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Valuation Resources to Keep Top of Mind February 12, 2018

Posted by FA in experience, finance, training, Uncategorized.
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In responding to a colleague who I’ve recently connected with, I was forced to go back through some old coursework, starting books/projects and the massive amount of bookmarks Chrome holds on for me. However, this was productive in allowing me to gather a few of the key websites/links/books to share for others.

Valuations – McKinsey book is one of the fundamental aspects for established companies.
Chris Burniske’s Valuations has a very interesting take on crypto-space valuations and estimating which can be applied elsewhere.
Leo Polovets at Susa Ventures opinion on technical due diligence and frameworks as waste of time (valuable, in my opinion, in arguing with my VC clients).
aswath-damodaran-valuation-guide from 2012, still very relevant. His personal website has a ton of the data/tools, as well – quick hitting and easy to double check in optimization modeling in financial projections. http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~adamodar/
Via reddit, WallStreetOasis comments on doing dirty, quick diligence for pitch-deck style stuff.
Energy/Oil&Gas quick sheet for what to be looking for – although most of these are general, this refines it for the sector (only started to look again at this as I’m jumping into the space in some EM countries)
My finishing project in valuations was in Energy & Oil. With the recent boom of cryptos, I wish I would have had Chris Burniske’s resource 3 years prior, honestly. Could’ve been a nice jumping off point for a card-wallet company I valued then. I’ll be revisiting these, and I hope to hear back from people interested in the space.
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Highlighting Some Great Finance/Start-up Resources January 18, 2018

Posted by FA in experience, finance, global, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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It’s been a bit here. I have an article that I wrote up from my travels in HK & across South India but it needs some refining.

Podcasts, books, Twitter and the internet in general provide a near-infinite resource for any number of topics. As I work on start-ups for VC’s, some resources I utilize or listen to and learn from will be what I highlight below!

The Twenty Minute VC

Harry Stebbings (@HarryStebbings) has a full-fledged podcast that he’s refined over the course of 3 years and he gets any number of contacts in finance, VC, hedge funds willing to spill guts, passions and secrets for roughly 20 minutes. I love the wide variety of content he pulls and since I started listening only a few months ago, it’s been a fascinating review from his early podcasts circa 2015/2016.

You can check out the website The20MinVC or reach him on Twitter above.

Strictly VC

Connie Loizos (@Cookie) of TechCrunch and out of Silicon Valley started a page to cover weekly or daily news in the VC world, “from Sand Hill Road to Singapore”. Whether it’s an exit, IPO, financing deal, executive change or new news among VC/PE firms – Connie often has a blurb on it and a link to the initial news. If you want quick access to the world of deals/finance that’s made global news, this is a great website.

Take a look Strictly VC.

AngelList

Naval Ravikant (@naval) has done an excellent job with his co-founders and team on expanding out the AngelList platform. The vast number of start-ups available, jobs listed within and the funding amounts are quite the resource for anyone curious. Additionally, if you’re a start-up founder or member of a team looking for funding, there’s access to connect and see what can be done! I look forward to any updates that AngelList presents and many of the startups coupled with CrunchBase are informative, well-vetted and available for contacting.

The website is clean and intuitive AngelList or reach out and let the team know @AngelList

For now, those will be the 3 I highlight. I’ll look to add or do another one soon! Hope everyone is having a great start to 2018!

If You’re Not Learning, Are You Getting Better September 24, 2017

Posted by FA in education, experience, Politics, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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While attempting to grind through a recent valuation project, I spoke with a friend about how we had changed over the years. Change is obviously something that most people experience, but how we reflect is often incredibly different. Some don’t. And to that, I’d say that I feel badly for them. Others do, but maybe not to an extent of “what did I do today – oh, that. Yes” — an acknowledgement more than a reflection. For those that reflect, ponder, and wonder why, or how to fix any occurrence that didn’t agree with them – those people are the ones who truly learn and can push themselves to better.

Learning is not hearing, memorizing, and repeating until information is no longer needed. Seek to learn. Provide yourself with a framework that you can apply the knowledge in, and build questions to hypothesize further in that space. We learn if we’re more interested, obviously, but you can build that interest. Challenge yourself. Honestly, I harp on myself for this, but it is discouraging to see people repeatedly not want to apply or seek knowledge in what they may/may not be interested in.

This all seems appropriate in this instant gratification/click-bait/24/7 news cycle period. Confirmation and recency bias run rampant. Few people question their sources or the information sources provide. When more people are in higher education, critical thinking SHOULD be a focus of almost all institutions, but it apparently falls by the wayside, especially when something agrees with your train of thought. It’s difficult to seek other sources, and even harder to avoid some form of a bias in answers. Everyone forms an opinion. Only through conversation and open discourse can you start to inform yourself of questions and answers in the framework of a solid argument. Then build up!

