Written by Jay Turo on Monday, February 1, 2010
If you're like me, there's one thing you probably take for granted.
Written by Jay Turo on Sunday, January 24, 2010
Never in my lifetime have I seen Americans as mad with the "system" as they are right now.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, January 18, 2010
An absolutely incredible and little-noted essay last week in the Wall Street Journal - Understanding the Terror Threat by Paul Campos – should be required reading for anyone in a position of authority in this great country of ours.
And in so doing, we have done a grave dishonor to the sacred heritage of our country. A country built by risk-taking immigrants, by pioneers and action-driven leaders like George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King.
Campos makes his point via citing the actual statistical probability of being a victim of an act of terrorism:
• In the decade of the 2000's, only one out of approximately 25 million passengers was killed in a terror attack aboard an American commercial airliner (all on 9/11)
• To put this in perspective, a person has about a one in 500,000 chance each year of being struck by lightning.
• Deaths from terrorism on airlines were at least five times less common in the 2000s than in any decade from the 1940s through the 1980s.
Campos does point to the one exception in the back of everyone's mind - the threat of nuclear terrorism. He agrees that this is a statistically real serious threat to which an intense, global policy response is very warranted.
And when you do, you will sleep easier on that next red-eye to JFK.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, January 11, 2010
Of all of the variables to evaluate in handicapping the likelihood of success of a business, by far the most important is its "human DNA" - that killer combination of people smarts, vision, creativity, integrity and work ethic present in all great companies.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, January 4, 2010
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:
So that is past. What will the next 10 years hold? Here are three predictions:
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).
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, December 21, 2009
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.
Very, very tough. Trillions lost. Retirement plans delayed. Heartache and heartbreak.
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.
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
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.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, December 14, 2009
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.
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Written by Jay Turo on Monday, December 7, 2009
As many of you I am sure are aware, there has been a major gold bull run since the start of the year. While pulling back slightly in the last few days, the price of an ounce of gold touched a record $1,227.50 on Thursday, December 3rd.
Most of the rally has been driven by widespread inflation fears, which in turn are driven by the massive and unprecedented deficits that most of the major industrial governments (save China, of course) seem committed to running for as far as the eye can see.
Gold - say the wise men - is the ideal inflation hedge, which of course is another way of saying that it is the ideal hedge against governments acting badly and confiscating the well-earned wealth of its productive citizens.
Now I would never begrudge anyone that likes betting against government as an investment strategy, but by golly if there ever was an investment that just outright appeals to the uninformed (and those who prey on them), it is gold.
Let's take a step back here, folks, and think a bit about the word "investing," defined by Webster's as "the active redirection of resources/assets to creating benefits in the future."
Now can someone please explain to me how an asset that doesn't yield or produce ANYTHING, and costs money to store, could possibly be considered an investment?
The answer, quite simply, is that gold isn't an investment. Gold, as jewelry or decoration, or accoutrement, is beautiful. Gold as investment is a cult.
A cult of negativity and pessimism, to be more precise. And one in which it would be funny if it is wasn't so sad how many of the older generation in this great country of ours are caught up.
Spend a little time amongst the retired set talking about both investing and the future of America and the amount of fear, negativity, and of an all-consuming mindset of concern for one's own hide and to heck with everyone else falls somewhere between depressing and appalling.
A particularly galling trick of the gold huckster industry (coming to a talk radio or billboard ad near you) is to first promote with great fury their "sky is falling" shtick, then suggest that the only solution is not to just buy gold (that would be bad enough), but to buy gold COINS versus the bullion itself (or far more efficiently, a gold ETF like State Street's Gold Spider (NYSE: GLD)).
What they don't tell you is that they mark these coins up as much as 30% - making almost as much money for themselves as the Pirates of old. And oh yes, if gold bullion and coins were regulated investment assets as they should be, they would call that amount of markup a crime.
How About Actually Investing?
Now let's look at the polar opposite of investing in gold - namely investing in the most productive, most effective, most wealth-building sector of our economy.
