Going Pro

2017 Year In Review

What a year.

We gave up our college eligibility and went pro, albeit in a late round of the draft, by raising a $50 million fund. It was our “big deal” of the year. More on that later.

It felt like things really clicked this year. The quality of opportunities increased dramatically and our acquisition pipeline has never been stronger. In fact, we find ourselves staring at the finish line on multiple opportunities. Soon we hope to take off our sprinting shoes and lace up our marathoners. But for now, we’re trudging through the fifth circle of paperwork hell.

All our portfolio companies logged solid years, with some sowing and other reaping, but all anticipating a prosperous New Year. We’re fortunate to get to work with such a great group of leaders. We added two new members to the adventur.es team, expanding our marketing and operating capacity.

We completed a book manuscript to help owners navigate the realities of selling, which will be published later this year. Hundreds of hours went into condensing thousands of conversations. The result is a guide for sellers through the messy marketplace of imperfect buyers, us included.

It was also a year of trials. For about a week in March, my wife and I thought our four-month-old daughter was terminally ill. Thank God for miracles, or misdiagnoses. Either way, we’re blessed. We had deaths, divorces, and tragedies in our family of companies. Scale brings a lot more of everything — the good and the bad. Scaling emotional resilience has been a learning experience.

The peaks provide opportunity for celebration, and the creeping in of lethal pride. The valleys can create despair and the loss of hope. Thankfully, my faith and relationships provide opportunity for neither. I’m grateful to be surrounded by people who are as willing to call me an idiot as they are to give me a bear hug, often at the same time. Both are important, but it sure helps to know that your biggest critics are also your greatest fans.

Going Pro

One of the biggest quandaries of my professional life has been the inextricable link between my personal financial resources and the ability for my co-workers and me to do our jobs well. Beyond setting aside a modest inheritance for my girls, my wife and I plan to invest the bulk of wealth with which we’ve been entrusted to help alleviate suffering, and primarily poverty. But to date, each dollar donated to a worthy cause diminishes my organization’s capacity. When paired with an expanding opportunity set, the working capital needs of our growing portfolio companies, and our competitors’ rising use of debt to inflate valuations, it has made raising outside capital more and more attractive.

As I’ve hinted in the past, we’ve had ongoing conversations with various capital providers over the years. Most of them followed the same cadence — a burst of flattery, followed by a long list of demands that would fundamentally change the way we do business. Based on our trajectory, it wasn’t interesting, nor something we entertained beyond a surface level.

The conversation changed late last year. I had known Patrick O’Shaughnessy for a few years, after becoming acquainted through, of all places, Twitter. We had done a few podcasts and spent many hours chatting about investment strategies, life, philosophy, and family. Like all my favorite relationships, we share a lot in common, but also differ on some important subjects. For instance, he’s more of an Upanishads guy and I’m a big fan of Jesus.

As the conversations turned to the future of adventur.es, he once asked, “Under what terms would you take outside capital?” Funny enough, I had never really thought of it that way. Prospective investors had always dictated terms, with a little room for negotiation. I knew what I didn’t want to do, but I had never mapped out the dream scenario. Frankly I didn’t think we were in a position to dream that big.

To jump to the conclusion, over the course of six months we reimagined what an investment fund could look like that would allow adventur.es to operate identically and with the same motivations, just at a larger scale. Patrick said his family was interested in being the first investor and would help raise the rest of the money. Approximately $50 million and a year later, I can say that dreams come true in Disney movies and occasionally in real life. The name of the fund is Permanent Equity I.

Traditions and Incentives

While this may seem like a line straight from Captain Obvious, I believe the traditionally structured private equity fund is a hairball of confused incentives. The limited timeframe, small amount of skin in the game, and fee structure cause short-term thinking to become rationally more desirable and create conflicts with obviously good strategy.

Time horizons matter. Optimizing for a three-year outcome, the ideal holding period for most private equity investments, commands fundamentally different behavior than investing for a twenty-year holding period. At the root, no investment in the business that will bear fruit beyond the holding period will be made and all cost structure that isn’t immediately necessary will be removed. That’s private equity in a nutshell and the strategy makes complete sense.

