Tag Archives: California

Midas Speaks: Sequoia’s Don Valentine at Stanford GSB

“We love recessions. Best time to invest in our experience.”

That’s Don Valentine, founder of Sequoia Capital and perhaps the greatest VC of all time. Today, I dug into a fascinating talk he gave in 2010 at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB).


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Valentine breaks down Sequoia’s investment approach, which heavily emphasizes markets.

Sequoia only wants to bet on companies taking on the biggest markets. If the startup isn’t solving a huge problem, the odds of an outlier success are slim.

“If you don’t attack a big market, it’s highly unlikely you’re ever going to build a big company.”

Don Valentine

Valentine is wise to emphasize the size of the opportunity. After all, a tiny number of highly successful startups drive almost all the returns in venture capital.

I’m going to focus more on market size, based on Valentine’s advice.

An outstanding founder with a rapidly growing company is great. But if she doesn’t have a giant market to grow into, the company can only go so far.

Once Valentine finds a market he likes, he often makes numerous investments in that area.

He invested in Apple, which helped create the PC market. Then he invested in other companies to produce memory for the PC’s, peripherals, etc.

Presciently, Valentine mentions the opportunities in the mobile market in his talk. This was in 2010, just 3 years after the launch of the first iPhone.

Sure enough, Sequoia made a killing betting on the iPhone ecosystem. The firm invested early in Instagram, WhatsApp and others, netting billions.

At one point, Valentine shows a slide of some of the greatest founders he’s invested in.

What strikes me is how happy many of them look. They’re beaming, ear to ear.

This is the look of people who are building what they dream of and reaching their full potential.

Now, I’m off to find some entrepreneurs like that!

More on tech:

Managing a Crisis the Sequoia Way

John Doerr’s Biggest Mistake

The Power Law (Part One)

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

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The Last Fast Food Worker in California

Who will be the last fast food worker in California?

Yesterday, California passed a new law dramatically raising fast food wages.

It sounds like a victory for the working class. But it’s likely to put them out of a job. 


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From Bloomberg:

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the fast food recovery act into law, giving restaurant-chain employees more input over wages and working conditions even after strong protests from the industry.

A study by Harvard Kennedy School and UC San Francisco showed that wages for California’s fast-food workers hover around $16.21 an hour, or 85 cents on the dollar compared with other service sector workers in the state. AB 257 could raise wages as high as $22 an hour next year for chains with 100 or more locations across the US. It’s the first US law of its kind, leading the way for other states.

Let’s see how this will play out at a restaurant. And where better than the oldest McDonald’s in America, in Downey, California?

In business since 1953, the Downey McDonald’s is one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions. And it still serves Big Macs and fries, 7 days a week.

The Downey McDonald’s is open from 6am to 10pm every day. That’s 112 hours a week.

McDonald’s employees in Downey actually do a little better than that $15 minimum wage. They average $16.41 per hour.

Increasing that to $22 means every employee-hour costs $5.59 more. Staffing the restaurant for those 112 hours now costs $128,000 per person per year, instead of $96,000.

Instead of paying that, restaurant owners may hire Flippy

Flippy is a robot from Miso Robotics that runs an entire fry station. It can make french fries, onion rings, and even chicken tenders.

It costs about $36,000 a year. And unlike humans, it never comes in late, gets sick, or tries to unionize.

Flippy can’t do all the jobs in a McDonald’s — yet. But in combination with order kiosks and automated drive through lanes, there may soon be few fast food jobs left. 

Is all this fair? I don’t know. 

But it’s going to happen. And blunt instruments like this law only bring our robot future closer. 

Instead, politicians like Gavin Newsom should focus on helping working class people get more skills. This is a durable path to better wages and a better life.

I hope for a future where humans do stimulating, meaningful work. Let Flippy handle the rest.

What do you think of the California law? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!

