Growthink Blog

The Decade in Review: What Worked, What Didn't..


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Look to the right for a fantastic chart that tracks investment returns for various asset classes over the past 10 and 20 years.

A few points immediately jump off the page: 

  • Angel Investing Outpaced All Other Asset Classes. Obviously, at the top of the list is the gigantic gap between returns for angel, or early-stage private company investing, and all other asset classes. I will elaborate on this more below.
  • Gold Had a Very Good Decade. While I personally loathe gold as an investment (see my blog post from last month - "Gold is great - But It Is Not an Investment"), for better or for worse the "00's" were a very good decade for gold. Though I must add that gold's investment return since 1980, on an inflation-adjusted basis, is actually NEGATIVE
  • Inflation Was Consistently Low.  Inflation has been relatively consistent for the last 20 years, in the 2 and 1/2 percent annually range. 
  • The Stock Market Performed Awful. As discussed in my worst investing decade ever post last month, the U.S. stock market - the Dow Jones, the S & P, the NASDAQ - had a historically abysmal decade, with all major indices posting both real and inflation-adjusted NEGATIVE returns (first time that has EVER happened).
  • Real Estate - Same Old, Same Old. The great real estate collapse of 2007-2009 brought the decade's real estate returns into its long-term historical average, about 1% ahead of the rate of inflation.

So that is past.  What will the next 10 years hold?  Here are three predictions:

  • Cash is VERY Dangerous. Not shown on the chart but of interest is today's average money market fund yield of a comically bad 0.03% (that is $3/year of interest per $1,000 invested). When viewed against either the current inflation number (1.8%) or the massive risk of long-term inflation brought on by the unprecedented federal budget deficits, dollar-denominated cash deposits today offer a downwright frightening risk-reward ratio.
  • Only By Blind Luck Can One Expect To Beat the Averages in Public Stocks. The dirty little secret that the mutual fund and brokerage industry wants to hide is that there has been no scientifically valid study in the last 20 years that has demonstrated an actively managed stock portfolio offering better risk-return than simple index investing. And as global trading and real-time information-sharing continues to intensify, expect this trend to deepen. So for better or for worse if you're invested in U.S. public stocks in the decade to come, by far your most likely outcome is the market average.  
  • Angel Investing Returns - Too Good To Be True? Now the 1st line in the chart, showing 10 year angel investing returns of over 30% annually, just feels way, way too high. How on earth could any asset class so outperform all others over such an extended period of time? And more importantly can and will it continue?

My answer - yes but.  Yes - because the 2 key factors that drive angel investing outperformance remain the same. One, returns have to be very high as compensation for illiquidity - most angel investments are in private-held, small companies years away from a sale or an IPO. And two, returns are high as compensation for the EXTREME variance of the asset class.

Now for the but.  While the asset class returned an average of 30%+, it was attained via the sum of a very, very few winners (aka Google), and lots and lots of losers. 

Quite simply, a few investors made a killing, and a giant many got killed.

But here is where it gets interesting. The one thing that has and will continue to drive angel investing returns  - namely technology advancements - now allows investors, for the first time, access to smoothed-out returns (i.e. higher likelhood of hitting the 30% average versus the extreme highs and lows).

I look forward to your attendance and feedback.

Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink, Inc.

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Employee Performance Management: An Interview with Mike Carden


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It's really easy to make fun of big businesses. With all their bureaucracy, they tend to move slowly. And they tend to be difficult to work with.

But there's one thing that big businesses typically do much better than smaller companies. And that is conducting employee performance reviews.

In fact, many smaller businesses focus so much on solving day to day crises, that conducting employee reviews falls by the wayside.

Which leads to problems. Lots of problems.

Here's why:

Companies that succeed have strategic plans.

And, when you conduct periodic employee performance reviews, you ensure that your employees have objectives that are congruent with your company's strategic plan.

So rather than employees focusing on tasks that they think are right, you ensure that they accomplish the tasks that really allow your company to grow and profit.

Without performance reviews, you get lots of problems. Management gets frustrated because employees are not achieving key objectives. And employees get frustrated because they don't know if they're doing a good job or not.

