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Archive for December 2012

Why The GOP Doesn’t Need a Last Minute Deal on the "Fiscal Cliff"

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Whoever invented the term “Fiscal cliff” should be forced to listen to it 500 times a day every day for the rest of his or her life like Chinese Water Torture. It’s Fiscal BS.

The military budget needs slashing and as for entitlements, the new taxes will be very welcome. Meanwhile, the bond vigilantes are going to remain strangely non existent. We’re going to be dragging along the bottom economically with the tax hikes or without them. After all interest rates at zero have done nothing to help over the last five years. Our problems are structural first, and fiscally driven second. There’s only so much macro-economics can do.

But my view on the “Cliff” is not really why I’m penning this.

It’s because if I were the GOP I’d be happy to play along with the Tea Party right in the caucus and say no to a deal. They win either way. The Dems, despite their recent electoral victories, could, yet again, come up with some weaselly short-term compromise. But even if they don’t GOP will remain strong in one key respect. They control the House and it’s all they need to do what they do best – which is say no.  The Dems will call them out as spoilers but the GOP will still control the House after 2014, because it’s gerrymandered out of Democratic reach and far less susceptible to the demographic time bomb hitting the GOP nationally.

I’d go even further than that. In some respects holding the Presidency and Senate are hassles the GOP can do without. They know that what they really want to achieve would cause uproar among the public – so why bother being proactive about it? You don’t have to run the show to starve the beast. You just have to make the place ungovernable.  The GOP have become a meta-party that governs by not governing.

So perhaps the GOP strategy is this.  If taxes do rise, and we truly go over the “Cliff” ( I don’t think we will suffer in any meaningful way but that’s beside the point ), the GOP can say “we tried to stop it, but the Dems pushed as over the edge”.  In other words, the GOP want us to go over, and they want the economy to fall further, so they’re ready to pick up the pieces with their lunacy.

The nightmare scenario for the GOP is that we go over the “Cliff” and not much happens except we balance the books, hit the rich where it hurts, and increase pressure for serious tax reform.

I believe that’s what the President is banking on.

Written by coolrebel

December 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm

My Advice – Keep Pitching

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Last night, which happened to be Christmas evening, I pitched my business to some septuagenarian friends of my octogenarian parents to see if they’d get it. They got it. I made sure to tell them the story of the business before the brandy.

The moral of this short snippet of a story is simple. Keep pitching. Because the better you get it down the more compelling your pitch will be when you get into a drab conference room with a hard-assed investor who’s got a five minute slot to hear what you got.

That’s the obvious, up front reason, but there’s another more subtle one too. The more you pitch, the closer you become to your own creation and the more you discover how much you – yourself – it’s driver and inspiration – actually and truly believe in it. It becomes fuller, richer, and yet more concise, containing the key nuggets of info that matter. The Elevator, the market, the competition, the numbers. Just what you need and nothing more.

It’s a simple recipe. Because if you really do love what you’re pitching, there’s a very good chance that investor might fall in love with it too.

Written by coolrebel

December 26, 2012 at 12:58 am

What Happens When an MLE and an OMG App Meet?

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Let’s put aside for a moment that there are billions of people in the world who’ve never seen a smartphone.

Even without them there has been a fundamental transformation in the way we relate to technology. The latter half of the last decade will be seen as the beginning of consumer tech’s defining moment. The iPhone, Facebook, Twitter are the leaders of this tech-tonic movement, and all share a common trait; they successfully co-opted the non-technical first world. They made everyone who’s now a smartphoner into that smartphoner.

Which leaves us with a problem.

Because now we’re all staring at these stupid things as if our lives depended on it ( which they do not ), getting our eyeballs to shift to something new and shiny that pops up on our home screens is just that much harder. In other words, the novelty has worn off, which in other other words means that if you’re going to be successful doing something new, it has to be, well, really different. And in a good way.

There are essentially two types of apps these days. The MLE’s for “Making Life Easier”, and the “OMG” apps which are often games. The OMG sub-set is made more compelling because it almost always has the benefit of interaction and imagination and good content as its source for coolness.

When an MLE and an OMG make babies you have a winner that can stand the test of time and hype.

I think my new enterprise, Moovd, might just be in that category. At least I hope so.

Written by coolrebel

December 23, 2012 at 9:26 pm

The Grand Old Party Is Now Just The Old Party

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British Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s most famous line has never been more true. “A week is a long time in politics”.  It seems like almost yesterday that the GOP talked of a “permanent majority”. They were so confident, so convincing, and so convinced of their hegemony that the rest of us thought it was only a matter of time.

A few short years later, and the party is rushing headlong to irrelevance. It is no longer Grand, except in its grandiosity in it’s ever more fantastical adherence to concepts utterly devoid of acceptability. It’s a delirious, deluded drunk stumbling from one disaster to another through a schizophrenic miasma of half-truths and outright lies. Its decline has been so fast, the ghosts of its glorious past or all still alive, dignified, silver templed gentlemen of the old school who no longer have a place in the overturned temple of moderation.

Can it rebuild itself? Can it truly learn the lessons of self-inflicted defeat after defeat? The answer is almost certainly no. This is not a party of the rational. It is a party of zealots, believers, built around an uncontrollable kamikaze caucus that is on the verge of throwing its leader – no shrinking violet – to the wolves. Its response to humiliation is to sink deeper into its dream-state.

It would be good to be shot of this monster. But they will linger. For the next two years at least they will hold the House. And for the next God knows how long they are likely to hold at least 41 seats in the Senate, which – barring the end of Cloture – leaves them  doing what they most enjoy, which is destroying the hopes for progress and sanity in this ungovernable megalith of a country. Casting off the shackles of inertia would be made easier if the Democratic Party rejected its own forces of tired regression, the Public Service Unions, the Progressive left, the Politically Correct, and the kneejerk welfarists.

