An Offbeat Way To Manage


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The people part of entrepreneurship is hard.  We tend to focus on numbers and on spreadsheets and on engineering sprints.  But, it’s not robots that are doing it.  It’s people.  Entrepreneurship is a huge mental game.   Pro athletics is also like that.  What separates pro golfers from regular scratch golfers at your local club is often just the thing between the ears on their head.

I heard a great story last night and I am not naming names just to keep it anonymous.  I just think it’s an interesting way to look at managing people.  Sometimes, all it takes is an unexpected word or way of talking to them to change the tides.

There was a guy who was a pro baseball pitcher.  He was in spring training and he wasn’t getting anyone out.  But, his mechanics were good.  The velocity on his pitches were good.  His body felt Continue reading “An Offbeat Way To Manage”

1944: Everything We Have 2019: Can We Be Drawn Into Another Big War


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At my friend Dr Nic Mueller’s book unveiling “Everything We Had 6-6-44”. I received an advance copy. Really brings it home. Get one.

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Last night I was at the Pritzker Military Library here in Chicago to listen to my friend Dr. Nic Mueller talk about his new book, “Everything We Have 6-6-44”.  I received an advance copy of the book.  It’s different than other books you might read on the topic.  If you remember the old show, “And You Were There” when they re-enacted historical things, this book is a lot like that.

It’s raw.  Not just because of the topic.  Because it comes from the mouths of the people that were there.

This isn’t dry history of facts and figures.  It’s how people experienced it, and saw it, Continue reading “1944: Everything We Have 2019: Can We Be Drawn Into Another Big War”

Another Mental Health Crisis


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Farmers have a tough life.  They are beholden to the weather.  If you haven’t seen what’s been happening in Nebraska you ought to take a look at it.  My friend Governor Pete Ricketts has done a very good job dealing with it but until the water recedes there is only so much you can do.

Bloomberg thinks there is a mental health crisis in farming.

Certainly, if I woke up to that scene in Nebraska it would be tough on my mental health.  They will take years to recover.  If you want to donate you can donate to the Nebraska Farm Bureau here.

Having risks that you cannot control can really give you heartburn.  It’s easy to see how farmers aren’t a lot different than early stage entrepreneurs running to put out fire after fire.  This is true in animal husbandry operations, row crop operations, fruit crops or anything else Continue reading “Another Mental Health Crisis”

Costs Are Going Up Because The Economy is So Good


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When I was in California a couple of weeks ago I was on a panel.  They always ask you to predict something.  I chose two things:

  1. Because I was in California and I assumed people out there didn’t like Trump, so therefore had a negative bias on any news I said that the economy was doing very well and that we were not headed for a recession.
  2. I predicted the IPO pace would go way up, because the cost of capital was going to go up in the private market and that with a stronger stock market, companies would want to cash in.

A few of my fellow panelists though that the IPO train would slow because of the volume of private money  out there.  There is a lot of it for sure and we will see.  With Lyft setting the tone, a lot of companies are looking at their Continue reading “Costs Are Going Up Because The Economy is So Good”

Who Ya Got?


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The NCAA tournament starts this week.  Who ya got?  There are always upsets.  There are always surprises.  I was surprised to see an 19-14 Ohio St. get in the tournament.  I’d rather see a mid-major that won over 20 games.  No one wants to see a marginal OSU team and if they make a run, they aren’t Cinderella.  You cannot be a Cinderella from a major conference no matter where you finish.

What’s also surprising to me is the absolute demise of Pac 12 basketball.  It’s as if they are playing with players who’s parents bribed school officials to get in.  As a kid who grew up during UCLA’s total domination of college basketball I can’t believe the schools in the West cannot recruit.  There is certainly enough population to draw from.  It mimics their demise in football as well. The Pac 12 isn’t part of the conversation when you Continue reading “Who Ya Got?”

An Epic Fail In America


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Financial literacy.  Period.  It’s pretty sad.  This article outlines the failure.  I think it is easy to point out the problems. It’s hard to solve them.

One of the reasons I am really excited about WLV’s investment in Holberg Financial is because we have failed in financial education in America.  If you are an employer and not talking to Holberg, you are putting your entire operation at risk because the odds are good your employees don’t understand enough about finance and a bad decision could put them in danger.

If you want access to their case study, click here.

Finance isn’t really fun to learn.  Making money is fun.  Spending money is fun.  Managing it can be drudgery.  Managing it means accounting and math. Statistics and probability.  Discipline.  Because we have failed at teaching finance at the JK-12 level, we open our entire society up to shills and Continue reading “An Epic Fail In America”

Patience


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One of the hardest skills to master when you invest is patience.  When I traded, it was a totally needed skill.  Even though many trades were in and out in seconds, others were not like that.  As a spreader, sometimes you had to wait for the market to come to you.  It could be an interminable wait.  It didn’t matter whether you were trying to put something on, or take it off.

