Monthly Archives: September 2005

Book: Founding Brothers

140250539601_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_Another great book on the revolutionary war period. Just finish Alexander Hamilton (a must read) and then went after Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis.

this is a great book. and if you are into audiobooks like me, you’ll find it a fantastic listen.

for some reason i am on an American biography kick right now. the four books i am currently devouring are Charlie Wilson’s War, Theodore Rex (on Teddy Roosevelt), a book called “Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership”, and a bio on Jim Wolfensohn.

Andrew Boer launches his blog

Andrew Boer — a long-time friend of mine and colleague from my BridgePath days finally enters the blogosphere with: The Emptor Blog.

Andrew also recently launched a new business:

Emptor, the Latin word for buyer, is a creative, full-service licensing agency focused on reaching both the traditional markets and the new frontiers in licensing: including video games, Internet, and mobile applications.

connecting and dating…

After Fortune called me a “Corporate Yenta,” people who never really understood what I do had a much better understanding…

My job is to set-up companies with business development relationships. It is basically the same strategy as setting people up on dates. My objective is to get enough interest that there is a second date. That is a success for me.

I know that not all my set-ups will result in marriage. But I want people to be excited to meet each other. The worst case scenario, like in dating, is when one of the parties calls me and says “what were you thinking!” luckily, that doesn’t happen very often because it is common sense … you don’t want to set up a supermodel with an ugly, unemployed dude … unless, of course, he’s unemployed because he just sold his Internet company for a billion dollars … then it is ok if he’s ugly …

Book: Call of the Mall

Call of the Mall : The Geography of Shopping by Paco Underhill

Another great Paco Underhill book. If you have read Why We Buy, then you’ll also love Call of the Mall. If you haven’t read Why We Buy then STOP. Put down everything and get that book first. Why We Buy is a masterful book for anyone that does marketing or into a product.

Call of the Mall is about … the mall. The mall is a shopping experience we all have either enjoyed or endured … and it is a new experience that has changed shopping. The mall itself is changing. Malls get facelifts and totally change character in less then 20 years. Some function totally differently. And malls in the US are different from those in Brazil or Japan.

Underhill’s job for the last 25 years has been to study shoppers. And he is incredibly observant. The Call of the Mall is a great book which is part marketing, part sociology. Put if you want to understand Americans, consumerism, or just marketing, this is a great book.

Americans like to fail

(this is from a speech I gave to the Atlantik-Brücke German-American Young Leaders conference last week)

We’re here to answer the question … Is the American economy on thin ice?

The answer, of course, is YES. America is on thin ice. And we all know why:

– population is getting older
– there’s have a huge decline in engineers
– There is much more increased world-wide competition – especially from East and Southeast Asia
– A massive real estate bubble
– And America is a debtor nation with big, big debts … and it is really easy to get into debt but really hard to get out of debt. Like my mother used to say … it is very easy to make fish soup out of an aquarium. But it is very hard to make an aquarium out of fish soup …

So … America is on thin ice. No doubt about it.
But … but … at least there is some ice. It’s thin, but if we are verrrry careful, we can slowly walk from one end of the ice rink to the other.

By contrast, that Western European ice rink has melted into a full-fledge community swimming pool. It is tragic, but countries like France, Germany, Italy, Benulux have all the same problems as the United States (older population, decline in engineers, increased competition, big debts) … but only worse. The population problem there is so much worse and the promised benefits are so much higher, that … that unlike most community swimming pools, it is the elderly people and not the kids that are making the water warmer.

So instead of dwelling on the negatives of America being on thin ice … I’m a positive person. I’m going to spend my time today talking about the positives … and I will give you my perspectives, albeit my incredibly biased perspectives, as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

First is population … while America is an aging population, it is actually the least aging of the G10. the U.S. is the only major economic power with a fertility rate able to replace aging workings – about 2.0 kids per woman. As of today, 21% of the population is under 16 years old. And while that might not be high in a historical sense, in today’s world it bodes well for the future.

