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Power User
Posts: 42449

« on: April 10, 2011, 07:19:24 AM »

One of the E4 being pushed by Glenn Beck is Entrepeneurship.  If America is to become again what we are meant to be Entrenpeneurship must be allowed and encouraged to flourish. Coincidentally enough, here's this by the author of the Dilbert comic:

I understand why the top students in America study physics, chemistry, calculus and classic literature. The kids in this brainy group are the future professors, scientists, thinkers and engineers who will propel civilization forward. But why do we make B students sit through these same classes? That's like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn't it make more sense to teach B students something useful, like entrepreneurship?

Scott Adams
 .I speak from experience because I majored in entrepreneurship at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. Technically, my major was economics. But the unsung advantage of attending a small college is that you can mold your experience any way you want.

There was a small business on our campus called The Coffee House. It served beer and snacks, and featured live entertainment. It was managed by students, and it was a money-losing mess, subsidized by the college. I thought I could make a difference, so I applied for an opening as the so-called Minister of Finance. I landed the job, thanks to my impressive interviewing skills, my can-do attitude and the fact that everyone else in the solar system had more interesting plans.

The drinking age in those days was 18, and the entire compensation package for the managers of The Coffee House was free beer. That goes a long way toward explaining why the accounting system consisted of seven students trying to remember where all the money went. I thought we could do better. So I proposed to my accounting professor that for three course credits I would build and operate a proper accounting system for the business. And so I did. It was a great experience. Meanwhile, some of my peers were taking courses in art history so they'd be prepared to remember what art looked like just in case anyone asked.

One day the managers of The Coffee House had a meeting to discuss two topics. First, our Minister of Employment was recommending that we fire a bartender, who happened to be one of my best friends. Second, we needed to choose a leader for our group. On the first question, there was a general consensus that my friend lacked both the will and the potential to master the bartending arts. I reluctantly voted with the majority to fire him.

But when it came to discussing who should be our new leader, I pointed out that my friend—the soon-to-be-fired bartender—was tall, good-looking and so gifted at b.s. that he'd be the perfect leader. By the end of the meeting I had persuaded the group to fire the worst bartender that any of us had ever seen…and ask him if he would consider being our leader. My friend nailed the interview and became our Commissioner. He went on to do a terrific job. That was the year I learned everything I know about management.

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Turning the Classroom Upside Down
.At about the same time, this same friend, along with my roommate and me, hatched a plan to become the student managers of our dormitory and to get paid to do it. The idea involved replacing all of the professional staff, including the resident assistant, security guard and even the cleaning crew, with students who would be paid to do the work. We imagined forming a dorm government to manage elections for various jobs, set out penalties for misbehavior and generally take care of business. And we imagined that the three of us, being the visionaries for this scheme, would run the show.

We pitched our entrepreneurial idea to the dean and his staff. To our surprise, the dean said that if we could get a majority of next year's dorm residents to agree to our scheme, the college would back it.

It was a high hurdle, but a loophole made it easier to clear. We only needed a majority of students who said they planned to live in the dorm next year. And we had plenty of friends who were happy to plan just about anything so long as they could later change their minds. That's the year I learned that if there's a loophole, someone's going to drive a truck through it, and the people in the truck will get paid better than the people under it.

The dean required that our first order of business in the fall would be creating a dorm constitution and getting it ratified. That sounded like a nightmare to organize. To save time, I wrote the constitution over the summer and didn't mention it when classes resumed. We held a constitutional convention to collect everyone's input, and I listened to two hours of diverse opinions. At the end of the meeting I volunteered to take on the daunting task of crafting a document that reflected all of the varied and sometimes conflicting opinions that had been aired. I waited a week, made copies of the document that I had written over the summer, presented it to the dorm as their own ideas and watched it get approved in a landslide vote. That was the year I learned everything I know about getting buy-in.

“Why do we make B students sit through the same classes as their brainy peers? That's like trying to train your cat to do your taxes—a waste of time and money. Wouldn't it make sense to teach them something useful instead?

For the next two years my friends and I each had a private room at no cost, a base salary and the experience of managing the dorm. On some nights I also got paid to do overnight security, while also getting paid to clean the laundry room. At the end of my security shift I would go to The Coffee House and balance the books.