Most of the time, you had to “leg” into the trade and “leg” out.  That meant closing one side of the spread and trying to get out of the other side.  In the pit, you could get a true edge, and sometimes you could get the edge on both sides of the spread.  That felt good. Other times, the market would go against you and you’d have to figure it out.

You’d have to fight a psychological battle Continue reading “Patience”

Tech Is Separating Us; Tech Is Leaving Communities Behind; Capitalism Can Save Us


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There is a lot of volatility in the news from day to day on tech. It’s interesting to me that Senator Elizabeth Warren is beating the drum on regulating companies like Facebook ($FB), Google ($GOOG) and other Silicon Valley titans. The right wing is echoing her sentiments but for different reasons. They see those companies as oppressive and against free speech along with the way they discriminate against right wing websites, employees who are conservative, causes that are conservative, and conservative speech.

When I was at the i7 in Torino, Italy a well respected Italian computer scientist offered up the idea of regulating the big tech giants. That was September of 2018. Ted Ullyot correctly asked, “How do regulate an opt-in service?” It’s a great question.

Personally, I am a huge fan of free markets, capitalism, and creative destruction.  Why can’t a company come and knock Google off its Continue reading “Tech Is Separating Us; Tech Is Leaving Communities Behind; Capitalism Can Save Us”

How Can Startups Scale Up?


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The above is a great discussion. Robert Alter and Jai Shekhawat scaled companies and sold them. Amanda Lannert is CEO of Jellyvision, and is scaling. Jellyvision is consistently touted as one of the best companies to work at in Chicago. They all know the chapters and verses of the journey from two people with an idea to scaling and selling the company to a major acquirer. They have accumulated bumps and bruises along the way, but survived.

You can do it too!

Chicago Booth Review has some great research on their site. Hal Weitzman has done a very good job with it since starting at Chicago Booth awhile ago. It really causes you to think about things differently. I read it all the time.

How Can Startups Scale Up?


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The above is a great discussion. Michael Alter and Jai Shekhawat scaled companies and sold them. Amanda Lannert is CEO of Jellyvision, and is scaling. Jellyvision is consistently touted as one of the best companies to work at in Chicago. They all know the chapters and verses of the journey from two people with an idea to scaling and selling the company to a major acquirer. They have accumulated bumps and bruises along the way, but survived.

You can do it too!

Chicago Booth Review has some great research on their site. Hal Weitzman has done a very good job with it since starting at Chicago Booth awhile ago. It really causes you to think about things differently. I read it all the time.

$500K for College?!!


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I am sure you saw the scandal yesterday that broke on wealthy parents bribing their child’s way into various colleges.  Many that went to a selective school took to Twitter to say their parents didn’t bribe their way in.  Ha, defensive people always raise my suspicions.

This also isn’t a political party thing as some people on my Twitter feed tried to make it. I am sure there are both Republicans and Democrats even though the face of the scandal is liberal Hollywood.  It’s not a race thing either except that the offenders were all universally wealthy and white.  It doesn’t have anything to do with religion either.  Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Atheists all tried to game the system.  It is most certainly an ethics thing and hope those who gamed the system get punished.

I can honestly say I understand the mentality of the parents that paid the bribes. Continue reading “$500K for College?!!”

Congratulations to Professor Ray Ball


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Yesterday I read the news that my friend Professor Ray Ball received an award.  Big hearty congratulations to him.  Like me, he likes to cook and drink good wine.

He is a PhD Economist that has done a lot of research in the field of accounting.  In 1968, he wrote a paper on “An Empirical Evaluation of Accounting Income Numbers” which was published in the Journal of Accounting Research.

It was groundbreaking.

He received the Wharton-Jacobs Levy Prize along with co-author Phil Brown.  Professor Brown is also a PhD economist from Chicago. The prize is given biennially.  If you are an academic and receive the prize, it’s highly likely that you received a Nobel Prize.  Harry Markowitz and William Sharpe received previous prizes.

Ray also authored another ground breaking paper.  “Anomalies in Relationships between Securities’ Yields and Yield surrogates,” published in the Journal of Financial Economics in 1978.   It Continue reading “Congratulations to Professor Ray Ball”

Let’s Do It This Time


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From 1986-2013, I was on a trading floor.  From the late 1980’s when I first got my membership until I left I was a member of CME’s political arm.  It went by various names.  The “job” wasn’t anything underhanded.  It was all volunteer.  Frankly, you donated money to the PAC and raised money for the PAC from members on the floor.  We also would talk to Congresspeople when they came to CME and interact with their staff.  Once a year, we’d go to Washington and have a party.  It was always well attended.

Our PAC donated 50/50 to both parties.  I had to talk to Chuck Schumer, and Lindsay Graham and make the same points.

Virtually every year in the budget there was a provision to tax trading.  It was called a transaction tax.  I have blogged about it several times before but it is one of the stupidest tax Continue reading “Let’s Do It This Time”

A Glorious Day


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Yesterday my daughter was proposed to.  We knew it was coming but we didn’t know exactly when.  We got the call when and it worked out because I was already going to be in San Francisco at Young Startups.

