Posts from April 2006

The Big Easy, Jazzfest, Bruce Springsteen, and Thomas Hawk

137443005_b9ece8de20_mI love New Orleans.

And ever since Katrina, I’ve wanted to go back there.

I wish I could be there this weekend, at Jazzfest, celebrating everything that is great about New Orleans.

This is the weekend to go.  Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello (with Allen Toussaint and solo), Sonny Landreth, all at the Acura Stage on Sunday afternoon.  Damn I wish I’d been there to see that.

But this weekend was also Emily’s Bat Mitvah and first things come first.

So I am left to listening to Bruce’s new record, Elvis, Allen Toussaint, and Sonny Landreth instead.

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It’s not the same thing at all.

But Thomas Hawk’s photos of New Orleans and Jazzfest on Flickr help a lot.  He’s doing an amazing job of shooting the city, the festival, and the people, and capturing the vibe. 

Thanks Thomas.

Positively 10th Street

Positively_10th_street_logo_5UPDATE: We have taken this show down due to the reciept of a cease and
desist letter from Shangri-La. We are hoping to convince them
to let us put it back up. We’ll let you know how that goes. In the
interim, we’ve posted a version of our theme song, Positively 4th
Street.

Joanne and I did this one together in what might become the regular format for Positively 10th Street.

There
is a distinctly political undertone to this show with a war protest song
from Neil Young and the spanish language version of the Star Spangled
Banner.

Plus we’ve got a roots music thing going with songs from Bruce Springsteen’s Pete Seeger record and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Here’s the song list:

Old Dan Tucker – Bruce Springsteen
Living With War – Neil Young
Rock And Roll – Jerry Lee Lewis (Led Zepplin cover)
Going Home – Sophie Zelmani
Nuestro Himno – Ivy Queen, Tito el Bambino and Gloria Trevi

Listen Live

To listen in iTunes or on your iPod, get iTunes version 4.9 or above, then select Advanced, Subscribe to Podcast, and then enter this into the box:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/Positively10thStreet

Blogging About Stocks

Weblogs Inc/AOL launched Blogging Stocks this past week and it has been criticized by The Stalwart and others.  Jason Calacanis has pretty good roundup of the good and bad reviews on his blog.

All you have to do is give Blogging Stocks a quick read and you know why its getting criticized. The posts are not particularly insightful and worse – they aren’t very actionable.

Insight and actionability are the key to writing about stocks.  Tell me something I don’t know or didn’t really understand and give it to me in a way that leads to a trade.

But I don’t agree with the premise in The Stalwart’s title – Why Blogging and Stocks Might Not Be a Good Fit.

I think blogging and stocks are a perfect fit.  The stock market is all about knowing something before everyone else and being able to profit from it.  Blogging can and will and already has impacted Wall Street. My first introduction to blogs was seeing Jim Cramer in action at TheStreet.com. When Flatiron Partners invested in TheStreet.com in early 1998, Jim was blogging stocks like crazy and it was an impressive feat.  I didn’t realize he was blogging at the time, but I understood immediately the power of what he was doing and to this day, I feel that blogging is a completely natural act when it comes to thinking about and trading stocks.

What has to happen though is lots of people who are good investors, analysts, and/or traders need to start blogging about what they are thinking and doing. Writing something down is a great way to think about an investment and I think we are going to see more and more investors do just that via blogs.

It’s already happening. The Stalwart does a good job of blogging about stocks.  Here’s a post from The Stalwart about declining Jeans prices (citing a fashion blog as reference).

Seeking Alpha has created a network of blogs about various investing sectors.  It showcases the power of a blogging platform for investors.

I know a few former Wall Street analysts who are doing other things now but still blog about stocks from time to time.

Andy Kessler now mostly writes books and a column for the Wall Street Journal, but his WSJ columns are available on his blog.

Henry Blodget blogs about stocks at Internet Outsider.

And Bill Burnham blogs about stocks and other interesting things at Burnham’s Beat.

Some of the blogs on my blogroll are home to interesting stock blogging.

Mark Pincus told everyone he was shorting eBay at $39/share in October 2005 and explained why as well.  The stock went up to the mid $40s by the end of the year but is now at $34/share.  It would be great if Mark posted on whether he’s still short and why.

