Friday, April 30, 2010

Pop Quiz - Do you know the most influential women in technology?

Last year, our list of the Most Influential Women in Technology raised plenty of eyebrows, ire, and fist pumps of joy — depending on the reader. And we’ve no doubt this list will follow suit.

I was woefully ignorant of the people or the organizations as I went through the list compiled by Time to learn.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shame on you GM - Lies, Damn Lies and Accounting Lies

In short, GM is using government money to pay back government money to get more government money. And at a 2% lower interest rate at that. This is a nifty scheme to refinance GM's government debt--not pay it back!

GM boasts that, because it is doing so well, it is paying the $6.7 billion five years ahead of schedule since it was not due until 2015. So will there be an accelerated payback of the rest of the $49.6 billion investment? No. That goal has been pushed back, as it turns out.

In order to recover that investment, the government has to sell its equity. It plans to do that only when GM becomes a publicly traded company once again. GM was hoping to turn a profit by the end of 2010 and float an initial public offering this winter. However, GM Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell, when queried about that timeline a few days ago, demurred. The offering will be made, he said, "when the markets and the company are ready."

(Take that, taxpayers!)

The reality is that there is no certainty that GM will ever be able to make taxpayers whole. Some analysts such as Center for Automotive Research's Sean McAlinden and Global Insight's George Magliano believe that it will--eventually. McAlinden maintains that this will happen when the company's market capitalization touches $60 billion. (At GM's peak in 2000, this level was only $57 billion.) This is a challenging but not an impossible goal--provided the economy does not dip into another recession, he maintains. Magliano too maintains that the company will be able to pay back taxpayers if the industry is able to ramp up annual vehicle sales from the expected 10.8 million this year to 17 million in 2014 and GM captures 20% of these sales.

The General Accountability Office, on the other hand, remains deeply pessimistic. It concluded in a December report (which a more recent April report has said nothing to contradict, despite media spin to the contrary) that: "The Treasury is unlikely to recover the entirety of its investment in Chrysler or GM, given that the companies' values would have to grow substantially more than they have in the past."

GM's CEO is on TV commercials claiming GM paid back the loan 5 years ahead of schedule. One might be led to conclude from this that the company has managed an amazing come back and turn around, well the truth it turns out is very different.

I am all for GM building a positive public image but please have the decency to speak the truth. If nothing else, the past couple years should have taught you a small dose of humility

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Trust your instincts with embracing "innovations" in consumer software

A fairly obvious search for “from card” this morning returned 127 results that included full credit card numbers.

This story is a good example of releasing consumer software without any serious research or understanding of the cultural ramifications and side effects. Companies are learning/developing their business models on the back of the early adopters, and in some case burning them pretty badly in the process. This is nothing new but the pace is frighteningly faster compared to 10 years back.

My conservative recommendation would be for all current users of to destroy the credit card tied to and order a replacement. Blippy will find a way to learn from this of course, maybe they will buy a lifelock subscription for all of their current users (lifelock.. that is a whole another blog post).

My biggest take away is to trust your instincts, it is an expensive way to live life if you are an early adopter in all categories. Pick your passion/poison and restrict your risk exposure to those areas. Hopefully none of you signed up for just because it is cool. If you are curious about the disruptions and changes to personal finances and business models, then by all means go for it. The rest of us should wait for this mistakes to play themselves out before taking the next step.

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The unending giver that is google voice

This was Google's transcription of a message that was left for me. FYI, the speaker did not leave the message in English: "Hey about this or not. Yeah, it would be cool too much. Bye."

Ah, the beauty of software :-)

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This is not your high school Apple Computers anymore

Two million phones in a country of half a billion cellphone owners may not sound like a lot, but according to Huberty, the addressable iPhone market in China (which she defines as people with with an annual income over $20,000 and an average cellphone bill of $22 per month) is about 50 million. If she's right, Apple may have captured 4% of it in the space of six months.

Most of the analysts seem to believe that Apple is still under priced at this point. That is the power, the myth and the complete market disruption that "China" brings to the table.

Dr John Doggett gave an excellent speech recently summarizing what the BRIC nations mean to the global market over the next 15-20 years. Absolutely worth a read. Btw, in case you are not grasping the significance: China alone is expected to have over 500 million middle class citizens by 2025. That is an unprecedented event in the world history. One way or the other we will all feel the tidal wave. Oh, and India will add another few 100 million to this number.

Exciting times if you are an entrepreneur ->

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The cold hard facts of making "smart" managerial decisions

In his latest report, there are some truly spine-chilling first-person accounts of factory life. And it is a life. Workers are billeted, 14 to a dorm, in the compound. If they don't supply their own mattresses and bedclothes, they sleep on plywood boards. They are permitted three days off each month. The air-conditioning is only turned on when foreigners visit the factory, and when the workers meet their targets, the management immediately raises them.

Worth a read. Good reminder that some one some where is always losing margins when prices drop.