My college days were full of entrepreneurial stories of this sort. When my friends and I couldn't get the gym to give us space for our informal games of indoor soccer, we considered our options. The gym's rule was that only organized groups could reserve time. A few days later we took another run at it, but this time we were an organized soccer club, and I was the president. My executive duties included filling out a form to register the club and remembering to bring the ball.

By the time I graduated, I had mastered the strange art of transforming nothing into something. Every good thing that has happened to me as an adult can be traced back to that training. Several years later, I finished my MBA at Berkeley's Haas School of Business. That was the fine-tuning I needed to see the world through an entrepreneur's eyes.

If you're having a hard time imagining what an education in entrepreneurship should include, allow me to prime the pump with some lessons I've learned along the way.

Combine Skills. The first thing you should learn in a course on entrepreneurship is how to make yourself valuable. It's unlikely that any average student can develop a world-class skill in one particular area. But it's easy to learn how to do several different things fairly well. I succeeded as a cartoonist with negligible art talent, some basic writing skills, an ordinary sense of humor and a bit of experience in the business world. The "Dilbert" comic is a combination of all four skills. The world has plenty of better artists, smarter writers, funnier humorists and more experienced business people. The rare part is that each of those modest skills is collected in one person. That's how value is created.

Fail Forward. If you're taking risks, and you probably should, you can find yourself failing 90% of the time. The trick is to get paid while you're doing the failing and to use the experience to gain skills that will be useful later. I failed at my first career in banking. I failed at my second career with the phone company. But you'd be surprised at how many of the skills I learned in those careers can be applied to almost any field, including cartooning. Students should be taught that failure is a process, not an obstacle.

Find the Action. In my senior year of college I asked my adviser how I should pursue my goal of being a banker. He told me to figure out where the most innovation in banking was happening and to move there. And so I did. Banking didn't work out for me, but the advice still holds: Move to where the action is. Distance is your enemy.

Scott Adams
 .Attract Luck. You can't manage luck directly, but you can manage your career in a way that makes it easier for luck to find you. To succeed, first you must do something. And if that doesn't work, which can be 90% of the time, do something else. Luck finds the doers. Readers of the Journal will find this point obvious. It's not obvious to a teenager.

Conquer Fear. I took classes in public speaking in college and a few more during my corporate days. That training was marginally useful for learning how to mask nervousness in public. Then I took the Dale Carnegie course. It was life-changing. The Dale Carnegie method ignores speaking technique entirely and trains you instead to enjoy the experience of speaking to a crowd. Once you become relaxed in front of people, technique comes automatically. Over the years, I've given speeches to hundreds of audiences and enjoyed every minute on stage. But this isn't a plug for Dale Carnegie. The point is that people can be trained to replace fear and shyness with enthusiasm. Every entrepreneur can use that skill.

Write Simply. I took a two-day class in business writing that taught me how to write direct sentences and to avoid extra words. Simplicity makes ideas powerful. Want examples? Read anything by Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett.

Learn Persuasion. Students of entrepreneurship should learn the art of persuasion in all its forms, including psychology, sales, marketing, negotiating, statistics and even design. Usually those skills are sprinkled across several disciplines. For entrepreneurs, it makes sense to teach them as a package.

That's my starter list for the sort of classes that would serve B students well. The list is not meant to be complete. Obviously an entrepreneur would benefit from classes in finance, management and more.

Remember, children are our future, and the majority of them are B students. If that doesn't scare you, it probably should.

—Mr. Adams is the creator of "Dilbert."
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2011, 10:53:22 AM »

I may well end up pursuing entrepeneurship, although it isn't my first choice.
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Posts: 2004

« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2011, 11:00:02 AM »

I just finished a good book, "What I wish I knew when I was 20" by Tina Seelig
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Posts: 42449

« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2011, 10:13:07 AM »

What Lucky People Do Different (sic)

Today’s guest contributor is former Wall Street Journal and Fortune writer, Erik Calonius. Erik collaborated with Dan Ariely on Predictably Irrational and he has a new book out from Penguin Portfolio, Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries from the Rest of  Us.


A few years ago I was standing in the garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computer. I had an excellent guide that autumn morning: Steve Jobs himself. He was showing me where his desk sat in the cramped space; where Woz had his workbench; where they piled the boxes of freshly built Apple I’s.

“Look at this,” he exclaimed, pointing to the far wall. In the corner was a full-page newspaper ad for the Apple I computer, circa 1980. The headline read: What Is A Personal Computer?

