This interview is from our series of IG live streams about what people of different professions do with money. Liliana is a world-class PR expert, journalist and creator of the documentary Crypto Rush.
Okay so before we start with finance-related questions, could you tell me please how long you've been working in PR and how did you come to investing?
It's a great question. I think I'm in PR for over 14 years in total – I started my career, actually, as a radio host a while back in my early 20s. And at the same radio station, which is a large National radio station in Russia, I have had an amazing relationship with the management there and we agreed that I would also do the PR. Because I was well known in my region and I knew a lot of people they thought that, you know, it's a great idea to make this DJ person also kind of help us promote our rebranding and new radio station strategy. And this is what happened and I was actually, very early in my early 20s, engaged in quite, you know, high-profile media activities, like, with celebrities on the national level and all of that and I think that I've really learned so much from that. Also, I was able to create online and produce on, like, radio projects so I had my own show, I made shows for other people, which went National, and I also like was a little bit producing at the time. So, it was an amazing experience and I'm to this day just grateful for our General management of the radio station for this opportunity it was really amazing.
And later on, I kind of crawled into Tech because my first large-scale PR campaign, then for a science company, so I was doing PR for a Scientific Company because I have a STEM education originally, so I was working with those physicists and chemists in a large University and helping them become, you know, doing their storytelling and Communications. Later I went to EdTech company.
You asked about my path to Investments, I think it really began in around 2014 when I became a part of “Team Runa Capital” which is quite a prominent venture capital investment company, run by very successful entrepreneurs like Sergey Belarusa, Yazubrev and all of the management team and partners there are pretty amazing. I instantly was absolutely in love with Venture Capital Investments, with working with startups and ever since, I think, I've been in this ecosystem because I then became the mentor for Techstars accelerator. Maybe someone who's watching us doesn't know about it: so you have this Y combinator, which is, like, one of the most famous accelerators and Techstars is probably number two – they have over 200 acceleration programs all over the world. Just to give you an idea – just yesterday I made an introduction to Techstars in Australia for a company that wants to enter the Australian Market, I introduced them to the Techstars team there to kind of do the networking and everything. It's an amazing community of people at Techstars.
This is kind of my PR and Tech path, yeah, and actually being acquainted with what type of Investments you can do, because, you know, before joining a venture capital firm I, kind of, had an idea about stock investments brief so I kind of heard that you can invest in stocks and all of that and I watched the amazing “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” movie and stuff like that. But I always thought it was, you know, for the big guys, when you have, like, millions, gazillions of dollars and you invested on the stock exchange like gecko or those guys. So this probably was my stage of acquaintance in 2014. Then I've learned about a smaller portion of investment Market which is Venture Capital but still to do Venture Capital Investments you still need the money.
A few million dollars, at least, is a good thing to have to do those. And my actual hands-on path to investments began when I got acquainted with cryptocurrencies in 2017. And it was pretty amazing to me how fractional type of investment it can be. So, like, I started by asking “but I don't have ten thousand dollars to buy a whole Bitcoin” but they explained to me that you don't need to have ten thousand dollars you can like invest in a portion… by the way, this is not an investment advice.
No, no it’s not, just an opinion.
It’s just my personal, kind of, path I'm sharing. But I was quite amazed how, you know, you can invest in portions and it doesn't have to be huge amounts of money, which I didn't have at the time, obviously. So I also made a movie about cryptocurrency which is called “Crypto Rush.”
And this was the time when I actually really started to engage with investments like from hands-on experience and even nowadays it's 2022 – crypto investments are not that easy, obviously, but back then it was a nightmare – like how you… all of those, you know, different exchanges were very questionable, not regulated, you can lose all your money, it can be stolen, you can forget your password and keys for the encryption, so it was not an easy path, but it was just, like, fun and exciting, I guess.
Are we gonna see the second part, like the sequel which would be called “Crypto Crush” because of the current market situation?
Oh, it's a great question – I think it's not a crush. So speaking of, you know, investments and philosophy – I think everyone should definitely think about investment as a philosophy of how you approach it. And when you look at this in this kind of way and read some Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett's books and their emails to the stakeholders – I think you can really embed that philosophy in a way that kind of is a path and not a goal. So, I’d say that investment is better done when it's considered a path, so if you think about cryptocurrencies, it's not the first, you know, drop on the market they’ve had – there were worse. But in 2009 Bitcoin cost zero so if you were like the, you know, early adopter even 20K for one Bitcoin is still like a big jump of 2000 percentile of increase in price.
