May 17th - This Week in Alternative Investments

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  • Encouraging inflation data

  • OpenAI’s new product (and new chief scientist)

  • An up-and-down week of art auctions

  • A $25 million crypto heist

Plus: Three million-dollar jerseys, the “Crypto King” is arrested, assumable mortgages, and much more.

Upcoming Event

VC Files brings you VCs who will share raw, untold stories and insider secrets that you won’t hear anywhere else, which could give you an edge as a non-professional investor. Their first guest: Sophie Liao of Oyster Ventures, who rarely gives interviews. Attendees will get to ask Sophie anything in a live Q&A, and one will walk away with a special gift from her.

This is a Republic Note holder-only event. Invest in Republic Note to secure an invite.


$65,270 (+4.5% weekly)
WatchCharts Market Index
29,107 (+0.05% weekly)
Thomson-Reuters VC Index
17,198.41 (+3.2% weekly)
Zillow Observed Rent Index
$1,997 (+0.6% monthly)

*as of market close May 16th


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Market Updates


The pace of inflation slowed down. The consumer price index (CPI) rose by 0.3% in April, coming in slightly below expectations, which was welcome news for both public and private markets. The core 12-month inflation reading, which excludes food and energy costs, came in at its lowest level since April 2021. Overall, the CPI increased by 3.4% on an annual basis, which is still above the Fed’s 2% target. It looks like the earliest an interest rate cut may come is September, and summer inflation data will give a clearer picture of how likely that is. Investors have already responded to the news by doubling down on riskier assets, such as Bitcoin and meme stocks. If rate cuts seem likely, the market could become even more bullish, as many alternative asset classes performed well in the prior low interest rate environment.

OpenAI released its new AI model, GPT-4o. The AI startup has over 100 million weekly active users, and has been valued at over $80 billion, making it one of the largest private companies in the world. Its new model is significantly faster than previous models and comes with a number of new features, including the ability to act as a real-time translator and to analyze a user’s facial expressions. Critics raised questions about its “flirty” voice and drew comparisons to the Scarlett Johansson-voiced AI in the movie “Her.” Meanwhile, co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who nearly succeeded in ousting CEO Sam Altman, is leaving the company, and people are wondering how his departure will affect OpenAI.

This David Hockney painting sold for $28.6 million (Christie’s)

This week’s art auctions mostly met tempered expectations. Though a number of prominent lots went below their low estimates or failed to sell, the major auctions saw results in line with their pre-sale estimates. Sotheby’s marquee evening sale achieved $235 million in sales, led by a record-breaking $28.5 million sale of a Leonora Carrington painting. The work had last been sold in 1995 for $475,000, and this week’s buyer had lost out at that auction, only to finally acquire the painting nearly 30 years later. While Christie’s is still battling through a cyberattack that shut down its website, its Thursday evening sale achieved $413 million in sales, in the midpoint of its range of expectations. A David Hockney painting owned by famed TV producer Norman Lear sold for $28.6 million, a hefty return after originally being bought for $64,000 in 1978. All told, there were several data points among the ~$1 billion of sales to support either a bearish or bullish outlook on the market, meaning the truth likely lies somewhere in between.

Two brothers have been accused of stealing $25 million of Ethereum. Anton and James Peraire-Bueno, who both studied at MIT, have been charged with wire fraud and money laundering and are facing over 20 years in prison for their role in the alleged 2023 theft of the cryptocurrency. The brothers were able to gain the funds by exploiting a flaw in Ethereum's process for validating transactions. These arrests are a particularly important development because by their own account, this is the first time the government is charging anyone with this type of crime. It is just another step in making potential crypto investors feel more secure about what has often been a lawless environment.

Smart Humans Podcast

In this episode of Smart Humans, Slava Rubin talks with Issuance's Darren Marble about equity crowdfunding, "Going Public" and storytelling for entrepreneurs.


