Horse Sense: Micro Investing in Everything From Ponies to Golf
Brian Doxtator (left) is — in the best possible sense — an unapologetic fanboy. Whether that means vintage Ford Mustangs or following his favorite bands around the country, this Michigan-raised 40-year-old is at his core a wide-eyed enthusiast who took a finance and commercial law education and combined it with his passion for sport and created a tech-driven Cinderella story almost overnight.
With his lifelong buddy and fellow Western Michigan University alum Chase Chamberlin, he co-founded a company in 2021 called Commonwealth, an apt name for their micro investing platform/app that allows ordinary Joes and Janes to buy shares in — for instance — racehorses. No headlines in that story, not until their first two investments won the Dubai World Cup in 2022 (the richest race in the sport) and yes, the Kentucky Derby the next year. Talk about auspicious starts!
When Commonwealth’s entry in the Derby — Mage by name — crossed the finish line in first place, the company’s 25 percent stake in the horse was funded by 400 stakeholders, some of whom paid as little as $50 for a single share. That meager investment yielded $95 for each investor, who also may have bet another $50 on the 15-1 shot to win and turned that into another 800 clams. Eighty of those lucky folks attended the race and turned the winner’s circle into a flash-mob of raucous celebrants. White Mage hats and red roses and miles of smiles — not a bad intro to thoroughbred racing 101.
And to think it all started with an automobile auction, where Los Angeles resident Doxtator noticed a company selling shares in impossibly expensive cars. A visit to Santa Anita Racetrack soon thereafter provided the eureka moment: He called his old pal and dedicated equestrian Chamberlin in Lexington, KY, and pitched the idea. They partnered with WinStar Farm in Kentucky and struck gold with Country Grammer, who won the $12 million Dubai World Cup. They were, so to speak, off and running.
At this point, you might well be asking what this horsey stuff has to do with 5-irons and flagsticks — this is a golf magazine after all! Well, Doxtator happens to be mad for the game and holds a 2.4 Handicap Index as a proud SCGA member of The Saticoy Club, one of the toughest tracks in Southern California. One day in 2020, the group behind him sent some towering drives over his foursome, and lightning struck yet again. Why not offer his investors shares in up-and-coming golfers as well?
Turns out the hard-hitting tyro behind him was Pepperdine’s Joey Vrzich, whose coach apologized to Doxtator and said the kid was currently 8-under-par on a track that brings ordinary hackers to tears after three holes. Commonwealth signed him and Baylor’s Cooper Dossey — both of whom are playing the Canadian Tour currently — to a contract that provides them with three years of expense money in exchange for 30 percent of their earnings, a sum that decreases if they continue to compete beyond the initial period.
“The player doesn’t own the expense money,” Doxtator explained as he carded par after routine par at Saticoy recently. “Commonwealth doesn’t own that money (which clocks in around $257k), we manage it on behalf of the investors. So, when the player submits expenses, the contract says you can use that for travel, lodging, caddies and coaches.”
And just like his beloved musical artists — who sometimes use crowdfunding and NFTs to offer privileged access and content to fans — the golfers will produce updates for their angel investors in the form of emails and videos that keep everyone abreast of their progress and creates a bond between the athlete and their backers. Someday, who knows, one of them might hoist that shiny FedEx Cup and divvy up the $10 million proceeds among those who showed early faith in their prospects.
THE COMMONWEALTH BUMP
One of those true believers is Doxtator himself, who says, “I take a position in everything we offer. I bought into Joey and Cooper and every single one of our horses. The horses sell out so fast, I buy less of a share because ultimately, it’s for the customers. I’m actually not a huge gambler personally.”
If horse racing is a mystery to you, a logical question might be: Do the nags know they’re trying to vanquish their rivals, or do they simply have the magic, winning DNA that will deliver profits to their owners long after they retire from racing? And when it comes to golfers, is there inborn talent that leads to competitive success, or is it 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration that makes for a championship career?
“When it comes to horses, we had a horse that had all the talent in the world, but he just kept finishing third after having the lead in the stretch,” Doxtator said. “He was better than the other horses but didn’t have the guts to finish it. With humans, there is some cold-bloodedness X factor when it comes to winning. Like Tiger, there’s an indomitable will and an inability to give in that we can all relate to, even in a friendly, two-dollar game. Some use the action to focus, and others just fray!”
Doxtator has tennis players on his radar as possible future candidates for Commonwealth investors, who he hopes — aside from monetary compensation — will provide the “wind in the sails” for journeymen competitors who are juiced by having a built-in fan base and use it as motivation. “Joey and Cooper Monday qualified for a Korn Ferry event three days after we launched the offerings, so we jokingly call that the ‘Commonwealth bump’ phenomenon,” Doxtator shared.
“It’s one thing to have an agency that looks for endorsements and handles social media and all that, but it’s a whole other thing to know you’ve got 1,000 people out there rooting for you who are passionate about the game,” he said. “Nobody really knows for sure when it comes to picking championship horses, which is an unpredictable mixture of genetics and training. Golfers need to work their tails off and be process oriented. And having devoted fans with skin in the game can really matter.”