Monthly Archives: January 2006

Book: Why Not?

159139153901lzzzzzzz Why Not? by Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres

every entrepreneur and inventor should read this book.   it is short, quick, and filled with items to make you think … literally.   the book really helps you think through problems and come up with unobvious solutions.   i highly recommend it.

I met Barry Nalebuff at a Renaissance Weekend a few years ago and have just now gotten around to reading Why Not.   that is definitely my loss.  i should have read it earlier.   especially since i loved Co-opetition, Nalebuff’s first book.   

summation: read this book.   it is a goodie.

Ariel Levy writes Female Chauvinist Pigs

0743249895_1And so I was reading the Wall Street Journal six months ago when I came across a book entitles Female Chauvinist Pigs. I read the review with interest. I’ve been wanting to read a book about feminism for the past year and here was a book with an updated 21st century view on it.

So I went online to buy the book and discovered that the author was Ariel Levy. Ariel was a high school classmate of mine who I always admired for her intellect but we had lost touch and hadn’t spoken since we were 18. needless to say, I was thrilled that I had some connection to the author as this may have been one of those books I instinctively buy and then just sit on my bookshelf.

Female Chauvinist Pigs is a very interesting book. And though it seems to be written for a female audience, it might be even more revealing for men as it brings up a variety of topics that we generally do not think about.

Meebo stats

Meebo is growing incredibly fast. I mentioned them in October when they were first starting.

i heard that yesterday they had over 300,000 logins … in one day! during that day they sent almost 9 million messages (implying almost 18 million carried). wow.

this is from a site that hasn’t yet done anything to market itself and has no viral component (yet). what does this mean? it means that Meebo has a compelling product that people really love. i mean really love.

rumor is that Meebo‘s traffic is growing at over 10%/week. if that’s true then Meebo should reach a hundred million messages carried in about 19 weeks (which would be May 31). will they do it? stay tuned and let’s check back then….

(full disclosure: i am a Meebo investor)

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) in 2006

If you are a company setting up a new health plan or an individual getting a plan, you should consider getting a Health Savings Account (HSA). HSAs are the better cousins of Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) and were formed on Jan 1 2004.   I’ve had my HSA since then and i will go over the benefits, why you should get one, and things you should think about.

You should consider doing this for 2006.

(note: I’m not a health administrator so check the facts of this post before you proceed)

About HSAs

Health Savings Accounts allow you to put away pre-tax dollars to fund future medical expenses.   Unlike its ugly cousin, the MSA, the HSA is NOT use it or lose it.   Any money you do not use can be rolled over to the next year.   That roll-over money can be used for any medical expenses over time.

You can put away up to $2700 in 2006 for an individual and $5450 for a family.   Tax free.   This is a big savings … especially for those of you in

Silicon Valley

who have a higher tax bracket.   

You can invest your HSA in a variety of different options.   Unfortunately, since this is a fairly new space, there are not a ton of choices yet — but still enough to make it worth it.   Some good places:

HSA Bank – interest bearing account

First HSA – interest bearing account

Health Savings Administrators – allows you to invest in Vanguard funds

– a good list of other plans are at:–savings– 

Most of these services provide a debit card for purchases or an easy-to-use reimbursement form.   

High deductible plan

You can only use an HSA with a high-deductible plan.   Let’s say your deductible is $3000 — that means you pay for ALL medical expenses out of your own pocket (usually through your HSA tax-free account) up to $3000 for the year.   Anything beyond that is paid for by your insurance firm.   And this usually does not include prescription drugs.  And sometimes the plans have some added benefits (like a once-a-year $20 physical).   

And you’d be surprised what happens when you pay for your healthcare yourself … you quickly move to the front of the line, generally get better care, and usually even get things cheaper.   Cheaper?  Cheaper than insurance companies that bargain for everything??   Absolutely.

He’s why.   If you do to the doctor for your yearly visit you might want a cardiogram (a test that gives a good baseline of your heart).   This is a really good idea to get done.   now most doctors already have one of these machines and they have their medical assistants already trained to give you the quick test.   So the real cost of a doctor giving you the test is just electricity and a tiny bit of time (5 minutes) from someone of their staff.   So you frequently can get free things like cardiograms thrown in with your physical.  Especially since you are paying right away and the doctor does not have to worry about forms processing to the insurance company.