The second is the immigration melting pot. While America has become much more closed since 9/11, it is still less xenophobic than most countries in Europe or Asia. That’s a huge asset. I have a friend who was born in France and spent his first 25 years there. But he was never treated as “French” because his parents are from Tunisia. He’s lived in Silicon Valley for the past 7 years and he told me that people now see him not as French … or Tunisian … but as an American. And his kids will be utterly American.

But though population and immigration are helpful, entrepreneurship is America’s saving grace.

Unlike some countries where people dream of being a government employee, Americans dream of being an entrepreneur. It used to be that people dreamed of becoming a rock star … but today, even the rock starts want to be entrepreneurs:

50 Cent, P-Diddy, Russell Simmons, LL Cool J and others have all started successful businesses.

Today’s rock stars don’t sing songs, they write software. They are Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Pierre Omidyar, Steve Jobs, Jerry Yang, and Jeff Bezos. And they take risk.

The word “entrepreneur” is actually a French word … but it is now as American as McDonald’s, Levi’s, Microsoft, and Coca-Cola.

The number one reason for the growth in the American economy over the last 20 years is small businesses. Small businesses now account for two-thirds of the private sector jobs, they employ more than half of all workers, and account for more than half the output of the economy. No other mature economy can boast that kind of economic diversity. And white males are actually the minority of small business founders.
Why is this?
One word: failure.
Americans like to fail.

That’s right, Americans love and embrace failure. It is a badge of honor. And Americans love giving people second, third, fourth, fifth, even six chances. Even some of the most successful Presidents, like Harry Truman and the current president, were basically failures until about age 40.

Americans like to fail because we like to take risks. And if you want to take a risk … and if you have a good idea, a business model, and passion … there are thousands of venture capital firms and individual investors that will back you.

I know from personal experience. Right after my 26th birthday, three venture capital firms invested 9 million dollars in my company. No strings attached. We came to an agreement, they got x% of the company, and they wired 9 million dollars into our account.

And this is not rare.

this happens every day in Silicon Valley. Billions of dollars are invested in crazy ideas every year. And most of the companies fail. But a few of them become Google, eBay, Cisco, Genetech, Apple, Yahoo …

There is more venture capital deployed in Silicon Valley than in the rest of the world combined.

And when you embrace risk … you’re essentially embracing innovation. And American
policies are conducive to risk taking. It is easy to fire someone, so you can take a risk, or a chance, on hiring someone. So more people with varied backgrounds are given a shot at employment. It is easy to go into bankruptcy. And the united States has a culture that embraces risk.

Take two ambitious young people – one of them is a McKinsey associate in Paris and the other is a McKinsey associate in San Francisco. Now McKinsey is one of the top consulting firms in the would and if you have a long career there, your expected payout is very high. But what happens if these associates come upon a great business idea. Well … the associate in Paris will likely never leave. Because if he starts a company and it fails, he is going to have a very tough time finding a comparable job because of the stigma of failure. If person in San Francisco started a company, by contrast, she can always get her job back at McKinsey if she fails.

To sum up … America is on thin ice. And it is very, very thin. But American small businesses are constructing a bridge to over the ice … and there might be the potential to go from one side of the ice rink to the other without actually walking on it.

Book: Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

014280044901_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_what a gem. i highly suggested you read/listen to this bio of one of my most admired historical figures.

i have read other Hamilton bios before but this was the most complete and the most interesting. i highly recommend it.

being a big follower, i learned two very important things from this book:

1. I still massively admire Hamilton, but now my admiration ends at 1797. starting then he loses his judgment. basically, Hamilton is brilliant, but he needs Washington to temper his unbridled commitment. Without Washington, Hamilton is basically a time bomb. once Washington leaves office, Hamilton is essentially a lost and depressed man.

2. if anyone thinks partisan bickering is bad today, transform yourself back to the 1790s. wow. the level of discourse was far worse than it is today. people were literally killing each other. and worse, spending time slandering one another to a degree that would not even be tolerated on talk radio. so to all those people who think partisanship has reached new levels in govt … read your history and you’ll be thankful we have progressed.