Today we certainly know what a personal computer is. We can thank Jobs and the Woz for that.  And thanks to Steve, we also know what an iPod is, what an iPhone is, what an iPad is–not to mention what a Mac is. Thanks, Steve.

The thing we don’t know today concerns Steve himself. Whether this icon in the black turtleneck will overcome his health problems. That question, of course, spills over into the question about Apple Corp itself–whether Apple will thrive—or even endure for long—when Steve Jobs some day leaves. There’s huge speculation about it in the stock market now, evident in the dips and swings of Apple stock over the past few years in reaction to Steve’s continuing battle against pancreatic cancer.

But there’s another other issue at play in Steve’s illness, and Jonathan, I think you raised it your recent post, Dust in the Wind. The post showed a red dumpster beneath your apartment window, where the life’s possession of elderly widows and widowers are dumped on a regular basis when they pass away.  “This is what’s left of someone’s life,” you wrote. “Not the experiences, but the stuff.” Your readers obviously understood the existential question you were raising. So did I: my mother passed a few years ago, and one of the most traumatic events of my life was filling three dumpsters to the top with her stuff following two weekends of estate sales.

Recently I stumbled upon a Stanford graduation address that answers that question surprisingly well. And it’s from Steve Jobs himself. The speech was given in 2005, less than a year after he found out he had cancer. I think that’s why Steve’s remarks were unusually candid and personal.

This is what he said:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool that I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.  Because almost everything—all external expectations all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.  Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

That’s a blunt confession, especially delivered to an assembly of fresh-faced college graduates. But Jobs offered some prescriptive advice.

“For the past 33 years I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Great thought. But how do you “change something?” How do you take the image of your face in the mirror—or the sight of the dumpster down in the street—and change your own life?

Recently I came upon a fascinating study by Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. Wiseman surveyed a number of people and, through a series of questionnaires and interviews, determined which of them considered themselves lucky—or unlucky. He then performed an intriguing experiment: He gave both the “lucky” and the “unlucky” people a newspaper and asked them to look through it and tell him how many photographs were inside. He found that on average the unlucky people took two minutes to count all the photographs, whereas the lucky ones determined the number in a few seconds.

How could the “lucky” people do this? Because they found a message on the second page that read, “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” So why didn’t the unlucky people see it? Because they were so intent on counting all the photographs that they missed the message. Wiseman noted,

“Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner, and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through the newspaper determined to find certain job advertisements and, as a result, miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there, rather than just what they are looking for.”

I think Steve Jobs would agree wholeheartedly with this. In fact, in his Stanford address he described how he dropped out of Reed College after a mere six months. After that, he said he hung around the campus, slept on the floor in a friend’s room, walked seven miles across town on Sunday nights for a good meal at the Hare Krishna Temple, and took a few classes, whatever he wanted.  It sounds like a waste—like Jobs should have been “counting the photographs” in life rather than meandering about. But as you can imagine, it isn’t true. Says Jobs:

“Reed College at the time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class and learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, and about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great.”

Here’s the kicker:

“If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, “ Jobs explained, “the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionately spaced ones. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

He added,

“Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

So that’s what Jobs means by “changing something.” Not a decision to do this or that, but an emotional choice to keep your mind open. To stop counting the “photographs.” To look around.  To open your eyes and bring real life–raw, untamed and full of promise—into your world.

When we see a dumpster full of stuff, maybe that’s the thought we need to keep in mind. Possessions, after all, are not always a comfort. Sometimes they are a cage.
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Posts: 42449

« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2013, 08:39:22 AM »

Andy Kessler: Private Startups, Where Investor Dollars Often Go to Die
Now anyone can join the crowd to fund startups—but most are crapshoots. Trust me, I know.
Andy Kessler
Updated Nov. 15, 2013 6:57 p.m. ET

When President Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act in April 2012, he hailed it as "exactly the kind of bipartisan action we should be taking in Washington to help our economy." Well, maybe.

Some JOBS Act provisions kicked in right away. "Emerging growth companies"—those with under $1 billion in revenues—are exempt from many reporting provisions of Sarbannes-Oxley. And so Twitter, TWTR -1.59% for example, only had to show two years of audited results (instead of three) in its IPO filing. And private companies can now have 2,000 investors, up from 500, before they have to file annual reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Less information is never better.

