Category Archives: business

Henry Blodget is the New Lou Rukeyser?

In 1970, Lewis Rukeyser started a TV show called “Wall Street Week with Lewis Rukeyser” that summed up the weekly financial news.  It stayed on the air for 32 years. Not bad for a show about finance.

Image result for Louis Rukeyser

The show was in fact, more than just a financial news summary. Lou had a way of making the financial news — especially making money from investing — sound like fun. He promoted the idea of investing in stocks for the long haul. And he and his panel made bold buy recommendations with explanations. Sure there was professionalism. As important, Lou brought a cocky attitude that he was in it for the fun of making money and talking about making money.

It got a lot of attention and, I think, encouraged lots of folks to invest and talk about investing rather than just leaving it to the experts. It also fit right in during the 1980’s with the huge cultural shift in the US towards a “greed is good” attitude. But Lou was not just a stock pitch man. He was ready to make fun of investing fads and he preached doing research before buying.

Image result for Louis Rukeyser

Lou passed on in 2006.

As far as I can tell, no one has been able to effectively fill Lou’s shoes. Jim Cramer tries, but he does not have the same compelling personality and connections. There are other as well. But again, I don’t see the same level that Rukeyser regularly hit.

And now there is Henry Blodget. Henry founded Business Insider and he is now doing a short weekly financial news summary through Business Insider. The show is not as developed as Rukeyser’s was. Nor does Henry offer the panel that Lou did. But Henry does pretty good interviews. And he takes the longer view the way that Lou did.

check it out! I think Henry is onto something and hope that he will keep it up!

The Ugly Reality: Life as an Uber Driver Sucks

Ybercrashed onto the scene a while back with a value proposition that many people liked. It would organize folks with cars to provide a better service than taxi offer. Many people have bought into this, and Uber has grown into a behemoth

But cracks are appearing in Uber’s business model. At the core, Uber has a very high driver turnover rate. The reason is simple, Driving for Uber sucks, and Uber can’t do anything about it.

If this is so, we can expect a lot more volatility in this market. Yikes!

Al Wenger: Where is the Smart Money Going?

As you may know, Al is a VC and does early stage investing from New York. He takes a rather systematic view of this work, as opposed to some other writers who are constantly promoting the “next big thing”.

Al makes the sensible point today that the venture capital market is not so unlike the cement market. Errr … really? It is, in that there is a fixed cycle in both. In cement, it works this way. A  construction boo stresses cement production capacity (which is fixed). That bids up prices. Responding to the price increases, some build new cement making capacity. Everything is great until the boom subsides, cement prices crash, and then Ouch! The new capacity and the sunk costs that went into building it is useless.

The demand for capital is cyclical too. Waves of innovation produce waves in demand for money. And when there is too much money chasing too few good projects — ouch!

The thing is that we don’t know where we are in this innovation cycle. Demand for money has been strong and supply growing for some years. How long will this continue? No one knows. But it does help to know where smart folks — like Al —  think that there is still room for good projects. Al thinks

The most promising candidates in terms of innovation are blockchains and hard sciences (especially in medicine, but also materials, energy and possibly space).

The hard sciences`Interesting.  How are your contacts with scientists?

Jeff Bezos on Day 2

Jeff Bezos may not be the most likable guy on the planet, but he is one of the most successful in organizing people around a vision.  In his letter to shareholders, he makes this interesting comment

Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.

That sounds bad. As You might imagine, Jeff is obsessed with keeping Amazon on Day 1.  So how do you do it?`If this topic interests you, check out Jeff’s letter.

The most basic point is that businesses are focused. if they lose focus, they move to day 2. Maintaining a focus is the first step to staying on day 1. BTW, human nature abhors this type of extended focus. Which is why managers need to be very skilled in crafting messages that justify the effort to resist drifting.

Jeff argues that the most logical focus point is the customer. After all, the customer is the person who you hope will reach into his pocket (or her bag), pull out a wallet, and part with cash for whatever it is that you have on offer.

Many firms scoff at this. Why? Because it is possible to thrive by making sure customers have limited choices for items that they feel they must buy. Clever! One way to do this is to find ways to make the produce very expensive to manufacture. That becomes a “barrier to entry” which leads to a nice life if you can get it.  And while you are sailing your yacht around the Carribean, who cares what customers think of you?

Jeff makes an interesting comment about this. His point is that customers are unhappy even when they report that they are happy.  In other words, they ALWAYS want something better. Very interesting. I would put it this way, there is no limit to the value that can be added from collaboration.

That is a pretty amazing statement. So amazing that I will stop here top reflect on it some more.

Check out Jeff’s letter! He writes well!

Why Trucks May Go Electric

Elon Musk has a lot on his plate. That includes

… looming deadlines for getting a battery factory up to speed, the Model 3 out the door, and a secret payload (probably a spy satellite) into orbit.

Right. So that would be a perfect time to roll out a new idea — a Tesla Semi.

Jack Stewart explains why this actually makes a lot of sense. And keep in mind that enormous amounts are being spent to upgrade energy storage technology ie batteries.  I have no way to know for sure, but I speculate that we will get breakthroughs which will increase the density of energy storage and reduce costs.

Stay tuned!

Matchmaking as a Career Path

You may not have heard of General Georges Doriot. I had not until today when I read this post by Fred Wilson.  He started the VC industry in Boston after the second war.  Thanks Fred!

It is a great story. And it is instructive.

… venture capitalists were like the matchmakers of the modern economy. They would marry money with people and their crazy, new ideas. And the result would be a stronger country with a growing supply of well-paying jobs.

We tend to forget that the VC business is about connecting people, not just making money. And we tend to forget the importance of matchmaking in the entrepreneurial ecology.

Here is the thing — while the VC industry is pretty well developed, that does not mean that our matchmaking capacity has maxed out. I do not believe that this is true.