Presented with new facts that are contrary to what was gathered initially? Review them in the new light but your former framework – seek true results and apply. If the application of new knowledge reveals a new paradigm, then shift your hypothesis. People shouldn’t be wary of changing – invite it if your thought process is rigorous! Without a rigorous argument, though, it won’t matter whether you agree with others or don’t, because you won’t be vital to a conversation for more than 2 minutes unless it’s group-think.

It pains me to see straw man fallacy as a defense mechanism all too often these days. That isn’t worth a breath of counterargument by someone presenting logical context and thoughts. Critical thinking.

People have passions different than others. We are our own individuals at the end of the day. But we accept this. There’s not a single person who can be all-knowing about everything. Even if that were true, priorities wouldn’t align for those individuals with others. Some people focus on health – some people on education, others in finance, businesses. There isn’t a right or a wrong. Problems are rooted in a cause. Ask the questions about the cause. Maybe if that’s agreed upon, then solutions can be gathered, debated and decided upon merit. Throwing solutions at an unknown problem – this is no good. Context can be more important than the solution – otherwise you’re blindly tackling. Using medicine as an example – if you have pain in your arm and go to the general doctor, or let’s say an extreme: arm specialist – then you may get a response of “nothing appears wrong”. However, if you go in saying you’ve eaten unhealthily or had a family tree of cardiac disease, the doctor would hopefully put together that you need to see a cardiologist. I don’t want to go on forever (and I’m aware that this was a very LOOSE example – bear with me).

Context. More information. Questions. More details. Then a decision, an opinion, a solution. Then re-assess. Always be learning.

 

Robo Push Progression August 28, 2017

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With my work in valuation, I have primarily explored the fintech industry and love seeing new companies, ideas and explorations of outdated methods. The next 5-10 years will be instrumental in defining the space for many Gen X entering retirements as well as planning centralized around the largest generation going forward.

Product pushing runs rampant among firms, despite DC’s attempts at regulation geared toward protecting consumers. We need not think very hard to recall the GS issues 8-10 years ago or more recently the WF scandal that ran roughshed over accounts to hit sales numbers. Even if they don’t end up in lawsuits or other sanctions, I cannot help but question fiduciary standards. When consumers are too busy with their own lives/work to be experts in finance/insurance/investing matters, regulations should actually protect them – and fortunately for the financial services industry, the current regulatory actions say that they are protected. Most consumers are none the wiser. Hell, some professionals may not be wise enough to think for themselves about what they’re presenting. Who gets to be responsible for saying that my present self is more or less important than my future self? For an individual on their own, few people are impacted in the present moment if you do not consider time value and future values.

Thankfully, I believe robo-advisers will become a larger part of the future to come. There will be more value in what they present as the new norm: low or no fees, being aware of saving for later, and presenting more knowledge all while staying relatively easy. There is data out there that says most* robo-advisers may not beat the market, but many make investing and saving considerably less stressful/set-and-forget than an individual may feel if doing it on their own.

Even though I don’t see a market beater or a clear winner in the space going forward (just yet), what the COMBINATION of robo-advisers will do is make the whole environment better going forward. Firms are increasingly aware of the impact many fintech companies are presenting to the processes of old and their bottom lines. As a result, consumers should benefit as we go the way of easier access, more knowledge, lower fees and ultimately the best choices. Fintech and financial services affect us all, whether young or old, and consumers shouldn’t have to worry in such high-impact choices.

I’ll continue to follow what I have strong passions for and note key victories or losses!

 

Permabulls Everywhere? – Seek Other Opinions August 5, 2017

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We’re nearly a decade into a bull run. Yellen has continued to repeat her feelings that we should be bullish stocks for a long time. Granted, she’s remained dovish through her tenure as Fed Chair, so it shouldn’t come as a big surprise. However, outside of Dow 22,000, all-time stock highs, P/E’s rising and FANG + TSLA dominating media stories, bond market continues to push south and it seems forever that we’ve seen a healthy pullback, or a pullback of any sort since the start of 2016 (unless you count election morning’s blip).

Low yields seem de-coupled from historical trends – it’s becoming harder to achieve yield there, which would push into higher risk (equities) for larger investors. One point I heard today that was interesting is that companies have already gotten large boosts from the business environment we’ve entered – deregulation and regulatory roll-backs. Estimates put dollars spent on compliance were ever-increasing until the new administration. So, despite fights in health care, insurances, and tax reforms rage on, regulatory environment changing will have major impacts for companies. If we include the bond yields and rate environment, should be a boon for small-caps as investors seek higher returns.

