Posts from August 2004

SummerRide

Yesterday morning I went on a bike ride to my favorite destination, the George Washington Bridge.

It’s an hour and a half round trip ride up the west side highway from my house in Greenwich Village.

It was my birthday and I felt like hearing When You Wake Up Feeling Old, so I grabbed my iPod and put on Wilco’s Summerteeth.

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By the time I got to the west side highway, the sun was rising up the side of the Empire State Building.

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As I passed midtown, the sight of cars coming down the ramp reminded me what a great gift it is to live without a commute in my life.

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Riverside Park is one of my favorite stretches of the ride. I love the old pier that has fallen into the water. I also love the boat basin at 79th Street. I always wonder what it would be like to live on a boat in the middle of NYC.

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When I got to 125th Street, I passed the Fairway market which is full of energy at 7am. This is one of the best markets in NYC.

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After 125th Street, I passed the big water treatment plant and ended up in a part of Riverside that feels like it could be upstate NY. It’s really hard to believe you are in the middle of Harlem when you are on this part of the ride.

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I got to the Bridge in just under an hour and hung out at the Little Red Lighthouse for a couple minutes. This part of the shoreline is called Jeffrey’s Hook.

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The bridge itself is an amazing sight. There were thousands of cars crossing it at this time of the day, but underneath, all you have is the river and the steel glistening in the early morning sun.

So it was time to head back. I took off Summerteeth and put on Tonight’s The Night. After all, it was time to Go Downtown.

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As I was listening to Neil sing “Please take my advice, open up your tired eyes”, I passed a group of homeless guys sleeping on the shoreline.

HPIM0294When I got back to Fairway, there was this older guy, a Harlem local, fishing. He wouldn’t let me take his picture, but I got his rod on camera. I asked him what kind of fish he catches. He looked at me with this disgusted face and said, “Do you know how many times I’ve been asked that question?” I apologized and he volunteered that he caught Striped Bass, Bluefish, and some other kinds of fish. Then he said the me, “This used to be Harlem, but now it’s full of people like you all day long”. Boy did I feel like I’d interrupted his peaceful morning.

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As I was riding down my favorite stretch of the ride, between Fairway and 96th Street, I saw the sun rising up around The Church of St John The Divine. That was nice.

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Right next to the Intrepid Sea and Space Museum at 42nd Street, there was this enourmous yacht. I guess one of GW’s “base” was in town a week early.

HPIM0310The ride is basically over when I get to the Richard Meier buildings on the west side highway at Perry Street. Most people I know hate these twin buildings but I love them.HPIM0311

It’s a great ride. I do it at least twice a week when I am in the city. It was hot yesterday and I was dripping sweat when I got home, but I felt great.

#Blogging On The Road#Photo of the Day#Random Posts

Charting Bush (Continued)

approval_ratingsIn spite of all of the noise about swift boats, I think this election (and any election wehre there is an incumbent) is going to be much more of a referedum on the current president.

It feels to me like a problem CEO situation. If you’ve got a CEO who is clearly not getting the job done, then you have to find someone new. You try your best to get someone who is better, but simply making the change is a first step to fixing the problem.

Now I am not saying the GW Bush is not getting the job done. That’s a decision for everyone out there to make on their own. But I do think GW’s approval polls are the single most important data point to be watching in this race.

And the best place that I know of to go for that data is a history professor at Univ of Minnesota named Steven Ruggles.

This guy takes every poll that is out there, charts them, and then gives you a five day moving average of all the data points. It feels like a much better way to look at the data than relying on any single poll, be it Zogby, CBS/NY Times, NBC/WSJ, etc.

So, back in May, I posted a chart of Bush’s approval rating where it looked like a ski slope, all downhill, with a few bumps.

Since then, he’s seemed to bottom out. And so, I’ll be watching to see if the numbers start going up after the convention and into the fall or if they stay where they are. That’s the key to this race in my opinion.

#Politics

43 Today

Yup. I was born on a hot and sweaty in mid-August 1961. At least that’s the way my mom tells it. I don’t remember it.

In celebration of the occasion, I am taking the day off from work and going to pick up my kids from summer camp. It’s the best present I could get, my three kids back from almost eight weeks of fun without me.

In honor of this momentus day, I’ve made a small change on this blog.

I’ve had the same author photo since I started this blog almost a year ago. Me and Josh going up the mountain at Beaver Creek in the early evening to eat at Beano’s. That was a great photo.

I am replacing it with another photo of me and Josh from last month at camp visiting day. It’s also a great photo, featuring Josh’s favorite band, The Ramones, on his shirt, and a big smile on his face. I think I’ll leave this one up until I turn 44.

#Random Posts

PDF vs. HTML

Change This has set off an interesting debate about the pros and cons of publishing in PDF vs HTML.

Seth Godin, mastermind behind Change This, set off this debate with this post.

I must admit that my preference is for HTML. It’s searchable, it contains links, it’s fast, you don’t need a plug-in. HTML is the least common denominator that everyone can agree on.

But PDFs have a few things going for them that seeems to be missing from this debate. I don’t think its really about PDF vs. HTML. It’s when is HTML best and when is PDF best?

In late 1992, I met a guy named Isaak Karaev who was planning to change the way Wall Street Research was distributed. He showed me Adobe Acrobat and laid out his plan to get the Wall Street banks to publish their research in PDF and distribute it electronically via a system Isaak was building. I was blown away. The idea seemed so powerful and the technology seemed so revolutionary. I invested in Isaak’s idea which became Multex which became a publicly traded company in 1999 and was sold last year to Reuters for $250 million.

