Movie Review: Becoming Warren Buffett

Movie Review: Becoming Warren Buffett

I think it’s fair to say I’m a little obsessed with Warren Buffett. Just like damn near every other investor.

To be honest, I’m looking forward a little bit to when Buffett dies. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I want the guy to kick it. I’ll be as sad as the rest of y’all when he does finally pass. I’m just a little sick of the cult worship. Not saying Buffett doesn’t deserve the attention, because he does. I just wish guys like Walter Schloss got their due, too.

Never heard of Walter Schloss? I’ll do a blog post on him sometime. He’s a pretty neat guy.

I’m just as guilty of the Buffett worship as anyone. I’ve wrote about the guy about once a month for the last two years. Last week I pointed out the real secret to his investing success. I also asked if Buffett would end up a billionaire if he started out today, and I busted a few Buffett myths back in the day. I even interviewed the guy, which went about as badly as expected. It turns out Warren is no fan of my crap.

Despite having a little Buffett fatigue, I was still excited when I heard HBO was producing Becoming Warren Buffett, a biographical film that promised to be jam-packed with interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and old family pictures. It promised to be a good time if you’re a Buffett lover.

I watched the movie so you don’t have to. Here’s my Becoming Warren Buffett review.

(Spoilers ahead)

The good

Like the time I reviewed Early Retirement Extreme, I’ll divide my review into stuff I liked and stuff I didn’t like.

Becoming Warren Buffett starts out with our hero driving to work, explaining the ins and outs of his breakfast routine. Each day he drives to a McDonald’s drive-thru near his house and gets two sausage patties (cost: $2.61), a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit (cost: $2.95) or a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit (cost: $3.17). The market is down that morning, so he goes with the sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit.

Once he gets to the office Buffett pours himself a Coke to go with his meal — from Berkshire’s very own fountain soda machine — and gets to work. I would like my own Coke machine. What a perk.

That’s followed up with Buffett talking extensively about his investing career, and many shots of the Berkshire Hathaway offices. Among the dozens of different framed pictures there was a newspaper front page of the 1929 stock market crash, a Creature from the Black Lagoon poster with Buffett’s face photoshopped in, and, of course, the portrait of his father.

Buffett is shown reading newspapers at his office, including picking up and using an iPad for about two seconds, which brought me untold amounts of pleasure.

If you’re looking for a documentary on how to invest, you won’t get it from Becoming Warren Buffett. The movie spends a lot of time focusing on Buffett’s relationship with his wife and kids, with the latter getting plenty of screen time. The only exception is his current wife, Astrid. She barely gets mentioned. This is all very familiar if you’ve read The Snowball, but I still enjoyed it. It’s obvious Buffett is especially close to Susie, his daughter.

There’s a scene near the end where Buffett goes to Dairy Queen with Susie and his grandkids. You can tell he’s trying hard to make up for time he didn’t spend with his kids when they were younger.

The bad

There really isn’t a whole lot I didn’t like about Becoming Warren Buffett.

I think there was a bit too much focus on Buffett’s family. I understand he wanted the movie to really focus on his family, so I guess that’s understandable. More about Warren Buffett and less about Susan Buffett would have been better, even if the latter is pretty interesting.

I also wanted views from inside Buffett’s house, dammit. I bet there’s all sorts of cool memorabilia inside his house. Astrid was probably the one who kiboshed that.

Don’t watch this if you want to learn how to be a great investor. It does go into Buffett’s investing criteria, but only barely. I think the movie could have spent a little more time on Buffett the investor rather than Buffett the half-assed family man.

That was really about it. Overall it was a pretty good flick.

Watch Becoming Warren Buffett

Don’t have HBO? No problem. A few nice folks have put the entire movie on Youtube. Watch it before John Oliver gets it yanked. Somehow.

Have you watched Becoming Warren Buffett? Leave your opinions in the comments. 

Dragon’s Den Sucks Now

Dragon’s Den Sucks Now

I was unreasonably excited when I first heard Dragon’s Den was about to be a thing.

“ZOMG YOU GUYS THIS IS GONNA BE BANANAS” — me, in a calm moment.

For the six of you who have never heard of the show, let me explain. Wannabe entrepreneurs enter the Dragon’s Den looking for an investment in their business. They have just a few minutes to convince the wealthy Dragons to invest their own cash in the idea.

Business ideas range from the outrageously wacky to the surprisingly profitable, which each company having some sort of unique selling point. Common business ideas over the show’s eleven seasons include tech, food, and various household gadgets. If somebody invented a better mouse trap, it got some airtime. A plumber looking to buy another truck and expand his business wouldn’t.

The show started off rough. I once compared the first season’s set to an abandoned warehouse in Scarborough. Once CBC execs figured out the show had promise, the network threw its whole budget (tens! of dollars) towards making the show a hit.

The show has seen close to a dozen Dragons over the years, each with their own unique way of looking at deals. Kevin O’Leary was a value investor, while Brett Wilson threw money at practically anything. Bruce Croxton didn’t really do much of anything. David Chilton added some chuckles to the show. Arlene Dickenson constantly told people she’d add marketing expertise to any deal, which once included putting her own damn face on the side of the box. Nice work, marketing maven.

Anyhoo, I’m sure you’re familiar with the show. Let’s move on to why it now sucks.

