Learn financial analysis and strategic frameworks by immersing yourself in research, analysis and writing. Finish the four-week class with an original investment memo on a company of your choosing.Join Today
Do you have expertise in your own industry,
but don’t know where to begin researching brand new companies?
Can follow along when other people break down S-1’s,
but struggle to separate the signal from the noise yourself?
Have you heard terms like “LTV to CAC” and “free cash flow”
but don’t really understand what they mean?
If so, this course is for you.
In Initial Public Education, you'll learn finance and strategy in the most efficient way possible:
by writing your own investment memo.
In September 2005, Sequoia Capital partner Roelof Botha wrote an investment memo to his team outlining why they should lead the Seed and follow-on Series A investments in YouTube. "YouTube represents an interesting seed-stage investment opportunity. The company's goal is to become the primary outlet of user-generated video content on the Internet, and to allow anyone to upload, share, and browse this content." When Google acquired YouTube less than two years later, Sequoia earned over 44x on their investment. That number is worth multiples of that today as Google's shares have continued to soar. The full memo can be found here.
Chamath Palihapitiya, founder of investment firm Social Capital and early Facebook executive, outlines his investment thesis for online real estate platform Opendoor. Chamath took Opendoor public via a SPAC in September 2020. While the full investor presentation was 49 pages long, he distilled his thesis into a concise 1-page document. The reason for his investment thesis centered around the size of the real estate market and five reasons why he thought it was poised to grow online.
In this memo from June 2015, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the case for buying augmented reality (AR) game engine Unity. While Facebook didn't buy Unity (which is now a public company trading under the stock symbol $U), the insight that Zuckerberg showed at the time is undeniable. "If we only build key apps but not the platform, we will remain in our current position. If we only build the platform but not the key apps, we may be in a worse position. We need to build both." Full memo can be read here.
Looking to improve your market research, strategy and financial analysis skills? You've come to the right place. This course is ideal for founders, engineers, PMs and other tech professionals who want to accelerate their career, make better decisions, and develop their own insights
Maybe you've dabbled in stocks and want a firm grasp of the investment process, or perhaps you want to transition to an investing career. Not only are investment memos are a requirement of VC, PE and hedge fund job interviews but they also are the very best way to learn investing for the first time
Would you like to contribute more to financial discussions? Want to think more strategically about your business unit or portfolio company? Eagar to have a better grasp of real world finance topics like unit economics and valuation? Then you've come to the right place
A great investment memo outlines a thesis similar to how a lighthouse shines a path through a foggy night. It cuts through all of the noise and illuminates exactly what's important.
In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, you'll work through modules that map to the sections of an investment memo. Each module has the same structure. First you'll learn the best practices and frameworks for the topic. Then you'll work through a guided example. And finally, you'll take your learnings and apply it to your own target company, writing out that section of your memo. The live sessions are used for small group breakouts where you'll give and get feedback on your memo sections.
By the end of the course, you will have written an insight-packed investment thesis. Your thesis will be supported by investment merits and investment risks that you developed working through the modules. Here's a sneak peak of the modules:
Have you ever looked at a company's filings and still had no idea what they sold or how their product was better? In this module you'll work through frameworks and resources on how to figure out what a business does and how it differs from the competition.
In this module, we'll dive deep and scrape trends in order to identify large markets that have a lot of growth potential. We'll look into the total size and growth rate of the market, the key players, and key headwinds and tailwinds. We'll also teach you how to identify sub-trends within markets, how to pick the winners, and go over risks to look out for.
How does the company actually make money? At first glance, this should be an easy to question to answer. But often it isn't. We'll provide you examples of all kinds of business models in order to identify how your target company makes money. Then, you'll learn about the unit economics of a business: what a typical transaction looks like. We'll go over the calculation for lifetime value and customer acquisition cost, and what is considered the "golden number" for LTV to CAC.
In his 1995 shareholder letter, Warren Buffett famously said: "In business, I look for economic castles protected by unbreachable 'moats." A business moat (or competitive advantage) is what gives a company the ability to actually generate profit for its' shareholders. You'll learn about the 6 most common economic moats and how to identify them.
Ever wonder why Shopify became a $185 billion company but half a dozen competitors are only a tenth of the size? A big reason was the strategy, leadership, and product-focused thinking of CEO Tobi Lütke. In this module, you'll evaluate the quality of the management team by analyzing their past decisions, figuring out which of their leadership strategy is "priced in" already, and what the compensation structure means for stock returns.
While finding a defensible company in a growing market is hard enough, you also have to figure out if the company is trading at a price that youIn this module, you'll learn which valuation techniques are useful and which ones to ignore. We'll go over the 5 criteria that you need to select comparable companies, how to calculate metrics like "Enterprise Value" and when to use EV / Sales vs EV / EBITDA and other metrics. You'll decide if your target company is over or under valued and learn to position a comps analysis in context of an investment memo. Finally, you'll calculate the IRR for your target company and decide if it meets your personal hurdle rate.
