Monday, November 28, 2011

Keys to success

From ABC News "Who Wants to be a Billionaire? 20 Keys to Success from the Superrich" here are their 20 keys to success:
  1. Figure out what you're so passionate about that you'd be happy doing it for 10 years, even if you never made any money from it. That's what you should be doing.
  2. Always be true to yourself.
  3. Figure out what your values are and live by them, in business and in life.
  4. Rather than focus on work-life separation, focus on work-life integration.
  5. Don't network. Focus on building real relationships and friendships where the relationship itself is its own reward, instead of trying to get something out of the relationship to benefit your business or yourself.
  6. Remember to maximize for happiness, not money or status.
  7. Think about what your definition of success really is. Is it externally driven or internally driven?
  8. Get ready for rejection.
  9. Success unshared is failure. Give back -- share your wealth.
  10. Successful people do all the things unsuccessful people don't want to do.
  11. Values and ethics always come first.
  12. Don't lie, cheat or steal for one penny or one dollar -- ever.
  13. Business with bad people is always bad business.
  14. You have to learn that you can walk away from someone that you care about for the greater good.
  15. When my management teams come into the room, I hug them, I give them truth and "harsh speak" when they're in, and then I hug them on the way out.
  16. The truth is cold and hard, but it's the first point on the path to hope and salvation.
  17. Don't do what you do for the money. Whatever path you choose, do it because it makes your heart beat fast.
  18. If you do good, good will come back to you.
  19. You have to be fundamentally engaged and honest toward yourself.
  20. Live your life full throttle. Take risks!
I suspect that you can just focus on the first of those keys and do quite well. Or at least a lot of them will follow from the first.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why Entrepreneurs Matter More Than Innovators

The Gallup Management Journal has a piece entitled "Why Entrepreneurs Matter More Than Innovators" which tells us:
In his book The Coming Jobs War, Gallup Chairman Jim Clifton makes the bold claim that political and business leaders pay far too much attention to innovation and far too little to cultivating talented entrepreneurs. They've got it backward, Clifton says. To create jobs, leaders must understand that great, thriving businesspeople matter far more than great ideas, which are a dime a dozen.
In short, great ideas still matter, but building a successful business is the real name of the game.
This book excerpt delves into the successes of Wayne Huizenga and Ted Turner, among others. To some, their ideas were "bad", not "great", but somehow they were great business successes anyway.
This notion of what makes an idea "great" vs. "bad" is interesting and worth contemplating, but not at the expense of building a great business.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My remote control for the world

Many moons ago, years before smart phones, handheld computers, and even the Web, I had this conceptual idea for an imaginary device that I called my "remote control for the world." This was around 1985 or so. It wasn't intended to be a full-blown computer with a fancy GUI, but just a simple device to control just about everything you could imagine remotely. More of a scrolling list of devices and objects and a bunch of specific function buttons. Things like turning your home A/C or sprinklers on and off or checking the temperature in your home. Maybe even starting your car or checking its gas gauge. And your bank balance. Just about any setting or indicator that you have a personal interest in. I never bothered to write it up. I'm not sure why. But recently I was reminded of it (wanting to do something remotely) and I realized that even today its still isn't quite feasible with off-the-shelf technology.
The biggest breakthrough has been the Internet and Web, which provides a lot of the communications infrastructure that is needed. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as well.
Small, hi-res graphical displays make the UI much more practical, but ultimately that was never really a major obstacle. A simple, hierarchical scrolling list and some tactile push buttons would work reasonably well.
We also have RFID for random objects, bad that is more passive and not interactive, yet.
And some household objects and "devices" are intelligent, but we are still in the "dark ages" for most devices and objects that we encounter in our daily lives. Did I lock my door? Sure, some "intelligent homes" can tell you that and control it remotely, but my vintage 1926 apartment door doesn't seem to have an Internet-ready interface.
Sure, you can now finally start your car remotely, but that is still more of a specialized app than a general feature of all devices and objects.
Thinking about my vision in today's world, I would like to "see" in my refrigerator and "see" in the relevant sections of the supermarket, or any store. Sure, we now have web cameras and other cheap cameras, but they still are not ubiquitous enough to make my vision a reality. And most cameras are still relatively low res and not even HD, lot alone photo-quality high-definition.
Yes, some cars now have rear cameras, but I'd like the same for when I'm simply walking down the street. Sure, you could "hack" that, but it's still not quite "there" in terms of a consumer-friendly handheld remote control device.
And I'd like to trivially (without some complicated and messy UI) be able to look around corners and even "through" buildings and walls. Sure, we have a lot of elements of the requisite technology, but we're still not even close to having enough of it off-the-shelf and readily packageable to satisfy my interests.
Right now, right this moment, I'd like to see where the sun is and check the temperature right outside my building. I can sort of do that with a bunch of browser clicks, but not quite and not as easily as with my original vision for my "remote control for the world." In other words, we can roughly approximate a subset of my vision, but not in any full-featured sense.
Maybe a rudimentary version of my remote control might be available in another five years, or ten years, but somehow all of our technological advances over the past 30 years have still not done a great job of integrating our physical environment and everyday devices and objects into one "seamless" network.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Hot startups