All investments are probabilistic guesses about the future and all are imprecise. By not cutting a cost, you’re implicitly betting that it will yield a desirable return, or mitigate a meaningful risk. Will the new piece of equipment improve throughput efficiency by 2%, 10%, or 40%? Or perhaps clog up the works? Do you need five accountants, fifteen accountants, or fifty accountants to ensure timely and accurate data is available? Each decision is a guessing game.

It’s difficult to isolate decisions. Businesses are complex and adaptive, meaning that each decision collides with the current circumstances, which are an aggregation of past decisions, outside forces, and luck. The result is almost always unexpected. As naturalist and philosopher John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Ultimately, a shorter time horizon causes some decisions to become more predictable. If you have a three-year contract and plan to sell the company in under three years, stripping costs and sacrificing service is rational. You get all the benefits and push the costs and potential issues to the next buyer. Conversely, if a no-brainer investment won’t begin paying off until the fourth year, why would the short-term owner participate?

When it comes to misaligned incentives, the management fee takes center stage. It’s the salary of private equity, and if you look at it that way, the incentives become clear. As Peter Gibbons, the Office Space philosopher, said, “My only real motivation is not to be hassled; that, and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.”

The management fee, often 2% of total assets paid yearly, is performance-independent and offers the cash flow to pay for operations. At least that was the original intention. Is running a private equity firm expensive? Heck yeah. The management fee started as a way to cover those costs, but practically, it evolved into a mechanism of enrichment through asset gathering. More assets generates more income. More assets doesn’t necessarily generate more expenses, at least not linearly, as operational efficiencies kick in. The delta flows into partners’ pockets. Typically with over 10% of fund assets flowing to the GP through management fees, the incentive is to gather and keep assets, or “work just hard enough not to get fired.”   

General partner (GP) commitment is also problematic. Historically, funds have required GPs to put in 1% of total committed capital. While 1% of large funds can be a considerable sum of money, the skin in the game is minimal considering the upside. What if I offered for you to put one dollar at risk, but you will get 20% of the upside on $100 and you will have all your expenses paid, including a fat salary. How worried are you about your dollar? Probably not much.

All this is complicated by the liberal use of non-recourse debt, which amplifies the outcome. It’s a form of double-leverage. GPs are using other people’s equity and leveraging it against multiple forms of debt secured by the portfolio company’s assets. If everything goes right, which it usually does in the short-run, the return profile is fantastic. Even minimal gains look great when layered with enough debt. If things go a little less well than expected, the relatively small amount of equity is wiped out. Detonations are contained to individual portfolio companies and the winners flow up.

The logical conclusion of this incentive structure is to gather assets and ride head-I-win-tails-you-lose cyclical bets. The only cardinal sin is inaction. It’s far worse to not do deals, than to do bad deals. If you don’t do deals, the money stops flowing and you lose your career. If you deploy capital poorly, you can possibly be redeemed by equally poor peer performance since most investors measure returns by “vintage” of fund. Plus, the returns won’t be known for a decade. Stumbling in one fund is manageable if you shine in a later fund, which you raised before your poor performance was known.

I see no need to reinvent the wheel. But the traditional private equity game seems fraught with conflict and misalignment. Long-term, the only winning strategy is for everyone to win together. Anything less is unsustainable. If the seller, leadership team, employees, customers, vendors, community, and regulators win, then the investors win. And if the investors win, the private equity firm will also win.

If adventur.es took outside capital, it couldn’t be traditionally structured. This left no other choice than to put pen to a blank page and get creative.

The Fund Reimagined

We started by thinking about incentives, constraints, and time horizon. What we had been doing worked and felt sustainable — buy durable businesses for a fair price with no-to-low debt, treat people well, and hold indefinitely. There’s nothing magical about the approach, but it’s our way and we don’t know how to perform well otherwise.

The easy place to start was fund duration. We wanted it to be perpetual. In fact, my pitch to investors began with, “Plan on never getting your capital back.” That was a show-stopper for 80% of potential investors, and at least 10% more thought I was joking. I wasn’t. When that aspect hit home, the conversation usually ended rather abruptly. Apparently one man’s feature is another man’s bug.

As the adage goes, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” While we never intend to sell an investment, we also recognize stuff happens — people die, circumstances change, and industries evolve. The solution was to set a 27-year fund period, with the ability to renew. More than a quarter of century is a long time and, if we do our job well, the decision to continue on should be an easy one.