The SEC, however, waited almost a year and a half to implement a general solicitation rule allowing companies as well as private equity and hedge funds to advertise to a mass audience during their fundraising—though individual investors still need to be accredited, meaning $1 million or more in net worth or $200,000 in individual income. Of course, no self-respecting hedge fund or private-equity firm will advertise, for the same reason law firms Skadden Arps or Wachtell Lipton don't damage their brand running TV ads like personal injury lawyers Schlock and Skeeve.
Enlarge Image


In October, the SEC finally put out a "crowdfunding" rule that allows anyone to "angel" invest in startups. Sort of. There are annual caps of 5% for those making under $100,000 a year and 10% for those non-accredited making over $100,000. This is government paternalism trying to limit your downside. Yet there already are investing platforms like RockThePost and AngelList that hopefully weed out most fraud. In any event, government should not be telling people how to, or if they can, invest.

But just because you can invest doesn't mean you should. The crowdfunding rule is now out for public comment. Here's mine: Once you're allowed to invest in private startups, my advice is: don't. Success is much harder than you might think.

First off, the field is crowded. Lots of incubators like Y Combinator (550 investments since 2005) and 500 Startups (600 since 2010 and raising a fund to do 200 a year) have funded startups doing just about everything. Critics call this "spray and pray." Over the years, I've given talks for groups of angels, in Silicon Valley, Boston and New York City. These events are usually fun cocktail parties, lots of former CEOs and captains of industry just dying to drop 50 grand into the next big thing. But at the end of the day, they are really just paying up for future cocktail party conversation: "I'm funding Clean Green, an app that delivers car washers to your driveway. I'm investing in SpeedMetal, a cloud-based service to interpret heavy-metal lyrics."

And returns are rare. The old rule of thumb for venture capitalists is that out of 10 investments, one will be a home run, a few will show some returns, and the rest will fail, return a goose egg, or my favorite saying, end up as a smoking hole in the ground. In reality, venture capitalists turn down 99% of the entrepreneurs who lob in ideas let alone those lucky enough to get a meeting, and these are the professionals. A recent study by Cowboy Ventures looked at the estimated 60,000 consumer and enterprise software startups funded over the last 10 years and found just 39—a measly .07%—valued at over $1 billion. Many like Snapchat and Pinterest are still private.

Whenever I'm pitched a private investment (I usually get out of meetings by claiming I have the flu) they all sound great. Up and to the right. Grand slams. Then I go back to my office and pull out a thick manila folder I keep in my desk. It's filled with certificates. The investments that work and go public require you to send in the certificates in exchange for tradable shares in your account. The ones that are left are dead companies, or walking dead. Optical switches, podcasts, grid optimization, bendable solar cells, silicon factories, I've got them all. Holes in the ground.

Everyone should have the right to make great investments and profit, or lose. Sure, investing in some world-changing app is probably better than investing in your brother-in-law's pizza joint. But not by much, and you won't get a free calzone. Maybe it's the next Twitter . . . but more likely, it's just a dusty certificate. Best to wait until most other angels have given up.

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author most recently of "Eat People" (Portfolio, 2011).
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« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2013, 12:24:37 PM »
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2014, 08:35:15 AM »

Brian Chesky: The 'Sharing Economy' and Its Enemies
The cofounder of Airbnb on how an idea to rent space on air mattresses turned into a Web business that has hotel chains fuming and politicians suspicious.
By Andy Kessler
Jan. 17, 2014 7:00 p.m. ET

San Francisco's Radius Cafe is one of those places where "local" is the rule—all the food is sourced within a 100-mile radius of the restaurant. So it's a touch ironic to meet there with Brian Chesky, the hoodie-wearing 32-year-old co-founder of Airbnb, whose game plan is global.

Airbnb is a Web service that lets travelers book couches, beds, rooms, houses, boats and even castles on a nightly basis. In six years Airbnb has become a company valued at $2.5 billion, with 500,000 properties available in more than 190 countries—a stand out in what is often called the sharing economy. Airbnb could do to hotels what Amazon has done to bricks-and-mortar bookstores. By year's end, Airbnb says it will have booked more overnight stays than the Hilton and InterContinental hotel chains.

As might be expected, hoteliers and hospitality-industry regulators are suspicious of the Airbnb model. In October, New York state sued the company for violating a law passed in 2010—just when Airbnb was picking up steam—barring private citizens from renting an entire apartment for less than 30 days.

