Business and Tech Links and Notes #5

January 9, 2010

1-9-10

1. http://www.entrepreneur.com/money/financing/article204410.html

“Launch Your Startup With Microloans”

This is some very sound advice that not everyone knows about. Most people think a bank is the first place to go for financing for any and all things, and that is simply not the best way. Microlenders are considerably more lenient on their approval and payback policies than banks, especially in this economic crisis. Microlenders are often nonprofits who get a large portion of money from philanthropists and the government. One day, I would like to start up my own business, and this is probably the very first place I will go for financing, assuming I am not independently wealthy by then.

2. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_03/b4163030932030.htm

“IMAX, the Box-Office Supercharger”

Although IMAX as a sustainable business model is still yet to be totally proven, there is definitely promise in the concept. I think IMAX is doing the right thing right now, just putting the biggest box office hits on IMAX. The company would go into the hole very quickly if it tried to put the majority of movies in IMAX format. What I think would be an interesting idea, at least on paper, would be to have partnerships with theme parks to have IMAX theaters in them and have tickets to whatever the newest movie is part of admission or as a heavily discounted add-on. Obviously, I have not done the math to see if that is actually a sound idea or not, but I think it is something worth considering.

3. http://www.foxsmallbusinesscenter.com/strategy/2010/01/08/whats-wrong-jewelry-business/

“U.S. Jewelry Business Under a Microscope”

To be quite blunt, any business that refuses to embrace the Internet these days is doomed to fail. That does not mean that jewelry stores need to flock to Twitter and start Tweeting about their merchandise. What that does mean is that the old days of strict brick and mortar selling are over, and owners need to use the Internet in a way that can meaningfully capture the new market. Like the article said, older customers may still have strong preferences to just going to the jewelry store in the mall or shopping center and shopping around, but younger, more tech savvy customers already know exactly what they want. Jewelers will have to understand that overhead needs to go down quite a lot, and their businesses will have to be creative. If one person’s jewelry store looks very similar another one a few hundred feet away, at least one, if not both, of those stores will fail.

4. http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/08/news/economy/jobs_december/index.htm?postversion=2010010811

“Jobs report: A gain in November but 85,000 lost in December”

First, I guess we are going to pretend this little thing called “the holiday season” never happened? But even if we ignore such a blatant oversight, it is undeniable that the huge stimulus package has done little to help the average American. That money needs to go into the hands of the privately owned businesses, especially small business. Large corporations will likely create layoffs as a first line of defense if (or when) things go sour again, while small businesses will try to retain their employees, because they are often needed to keep the businesses from totally collapsing.

5. http://www.cnbc.com/id/34775185

“Venezuela devalues currency for the 1st time since ’05”

This is a strange concept to me. I had never heard of a country having done a “two-tiered” exchange rate until just now, but Venezuela has apparently done it before, as well as Jordan. I do not know if other countries do this or not. It seems like a tricky little concept that can help a peripheral nation get back on its feet if foreign trade is unfavorable, but it does not sound like a sustainable long-term policy. It sounds like a policy that could easily annoy other nations, and make them not want to do business with said country. Then again, since this is so bizarre to me, there may be intricacies of this that may make this a better option that I just do not understand.

6. http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/app-security/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222002602

“Review: Google Wave An Experimental Ride”

I dislike Google Wave, and I am not sorry. I have tried it, and it appears to be what happens when developers go too far with consolidating technologies. Then again, it may be that the concept is not bad, but simply the interface is. I had trouble figuring out who could read my conversations, who could see me online, and many other things I took for granted in the various separate technologies I had used in the past, such as instant messengers, message boards, email, and so forth. I prefer these things to be separate, to be honest. I understand what is going on when I am using one of these functions, while everything becomes confusing when they are all mashed together. Then again, the idea may be sound, and the problem is just that the preview release interface is horrible (which I can say was very true for the Google Chrome beta, too). Perhaps things will be a lot more user-friendly when it comes out of preview.

7. http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/01/batteries-costs-report/

“Study: Batteries — and EVs — Won’t Get Cheaper Anytime Soon”

One thing the article didn’t mention, and only one commenter indirectly alluded to, was the fact that cars sometimes still burn petroleum, even if they do not do it with an engine inside the vehicle. Many power plants still use fossil fuels, including petroleum, to create electricity. So, even if the car does not burn fossil fuels in the engine, something is probably getting burned somewhere to create the energy. I would be more sold on electric cars if we created more power from nuclear, solar, and hydroelectric sources. Until then, electric cars are just another marketing scheme.