Interestingly, when I recently interviewed Mike Carden, co-founder of performance management review company Sonar6, he told me that most employees really like performance reviews, even when they are underperforming.

He said, "It's sort of like playing golf. Even if you don't play great, you want to know your score at the end."

Carden gave me some other great tips on conducting performance reviews to ensure that you get the most out of your employees and your company achieves its objectives.

Among other things, Carden mentioned that reviews should typically be done monthly and should take no more than 20-30 minutes per employee.

By getting into the habit of conducting monthly performance reviews, you ensure that your employees remain focused on the RIGHT objectives and that you reward them and/or improve their performance more quickly.

To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below:




Growthink University members can download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/384.cfm


Pavlov's Dog - Do You Act Like This?


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Most of us are familiar with Ivan Pavlov and his famous Pavlov dog experiments.

To refresh you, Pavlov found that when dogs constantly heard a bell when they were fed, that subsequently, the mere sound of a bell would cause them to salivate in anticipation of their next meal (even if that bell was not accompanied by food).

Interestingly, when I recently interviewed productivity expert Laura Stack, she compared checking email to a Pavlovian response. Basically, applications like Microsoft Outlook with features like a bell sounding with every new email, or an envelope in the system tray, have conditioned people to check email far too often.

In fact, many entrepreneurs and business managers check email 10 times a day or more. Some check it constantly.

But what happens when you are checking email too often? Well, according to Stack, you are failing to complete the key tasks and projects that must be done in order to grow your business.

Successful entrepreneurs and business managers have the insight to determine the highest value uses of their time. And then they have the self-discipline to ensure that each and every day, they devote time to these uses. It is then, and only then, that entrepreneurs can grow their businesses. If not, every day they might accomplish 20 tasks, but these tasks won't help their businesses grow.

During the interview, I peppered Ms. Stack with a series of productivity questions, and received tons of great answers in return. My favorite was her six-step outline for entrepreneurs to become more productive as follows:

1. Determine what you are supposed to be working on (what has the highest value-add to your organization)?

2. Make room for those activities on your schedule (and do whatever you have to do to get it done, including scheduling meeting with yourself or working offsite)

3. Focus on achieving those things that need to be done. Don't let yourself get distracted.

4. Get organized.

5. Be disciplined. Do the things you need to do. Don't waste time on rituals like checking email, getting beverages, and socializing with co-workers in the morning.

6. Get back the attitude you had when you first started your company. By focusing on the high value-add objectives and freeing up your time from monotonous and low value-add activities, you will feel a renewed energy and excitement for your business.

To hear a clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below.


Growthink University members can listen to and/or download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/383.cfm


The "00's" - WORST Investing Decade EVER


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Barring a massive rally between now and the end of the year, the "00's" will be the worst decade in the history of the stock market.  

As reported in the Wall Street Journal today, since the end of 1999 stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange have lost an average of 0.5% per year.

Let's put this in historical perspective.

The 1990's were the best calendar decade in history for stocks, with an average investment return of 17.6% per year.

Even in the 1930's - the era of the Great Depression and usually considered the gold standard (pardon the pun) for bad markets, investors did better - with stocks "only" losing 0.2% per year.

And, as the Journal goes on, the news is even worst when we take into account inflation.  Since 1999, on a inflation-adjusted basis, the S & P 500  has lost an average of 3.3% per year.  

How bad is this? Given that the 1930's was a period of deflation, stock actually gained, in real terms, 1.8%  per year during that decade. Even the 1970's - a period of both a bear market AND inflation, did better than this last decade, with stocks only losing 1.4% after inflation.

So before moving to the "what does this mean" and "what do we do now" discussion, let's take a moment of pause to reflect on just how tough an investing decade this has been

Very, very tough. Trillions lost. Retirement plans delayed. Heartache and heartbreak.  

Perhaps most gallingly, while most suffered, there were those that did very well while really having no business doing so.  Hedge fund managersDerivatives tradersBank executives.

I think we can all agree on a hope for the new decade  - that the financial rewards in the next 10 years go more to the creators of value and less to the speculators on value.

Here are three more:

1. May Venture Capital Rise Again. Venture capital firms, for the first time in their history, lost money over a decade-long period.

