Riches Among “Supposed” Ruins: The New Era of Globe Trotting Capitalists

I recently finished an autobiographical book by Robert Smith called “Riches Among the Ruins” which detailed his adventures buying and selling debt in what at that time were very scary and risky markets during the 70s to 90s. Places like Nigeria, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nigeria, Russia. It’s a grand story of how one man went where others did not to make his fortune. One I highly recommend.

I had the fortune to stumble on international business when I was at Yahoo! And it was the reason why I ended up spending over a decade at the company. I was so lucky to be able to work with across 35+ countries during my stay there. In fact, in what was one of my more “risky moves” I joined my boss in the newly formed Emerging Markets group to run, start and build our business in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa), Africa & Eastern European region. Best move I ever made career-wise, as I got to visit a whole region of countries I had never been to. But these are now ones that are clearly growth markets. I made friends and learned more than I ever thought I could. More importantly I fell in love with the region of Central/ Eastern Europe. The much ignored and overlooked part of Europe. And the best and most interesting part in my personal opinion.

As Richard Smith states …”the real riches I pulled from the ruins weren’t the spreads on my bond deals. The riches came from a lifetime of unforgettable experiences in some of the most exotic and remote corners of the world — riches I pulled from the ruins of my own young life.”

I was definitely influenced by my previous travels as a young student but also by the legendary global investor Jim Rogers of the Quantum hedge fund fame & his many books such as “Adventure Capitalist” and “Investment Biker.” I’ve always been fascinated by folks who were able to make a living traveling to far corners of the world and making their fortune.

These are the Indiana Jones of the business world. Folks like John Templeton and Mark Mobius who are renowned for their investing in global financial markets. Or Adolf Lundin who gallivanted around the globe buying up natural gas companies in Qatar & Russia in the 1970s. Even the hard core libertarian Doug Casey going all over Africa chasing natural resource companies or real estate.

In our present age, the people i would list as being on the forefront of international business are Andrew Henderson of the Nomad Capitalist, Simon Black of Sovereign Man, Swen Lorenz of the Undervalued Shares & Ladislas Maurice of the Wandering Investor as well as my venture investing friend Paul Bragiel.

I think as the trend of “Digital Decolonization” continues, the regions in the southern Hemisphere will be where all the action is. Digital Decolonization as coined by investor David Halpert is where the dominance of the big US tech giants slowly reverses as local and regional tech giants emerge. Examples abound but some examples here are MercadoLibre in Latin America or Gojek and Grab in Southeast Asia. In 2020, it became very clear where the action is and I have heard several smart people now say instead of calling it “Developed World versus the Developing World”, we should now call it the Rising versus the Declining World.

There are fortunes to be made by young people with a sense of adventure and a willingness to be a little bit (or ALOT) uncomfortable. The frontier is where opportunities lie as my friend Taylor Pearson says:

“If you were an entrepreneur that wanted to get new things done, a country with a vast frontier is a good place to do it.”

Also instead of scrapping it out in highly competitive places like Wall Street or Silicon Valley, if you get off the beaten track you will have more of the field to yourself. So for young people these days I’d advise you to not “Go West” but “Go to the Southern Hemisphere”! This is where the future growth will be.

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