From Facebook to the face of crypto: Inside Anthony Pompliano’s wild career

Bang. Bang. In the winter of 2014, a 25-year-old Anthony Pompliano was reading a book on a plane that would change his life.

The former army sergeant from North Carolina -- who had turned 21 while serving in Iraq -- was on his way to a job interview at Facebook for a product manager role. Pompliano had founded two small tech startups after he left military service and sold the second, a track record that attracted the attention of recruiters at both Google and Facebook. But he had spent his life so far away from Silicon Valley that he had no idea what a product manager even was.

That didn’t stop him from pursuing the job. Instead, he read some product management blogs that were all mentioning the same book. So he bought a copy. “On the flight to San Francisco, I literally read a book called ‘The Art of Project Management,’” he told TechCrunch. “Then I went into the interview and tried to regurgitate everything that I had read in the book and not sound stupid. I was fortunate enough to get the job.”

Ten years later, his level of fame in the tech industry is so wide that he’s known by a single-syllable name: Pomp.

It wasn’t a straightforward path. He earned his Valley street cred doing “growth hacking” for two years at that Facebook job; he then had a potentially near career-ending controversy with his next employer, Snapchat. He bounced back to become an investor with an enviable track record, then gained fame as an unflagging advocate for bitcoin and crypto. Today, his businesses encompass multiple podcasts and newsletters, venture investment and research firms.

Pompliano just announced his most recent venture: Professional Capital Management. It’s a company he created about two years ago to incubate startups and provide traditional asset management with some of the profits from those incubated companies. Pompliano is upfront that this business idea is going to be difficult to pull off, and that’s one of the reasons he’s attracted to the idea. Any normal person, he said, would probably not sign up to do incubation and asset management at the same time.

But his story is of an unconventional rise to success and a reputation built on hard work, luck, respect and always taking his shots.

The man behind the “bang bang”

To know Pompliano is to know he’s a man of routine. First, there is that catchphrase he uses at the start of each podcast, “Bang. Bang.”

Pompliano laughs that he has “no clue” why he started saying it. “I did it three or four times and then I didn't do it, and the audience was like, ‘Hey, what happened?’ And I realized they almost became like an inside joke with the audience.”

He also wears the same blue and gold striped tie whenever he makes a television appearance — and which he wore during both interviews with TechCrunch. Every day, he tweets on X the same, “Good morning. Today is going to be a great day. Let’s get after it relentlessly.”

And while that might sound cheesy, “Pomp is one of the hardest-working people I have ever known. He just gets it done. I love the guy,” Mark Yusko, founder and managing director of Morgan Creek Capital Management, told TechCrunch. Morgan Creek is a North Carolina-based hedge fund claiming more than $1.3 billion of assets under management.

In addition to the newly formed Professional Capital Management business, Pompliano’s business interests span:

  • The Pomp Podcast, which has over 530,000 subscribers on YouTube and has hosted names like venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, Ark Invest’s Cathie Wood and boxer-turned-investor Jake Paul.

  • The Pomp newsletter, which has over 260,000 subscribers and three tiers, from free to $10 per month or $500 a year.

  • Pomp Investments, his family office for investments

In addition he:

  • Was a co-founder of early-stage investment firm Full Tilt Capital, which backed companies like Lyft, Reddit, Everlywell and Imperfect Produce, which sold to Morgan Creek in 2018.

  • Has over a million followers on Twitter, over 558,000 total YouTube subscribers, 135,000 followers on Instagram and is a frequent guest on financial TV shows like Fox Business and CNBC.

Within the Professional Capital Management venture, Pompliano folded in his existing crypto hiring firm Inflection Points, which recruits, trains and employs people in the bitcoin and cryptocurrency industry.

He also partners with founders in other ways. He sold one of his first incubations, Reflexivity Research, to DeFi Technologies earlier this year in February. Founded with a young bitcoin investor, Will Clemente, who had gained social media fame by documenting his investment, it is a well-known provider of Bitcoin, crypto, DeFi and economic analysis.