Ethically, I had a hard time making money if my investors didn’t make more money. We proposed zero fees, of any kind, outside of carry. No management fees. No salary. No deal fees. No dead deal fees. No financing fees. No fees from portfolio companies of any kind. The only way I can make money is if my investors make more.

Who funds the compensation for our talented team managing marketing, operations, due diligence, and oversight? I do. Who writes the check to the lawyers and accountants if a deal doesn’t go through? I do. As one institutional investor asked condescendingly, “Are you stupid or something?”

The next big piece was skin in the game. Historically, the only capital deployed by adventur.es has been my own. Within the new capital pool, investors wanted me to have a proportionally outrageous amount of capital at risk. We settled on a structure that requires a minimum co-investment of 15%. Remember, the typical GP commit is 1%, spread across the partners. I am personally on the hook for at least 15% of the equity invested and thrilled about it. If I’m not willing to put my family’s livelihood on the line, we shouldn’t be doing the deal.

If you’re a professional and reading this, you’re probably wondering how carry works if there’s no anticipated exit. We base it on cash flow. We take the totality of cash available for distribution and measure it against the equity invested. The more cash we have to distribute, the higher the adventur.es split. Practically, if we don’t distribute at least a 15% gross return, I lose money when you take into account the cost structure required to fund firm operations.

As I talked with peers who had raised outside capital, the issue of control came up. A competitive advantage we’ve enjoyed is our ability to be creative and move quickly, when appropriate. These abilities are only possible if decision-making is streamlined. Sellers need to know that a “real” decision-maker isn’t lurking in the shadows. We also didn’t want the threat of paralysis that accompanies decision-by-committee.

Adventur.es is in complete control of all investment decisions — what to buy, what price to pay, when to do the deals, how they’re structured, what diligence is done, what advisors we use, how the companies are staffed and operated, and if they’re ever sold. Portfolio company leaders make the day-to-day decisions for their companies, using adventur.es as a resource. Members of the adventur.es team lead their respective areas. And ultimately, as the CEO, I bear final responsibility. The only control investors have is to remove me, which requires a supermajority and I’m the second-largest LP.

To recap, here are the material terms of Permanent Equity I:

  1. Zero fees outside of carry
  2. Practically indefinite time horizon
  3. Minimum 15% co-investment
  4. Complete control

The Ultimate Colonoscopy

For someone who frequently diligences companies, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that our investors would do their homework. But dang, it was intense. Being on the receiving end of due diligence, I have a newfound appreciation for what our sellers go through. I kept thinking, “Oh, is this your first time through Customs?” *puts on rubber gloves*

The O’Shaughnessy family hired Ted Seides to help vet us. For those who are unfamiliar, Ted has spent most of his career evaluating hedge funds and acting as the gatekeeper for large pools of institutional money. He’s a pro at sniffing out the smallest inconsistencies. Ted is also the guy who recently lost the famous bet with Warren Buffett. I’ve suggested that he stick to his day job. (Too soon, Ted?)

Step one was “an introductory meeting” where Ted and Patrick O’Shaughnessy flew in to meet me. In reality, it was a ten-hour job interview. The discussion included obvious topics like the market for smaller companies and our team’s strategy, skill sets, and operating performance, and also deeper discussions about our philosophy and history. It was holistic to say the least.

Then came the paperwork. Complete financial history. Sources and uses of cash. Tax returns. Audits. Team structure. Anticipated new hires. Transaction documents for all past acquisitions. Pipeline reports. Marketing strategies. Debt agreements. And on, and on.

The paperwork was followed by questions and explanations, followed by clarifying questions and explanations. At 30,000 feet, what we do is simple and exciting. At 1,000 feet, it’s messy, stressful, and mundane, just like life. Often decisions are non-obvious and results don’t always speak for themselves. My best estimate is we spent around fifty hours answering questions.

Here’s my take on what they learned — we have one heck of a team that has worked together for quite a while, made our fair share of mistakes, and delivered better results than we deserve. Ultimately, talk is cheap. We’re the largest investment for the O’Shaughnessy family outside their asset management business and their firm’s own strategies. And Ted personally invested a meaningful amount of his net worth in our fund.

