It’s hard to talk about the market euphoria we’ve seen saw this year without talking about David Portnoy.
Brave, satirically overconfident, and at times flat-out obnoxious, Portnoy — the founder of sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports — has emerged as the leader of the new school of day traders.
Financial commentators have even come up with a term for his potential effect on certain stocks: “Portnoy momentum.”
“Shares of Penn National Gaming are set to continue benefiting from the ‘Portnoy momentum trade’ as sports-betting euphoria extends into the fall football season. . .”
To ignore the phenomenon that is Dave Portnoy is to ignore the cultural underpinnings driving markets today — a fatal mistake for any founder, executive, or aspiring entrepreneur.
“Let’s get [expletive] nuts,” [Dave Portnoy] blasted [on his daily online broadcast], clapping his hands. “I’m ready. Are you ready? We’ve been down three days . . . but I’m so much smarter than the average human that I’m always nine steps ahead. Let’s see how low we can go today and then let’s [expletive] jump, let’s strangle these people out.”
Many in the investment community (including a handful of financial pundits and members of the old guard whom Portnoy has collectively dubbed ‘suits’) have a problem with Portnoy’s approach. They believe that retail investors, particularly new ones, could get burned by following his advice.
But while Portnoy’s trading strategies are certainly questionable (no Dave, stocks don’t only go up), there’s something today’s founders/executives can learn from his confidence, optimism, and ‘we’re in this together’ mentality.
It’s not just the bold things Portnoy says or how he says them – it’s where he says them. I’d argue that Portnoy knows how to use social media better than 99% of the corporate world. Though frequently polarizing, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, often in the form of one-man diatribes. Portnoy’s willingness to take a stand on issues he cares about – combined with his comfortability on social media and livestreams – culminates in powerfully authentic messaging capable of influencing public opinion.
As an experiment, try comparing Portnoy’s on-screen presence (minus the expletives and overly promotional language) with that of your average CEO. Of course, it’s night and day. But should it be?
The founders/executives of tomorrow will need to get in front of the camera if they want to capture the attention of coming-of-age investors. You may not have the same natural charisma as Dave Portnoy or other similar figures, but that’s no excuse to stay out of the spotlight! Despite what your inner voice might tell you, current and prospective shareholders want to hear from you — directly. And they want to see the real you.
Stars illuminate the way forward
The rising popularity of figures like Dave Portnoy is challenging the convention of what it means to be a founder. Press releases and the occasional interview are no longer enough; you need to be willing to get in front of an audience at any time, and that means getting comfortable on social media. Moreover, you need to be able to communicate in a personal way.
Tesla wouldn’t be Tesla without Elon Musk. Apple wouldn’t have become Apple without Steve Jobs. By becoming your company’s star, you can serve as a guiding light for your investors and supporters.