Isaak did change the way research was distributed and in the process he built the first commercial application of PDFs. What’s most interesting about this is that Wall Street Research is still published in PDFs. HTML-based research is not that common. And why is that given that we all seem to think that HTML is better than PDF?

Well, for one PDF gives the banks and their analysts much better control over the look and feel of their research. They want to report to look on the screen the way it looks on paper. Another reason is that PDF does a much better job of rendering the complex excel models and tables that these reports contain. A third reason is that its easier to save and email a PDF to your colleague than it is a HTML page.

My point? PDF has a role in online publishing. It’s not the format of choice form most content, but for certain kinds of content, its is a better solution. Wall Street research is one good example.

For Change This manifestos? I think they should publish them both ways and see what people prefer. How’s that for a suggestion?

#VC & Technology

Has Google Blown Its IPO? (Continued)

This will be my last post on this subject, because Google’s IPO is now history.

They priced at $85, a fair and reasonable price even if it is 34x 2005 earnings. It’s the price, $20 billion, that many on Wall Street said the Company should go out at earlier this year.

Did they blow the IPO? I say no, but The Wall Street Journal seems to feel otherwise this morning.

I’ll link to John Battelle who quotes liberally from the article in case you don’t have a subscription to WSJ.com.

That’s it for me on this subject. On to other topics.

#Uncategorized

Smart Liberals

There is a great conversation going on in the comments section of my Alternative Energy post.

It should probably more appropriately be going on at the Alternative Energy blog, but it is where it is and that’s that.

One commenter made a good point that I wanted to highlight. He said about my posts on this subject;

i’m just trying to put some real hard engineering into a discussion by some fairly smart (if very liberal) people… cause when smart liberals start talking in the abstract, things go to hell very quickly (great society, etc)… you guys have your hearts in the right place and great intentions… success.. not so much

I wear the liberal label with as much pride as the smart label. But I am bothered by the “great intentions but no success” label. If that means we liberals need to get smarter about this stuff, I am game. In fact, since I posted about Alternative Energy yesterday, I’ve gotten a lot smarter already.

Keep the comments coming. It’s the best thing about blogging.

#Random Posts

Has Google Blown Its IPO? (Continued)

I guess not. It looks like the deal is going to happen. Probably today or tomorrow.

But the price they got came down to a more reasonable $85 to $95. That’s roughly $22 billion. My back of the envelope math says that price is about 7.4x this year’s sales and 60x this year’s earnings.

Yahoo! is the closest comparable and it is worth $31 billion (you have to back out the $7 billion of value that comes from Yahoo!’s ownership of Yahoo! Japan) and trades at 11x this year’s revenues and 65x this year’s earnings.

I have a friend who bid in the auction thinking that Google wouldn’t get its price and would go out at a “bargain”. It looks like he is going to be right. To protect himself from that “bargain” going down, he intends to short Yahoo! against his Google shares. That looks like a decent plan based on these numbers.

I don’t think there is as much arbitrage in the long Google/short Yahoo! trade as my friend does, but at the low end of the Google range there does appear to be some spread to be played.

#VC & Technology

Shopping for VC Dollars

There are two great lists out there in the blog world right now on this subject.

Martin Tobias has a great list of four things you should think about when choosing a VC firm.

And when you’ve done that part, Matt Blumberg has a list of ten things you should do when negotiating with a VC. Matt’s done it with me a few times so he knows the tricks of the trade.

Martin and Matt’s blogs are must reads for everyone in the startup world.

#VC & Technology

My Media Paradox

I live in a world where the traditional media outlets have been aggregated into powerful networks that turn out what is essentially propaganda.

I live in a world where the best news program on TV is on the Comedy Channel.

I live in a world where Ted Turner, the creator of many of the most influential news outlets of the latter part of the 20th century, says media has become too concentrated in too few hands.

I live in a world where everyone can have their own media channel (call it a blog or whatever else you want).

I live in a world where the lives of the Hilton sisters is more important to the media than the lives of the two income family that can’t afford health care.

I live in a world where a presidential candidate can raise more money in $25 contributions over the Internet than in $5 million fundraisers at the Waldorf.

I live in a world where the administration can fool a liberal paper into being its “echo chamber” for it war drumbeat.

I live in a world where the news of a Governer’s planned resignation breaks on a website and a blog hours before it is announced.

So, where are we headed with all of this? My hope is that we are headed toward a world that is more transparent, honest, open, and truthful than the one we live in today. But many of these facts point me to the opposite conclusion. It’s a real paradox for me.

#Politics#Random Posts

The Discount and the Work

Back in the go-go days of the late 90s, whenever we were competing for a deal with another firm, I always used to ask the rest of the firm, “How much of a discount are we getting?”

It is my belief that most markets are efficient. Deals tend to get done at market prices. The way you extract a bigger return than your competition is with the “discount” and the “work”. And the two are related.

The discount is the amount below the market price that an entrepreneur is willing to take your money. According to this post on Martin Tobias’ blog, entrepreneurs are willing to take a 10-14% discount to lure top VCs into their deals. I agree with Martin that the name of the firm is only material to those who don’t know better. What really matters is the people in the firm, what they are like to work with, and if they’ll really work.

And that leads me to the second issue. I believe that the success of many deals, not all deals but many deals, is the way the investors and entrepreneurs work post-investment to make the Company succeed. That’s called “value add” by many in the business. I hate that term. It is so overused as to make it useless. The question that really matters is – Do the VCs roll up their sleeves and work for the Company? Not show up at Board meetings and pontificate about how great and how connected they are, but actually work. Work is never easy, always time consuming, and is likely to raise your golf score. But its the second component to producing above average returns.

And in the resulting feedback loop that is the venture capital market, those who really do the work end up getting the discount in the next deal they do.

That’s the way I see it.

#VC & Technology