Earlier in 2024, he also co-founded the financial news and research newsletter and podcast, Opening Bell Daily, with former Business Insider reporter Phil Rosen. With former TechCrunch reporter Jacquelyn Melinek, he launched Token Relations, a firm that helps blockchain and crypto projects form direct relationships with their communities, developers and token holders.

His variety of business interests is deliberate. One of the things he learned over the years is that “people who get complacent get disrupted.” That’s why he reminds himself on a daily basis to approach investing from a beginner’s mindset, because every time he thinks he’s got something figured out, the game changes, he said.

“If you look through the evolution of the investing that I've done, or even the businesses that we've built, we're constantly trying to iterate and evolve to make sure that we're using the latest and greatest to be able to stay kind of ahead of everybody,” Pompliano said.

Anthony Pompliano
Anthony Pompliano in his classic blue suit and favorite on-camera tie during an appearance on CNBC.

Always the entrepreneur

Pompliano was perhaps trained since childhood for business. The oldest of five boys, his father is founder of the data and information technology services company Anexio and his parents always encouraged their children to be entrepreneurial. Pompliano and his brothers took that encouragement literally, and were always scheming up ways to make money.

“We’d find stuff around the house and say our parents don’t need this anymore and would go try to sell it,” he said. “Or a friend would be selling something, and we would buy it and try to flip it,” he remembers.

While Pompliano can be surprisingly modest when talking about his own abilities -- and to this day says he’s not sure why Facebook hired him, setting him on this career path -- during a 2017 episode of the Breaking into Startups podcast, he shared some insights. By that time, he’d already left Facebook and was in a rebound phase with his career.

In thinking over the 150 people he himself had interviewed for roles at Facebook, he’d learned that there were two attributes that were harbingers of success in tech: people who can adapt to new info thrown at them and still calmly make strong decisions. And people whose instincts were to work with others to solve problems.

Pompliano says the second attribute has become “a life principle. Nobody does anything by themselves. It doesn't mean that you need 100 people,” he told TechCrunch. “A lot of life is about getting along with other people, being likable, being able to collaborate. Success in business is less about what you get out of it, and it's more about what value do you deliver to somebody else — how do you solve their problem?”

Those who know Pompliano say both of those traits are his superpowers.

He is “uniquely articulate in his ability to communicate with people,” said Andrew Spellman, founder and managing partner at Fifth Down Capital. Spellman invested in and is on the board of Inflection Points. He gave the example of how Pomp can always field questions that come at him, even on a TV spot when defending Bitcoin during the crypto winter.

“He takes what is, to many, including myself, a complicated asset class, or something that people don't understand as well, and really simplifies it,” Spellman said, referring to crypto. “I find that to be a really, really unique skill set.”

Clemente, who was 20 years old when they launched Reflexivity Research, describes how Pomp mentored him.

“He was on every sales call and whenever I needed him,” Clemente said. “He has this persona on Twitter of relentless energy. He's a workhorse, but in my experience, he is genuine.”

Facebook, Snapchat and Morgan Creek

Morgan Creek’s Yusko jokingly told TechCrunch that he “discovered” Pompliano by hearing him talk on a podcast, a comment Pompliano didn’t dismiss.

“That's a fair characterization. Mark is a pretty special guy in that he has now almost 30 years investing,” Pompliano said in response. “I credit Mark with a lot.”

He was 27 then and at a crossroads. During his time at Facebook, his cachet had risen internally until he landed a spot on a small team directly working on Mark Zuckerberg’s and Sheryl Sandberg’s social presence.

“That’s a pretty incredible opportunity for a 25- or 26-year-old to get exposure in meetings with those two individuals to see how they operate,” Pompliano recalled.

And then it looked like his tech career could have been over, just two years after it had begun.

He had jumped from Facebook to Snapchat (now Snap) in 2015 to do growth hacking there and was terminated within three weeks, according to a lawsuit he filed against Snapchat at the start of 2017. He alleged in the suit that Snapchat ended his job when he questioned Snapchat’s user numbers, a charge that the company has always denied. (It’s worth noting that in 2020, Snap entered into a $187.5 million settlement with shareholders over a lawsuit from them that made similar allegations.) Pompliano had to abandon the lawsuit when a judge ruled he was obligated to settle it in private arbitration. 