So, like, it depends how you look at this, obviously, but even for people who think about investment as a philosophy, it's also, I think, important to consider investment as a thing that you do almost all the time and not only with money. So basically – you invest your attention, you invest your time, you invest your effort and you invest your money into something. So for me, it's kind of a part of this circle of life where, really, I kind of think about and I try to be thoughtful about each type of investments I deal with. And this also brought me to the more ‘classical’ market now.
So you started with crypto first and then you moved to Classic markets.
Yeah, I think it's a strange path because many people had it the other way around, you know – first experienced Traders and then moved to crypto, but for me, it was a little bit vice versa. And I think a huge part of this was that I was able to identify which type of investor I am. And there are very interesting Frameworks where everyone can basically identify the type of investor they are – I think they're available online but it's basically, like, based on your replies they evaluate how conservative or high-risk tolerant you are and this can give you a little bit of insight on the investment strategy you can build around. And I think it's a great tool to just kind of reflect on the level of comfort that a person can be in, you know, kind of investing. Because if you think about investment of money you can always, like, expect that you can lose money when you do the investment. As you know, prominent investors' advice is that it's better to invest the money you are okay with losing as, like, a general rule. That's why I never got into debt during any investment, I never use any specific tools that are kind of implying that I need to be credited by the exchange or anything like that so I always used only the money that I was okay with losing.
And this is why I'm a more high-risk type of investor, I think because for me it's quite comfortable and okay when everything is dropping on the market – I don't feel stressed at all, I don't feel inclined to do anything at this time, I just know that I need to wait a little bit and see how this pans out, basically. Um… on the other hand, I would say my philosophy is… So, I'm very high risk that's why I work with startups, that's why I'm okay with doing my own business, because it's also, like, a very high-risk investment of your time and money – everything can fail in the business. And um that's why I'm okay with, you know, all the situation on the stock markets. And currently, as I see it, it’s the same as crypto market, right? Everything is kind of coming down, there's a recession lurking and all of those issues. So, I think, it's just a great opportunity and I'm just waiting for my moment to enter the market on the lowest.
Point at the bottom?
Yeah! So, it's even funny how it turned out – because my husband and I moved from London recently to the U.S. and because of the, like, tax year and all of that I had to sell all of my assets that I had on the exchanges there – I had to sell everything. And at the time when I was doing this I was like “oh, sheesh,” you know, the Market was not falling at the time when we were moving and I was like “okay I'm selling like I might need to expect that it will be growing,” but I still kind of had to cash out because of the tax reasons. And, basically, what happened is we kind of cashed out – I was calm I always stay calm with money – and, like, everything fell so I cashed out right before…
Right after you cashed out?
Almost right after I cashed out, yeah.
So maybe it's because of you, we don't know how much funds you hold – maybe you caused it.
Yeah, pro… Might be, might be. But I should say that I was like “you really don't know what to expect” and that's why I don't obsess over this like everything can happen, really. This is like you know kind of touches back on the philosophy of investing only the money that you are okay with losing and also expect nothing from the market.
And another part of my investment philosophy – it's something that I learned from Charlie Munger, he's a very prominent partner to Warren Buffett and, actually, their tandem is what is making this whole thing work, not many people know this. But he says that we don't let ourselves be foolish and invest only in the things we know well. This is also a part of my philosophy – that's why I'm typically with tech stocks or tech ETFs or other markets that I can, you know, kind of feel a little bit better. So I wouldn’t say that I'm a random type of investor I mostly invest in something that I can understand how is working, how is operating, what is the business plan of a certain company. That was something that allowed me to have really high earnings with, you know, because I just kind of understand the details around a certain Market that I invest in. And I think when I was cashing out I was like 60 percent um like 6 (mimes something)… returns on my investments at the point so it's kind of and I even wasn't expecting this, but it was inevitable because I only did what I understand, you know, I never did something that I kind of have no idea about, like, hype stocks or anything like that.
