Tuesday, October 26, 2010

After 31 years, the "-Man" takes a hike

Sony will discontinue production of its Cassette Walkman in Japan, 31 years and 400 million sales after its 1979 debut. So much has happened technologically in the past three decades! And here's the latest speculation: Will Apple Buy Sony? - Douglas A. McIntyre - Business - The Atlantic

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Entrepreneur as Chief Economic Adviser

Today's Wall Street Journal (15 Oct 2010) prints an article by Elizabeth Williamson ("Obama Backs Away from CEO Search") on the pending replacement of Larry Summers as Director of the National Economic Council to the White House . There's been buzz lately that his replacement should be a corporate CEO, to smooth relations between the White House and the Business Community.

Here's my take: what we need is a successful (preferably bootstrap) entrepreneur, to advise the nation on how to lead our way to an entrepreneurial economy. Everyone is talking about jobs these days. We don't need jobs so much as we need businesses. Businesses start, and grow, and produce profuse amounts of jobs because entrepreneurs take advantage of opportunities.

They create far more jobs than all of those corporate behemoths combined. If the government has a role in this, it's simply to ease the path to those opportunities, it's to remove the corporate welfare that has created an unlevel playing field.

Let's stop holding on to the past; instead let's allow the failings of that old thinking to provide the opportunities for innovation!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is VC a Degenerative Disease?

Here's a pithy quote from a recent WSJ Venture Capital Dispatch blog post:
Venture firms have now gone a full decade without collectively returning a dime, causing their investors like pension funds and university endowments to question whether the venture capital model even works.
Is there any reason that an entrepreneur with a cart full of ideas, excitement, passion, and motivation should pause, gesticulate, and faun over VCs to gain their attention and hope for their largess?

For my part, I'll stick to developing the winning ideas, figuring out a way to make it from napkin to market to profits, with or without the suits to back me up.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What do your taxes pay for?

Here's a great idea from Third Way: provide an accounting to taxpayers just what their taxes are paying for. It would put plain and in the open the debates going on about taxes and spending. The issue is not how high or how low taxes are, but what we as consumers get in exchange for our investment.

If I go to the corner bakery and plunk down $3.18 for a bagel and pint of O.J., I know exactly what I'm paying for. I recall years ago, wondering about the mysterious "Kuver" on my restaurant bill in Slovakia. I had ordered a bowl of soup with bread for lunch. I was informed that Kuver covered the cost of all the condiments on the table (of which I had used none). In my eyes, it was an extra tax that I had not been aware of when I ordered. At a fast food joint in Germany, you'll likely be charged for a packet of ketchup, whereas in the States you'll find six stuffed into your carry out bag, when two would suffice. Do they charge more for the hamburger in Ohio than in Hamburg, to cover the cost of condiments? Surely, the consumer is paying for them one way or the other. Which is the fairer model: pay as you go, for what you use, or pay anyway for what you're given?

If I am to subsidize others, shouldn't I be aware of that in advance? There are good reasons to spread expenses around: what I don't need today, I may have need for tomorrow. If I pay to help my neighbor now, perhaps she'll pay to help me in the future. That's the whole point of insurance. But knowing what things cost, and aligning spending with priorities is key. If we think of taxes as an everyday expense for services or goods rendered, we'll be much better off in determining whether or not we're paying for something we wish to, and better informed to decide who should be stewards of that money.