$1bn investing lessons from 'John Wick 4'

And how I used this one simple strategy to launch my new investment syndication program

I like to sit in my office and watch this scene from John Wick 4:

For some reason, I just LOVE this chase scene in John Wick 4

I love it! The writers of this franchise turned insane car chases and shoot-’em-ups into a billion dollars.

From unknown indie film to a $1bn global franchise… How did they do it?

Here’s the true story about the John Wick franchise: it was never supposed to happen

For those who’ve never done deals inside of the Hollywood ecosystem, the only way to have a box office hit is to sell the distribution rights to a studio in advance.

But to do that, you need to have a great script, sold actors, well-known directors, and millions of seed financing.

Basil Iwanyk (producer and owner of Thunder Road Films) and Chad Stahelski (stuntman and director) didn’t have all that lined up. No matter … they still got it done.

It all started when Chad and his band of martial arts experts asked themselves one question:

 “what are all the things we HATE about Hollywood action movies?” 

They made a list with everything they could think of.

THEN they committed, “our movie will have none of these things.” Their formula:

  • Subtract everything we HATE about action movies, then

  • Add in everything we LOVE

  • And have FUN

This wasn’t a rehash of a 1980s or 1990s cult classic, or a cheap extension of Keanu Reeves’ role in the Matrix… 

And it wasn’t yet another comic/book adaptation with a built in fan base that Hollywood increasingly relies on.

Compared to the many big-budget superhero movies…

John Wick was by all means a low budget action flick with a B-movie premise (retired assassin goes on revenge spree after some guy kills his dog).

That’s why Iwanyk had a hard time getting any studio to pick it up after they filmed it – only Lionsgate showed any interest.

But unlike the plethora of other movies that use pre-existing source material  (like Twilight and Mortal Kombat)…

Every single John Wick movie has gotten bigger, badder, and consistently grossed more at the box office.

  • “John Wick” (2014): $87.7 million; made from an estimated budget of $20 million

  • “John Wick: Chapter 2” (2017): $171.5 million; estimated budget of $40 million

  • “John Wick: Chapter 3 ” (2019): $326.7 million; estimated budget of $75 million

  • “John Wick: Chapter 4” (2023): $425 million and counting; estimated budget of $100 million

Notice a bunch of 3X and 4X Return-on-Capital here?

Yeah, well Me Too. That’s why I’m so into this story.

On the surface, this might seem like a heroic tale custom fit for the startup narrative – a crazy, self-funded long shot against the odds that turned into a $1bn franchise…

But really, it’s a masterclass in the value of understanding the dynamics of supply and demand, market positioning, deal structuring, storytelling, and governance. 

Iwanyk didn’t just wake up one day and say “I should make movies!”

And he definitely didn’t have any delusions of grandeur about “changing the world” or “disrupting” anything.

He worked his way through the ranks of Warner Brothers in the 1990’s where he became an “Insider” to that ecosystem…

Then, and only then, did he start his own production company (Thunder Road Films) in the early 2000’s using a proven playbook for producing money making movies. 

Today, Thunder Road’s films have grossed over $3.8bn worldwide.

That’s the approach I took to building the West Coast Finance Ecosystem – and why I’m inviting a small group of investors to piggyback on my proven playbook for generating 3-10x returns in as little as 18 months.

After working as the advisor to more than 250 equity transactions over the past 15 years, where more than $1bn of capital changed hands…

I’ve done deals in every major investment ecosystem there is, in just about every asset class you can think of, through multiple market cycles. 

And when I decided I was going to go out on my own and invest my own money into my own deals…

I sat down and made a list of all the problems in deals that needed to be fixed (but never were), the things I hated about working with professional investors, and all the things I hated about angel groups and investor conferences.

And just like the creators of John Wick, I decided I wasn’t doing any of the nonsense I’d seen over and over again from venture capitalists, private equity firms, and hedge fund managers.

Sure - If I was getting paid to gamble someone else’s money the way fund managers do, I probably would.