So, since we moved to the U.S. I needed to establish the whole tax, uh, thing from the beginning, cash out to be able to be a good taxpayer in the U.S. And, basically, I need to start all over, so I just opened my new investment account and I'm also trying to like looking into, like, allocating certain money into the investment and I think it's a great time for me – again, not investment advice – but uh for me I consider this just a great time to consider re-entering the market now. And, also, I'm investing funds into building my own product right now, and also investing funds into my education, so this is something that is also, I think, very beneficial to do during the crisis when you know everything is so uncertain – you really don't know like what will be the inflation at the end of the day, like, how big is the crash going to be on the market, you don't know all of those things – you really can be certain about your education, your ability and this is something that I'm also investing in, um, during this time of uncertainty. Because, as many experts have noticed that everybody was so smart when the market was growing last year, everybody felt that they're on the top of the game when everything was growing, so this is, you know, basically a market driver propelling the kind of returns but not your uh strategy or anything, frankly. So, I think, now it's time to kind of consider what is the approach to the strategy for people who want to do this. For some maybe it's getting an advisor for finance and taxes, of course, and for others, it's maybe you know looking into investment apps like Gainy to kind of see uh different opportunities. I think research is something that is very undervalued in those types of stock investments or crypto Investments but, really, now you have the time when you can research a little bit and see what is, like, interesting out there so this is my plan.
Okay, sounds amazing, thanks for sharing this. I mean, it's very structured and everyone could understand your philosophy, but let me ask you several follow-up questions on this.
So when you said um… it's a tricky question about investing the money that you are not afraid to lose because it's not… it’s easy when you invest like 10% of your income, but when you do this for several years, this compounds, it adds up and it's actually a pretty big sum of money. So when you enter the market being like a low risk profile, but then the anxiety can grow with having more money there. Have you ever experienced this or are you just cool with losing all your savings or do you try to diversify it in a different way?
Yeah, I'm definitely not cool with losing all my savings. That's why I try to diversify, that's for sure. And also I do, occasionally, cash out. But I could say that I'm a hodle type of investor, so I'm kind of okay with sitting on my stuff for a very long time and this is another reason why I'm saying that it has to be some “pre-float” money that you invest because, like, the situation can be tricky if you have those Investments and you need the money urgently and this is the only source. You know, it's not a pleasant situation to have, for sure.
So, definitely, what I'm doing is just kind of sitting long-term type of investment and I'm okay with, like… basically, for instance, if we model a situation that is potentially possible um what I do… so how I enter investment – again, not an investment advice – I'm just sharing my experience – I do a small portion. And this works very good with crypto or other assets that are quantitative, they can be very portion-traded, like, portion of stocks or a portion of anything, so it's not like a large chunk of investment, it's just like a small portion. And I start to, kind of, gradually entering
Okay, I see, step-by-step investment.
Yeah, and I see how it kind of performs um and then I might go in a little bit bigger, basically, in some amount. So, the same with cashing out – so, I started to cash out at the end of the last year because of our move, so I cashed out really, kind of… this is where you need to pay attention and I paid attention to like what is happening with certain investment assets and catching the best possible moments to cash out. But, generally, I don't… like in the other times I know that I need to cash out with like quarterly for instance and maybe reinvest in other stuff, so I cash out not to spend that money, but I cash out to reinvest into something, typically. So, basically, quarterly I reassess my portfolio and see what is going on and other times I forget about it, so, I don't obsess, I don't kind of, you know…
You don't check your investment app every day.
I don't. I'm probably not the best investment app user in that sense (laughs).
A very specific question here: so how do you actually keep track of this when we say quarterly you mean like do you have some calendar notifications how do you actually track like when you need to do this or it only appears when something big happens in the market, which happens every day.
Yeah, so yeah this is exactly why I don't track anything on the market specifically. So, I believe there is a very big… so it depends what you track on the market, okay, the market does not exist in a vacuum, the market exists in some political environment and economical environment and this is what I prefer to follow. Because this is what is in my opinion, in my experience what is largely affecting the markets, so it's just a matter of you being in a context of what is generally happening in the developing countries or developed countries, depending on the investment strategy.
And the other point, I would say that I don't do specific notifications or such, I just kind of remember that “oh I've checked my portfolio three months ago, maybe I should cash out, or maybe I should buy something now because it seems like it's a good moment,” you know.
