Sunday, August 04, 2002

Those who give up essential liberty
to purchase a little temporary safety
deserve neither liberty nor safety

Ben Franklin

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Perilous Times for Entrepreneurs

The media, Congress and The White House are all lathered up about the corporate excesses in the news. Accounting scandals, egregious compensation and cooked books will most likely define this recent period. It will be the coda to the dot-com boom and bust. History will have a glossy sound byte for describing our gilded age.

This is unfortunate. The broad brush covers nuance and the other side of the coin. Not only is history the loser, but so are contemporary policy makers and their constituents who may make decisions which negatively impact the entrepreneurial tug and pull that is our nation's engine for greatness. Today, that engine is running on near empty.

The economic travails and market shenanigans of the past two years have created a lack of capital for entrepreneurs. Angel investors have had their wings clipped as their last round of bets failed. They have to wait for a rebound and pray. Professional venture investors are venturesome in name only. They are struggling to maintain a happy face and collect their management fees. The public markets are moribund with exceptions that are akin to hen's teeth. Overlaying this are anxieties that naturally flow from the reported excesses of big brand name companies (who will be next?) and post September 11 (what will be next?).

Meanwhile, lost in shuffle and probably lost to history are thousands of small enterprises struggling to stay alive. For them the capital markets have all but dried up. They have great ideas. They are driven by committed, ethical men and women who believe in their companies and their products and want to make a difference in the world. They embody the spirit and solid values that have made America great.

They include the vaccine company in Montana with technology to cure life-threatening disease, the database company in Florida that analyzes all publicly traded stocks in the world, and the firewall company in Seattle the blocks hackers from your home PC. In each of these and thousands of other companies people have gone months without pay or pay so modest as to qualify for food stamps. They have been forced to live with relatives, have lost marriages and been evicted from offices and apartments. They are struggling to survive in an environment that includes the most difficult capital market any of us can remember. Unfortunately, some have had to give up, for the sake of their health, their sanity and the well being of their families. Our nation and our world are less well off as a result. When our entrepreneurial engine runs out of gas our global leadership position is impaired.

My plea to the media, the moneychangers and the policy makers is to pay attention to the entrepreneurs. The important role they play should not be ignored in the face of momentary distress. Hopefully, they will continue to scrap and struggle and the best will prevail and realize the fruits of their labor.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

A boring relationship robs you of solitude and doesn't provide companionship.

Oscar Wilde

Sunday, May 26, 2002

My 201 (k)

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, President Bush and other spinmeisters for the economy have yet to address the severity of the current downturn. The media doesn't paint an accurate picture either, for fear of further negatively impacting already diminishing advertising revenues. Among my peer group of aging baby boomers the slowing economy and the severe Wall Street correction is having a dramatic impact. While the severity of the downturn is glossed over by the media and government leaders it is given full voice in conversations with my aging boomer friends and associates.

I open the subject jokingly saying, "I used to have a 401(k) plan. Now I have a 201(k) plan." That immediately elicits a hearty laugh and the knowing reply, "Me too!" What does this mean for the boomer who cannot look forward to the sinecure of government, military, corporate or other assured pension programs? A common theme I hear from friends, against a backdrop of fear, is a grudging acknowledgement that they will need to work for three to five more years. Others are recalibrating retirement plans.

Social Security, typically denigrated by upwardly mobile, successful boomers, is now viewed with newly discovered comfort. I've heard friends say, "I just received a print-out of my benefits from Social Security and its going to make a difference when I retire." Those same people were dismissive of Social Security in the past. It was a government program for the other guy. Increasingly, there is new respect for this New Deal program.

Boomers have had a relatively easy life. They enjoyed the most prolonged adolescence in human history and in their self-absorbed fashion felt that they endured great pain with Vietnam. They believed they invented experimentation in music, art and lifestyles. Living in the present, many didn't plan well for the future. Many thought they were planning excellently with a 401(k) laden with tech stocks. Now, with those 401(k)'s looking like 201(k)'s aging boomers are having to make adjustments. Some aging boomers were "short-timers" looking forward to retirement within the next couple of years. They were planning to retire "earlier than the old man." They are now realizing that they have to "suck it up" and "grind it out" for a few more years. Many of them are tired of their work, not just tired of working. Cost consciousness is now on their minds. Lifestyle adjustments are being made and long nourished dreams are being modified or have been shattered completely.

This tough dose of hard reality has implications for the job market and for social policy. We should expect more people working longer because they must. We should expect new respect for Social Security in its traditional mode. It is not just something for our parents. There is also resentment that after nearly a full career of hard work the retirement on the horizon looks so insecure. There is bitterness that what looked like wise investment now looks too much like a lottery or a long lost weekend in Las Vegas.

So, be warned. Aging boomers are losing some of their bonhomie. Expect to hear some whining. And, they're gong to hanging around the office for a few more years.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Something we were withholding
Made us weak
Until we learned it was ourselves
We were withholding
From this land of living
And thence found salvation
In surrender.

Robert Frost

Monday, May 20, 2002

Justice Department Indicts Catholic Church

In Washington, DC today, the Justice Department announced the indictment of the Catholic Church as a result of the alleged pedophilia of a priest in Boston. Attorney General Ashcroft, in announcing the indictment stated, “We brought the indictment as a result of the recent events in Boston as well as the historic pattern of behavior we have observed.” Asked by the press if the recent indictment of Arthur Anderson had played a role in his decision, Ashcroft answered, “There is no connection between the two indictments. The only similarty comes from the fact that in each case we have tarred everyone in the entire organization with the same brush.” “It is necessary, “Ashcroft continued, “ to make every priest in America and all 28,000 Arthur Anderson employees accountable for the activities within their organization.”

Asked if the indictments didn’t evoke the mass hysteria which surrounded the Salem witch trials, Ashcroft stated, “Hysteria in pursuit of moral rectitude is no sin.”

The Catholic Church, responding to the indictment through a spokesman, said, “ We intend to vigorously defend the charges brought against us. We are asking for a speedy trial and a prompt resolution of the case. We have retained attorney Roy Cohn to defend us in this matter. His record of homophobia and close relationships within the Justice Department are a sure ticket to an acquittal on all charges.”

Commentators were mixed in their response to the indictment. An unnamed spokesman for Opus Dei claimed the indictment was driven by a “born again” Protestant cabal whose motive is to buy properties at a discount if the Church is forced into bankruptcy. In an anonymous email Opus Dei said, “This is clearly the work of Falwell, Robertson, Graham and Jerry Springer.” A spokesman for the Reverend Billie Graham said that a shaken Dr. Graham believed the entire matter was the work of Jews, adding, however, that he would welcome any parishioners into his flock. A mummified William F. Buckley could not be reached for comment.

Fearing reprisals, as soon as the indictment was announced, Attorney General Ashcroft joined Vice President Cheney at a secret location.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternities sunrise.

William Blake

Saturday, May 18, 2002

samizdat 1. a clandestine publishing system in the former Soviet Union by which forbidden or unpublishable literature is reproduced and circulated privately. 2. a work or periodical circulated by this system. (1965-70; from Russ samizdat = sam(o) - self + izdat (elstvo) - publishing agency; coined as a jocular allusion to the compound names of official Soviet publishing organs)

While not clandestine, but rather its opposite, this site will post the largely unpublishable. It will attempt, in turn, to be introspective, thoughtful, confused, funny, sad, full of hope and struggling with pessimism.

The thought for today is, "Stay high, keep moving and give all of yourself away."