More on tech: 

COFFEEBOTS AND THE SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT CUP

GROWING VEGGIES ON MARS

I PITCHED A ROBOT VC

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Investors Pull $28 Billion from Hedge Funds

Note: This is not financial advice.

It’s not looking good for hedge funds. Investors pulled nearly $28 billion in the second quarter, disillusioned by poor performance.


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From a new Reuters report:

Amid high volatile [sic] across markets, investors redeemed $27.5 billion of hedge funds between April and June, bringing total withdraws in the first half of the year to $7.7 billion. No hedge fund category lured fresh money from investors in the second quarter.

Total assets ended the second quarter at $3.8 trillion, down roughly 5% from March, [data provider HFR] said, also battered by the funds performance. The fund weighted composite index is down 5.78% in the year, HFR said.

This has been a long time coming. Hedge funds have consistently underperformed the S&P 500.

From Axios:


Why, in the name of all that is holy, do people leave a dime in these things? You can get a Vanguard S&P 500 index fund for 0.04% a year.

I own a bunch of shares in that fund myself. It beats paying a hedge fund 2% of assets and 20% of gains for rotten performance!

One of the most astute investors in the market, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), pulled every cent from hedge funds 8 years ago.

But the pension money of far too many hard working Americans is still in these putrid investments.

If the smartest guy at the table just got up and left, why is anyone sticking around?

Hedge funds have an aura about them. Geniuses in glass towers pulling the strings of markets.

But the emperor has no clothes. And to quote Gordon Gekko:

What do you think of hedge funds? Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know.

Have a great weekend everyone!

More on markets:

Wall Street Banks Turn on Each Other as Federal Probe Looms

AMC Fails to Deliver Hit 9.7 Million

Bill Ackman Loses $4.8 Billion

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 with great returns.

More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get $100 in free bonus shares!

Misfits Market

I’ve used Misfits for years, and it never disappoints! Every fruit and vegetable is organic, super fresh, and packed with flavor!

I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order. 

Photo: “the emperor has no clothes” by nevermindtheend is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

How Tech Could Stop Wildfires

The US West Coast wildfire season used to be 4 months long.

Now it’s 8, running from May to January. 2.5 million acres of land have burned in California alone this year.

But for desperate homeowners in fire prone regions, there may be hope. Several new technologies have been developed recently that may protect homes from these terrifying fires.

Long-Acting Chemical Sprays

Just today, the US Forest Service approved a new fire retardant chemical. It can be sprayed on houses and critical infrastructure and last for months.

It may even last an entire fire season.

The chemical is called PHOS-CHEK FORTIFY®. Developed by Perimeter Solutions in Missouri, it is the first fire retardant that can protect structures for the long term.

I could see every house in the West being coated in this material or something like it each spring.

Fire Blankets

Giant foil blankets have saved some homes from wildfires.

However, a study by Case Western Reserve University Prof. Fumiaki Takahashi found that fire blankets are usually only effective for short periods. In a prolonged fire, they may fail.

Dry Ice

An intriguing possibility I first heard about on a recent episode of This Week in Startups. The idea is that CO2 from the dry ice would suffocate the fire, which needs oxygen to burn.

Unfortunately, this approach does not seem very effective for forest fires. From a study presented at the International Symposium on Fire Investigation Science and Technology:

To be effective against class A fires, the solid state CO2 tends to need to be in direct contact with the fuel material. As many forest fires travel through the canopy, this is not a feasible extinguishment method.

Wrap Up

The best candidate looks like a long term fire retardant chemical. Coupled with advanced satellite imaging to track fires just seconds after they begin, it could be a powerful tool to stop these fires.

Best of luck to the innovative companies and researchers tackling this huge challenge!

More on tech:

What if Everyone on Earth Had Super Fast Internet for $1?

Male Contraception With an Ultrasound Device?