My wife flew out on Thursday.  I left the conference right after our last panel because we had a date.  I checked into SFO Airport to confuse my daughter, and then my wife and I met for a date at Mr. Jiu’s.  I highly recommend that place. It’s the best Chinese restaurant I have ever ate at.  Been twice now. If they want financial backers to open in Chicago, I am in because we don’t have anything close to it or like it.

Our other daughter who is in law Continue reading “A Glorious Day”

Copycats


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It is pitch season.  There are a lot of meetups and there are a lot of pitch competitions going on at colleges around the country.  The problem I am seeing is that there are a lot of “me too” kinds of companies.  They are relatively close to an existing dominant player, with one or two twists.

Sort of reminds me of the old movie Knocked Up when they find out the company they are building already has been done.

There are a lot of businesses being started that don’t really have pricing power.  They are land grabs and commodity type businesses.  They are bolt-ons to bigger businesses or tools.  When you go into business, you never want to run into a situation where the market entirely controls where you can price your product.  I call it the Farmer Brown problem with a hat tip to PhD Economist Thomas Chevrier from Continue reading “Copycats”

Millennials Leaving Chicago


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This study is from the liberal think tank, The Brookings Institution.  Their conclusion is wrong.  It’s not about affordable housing.  It’s about an affordable life.  If Governor Pritzker has his way, housing in Illinois will get a lot more affordable.

New York and LA beat Chicago. Houston, Denver and Dallas are where millennials are moving.  We already knew that people over the age of 55 were leaving in a massive migration.  Check out the differences in the all in cost of living in the various places and you can see why some cities are attractive and some are not.

I guess all the bullshit that prior Governor Rauner passed around higher tax rates, sanctuary state, sanctuary city, abortion on demand isn’t important to them.  What they really want is a job and an opportunity to build wealth so they can have productive lives, build families and chase the American Dream Continue reading “Millennials Leaving Chicago”

A Mini Beef


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Entrepreneurship is really hard.  It’s a massive challenge to start a company off an idea and execute on it.  In recent years, there has been an emphasis on “social entrepreneurship”.  I think it’s gone too far.

There is nothing wrong with making a lot of money if you build or work for a blowout company that solves real problems for people.

I am seeing a lot of deal flow designed to get people to donate money to causes.  This has been done.  GoFundMe is the dominant player.  I am invested in Public Good and still love the team.  They have found an interesting pivot and they are building a business but it’s been an arduous struggle.  Without their CEO Dan Ratner, it would have been impossible.  Ask him to tell you about it if you are lucky enough to meet him, but give yourself enough time to hear the Continue reading “A Mini Beef”

Drink Local.


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Every single town has its own idiosyncrasies. Chicago has some. Everyone knows about deep dish pizza. We are famous for hot dogs (no ketchup please). We are also famous for other kinds of sausage like Maxwell St. Polish and Bari Italian Sausage. It’s why “Abe Froman The Sausage King” was so funny in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off. You might have heard of Chicago’s italian beef and giardinara. Odds are you haven’t heard of Malort.

Malort is made from wormwood.  Absinthe was also made from wormwood.  It is now made in Chicago again.

It’s a Chicago liqueur with a special taste. I love the comments on this video. “Malort uses the same process as vodka, but instead of using potatoes they use recycled tires.” Let’s put it this way, it is an acquired taste. If you haven’t had it, many bars will carry a bottle. It’s Swedish. Carl Jeppson Continue reading “Drink Local.”

The Strength of Chicago’s Tech Ecosystem, or Non-Strength


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At 7 minutes in, John Pletz and Amy Guth talk about the Chicago Tech community. Can an Instagram like company be built in Chicago?

Are Chicago investors risk averse and skittish? Do Chicago entrepreneurs think big enough?

Good conversation.  Here is the tweet John talks about in the podcast.

When I started Hyde Park Angels at the very first meeting I said we would invest in things that the Midwest was good at. We weren’t Silicon Valley and why would you want to be. If you want to compete with them, you were guaranteed to lose since someone could get in a car or on a plane and be there shortly.

Chicago has tremendous depth of talent in things like B2B Fin Continue reading “The Strength of Chicago’s Tech Ecosystem, or Non-Strength”

Headed out to SF


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Flying out to San Francisco today for the Young Startups conference.  I am on the Fin Tech track.  It’s at the Hyatt in Burlingame.  It’s really the first time we have travelled to do something like this.

The lifeblood of a VC firm runs in two arteries.  First is capital.  Without money, you can’t invest.  Second is deal flow.  Without seeing enough deals, and running down a lot of rat holes you can’t make good investments and return money to your LPs.

For us, 99% of our deal flow is not in the Bay Area.  It’s just not as strong in the sort of financial technology that we invest in.  Chicago and New York are the two main areas with Atlanta coming on strong.

But, it’s like the advice I give people who want to go into investment banking.  You better spend some time in NYC, and you better have Continue reading “Headed out to SF”