What’s wrong with Dragon’s Den

The concept of the show is simple. Entrepreneurs show up and ask for cash for part of their company. The cash can have all sorts of uses, but is usually slated to be spent expanding operations.

But that’s just not happening.

Dragon’s Den is increasingly attracting companies that are already profitable, have plenty of capital, and can easily fund their own expansion efforts. They don’t need Dragon cash.

Yet they’re there anyway, knowing that the kind of boost given from an appearance on the show just can’t be replicated. There are dozens of examples of companies who didn’t take a dime from the Dragons even though there was one (or more willing to invest).

Remember Holy Crap, the cereal Jim Treliving lost his mind over in 2010? The company refused Treliving’s cash after they shook hands on a deal, mostly because they really didn’t need the money. The company then came back to the show in 2016, where Treliving tried to give them money again. The deal fell apart, again. This time Treliving willingly stepped aside and let new Dragon Manjit Minhas invest instead. She’s now Holy Crap’s co-CEO.

That story didn’t end how you thought it was going to, did it?

More recently, Canadian finance site Ratehub stepped into the Den, looking for $1 million for a 10% valuation. The company ended up agreeing to a deal with Joe Mirmam and Jim Trevling that valued the company at $14 million. Ratehub never saw a nickel of the cash, deciding to decline the deal in the due diligence stage of the negotiations.

And so on. There are a million other stories just like those.

According to the Globe and Mail, 79 deals have been sealed on Dragon’s Den over the years, out of 361 different handshake agreements. That’s a success rate of just over 20%. Or, to put it another way, just 79 out of 1,076 pitches resulted in a deal before the beginning of the show’s 10th season, a success rate of just 7.3%.

It’s obvious the vast majority of businesses that enter the den are there just for publicity. I’m sick of it. If these folks want commercials, go ahead and pay for them like every other business.

The solution?

It’s pretty obvious this free promotion is a big draw for both the presenters and the Dragons. The Dragons like knowing their new investment will get a big boost when the episode airs, and business owners know you can’t buy publicity better than showing up on the Den.

In other words, it’s not going away anytime soon.

Shark Tank knew this would be a problem, so it asks for 5% equity in any company that presents on the show. This not only ensures companies don’t show up only for the sweet, sweet, publicity, but it also minimizes the joke pitches.

When Dragon Brett Wilson quit the show after season four, he pointed out many of the same criticisms. He felt the show was misleading viewers by only showing the handshake, and very little of the stuff afterwards. He bemoaned the lack of follow-up episodes that showed the next stage for these businesses.

Venture capital is exciting. You can make compelling television out of the whole process, not just the shaking hands part of the Den. And while we’re at it, stop letting companies go on the show just to get some free publicity. Either force them to give up equity or pay you. It might not be very Canadian, but at least it’ll help the rest of us at least pretend a company is serious about doing a deal.

Market Sense Is The Best

Every weekday, I wake up, (to Carly Rae Jepsen, because that’s the closest I’m going to ever get to actually sleeping with her) eat breakfast, go fill the chips, and then come home. I know, you are jealous of my exciting life. About half the time I make it home before 3 o’clock, which is just in time for my new favorite show, Market Sense.

Market Sense airs each weekday on BNN, at 5PM Eastern time. It’s hosted by the lovely Catherine Murray and the not-so-lovely-but-pretty-funny Randy Cass. They are pictured below.

Catherine Murray & Randy Cass

The concept of the show is quite simple. It recaps the action of the day on the stock market, inviting guests on to add to the opinions of the hosts. Both Murray and Cass know what they’re talking about. Randy is the founder of Orchard Asset Management, a Toronto based hedge fund. Catherine has years of experience in the industry, working for such heavyweights as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank. And yet they threw it all away to talk about finance for guys like me watching.

So why is the show so good? As I’ve watched over the months, each host has developed their own routine. Randy will crack jokes, often at Catherine’s expense. Catherine, the consummate professional, tries her best not to laugh at Randy, probably because she doesn’t want to encourage. him. This makes Randy’s jokes all the better. She is the perfect straight man to Randy’s class clown.

Every show begins with the two talking about the main news stories of the day, and Randy always gets barbs in at Catherine’s expense. Always. For the business channel, it is absolutely hysterical.

Market Sense then moves on to the guests, sometimes talking more about the big stories of the day or sometimes just talking about investments the guest’s firm think are undervalued. After a few segments of that, the show ends with the “Around The World in 80 Seconds” feature (which is basically just rapid fire headlines) and the two hosts combating again. It is an entertaining show among so, so, much dullness.

While we’re on the topic, does anyone else watch The Lang and O’Leary Exchange? Amanda Lang and Kevin O’Leary are entertaining in the exact same way. Kevin says stuff that he knows Amanda will disagree with, she gets angry and challenges him on his point, and he just keeps poking. Amanda is incredibly liberal, and you can almost watch her blood boil when facing off with Kevin’s over the top conservative views. I watch, and not just because Amanda is exceedingly attractive. (Although let’s face it, that sure doesn’t hurt.)

It also helps that it’s obvious that both Cass/Murray and O’Leary/Lang legitimately like each other. This leads to on-air chemistry, which is really what this is all about.

So kids, if you’re looking for entertaining business TV, you can’t really beat Catherine Murray and Randy Cass on Market Sense. It airs weeknights at 5PM EST and then again at 7PM EST. It’s worth your time.