Back in February, when CVS announced that it would stop selling tobacco products, I wrote that CVS was looking for something in return: more access to the lucrative Affordable Care Act health care market.
Now the New York Times is reporting that the “drugstore chain seeks to redefine itself as [the] health care destination for consumers.”February’s CVS announcement looked suspicious because it was coordinated with the White House. An hour after the announcement, President Obama congratulated CVS CEO and President Larry Merlo by name, saying, “I applaud this morning’s news that CVS Caremark…

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Since publication of the first volume of Restoring Fiscal Sanity in 2004, a small group of budget experts from Brookings and several other think tanks have been predicting that the budget crisis, not yet fully realized in 2004, could end in either of two ways.
First, in what might be called the Banana Republic doomsday scenario, a financial crisis of some sort could occur. One possibility, in an economic event not unlike a classic bank panic, is that investors who own the nation’s debt, about half of whom are foreigners, could lose faith in America’s ability to control its deficit, ramp up…

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Investors have learned the hard way that emerging market equities can be dangerous. The conventional wisdom that said they must be “diversified” ran aground amid the 2008 banking crisis as emerging markets declined even faster and further than developed economy equities. In fact, investors have come to realize that emerging markets or BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are not even a coherent investable asset class.
The term emerging market is a political distinction, not an investment one. It describes very loosely a heterogeneous collection of countries as diverse as China and Turkey….

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From New Scientist a week or so back (apologies for the long quote, but it’s worth it):

IN MAY last year, a supercomputer in San Jose, California, read 100,000 research papers in 2 hours. It found completely new biology hidden in the data. Called KnIT, the computer is one of a handful of systems pushing back the frontiers of knowledge without human help.

KnIT didn’t read the papers like a scientist – that would have taken a lifetime. Instead, it scanned for information on a protein called p53, and a class of enzymes that can interact with it, called kinases. Also known as “the guardian of the genome”, p53 suppresses tumours in humans. KnIT trawled the literature searching for links that imply undiscovered p53 kinases, which could provide routes to new cancer drugs.

Having analysed papers up until 2003, KnIT identified seven of the nine kinases discovered over the subsequent 10 years. More importantly, it also found what appeared to be two p53 kinases unknown to science. Initial lab tests confirmed the findings, although the team wants to repeat the experiment to be sure.

First off, it’s great that KnIT is contributing to cancer research like this. Great for everybody.

Perhaps equally interesting though, is what this indicates about the future. The key to KnIT’s success is that computers can ingest information much faster than humans, and as the body of published research grows over time that’s becoming an increasingly important advantage. KnIT operates in a niche area of cancer research, but fields of research like nano-computing, quantum-computing and even artificial inteligence itself are, I think, similar enough that we can expect to see similar developments. Then, once computers become better at designing computers than humans the rate of improvement will explode.

This unlocks a whole range of ethical and political issues, but like it or not, it’s coming. KnIT is the tip of the iceberg.



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The Export-Import Bank is everything that Republicans should stand against. It is crony capitalism at its worst. It is corporate welfare, taxing American families to boost corporate profits. It ever forces firms to potentially subsidize a competitor. There is simply no need for this government agency. Republicans in Congress should make a stand and show voters that Republicans believe in free markets and small government, even if some big businesses complain. The Ex-Im Bank should not be reauthorized.The Export-Import Bank exists to provide loans to foreign companies or countries that want…

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If the Republican party adopts a clear, optimistic, growth-and-reform message to turn America around, it can win big in November. It could still be a wave election.
But so far it hasn’t done it. The party is essentially asking voters to give it control of both houses of Congress. Yet it hasn’t told voters what it would do with such a mandate.
That’s why the GOP must present a true governing agenda. You can’t ask for two-house support without telling voters what you’re going to do with it.
Right now, according to polling averages from RealClearPolitics, there are ten key midterm Senate races…

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Employment: You might want to recork that bottle of champagne that you planned to open after another big jobs report. Reality has intervened, with jobs rising a disappointing 142,000 in August. The weakness is no fluke.
Many economists and politicians treated the six-month string of 200,000-plus job gains as a major achievement. But in fact it was merely a slight pickup in the pace of what has been an unusually slow recovery in the U.S. since the recession ended in June 2009.
The August jobs report is an example. Unemployment edged down to 6.1% from 6.2% - “good” news until you realize it…

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At some point in the last few years it became conventional wisdom that co-founding teams are better, so much so in fact that when Paul Graham stepped down as president of YC recently his number one tip to entrepreneurs was ‘get a co-founder‘. Similarly Dave McClure talks about the ideal founding team comprising a ‘a hacker, a hustler and a designer‘.

Today I got to thinking why that might be, and I think it is down to the fact that startups are now hugely capital efficient.

To be clear I’m a big believer in the power of teams, but we’ve had some success here backing solo-founders and then helping them find a co-founder shortly after that. Having had some success we are looking to rinse and repeat, and that has led us to think about the whole co-founder question in more detail.

It seems to me that having a technical co-founder is critical now for startups because they have to release product and prove traction before they can raise enough money to hire a team. Having a technical co-founder is the most reliable way to quickly and cheaply build and iterate a product. The alternatives open to most entrepreneurs are unattractive – hiring a full time developer is expensive and requires taking on employment commitments and outsourcing to an agency typically doesn’t allow for fast iterations.

Back in the days when companies would raise £2-5m before releasing a product they would hire a team of developers and didn’t face these problems.

I think that’s why having co-founders has become more important recently.

