Archive for June 6th, 2017

“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?Caught in a landslide, no escape from realityOpen your eyes, look up to the skies and seeI’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathyBecause I’m easy come, easy go, little high, little lowAny way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.”
- Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Numerous events, historically market-unfriendly in nature, have failed to hurt impact the markets. These events include: A clear lack of momentum for the Trump agenda
A series of disappointing high-frequency economic data, including Friday’s very weak May employment report
A…

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An attempt by Russian hackers to infiltrate an obscure Florida elections technology company is igniting concerns about whether the small industry is vulnerable to attacks that could undermine confidence in election results. 

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Sears is closing 72 more stores, in addition to the more than 180 that have already been announced this year. 

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(Bloomberg) — The housecleaning at Uber Technologies Inc. is just getting under way.

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Uber Technologies Inc. told employees that more than 20 people have been fired after a company investigation into harassment claims, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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The iconic American company Boeing seems simultaneously to be for and against intervention. This spring Boeing’s former CEO and other U.S. business leaders convinced President Trump to give a new lease on life to the Export-Import Bank, a trade-distorting relic of crony capitalism’s heyday. Just weeks later, Boeing asserted the sanctity of fair trade in allegations about Bombardier, a Canadian aircraft company.The Export-Import Bank was on life support, but, in April, following a meeting with former Boeing CEO Jim McNerney, President Trump reversed himself and decided the Export-Import…

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Does Canada really represent a national security threat to the United States? Other than frequent cold fronts and the recent hot streak of the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s hard to imagine America’s northern neighbor and NORAD ally posing a threat to its American friends. But a recent investigation into the national security threat supposedly posed by China to the U.S. aluminum industry casts a wide net – one that could end up catching in its meshes Canadian producers who play a key role in an integrated North American industry. If nothing else, the case adds further proof that trade actions…

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Amazon.com is dropping its Prime membership price for low-income shoppers, as it pursues a Wal-Mart stronghold.

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Even off-the-chart-demand can't put every potential buyer in a home of their own.

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<p>Leaving your job soon and rolling over a 401(k) into an IRA? Thinking about buying an annuity? About to call your money manager and allocate this year's Roth contribution?</p>

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Even investors as old as 69 have more than half their 401(k) in stocks, as retirement bets on the market keep increasing.

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A common mistake founders make at the early stages of a company is to put too much detail into their business plan. Sometimes we see a level of detail which amounts to spurious accuracy given the stage the company is at and the attendant uncertainty. Two concerns follow:

  1. The founder doesn’t understand how much things change in startups (or, worse, are trying to project a greater level of certainty than they feel)
  2. They may not be flexible enough to ride with the punches

This happens most often with projections about how products will work and with financial models. I won’t name companies but one we spoke with recently was building a three sided marketplace. They were pre-launch but had developed a complicated six step transaction flow they thought their customers would go through which included commission splits and transaction timelines. They had taken users through the potential flow and got positive feedback but I was left thinking that the questions they asked those users wouldn’t have passed the Mom Test and that there was a high chance that when they launched the process would bamboozle even their early adopters. For me, it would have been much better if they had focused on describing the value participants would garner from using the service and either planned to manage transactions manually in the early days or documented a very simple transaction flow. That would have shown me that they understood the inherent uncertainty in building products and would have had the additional benefit of really hammering home the value proposition.

When it comes to financial models people sometimes take false comfort from the spurious detail they’ve built in, which results in relying on the model rather than on common sense. I’m thinking now of an ecommerce company that was in its first six months post launch. Pretty much all their traffic came from Google and in their plan they had projections for growth in organic traffic and for traffic from Facebook, referrals, and other new channels. That showed they were planning to diversify their sources of traffic and understand the different options available to them which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. However, when we asked them to explain why they believed their customer acquisition costs would reach the levels they were projecting their answer was pretty much “because the model says so”. Models can, of course, be made to say anything and their answer left me feeling that they didn’t really understand the drivers of their unit economics. It would have been better to say “We believe the major levers for reducing customer acquisition costs will be increasing organic traffic and reducing our CPAs on Google. Based on [insert justification here] we believe that X and Y are achievable.” Modelling at that level would have been sufficient too, with commentary about plans to expand to other channels in the pitch deck.

Don’t let over detailed plans distract you from the bigger picture and the flexible thinking required to navigate the startup ecosystem successfully.

 



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In pressing to privatize air traffic control, the White House has revived one of the U.S. airline industry’s top policy priorities: stripping the Federal Aviation Administration of air traffic oversight and giving the function to a not-for-profit organization.

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<p>McDonald’s and clothing enthusiasts will be pleased with the fast food chain’s new line of limited edition merchandise.</p>

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<p>Harley-Davidson can get millennials excited about its motorcycles. But when it comes to actually learning to ride hogs or smaller bikes, the largest generation isn’t the most enthusiastic generation.</p>

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