Given the amazing and world-changing advances in human productivity and connectivity over the last 10 years, may the venture capital industry, and correspondingly the world of emerging technology - re-find its return footing.

2. May, on December 31, 2019, The NASDAQ and Dow be trading at, respectively, above 10,000 and above 30,000.  Even getting to these levels will mean a return of less than 5% annually from 1999 to 2019.

This falls into the category of the equity markets being "due" for a big returns decade. A simple, but defensible premise.  

3. May The Nation's Entrepreneurs Lead The Way.  Never has there been more productive, focused, mature, and cause-driven entrepreneurs alive in the world than there are today.

Take a look at the below list of the top performing stocks of the past 10 year (1999-2008): 

Symbol               Company                                             10 Yr. Cum. Return
GMCR..............Green Mountain Coffee Roasters................7,895.4%
HANS...............Hansen Natural........................................6,504.1%
BYI...................Bally Technologies..................................6,394.2%
SWN................Southwestern Energy.................................5,108.4%
CLH..................Clean Harbors.........................................4,456.0%
DECK...............Deckers Outdoor......................................3,669.5%
AMED...............Amedisys................................................3,669.2%
TNH.................Terra Nitrogen..........................................3,611.5%
BOOM..............Dynamic Materials......................................3,519.4%
QSII.................Quality Systems.......................................3,497.2%

As Tim Hanson points out, these companies have three qualities in common - they were mostly ignored and obscure when they began their meteoric rise, and they were SMALL.

And you know what?  Come 2019 there will be TEN DIFFERENT obscure and small companies that will make this list.

Noone knows who these companies will be. But to attain alpha, you MUST find them.

One thing is for sure - a few investors WILL find them.

The more interesting question of course is - will you be one of them? 

I look forward to your attendance and feedback.

Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink, Inc.

Follow me on Twitter
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Top 50 Venture Capital Blog Posts of 2009


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Looking for venture capital? Or looking for great insights to grow your business?

Well, we've scoured a year's worth of great blog posts from hundreds of venture capitalists and industry experts, and are pleased to present you with our 50 favorite posts of 2009.

Some great information is included in these posts, and savvy entrepreneurs and investors will heed this advice.

And we'd love to hear your comments...what posts did we miss?

Enjoy!

 

 

1. Ed Sim (Dawntreader Ventures)


Inspirational video for entrepreneurs       

"Without a bigger sense of purpose, it is hard to be an entrepreneur and stick through the inevitable tough times that will come your way."


2. Josh Kopelman (First Round Capital)

Board Transparency - and the Implicit Web       

Discusses the repurcussions of accessible data and the necessity of transparency with your Board of Directors.


3. Jeremy Liew (Lightspeed Venture Partners)

Why the Economics of Social Gaming are So Attractive to Investors            

Trend to watch for in 2010: Social Gaming, this article tells you why.


4. Seth Levine (Foundry Group)

Want more jobs? Support Entrepreneurship       

Levine recommends taking the steps included in his blog article to boost the economy and create jobs.


5. Chistopher Allen (Alacrity Ventures)   

Community by the Numbers, Part III: Power Laws       

What defines the success of a community and how can we predict this?


6. Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures)

Some Thoughts on Email After Dealing with 500 Emails       

An inside peak into VC email response.


7. Bill Gurley (Benchmark Capital)   

What is Really Happening to the Venture Capital Industry           

VC Bill Gurley takes readers through an overview of the ups and downs of 2009.


8. Paul Graham (Y Combinator)   

Startups in 13 Sentences       

If VC Paul Graham could tell startups 13 things, these would be them.


9. Dave Hornik (August Capital)   

Innovation Doesn't take a Vacation in an Economic Downturn        

Innovation isn't dependent upon finance. 


10. Brad Feld (Foundry Group)   

VC Behavior in Board Meetings       

Advice on putting the phone down, and paying attention at board meetings.


11. David McClure (Founders Fund)

Startup Metrics that Matter       

This vlog teaches new entreprenuers what metrics really matter in the early stages of their development.