Another thing to watch will be the eventual crash of Venezuela. With its oil exportation, how does that change the landscape, which has stayed range-bound mostly between $42-54. If this squeezes prices higher, that could allow the consolidated space to break out – we’ve seen a band off lows of ~15%+ in the last month alone over OPEC’s decisions. Does this allow some of the beaten-down survivors to further rise – or is there still a wait?

Personally, I increased cash positions in each of my portfolios in lieu of an eventual downturn. Prior – I rode the second half of 2016 and start to 2017 to recuperate that slide at the start of  ’16. From my research, I’ll continue buying emerging markets, weight oil/energy and small caps. Biotechs and the larger cap stocks will be interesting to watch, along with how yields/interest rates turn as we look toward the final 2 quarters of 2017.

DISCLAIMER: These are just my current opinions and do not constitute any advice for any individual. Do your own diligence and form a conclusion thereafter.

Not Everyone Wants to Be a Star July 1, 2017

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This is a concept I’ve wrestled with for a while. The title in particular was a phrase I heard while listening to a segment on the Business XM channel. A gentleman called in and described how he changed from a Fortune 500 management position with org / processes focus to his own bakery and small business. It took him a long while before finally understanding he had to change his management model up for what he was in charge of, and he asked how his employees could be convinced to have further goals. In a moment of thought, the answer turned out to be that the employees had goals – it just wasn’t recognized by his [the owner’s] train of thought in what success was – they [employees] were content and had goals of improving and continuing to do their jobs as well as possible (whether it was a server or line chef, etc…).

Awareness is what this boils down to. Being aware is how we can empathize with one another, regardless of differences in opinions of success, goals or simple styles of work. Some want to rise to the top of their chain in their work – others may want to start a line of business totally unrelated, still others just want to be able to know they can go to work – finish – and come home to do things that they want to do thereafter. In talking with people, you can probably find out which of these types they are in a short conversation. Then, most people will judge, using themselves as the reference. Though it’s almost unavoidable, if more people were aware of this anchor, we can switch our empathy on and wonder – or better, ask – where someone may be looking to achieve.

How one speaks of their work can tell us a lot about them. What drives them to wake up and jump out of bed (or do they not want to)? Going back to the title of the post, I have friends who want to do nothing more than work their 35-40 hours and call it a week. I’m understanding more each week that it’s not their work that drives them – it’s everything else. I can breathe easier because I don’t feel pressured to ask them or push them about that aspect of their lives. And the relationships are better because of that. I believe that is a fascinating dynamic and am usually curious to learn more, but in general, we can do better to understand better spots to inquire further.

More people could use this to determine if friends, colleagues, coworkers or even bosses are stuck in their positions. When life is short but is spent so much time working, that becomes a key driver to how we enjoy ourselves.  And I believe everyone deserves to enjoy what they’re doing, or where they’re attempting to go.

Does anyone think differently here? Do conversations with friends over work annoy others? Is it more about one’s own anxiety that ends up reflecting on people you speak to? I’m curious. Let me know!

 

Father’s Day Reflection June 19, 2017

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Two years ago marked the start of the rest of my life where my father had been around for a minority of the time. My family was unlucky in that my father passed away unexpectedly of a major heart attack. I wanted to reflect on this today of all days because more and more often, I have to have an inner dialogue with myself hoping he’d respond. There are many things he could have taught me – constant reminders. I don’t mean for these to be strictly school-related, as I navigated that on my own fine. It is more about the massive learning curve one goes on an individual level when defining who they are, who you aspire to be, what defines success in your life. Some wait longer; some never even ask; others wonder at the end.

My aunt and uncle were in town last weekend and I had a long conversation with them. My uncle shared how much of an impact my father had on him in asking those same questions when they were younger, as our families were growing up. He had worked very hard providing for his family, often traveling for business and trying to spend all the time he had available thereafter with his family. It worked because he hadn’t particularly asked the question of what he wanted success to be and he was still doing what he thought was right to do. My father traveled minimally (bit more when I was very young), worked very hard, but a lot less hours. That provided him with the flexibility of being home for each dinner, play golf weekly and play basketball at least 3 times a week. All while providing for our family in a similar capacity. What drove him to that point, and how did he execute that transition? I listened intently to my uncle talk about the importance of his conversations with my father, as well as what he’s reiterated to my two cousins as reflections of the questions.

