Sunday, December 28, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Oh and while we're on the subject of South Park if you've never seen Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police, it's amusing... and if you didn't know about the 5 minute short that started it all you should see (not safe for work, foul language) The Spirit of Christmas.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
A few days ago Paul Graham (whose essays I've long enjoyed) posited the following (now also being discussed on TC)...
"If founders decide VCs aren't worth the trouble, that could be bad for VCs. When the economy bounces back in a few years and they're ready to write checks again, they may find that founders have moved on." (full article)
Lower cost of starting up = Don't need VC?
While he is right that initial startup costs have dropped, typically the reason why you as an entrepreneur bother going through the pain and stress of starting something new is in the hope of creating something wildly successful. Should this happen you'll be growing far too fast to fund it out of your own nascent income (and if you're like most big hits in the Valley your income for the first year or two will be at or close to 0).
Let's review the case of Youtube... Product became a hit, traffic shot up at an unbelievable pace, huge bandwidth bills, scary lawsuits. So while it's possible the technology costs may become largely irrelevant as he suggests (though I'm doubtful), the people piece (engineers, sales, management, lawyers) remains and their cost isn't rapidly decreasing.
So while he is probably right that Series A as we know it is slated for the scrap heap (since early costs used to be dominated by now much cheaper technology purchases), there is still Series B and C and with the IPO market decimated by Sarbox there is a much greater need for Series D's and perhaps beyond..
So Paul, I think it's a little early to start playing taps for the Sand (Hill Road) people... they will simply move up market, though that reminds me of one of my favorite books.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Linked - Explains how networks form, what they mean, emergent properties. See also 80/20 Principle.
80/20 Principle - Linked explains the why better, but this rule is simply everywhere you have a network. 80% of the wealth held by 20% of the population, etc.
Wisdom of Crowds - How groups of people can make better decisions than an individual and what are the cases where this breaks down?
Innovators Dilemma - Probably the most important biz book of our time. Explains why/how startups consistently run over big entrenched players.
Built to Last, Good to Great - Both by same author and cover same topic: how might you build a long lasting great company?
Gut Feelings - Explains where they come from and how effective gut instincts are as a decision making tool.
Influence: Psychology of Persuation - A study in all the techniques ever used to try and sell you something. Backed up with references to experiments, etc.
The Origin of Financial Crises - See previous post.
Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan: Impact of the Highly Improbable - Both tell the same story, first one is better written. Financial crises happen far more often than people think, our models are wrong.
Predictably Irrational - Fun stories about how humans aren't the "rational" actors economists assumed they were.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Below are chapter notes I jotted down, I highly recommend that anyone interested in the current economic mess get this book.
Economic policy is lopsided, laissez-faire in the good times when the markets are booming and socialist when things go bad.
Efficient Market Hypothesis: asset prices are always and everywhere at the correct price. Leaves no room for asset price bubbles or busts. Distributions do not fit the reality of the markets.
Better theory? Financial Instability Hypothesis developed by Minsky (influence from Keynes). Argues that financial markets are driven by waves of credit expansion resulting in asset inflation followed by contraction and asset deflation.
Central banks have a confused role, has changed over time. Stated purpose between countries US vs UK isn't consistent.
Efficient market hypothesis would suggest central bank shouldn't exist. Minksy school suggests that central bank can play a role to stabalize.
Fantastic simplified history of money and banking.
Central banks as lender of last resort, presence prevents run on a bank but encourages risky lending. Gold standard doesn't help.
Awesome example of how a simple stock transaction can result in a huge significant increase in credit driving asset inflation and yet more credit. Self-reinforcing asset-debt cycles.
Central bank should help managed these cycles and dampen them.
Credit creation also boosts profits further promoting asset inflation (and thus more credit creation). An excellent simplified example: Company A who makes consumer goods and Company B who supplies all the inputs to A. Consumer savings can depress revenues and therefore wages of both companies similarly borrowing can create a temporary windfall.
Continually low savings rate in the US due to reliance on dropping the interest rate whenever we have a slowdown.
Bubbles don't require irrational behavior. Need to look at if credit expansion is the underlying cause.
Credit expansion and contraction causing increasing instability seems similar to the "governor" problem solved by Maxwell's. He worked out that to keep a shaft rotating at a nearly constant speed you needed to make very minor adjustments to reduce oscillations a bit at a time. Suggests a similar approach by the central bank.
Quantitative risk controls are based on demonstrably flawed models, they give us false confidence.
Suggests Fed should stop worrying about consumer price targeting (chasing the wrong variable).
Best solution to current crisis? Inflate our way out, hurts the prudent savers and helps risk taking borrowers.