So if you are healthy and have healthy employees, then this is a good deal for you.   in fact HSAs will likely help you attract healthier employees because they will be more likely to opt in and work for you.

And, of course, with a high deductible plan you can go to any doctor you want.  Anyone. 

Spending your money

If you are like me, you don’t have a lot of medical expenses.   But when you do, you want a convenient way to spend the money.  I’ve found the easier way is to get an HSA with a debit card (most of them have one).   This makes everything really easy.   Charge your doctor, dentist, optometrist, etc.   even a lot of things you buy at the pharmacy are HSA-related.   In fact, if you use an online pharmacy (like they’ll ask for two credit cards — your HSA-related items will get charged to your tax free account and your other items will get charged to your normal card.

And you’d be surprised what is covered …

HSAs are best for start-ups

I’ve found that most people in

Silicon Valley

start-ups tend to be healthy.   Even though they work insane hours, they tend to have a fairly active life (biking to work and such).   

Full covering health insurance plans discriminate against your healthy employees in favor of your unhealthy ones.   For your avg 30-something in


, a high-deductible plan is about $80/mo where your common PPO is about $250/mo.   that means your company saves $170/mo (or $2040/year) … money you can give directly to the employee, contribute directly to their HSA account, or use in other productive ways.

And the HSA is a great benefit.  Like a 401K, it follows the individual for the rest of her life — so she gets to keep the benefit now.

Overall, if you are getting your own health insurance plan or getting one for your company, I highly recommend a HSA.   I think you’ll find that it is a strong option worth considering

book: The Art of Deception

076454280x_500 The Art of Deception by Kevin Mitcick

This is a fun book. We read a lot about computer hackers … This book instead focuses on social hackers — people who can talk their way past security … Con artists.

Reading this book is a good way to protect yourself and your organization from these cons. Of course, after reading it you realize how volunerable we really are.

This book was referred to me by Justin Segal of Core Group Properties. Thanks Justin!

Introducing Cherno Jobatey

Hoffman_auren_u_jobatey_cherno_steamboat last night i got a few friend together in SF to meet Cherno Jobatey.

I met Cherno in August in the badlands of North Dakota and we became fast friends.   besides being one of the most well-known newscasters in Germany, Cherno is also incredibly interesting and friendly.   

Cherno is the anchor of the top-rated morning show in Germany on ZDF German television (one mutual friend said that "Cherno is the Matt Lauer of Germany" … but Cherno has a lot more hair).   he’s one of the only non-white newscasters in Germany and he has a great personality to fit his big shoes.

normally in Berlin, Cherno was in the US briefly to report on CES and Macworld.   

Cherno hadn’t had a chance to meet a lot of tech entrepreneurs and VCs before.   so we had a great 12-person dinner with Renee Blodgett, Saar Gur, Torsten Jacobi, Uwe Maurer, Patrick McKenna, Eve Phillips, Aydin Senkut, Seth Sternberg, Brad Stone, and Chris Tolles.

find out more about Cherno Jobatey: (English) (German)

British Woman Marries Dolphin

I love this man-bites-dog … uhhhh woman-marries-dolphin story …


While she still kept open the option of “marrying a human” at some stage, she said for now she was strictly a “one-dolphin woman”.She’s hardly the jealous type, though.

“He will still play with all the other girls there,” she said, of their prenuptial agreement. “I hope he has a lot of baby dolphins with the other dolphins. The more dolphins the better.”

Book: The Singularity is Near

Rotatingbook So … i finally got through this book.   before i say more: Read this.   you’ll be enlightened, scared, happy, motivated, and looking forward to living forever. 

The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

many months ago, Renee Blodgett sent me this book.   Renee is a PR star and she does PR for Kurzweil.   she does a great job because i would have never read the book if she did not ask me to and either would all the others

but i’m glad i did.   this is one of the most thought-provoking books i have read in the last 5 years.   it is big, fat, weighty, long, and has an ugly cover.   but you should still read it.   it is extremely powerful.

i won’t re-review it (there are some terrific reviews at Amazon) — it did inspire my post The Council of Elders — but take my word for it and read it over …