connection to these fandoms.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

In April 2012, President Obama signed a piece of bi-partisan legislation called The JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act into law. The JOBS Act expanded entrepreneurs’ access to capital, allowing them to publicly advertise and raise money from the public.

Prior to The JOBS Act, private companies could only crowdfund from accredited investors, basically the top 1–2% of Americans. On June 19, 2015, three years after the JOBS Act was initially signed into law, Title IV (Regulation A+) of the JOBS Act went into effect, allowing private companies to raise up to 50M dollars from all Americans, regardless of accreditation.

Coupled with the Series LLC corporate structure, Regulation A+ makes public offerings like ours possible.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

As a brand new technology and concept of ownership, building trust and education is a challenge. We’re making progress on this front and working to help our investors be successful on Mythic Markets.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Through a cold email in our earliest days, we were really lucky to partner with Jon Saso, Founder & CEO of ChannelFireball. This opened amazing opportunities that included access to assets, their online platform, live events, and prominent figures in the Magic community — all of which we needed to get the word out and build credibility.

Press coverage is another great way to get the word out and build credibility. We got some nice bumps in traffic when TechCrunch, The Hustle, Bloomberg, and HYPEBEAST wrote about us, but you can’t rely on getting steady press. Day to day, we focus on partnerships, content marketing, word of mouth, direct sales, and email.

After our first and second offerings, we sent all of the investors a special care package and thank you card signed by the whole team. People really loved them and posted about them on social media. We just launched our third offering and are finding that a lot of the same people are coming back to invest with us again.

We’re constantly asking for feedback and learning about our users. We use our newsletter to keep in touch, ask for feedback, and share surveys. We want it to feel personal because even if we can’t talk to each user directly, we’re grateful for each one of them.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My parents were the most important influence in helping me get to where I am today. Although most Asian parents have only three definitions of career success (doctor, lawyer, or engineer), my parents achieved their American dream through entrepreneurship. I’ve been fortunate that they supported my dreams of following in their footsteps.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I love leveraging my experience to work individually with entrepreneurs, helping them to solve problems and see around corners. This allows me to have a deeper impact and involvement versus working broadly.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Entrepreneurship is hard…like, crazy hard
    Although my parents did eventually support my aspirations to follow in their footsteps and become an entrepreneur (instead of a doctor, lawyer, or engineer), it wasn’t without a fair bit of grief. They always told me that they came to this country and worked their butts off as entrepreneurs, so their kids wouldn’t have to. Although I could never compare my challenges with my parents’ (theirs were far greater), I’ve come to experience many of the things they’ve described. There are far easier ways to make a living than being a founder. Instead, do it because you love it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to throw stuff out
    Our team started off building a blockchain version of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service. In retrospect, it was a service that few people wanted, was never going to be 10x better than its competition, and that none of us were passionate about. It felt terrible to scrap what we’d built, but once the team internalized this understanding, we quickly pivoted into a project we loved working on together. We all happened to share a love of geeky things, and already had a talented team who wanted to switch gears and pursue something we all loved.
  3. Talk to people about your idea — especially the critics
    It’s a common misconception to keep ideas a secret. After all, we don’t want anybody else stealing our billion dollar opportunities! The truth is that ideas are cheap; execution is everything. Instead, our team talked to as many people as possible to understand what people liked and disliked, how our prospective customers behaved, and what problems they faced. If people like your idea, ask them why? If they don’t, ask them why? The very best insights often come from the most dissenting opinions and counter-intuitive conversations.
  4. Embrace your competition
    Although we’re pioneering a new investing framework, there are several major competitors fighting to grow as quickly as possible. We try not to let them distract us from our team’s mission, and instead let them keep us on our toes. By focusing on innovations that differentiate our business, we can validate our customers’ decision for choosing us.
  5. Work with quality partners
    We all need partners and specialists to help move our businesses forward. However, not all partners are equal. Under tight time and budget constraints, it can be tempting to work with the first person to come to the table. However, it’s absolutely worth vetting several partners before making a decision. Making the wrong partner decisions can cause devastating delays and expensive setbacks in your business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A major aspect of Silicon Valley’s startup success is the culture of founders helping founders. In many other regions, the willingness to share ideas, help with intros, giving without reciprocity, and investing in each others’ success is much less common. By shifting to a sharing mindset, startup communities can tap into some of Silicon Valley’s “secret sauce”, and help each other grow and thrive.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Bear the bitter. Savor the sweet. — Dad

On a trip to Thailand, my Dad brought me to a local shop where I was asked to drink two small cups of tea. One was bitter and the other was sweet. Being a young kid at the time, I immediately went for the sweet tea and finished the entire cup in one gulp. Then I sampled the bitter tea and immediately wretched due to its foul flavor. I didn’t want to drink it, but we weren’t leaving until I finished the tea. We ended up sitting in this shop for a half hour while I watered the bitter tea down to make it drinkable. When I finally finished it, my Dad explained the purpose of the lesson.

The entire experience could have been incredibly pleasant had I held my nose and quickly shot the bitter tea, ending the dismal experience quickly. Instead of gulping down the sweet tea, slowly sipping it would have offered a pleasant, long-lasting experience.

Ultimately, I learned that, when facing difficult situations and unpleasant tasks, powering through and overcoming them quickly ensures the suffering is only short term. When times and experiences are great, embrace the opportunity to enjoy and prolong them.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

As alternative assets continue to out-perform the market and the social concept of ownership changes, Mythic Markets will be ready at the forefront of the future of finance and fandom.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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