Rubber, Meet Road

With the structure set and due diligence cleared, it was time to start having investor conversations. Fundraising turns out to be hard work. Who knew? I had fleeting fantasies that we’d contact those who had previously initiated conversations, chat through terms, and be off to the races. That was outrageously naive and further reinforced a core lesson I’ve learned the hard way — nothing meaningful is ever easy. Anyone who says it is easy either got lucky or is lying to you.

We quickly figured out two things: 1.) People hate change; 2.) We pose significant career risk.

We were told repeatedly that it would be a no-brainer with a vanilla 2-20 fee structure. When you layer in the fact that I’m 34 years old with no background in private equity, look like I’m 19 years old, have deployed what one investor called “an embarrassingly small amount of capital,” and have never raised outside money before, apparently I could make a capital allocator look stupid to the boss. And no, the line, “In order to do better than average you have to do something different,” doesn’t work in practice.

As a quick aside, here is some feedback I received along the way:

  • “Son, I have a daughter older than you who works in private equity. If I wanted to go with a novice, I’d just give my money to her.”
  • “So you’re telling me that the opposite of private equity is going to return to me more than private equity?” said with a condescending chuckle.
  • “If you can’t deploy $50M a year, it’s not worth our time to have a conversation.”
  • “Could I start with a $10,000 check and see how you do?”
  • “Why don’t you just send me your best deals and I can invest in those?”

A large family office scheduled a call with seven decision-makers and eleven total participants on the call, not including me. Quickly, it became clear almost none of them even understood why they were on the call. One person asked, “So you’re into real estate?” Uh, no.

One high-net-worth individual was so convinced by our presentation that he declined the investment and decided to compete against us. I kept wondering why he wanted me to cover the minutia in such detail. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? See ya in the trenches.

But for the most part, I met kind and generous people, and many of them became investors. Some believed in us so much they didn’t even care about the terms. For some, we’ll be their largest investment by a country mile. For others, we’re a microscopic bet.

I couldn’t be more pleased with the final roster of investors. Almost all are current or former owners of what started as small businesses, and are familiar with the associated volatility, risk, and potential. Most of them are from “flyover country,” either currently residing in or having grown up in Minnesota, Michigan, Texas, North Carolina, and Missouri.

The two anchor investors are the O’Shaughnessy family and the Vlasic family. Patrick and Jim O’Shaughnessy treated me embarrassingly well, hosting events for me and kindly correcting me when I was being stupid, which was often. Both families are highly accomplished, exceedingly thoughtful, and provide a depth of expertise that we previously lacked.

It’s rare to go through a tough experience with someone and appreciate them more on the other side. Frankly, I’m amazed at Patrick O’Shaughnessy. While being in danger of over-inflating his ego, Patrick powered through months of painstakingly tedious legal language, brought a deftness of touch that I undoubtedly lack, and opened doors I didn’t even know existed. Not bad for a guy primarily known for his good looks and exquisite fashion sense. In all seriousness, Patrick is a rare combination of show and go, and someone I learn from constantly.

Awkward Adolescence

I recently saw a picture of myself at age 14, and despite rumors, that was 20 years ago. Between a bowl-cut hairstyle parted down the middle and braces, I was something to behold. Not quite a child and certainly not a man. I was… awkward.

Most days, that’s what it feels like at adventur.es. We have nice cash flow, $50M of new equity, and excellent deal flow, including three companies under letter of intent with scheduled closing dates, and a handful of opportunities right behind those.

With that said, we’re also still small and relatively inexperienced, with our biggest limitation being access to talent. Going into 2018, we have a number of open positions and we’d love your help in finding the perfect fits. But before I get into desired skills sets, I’d like to briefly talk about the opportunity. One of my investors told me, “You present far more steak than sizzle, and that’s not a compliment.” With that in mind, I’m going to make a rather bold pitch and hope it gets the right people’s attention.

I believe the market for private, U.S.-based businesses valued under $50M presents the greatest (legal) investment opportunity currently available. The next fifteen years will be the largest intergenerational transfer of private businesses in the history of the world, worth an estimated $10 trillion, and there aren’t nearly enough qualified buyers. To quantify the size further, of the 5.5 million business owners with paid employees surveyed in the 2012 U.S. Census, 75 percent were over age 45. And that was over five years ago.