Business and Tech Links and Notes #4

January 7, 2010

1-7-10

1. http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries/retail/update–cadbury-shares-dip-kraft-bid-time/

“Cadbury Shares Dip Below Kraft Bid for First Time”

It appears that Kraft bought off its competition for Cadbury, giving Kraft the position to take Cadbury at a more favorable price. Considering Cadbury shares are taking a hit as a result, and there appear to be few outs for the company to start competitive bidding again, Cadbury would be well-advised to snap on any offer of over 800p per share. The last thing they need to do is hold out for a worse offer. Kraft is just way too big, and generosity will deteriorate with lengthy negotiations.

2. http://www.cnbc.com/id/34731317

“Will Moving to Another City Help You Finally Land a Job?”

The information in this article is grossly obvious. If ones has basic personal bonds to his or her current geographic location, of course he or she should try to find employment there before going elsewhere. Obviously, one should not go on some wild goose chase looking for jobs that may or may not exist. And, it is a no brainer that one has to tell bosses that he or she will be available in the geographic area of the position being offered, as opposed to being wishy-washy about it. There are a few decent tips that are not completely common sense, such as looking at local sites for jobs not posted on big jobs sites, but there is not a whole lot here that most people should not already consider evident.

3. http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/07/markets/thebuzz/index.htm

“Pain at the pump returns with gas prices on the rise”

Why does the United States continue to rely so heavily on oil when the countries who export oil to us hate our guts, and states and localities inside our own borders fight to not put refineries within their jurisdictions? Furthermore, why do the American people put up with our own government letting big petroleum companies price fuel using shady business practices? I would vote for any congressional, senatorial, or presidential candidate who could be trusted to better regulate the oil industry in the United States and would stand up to OPEC. That being said, I would also vote for any candidate who had a reasonable, intelligent plan for coming up with alternative sources of energy. A lot of people give lip service to it, but I have yet to hear anyone actually provide something meaningful, logical, and showing competence.

4. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aO_AfZ7nSWwo&pos=1

“Geithner’s Fed Told AIG to Limit Swaps Disclosure (Update2)”

I do not claim to know everything about credit-default swaps, but from what I understand, various major banks entered into these agreements with AIG, and when things started going sour, AIG wanted to negotiate discounts with banks. The New York Fed ordered AIG to not negotiate discounts and to pay the banks in full, while the Fed would secretly give a bailout to AIG. Apparently, this cost taxpayers many billions of dollars that they would not have had to have paid had AIG been allowed to negotiate discounts with the banks, like they wanted to in the first place. All the while, the Fed told AIG to keep everything under the radar, while AIG wanted be ethical and tell the public about everything that was going on. There is only one word for this: disturbing.

5. http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/06/brain-neurons-control-technology-breakthroughs-light.html

“A Light Switch For The Brain”

This discovery really seems like a double-edged sword to me. On the one hand, I like the idea that depression and other mental illnesses that are caused in part or in whole by overactive brain activity can possibly be treated or cured by turning the neurons off and on at will. But I worry that such technology could be used for less scrupulous purposes as well. I certainly hope the day does not come when someone can be medically induced into forgetting things that are inconvenient for someone else.

6. http://www.forbes.com/2009/12/17/nonprofits-biggest-salaries-personal-finance-millionaires.html

“Nonprofit Millionaires”

I disliked this article greatly. As a whole, nonprofit organizations have to make do with what they have, which is usually less than what they could use to be comfortable on the job. That being said, people of talent are necessary to make an organization thrive. Regardless of whether an organization is nonprofit or for-profit, that organization needs to hire good leaders, and those leaders cost money. In my opinion, an executive is worth whatever he or she needs to be compensated to keep reaching the company’s bottom line. If an organization wants to continue making money or advancing its mission goals, that comes at a price; people need to be paid what they are worth, regardless of who they work for.

