The Unavailable

Posted by Richard Moran.

It has often been said in the venture world that “there is an infinite demand for the unavailable.” This is the ultimate challenge for everyone who invests in tech companies. We know there is a market for cars that burn no fuel; we know there is a market for anything that will eliminate my love handles and we know there is a market for a guarantee on an Ivy League acceptance letter for our children, but what about everything in the middle?

There could be a return, but is it enough to warrant an investment? There could be a legitimate company there, but is it a “venture returns” kind of company? That’s what makes venture investing so interesting.

Charlie Cooper of CNET captured this sense among a bunch of very smart media people at a Stanford colloquium as a part of the AlwaysOn conference. Andy Plesser of Beet.TV hosted the discussion which was all interesting, all good and all over the map on media, but what we know is that the changes that are happening right now are unprecedented, unpredictable and, probably unfortunate for big media. But big media is fighting back with vigor. The giants like News Corp. are dispatching people and money to try to get ahead of the curve. The problem is we don’t know where the curve is on its trajectory.

The current state of all things media is like the Wild West. So as the slightly altered bumper sticker says:Get In – Hold On – And Enjoy the Ride

 

At the Airport, Get Behind the Guy with Loafers

Posted by Richard Moran.

The airlines and the security people at airports way are easy to pick on and everyone seems to be doing it these days. So I have some simple advice for the weary travelers as we go into the busy summer season: make choices, wear socks and consider Virgin America.
Travelling is all about choices. Check the bag and wait or carry it on and pray that there is room? Wait for an upgrade and lose hope of overhead space for your bag or get on and take that middle seat? Take the aisle seat back by the bathroom or the window seat in row 12? Talk to the person next to you in the hopes that he or she can someday hire your son or sit there without saying a word for six hours? Watch the airplane movie with earphones that probably don’t work or read and glance up at the movie and try to figure out what they are saying? Be nice to the guy next to you who required a seat belt extender or fume and fuss for the entire flight? (He can’t help it, be nice.) There are millions of other little choices that make for a successful or miserable trip. Make all the little choices and live with them. Go into Zen mode and know that everyone is doing the best they can.
When it comes to going through security, always scan the line in front of you and get behind the people with the least luggage who are wearing loafers. Consider buying shoes just for travelling times. Always avoid getting behind anyone with a fully loaded baby stroller.

But here is a thought that might make you want to wear socks as you take your own loafers off. Remember in high school gym class when the P.E. instructor suggested that you wear flip flops in the shower because the high school showers are loaded with athlete’s foot germs? No one ever did it but it was not hard to imagine a batch of fungus pole vaulting between everyone’s toes. How many people took showers in your high school locker room? Hundreds a year?
Now think about how many people go through those security lines barefoot. Hundreds of thousands a day? I read where someone is suing the airlines for contracting something bad on his feet from walking through security. I guess he didn’t wear socks or those shower-cap-looking feet covers. Wear socks through security.

Virgin America is hip, consider trying them. I have nothing to do with Virgin America. I don’t know any one who works there and have only flown them a few times but they are refreshing in how they use technology and how they treat passengers. They are experimenting with all parts of flying and are not stuck in their ways. The just-in-time food service is one great example. Try suggesting that some of the big guys make changes that could make flying better. Some big airlines still point to the day they sealed up all the ashtrays in the armrests as innovation. Someday all the airlines will be like Virgin America and it will be better world.
If the airlines were smarter, they would have just raised ticket prices where few would have noticed, rather than charge for checked luggage Passengers have no control over ticket prices but they can make lots of people’s lives more difficult by how they deal with this new hurdle in flying. I bet over time that the flight attendants union will have a lot to say about this new rule and its unintended consequences.
The airlines can’t help the fact that oil prices are sky high. I just wish they would make choices with customers in mind – and give us our rights.

The Annual College Grad Blog

Posted by Richard Moran.

More Signs of the Apocalypse

No time is better for giving out advice than the annual commencement season. In my experience in dealing with new college grads, I have found that no one listens to any advice but it doesn’t stop anyone from dishing it out. Many had their own opinions about Oprah’s address to the Stanford class of 2008. Everyone offers a lot of advice on how to deal with the environment, world peace and elimination of genocide. My advice is much less ambitious. It is more applied and easier to implement than curing our addiction to foreign oil. As a 22 year-old graduate, I was clueless but hopeful. I find most college grads today are still clueless but hopeful. That can be a very good combination as long as the hopeful component sticks and nothing can kill “hopeful” more than problems that seem too big for a young person to fix. So here is my advice to the Class of ’08. Just three bullets, easy to read, sort of easy to implement and delivered with the hope of an easy transition into the real world.

Don’t Live with your Parents
A new study just revealed that six of ten graduates in the Class of ’08 went home after commencement. As in, after four years of independence, all night parties, and unmentionable intimacies, college grads are moving home to be with Mom, Dad and the little brothers and sisters. Yikes! Tune in to the old “Seinfeld” episodes when George moves home. Don’t do it. You won’t like it and your parents won’t like it and it will lead to questions like, “What are you going to do now? And “Where are you going? And, “What time will you be home?” You will easily get addled into hanging around with high school buddies, visiting your old coaches and watching “Lost” reruns. Move on, or at least have a plan as to when you will move out again.

Pay Attention – People Notice
Just like how your classmates noticed when you showed up wearing green pants with a pink belt with blue alligators on it; or how they noticed when you showed up with blue hair and combat boots; people “out there” will notice the small things about you too. Table manners, wardrobe, who you hang out with, your Facebook page and all those things your parents told you that matter will continue to define you. “It is what it is”, as they say and people will always notice and define you by the little things. If you think people don’t notice, tune in to any segment of “The Office”. Who Pam is dating, who leaves early, a stain on the tie, what people talk about, who is new, who has a weird trench coat, comments in poor taste…people notice.There are a million blogs, web sites, guides and “Dummies” books about how to do anything that won’t get you into trouble. Do research and pay attention to what matters. People notice.

Get A Job
I know it’s a tough economy but there are jobs. There are always jobs. Get off the computer and get a job. Or, get on the computer and get a job. I like www.indeed.com. All the job hunting websites can work but you probably still need to get off your butt and go meet people. Think of it like fishing, the more bait you have in the water, the more likely to catch some fish. A job gets you out in traffic and will give you the chance to learn a few things like how to fill out a W-2 form and the cost of health benefits and that you have to show up. Your first job may not be perfect but it will give you some momentum and may lead to the one you really want. The first job will get you out of the house too. (See bullet number one.)

No doubt, there is a lot of other advice that is being delivered. What you hear, if anything, may be something different. If you are stuck, pay attention to these three bullets and they can get you started. Trust me on this one.