To avoid talking anyone’s ears off, I’ll try to connect this back to present. I believe the phrase is “single af” so I have merely thought of those primary questions in a goal-oriented manner – what to aspire toward. It seems that fewer people have goals in general and even less likely have long-term specific ones. More specific dreams allow for a reflection that can be adapted or changed, designed to figure a path out. Honestly, I think elementary or middle schools do better jobs of asking these questions than high school and college. They’re general but details get nailed down once more critical thinking skills are acquired.  Again, I’d say that the invites for thinking through these important life questions slow as they become ever more important.

I’m an advocate for asking and discussing the hard questions. What makes you drive forward?

To all the new and well-seasoned fathers alike, continuing teaching lessons, and Happy Father’s Day!

Education Adjustments May 19, 2017

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A quick preview: <blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>American higher education: Pay us tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars to recommend some books to you.</p>&mdash; Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AndrewDBailey/status/865251606568345600″>May 18, 2017</a></blockquote>
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

And this is what everyone and their moms (and dads) get bogged down with during at minimum freshman year of high school, while some do that even earlier. That is the mindset of a higher percentage of Americans in this day and age. Awareness is an excellent thing – parents should be more aware of how the process works, certainly. I think I could have been better prepared for the magnitude of it all, but it’s also possible I benefited from a mom who was proud with whatever came up for me. The pressure from school, parents, counselors, private ‘education counselors’, and now all friends as well at an earlier age scares me. It’s misguided and has created an atmosphere that approaches more of a lose-lose / lose-win than a win-win. A specific college shouldn’t be the ‘ultimate goal’ of students. Dreams/aspirations past that point, where college MAY act as a useful stepping stone, is more ideal, in my opinion.

Over the last 10 years, college costs have increased dramatically, needlessly. Yet that is what gets pushed in the middle and secondary environments – better grades, more AP’s, all the excellence for test scores and extracurricular activities if you can help it. Screw off with your joys and passions, unless they align with those above. All to throw your applications (and more importantly, their fees) into a lottery to provide you another stressful decision set (or worse, put you into a bout of depression over not being accepted into those loftily-held institutions). I’m nearly stressing myself thinking about it.

And I see it on an almost daily basis. ~3-4 times a week and more over the last 5.5 years with a rising, successful tutoring company. The expansion of centers to more states, the materials that have been pushed out are incredibly useful for achieving all of the above – but it does just that – pushes students to the brink for academic standards. When, in my experience, a majority of the ones that have been lucky enough to easily get into the top institutions were athletically gifted or born as kin of high places. Harvard, Duke, Stanford, Berkeley, NYU, Yale,  UPenn, Princeton, etc… to name a few.

Work hard, do well and don’t have the athletics or parents to gift away – lottery-bound! Enjoy. And many do get into great schools, but it’s not certain. Even in the tri-valley / East Bay Area, where schools push academics so hard. Unfortunately, high school doesn’t allow the freedom to struggle or fail without hard consequences. Students avoid that at all costs – talk amongst themselves in group chats, memes, jokes and fun poked at those that did worse. Joy found in a group sorrow if a test is particularly hard – either perked up by a curve or succumb to the deterioration of the grades.

Then there is the homework – piled on with all of the classes, typically at home. Some students are fortunate – certain subjects require less effort to understand, but most have to work at it. That leaves minimal hours in the day, either clawing away at sleep or worse, depriving some of hobbies outside of class, which depresses me. Ask a student what they want to do if they could choose and they don’t have an answer. Just maybe what they’ll study in college. In a world where it’s easier to do almost anything in any particular field / industry, few students look past studies to what they want after. It’s a constant grind, of which I’m not envious.

I believe that students should have an opportunity to work or start a company or intern for some company or field that they wish – hopefully one that teaches them whether to pursue that industry in the future. Much of what I found in college was learning what I WASN’T passionate about, not so much of what I was passionate about. People change, but skills can be gained – focus on the companies/industries you wish to live around. Never before is that more true.

