Oregon, USA – 23 December 2021
This is the third in our series of articles that explore our four principles of Freedom, Wealth, Adventure and Connection.
Adventure is in our DNA. Whether we own it or not, we are designed to experience life to the fullest, and there is much to gain from stepping into new horizons.
I grew up in a rural community 45 minutes from Portland, Oregon, on the west coast of the U.S. Endless fields, thick green woods and deep blue ponds were the universe for my friends and me. When we were bored, we’d make up silly stunts on our bicycles to test, and overstep our agility… and luck. The sort of thing you look back on now and say, how am I still alive?
I was the test pilot for our bike ramps, when I’d go airborne and (crash) land. And every time we found a new path in the woods, I took the lead. I suffered – proudly – bruises and scars that I still carry, marks of a childhood well lived.
By the time I reached university, my thirst for adventure and new experiences had evolved. To this day, my mother remembers each of the many foreign students I brought home at Christmas, from every continent. She had her favorites – including at least two she wanted me to marry. And she still reminds me of the ones who won’t (ever) be invited back.
It was inevitable that my quest for the unknown, the exotic, and the mystical would lead me away from home. I started off with a trip to Victoria, in Canada… that whet my palate. Then I spent the summer of 1988 on a cultural exchange in Hong Kong and China.
After a month in Hong Kong, we were supposed to fly to Beijing. Instead, though, a few friends and I decided to take the train. I opted for the simplest and cheapest sleeper class, featuring an open compartment with three bunks stacked upon each other. There was no air conditioning. The windows were kept open to ventilate the sweaty and often cigarette smoke filled cabin, and for passengers to toss out garbage onto the tracks.
My bunk mates were my buddy Randy and an older couple taking their five-month-old grandson to Beijing. We shared simple meals of rice, eggs and veggies that we bought when we darted briefly onto the train platforms during stops along the way. We also shared 36 hours of vistas of a changing countryside and the great Yellow and Yangtze rivers as we plodded our way north to Beijing.
That was the beginning… and I was hooked. Fast forward 32 years, and my passion and quest for adventure have matured – but remain as strong.
I’ll go anywhere and try anything at least once… and I’m equally committed to finding something new in my favorite haunts. During a trip last month when I hopscotched through Kazakhstan, Romania, Ukraine and the UAE, I was just as excited to sip espresso at my favorite coffee shop on the planet – Lviv Chocolate in Kiev’s Podil District – as I was to explore the cobbled streets and cafes of Bucharest’s Old Town for the first time.
Admittedly, I’m no longer a train cattle-car traveler… my expectations – requirements – for comfort and convenience have certainly changed. Which business class pod I occupy on my favorite airlines matters to me… as does ensuring that I have the best floor and view from my five-star hotel.
Adventure Led Me to Obris
The founders of Seraph, the company that Marvin and I acquired several years ago and reinvented as Obris, focused on frontier markets. Soon after they started Seraph, they hosted a gathering of more than two dozen subscribers in Mongolia, at the time a hot investment destination.
By the time I attended my first Seraph event in Auckland, the group had already met up in nearly a dozen countries including Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Fiji.
Since then, we’ve held events in 10 other cities, and we have a growing wish list of future locales for meet ups… from Dubai to Bucharest, to Kuala Lumpur, Miami and Andorra. Emerging, frontier or developed market, there’s lots of scope for adventure.
This is Adventure
The Oxford Dictionary defines Adventure as: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous experience or activity.
I like this definition. It has the core ingredients of stepping into the unknown and willfully taking risks… though it does not have to be hazardous.
Let’s add to the definition. We seldom step into the unknown simply for the sake of doing so… there’s a method to our madness. And part of the excitement is the anticipation of what we will find in the unknown… and what we will learn.
Think of your past adventures… and the what-ifs. What if you hadn’t taken that spur-of-the-moment right turn that led you to your new favorite restaurant, the cruise on the Pacific where you met your soulmate or the investment that became your first unicorn?
An Obris Definition
Before you jump to the conclusion that all Obris members are adrenaline junkies, I will add that we share the common traits of taking risks and exploring the unknown, but we apply these traits in different ways.
Some of us do in fact jump out of airplanes… while others are as enthralled to take a cruise down the Danube from Prague to Budapest, or to fly fish on the Mekong River in Vietnam. Some are happy just to come to our events.
And some are adventurers in training. I met Jon at our Obris Austin, Texas blockchain meetup in 2017. He told me that in addition to appreciating our approach to investing, he joined Obris because we ignited a latent flame inside of him.
Jon wanted to experience the world. He knew that we would be a great group of people to ease him into adventure. He was correct.
We Facilitate Adventure
Adventure is in Obris’ DNA. From the first gathering in Mongolia, Obris has drawn a crowd that shares a quest for the unknown. I have met many interesting people who are looking for such a group, or who just need a little nudge or enticement to step out.
We cultivate this key attribute through the Global Investor Summits that we host around the world. Our events combine exploring exotic and fascinating locations, often with an investor’s eye.
We craft bespoke experiences that highlight the best of what our destinations offer including great food, swanky night spots, breathtaking scenery and local attractions… and we connect with regional entrepreneurs and investment opportunities.
Obris also connects interesting people with each other. The correlation to adventure is that Obris members intentionally meet up with each other as they travel the world. (More on this in the next issue, when we focus on Connection.)
A Correlation with Investing
Bespoke investing and bespoke adventure have a great deal in common. We are active investors who get our hands dirty. We explore markets and dive into investment opportunities across the planet. We also have a lot of fun doing so.
One of our recent investments is a great example. We told you a few months ago (in our issue onFunding the War of the Worlds) about 0600, the VFX (Visual Effects) sci-fi thriller that Obris and our members are underwriting. It’s our first film investment project, and we chose our partners well.
Marvin and I were introduced to Adam and Stephan, the people behind Bangkok based FilmCube Productions by an Obris member (he’d made a 40% return by underwriting One Night in Bangkok, a previous FilmCube production). The Obris team completed our due diligence and concluded that FilmCube Productions has what it takes to make a profitable movie.
That’s where the adventure began. We educated ourselves and Obris members on how to make money in film, raised the capital and committed to underwrite 0600.
As the executive producer, Obris has an active role in the key financial decisions. We also had a say in choosing the lead actors, Christopher Lambert (of Highlander fame) and Kitty Chicha Amatayakul (who starred in Netflix’s Girl from Nowhere).
I recently visited the movie’s set in Bucharest, along with two Obris members, to watch two days of shooting. It was a great learning experience and a lot of fun. It also gave us great perspective as the lead investor.
While our portfolio is spread across the planet, it is not uncommon to correlate Obris investments with companies we have visited in places like Yangon, Medellin and Panama City.
As you can see, there can be a lot of adventure in investing.
Stepping Into It
So far, we have shared exposés on Freedom, Wealth and Adventure, and Connection will be next. All four of Obris’ key principles are woven into every aspect of the Obris experience. Since you are reading this newsletter, I surmise that you share such passions, or you aspire to such passions.
We would love to take you on an adventure. I am not just speaking about our events or investing in our products. Obris is unique, and I invite you to experience the unique – what we call a Whole New World of Investing. I am certain that you will find yourself in an enduring and ongoing adventure that you will not want to end.
A larger group of us will gather in Bucharest in late March to join Christopher, Kitty and the crew for the last few days of filming and the wrap party. We will also explore Bucharest along with Romanian wine country and the historic and picturesque Transylvania region.
This gathering will be a member only event. Please reach out to me if you are interested in becoming a member. We would love for you to join us.
James on behalf of the Obris Team