Another approach that works for me is actually, kind of… so if you if we project what can happen this year… So, I can re-enter the market now and since it's kind of a little bit lower than I did last year – when I entered last year it was higher, so now it's lower I will probably do a little bit more of a bold stake and see how it pans out because long term I still believe… so, it's just a belief, right? I'm not a financial expert or anyone, it’s just my personal opinion, what I believe in – like your faith, you know, it's so personal. But I do believe that it probably will grow back at some point, it might not happen this year, it might not happen next year, it might not happen in the next five years, so this is the high risk this is where I'm okay with it, you know, not growing for five years, I'm totally okay with that. And for me it's a very important moment – when I'm in, I don't care what happens to the stock – it might fall, it might grow. I do not necessarily speed up to cash out when it's, like, super high, I just kind of wait for a little while and see how it goes in a perspective, basically. So, for me, it's just important to be patient, and patience, I think, is key for my investment strategy, in general.
So, referring to what you previously said about anxiety growing as you invest more money, I think if there is this anxiety, the person who has it really should pass the test are they conservative or are they like… I would suppose they are conservative, with anxiety like that, if they have all their money in, this is more a conservative type of reaction. Because it means that maybe there's a need to re-evaluate what you are ready to invest in, if you feel anxious, worried, troubled – it means that probably this is not the right strategy.
Well and it's also fine to change strategies over time right so you start with high risk and then you earn something then with more money you just invest in something safer and more reliable right
For one side or you can try something new and very different, for instance, Angel Investing in startups or whatnot.
Yeah, something that can be, you know, high… potentially high reward in some amount… you see – I'm a more venture-focused person, so I want to find something that is high-reward, but we need to keep in mind that even venture capital fund investment period is like 10 years. So, you have to wait for 10 years for something to become a high reward potentially, hopefully, and you hope for this and believe in this. Again, it's like, you know, very personal faith patterns.
So, I can say that this means that with high risk you are also very patient.
Good. So you've mentioned Warren Buffett a couple of times and Charlie Munger and they're really this Tycoon in the industry and very reputable so… From what I've heard, you believe in value investment, so you um choose companies that you understand and you see their potential, but what Warren Buffett has recently said about Bitcoin for example… And you also invest in crypto. And what Warren Buffett has recently said that “if you offer me all Bitcoin in the world I wouldn't buy it for 25 bucks and if you offer me one percent of all farmland or housing in the United States states I would buy it for 25 billion,” because Bitcoin doesn't add value, because you would only rely on someone buying it for more expensive. What is your belief in uh crypto in Bitcoins?
I should say, me and Warren we don't agree on everything. So, yeah, he's definitely a prominent investor and he definitely has 25 billion dollars to invest in real estate and land and farmland. And this has lately become a very big Trend in those you know high net-worth individuals like Bill Gates has bought huge amounts of farmland and invested in farmland, but you really need to have the leverage to do that, which I don't.
I'm still fighting over my credit score in the U.S. If I come to the bank and say “hey, Warren Buffett said ‘buy land,’ don't you want to give me a billion dollars?” they'll probably say I'm crazy. So it's not the leverage that I can afford at this point and I consider other opportunities, so I'm sure Warren Buffett also doesn't invest in startups, so it's not something… it's too small for him. But what is small for him this is the opportunity for others, I think, because like if he was in everything, he would possibly just kill the retail market, you know (laughs).
So, that definitely is not happening, because, again, everybody has their own interests and areas of expertise and I happen to understand that the web 3.0 and the crypto in sense of, like, blockchain implementation is definitely there to stay on the market. We don't understand the exact form of it, but I'm not alone in this approach. So Andreessen Horowitz, which, by the way, is a very important, prominent player in the investment market in startups in VC, they allocated two billion dollars into web 3.0 and crypto investment. So, they also are believers in the infrastructural technology, that definitely can be a potential very big new market. I also share this belief with Marc Andreessen, who is also a very smart person, and I also kind of see that this strategy and this approach is embraced by some prominent investors. Of course, 25 billion dollars is not the same as 2 billion, but 2 billion is not that bad to be put into the crypto market. And this is, like, you know, the self-fulfilling prophecy that if Andreessen Horowitz tends to deploy 2 billion dollars into the cryptocurrencies, blockchain infrastructure, you can expect that something will happen in this market – it's already funded, they funded this market themselves.
