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Valuation Resources to Keep Top of Mind February 12, 2018

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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

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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!

Productive Rabbit Hole: Learning Edition November 28, 2017

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Polina Marinova’s The Profile had a short, interesting quote from Anne Wojcicki (genetics company CEO to 23andMe) mentioning her ex, A-Rod (former baseball star propped up as poster boy leading MLB out of steroid era to somewhat disgraced steroid user, perennial dater).
It read: But when things came to an end, her mom had a few choice words about the baseball star, including the fact that he “had no academic background” & “we couldn’t have an intellectual conversation about anything.” Billionaires — they’re just like us.
“He could park himself in front of a TV and watch baseball for 10 hours a day. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to go on the yacht with Anne because the TV might not be working. I wish J-Lo all the luck in the world.”

Academic background is a convenient convolution to the idea that [A-Rod] wasn’t well-versed in the same forms of entertainment (or topics outside of baseball). That discounts his knowledge of his passion (baseball, clearly, as he’s now a strikingly good commentator/analyst). Different people can find a common ground – that doesn’t say that they must find common ground. If they’re no longer together, we can assume the latter – but it doesn’t have to be a lack of academia. That enrages me – completion of university/college does not grant an implication of being generally more intelligent / smarter than anyone else. Quite frankly, if someone has graduated recently could bring into question their knowledge of basic finance and how tuition continues a huge upward movement, doing multiples over inflation paces over the last 2-3 decades.

When I speak or see people with this attitude, I try to encourage a changing of mindset – people vary in their passions. Myself, I can enjoy many topics of conversation but there are others that I would have almost no valuable input, so I can see that and stay quiet or ask questions (if I find interest). The internet provides an endless availability to information. If you can get past the black holes of meme barrages, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat scrolling, there are plenty of rabbit holes you can meander through to educate yourself in any number of topics. Better yet – you can find productivity in communities that support these topics everywhere via the net!

Seek and you shall find. Reading is one of my favorite ways to spend extra time learning, listening to podcasts as well as perusing LinkedInKaggle & FuturismUdemy / Coursera/Udacity/Datacamp as MOOC (courses learning) sites, Reddit & even Twitter if you search lists / interests. These are certainly not exclusive but provide collections of massive amounts of information – just have to search!

Seeking / Finding the information is one thing, but then I believe more people should do better to fact-check, compare/contrast alternative viewpoints or really seek truths. Who runs websites / what is the motivation / generally asking better questions to reflect on what you’re learning – often a lacking response (I would say skill, but I genuinely believe that more people choose not to do it, not that people are incapable of being reflective).

This all brings me to a last point that hopefully brings this information together – that it is not only an obligation to learn and question further but also to SHARE the information! This can be discussions on the internet, voicing an opinion with friends and co-workers, or simply running a play-by-play to reason through your own thought process in what you’ve amassed. Closed, one-way information feeds pale in comparison to open loops with new ideas, feedback, questions and general understanding. There is a reason we are seeing an increase in lean organizations and groups of people make larger contributions in ways we could not have imagined 30 years ago. Keep it up everyone!

Life is Global October 23, 2017

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In just returning from Chile and having my 29th birthday, I did a ton of reflection over the last 2 weeks. Long flights, new places, peaceful heights & coming of age will force you to do this, if you don’t pause on your own to do it anyhow.

A word:
metacognition – dictionary.com has this as “higher-order thinking that enables understanding, analysis, and control of one’s cognitive processes, especially when engaged in learning.” I prefer a simpler “thinking about one’s own mental processes” .

Why do we do what we do? Some just act instinctively. Others act and then question why they acted. Yet there are some who will think, then act. There is a process by which everyone goes about their actions and thoughts – very few reflect on this process. Even fewer that look to change it for the better. Learning to think, approaching problems, coming up with solutions. Producing insights that can push forward or analyze why processes should be different.

In visiting with neighbors on my flights, shoulder-to-shoulder in immigration lines, Chilean natives, South American transplants from neighboring countries and visitors from across the world, there was a different consensus among the lot of them. Everyone had someplace else to be. Each person as different as the next. It was peaceful to not catch a news segment, comedy remark, or overhear a conversation about the active politics of the day. It’s overwhelming in the states, needlessly – and more importantly, rampant with misinformation which makes the deluge of politics ripe with uninformed, unintelligent thoughts. 7 days away – I believe I caught a single newspaper that had Trump on the cover and CNN one morning at the hotel mentioning a brief, 2 minute segment. Granted, I wasn’t looking for the conversations or seeking newspapers/tv’s, but still – there was some peace. Friends who have traveled abundantly over the past year to Europe/Canada/others have anecdotally mentioned that as one of the first things that arise in taxis/Ubers/people that become aware of a US citizen in their presence. No such bad luck in Mexico (my layover) or in Chile once I was there. There were more entertaining or productive discussions to be had. I’m sure this is a part of where one can direct a conversation, as well. People should be more cognizant of this, though I’m afraid politics have now dropped into the pantheon of ‘effortless’ conversation along with “how’s the weather?”, “did you see X” and a general “how’s work”?