I am talking of course about investing in the modern-day action heroes that are the world's entrepreneurs. The men and women who right now are starting and building the Googles, the LinkedIns, the Facebooks, the Twitters, the Apples, the Microsofts, the Amazons, of the next 20 years.
They are passionately at work at the new and young companies where the ideas are freshest, where the work ethic is most profound, and where the innovation breakthroughs are most world-changing.
And unlike investors in gold, who have gotten a negative long-term return since 1980 (on an inflation adjusted-basis, gold's $599/ounce price peak in 1981 price translates in today's $ to $1,417/ounce, investors in entrepreneurial and small companies have killed it - earning a whopping 21.4% annually during that same time frame.
So this holiday season, buy that special someone a gold necklace, or earrings, or bracelet, or gold-plated watch, for sure.
But if you want to give yourself a gift, hang up on the gold hucksters and instead find and back the entrepreneurs in your midst.
They will TRULY be the gift that keeps on giving.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, November 30, 2009
A very, important study of U.S. Economic Census Data conducted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, was published last week that statistically demonstrates who really creates jobs in the American economy.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, November 23, 2009
Thanksgiving is thequintessential American holiday. It acknowledges the best qualities ofour blessed land - rewards for hard work, diversity as strength, andthe "attitude of gratitude" toward which all of us strive.
Asevery school boy and girl knows (or, in our 21st century world of videogames and politically correct education, should know), Thanksgivingtraces its origin from a 1621 Pilgrim harvest feast to celebrate a successfulgrowing season and survival after an extremely difficult first winterin the New World.
And at that harvest feast these Pilgrims from England and the original inhabitants of the area - the Wampanoag Indians - sat down and ate together in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie. The Pilgrims owed their survival to the goodwill of the Indians, whohad taught them how to grow corn and how to fish in the very unfamiliarNew England (now) soil and seas.
What a story. If it doesn't get you going, then you aren't even trying. Let me help:
First, let's reflecton the incredible guts, tenacity, sense of adventure, and justunbelievable hard work and perseverance of the Pilgrims. It beyonddefies our modern, cushy-soft sensibilities. Let's channel thetoughness of the Pilgrims when tackling the challenges of our modernday - health care, deficits, China, et al.
Next, while thehistory of the white man's treatment of the native peoples of Americain the last 500 years has been mostly shameful, let's reflect onthat happy day of brotherhood.
Let's all be proud of thehistorically unique diversity of modern America. Doubt me? Spend theday as I did yesterday with my 2 and 3 - year old boys at LegoLandin Carlsbad.
As we sat building towers and cars and the kinds ofplanes that only fly in little boy's imaginations, I looked to my leftand I saw an intent Indian boy and his father hard at work.
To myright, an African-American girl directing her Daddy how she we wantedit done. Behind me, a family with Asiatic features happily building.
As for language, only me with my thick Massachusetts accent spokeanything but perfect English.
There is NOWHERE on Earth this scenerepeats itself as often and as peaceably and as productively as it doesin America. Japan? China? The Middle East? Europe? Hah!Still mostly medieval in their perspectives on these matters, and inour information age America has a MASSIVE leg-up because of it.
And finally, let's give thanks. Iam not proud of it, but I am still addicted to reading the Sunday NewYork Times. And what a tale of woe it is. And while I know the #1 ruleof modern media - "if it bleeds, it leads," please just stop.
Betweenthe dire talk of global warming, global terrorism, and global finance,if you don't catch yourself you can't help but feel sorry for not justyou, but for all of humanity.
It is 99% bunk. The world has NEVER offered more opportunities for a larger percentage of us tolive affluent lives, to do self-expressive, remunerative work, and tobe amazed daily by the wonders of modern technology and entertainment than it does right now.Be grateful for all that and more.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. May your holiday be blessed withthe rewards of hard work, of breaking bread with family and friends newand old, and with an attitude of gratitude for the bounties the futurewill most definitely hold.
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