"I want to challenge the status quo, but in a way that's constructive," Mr. Chesky says. "There were laws created for businesses, and there were laws for people. What the sharing economy did was create a third category: people as businesses. . . . They don't know whether to bucket our activity as person or a business."

That the New York lawsuit was issued from Albany hit Mr. Chesky close to home: He grew up just outside the city, the son of social-worker parents. To hear him tell it, disrupting the hospitality industry—let alone working on the Web—couldn't have been further from his ambitions growing up. Back then he was a fidgety doodler. His interest in art led him to the Rhode Island School of Design, where he majored in illustration, later switching to industrial design.

"Industrial design teaches empathy," Mr. Chesky says. "Basically you have to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are designing for and you have to experience the end-to-end system." His mother just wanted him to have a job with health insurance.

In 2004, Mr. Chesky moved to Los Angeles to work as an industrial designer with a small firm. Three years later he quit, packed up an old Honda Civic, and drove to San Francisco to crash with a college friend, Joe Gebbia, who had recently quit his graphic-design job. "I realized I didn't want to walk in someone else's path," Mr. Chesky says. "I wanted to create a path of my own." He also had a more immediate challenge: His share of the rent was $1,150, and Mr. Chesky had $1,000 in the bank. His roommate was not in much better shape. "How the hell were we going to make rent?"

The jobless designers were aware that within two weeks the 2007 Industrial Design Society of America conference was being held in San Francisco and that hotel rooms would be scarce. Mr. Gebbia had three air mattresses and suggested turning the apartment into an "air bed and breakfast."

Within three days, they had a rudimentary website up and booked three guests: a 35-year-old woman, a 30-year-old from India, and a 45-year-old father of five, each paying about $70 a night for several nights. "I thought we were going to get a bunch of young L.A. dudes, 23-year-olds," Mr. Chesky recalls. No matter. That month's rent problem was solved, and Messrs. Chesky and Gebbia thought they might be on to something.

In early 2008, the two men added an engineer, Nathan Blecharczyk, and focused on South by Southwest, a media and music festival in Austin. They launched a lite version of the website for the gathering: no online payments, no reviews, no bookings, no search function. "We got 50 people to list their homes and we ended up getting just two people to book a room," Mr. Chesky says, "and I was one of them."

The rest of 2008 was spent adding more robust website features that make Airbnb easy to use. Steve Jobs had famously insisted on a maximum of three user clicks to get a song on the Apple iPod. Airbnb adopted that mantra: three clicks to a booking.

How did they support themselves while hoping that business would pick up? "You know those binders you put baseball cards in? We put credit cards in those," Mr. Chesky says, running up $2,000 or $5,000 credit limits until they stopped working and moved on to the next card.

For over a year, "no one invested in Airbnb," Mr. Chesky says. "Really well-known angel investors turned us down. . . . 'How many hippies are there?' they would ask me. One famous investor was drinking a smoothie and just got up and walked out mid-pitch."

The break came in 2009 when Airbnb was accepted by Y-Combinator, the best-known startup accelerator in California. It gave them $20,000 and three months to refine the Airbnb model.

To attract significant venture capital, they needed traction and revenue to become "Ramen profitable" as Mr. Chesky puts it. In other words: "If we could live on only Ramen, how much money would we need?" He pasted a fake revenue graph on their bathroom mirror with a "Ramen line" at $1,000 a week.

To figure out what Airbnb required, the partners would fly to New York—which had quickly become the focus of the business—every weekend and stay in rooms booked through Airbnb. They learned quickly that they needed high-quality photos of the apartments and that Airbnb needed to be more closely involved in coordinating the handling of door keys and hiring cleaning services. Once the Airbnb experience improved, Mr. Chesky says, visitors from around the world would "go back from where they came from. Then they would become hosts." The Airbnb network rapidly expanded. In March 2009, Sequoia Capital invested $600,000.

Initially, Airbnb charged 5% for every transaction; now it takes 12%—3% from the host and about 9% from the guest. The private company doesn't release data. But if you figure 60,000 bookings a night—the average, according to Mr. Chesky—at a lowballed $50 per booking, then Airbnb is making well more than $100 million in annual sales. The company has 700 employees.