THINGS I HATE

  • I Hate investing in “change the world” startups 
    If it’s a semiconductor, flying car or super-drug, then count me out. This is where you and I are certainly going to lose all our money.

And that’s why I don’t invest in startups run by visionary founders chasing 100X opportunities, who usually have no relevant experience in the thing they’re raising money for.

Instead, I’m looking for experienced management teams with a proven track record that are entering known markets that have unmet demand and/or constrained supply…

Are highly focused on providing liquidity to shareholders…

And have reasonable forward-looking assumptions that don’t require a miracle to happen for me to make 3x-10x in as little as 18 months.

  • I Hate funds that lock me up for 5-7 years. 
    The lack of transparency, and stupid fees you get charged turn me off, especially when the fund managers – after fees and taxes – probably don’t outperform the public market benchmark.

I still remember a conversation I had with a fund manager who wanted me to pay $250,000 BEFORE I was allowed to “look inside the box” and learn about their investment thesis, underwriting criteria, or track record.

Not to mention, they wanted the typical 2% annual management fee, 20% carry, and plenty of other garbage fees – like “acquisition fees” and “disposal fees” – they could trigger to suck more of my money into their pockets. 

Yeah, no thanks. 

That’s why I decided to do the complete opposite and use the “Costco” model with my investors.

For a flat annual fee of $2,500, you get to skip the fund structure BS and invest directly in the deal at the best price/terms I can negotiate for our members.

On the surface, $2,500 per year just to even SEE the deal in the first place might sound strange… but when you do the math, it’s a WAY better deal than paying “2 and 20” on a 5-year fund that requires a 6-figure minimum to participate.

For example – most funds require a $250,000 minimum. But let’s assume you know someone at the fund who will let you in for $100k, and the fund will go for five years (which is pretty short. Often they are 7-10 years with options for extensions).

In this example, you’d pay 2% PER YEAR on that $100k – or $10,000 in total management fees. Then, you’d pay 20% of your Gross Profits, which would eat further into your returns…

At that assumes the fund manager hasn’t snuck in a bunch of other fees on top of the normal 2 and 20.

When you become a member of IPO Factory, you can invest as little as $1,000 into any deal you’d like, with no capital commitments or lockups!

This means you can invest in all the deals, some of the deals, or none of the deals I bring you…

And you get to keep 100% of the upside in exchange for a fixed, annual fee.

That’s why one of our IPO Factory members, Tom B, recently said…

The $2,500 is a bargain. We are spending $2,500 each just to come out and see the deal flow.

Tom B.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to spend $2,500 per person to fly to my office and check out my deals. You can check them out online from the comfort of your own home or office.

But if you do, this brings me to my third “John Wick” value proposition

  • I Hate “Pay to Pitch” investor events where YOU are the “product” that is sold to crappy startups. In other words, the startups pay a $5K fee to come meet you, and pitch their 100x nonsense.

I hate that model so much, I’ve invested more than $2m to build my one-of-a-kind, 10,000sq/ft studio specifically designed to host high-quality investor events, with ZERO “pay to pitch” nonsense.

That’s why every quarter, I’m hosting AT LEAST one investor event for our IPO Factory members where you’ll have a chance to: 

  • Learn about the unique opportunities, risks, and financing needs of early-stage growth companies…

  • Network with a handpicked group of analysts, CEOs, and investors in our growing IPO Factory community…

  • Invest alongside me in 4-5 deals I will be lead investor for over the next 12 months for as little as $1,000

If you want to attend our first official IPO Factory member event on November 9th – Manufacturing Tech 2023 – where I’m going to be announcing the first deal I’m leading…

All you need to do is click here and start your membership to IPO Factory – you can attend the event either in person or online.

And as a special bonus for signing up today (instead of waiting until the last minute)...

Leading up to our upcoming event on Nov 9th-10th, I'm also hosting private investor education calls with our members every Friday at noon PST. 