The market for these companies is highly inefficient, meaning there is ample opportunity for large gains/losses and skill influences outcomes. As a professional investor, this is ideal soil in which to grow something meaningful. But why the inefficiency?

Sellers are caught between inertia, their family’s legacy, and the inevitable need to gain liquidity. The vast majority are without sons, daughters, or qualified employees to buy them out. For most, who buys their baby matters, and what they do with it matters even more. Remember, these businesses are their life’s work and employ their friends and family.

There aren’t enough buyers, and for good reason. Buying a company is risky, jarringly difficult, and expensive. Operating a company is even harder. The only way to get good at either is to do it, which often is a costly education. We’ve been paying tuition for a decade.

Financing a small business acquisition is next to impossible without considerable personal resources, and most banks won’t touch it. The conundrum is that if you have the resources to buy a company, you likely aren’t at a life-stage to operate it successfully. If you have the operational chops, you likely don’t have the money. Oh, and if you do pull off the transaction and the company doesn’t perform, you’re screwed — you won’t have offsetting gains for the tax loss and you’re likely near-bankrupt personally.

If you’re successful at acquiring one company, now you have to divert profits and attention to build the infrastructure necessary to step out of day-to-day ownership, spin up acquisition opportunities, negotiate them well, perform due diligence, and start operating a second company. That’s why most professional buyers do one company at a time.

From a seller’s perspective, transactions are almost always highly confidential and one-time in nature. This creates massive issues with visibility. Great sellers can’t find worthy buyers, and vice versa. The market is often made by intermediaries whose incentives are misaligned with both sides and executed on by helpers who benefit most from a deal not getting done.

When combined, seller and buyer dynamics create a volatile, exciting, and ripe opportunity set.

Adventur.es finds itself in the rare position to capitalize. We have patient resources, a high volume of outstanding opportunities, and a hard-earned playbook developed over the past decade from supporting operators. At eight full-time team members, we can continually develop new sources of opportunity, help our portfolio companies wherever we can be helpful, and provide a healthy level of oversight.

With that said, I consider our current skill level mediocre at best. Relatively, we’re doing fine. But in absolute terms, we have a long ways to go and clear gaps have started to emerge. The more skilled and experienced the team, the higher our probability of producing consistently favorable outcomes. So, in short, we’re looking for talented people to help us get better, and hopefully a lot better.

Using me as an example, I have never worked at another investment firm, have little formal training in finance, accounting, or auditing, and have no background in deal structuring, due diligence, benefits, or taxation. This has led to a lot of reinventing the wheel, where someone with even a modicum of direct experience could quickly say, “Oh, you need to do this, or that.” The upside is that adventur.es isn’t tethered to the well-worn paths, which has allowed us to blaze new trails, largely unintentionally. My dream is to be so relatively worthless to adventur.es that they put me in a corner and let me hang out.

We want to find some people who have “been there and done that” and others who are young and hungry. We want introverts and extroverts and ambiverts. We want different geographies, ideologies, personality traits, and work styles. We couldn’t care less about your skin color, religion, native language, nationality, political persuasion, sex, or sexual preference.

Just as adventur.es won’t be the right match for many successful companies, we won’t be the right fit for some talented individuals. Those attracted to a high-pressure, cut throat, big city investing career would certainly find us far too low-key. People who want to buy companies because they believe they have all the answers would be in for a rude awakening after meeting our deeply knowledgeable sellers. And those who are looking for a short-term stint to build their resumes would be sorely disappointed with adventur.es’ unknown profile. There are tremendous benefits to being headquartered in Columbia, MO, but notoriety isn’t one of them.

For others, however, adventur.es presents an amazing opportunity -- to get in early on a winning team focused on winning the right way. We want those with a relentless focus on continual improvement, an introspective humility, and a desire to succeed together. We want those who put the team’s goals above their personal ones, trust each other to do the right thing over the easy thing, call each other out on our BS, and disagree well.

We present an opportunity to do meaningful work, solidifying the legacies of owners who have devoted their lives to their companies and supporting the long-term careers of hundreds, if not thousands, of great people doing good work around the country. It’s an opportunity, through trial and error, to innovate around the most difficult of problems, work hard, and be challenged with a group of people excited about your personal success.