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Science shows that marriage and blisters are tightly connected

The results were remarkable. After the blistering sessions in which couples argued, their wounds took, on average, a full day longer to heal than after the sessions in which the couples discussed something pleasant. Among couples who exhibited especially high levels of hostility while bickering, the wounds took a full two days longer to heal than those of couples who had showed less animosity while fighting.

I enjoy reading about these studies. We can now scientifically show that if you significant other has a blister, you can control their recovery time by controlling your animosity knob.

There is more of course, about 5 pages worth, Read the article if you want to explore it.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Quote to remember from the Boston Marathon record setter

I am going to buy some cows," Cheruiyot said.

I love this. This man runs a freaking marathon in under 2hrs 6mins and reminds people that he is a farmer by the day :-).

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reason #124 - Why I love my neighborhood

We woke up this morning missing a chicken. She's a big black hen who's likely somewhere around --- and -------. If you see her please call us and we'll retrieve her. Thanks!

This is a real email from our neighborhood mailing list. I love living in the heart of Austin and seeing emails like this.

Btw, the chicken is safely back at home now.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Joss Whedon to direct 'The Avengers'?: Existence of God no longer in doubt

I think Robert Downey Jr is going to own the screen. Hope this turns out to be "awesome"! :) Now all that is left is for an epic "Justice League" production to happen.

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Leverage - small changes with big results

The scientist said the variety was one of the major achievements in the field of rice research and added that if they could manage to promote the rice across the country, it would help save fuel and consequently the environment as well.

"Promotion of such rice would save fuel, time, and above all it would help maintain a cleaner environment. It would be very useful for the poor in general, who find it difficult to afford firewood, coal or cooking gas," he said.

This has the potential to be a huge lever, it remains to be seen if the market will accept it or reject it.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ten Ways To Be Your Own Boss

Do you call yourself an good manager?

The good news is that none of this is the way things have to be. The one-sided, boss-dominated performance review needs to be replaced by a straight-talking relationship where the focus is on results, not personality, and where the boss is held accountable for the success of the subordinate (instead of just using the performance review to blame the subordinate for any problems they're having).

The WSJ article by Samuel A. Culbert brings some straight talk into one the most common activity in corporate America. Performance review's ubiquity as a management practice is its biggest resistance against change but also the biggest reason to try and change it.

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Law of unintended consequences

There is an ugly new word for this mass slaughter: gendercide.

Thanks to a state policy which has limited many families to one child since 1979, combined with an ancient and ruthless prejudice in favour of sons, the world's new superpower is beginning the century of its supremacy with an alarming surplus of males.

Lots of interesting questions. What went wrong here? Is anything wrong? Is it just perception, maybe we have never before seen public policy enforced publicly on a country this large.
The comments also point to some inherent western biases, etc.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Book Smart != Street Smart.

It is in no way a substitute for real management experience and that’s where it can be harmful — when the holder of the MBA thinks they know how to manage, because they have an MBA.

wise words.

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The battle is being fought at multiple fronts

Dimon fully understands – although he can’t concede in public – the private advantages (i.e., to him and his colleagues) of a big bank getting bigger.  Being too big to fail – and having cheaper access to funding as a result – may seem unfair, unreasonable, and dangerous to you and me.  But to Jamie Dimon, it’s a business model – and he is only doing his job, which is to make money for his shareholders (and for himself and his colleagues).

What the popular press captures most often is the man on the street battle. It is gritty, real, has political theater and drama written all over it. That is your tactical battle front. Unemployment rates, mortgage collapses, etc.

There is a behind the scenes battle happening which is more of a strategic battle. Simon Johnson (excerpted above) is one of the players in this war. This i s a war over sophisticated business models that are so complicated that only a handful of people understand them to debate them meaningfully. The scary part though is that these models can have devastating consequences.

I recommend you keep up with this blog if you want to stay informed.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

20 words to live by

If you spend your days avoiding failure by doing not much worth criticizing, you'll never have a shot at success.

Seth Godin is very good at taking the obvious and making us see the non obvious trapped within. Read the rest of this post (link below text) for the full effect.

The best part, once you have read it ask yourself what is stopping me from living like this?

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There is always someone else bigger/faster/smarter/stronger

A 13-year-old California boy plans to try to climb Mount Everest in a quest to reach the summits of the highest peaks on all seven continents.

My favourite line in this article is his mothers, "She said her son is taking two months of homework to Nepal so he can keep up with school." If your son has climbed five of the tallest peaks in the world, I don't think his primary driver in life is the U.S public school curriculum.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

NYC - Put This on Billboards - Droopy Pants Can Kill

Facebook goes "desi"

Social media was invented for Indians, says Sree Sreenivasan, a digital media professor at Columbia and co-founder of SAJA, the South Asian Journalists Association. "They take to it naturally and with great passion. It allows them to do two things they love: Tell everyone what they are doing; and stick their noses into other people's business.

Almost all of this article is based on opinions and anecdotes. But i can tell you from personal experience that the "stick their noses into other people's business" part is very true.

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