With a few thousand dollars to his name during his adolescent years, Kelvin Seetoh started a small clothing import business where he made his first pot of gold. Subsequently, he studied about investing in his schooling years and he started applying what he learned into the stock market at the age of 16.
After many years of investing and before he turned 25, Kelvin had a reputed net worth of half a million dollars in his portfolio. He started off working as an investment analyst at a boutique fund and focused on value stocks.
By age 27, he left his job to become a full-time investor – focusing on foreign markets and specialising in growth stocks.
Seeing how this move helped him to grow his portfolio at a much faster pace, he also started Growth Investing Mastery (GIM) with the aim to help to educate people on how to use growth investing to accelerate their portfolio growth. One of his main strategies is to spot multi-baggers (referring to companies that have the potential of returning more than 100% in share price appreciation).
We had the opportunity to speak to Kelvin about his journey from an employee and investor to a business owner helping other people invest better.
#1 How did you start Growth Investing Mastery (GIM)?
Since I was young, I I wanted to make money badly because I always had the fear of not having enough resources in my life. I tried to start many businesses such as telemarketing and apparel. They were unscalable businesses and it consumed a lot of time. The profit margins were small too. I found that the best way to make money was actually investing in high-quality businesses.
For investing, I could analyse good companies and wait for its share price to be reasonable before buying them. If my analysis was right, the returns could come in an exponential manner. It made a lot more sense in terms of the time spent to reward ratio.
For my first job, I joined a boutique fund which was managing over 8-figures as an analyst. During my time there, I had a lot of fun and great experiences, but I would say that it came to a point where I felt making money could not be the only solution. I wanted more out of my life. I wanted to contribute and feel the impact of my work.
Because of this, I started Growth Investing Mastery (GIM) to impact more people directly by sharing my investment knowledge that I got as an analyst.
It was also more fulfilling. Instead of just working with digits and decimals, I can work with people and help counsel them towards making better investing decisions.
#2 At what point did you decide to go all-in and why?
I felt that from a young age I was just busy making money and didn’t really have the time to travel. As I wanted to enjoy life a little more, I decided to leave my job to travel.
Coming from a middle-income family, travelling overseas was a luxury for us. If not for investing, I could have never afforded such a lifestyle. During one of my travels, I had an enlightenment – I could help more people to achieve the same thing as well!
I had a lot of friends who work incredibly hard, but yet somehow, it was very difficult for them to retire early. Exchanging time for money is not a long-term solution for wealth.
When I came back to Singapore, I gathered a group of friends and decided to guide them in investing. After a few months, when the results started coming in, it got me really motivated to help even more people!
As words started to spread more, I decided to launch GIM so I could help more people on a larger scale. I invested in technology, people and even started my online blog at Kelvestor.com to share free, actionable investing content that people can use in their investing journey.
What I really hope to achieve is to teach others what I’ve learnt in my previous job as an analyst – which is not something that is not easily accessible to people who are not investors.
Today, we’ve already had over 1,000 students who have learned about growth investing and multi-baggers with GIM!
#3 3 tips for starting a business?
1. Deliver a differentiated product at least two to three times better than existing solutions.
For me, I’ve spent a lot of time understanding US companies and building strong connections over there.
Also, having a fund management background has really helped me to get into the mind of how full-time investors think. Having friends who are full-time investors in US has also really helped me in terms of my portfolio results.
I felt like I could actually provide a US perspective that’s missing in the industry. So, it’s really identifying a gap and filling the gap.
2. Provide a unique customer experience.
The biggest problem in the adult education industry is that most providers don’t have a heart for their students. It has always been profits first, students last, and there has been a history of a lot of black sheep, tarnishing the industry.
But that also means you can disrupt such an industry by offering a great customer experience. Whatever you say in the workshop, you deliver, and go above and beyond in delighting your customers.
As investors, we always take lessons from the best companies in the world. There has to be a reason why they’re the best companies in the world right? It’s always about placing the customers first.
For us at GIM, our students will always come first.
3. Start small and watch your financials.
I think a lot of startups take unnecessary risks when they are small. Everything that we do here, we start small. If you’re going to run a class, start at 20 people. Test a class to see how it works, get feedback, see how it works. Every business owner needs to know their financials.
#4 Best piece of advice you ever received?
It’s very hard to pinpoint the best piece of advice because we are always learning and testing the advice we get from our peers or mentors. If I had to pick one, it would be a book called The Winning Investment Habits of Warren Buffett & George Soros. To be exact, the advice was in chapter 7 called “You Call That a Position?”. It wrote about the need for concentration whenever we spot an incredible opportunity in the stock market. It is unlikely that our 11th stock idea would be better than our 7th stock idea. Why not concentrate? I found it so true to focus on a few companies instead of having so many companies in my portfolio.
While the investing industry preaches diversification, the reality is we are unable to keep up with all the updates about our companies. When we have less than 8 companies, the task of monitoring our investments is a lot easier. That’s how normal investors are able to develop deep conviction and with that understanding, investors are able to utilise volatility to their benefit.
For example, during a market downturn, which stock should an investor buy? When you have too many companies, it’s hard to focus.
If I may squeeze in another advice, it’s to stay humble and open-minded. We never know what we do not know.
#5 Biggest failure and what you learned from it?
I would not consider certain events as failures; they are more of learning opportunities for me.
Despite being able to learn from the mistakes of others, there are some mistakes that are unavoidable, and we have to face them to learn. For example, I find that analytical mistakes are avoidable while behavioral mistakes are unavoidable. It’s only when we experience it, we can learn from it.
As an investor, it is tempting not to realise your gains by selling your stocks away. In 2017, I had a concentration position in a Singapore-listed company called Hi-P International. I sold most of my shares out at around $0.95. Then 5 months later, the stock doubled once more. If I had not sold, the impact would be extraordinary on my net worth. I hated myself for selling Hi-P International earlier.
The lesson was never to sell your winners early. I might think I have earned a lot but actually, I left a lot of money on the table by selling early. Never sell a company just because I earned a lot, it may still have a strong growth prospect. Sell a company only when the valuations are expensive or the company’s fundamentals are deteriorating.
#6 Business leader who was your role model?
Probably Jeff Bezos. I mean I’ve read all his shareholders letters that I’ve found online. He has wonderful frameworks that he always distills down. Things like the two-door decisions, one-door decision. How do you make decisions better? How do you actually run things more efficiently?
I would say his letters are like a modern-day MBA course in itself and it doesn’t cost any money. I would encourage everyone to read them. You’ll be quite amazed by the content.
#7 When do you know you are ready to start a business?
To start a business, you must be passionate about certain things. For me, it was investing. I could not have a day that goes by without thinking about listed companies or investing or anything related to investing. I was just thinking about it every single day.
How you know when you’re ready to start a business is when people decide to come to you voluntarily to actually pay you for a product or service. When people come to you and want to buy something from you that you have, that in itself is validation that you actually have something to offer.
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