To be honest, I understand very little about what makes any of today's web-based startups "hot", but today I ran across two lists.
What makes them the "hottest" or the "most innovative"? Hard to say. My hunch is that it is simply their investors touting them.
My concern is that we may be back into the "flip it" mode of investment where there is little concern about long-term viability and long-term profit generation, but simply whether the initial investors can flip the startup off to some unsuspecting bigger fish in the pond. A lot of these ventures really do seem to fit the bill for the old Silicon Valley adage of "That's a feature, not a product." except that most of them are web-based services rather than "in a box" products anyway. OTOH, maybe being a "feature" is a better (or at least easier) path to success than a full-blown "product." On that angle, here's an interesting commentary about Dropbox turning down an offer from Apple.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How can I become a millionaire?

There were actually a couple of short periods of time back in 2000 when I was technically a "millionaire", at least on paper (plus one time when a broker error made me a millionaire for a weekend!) But, as they say, "easy come, easy go." And back in 2005 I was doing so poorly financially that I actually filed for bankruptcy. Since November 30, 2005 (the day my bankruptcy was discharged) I have gradually been slowly climbing back up the lower rungs of the wealth ladder out of the pit of gloom, primarily through regular retirement contributions but also cutting spending and saving when possible, so that now I actually have a modest amount of "investments." I'm certainly not a millionaire or in the top 1% or even the top 10%, but I'm somewhere in the top 20% now. I won't disclose my exact "wealth", but it's very loosely north of $50,000 and south of $250,000, so lets pretend that it is $100,000 for the sake of argument and to have a nice round number. So, the question of the day is:
How can I become a millionaire?
Seriously. It's a legitimate question. How likely I am to become a millionaire again is an open and essentially unanswerable question, but what options or paths to that end are available is a reasonable question.
Here are the practical paths that I have identified in just a few minutes today:
  1. Buy a winning lottery ticket. Hey, sometimes it actually does payoff, but I won't bet on it.
  2. Marry a wealthy woman. Ditto.
  3. Start a successful business. Ditto, except that it actually still is a (semi-remote) possibility.
  4. Join a hot startup. Ditto, but a little more possible. (Seriously, send me leads on this!)
  5. A short string of wildly-successful option trades. Hey, I actually did this in 1998 and 1999, but... a long story... and not likely to be repeated.
  6. Invest in a hot stock that rises 40% a year for 7 years. Technically possible, but the odds remain long.
  7. Investments that rise 20% a year for 13 years. More doable, but still quite difficult.
  8. Investments that rise 15% a year for 17 years. On the fringe of being practical, but too long to wait.
  9. Investments that rise 10% a year for 24 years. Starting to sound within reach technically, but not within reach time-wise.
  10. Investments that rise 8% a year for 30 years. Great, something I might actually have a shot at achieving, but only if my goal is to leave a million in my will rather than enjoy it during retirement.
  11. Investments that rise 5% a year for 48 years. Ditto. I could reasonably expect to do this, but again not for my personal use.
  12. Investments that rise 4% a year for 59 years. That rate of return is reasonable and achievable for an average investor, but won't achieve the end goal within my expected lifetime.
And then there is inflation, taxes, bad years, etc. And presuming that you have a reasonable income stream while your wealth is growing.
And then there is a bigger pair of questions. Once you have accumulated $1 million:
  1. How do you keep it?
  2. How can you live off of it in a sustainable manner?
It may seem obvious that you save $1 million for retirement and then spend it all in retirement, but that is a risky expectation due to uncertainty about the future. Better to define an allocation of money that you will be spending and money that remains dedicated to further investment. That's a topic for future discussion. Here we're just concerned with getting to $1 million (ASAP) in the first place.
Where do I do from here? The only things I can say with certainty are that I will continue making my retirement contributions and hopefully see some compound returns over the years. I guess I can also safely say that unless I manage to achieve 20% annual returns I won't hit $1 million when I retire in 13 years. That is at least a good starting point for thinking about where I am, what I could achieve, and what my options are.