Accelerators have sprung to prominence since Y C was founded in 2005 because for the first time companies can do something meaningful with the small amounts of money they invest. The whole point of accelerators is that companies get advice and iterate multiple times within a three month programme. However, that simply isn’t possible without a developer on the founding team. That’s why Paul Graham and Dave McClure have observed that having a co-founder is so important and why accelerators around the world have contributed strongly to the co-founder meme.

I’ve written about this before, so apologies for repeating myself, but Forward Partners offers another way. Entrepreneurs we back pair with our developers to quickly launch product and iterate cheaply, and then find a co-founder.

Mark Suster wrote a good post on this topic back in 2011. He talks about the importance of having a partner in your business, but cautions against the risks of equal partnerships. In his view it’s better to start a company and then look for a partner. Lots of great people will join a startup for 20-30% equity, or even less.



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In the middle of May 2014, the Information Management Network held a two-day conference at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, not far from our West Palm Beach office, dedicated to educating “investors” about the rental property fad. I did not attend and only bring it up because, as a Florida resident during the height of the housing bubble, these kinds of seminars were once daily events. So in one respect it was an aching reoccurrence to what was hoped to be a bygone age.
Without a doubt, there are many policymakers that wish for that to return with all its frenzy, excitement and “easy money”,…

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Despite centuries of study, most mainstream economists are still baffled by the phenomenon of market bubbles and periodic corrections. Most, following in the footsteps of John Maynard Keynes, seem content to throw up their hands and ascribe these fluctuations to unpredictable “animal spirits,” the irrational behavior of consumers that leads to insufficient demand. Others make the even greater mistake of blaming recessions on too much freedom, too much deregulation of markets, insisting that all we need is more government spending to bring stability to the markets, despite all the historical…

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ALSMeme

Techcrunch has a good write up of how the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge meme started in Boston and spread around the globe. Speed with which it moved is incredible. As you can see from the chart above hits on the ALS.org website went from nothing to their 2.5m peak in sixteen days. The internet is making our world small. More controversially, I think it is also reducing cultural differences, at least in some quarters.



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In the 1970s IBM’s first mainframe computer would have set you back $1.5 million. Today, the cost of an exponentially more powerful and functional computer operated from your lap can be measured in the hundreds of dollars.
In the early ‘80s the very rich could access the first handheld cellphone, all for the princely sum of $3,995. Nearly four grand got you a heavy phone with battery life of hour, roaming charges, and annoyingly bad sound. Today, the cost of a phone that fits in your pocket, that plays movies and TV, sends messages, and that easily guides you to your desired…

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We are holding our second open office hours for solo founders of ecompanies in the commerce ecosystem on 19th Sept. If that’s you please come along!

Pradeep explained the details last week on the Forward Partners blog, copied below.

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We will be holding Open Office Hours on September 19th to meet solo-founders of ecommerce companies at the idea stage.

To apply please email Pradeep Raman pradeep.raman@forwardpartners.com with a brief description of your business idea and a link to your website (if you have one).

Are you a solo founder with an idea? We have worked with a number of solo founders to get their ideas off the ground and find a co-founder. When we backed Matt Fox at SnapTrip, a last-minute self catered breaks service, and Daniel Van Binsbergen at Lexoo, a marketplace connecting SMEs and lawyers, they were both solo-founders.

We typically offer £250k over three tranches to these idea stage businesses where our minimum requirement is that the founder has a well formed and well researched idea. We can help develop and validate the idea, build a product and find a co-founder. You can read more about our solo founder hypothesis here and about how we helped Snaptrip here.

What we look for

It’s simple! We’re looking for great entrepreneurs with great ideas that attack big markets. We have a preference for individuals with domain expertise and we love people who obsess over product and understanding their customers.

Our focus

Our sector focus is the ecommerce ecosystem. We define that broadly to include any consumer facing business where there is a clear transaction/purchase and B2B companies that sell to ecommerce companies. We are particularly innovative shopping models, innovative product companies and software and services for small ecommerce businesses.

Three examples from our portfolio:

 

  • Thread.com is a free personal shopping service
  • Lost My Name make beautiful and amazing personalised books
  • Parcelbright helps SMEs save time & money on parcel delivery

 

We are holding our next Office Hours on Friday 19th September, between 1pm and 3.30pm. You can come in for a 15 min chat with a member of our investment team. We’re happy to give advice, we’re happy to discuss your idea and we’re happy to be pitched.

Once again, if you are interested please email Pradeep Raman pradeep.raman@forwardpartners.com with a brief description of your business idea and a link to your website (if you have one).



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As the size and scope of government have expanded, regulators have come to play a much larger role in our day-to-day lives. The advent of the administrative state has created a web of regulations covering everything from design standards for electric appliances to new rules that require hotels and restaurants to accommodate miniature horses as service animals. All too often, common sense is being replaced with exacting statutes and regulations that dictate very specific forms of compliance.While not as widely reported, regulations can be just as damaging to the economy as taxes. Eliminating…

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The current stock market is earning a deserved reputation as being coated in Teflon. Bad or disappointing news just doesn’t appear to stick, and has done nothing to slow the market’s upward trajectory. Bad news is good and good news is good news. But where does this all end? A minority of investors have begun to wonder whether negative geo-political risks, embodied in the steely-eyed stare of Vladimir Putin, are exerting more influence on the market than the sunny smiles of Janet Yellen. Just going by the market numbers, Yellen remains firmly in the driver’s seat. Thus far this year, the S&P…

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