A few years ago, I was working on a book about the psychology of money — a book I put aside when Freakonomics began to happen. The first chapter of the book was about a fellow named James Altucher, whom I’ve blogged about before. James’s relationship with money was fascinating and precarious. He grew up in a middle-class family that lived beyond its means, in large part because his dad was about to hit it big with a computer business and the family was banking on that success. Then the success happened, and the family lived even larger — until the business suddenly fell apart, leaving everyone devastated.
Years later, James struck out on his own and he, too, struck it big. This was during the early dotcom years. (His company, which designed corporate websites, was bought in the sort of corporate roll-up that was common then.) But, as if he couldn’t help retracing his father’s steps, he too lost most of his pile of money. Once again, he was devastated, and he spent about a year just trying to regain his footing.
I met him just as that dark year was ending. I immediately liked James a great deal. He was one of the smartest people I’d ever met, and one of the most curious, and he didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone. What I liked best was that he was very creative and that his creativity didn’t seem to respect the borders that typically keep people from trying something new. So one day he decided to write to TheStreet.com to see if he could write some articles for them. To his surprise, they said yes.
He wrote prolifically — for TheStreet.com but also, soon after, for the Financial Times and elsewhere. It didn’t matter, to him or them, that he wasn’t a “financial journalist”: he was just so smart about analyzing companies and trends and ideas that he always had something interesting to say.
Then he started a hedge fund, which worked out pretty well, and then, going back to his early web roots, he started a website called Stockpickr.com, the “stock idea network.” It is pure James: creative, useful, open-minded. TheStreet.com liked it so much that it bought a piece of the company.
Now here’s the big news: Last week, TheStreet.com bought the rest of Stockpickr.com. After a downslide that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, Altucher is back on top, thanks to little more than his own hard work. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Congratulations, James.