Yeah, so I'm not just like… this is not only the belief, but it's also the current players’ in the market activity and this is what I'm talking about, you know, the larger trends and understanding how they play out. So if they're going there are going to be companies and things built, like, say, in probably 7 or 10 years this is what they allocated for like 10 years in the new fund, the new fund lasts for 10 years. So probably in the 10 years, some interesting things can happen in the web 3.0 as they call it now market. Why not? Like, it's a good 10-year opportunity that, you know, it's interesting to explore, for sure.
So now after the live everyone's going to be like “how to invest in Web 3.0?” You know, well, it's one thing one perspective to consider. Again there are so many opportunities and trends that are rising uh it's kind of difficult to get a grasp on all of them.
Really, last question, I know I I've said it like 2 times, but you mentioned a very interesting concept, which I totally agree with – investing in education in times of turmoil. But how do you choose which education to invest in because it feels like everything's changing so fast, I mean, how would you choose an industry, a trend where you would receive new type of skills or knowledge to become a part of this change in movement? What was your approach to it?
I think there are two possible approaches in general: to invest in new skills, new area of knowledge or to empower your existing path, so to speak. For me, I think, it's more about… again, it's like the value investing, so I know my path and this is the domain of expertise I have about it so it's investing in the education that it kind of leverages my current professional path, so to speak. So it's the projection of where you like this is the terrible question on uh recruiting interviews “where do you want to be in five years?” (laughs). So, looking from this perspective it's like “where do I want to be in five years?” ”Who do I want to be?” “I want to be a CEO of a company” or “I want to be a vice president of a company.” Okay, and then they do the reverse engineering “what knowledge do I need to get there?” like “do I need financial knowledge, operations knowledge?” or whatnot, you know. And depending on the answer to that question you can build a learning path kind of ‘design’ the learning path for yourself, depending on where you want to get. This is my Approach.
In terms of learning new skills um I think for some people this could be just a great, like, maybe if somebody wants to change their profession and this is very common these days – people want to change, become… I don't know, coding experts like developers or digital marketers or… like, there's so many opportunities in terms of new professions. And I would consider looking at this educational path as emerging trends discovery. So basically, you see that everything is on the internet and people… many businesses are online and they probably need people who are… who know how to do things online right? This is a huge, huge spectrum of different, different professions that you can grasp and just become this… expert in the field. And, I think, it's very important to invest in those ones who will have the potential of gaining good funds, good revenues, basically. So, this means that, for instance, like, the problem with the current, like, education system is that they kind of prepare you for things that were 10 years ago. (laughs)
So, when you think about investing into something in terms of education in yourself – think about the things that might be big in 10 years from now, at least, and choose from what you like, so it can be just like an interest, you know, for you to just like take a path of what you're interested in, but think about what you can be interested in like 10 years from now. Very broad ideas, like, it can be Neuroscience which is becoming very huge, biology, physics, or digital professions, create a creative path. I think they're like fundamental things, still, the hard skill of quantitative skills, the creative skills, like writing. Like, nonetheless the AI will be big in 10 years, I still think that people who can write or can tell stories – they are going to be winners in life, you know – it's always a good skill to have, it’s very fundamental.
You know, this concept of lindy books have you heard about it?
So the concept of a lindy book is a book that has proven itself through the, you know, hundreds of years to be relevant. So, a great example of a lindy type of book is Marcus Aurelius’ books, for instance. Like, 2000 years later they're still around, you know. People still read about the stoic philosophy and all of those stuff. So, basically, you look for things that have been through very act you know actualised throughout history – you can bet on them, on those things, because those things will prevail – they will stay around for the next 10 years for sure. And this is a very broad kind of set of skills, I can say that even in the digital world I always think about, like, people who can build things – they will be always in high demand, be it like physical world or be it digital world. Because in the digital world you also need to build things, be able to create something and productize it and scale it for many people. So, think about education in terms of like… Especially if it's like a new path for you, but something that, like, always is considered important through the history of humanity, but maybe takes a new form in the current trends and times we live in, like online living or some like maybe neurobiology or genomic research or something. Because there are many developments around it, but basically it's all about the human brain, which people were interested in 1000 years ago. It's just the new tools and techniques that are available that make it a little bit different from one thousand years ago, so to speak, but the core interest is still the same, this is what I think important to consider on the path of investing in new knowledge for oneself.
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