7. http://www.infoworld.com/d/adventures-in-it/truth-about-small-business-blogs-438

“The truth about small-business blogs”

It makes sense that any sort of stale or poorly maintained entity within a business looks worse on that business than if said entity was not there at all. Blogs and social networking pages are no exception. I find it annoying when I look at a rarely updated blog or Facebook page for something I enjoy, just in general. In regard to a business, having a blog or other online presence is a means of getting feedback from customers. If a means of reaching out to customers is poorly maintained, it is logical to believe customers would think that the business really does not care about them.


Business and Tech Links and Notes #3

January 6, 2010

1-6-10

1. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aRLrsdwRkcB4&pos=1

“ADP Says U.S. Companies Cut Estimated 84,000 Jobs (Update2)”

This is not encouraging news. I know some news agencies may try to spin this as positive news, considering fewer jobs were lost lately than in previous months of the recession. But this shows economic upturn only to corporations, if anyone at all. Consumer spending will still fall, because more people are going to be out of work and be unable to afford as many goods. 10.1% is a horrible unemployment rate for the United States; until it drops to about 7-8%, enough that noticeable change is happening to the average person, I do not think people on Main Street will have increasing confidence in our economy.

2. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aWj75b2VIbn8&pos=5

“Intel Vulnerable as Consumers Shift to Phones to Browse the Web”

I really do not think Intel has a lot to worry about here. It is true that handheld devices are skyrocketing in popularity, but these devices have not the same, exact capabilities of PCs yet. For example, I have yet to see a handheld device where you could reliably use MS Office or something similar. If such a handheld device exists that has any functionality with such programs at all, one certainly cannot efficiently type papers and spreadsheets with it. Moreover, I have yet to see handheld devices that can play high-end video games (e.g. World of Warcraft) or use high-end applications (e.g. Photoshop). Even if handheld devices get browsing dominance and even if there are major advances in cloud computing, I still think handheld devices have a long way to go to be able to have dominance over all computing tasks.

3. http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/04/china-consumer-marketing-leadership-managing-rein.html

“How To Sell To The Chinese in 2010”

I kind of agree with the idea that the Chinese will pay for safe, quality products, but only to an extent. Like someone in the comments section of the article said, it all depends on if the consumers can afford higher quality goods. There is a high percentage of impoverished Chinese who can barely afford the basic necessities of life, and when they buy anything at all, they have to buy whatever they can afford. I do believe the more Americanized, affluent Chinese buy premium foreign goods when they can, but that does not help those who cannot afford those goods.

4. http://www.entrepreneur.com/franchises/franchisingyourbusinesscolumnistmarksiebert/article204188.html

“The Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Franchising”

This article just seemed like common sense to me. The moral of the story is simply that an entrepreneur should not attempt tasks that he or she is not qualified to undertake. Furthermore, failing these tasks could have grave circumstances. Are many entrepreneurs really that short-sighted? It just seems obvious to me that someone should leave some parts of expanding a business to professionals who have experience in averting financial and legal disasters. There are some tasks that cannot be done on a “learn as you go” basis, because a single mistake can be way too costly.

5. http://www.entrepreneur.com/money/financing/venturecapital/article204198.html

“4 Common Venture Capital Myths”

I do not know much at all about the ins and outs of raising venture capital, so this was a good article for me to read. I know that it is very difficult to get venture capital and that companies will try many other ways to raise capital before resorting to that, simply due to how difficult it is to get. It makes sense to me that venture capitalists will want significant control over the company, since their money is just as much on the line as that of the founders and investors. It also just makes sense that any venture capital is good venture capital, regardless of how much and from whom, since money is the most important thing to a business.

6. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-10426368-17.html?tag=newsLatestHeadlinesArea.0

“Nielsen: You sure have a lot of TVs”

I was not surprised in the least to hear that so many people have four or more TVs in their households. We live in a society where people nearly worship television. What I found to be a far more interesting part of the article was the mention of how the newest technology is infiltrating the mainstream, while people still watch the overwhelming majority of their video media on television. My belief is that video media technology will further consolidate to the point that one day, not in the too distant future, the average person will tune into their integrated media set, and be able to watch online videos as well as television media in a smooth, seamless fashion. Obviously, one who is technologically savvy can already watch YouTube with the help of a PlayStation3, but I am thinking about something much simpler.

7. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-10425553-17.html?tag=newsEditorsPicksArea.0

“First dedicated 3D networks coming to TV”

This is the worst idea I have heard in a long time. Seriously, why would anyone actually pay money for this? There may be a few people who think this is an interesting idea and would like to maybe watch a few shows with 3D glasses, but I cannot see people willing to shell out significant amounts of money to pay for such a gimmick. Once 3D technology gets to the hologram stage, people may be more inclined to spend money on that, but even then, I have my doubts.


Business and Tech Links and Notes #2

January 4, 2010

1-4-10

1. http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jan2010/gb2010014_211008.htm

“Kraft May Lift Offer on Cadbury Stock Rise”

It does not seem surprising to me that a food (candy) company has become a hot target for takeover at this time. Even in the worst of times, people will still eat candy. It also does not seem surprising that Cadbury’s stock is pushing up as high as it can, considering the strength of the company, and considering how many other companies seem to have interest in buying Cadbury. Regardless of who ends up buying the company, I do think the Cadbury brand will still remain strong, and it will not get swallowed up by its parent company.

2. http://money.cnn.com/2010/01/04/news/economy/ISM_manufacturing/index.htm

“Manufacturing activity continued to grow in December”

According to the article, there has been steady growth for several months in manufacturing. Computer and electronic manufacturing is up, which is no shock. But I cannot see the greater correlation between manufacturing growth and general economic upturn. There was no mention in the way of sales or much of anything else further on the business chain. Also, not a peep was mentioned about job growth or manufacturing infrastructure increases. Although an increase in orders is not a bad thing, I think it would be unwise to believe it alone has any meaningful effect on the greater economy.

3. http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0118/investing-eveillard-first-eagle-mutual-funds-calamity-insurance.html

“Using Gold as Calamity Insurance”

Although some may laugh at this notion, I think Ron Paul has a good idea when he says that we need to be able to have alternate forms of currency, because that forces the people who control the various forms of currency to be more vigilant in maintaining the value of said currencies. What does this have to do with the article? I agree that gold is not the end all, be all of financial value, but gold definitely has its place in any society that heavily relies on fiat currency and securities-based investments. In the article, the company uses gold to give stabilize mutual fund portfolios. What has helped gold throughout the years is that it is a tangible object that cannot go away. It changes in value mostly from mining circumstances and consumer and investor demand. This has been a viable, stable currency for many centuries. Why can it not continue to be a usable currency? It does not have to be the currency, but it can be one of many.

4. http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-10423524-265.html?tag=newsLeadStoriesArea.1

“Five New Year’s Resolutions for Google”

This article really hits the nail on the head. In particular, the comments about Google Books made a lot of sense. It seems surprising that Google has not tried to cash in on the e-reader craze yet, considering how dedicated they are about creating a comprehensive e-library. Then again, that may be part of what Google has in mind with their current mobile strategy. Google is one of those companies that tries to make everything tie into everything else. Although this strategy generally works, I do think people can be sometimes overloaded by having too much in one spot, such as in the example of Google Wave. I find it interesting that so much hype was made about the Wave beta testing just a month or two ago, and we barely hear anything about the project now.

5. http://www.informationweek.com/news/healthcare/EMR/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222100334

“U.S. Pushes For EMR Standards”

This makes sense, and I totally support this. If a person gets sick or injured, particularly somewhere not near his or her home, having standardized medical files could help people significantly by correcting the problems made by inconsistent forms, such as wasting time and making possibly incorrect assumptions in filling in gaps. I do not think paper files should be done away with, but they need to become backup files, as opposed to the main sources of information on patients. Consistency in electronic medical files is something I believe should be on the top of the list of tasks for improving health care in the United States.

6. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=am2z88Oy1kJs

“Housing Animal Spirits to Be Banished by Prime Foreclosures”

This article was a bit depressing to read. It is one thing when people who played the market and tried to live drastically beyond their means get hit, but it is quite another when people who did things in a reasonable, cautious way are in the hot seat. The current recession is quite the cycle, where people become less inclined to spend when they are getting laid off or otherwise having their employment decreased, but employment rates end up having a hard time increasing, because people are less inclined to spend. Such a skittish economy causes even the most responsible of people buying on credit to have problems, because the jobs they took for granted as being secure suddenly become not so secure. Something has to give, somewhere.

7. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a1cY88utRbZU&pos=7

“Commodities Back as Gurus Eschew Financial Assets (Update1)”

Although the U.S. stock market and the dollar appear to be in recovery for now, I think there will be a turn toward inflation once the stimulus money is weaned from companies. I could easily see the U.S. starting to print money if it cannot find another way to pay for the huge hole it has gotten itself into. I think it will be especially important to continue holding onto commodities and precious metals investments throughout 2010, because I do not think the dollar has seen its worst days yet, even if the Fed raises interest rates.


Business and Tech Links and Notes #1

January 4, 2010

1-2-10

1. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=arp0XyPoRxW0&pos=10

“China Property Bubble May Lead to U.S.-Style Real Estate Slump”

Although the Chinese government still tries to hold onto its communist ideals in name, China is really just as heavy into capitalism as America is. The practice of “flipping” property is a good short-term means of making money, but investing too heavily into it can have major pitfalls, as was shown in the American property market during this current recession. If China wants to continue moving forward, it needs to stick to an economy based on manufacturing.

2. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aeuJT_pSE68c&pos=11

“Ethiopian Farms Lure Investor Funds as Workers Live in Poverty”

African agriculture is a sound investment right now, particularly considering few people are actually invested in it. Land values, to buy and to maintain, are incredibly cheap right now, even in comparison to other poor, largely agriculture-based areas of the world. Unfortunately, workers who previously tended to their own land have become employees to these investors, and the workers’ pay is barely enough to sustain life for themselves and their families.

3. http://www.forbes.com/2009/12/23/evolution-resources-biowillie-business-energy-ethanol.html

“‘BioWillie’ Chief’s Questionable Comeback”

Dennis McLaughlin, head of Evolution Resources, is trying to break into the biofuel industry, but he failed to tell his investors about his colorful past, where he ran another company into the ground with a similar project. Also, there are allegations that he impropriety occurred regarding the sudden jump in value of the empty property where the old biofuel project was to take place. It seems to be this person emphasizes raising capital at any cost, as opposed to actually creating a sound business, especially considering a large chunk of his money was raised by celebrity endorsements of a concept.

1-3-10

1. http://www.infoworld.com/d/adventures-in-it/2010-tech-career-outlook-460?page=0,0

“2010 Tech Career Outlook”

The fact so many IT jobs are being sent overseas is not surprising. It is equally not surprising that the IT jobs that will be available are going to be increasing in sectors that are still trying to get off the ground, such as fully blown cloud computing. But, as the article says, countries such as India and China have no desire to continue to be sources of cheap labor for lower-end IT positions; these countries will want to compete against the U.S. and Europe. Although this is an obvious claim, the key for the United States to maintain technological superiority is through continuing innovation.

2. http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/need-job-in-it-cloud-needs-you-689

“Need a job in IT? The cloud needs you”

Cloud computing is not entirely brand new technology, but innovation is in progress to make cloud computing the way of the future, as opposed to specialty or novelty technology as it is now. Regardless, creating such a transition requires qualified people who have an updated skill set. Although the author of the article is confident cloud computing will go forward, he also believes salaries for qualified people will skyrocket, due to a lack of competent people in the sector.

3. http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries/finance/mixed-bag-stimulus-unemployment-keys/

“Keys to Next Year: Stimulus, Employment”

The current recession has caused general investment volatility. The author mentions a bond bubble near the end of the article, and although that sounds worrying, it just seems to be an effect of investors having run away from stocks when the stock market had its freefall in late-2008. Furthermore, the article mentions how there may be a major selloff of stock in late-2010 as a result of lessening stimulus packages. To me, the economy sounds like the tide that goes in an out like it always does, but the waters are just a little choppier than usual right now. Obviously, real estate also took a hit, and appears to only be stabilizing a marginal amount, but I wonder how other investments are holding up, such as commodities.

4. http://www.cnbc.com/id/34643627/

“Amazon May Pay for Touting Kindle Without Details”

What is interesting is the level of controversy over such as small percentage of Amazon’s profits. I wonder if the worry is over Amazon’s possibly making less money on the Kindle as it should right now or if there is a greater worry over the e-reader market as a whole, which Amazon currently leads. Amazon touts high numbers and percentages of e-book sales, but is the craze really latching on as much as they want us to believe? Why would Amazon be more worried about creating “media buzz” about the Kindle than being more honest with investors?