Bill Gates tweeted some advice recently – a few of which I’ll share my thoughts:

  1. “AI, Energy, and Biosciences are promising fields where you can make a huge impact. It’s what I would do if starting out today.”
    Analytics drives all 3 of these. Energy is the one that may have the most impact, but efficiency is a challenger here – for instance, battery’s have made great strides, but solar has made linear strides that haven’t made any economic sense in the present. Biosciences will explode with the technology developed in recent years and the information we’ll be able to see with hardware/software connections.
  2. “Looking back on when I left college… intelligence takes many forms. It is not one-dimensional. And not as important as I used to think.”
    I completely agree. Different levels and styles of intelligence – whether it’s focuses or broad knowledge. Experts in one field doesn’t make an expert in another. Be careful with ‘experts’ and what it takes to get that title. Do your due diligence and research but open-minded in conversations with others. Everybody – no matter their intelligence – can contribute to expanding/sharpening your mind.
  3. Then he had some world-impact tweets that described some of the “inequities” of the world. “You know more than I did when I was your age. You can start fighting inequity, whether down the street or around the world, sooner.”
  4. “Meanwhile, surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self.” Never truer words have been spoken. People mention having mentors, but we should really have mentors, people that we mentor and peers that challenge us. The combination to make each other better make the individuals better.
  5. He goes on about this being the most peaceful time in history. Progress can be made if you think the world is getting better, and you want to spread it.

If I had my way, I would love to start something for students that partnered some businesses that could use some admin-style / research analyst work but that were willing to take on a shadow for 4-8 weeks or something over summer. Give the students some money for working and helping out, but also provide them the opportunity to what positions above an intern role may entail in the industry. Is it exciting for them? Is it something that teaches them that that particular role isn’t a fit? I think those lessons, that early, would be invaluable.
If successful, a similar college program could be enacted for frosh / sophomores that were available during the year. Far too many do not get the work experience until after Junior or senior years. We can make that better!

Flawed Financial Decision? February 28, 2017

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This article has brought praise: SingleMomPaysRentforYearUsingTaxReturn. However, a basic understanding of future/present value is skipped in this story. I believe she’s choosing to be “responsible” in paying rent vs spending it on vacation or unnecessary items for her kids, but it also illustrates a lack of understanding for fundamental financial details (that should be MUCH more important to learn early on). Opportunity cost of losing the money for the year, or going into details of how she received so much for her return in the first place (lent FAR TOO MUCH money over the previous year).

About 5 years ago, there was a larger push in the financial services industry to bring an analyst/advisor to every high school to have “qualified” (debatable, but at least licensed) experts (this word is becoming annoying, as well) teach fundamental financial information to the future masses. I cannot attest to generations before me, but as far as my high school career went, CHEE (child, health, and something) and economics were the extent of in-school teaching. I was lucky enough to have a family that provided me an environment of numbers, games, and finances, as well as schools that pushed early for branching out. That doesn’t mean I have been without my own transgressions in a monetary realm, but can say that the high school classes didn’t scratch the surface of what I learned previously.

From students I talk to and teach in school now, I don’t believe the basic individual finances are taught, still. It could be a flawed forum in economics (as opportunity costs are discussed), and business courses go over concepts, but neither focus at an individual level. It needs to get better, and I’m not sure when anyone is or will be required to take these courses. I have friends out of MBA’s/Law School and Med Schools that never took courses on it. Luckily, for the curious and responsible ones, there is a wealth of information available now online, and as more people see larger and larger parts of networks, you hopefully become more comfortable to discuss them. For those that don’t, hopefully trial and error occurs earlier than later.
And people wonder how the debt continues to rack up…. That topic I’ll leave for another day. SingleMomPaysRentforYear

Who Cares for Lip Service? May 23, 2016

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There are hundreds of thousands of people that have good & great ideas.  Many of them work for someone else and don’t take action on those ideas. Some of the ones who have good ideas take them and try to build something. Not all succeed. The ones that do often had plans or people they could reach out to help them with a plan. Then they attempted/carried it out.  The ones that succeed often add value many times over.

Why is it different for elected office? Running for office should not simply be based on the platform of ideas you wish to change / better / create, but HOW candidates plan to put that in action. Actual plans. Business plan. Who is needed to help enact them / what is done / how to put it plan in motion / stakeholders / pros / cons. Sure, this would take time up front, but I believe that it could reduce the time to impact once someone was elected.

 
Let’s take an example. “Infrastructure must be improved” is a general positive thought and I don’t believe any candidates are against that. However, the latest research I’ve read said that of the funds designated as infrastructure-related, only 5% actually are used for ACTION in that frame. The rest is spent on funding boosters / change orders / unions (not exclusively).

Now, do I believe that a majority of voters would read through these plans? No, but of anyone that does, they would be better well-informed. And, debates or interviews could bring up the questions from people that did read through them and see holes or improvements or issues, to hopefully allow for a publicized process into the plans presented.

 
Until I see a candidate for ANY office lay something out like this, I’ll refrain from giving any vote of confidence or otherwise. Oh, and for any Bernie supporters that believe his site lays this out – it’s a step in the right direction, but not to the detail that elicits true action.

What do you think? Or is all of this just lip service?

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