Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Monday, November 09, 2009
Here are some images Bill Hopen, my sculptor friend sent me regarding a real estate crash in China.
Yes, It's a 12 story building lying flat on the ground.
(1) An underground garage was being dug on the south side, to a depth of 4.6 meters.
(2) The excavated dirt was being piled up on the north side, to a height of 10 meters.
(3) The building experienced uneven lateral pressure from south and north.
(4) This resulted in a lateral pressure of 3,000 tons, which was greater than what the pilings could tolerate. Thus the building toppled over in the southerly direction.
If the buildings were closer together there would also have been a domino effect.
Note the hollow concrete piers.
Synopsis of Event
Bill Hopen writes:
Mish, this photographic image is so metaphorical, it could only have been more symbolic if a domino effect had occurred. I think of the financial collapse of the families that own these condos and the impact to the bank underpinning the construction loans, then I think of the whole city collapsing without the buildings physically falling over.For more from Bill Hopen please see Inside China: A Sculptor's View
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
UK-based speech to text specialist Spinvox has been caught up in controversy this week over its data protection standards, as well as questions about the company's finances.
It has long been known that Spinvox uses people to transcribe messages under some circumstances; when the translating software fails to understand the message, for example. But recent claims by employees past and present go so far as to say that in fact the majority of messages are transcribed by call centre staff in Africa and Asia.
This has raised questions over data protection, and it now appears that the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is breathing down Spinvox's neck over the firm's claim that it does not transfer any data outside of the European Economic Area.
Despite extensive funding, it is the burden of running these call centres that is understood to be putting a strain on the company's finances, and it emerged last week that Spinvox staff had been asked to take share options in the firm instead of some or all of their paycheck for July and August. The firm is also known to be looking at other "cost cutting measures," which many take to mean job cuts.
The BBC on Thursday reported that Spinvox has also been locked out of a London data centre over payment issues, which lends credence to the speculation that the firm is under financial pressure.
Rapid growth has been blamed for the company's financial problems, and it should be noted that this same rapid growth was once a source of pride for the upstart firm. In June, the company signed a deal with Spanish carrier Telefónica that will see its text voicemail service made available to Telefónica's entire Latin American customer base. The carrier has almost 125 million customers in the region.
Telecoms.com spoke to one of Spinvox's partners, BestBefore Media, which uses the Spinvox API to do audio transcriptions as well as offer a service it describes as the "twitter of the spoken word," known as AudioBoo.
Mark Rock, CEO of BestBefore said that his firm used Spinvox because they were impressed by the quality, but added that he was surprised to discover that people managed most of the transcription manually. "The line we were spun is that humans were only used where necessary," he said.
Rock's greatest concern also centres on privacy issues as his firm offers transcription services used by journalists which may involve sensitive information, leading him to "look into the data protection issues." However, Rock noted that Spinvox is not mission critical and that there is "always somewhere else to go" if Spinvox were to run into trouble, financial or otherwise.
Have you ever had a new girlfriend? You can't stop thinking about her. You want to make it work. So you start putting in an extra effort to give this relationship the best chance of success. You start buying new clothes, ensuring you look your best, maybe even start going to the gym everyday. In this situation everything matters. You want to spend every waking moment with her, because it is so enjoyable, so much fun, the future looks so bright, the whole thing is so new. At this time we can't imagine the joy of being involved in this thing ever diminishing.
Eventually, the emotions driven by newness wear off. It doesn't necessarily mean we love our new girlfriend less, we might even love her more. It's just a different set of emotions. And this new set of emotions often mean we, are less enthusiastic to prove ourselves, and or make it work – she moves from a chase, to a catch.
A new startup isn't much different. Just re-read the above two paragraphs and think back to when you got going on your latest startup. It was a lot like the new girl friend. It was love. The emotions and behaviour have a strong analogy. What matters as entrepreneurs, is having the ability to keep up the momentum when the newness wears off. And there is nothing more certain than this. It will become less fun, less exciting and more arduous. It's especially evident when we need to undertake administrative tasks with our start up – or keep door knocking after many rejections. It's our ability to stay focused on 'old projects' that will determine our ultimate success.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Q: At a pub in Los Gatos, CA a casual conversation with some young, first time entrepreneurs lead to an interesting comment:
A: (Brad) As I've said in the past, I've never met a financial plan for an early stage company where the revenue side was correct. However, I've met plenty where the cost side was correct (or – at least – appropriate). The key here is simple – you want to have a cost structure that makes sense, covers all the bases, but doesn't assume a big revenue ramp to be supportable.
If you are in the very early stages (e.g. a few people and an idea), recognize that your investor is likely going to be funding you for about 12 months to see how things play out. The biggest mistake first time entrepreneurs make is that they fall prey to the idea that they need to put together a five year P&L forecast and cash flow projection. I can guarantee – with 100% certainty – that this model will be wrong. As an investor, I don't really care about this; rather I want to see how you are thinking about getting to "the next stage" of your business. You get to define the next stage, what it'll cost you to get there, and what things will look like when you get there.
If you are a first time entrepreneur, go find an experienced entrepreneur to act as a mentor. She can be a first line of feedback your cost model and likely will know a few "financial people" that can help you put together a simple, yet credible model. In addition, when you spend time with potential investors, don't try to bluff. Tell them it's your first time building a model like this and that – while you had help – you know you lack experience and are looking for feedback. Try to engage the investor in the process. Listen the potential investors feedback and iterate on your model.
Simple message – don't be afraid to ask for help.
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Tuesday, May 05, 2009
By Tricia Duryee - Mon 04 May 2009 02:41 PM PST
With U.S. cellphone owners now sending an average of 357 messages a month, and Twitter pretty much standardizing thoughts of around characters, it makes you wonder how the technology ever got started?
The LA Times answers that question today after interviewing Friedhelm Hillebrand of Bonn, Germany, who helped usher in this new era of communication. Hillebrand's research stretches back to 1985, when he used his typewriter to compose random sentences to determine that messages of 160 characters were "perfectly sufficient." He also found that often postcards contained fewer than 150 characters, and messages sent through Telex, a popular telegraphy network for business professionals at the time, were also usually about the same length, he said.
After determining a message's ideal length, he had to create a market. As chairman of the nonvoice services committee within the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), a group that sets standards for the majority of the global mobile market, they decided that all phones and providers must support short messaging service (SMS). Next, since networks didn't support data at the time, Hillebrand needed to figure out how they would be sent. He thought to leverage a secondary radio channel that had been used only to alert a cellphone about reception strength and incoming calls. Hillebrand told the Times: "Most of the time, nothing happens on this control link. So, it was free capacity on the system." Initially, they could fit only 128 characters, but with a little tweaking, they squeezed out room another 32 characters to hit the perfect number.
The LA Times reported that today Hillebrand, who lives in Bonn and manages Hillebrand & Partners, a technology patent consulting firm, never got rich from participating in the concept. Although if it's any consolation, he does get an honorable mention in the Wikipedia entry on "SMS."