12. Erick Schonfeld (Techcrunch)   

Venture Funds Raise Only $1.6 billion in 3rd Quarter.  Most of That Went to Vinod Khosla       

A quarterly overview on VC funds raised from Q3 2007 - Q3 2009.  $750 million of the $1.6 billion raised went to Khosla ventures.


13. MG Siegler (Techcrunch)   

The Cost of FriendFeed: Roughly $50 million in Cash and Stock       

A successful exit for a small social media startup; FriendFeed was purchased in August 2009 for $50 million.  Highlights the payout for initial investors.


14. Steve Fredrick and Don Rainey (VentureBeat)   

Venture Capital 2009: The Year in Review       

Highlights included 3 venture-backed IPOs in Q3 2009, an expanding start-up world and the reduced cash required to start companies.


15. Marc Andreessen (Andreessen Horowitz)

Introducing Our New Venture Capital Firm Andreessen Horowitz       

Announcing a new $300 million fund for technology startups. Investing between $50,000 and $50 million, this blog post outlines EXACTLY Andreessen Horowitz's requirements.


16. Laura Grimmer (VentureBeat)

5 Ways VC firms Can Stop Shooting Themselves in the Foot       

Excellent advice for VCs looking to grow their business and expand the pipeline of deals. 


17. Peter Rip (Crosslink Capital)

What's Broken - Venture Capital or Venture Perceptions?       

Refutes the idea that venture capital is the worst place to be because the "old model doesn't work."


18. Rick Segal (JLA Ventures)

The "Take the Deal or Not" Debate       

Questions every person should ask themselves before they take a deal with a venture capital firm.


19. Mike Hirshland (Polaris Venture Partners)   

More on the Founder/CEO Question       

When should the founder step aside as CEO for the greater good of the company?


20. Jeff Bussgang (Flybridge Capital Partners)   

Should Entrepreneurs Be More Like Teenage Girls?       

Recommendations for a growth mindset and success for reaching goals as an entrepreneur.


21. Tim Oren (Pacifica Fund)

Silicon Valley's Dirty Little Secret       

What are the long term social and political impacts of Silicon Valley? Some insightful thoughts into Silicon Valley culture.


22. Eric Friedman (Union Square Ventures)   

99.99% (Or It's Totally Going to Happen But Isn't Signed Yet)      

Until a contract is signed - it's not a done deal.


23. Mike Speiser (SutterHill Ventures)   

Better Incentives Can Improve Online Advertising       

Publishers should incentivize advertisers to create good content.  Brings up the idea of ad content that enhances, rather than diminishes, user experience.


24. Matt McCall (DFJ Portage Venture Partners)   

Do You Need to Be in the Valley?       

Addresses the age old question of whether entreprenuers in the tech space need to be in Silicon Valley to succeed.


25. Stu Phillips (Ridgelift Ventures)   

Venture Capital - Time for V3.0       

Stu Phillips raises an important point - VC2.0 which began with the Internet and resulting bubble - is out. A new system needs to be created.


26. Jason Caplain (Southern Capitol Ventures)   

Include Sales in your Strategy      

Entreprenuers need to connect with their buyers early on; sales is an integral part of EVERY company.


27. Jason Mendelson (Foundry Group)   

Senator Dodd - Making it harder for small businesses to get funded       

A VC outlook on the legislation changes proposed that will alter the ability for companies to get financed.


28. Nic Brisbourne (Esprit Capital Partners)   

Financial Forecasts in a Business Plan       

"Any business plan that has financial forecasts under year 1, year 2, etc. rather than 2009, 2010, etc. is too early stage for us." Brisbourne urges entrepreneurs to be precise in their projections and have a definitive timeline for revenue.


29. Albert Wenger (Union Square Ventures)   

Hiring: Lack of Diversity Becomes Self-reinforcing       

Historical hiring practices may affect the ability to bring on diverse, younger talent.


30. David B. Lerner (Totius Group, Columbia Venture Lab)

Getting from Zero to One in Your Startup: Founder Compensation Should be Slim to None       

An important point for every founder to konw - your investment is on the back end - not from annual salary.


31. Larry Cheng (Fidelity Ventures)   

Succeeding with a Potential Single Point of Failure       

Two success stories of companies who exited in spite of single point of failure possibilities.


