Saturday, January 14, 2006
Over the years, Michael Dell and Steve Jobs have taken some shots at each other. Nine years ago, Michael Dell said he'd shut down Apple and give the money to the shareholders.
I remember being at the HBS alumni dinner when Steve got the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Someone asked him why Apple's iPod would compete with Dell's MP3 players, which are cheaper.
Steve smirked a bit and said, "It's called good taste. People *will* pay for you to tell them what's cool."
As of yesterday, Apple exceeded Dell in market cap, a fact I find mind-boggling. For now at least, Steve has the last laugh.
On a side note, while at HBS, I helped write a musical. In it the evil VC/Dean of the School Darth Venture uses a time machine to give his younger, less-evil self some advice:
"Go find an arrogant young guy names Steve Jobs and invest in his company. Sell the stock whenever he gets fired, and buy it whenever he gets hired. You'll make a killing."
Wish I'd taken my own advice!
Friday, January 13, 2006
The folks at DDB Worldwide have created a special memorial site in honor of Martin Luther King Jr's birthday.
This site has gotten a lot of attention for the way it simulates segregation by asking white and colored people to click on separate links.
The language of segregation truly is chilling, and hopefully it makes some people consider how far we have come, as well as how far we still have to go.
But is it mean-spirited of me to point out that the most talked-about aspect of the site, the segregation, took like 5 minutes to build?
I mean, the only difference between the experience for a white visitor and a colored visitor is a single page. That's it.
Hell, I could slap that up in 2 minutes.
For such an important issue, couldn't they spend a little more time?
Isn't representing segregation with a single Web page a cop-out that diminishes the evils of segregation?
If you're white, how does reading a single page warning you not to stray off the colored section of the site convey the impact of segregation?
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Ramit sent me this awesome link.
While this page is intended as a joke, it does a great job of cataloging and breaking down all the things those crazy ebook and newsletter marketers do. Just check out the following example:
"The time's come for you to be Convinced. And for that American is so, so much cooler than English. Partly because it uses centered text. And partly because it isn't embarrassed to add
Take 3 Easy Steps And Own Your Own Awesome Money Machine. It's 100% Able To Give You Massive Residual Income... Read This Letter And I'll Tell You Why I Am Parting With This Money Machine So YOU Can Get Rich Within 24 Hours, Guaranteed!
See, you didn't miss that, did ya?
Key points recap:
- IT'S EASY
- IT'S FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO MAKE MONEY
- IT HAS WORDS LIKE "MASSIVE", "AWESOME" and "MIND-BLOWING"
WHAT'S THAT? TALK IN LOWER CASE? WHY?
OK, just don't blame him if you don't get the message. He's only trying to point out that the product has
* a feel good factor ("100%" always feels good)
* immediacy (who can wait more than one day to get rich?)
* guaranteed residual income (Americans have MLM in their DNA; "residual income" may be explained for other nationalities)
* a requirement that there's no work on your part (or very little)
The only effort required of you is Clicking That Paypal Button. Even an idiot can do that, right?
Random House will be honoring refund requests for copies of James Frey's alleged "memoir," "A Million Little Pieces."
Random House hastened to add that this was standard policy. Of course, they didn't defend Frey's work either.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
In an odd convergence of my offline and online lives, my old friend and CEO, Hon Wong, has started blogging.
Even better, he has a unique style all his own. As Hon put it, "As long as I find the right picture, the posts just write themselves.
There aren't a lot of blogs covering the IT management space; hopefully Hon's new Web APM Blog will shape up to be a worthy addition.
Monday, January 09, 2006
I haven't read James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," but if it's even remotely as interesting as The Smoking Gun's careful analysis of how Frey's best-selling memoir is actually a pack of egregious and unsupportable lies, it'll be worth a read. Just wait until you can pick it up at the bargain bin.
The bigger lesson here is this: the Internet is now the great lie detector. Whatever you've done, you can run, but you can't hide.
Apparently, Frey originally wanted to publish his book as a work of fiction, but was told by his editor to make it factually correct so that it could be published as a memoir. Unfortunately for Frey, his many outrageous claims came to the attention of The Smoking Gun, and rather than coming clean, he chose to stonewall and threaten lawsuits.
History will show how big a mistake Frey made. Will he go down as another Stephen Glass or Jayson Blair? Will Oprah 'fess up to her mistake in tabbing him as the new new thing? Or will America's vast capacity for forgetfulness allow the scandal to fade away, allowing Frey to enjoy the premiere of the movie version of his novel (not memoir)?
Sunday, January 08, 2006
What's Your "Number"?
Lee Eisenberg's new book, "The Number," is about the number we carry about in our heads for the amount of money we think we want or need.
I've thought about my number a lot over the years. When I first started working, it was all about financial security. During the heady days of the dot com boom, I would argue with my co-founder Thomas about how much was enough; the consensus was that $100 million was a nice round figure. Now that I have a family, things have changed once again.
The way I think about the number is simple: What is the amount of wealth that, when invested in an absolutely safe investment (inflation-indexed treasuries or TIPS) will yield enough income to support a comfortable lifestyle.
In practice, I think I need about $100,000 per year, post-tax, to live a relatively luxurious existence. Tack on $50,000 per year for seed money to start new companies, and I end up with a total of $150,000 per year.
Since TIPS currently yield about 2% per year, but are taxable, the actual after-tax, after-inflation yield is around 1%. That means to achieve a risk-free income of $150,000 per year, I would need a principal of $15,000,000. Tack on $2,000,000 for a house (I do live in Palo Alto, after all), and my current number is $17 million.
Boy, I'd better get to work!