With all that as background, here are the talents we are actively seeking:

Experienced Operators: To properly transition most companies, outside leadership is required. Currently we don’t pursue these opportunities, choosing to focus on organizations with multiple layers of solid management in place. While this strategy has served us well and we plan to continue on that path, we often find great companies that are lacking non-owner leadership. Ideally, we’d like to build long-term relationships with operators looking for their next role.

Young, Humble, Hungry Operators: The best young talent is offered a big city lifestyle, high base pay, and a corporate association that will make you impressive at a bar. It also comes with slavish hours, high stress, and an outrageous cost of living. We can’t offer you any of that. What our portfolio companies offer is fair compensation, a supportive environment for professional and personal growth, the mentorship of experienced leaders, and an endless stream of opportunities to step up into more responsibility. For example, our youngest company leader recently turned 29.

CFO: No one at adventur.es has ever worked in traditional private equity, nor been in a high-level financial leadership position at a company of size, nor has experience working for a financial institution. We’re looking for someone with a breadth of financial, accounting, and tax experience to help lead our team.

Tax/Finance Attorney: Last year we brought on Graham Lloyd, a young lawyer, who has proven to be one of the best hires we’ve ever made. [Deflate your ego, Graham, and get back to work.] It opened our eyes to the power of specialization and focus. Ideally we’d like to bring on another attorney with a strong financial background to help with deal structure, due diligence, and portfolio company consulting.

If you, or anyone you know, understands what we’re trying to accomplish, would fit with our culture, and has the skill sets we’re looking for, please send them our way immediately. Email, call, Tweet, LinkedIn message, whatever. We’re easy to get a hold of.

Eating With My Idols

In the past year, I got to spend time with Warren Buffett in Omaha and Charlie Munger in Los Angeles, and ask them all the burning questions I had accumulated through the years. Both invitations were the opportunity of a lifetime and the product of undeserved generosity. It was thrilling, but the most staggering thing was that I was even in the room. I’ll forever owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Kaufman and Ted Seides.

While much of the conversations were strictly off-the-record, I wanted to share a few of the most impactful tidbits that I don’t think they’d mind.

To set the stage, both Mr. Munger and Mr. Buffett were warm, encouraging, and razor-sharp. I met Mr. Munger for lunch at Peter Kaufman’s office, along with a small group from Google. Over the course of three hours, Mr. Munger jumped between investing, physics, and psychology with effortless ease, often making unexpected and non-obvious connections. It was a tour de force in worldly exploration.

My biggest takeaway from Mr. Munger had nothing to do with investing. He said, “Disguise your judgement. You don’t need to show people how smart you are. I didn’t learn this until my early 80s.” Based on his tone and emphasis, it was clear that this was an important lesson. Too often I’ve tried to make up for my own inadequacies by pointing out someone else’s deficiencies. Stepping on others is a terrible, fleeting path to confidence and gets you nowhere closer to success. I’m thankful to Mr. Munger for sharing his struggles with judgement and the folly of it.  

The dinner with Mr. Buffet, along with Todd Combs, Patrick O’Shaughnessy, and Ted Seides had an unexpected tone. While Mr. Munger was serious and focused on elucidating nuance, Mr. Buffett wanted to shoot the shit and have a great time. While I was in danger of sweating out through my palms as we sat down to dinner, Mr. Buffett immediately set the tone by cracking a few jokes and talking about Notre Dame sports. In fact, I think we were almost an hour into dinner and had exclusively debated the merits of various college sports teams.

Many of my questions centered on Berkshire’s due diligence process, which is notoriously simple. I questioned whether the public story matched private practice. After patiently answering a series of specific questions about his acquisitions through the years, he said, “Price is my due diligence.” It was a show stopper and a clear articulation of his philosophy. The lower the price, the less due diligence required. If you pay a good enough price, a lot can go wrong and still be right.

The adventur.es due diligence process has historically been fairly rigid. Part of it is caused by our lack of experience. We don’t know what we don’t know and we haven’t had decades to build confidence that we’re not missing something obvious. Mr. Buffett’s comment caused me to reevaluate our procedures at adventur.es and adjust our level of comfort based on the valuation. We’re still going to perform thorough due diligence, but the feedback loops of information are being acted upon differently.


I’m going to close this letter the same way as I have in the past: All-in-all, it was a challenging, frustrating, exciting, fun-as-hell, and ultimately fruitful year. We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for our small family of people and companies.