Robot Hands, Vertical Farms, and the Future of Food

Why I Just Invested in Capbase, The Startup in a Box

Photo: “Wildfire” by USFWS/Southeast is marked with CC PDM 1.0

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Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

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The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

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Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

Why I just invested in eyerate, the best online review tool

If you run a retail business, you know what a royal pain online review sites can be. Get one unreasonable customer, and all of a sudden their bad day is turned into your business nightmare. An angry one star screed torpedoes your average and you’re left to rebuild, bit by bit.

But what if you could capture ten times as many positive reviews from your happiest customers, cheaply and easily? And at the same time, you could motivate your employees to give the best service ever?

Well, you can. EyeRate, an innovative software startup from the Sacramento area, has created an incredible tool that both generates awesome reviews and motivates employees.

Here’s how it works:

1) Customer gets a haircut (or any other service).

2) Afterward, the customer gets a text message “You just saw Sarah. How was your experience? Rate us 1-5.” (Customer info pulls from the POS, so no need to enter anything.)

3) Customer texts back 5.

4) Customer is automatically prompted to post the review to Google, and does so with a single click.

5) Sarah gets a cash reward (usually $5-10 each time), which is automatically processed by EyeRate. The business owner doesn’t have to do anything.

By prompting happy customers to review you, EyeRate generates an average 10x increase in positive reviews for its clients. If a customer rates you less than a 4, the customer has the option to post OR share their feedback privately with the business owner and the message is forwarded to leadership to followup.

Where would you rather spend your scarce marketing dollars: expensive Google or Facebook ads with questionable usefulness? Or motivating your employees to provide great service and capture the awesome reviews, building your brand online and making your foot traffic skyrocket?

95% of consumers check online reviews before deciding which store to go to. Online reviews are also critical to your position in Google search. This is the where you will make or break your business.

I just invested in EyeRate, and the company is growing at warp speed for a reason: it produces reliable, massive increases in revenue for its customers that far exceed its modest monthly fee. Competitors like Podium and BirdEye can prompt a customer for a review and aggregate the data, but they can’t handle payments to employees, which is how you motivate them to give great service and ask for reviews.

Check out EyeRate today, before your competition does!

More on tech:

ONE OF THE HOTTEST TECH STARTUPS IN THE WORLD CALLS HOBOKEN HOME

WHY I JUST INVESTED IN GAUGE, THE BEST WAY TO SELL YOUR CAR

KEY METRICS FOR STARTUPS: CONSUMER VS. ENTERPRISE SAAS

Photo: “Symbols – Daytime, Barber Pole – Trinity Barber Shop, Storefront next to a Walton’s Restaurant, Other Stores, Pedestrians on Sidewalk” by MIT-Libraries is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

10 Years of Legal Weed: Fewer Opioid Deaths, More Jobs and Tax Revenue

I got an interesting message in my e-mail this morning. The NPR Planet Money newsletter reviewed the prior nearly ten years in legal marijuana in some states, and came to some interesting conclusions:

What’s changed:

  • More marijuana use
  • Way more jobs
  • Way more tax revenue. California makes over $600 million a month.

What hasn’t:

  • No effect on crime or traffic accidents
  • No change in price of marijuana. Evidently the product and service at the legal stores is so good people prefer it to anything else.

What might have:

Use of opioids. In the working paper linked from the newsletter, I found this incredible stat:

…Chan, Burkhardt, and Flyr (2020) show that RMLs [recreational marijuana laws] reduce opioid mortality by 20% to 35%, implying that both opioid use and misuse decline as legal marijuana access expands.

Given the mass death caused by opioids, this alone seems like reason enough to legalize marijuana in my book.

I read this newsletter with particular interest since I live in New Jersey, which recently legalized marijuana but doesn’t yet have weed stores the way California, Colorado and other states do. It looks like we mostly have positive changes to look forward to.

For more posts on politics and news, check these out:

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Photo: “Vancouver Global Marijuana March 2015 – by Danny Kresnyak” by Cannabis Culture is licensed under CC BY 2.0