I haven't always been great at evaluating businesses.
I used to read smart things on blogs and social media and wouldn't understand the full story. It always felt like I was just one step away from actually understanding.
So I researched, and I wrote, and eventually (after lots of practice) I got pretty good at going from 0 to 1 on different industries and companies.
This process has allowed me to deep dive on companies ranging from CostCo to the Domino's, from Datadog to Chegg, from school bus operators to car washes. My posts have now been read by millions of people and have lead to conversations with investors and founders that are much more talented than me. But even more importantly, these memos have clarified my thinking and have allowed me to make smarter investing choices and confidently contribute to conversations.
In addition to my writing work, my professional experience includes investment banking and corporate finance. I began my career at William Blair, an investment bank focused on sell-side M&A, and have also run a boutique fractional-CFO consulting practice advising over 15 companies on financial modeling, market research and fundraising.
Initial Public Education takes my writing process and my work experience, condenses the best parts into a course, and helps you stay accountable to your work.
Looking forward to seeing you inside :)
Initial Public Education is a four-week course. The sessions are 90 minutes long and take place from 5:00pm - 6:30pm PST (8:00pm - 9:30pm EST) on Tuesdays and Thursdays with additional asynchronous projects done during the other days. You can expect an 8-10 hour / week time commitment.
You'll begin each module by receiving an introduction package to the topic. This introduction package includes a pre-recorded video (you can rewatch or fast forward depending on your background) that goes over why the topic is important. The introduction package also includes written instructions for how to approach the topic, two never-before released examples for you to reference, and a template to fill out.
During the live sessions, you'll work on and refine your memos. A big part of this class is accountability and we want to make sure you complete a rigorous and insightful memo. Additionally, you'll breakout into small groups and comment and critique other students' memos. We have several coaches on staff to facilitate these breakout groups so that everyone is involved and contributing.
By the end of the course, you will have a investment thesis backed up by several pages of research and analysis.
We want this investment to be 100% risk-free. We believe in the product and are confident that you'll have a transformative experience. If you watch the video lessons, complete the deliverables, and still don’t find the course valuable, we’ll happily refund your full payment within 30 days of the start of the course.
I work full-time. Do I have time to take this course?
Yes! This course is designed to be taken part-time during nights and weekends. We expect it will take up 7-10 hours per week if you want to get everything out of the course.
Do I have to attend all of the live sessions in real-time?
It's okay if you have to miss a session or two. I record every live workshop and make it available for you to replay, at your convenience. With that said, we strongly recommend you make time for them so you can ask questions directly to Adam and the coaches, and join productive breakout discussions.
How much access do I get to Adam?
I can’t promise that I’ll reply to every single message, but I will be active during the live sessions. I’ll answer questions, provide feedback, and share my private notes to address common pain points. However, the class is designed to be interactive with other students: there will be no shortage of feedback.
Are there any prerequisites for this course?
This course does not have any formal prerequisites. With that said, you will have the best results in the course if you can devote the time and energy needed to develop your research and analysis skills. Above all, this course is about taking action. The lessons and exercises provide a step-by-step roadmap to creating a high-quality investment memo. The more aligned you are with that goal, the better.
How much finance knowledge and experience do I need to take this class?
This class is packed with information and you’ll likely get different things out of it depending on your level of finance knowledge. If you are a complete beginner, don’t worry -- you won’t need to have any outside knowledge. The class is self-contained and fully comprehensive. If you have limited knowledge, the class will give you a stronger foundation to build on. If you’re more advanced, you’ll appreciate the huge range of deeper techniques, tips, tools and strategies to enhance your craft. It's built for an intelligent audience with a variety of backgrounds.
Why does the course cost $1,200?
The reason it costs $1,200 is because this is a live course where you are held accountable for finishing the exercises and will be collaborating with talented peers in real time. There is lots of free content online, and some of it is very good. However, in today’s internet age, content isn’t the most valuable thing. I created this course because I want to deliver much more than static content. I want to turn ambitious students like you into rigorous strategic thinkers and investment analysts.
Can I get reimbursed by my company?
Reimbursement policies vary per company but there's a good chance that you can expense this. One of the main purposes of this course is to help you upskill and accelerate your career and those goals are highly aligned with your company's goals. A template for asking for reimbursement can be found here.
Will I work with other students?
Yes! The essence of cohort-based learning is collaborating with like-minded peers to make progress towards shared goals. In this course, you will receive (and give!) feedback from fellow students at every step of writing the investment memo.