Howard Linzon is a friend of mine in Phoenix that trades stocks and he writes out loud as he thinks about his trades.  This post is about Apple Computer. He says it’s not a recommendation to buy the stock, but if you read it, he’s got to be long Apple and he makes a convincing case why we should all be long Apple.

I have also blogged about stocks from time to time.  In December of 2004, I proposed a hedged trade going short on Sirius and going long Clear Channel. Both stocks have declined, but Sirius has falled much farther generating a nice gain.

I think there is a ton of insight, and much of it actionable, on blogs right now. It’s just not on one single blog. Blogging about stocks seems to be more of an opportunity for aggregation (ala Memeorandum) than it is an opportunity to recreate TheStreet.com with a blog.

With tools like PersonalBee and Megite, anyone can create their own Memorandum for stocks like Gabe Rivera did for Robert Scoble’s tech feeds to create Memorandum.

That’s what Jason should have done with Blogging Stocks instead of trying to create a destination blog for stocks. You need someone like Jim Cramer to make that work and he’s got something like three day jobs already.

UPDATE: Gabe Rivera commented on this post and explained that Memorandum was not built exclusively on Robert Scoble’s feeds, but rathher a much larger set of feeds that he adjusts on a daily basis.  I stand corrected and apologize for trivializing how Gabe created Memorandum which is an incredible resource for those interested in staying current on what’s happening in technology.

Nuggets

Billion_dollar_babies
In the cab n the way to a fundraiser on Tuesday night, I read Bob Lefsetz’ rant on Alice Cooper and I knew that Alice would be featured in this week’s Nuggets.  As Bob says in a must read post for anyone interested in popular music:

It is absolutely positively CRIMINAL that Alice Cooper is not in the
Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.  While Robbie Robertson and other exalted
insiders have left the boards, are sitting behind a desk instead of
standing in front of a microphone, Alice Cooper is out KILLING night
after night and those in power, with their multi-thousand dollar suits
and private jets, are IGNORING HIM!

Alice Cooper put out four awesome records in the early 1970s all produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin.  I have owned them all at one point in my life.  They are Love It To Death, Killer, School’s Out, and Billion Dollar Babies.

Bob calls Killer Alice’s greatest moment and it probably is. It’s the Alice record my brother Rod bought Josh when he wanted to turn him on to Alice’s greatness.

But my favorite is Billion Dollar Babies. The title track may not have been a single, but it is my favorite Alice Cooper song.

The deluxe edition, which I linked to, has a second CD full of live recordings from the Billion Babies tour.  And Alice Cooper is essentially a live experience. One of the best shows in rock.

If you grew up in the 70s, as I did, do yourself a favor and go back to some of these records.  I am pretty sure they’ll bring back some good memories.

Letting The Customer Create The Ads

I have been a big fan of the idea that brands should allow their customers to create advertising and submit it to them.

It’s been happening here and there for a while. I recall posting about a homemade Nike commercial when Tiger Woods sunk the put at the 16th hole in the Masters, but I can’t find that post to link to.

This week I was shown something called Firefox Flicks. This is a site where Firefox fans can post self-made commercials for Firefox.  I think it launched last week and there are already 70 commercials up there.

There is a cool animated one called This Is Hot that showcases incredible graphics.

But this is my favorite so far.

Dodgeball

Dodgeball
You may have noticed a bunch of pictures in my Flickr badge of people playing dodgeball earlier this week.

As Charlie explains in this blog post, Union Square Ventures fielded a team in the NextNY dodgeball outing.  We were undefeated (6-0) until we ran into a train called IGA (In Game Advertising) in the finals.

We got creamed. It was a good week for the in game advertising sector!

The purpose was networking with other internet/tech companies in the NYC market and it was a blast. I hope we do more of this kind of thing.

Great Lecture Tonight

Dan Gillmor is giving a lecture tonight up at Columbia on "trends in new media".

I had breakfast with Dan today and got a preview of what he’s thinking about and going to talk about tonight.  I can’t make it, but I wish I could.