After leaving Snapchat, Pompliano went to work at Brighten Labs, where he was also fired after a few months. He sued them in 2016 for wrongful termination and fraud.

Pompliano declined to comment on any of the litigation but this was a painful time in his life. He opted to get out of big tech and go back to his home state of North Carolina, far away from Silicon Valley.

“I wouldn’t have had the career, success or network had I not lived in Silicon Valley,” Pompliano said, looking back. “It’s a very special place, the heartbeat of innovation. But I also felt it was somewhat of an echo chamber, and I wanted to have relationships, connectivity and knowledge outside of it. I also enjoy living on the East Coast, and so I wanted to do that as well.”

Instead of giving up, Pompliano got right back in the game. Back in North Carolina, he and new business partner Jason Williams started Full Tilt Capital. They set out to raise a small fund of about $3.5 million to invest in early-stage companies.

They blasted through investments, at one point completing 22 deals in 90 days, Pomp told Business Insider in 2016. The pair had good enough instincts to pick a few winners, like finance-tracking app Brigit, medical testing company EverlyWell and location intelligence company

Looking back now, he says, “We were fortunate enough to probably not know what we were doing. We didn't have the battle scars.”

But he admits, “I still don't know if I know what I'm doing when it comes to investing, especially in the private markets.”

Still, that early fund “really allowed me to realize I enjoyed investing” but also taught me that “I didn't know how to build an investment firm,” he said.

Although he didn't know it at the time, he was about to have another life-altering experience.

In search of capital

After hearing Pompliano talk as a guest on a podcast, Yusko began following him on Twitter and the two soon made plans to meet for breakfast. Their meeting turned into an all-day affair trading ideas. And that’s when Morgan Creek Digital was born. Morgan Creek bought Full Tilt in the first quarter of 2018 and launched Morgan Creek Digital to focus on crypto/blockchain investing.

It was still a radical idea at the time, Yusko said. While Fred Ehrsam's Paradigm was also founded around 2018, and Andreessen Horowitz launched its first $300 million crypto fund in 2018, as well, most traditional VCs had not caught up yet.

Full Tilt had hoped to raise $25 million for its second fund, which was to be dedicated to crypto, but once Morgan Creek absorbed it, their dreams skyrocketed. Now they envisioned a $1 billion fund. Yusko introduced Pompliano to some potential investors.

“I sent Pomp on a first meeting up in Washington, D.C. and we got lucky with one good meeting,” Yusko said. That one good meeting was with three public pension funds, where two committed, Pompliano recalls. However, one of the people with him humbled Pompliano a bit after the meeting, telling him that they had never seen that kind of quick funding in their career before, and Pompliano should not expect it, he said.

That was a foreshadowing statement. Yusko explained that “in the first quarter of 2018, we were in a bear market, and everyone hates crypto in a bear market. We were going to raise $1 billion, but realized we weren’t going to raise it. After that one good meeting, the next 35 meetings were all zero. The University of Texas even laughed him out of the office.”

Pompliano, Williams and Yusko ended up raising $40 million, which Yusko said was good for a first-time fund, especially for three people who had never worked together before.

Around that time, Yusko and Pompliano met the folks who run John Mauldin’s Strategic Investment Conference, and they convinced Pompliano to ditch a blog he was occasionally writing on Medium and get serious about a newsletter.

The next week, he started a Substack called “The Pomp Letter.” He also launched a podcast in August 2018.

Between 2018 and 2020, the fund was investing in Bitcoin and in companies like Liquid Death. Pompliano also helped Morgan Creek Digital raise a second fund of $90 million — he is still involved as a GP in both funds.

Then in 2021, Yusko recalls Pompliano getting a call from AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant, who wanted Pompliano to work on a new rolling fund product AngelList was doing.

So while Williams stayed at Morgan Creek Digital (and is still there), Pompliano left to work on the rolling fund at AngelList. Pomp and Yusko still work together on the Morgan Creek funds and still talk every Monday.