Even now, as one of the our two major parties literally withers in front of our eyes, the hope of renewed vigor in the American Experiment seems sadly elusive. A third way that draws the best from both sides of the American cultural divide is further away than ever.

Written by coolrebel

December 21, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Why The Instagram TOS Mess Matters

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Instagram was bought by Facebook which is doing everything it can to make more money and keep its shareholders happy, so it’s no surprise they made the now infamous changes to their TOS. And while there’s nothing wrong with making a buck, one does have to be careful about HOW one is making that buck.

The rise of social media has brought with it an ongoing debate about whether we, the user base, are the “product”. After all, without us Instagram and all the other social media outlets are nothing. There’s no there there except for us.

We get to “share” our stuff for free to one, two, a hundred, a thousand, or everyone on the planet. The apparent, the marketed, and the supposedly compelling need to broadcast ourselves is seen by the companies involved as a “service”, and because it has to be free so there’s no barrier to “sharing”, they have to earn their money in a myriad of ways that don’t involve direct fees from us.

Most of those fees involve advertising or data mining or sponsoring or sales of third-party applications and services or licenses. All these are fair game. No user gets harmed in the making of that movie. Sure, they may get a little squirrelly at being picked over by all those big-data peeps, but it’s a price almost all of us will pay.

But Instagram went too far, and if the same basic construct is in the TOS of Twitter and FB, it’s also beyond the pale. Signing up on any site is a contract, which users see as a trivial matter, but it’s not. We’re told not to trust the small print and this is a good example of why. The license we sign up to on Instagram is something that they companies themselves would never agree to in a million years, but we, the pawns, have to suck it up – and that’s if we notice in the first place.

They can make ads out of our stuff, books, magazines, movies, stock photo libraries, you name it, to sell, market, and sell again, and we, the peons, get bubkis, except, what? Glory? Bragging rights?

That’s snake oil, ladies and gentleman. It’s subterfuge. It’s just not right.

It’s not going to matter, of course. Even in the new world of slave labor with a smile, crowd-sourcing as source of singular profit, and even while this move has lifted the veil on the social media crowd more than just a little, nobody is going to care. There are already hints of an adjustment coming from Instagram, but they’ll keep pushing until finally, and irrevocably they get away with it. The truth is these companies treat our content as pig and cattle feed, as slurry, as filler, and the pigs, that’s us, just keep on snouts down at the trough. It’s the new way of the new world.

Instagram and Facebook, among others, want to appropriate just a little too much of us this time, blurring the lines of ownership, expression and privacy, as they march towards the creation of a new information, media, and content plutocracy, based as much on gilt-edged greed of the bricks and mortar fat cats and bankers they profess to hate. The new elixir is just as intoxicating as the old ones, but this time the illusion is delivered with a sincere emoticon, a mocha latte, a pair of torn jeans, and a mean libertarian streak that’s hidden far, far beneath the surface.

Happy snapping, everyone.

Written by coolrebel

December 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

The Power of Proof Of Concept

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Proof of Concept
This thing will totally work.

One of the lessons I’ve learnt as I move on to a new startup is that proof of concept is critical. Investors are like Hollywood execs. If the pitch doesn’t grab them in twenty seconds it’s over. And what better way to get their attention than with something that actually works when you click “go”.

Investors want to see that they’re putting their dough into something that’s more than talk, more than an idea on a prettified well-written deck. The more I explore the startup world, the more it strikes me that investors value a few things above all else, tangibility, simplicity, and its first cousin, clarity.

The bad news is that a proof of concept isn’t easy to crank up, especially if the concept is challenging from an engineering standpoint. The good news is that raising a little seed money to get it done is more possible than a full angel round, and that if all else fails bootstrapping for equity is possible.

The role of the deck is really to make a case that there’s a market for the venture, and to showcase the Founders of the company that’s trying to make it happen. In other words, having a deck without a POC is like bluffing at Texas Hold’em when everyone else at the table is a pro.

The only difference is that instead of losing your shirt, you’ll just be wasting your time.

Written by coolrebel

December 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

What Uber Tells Us About Where America Is Heading

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How does a glorified taxi service with its own app cause such a stir in the marketplace?

The answer is complex and multi-faceted and within it is the key to how this country is changing forever.

Uber’s uber-cool name certainly makes it uber-cool. It’s got the gizmo, it’s got the newness, it’s got the design, it’s got the community manager and the social media accounts.  That will account for why hipsters use it after they’ve had too much to drink, but it’s not why Uber is taking over the world (please don’t add the “…Alles”).

The reason Uber is on a path to reinvent the taxi is because taxi services are hidebound companies and closed shops ripe for “disruption”. The Limousine Commissions, the badges, the licensed drivers, the “knowledge”, the old school protectionism of the past, is about to go bye-bye. It’s taken too many liberties with the liberated customer for too long. Every self-respecting City boss the world over is looking for ways to break the grip that cabs have over his town.

And there are other factors too. Uber represents the new working world. Cranking up your startup but need some cash to buy Ramen? Uber! It’s TaskRabbit with a steering wheel. If you’re tired of being a barista, drive peeps around instead. Uber is cheap labor with the veneer of techno-cool. Uber is genius.

And to complete the point there’s this. Uber represents the new divide between technologically hungry, and technologically deficient. If you’re into apps you’re into Uber to hire your wheels. If you’re not. then you can wait for that dusty old cab. The latter old-skool cohort are a dying breed, more hidebound, and not at all influential any more. In twenty years time they will be gone.

And in the meantime, Uber will grow. In short, it’s precisely Uber’s quotidian foundations that make it so influential.

Written by coolrebel

December 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Posted in startup, taxi, Uber