Hopefully, as people grow and become more successful and comfortable in their lives, they would want to contribute something back – knowledge, money, mentorships and more. Often, there’s a line drawn between impact and how large of one can be made. This is less important, however, than making an impact regardless. We can make an impact in your core community – neighborhood, town or city, business community. Expand that out to affect multiple cities or a region – think Elon with LA’s tunnels, subway/metro/public transportation, bag ordinances or green movements – smart cities will eventually become a larger look as we go forward, as well. Outside of bigger projects like mentioned above, we can start a group or meet-up that gains members from the community in question – contribution of ideas that can go beyond infrastructural concepts.

Thinking larger (but not in the sense that it has to be bigger impact-wise), connection across counties, states, or the nation is important but more difficult to scale. Industries or sectors can be defined and aided by any one group or person that makes an impact beyond the immediate cases and permeates the outreaches from there. Then we have global scales – whether it’s advancing some technology or standard and bringing it to areas that may be impacted greatly with progression. There are tons of examples of all of these scales. People have different passions and shouldn’t be restricted or forced into doing something that doesn’t spark a fire in them to improve their lives (and hopefully, helping some others that they have a connection to in the process).

We live in a world where information is at our fingertips, a swipe and drag away on our phones. Barriers to entry continue to fall across all spectra. Get excited, people! Help yourself to help others.

Some things that I am jumping into and ones that I would love to hear ideas/talk to others about:
– mentorship with high school / college-level students with finding a passion or question ideas for how to progress forward
– a fun application to make it easier to connect local restaurants/bars with customers about their happy hours using OCR / Image-to-text from menu photos to populate database
– starting an investment fund that focuses on avoiding the nearly unavoidable ‘home bias’ as well as matching risk tolerance with proper returns – focusing on international availability and risk profile of uncorrelated assets
– new thought: possible website/application that will take multiple starting points (friends that live apart from each other) meeting at some location / flight destination in between for reasonable prices — multi-optimized Skyscanner/Hopper
– Payments/Vendors/AP/AR organizing software that will reduce burden and difficulty for companies with nontechnical backgrounds / capacity for process to be so intuitive that it won’t require more personnel or capital invested

 

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

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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.

 

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!

Notes from Hirschhorn & Cuban March 27, 2017

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Listening to the Jason Hirschhorn interview with Mark Cuban  from the end of February (just pre-$SNAP IPO) —

Many great resources in all the current tech-hubs: SF & Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Austin, and expanding those. Cuban makes a good point that people and ideas are easily created now in almost every area. There are places in the country that have MORE resources — events, companies, VC’s, funds, but building can be done everywhere (Cuban mentioned when he visits IU, he can stay in contact with them).

With less and less companies going public (mentioned ~9000 publicly listed in 2008, but < 4000 now), people are either scared of going public, or are getting their payouts directly from bigger companies (Cisco, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, etc…).

Digital ad revenue for FB and Google – 85%+ market share. NFLX and AMZN are 2 biggest shares – hasn’t sold yet. Content providers – Disney, Netflix, and Amazon…. not many others. CONTENT is very difficult (Cuban mentioned Enron doc and winning awards, along with Good Night and Good Luck — hasn’t done any successful since). Content is the most difficult to maintain – very difficult to get past that giant hurdle, and these companies have the money to get above it.

Eventually got into a political discussion – using news / reactions / tweets to respond. HOW do we respond? Communicate and be patient – tough to change minds or reason – noted 52% of eligible voters didn’t vote. Trolls and dealing with internet comments – control public/private responses on twitter? Twitter must be hard-coded otherwise. Cuban mentioned an app that he’s going with – soon, machine-learning or machines will deal with the curation of information and conversation in digital platforms.

Talking about video – 7 year old son wanting to play flag football / baseball and how different it is now. Esports / watching vs watching tv (sports). His son didn’t want to watch sports / baseball / football, but wanted to play. There’s no indoctrination or religion for it anymore as we grew up on (and Cuban’s era earlier). Gaming as a big advantage in expanding NBA reach – NBA 2k and professional aspect of them since players have a deeper involvement / knowledge of the league with gaming.

The overall theme for today (not just this interview) – how can we get more young people interested in building out great ideas? The future of technology is rapidly accelerating but ideas will still be needed from the smartest people. Education seems to nerf expansive ideas – boxes people in that may be more capable, restricting opportunities. In my opinion, this is a huge flaw in the system overall.

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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