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Meet Alex Liu of Lucas Orchard in Acton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Liu.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started working on a website when some ideas I had in mathematics and economics I realized found better expression in a website format than in a potential book. I had some experience in writing having published a book “Queen of Black Square” about the travails of struggling with mental illness after being in Ivy League institutions. It’s interesting some aspects of life hide the illness. If I were to describe it all in terms of religion, I wouldn’t even seem that ill. Or if I were to make it all about speculation and trading, I wouldn’t seem that ill. But I know the struggles are there because of difficulties in interacting with society. It got to me what a Canadian friend of mine had said to me once: “you have all this education but don’t know what anything means.” Indeed I never had time to understand what everything meant and I resolved to get to the core level of what tied these subjects together to make a coherent economics and finance blog.

Soon after, I made it. An individual in Europe approached me about possibly doing some financial trading for his team and trading was my old profession. I used to be a trader at the hedge fund Citadel. Even at institutions like Citadel, you don’t always have a chance to understand how everything ties together and that was a focus of this blog to show how the macro leads to the micro, in a way that is robust and shows how everything works together.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It isn’t a smooth road at all. There are always obstacles. Financially it was difficult to remain liquid after the bankruptcy of my publisher on the first book which affected my work on the website. Republishing the book was a challenge but I found a no frills sort of place for it. But you keep trying despite the articles. In the end just like Jk Rowling said, a life like a book is not measured by how long but how good and I will say a job is not measured by how much you make but by how meaningful and there is much meaning in a job you take if it supports a family or enterprise. I had a second book accepted by the publisher during the course of these events and I couldn’t afford the cost of bringing it to market such as marketing either. But I’m sure I’ll find a way to balance the accounts.

Please tell us about Lucas Orchard.
Lucas Orchard is an online finance blog which has heavy mathematical expertise but explains these ideas in ways that are conceptual and easily understood by people without rigorous mathematical training through our strengths in language. What we are most proud of is bringing financial literacy to many people, we have many readers on our Facebook group in particular, who otherwise cannot connect dots in the financial markets. Our approach is transparent and does not appeal to information asymmetry to develop this financial expertise.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
What I would do differently is I would have reserved capital for other uses. Sometimes they say capital can be thought of as poker chips and if you can’t think of them as ammunition don’t play. Well that is true, but too much of that is not necessarily good either. We want some place to go home to after all the ideological conflicts are over and the battles are won.

What I would do differently is I would have learned to trust people in a way that wasn’t so money-driven, and then maybe I could have maintained confidence in my writing colleagues, we had a team from Europe do some of the initial writing on the website for category headings even in times of business scarcity. Loyalty is important. You want to stay loyal not to what other people are loyal to necessarily but to those other people.

There’s a situation in business when you begin to live in your speculations and that is never a good thing. The right thing to do is to present one reality without filter in my view. I went to Columbia post-baccalaureate pre-medical program to study medicine after I got diagnosed with a condition, a mental health disorder and I did it because I wanted the tools to tackle my problems. When I went there I realized that when those financial markets tanked in 2008, a lot of genuine confusion was sparked about how the world works and I wanted to treat that by restoring confidence in some of the old order finance instead of just simply moving on and asking machines to manage our markets for us as in popularized high frequency trading.

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