Staying in a stranger's home—either renting the whole place or just a bedroom—isn't for everyone. And the model hasn't been without problems. A home in Glendale, Calif., listed in recent months on Airbnb as an "entertainer's outdoor paradise" turned into a party house, with police shutting down six parties since October, even using helicopter spotlights. In 2011 a guest burglarized a San Francisco apartment, stealing valuables and the owner's passport. In 2012 a renter reportedly used a Stockholm apartment as a brothel.

Reviews by hosts and renters solve most problems by tipping off one group about problems with the other. "A two-sided transaction requires a reputation system," Mr. Chesky says. After the uproar from disappointed hosts, in May 2012 Airbnb instituted a $1 million "host guarantee" of quality, underwritten by Lloyd's of London.

But by far Airbnb's most significant obstacle has come from those who want to protect the status quo—hotel companies and governments collecting lucrative occupancy taxes that they say Airbnb and its hosts avoid paying. New York is Airbnb's most lucrative market, and the company's battle with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is no doubt being watched closely by his peers across the country.

The city's 30-day minimum for apartment rentals is "a very gray law," Mr. Chesky says. The law was intended to crack down on slumlords who run illegal hotels in apartments. But since half of Airbnb's New York bookings involve entire apartments, they technically run afoul of the law. The law's passage four years ago brought out some 500 Airbnb supporters as protesters at City Hall, and the company met with city officials, most of whom had never heard of the company, Mr. Chesky says. "They met with us and said 'We've worked on this for four or five years, we're not rewriting the law and going through another four or five years.' That's when I realized we probably had a problem."

Four months ago, Mr. Schneiderman subpoenaed data on all of Airbnb's 15,000 New York hosts. In pursuing Airbnb, the attorney general may be protecting New York's 14.75% occupancy and sales tax, but he's also not disappointing the city's 30,000-plus unionized hotel workers.

Mr. Chesky insists that he has the same "endgame" as Mr. Schneiderman, and that the company is happy to cooperate with any investigation. But he adds that what happened in New York "didn't feel like an investigation, it felt like a fishing expedition."

The typical way things have played out with the New York AG's office in recent years is for companies to become the target of loudly trumpeted lawsuits that are then quietly abandoned when the company agrees to pay a substantial settlement. "We're trying to work toward a resolution," Mr. Chesky notes. "That's probably all I can say." Airbnb quickly filed a motion with the New York Supreme Court to block Mr. Schneiderman. The outcome is pending.

Airbnb argues that rather than taking away income from the city, its users bring a significant amount of business by encouraging visits by tourists who might not be willing or able to afford the city's daunting hotel rates. Mr. Chesky says that "62% of hosts in New York depend on Airbnb to pay their rent or mortgage."

The sharing economy is still so new, Mr. Chesky says, that his company is lobbying cities around the world to account for it. Sometimes Airbnb loses: Berlin passed a law that, beginning this year, requires a permit for short-term rentals, or hosts are forced to pay a stiff fine. The law won't kill Airbnb in Berlin, but it will impede the free-flowing nature of the business.

'We're not against regulation, we want fair regulation," Mr. Chesky says. "We're trying to help take this from an activity that existed under the table with Craigslist and bring it out of the shadows. We want to work with cities to streamline the process for hosts to pay occupancy taxes," he says. "People ask, 'Why don't you just pay the tax?' Well, it turns out that in cities like New York, you can't just pay the tax, you can't just send them a briefcase of money, you have to change the laws first. Onerous licensing and permitting are designed for large corporations"—not for Airbnb users.

"I want to live in a world where people can become entrepreneurs or micro-entrepreneurs and if we can lower the friction and inspire them to do that, especially in an economy like today, this is the promise of the sharing economy," says Mr. Chesky. For regulators, he has a request: "Don't kill something wonderful before knowing what it is."

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author, most recently, of "Eat People" (Portfolio, 2011).
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« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2015, 11:28:42 AM »

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« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2015, 11:30:26 AM »

Pasting Doug's post here:

I have been harping on this for a long time before we had data to back it up.  The Obama economy has the worst rate of real business startups in the history of our country.  The long term effect of this catastrophe is worse than all the hundreds of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities combined.

A certain number of new companies need to be started that will grow to a thousand employees and a billion in sales every year, and so many more that will grow to a hundred employees and a dozen employees and so on.  And filing an LLC to protect an existing asset that will never employ anyone doesn't count.