“He’s definitely one of my favorite people,” Yusko said.

Mark Yusko
Mark Yusko, founder and CEO of Morgan Creek Capital Management

Crypto investing

Ironically, for a guy known for his steadfast support for crypto investing, Pompliano lost a chance to make big bucks on the first currencies he owned.

He remembers buying his first crypto mining GPU computer back in 2016 to mine Ethereum.

“I had no clue what crypto was,” he said. “There was a young kid who pitched me on the idea of buying this computer, plugging it in and it prints money. Sounds awesome, right? Who doesn’t want to buy a money printer?”

It wasn’t that simple. He recalls mining about five ether per day, each worth around $10 at the time. “I was wondering if I was ever going to get my money back,” from the investment in the machine, he said.

Then in early 2017, the price of ether crossed $100. “That caught my attention,” he said. He sold almost all of his ether holdings when the price was around $150 or $200.

“Ethereum ended up going to like $4,000 each, so not the smartest thing, in hindsight,” Pompliano smiled.

But it convinced him to focus on crypto investing. Even so, the first years at Morgan Creek Digital were wild, as crypto prices fluctuated. Pomp had faced more dangerous situations in his life –– when he was 20 he was deployed to the war in Iraq for 18 months –– yet admits he still had to learn “emotional control” about crypto volatility, Pompliano said.

“I'm human just like everyone else and when the price goes up, you feel better about yourself. When it goes down, I wish it was going up,” he said.

His wife Polina Pompliano remembers when he first started talking about Bitcoin, crypto “was not cool. It wasn’t in the mainstream.”

“Then around 2017, Kevin O'Leary was on CNBC. Anthony went on. And Kevin O'Leary was like, you know how much of your cash position is in this and Anthony told them and then he was like, ‘I forbid this. This is garbage,’” she recalled.

But over the years, the two became friends “and Kevin's position on bitcoin has obviously changed. He's now a big proponent of the industry. So I think that it's amazing to see how he truly bet his reputation on this one asset” and was vindicated, she said of her husband.

Pompliano did TV appearances, wrote his newsletter and earned a rep for an even-keeled attitude even as darlings like FTX and BlockFi crashed. That cemented his reputation as a crypto guru. People kept coming to him for advice.

“I've done the work and had pretty high conviction on the asset class and the long-term viability” Pompliano said. “If you were to ask me where that comes from, it's probably being exposed to extreme situations, like going to war. When you have that perspective it is pretty helpful.”

Family man

Board member Spellman said with Pompliano’s social media and business interests, you’d think that he was always running around. Not so. Pompliano and Polina are raising two children so he follows strict routines around family time, too. One of the funniest things, Spellman said, is when Pomp comes to a business dinner. He’s often already eaten with his family, so he’ll show up, do his part, then be the first one to leave to get back to his family.

“He's very regimented,” Spellman said.

That commitment goes both ways, his wife Polina says. “He’s fiercely loyal to a fault. Of course, that can be exploited by some people. But he's the person that I found people call when their company is in trouble at 2 a.m. and they know that he'll answer,” she said.

Despite all of it -- his against-all-odds job at Facebook, near career crash, investment and media successes, the crypto winter -- Pompliano’s reputation has been surprisingly free of controversy.

Yes, people have taken issue with his unflagging belief -- some would say promotion -- of crypto (especially during the FTX fiasco).

But now that the U.S. has approved the first spot bitcoin ETFs, which has validated the asset and driven prices to record highs in 2024, Pomp may have earned an “I told you so.”

That’s never been his style though, his brother Joe Pompliano says.

“He gets along with anyone,” Joe said. “When you're putting yourself out there, specifically with different things and taking a stance and putting opinions out there, it opens yourself up to criticism.”

But even if Pompliano has a “terrible day” of facing down haters or problems, when he comes home, “you wouldn't know it.”

As Pomp himself puts it: “If you're going to play the professional sport of investing, you better be maniacal about finding information, constantly questioning your own assumptions and learning. The only way you can do that is always being exposed to new ideas and people who think differently than you.”