MP spoke with Joshua M. Peck, the founding member of TrueCode Capital with nearly twenty years of developing and capitalizing on emerging technologies, about his founder’s journey. Peck utilizes a systems approach to portfolio management that leverages his deep quantitative background in financial engineering, machine learning, and applied mathematics.
Early in his career, Peck worked in academia in support of high-performance research computing environments, where he became a regional expert in systems engineering, cybersecurity, and data engineering.
In addition to his work, he is active in philanthropy through the Denver Mile High Rotary Foundation, where he is currently the treasurer and a member of the World Community Service committee, where, most recently, they were able to fund a refrigeration project in Nepal.
Peck has served as an advisory board member, angel investor, and mentor for various venture clubs and accelerators and has invested in a diverse group of companies.
He earned a BS in Computer Science from Pittsburg State University and a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the University of Kansas.
The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?
I had the fortune to find business success in my early thirties at a relatively young age.
So, I was faced with a potential 60 to 70-year retirement. According to the blue-collar rules of my upbringing, continuing to work would be perceived as greediness rather than industriousness.
But 70 years is a tremendously long time to be idle.
I had to find new work that was meaningful on a deeply human level.
Now I see this early wealth creation as an opportunity to spend these decades in the contribution phase of my life. Where the sum of the lessons I learned along the way, and continue to learn, can be shared with others to ease their journey.
Especially those who, like me, are creating first-generation wealth and may not have family members with relevant experiences.
This philosophy has resulted in my upcoming book: “Cryptocurrency Risk Management: A Guide for Family Wealth Managers,” where I share many lessons I applied when designing our cryptocurrency hedge fund for TrueCode Capital.
Video response provided by Julie Lowe, Success Coach and Founder of Socially Aligned
The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur?
If you think entrepreneurship is lonely, try retirement!
Any transitional phase in your life can be challenging: transition from college to work, work to entrepreneurship, or entrepreneurship to retirement.
I was blessed to have great business partners along the way, which is more necessary than I initially thought.
I underestimated the sheer volume of work to do to launch a new venture.
Plus, there is something that happens in a good partnership where each person brings something unique, and a virtuous game of one-upmanship occurs: an unspoken, “look what I did, try to top that” mentality.
The Psychological Warfare
Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur?
Early in my career, I prioritized work over everything else.
Health, relationships, and family all suffered. On the one hand, I can see the unhealthiness of it. On the other hand, it worked.
Paul Graham espouses one of the advantages of working on technology startups: you can compress your working life into a few years, frequently less than ten.
The key is to know why you are working and what you’re working toward.
It is easy to let the goalposts move and stay in mega-work mode until it kills you (metaphorically and literally).
But people tend to underestimate how much work there is to move a firm from zero to momentum and that inertia comes from the founders' work. It won’t be worth it for most people to make those sacrifices, but for the pathologically driven, it can result in fortunes.
Newer entrepreneurs often equate their personal success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?
Don’t let your business be the only thing: lift weights, play sports, play an instrument, or do something else to see progress. When your business is the only thing in your life, it can be depressing when work isn’t going well. This is dangerous because little of the outcomes of our work are entirely within our control.
It is helpful to have a workout plan or a hobby where you can improve and see progress regularly to fall back on when one area of your life gets stuck. Too many try to make their relationships their “other thing,” but that’s not a good idea because relationships are only half under our control – if that.
Stay focused on your “infinite game.” Simon Sinek has a notion of an Infinite Game, a game where the reward is to continue playing. While your initiative or strategy may fail, the infinite game of creating generational wealth by changing the world does not change.
What are your three biggest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?
Companies usually do not die due to a cataclysmic change but through 1000 cuts. Small frictions that paralyze the firm must be removed at all costs.
2. Government Intervention
When the game's rules are changed mid-stream, it creates uncertainty.
I build firms that have small, high-impact teams. Losing a key hire or introducing a poor hiring decision can be catastrophic.
What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid these mistakes?
1. I Built Products I Wanted To Create
People did not need the products I created. Providing a great product is an act of love. You have to love your clients to understand their needs.
2. I Tried Succeeding by Myself
I tried to do it alone, which left me tired, stressed, and less successful. Find others as committed as you are to help share the load.
3. I Focused on the Product First
There is an excellent process designed by Tony Ulwick called Jobs-to-be-Done that focuses on the job your client or customer is trying to do first, then building a product around that job. I could have improved my feature hit rate by 90% if I had known about this earlier.
What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?
1. Skill Development
Entrepreneurship is not one thing. You will need a Skills Stack that makes you effective. Select a few critical skills that, in concert, make you unusually effective and go get them. Being in the top 70% of people at five skills will serve you better than being in the top 1% in one.