32. Raj Kapoor (Mayfield Fund)   

Prediction: Social Nets Will Make More Money Off-site vs On-site their Websites       

Interesting take on how social networks will continue to monetize.


33. Will Price (Hummer Winblad)   

Now      

The importance of being present in the moment AND enjoying it.


34. Howard Morgan (First Round Capital)   

UNI- Acquired Tastes in Food and Investing      

Morgan talks about business plans that excite him as a potential user - not as an investor.


35. Mark Suster (GRP Partners)   

How to (re)Approach People (Advice on the Eve of LeWeb)       

"Business etiquette tips for dealing with VCs and Corporates at Conferences"


36. Christine Herron (First Round Capital)   

What's the Secret Success of Mint.com? The Real Numbers Behind Aaron Patzer's Growth Strategy     

How much does it take to get started? When should you raise money? Interview with Mint.com CEO opens up and answers these questions.


37. Fred Destin (Atlas Ventures)   

The Arrogant VC: A View from the Trenches (full length version)       

Destin posts the answers to "tell me why VCs are disliked by entrepreneurs"


38. Rob Day (@Ventures)   

Conventional Wisdom and Cleantech Venture Capital       

Day clears up what Cleantech is, and in which firms "Cleantech VCS" invest.


39. David Feinleib (Mohr Davidow Ventures)   

When You Are the Product       

A reminder that, regardless of the technology or device, when pitching investors you are pitching yourself.


40. Bijan Sabet (Spark Capital)   

Creating an Operating Plan for 2010       

Advice for any year really, on creating an operating plan that works.


41. Phillippe Botteri (Bessemer Venture Partners)   

Impact of the Recession on SaaS Sales & Marketing Productivity       

How has the recession affected SaaS? Not much.


42. Andrew Parker (Union Square Ventures)   

For-Pay Content       

How does Microsoft's Bing plan to compete? By paying customers not to compete.


43. Mark Peter Davis (DFJ Gotham Ventures)   

Bootstrapping vs. Venture Funding       

The pros and cons of two finance methods for startups.


44. Allen Morgan (Mayfield Fund)   

Co-Founders vs. Early Employees       

Quick thoughts on the differences between the co-founders and early employees.


45. James Chen (CXO Ventures)   

Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds       

This lesson applies to both business and government: Don't bite the hand that feeds you.


46. David Aronoff (Flybridge Capital Partners)   

Failure Modes       

Why do companies fail?


47. Max Bleyleben (Kennet Partners)   

The Hunt for Growth Is On       

Tech success is creeping into Europe and other markets as the US emerges from recession.


48. Jason Ball (Qualcomm Ventures Europe)   

Pitch your startup: VCIC 2009       

2009 awards have been given, but 2010 awards are just around the corner.


49. Don Rainey (Grotech Ventures)   

The 7 Troublemakers you meet in a Startup   

7 personality archetypes an entrepreneur can expect to meet when starting a company.


50. Peter Haas (Founder, AIDG)

In Social Enterprise, Force Yourself to be an Entrepreneur First       

Ten rules for starting an international service organization.

 


Looking for Funding? Go "Blind"


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This video reveals a common mistake entrepreneurs make when shopping for capital.

 

 



Ask for Advice, Before Funding


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This video will help you raise capital more confidently and quickly.

It's a simple formula, and may sound counter-intuitive, but it's very effective.


 

And if you enjoyed that video, you may be interested in my new online training course, Secrets to Raising Capital, where I give you step-by-step instructions on exactly how to raise 40 different types of capital to grow your business.

Click here to learn more.


Encouraging Startup and Growth Funding News


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Because of all the negative news in the financial markets, this may come as a surprise to many, but last week, over Half a Billion dollars was given to startups and growing companies.

That's right. In venture capital alone, over $200 million was given out. Startups like Ansca Mobile (mobile application firm) and Branders.com (online seller of promotional items) raised $1 million and $5 million respectively.

And early-stage companies like Lanyon (management solutions to the hospitality industry) and Seeking Alpha (financial commentary website) raised $7 million and $10 million respectively.