Dan is one of the really great thinkers about media, the internet, community, and journalism and if you are interested in this stuff and are looking for something interesting to do tonight, I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour than by listening to Dan talk about grassroots journalism.

The event will be held in the Columbia Journalism School’s Lecture Hall, beginning with a
reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the lecture and Q&A at 7:30
p.m. The event is open to the public.

Overcommunicating?

I was on a panel this week with some really good VCs and several equally high quality entrepreneurs.

The topic was managing a Board and we covered a bunch of important topics.

One subject that came up was communicating with your board and investors. One of the entrepreneurs said that she had been advised to send a weekly status email to her board and investors and she cringed when she thought of that. Another entrepreneur said that there’s a danger in "overcommunicating" and the problem with something like a weekly email, other than the time it takes to compose a decent one every week, is that you will set the expectation and you won’t be able to stop without disappointing your investors.

Here’s what I think about all of this:

1 – Communication (both ways) is the hallmark of a healthy entrepreneur/VC relationship. The more communication, the better the relationship.  It should not be all one way.  The VC should initiate the contact as much as the entrepreneur.

2 – Formal communication is overrated.  Weekly status reports that go out to the entire board are often not read, particularly if they are delivered in an attachment like a pdf or a spreadsheet.  I much prefer the ad hoc phone call or email.  The closer it gets to a conversation the better it is.

3 – It’s hard to have a "conversational" relationship with a bunch of people at the same time.  I am on several boards where we have that.  Particularly via email.  When the CEO can send out an informal email and copy his entire board and possibly a couple senior managers and the group can have an email discussion, that’s a really good thing.

4 – If you are going to do a weekly status report, I’d suggest making it short and sweet. And do it via email without attachments. Just the Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in five paragraphs or less.  Don’t spend hours editing it.  Just put down your thoughts and hit send.

5 – You need to change your communication techniques with your board and investors as your company grows.  Maybe it does make sense to send a weekly email when you have ten or fifteen employees but doing that when you have 200 seems nutty to me, unless the company is in a significant crisis mode.

6 – The entrepreneur should determine the mode of communication and should not have something mandated to him or her.  Suggestions on how to improve it are fine, but requests for reams and reams of information and analytics are not.

There is no one good way to manage communication between an entrepreneur and the Board and investors.  Each entrepreneur needs to find a method that suits them best. Efficiency is key.  But it has to be effective.  And it should be frequent.

Because I’d rather be guilty of overcommunicating than undercommunicating every time.

VC Cliché of the Week

In Hang Fire, the second song on Tatoo You, the last really good Rolling Stones record (until Bigger Bang), Mick Jagger sings:

You know marrying money is a full time job. I don’t need the aggravation. I’m a lazy slob.

I have always loved that line and have used it many times over the years at work.

Marrying money is something the entrepreneur should do with great care. Dealing with investors shouldn’t be a full-time job but unfortunately is in many cases.

When you take money from a VC, it should be the beginning of a healthy partnership. The VC should not expect the entrepreneur to "work for them".  The entrepreneur should not attempt to "manage the VC".

But all too often the exchange of money and stock that is the heart of a venture deal has the impact of changing the entrepreneur’s view of their role in the business.  They begin to feel beholden to the VC.  And many VCs like the entrepreneur to feel that way.

I like to think of the VC’s role differently. I have said in the past that the VC’s customer is the entrepreneur.  Most high quality entrepreneurs have a number of options regarding who they take money from.  In that situation, the VCs should be competing on the basis of which of them will be the best partner for the entrpreneur and the business. The exchange of money and stock should be the ties that bind, but the relationship should be a true partnership not some kind of heirarchichal structure.

The other time the entrepreneur marries money is when they sell the business. At that point, the VC is gone and the entrepreneur usually has to stick around for a year, two, or sometimes even longer to realize the full value of the deal.

Almost always when the company is sold, the entrepreneur stops being the boss and starts reporting to someone in the parent company. They have married money and it is a full time job. Their baby is someone else’s baby at that point and they have to figure out how to think about things differently.  It can be a frustrating experience. But if the money is good, most of the time it’s the right thing to do.

The bottom line is that marrying money is something entrepreneurs should do carefully.  Because it can be a full time job and the divorce can be painful if you pick the wrong partner.