Andrew Left has been nothing but right in 2019.
The famed short-seller researcher decided to launch a hedge fund along Citron Research, and told investors that returns were 43% in their first year, a tremendous victory in a year that hasn't been terribly kind to all of Wall Street's most seasoned investors. Left's success shouldn't just put fear in the hearts of big-name fund managers who for years haven't hit the levels that his performance did in his rookie season - as well as CEOs who may increasingly have to go up an activist investor who's armed with more capital to start shaking up more companies.
Thinknum Alternative Data has chronicled time and again the prowess of Evan Spiegel's popular social network - although it is clearly under assault from competitors like TikTok, as well as other digital legacy players. One look at Snap's sales jobs stats showed the company was likely in for an earnings beat, and Thinknum data foreshadowed a big summer - before shares began to tail off. After bottoming out to start the year, Snap ($NYSE:SNAP) stock soared roughly 180% in 2019, and ratings submitted by users in the Apple Store continue to reflect ongoing engagement. Thinknum Alternative Data also tracks Snap's ratings - which are sub-3.0, but rising, according to the Apple Store data.
Teaching Grand Canyon Education a Lesson
On the short side, Left's fund bet against Grand Canyon Education ($NASDAQ:LOPE), the Arizona-based educational support services company. Sure enough, this summer, the company's shares hit a recent peak of more than $127 per share, only to slide 25%. Our chart above tracks job postings at Grand Canyon - which are showing a clear down-trend year-over-year, for a few years now.
Left's correct calls of note include Valeant Pharmaceuticals (now going under a new name after Left and others criticized the company's sales and accounting methods), which suckered in so-called seasoned hedge fund pros, among others. Armed with returns that outperform the market and a reputation for calling bull, it's likely another CEO will soon stumble into his fund's latest bear trap.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.