Now we have data and it is alarming:

America Has a Serious Start-Up Slump: Discouraging news about American entrepreneurship.

We confidently assume that we have the world's most entrepreneurial nation, and the proof seems overwhelming. Google, Facebook and Twitter are but three (relatively) recent startups that have become corporate titans.

Before them, there were others: Microsoft, Intel and FedEx. We seem to excel at nurturing new firms. Or do we?

Previous studies have shown that, despite the success of firms like Facebook, the number of startups has dropped sharply, from about 13% of all firms in the late 1980s to about 8% in 2011.

Now a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research reports that the expansion of the remaining startups - which traditionally has been much faster than the growth of existing companies - has slowed considerably.

By some measures, it now barely exceeds the average of older companies.

So there's a double whammy: fewer startups and slower growth at the survivors.

This could be one reason the recovery from the Great Recession has been so sluggish, with the economy's growth averaging about 2% annually from 2010 to 2014, much slower than earlier post-World War II recoveries.

Using Census Bureau data, the study examined business births (the creation of new firms), deaths (companies going out of business) and growth from 1976 to 2011. It confirmed earlier studies: Though most new firms fail in their first five years, the growth of the survivors is so strong that it offsets the losses of other firms and creates much of the economy's overall increase in jobs. But that began to change after 2000, when startups' high growth faded.

The upshot: "Startups and high-growth young firms (under five years) contributed less to U.S. job creation in the post-2000 period than in earlier periods," said the report.

The startup slump may also help explain the slowdown in productivity.
Power User
Posts: 42449

« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2017, 02:46:06 AM »

Josiah Zayner is a scientist and entrepreneur who quit his government job in a NASA lab to start The Odin, a synthetic biology company run out of his garage. For $150, anyone can now purchase the cutting-edge "gene editing" tool CRISPR (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) through The Odin's online shop.

Zayner champions do-it-yourself "biohacking" as the future of science and often draws comparisons between his work and that of the computer scientists and hackers of the '80s and '90s who eventually become the titans of Silicon Valley.

"I think [genetic engineering] is really going to become a consumer industry," says Zayner. "Consumers drive a lot of technological advancement."

Biohackers like Zayner, much like their computer hacker forebears, prefer asking for forgiveness rather than permission. And so far, Zayner hasn't had to do either. But the launch of a new product that allows users to engineer fluorescent yeast by inserting a gene from a bio-luminescent jellyfish drew the attention of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after officials learned that breweries were using the product to create glowing beer. They called up Zayner to discuss potential regulatory pitfalls.

Officials on the call, which Zayner recorded and posted on his YouTube channel, sound hesitant to make any hard-and-fast declarations about Zayner's work, but they do clearly express the opinion that the yeast modification constitutes a "food color additive," which is subject to pre-market approval by the agency. They instruct him that he should change the language on his website so that nobody construes the yeast as a food product. Zayner then asks them what will happen if he doesn't change anything, to which one of the officials replies,

"Well, there's a number of things that we could do, from a warning, where, if it got to the point where we would, you know, seize material."

They also tell him to keep track of who is buying the yeast kit and suggest that he could face "trouble" if breweries continue to use the product, even if he changes the marketing language.

"This is who I'm dealing with, a bunch of bullies," says Zayner. "Bullying people into doing what they want, not for scientific reasons, not for the betterment of the public...just because."

Zayner is not the only one in the genetics industry burdened with regulatory uncertainty. Another such case is that of Antony Evans at TAXA, a San Francisco-based synthetic biology company that aims to engineer plants to supplement or replace common household items. They currently have a glowing plant in development, which Evans envisions as an alternative to nighttime lighting, and fragrant moss that could act as an organic air freshener. He's had products jammed up by the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the past.

"If you're an entrepreneur creating a regulated article, the cost to getting that product to market is extremely high," says Evans. "That's why a lot of entrepreneurs are starting in the edges."

Evans believes that it's the pre-market approval process that stymies innovation among small, lean startups, which cannot afford to wait years and spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to take a product to market. The FDA does allow products that only contain substances Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) to go straight to market, but Zayner and Evans both believe the list of GRAS substances is far too limited and the process for approval needlessly burdensome and time-consuming.

"We have no idea how much we are inhibiting [innovation], but we just know that we are because it's almost impossible to launch a plant GMO company."
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