2. Spending Face Time With Customers
Find a way to spend face time with your customers before you launch the business. Either through conferences, trial marketing campaigns, or customer interviews. What you learn will be more valuable than when you spend to do it. After all, the cost of being wrong is the worst expense to pay.
Entrepreneurs often see too many opportunities and are spread too thin. The old maxim, "You can do anything, but you can’t do everything,” applies. You must hone in on one business and go deep enough into that market to see what surface-level business owners miss. Specialization trumps diversification in entrepreneurship 100% of the time.
What are three seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them?
1. Capital Constraints
Early in our FinTech marketing firm, we spent so much on PPC advertising that we couldn’t keep the ads on. Between my business partner’s negotiation skills with our clients and my ability to negotiate credit lines, we were able to make it through and keep running. Remember, there is always money for people making money, and don’t stop asking until you get the answer you need.
2. Launching a Hedge Fund Anywhere but NYC
Nearly everyone has told me that operating a hedge fund outside NYC is doomed to failure. Still, one of the advantages of being over forty years old is having capital. So, I hired a top-tier team of people who are proximal to NYC, allowing me to live in Colorado, where I want to raise my family. Some things are too important to compromise on.
3. Surviving Crypto Markets
Our Fund seeks to grow our client’s portfolios at the pace of cryptocurrency but with far less downside. Accomplishing this was no small feat! I spent nearly a decade trying every investing strategy known to man and settled on something that I think is very suitable for family offices like mine. The key was to go back to the first principles: what is a risk, what kinds of risk apply to the crypto asset class, and how do you manage each one of those in turn?
What are three ways you have managed to boost your productivity without causing burnout?
1. Hire Well
When building a business, other people’s knowledge and time are the most impactful forms of leverage available to you.
We live in a world where computation is inexpensive. Use it! From marketing automation to robotic process automation. Spend the time to solve one problem per day permanently, and you will find the time to do the truly meaningful.
3. Defend Your Focus
I aim to take meetings only one day per week, so I can focus on doing the Deep Work that only I can do: writing, thinking, and designing. Fragmented attention is friction I cannot afford. Never multi-task; turn off your phone, email, and Slack, and do real work until it’s done.
How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems like an impossible task?
I think this happens over time more so than at the outset. Some people stay in startup mode forever, but if you are in startup mode for more than 24 months, something is wrong, and it’s probably you. You must systematize, productize, and hire to get your work down to a manageable level.
And if your business doesn’t support employees, you need to find a better business. Good opportunities provide ample budget for employees and profits for yourself. Don’t fight friction; follow traction.
What three key pieces of advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey easier, and why?
1. Expecting More of My Hires
Early on, I expected that I should know everything and teach it to my employees. This is blue-collar thinking, where the foreman supervises the work of their underlings. In a high-growth business, you must leverage the knowledge and expertise of others.
2. Partnering for Success
I also thought there was some virtue in doing it alone. That I should do everything myself. Instead, partnering with other firms can create win-win scenarios for both firms and are the fastest way to expand your reach.
Don’t allow your attention to be fragmented. Remove distractions that masquerade as work: email, Slack, Telegram, and LinkedIn. Your mind is addicted to the noise. Be a producer of distractions that engage the mind, not a consumer.
What do you think the most significant difference is between how an entrepreneur sees their career path versus how an employee at a company sees their career path, and why?
Employees are typically focused on their income statement. What is their salary, and is it enough to meet their expenses? An entrepreneur should be focused on expanding the firm’s balance sheet. Especially during the early stages, balance sheet growth can be rapid by forming strategic partnerships, acquiring complementary firms, or making capital investments.
The fastest wealth you will ever create is when you go from a bootstrapped firm to a VC-backed firm.
What role has intuition played in your success as an entrepreneur, and why do you think this is the case?
Indeed, in my current business, I just couldn’t shake the idea that there had to be a better way to manage a cryptocurrency portfolio. I kept pulling at threads: will indexing work, will market neutral work? Until I finally settled on a class of trading loosely grouped under the heading of momentum strategies and understood that, in my view, they have the best parity with growth assets.
This transformed my view of markets and my returns from a slow-growth value investor mindset to a focus on high-growth algorithmic trading systems. I’m having more fun with less stress than ever before.
Responses provided by Joshua M. Peck, founding member of TrueCode Capital.
Questions based on topics and comments provided by:
- Alicia Nagel, Founder at Alicia Nagel Creative
- Rob Volpe, Chief Executive Officer at Ignite 360