I don't want to shine the spotlight on myself here too much, but I've never seen a fund manager who has ever said to me "oh you want me to explain my entire investment thesis to you, explain how I do underwriting, and also let you participate in a favorable position in the financing? SURE!"

But that’s exactly what you’ll get when you become an IPO Factory member today.

When you’re an IPO Factory member, you don’t JUST get access to 4-5 deals per year I’m investing my own money in…

You’re getting an “Insiders” education in deal making, deal structuring, and private investing!

No matter how much confidence I have in a deal, I can’t legally promise you will get positive returns (no one can predict the future accurately enough to promise returns)

But here’s what I can promise…

Together, we’re going to partner up with OTHER investors so we can all put in SMALLER checks across 12-15 deals.

This benefits us both of us…

Together, we have enough pooled capital to get into deals we couldn’t otherwise touch.

But outside of potential investment returns, here’s the biggest value you’ll get out of being inside a specialized investment group like IPO Factory:

You’ll get to see INSIDE the deals – for better or worse – and start developing the pattern matching for what makes a good deal, good (and a bad one, bad).

This is why Tim R – one of our IPO Factory members – recently said on our weekly Friday calls 

The whole approach here is getting such an inside view of the industry. That's a value to me. And that's typically what Oren provided all along with this education and everything. 

But in this environment, If I can see what's going on – even if I haven't invested – how is it going? You know, what's occurring? What's the update? What are the things that are working aren't working? 

I like to see the lessons learned and it's really the education to me. That's the value.

Tim R.

You’re not only going to see the
~4-5 deals per year I am lead investor on…
You’ll also get an inside look at our “anti-portfolio” of deals we passed on

There are some deals that are an obvious “definitely yes” or “definitely no.”

But if you’re looking for 5-10x returns in 5 years or less, almost always there’s some sort of hair on the deal that needs to get cleaned up. 

The hard part is knowing which of those “in the middle” deals are 10xers in disguise, and which ones are simply “too hard” or have too much risk.

While there are some “checklist” type things you can do to help identify those risks and rewards in these deals… 

Really, there’s just no substitute for having a lot of in market experience and developing that pattern matching capability that helps you move more quickly through due diligence.

This is why Kevin S – another one of our IPO Factory members – recently said:

Being able to review deals that I had no experience with that I now can look at and go, “okay, that makes sense,” or “that's complete garbage.” 

So I'm, I'm very happy to have that sort of interaction and just see not necessarily the deals that get thrown away instantaneously… 

But the deals that you spend a little bit of time on and you kind of put some effort into and then only realized then, “Hey, this is not worth a s**t.”

Kevin S.

You’ve got two choices:
Do you want to be an Outsider or Insider?

Look, if you already have plenty of money and are “fine” living off of guaranteed 5% returns in the money markets…

And if you already have access to some amazing 3-10x investment opportunities that are on their way to public markets within 18-36 months…

And if you already get to hang out with a fun group of investors and talk about making money…

Then please let me join YOUR group because that’s exactly what I am looking for :-).

But obviously, I’m building IPO Factory myself because I have access to the right kind of deals and the resources to make them work - and I’ve been doing this a long time.

You can think of it this way: if you worked hard to make your first $1-$10m in net worth as an active investor (or business owner), and now you want to work easy for your next $1-$10m as a passive investor…

See you on the Inside, 

-Oren Klaff

P.S. In case you just scrolled down to the bottom and didn’t read any of this email…

I recently launched my new investment syndication program – The IPO Factory.

If you’re an investor looking for private equity style deals that have target returns of 3-10x in 3-5 years, with  a target public listing within 18-36 months…

You want to dramatically improve your potential returns by simply reducing the massive fee drag of sales loads, management fees, and carried interest…

And you want to get an inside look at:

  • My plan for adding $100m to my personal net worth in 5 years, 

  • How I think about putting together deals, our due diligence and underwriting process, 

  • The “anti-portfolio” of deals I pass on (and why), and 

  • Have a fun time with other like minded investors…

This is the community you’ve been searching for!

Join the conversation

or to participate.