And the angel market was also booming from coast to coast. Next Big Sound in Boulder, CO (music services) raised $1 million, PBworks in San Mateo, CA (wiki hosting) raised $650,000 and FitnessKeeper in Boston, MA (fitness platform) raised $400,000 among many, many other deals.

And hundreds of other startup and early stage companies raised debt financing and funding from numerous creative and alternative sources.

So, money IS out there. And lots of it.

The key is, as it has always been, to know what sources of financing are right for you and how to get them. 

My brand-new capital raising course - "The Secrets to Raising Capital" - shows you exactly how to do that. 

This 14-week course covers 40 sources of capital. It teaches you what they are; helps you determine which sources (note that "sources" is plural on purpose) of capital are right for your business, and most importantly, gives you step-by-step action plans to raise each one.

Click here to learn more about my new course.  

Capital Gains Tax Breaks and The Coming Small Business Investment Boom


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Showing once again where our modern media priorities are, shoved off the front page last week by more lurid Tiger Woods talk, was the very under-reported but potentially game-changing proposal that President Obama made last week regarding eliminating all capital gains taxes on startup and small business investments.

There are so my ways that this is good for small business, for America, and for private company investing. Let me note three:

1. Simple Fairness. It has been a very tough couple of years for startups and small businesses. Unlike automakers and big banks, the nation's entrepreneurs were left to completely fend for themselves through the recent economic tsunami.

And, as befits a class of people that can only be described as modern-day action heroes, given their massive and unsung contributions to the American way of life, the entrepreneurs among us have handled their adversities as they always do - with stoicism, with grace, and with the simple coda that nothing is immutable to hard work.

But it is beyond time that someone lend them a hand. If, miracle of miracle, Congress follows the President's lead and makes this proposal law (and given how lower capital gains has been a Republican mantra since I was in high school, the probability is high that it will), it will unleash a huge investment bull market across the entrepreneurial landscape.

And let's not forget how overdue this is - for the 1st time in history this last decade will go down as the only one where more money was invested INTO venture capital than was earned out. While early-stage private equity investing did much better in the decade than VC's, it has still been a very rough go of it.

The hope here is that this tax break will be a catalyst for capital move from do-nothing and know-nothing investments like gold and into productive ones like technology startups and small businesses.

2. Startup and Small Business Tax Breaks Spur Innovation. The proposed capital gains tax break, when coupled with the proposed tax credits for small business hiring and investment, will provide a much-needed boost to entrepreneurial risk-taking and innovation.

Remember, this information age of ours is a story of "guys in garages." Gates and Allen, Jobs and Wozniak, Page and Brin.

Similarly, the big ideas of the coming "Energy Age" - in battery technology, in cold fusion, in greenhouse gas reversal, will NOT come from the federal government or big business.

Why? Because very simply the most creative people do NOT want to work within any kind of bureaucracy. Rather, they will come from the yet to-be-founded startup, that fluid and flexible small business about to break-out.

Anything that makes it easier for these innovators to have cheaper access to capital - which a waiver of the tax on capital gains effects - is a HUGE positive.

3. Let's Get the Best and Brightest to be More Entrepreneurial. Finally and tied to this point, the central economic and investment issue of our age is not inflation, it is not big bank bailouts, it is not health care reform, it is not Democrat versus Republican and it is not liberal versus conservative.

No, it is what can and needs to be done to spur the "best and brightest" among us to be more entrepreneurial and more successful when they are.

Why? Because entrepreneurs create the innovations that create the jobs that create the wealth that create our whole, cherished American way of life.

So we need everyone in positions of influence in our society - government, media, education, entertainment - to stand-up for the entrepreneurs.

The proposed capital gains tax break in this context is as important in what it signals as its direct stimulus effect.

And for you investors out there, the best thing is that if YOU do the best thing for the economy and the country and invest in entrepreneurs, well guess what?

If you do it right, you will make far more on your money that you could ever imagine.

This is called doing well while doing good. And it is highly recommended.

I look forward to your attendance and feedback.

Jay Turo
CEO
Growthink, Inc.

Follow me on Twitter
Join my network on LinkedIn

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