📝 Top Stories

A 1968 Mickey Mantle jersey could fetch $3 million (Heritage Auctions)

  • Million-dollar jerseys: Heritage Auctions’ Spring Sports Catalog Auction is taking place this weekend, with three game-worn baseball jerseys as the centerpiece items - a signed 1968 Mickey Mantle ($3 million estimate), a 1920 Walter Johnson ($3 million estimate), and a 1955 Sandy Koufax ($2.5 million estimate), a testament to the enduring demand for rare, vintage items.

  • Real Estate meets Private Credit: Major investment firms, such as Goldman Sachs and PGIM, are stepping into the lending game as traditional banks step away due to the struggling commercial real estate market. This can only be seen as a bullish sign as these firms are confident enough that the market will rebound that they are expanding their real estate debt operations.

  • Mainvest closing its doors: The crowdfunding platform focused on investing into small businesses will be shutting down in mid-June, though companies who raised through the platform are still obligated to repay their investors.


Michael Schumacher’s watch sold for $1.65 million (Christie’s)

  • Geneva watch week: The major watch auctions in Switzerland netted over $75 million in sales, including a $1.65 million sale of one of F1 legend Michael Schumacher’s watches. The major takeaway is that rare vintage watches in good condition performed well, while some modern watches have their bubble popped.

  • Red diamond record: The “Argyle Phoenix,” a 1.56 carat fancy-red diamond, set two auction records (highest overall price and highest price-per-carat) when it sold for $4.2 million, while a 6.2 carat pink diamond also sold for $12 million.

  • Sotheby’s game-worn struggles: Only 10 of the first 72 NBA game-worn jerseys that the auction house put up in their fixed-price marketplace last week have sold, and with 76 more just added, there are concerns that demand for many of these items is simply not there.

🪙 Crypto

  • The “Crypto King” dethroned: Canadian Aiden Pleterski, the self-proclaimed “Crypto King,” and an associate were arrested and charged with fraud for allegedly operating a Ponzi scheme that conned investors out of $30 million.

  • Pro-crypto legislation: After the House voted last week to repeal an anti-crypto SEC policy, the Senate did the same by a 60-38 margin, and it remains to be seen whether President Biden will follow through with his threat to veto the legislation.

  • $58 billion of meme coins: After an 8% gain on Thursday, the market cap of meme coins surpassed $58 billion, with the top six coins (Dogecoin, Shiba Inu, Pepe, dogwifhat, FLOKI and BONK) making up around 80% of that total.

💵 Private Credit

  • Private Credit > Private Equity: Firms such as Blackstone, Carlyle and Apollo have seen their debt strategies outperform their better-known private equity divisions, and as a result have expanded their private credit operations.

🏡 Real Estate

  • Assumable mortgages: One option for potential buyers looking to avoid high interest rates is by taking on the seller’s existing mortgage, though there are several roadblocks that can make it difficult.

  • Zillow’s monthly rent report: The average U.S. rent hit $1,997, a 0.6% gain month-to-month, which is an “affordable” rent only with a $79,889 annual income, significantly more than the $58,692 figure from just five years ago.

  • The Northeast stays hot: The top four and seven of the top ten hottest markets on’s list are in the Northeast, as affordable markets close to large metro areas led the way.

  • Industrial sector booming: The dollar volume of loans for industrial real estate rose by 63% year-over-year in Q1, while retail loans fell 31%, healthcare loans fell 22% and office loans fell by 21%.

🚀 Venture Capital

  • Going Public Season 2: Produced by Smart Humans guest and Issuance CEO Darren Marble, “Going Public” is a series about startups where viewers can invest as they watch - the second season was just released yesterday.

  • Agora’s Series B: The proptech company billed as the “Carta for real estate” raised $34 million after tripling its revenue every year for the past five years.

  • Be wary of using multiples: Though the value of public companies is often analyzed by looking at revenue multiples, there are fundamental problems that can lead to misleading results when evaluating private companies.

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