Recently, I was at lunch with some private equity folks and they asked me an interesting question... well, rather, they revealed that they couldn't quite get a handle on what it was that I wanted to do. They saw and appreciated the myriad of activities I had gotten myself into and couldn't quite paint a picture of how this was all fitting together and leading somewhere.
Its a legitmate point.
I also think its kind of interesting. You have some people out there with no goals and no requiste activities and obviously that's not too admirable. You have others who have goals but really don't do too much to actually pursue them, and to me, that's even less admirable, because they've identified targets, but out of sheer laziness or fear, fail to motivate themselves to reach them. Then, you've got other people who have goals, and, in fact, start out with those goals, based on little to no experience whatsoever, and then fully commit themselves to those goals. That almost reminds me of the "strong and wrong" concept. How many people go into investment banking or accounting, do all the things they need to do to get hired by Goldman Sachs or KPMG, and then soon realize that they had no idea what they were getting into, because it doesn't match the kind of lives they want to lead? Yet, by all measures, these were admirable and respected pursuits.
And then you've got where I am... pursuing, yet seemingly without goals. By my own admission, I do not have a singularity that I can neatly point to as my "goal." I have potential points of arrival, and each passing day collapses another Schrodinger wave function, narrowing the possibilities through my choices, even if I have no particular inclination towards a particular result. I become, therefore the end result of a series of choices based on particular inclinations, yet without an overall guiding inclination. Therefore, I am not "aimless" but I might be accurately called "without aim."
What of it? Does it matter? Wherein lies the potential problem? Well, if you were completely without an overarching plan around your activities, you run the risk of overextending yourself... committing to so much unrelated nonsense, all without synergy, that you fail to accomplish anything. Therefore, you need to draw the line between what fits and what doesn't. How to do this... Well, one could conceivably use this "goal" concept, but I'm not entirely sure that's the most effective. Most people will admit that there are many roads to Mecca, and so using a goal as your hard and fast line to figure out what belongs in your life doesn't seem like it would be devisive enough. Too many things could potentially lead you to your goals. There's no "one way" to be a banker. Some people major in History at Dartmouth and become bankers, while others are Finance majors at NYU Stern with a minor in math. No, what is really a much better way to draw the line on what makes it into your Palm pilot or not is your own natural affection for an activity. "Do what you love." While it may sound wishy washy, the average person doesn't love much of anything, if we're all honest with ourselves... I mean, real love... true passion. I have passion for new ideas. I have passion for working with people who love to learn. Sometimes, I find that in students. Other times, entreprenuers or VCs. The best VCs are undoubtedly lifelong students. So, while I might not have a definate end result in mind, pursuit of my passions have consciously and deliberately singled out certain activities over others. I could theorize where they might lead, given potential trajectory analysis, but to put forth those potentials as the overarching guiding principals in and of themselves would not only be inaccurate, it would also taint my natural ability to let my passions discern for themselves what I should be spending my time on. They would be tainted by my alligence to a "goal" and hesitation to readjust goals once they are chosen... for what is a goal that changes everyday? So, while my lack of a clear goal statement might confuse others and prevent them from catagorizing me, it also keeps my life as sincere as it has the potential to be. As long as I do what I love, I will love what I am doing... and with true love for something comes sincere motivation and the desire to excel (a word which has no cap, I might add), greatly over and above the desire to reach a goal, and then... well... stop.
Carlos Beltran is now a Met.
Beltran is simply the most exciting addition this franchise has made... EVER. That includes the trade for Mike Piazza. When Piazza joined the Mets, don't get me wrong, it was exciting, but he wasn't coming off the kind of postseason performance Beltran had. Carlos Beltran nearly carried the Astros on his shoulders into the World Series. Plus, unlike Piazza, he can field and he's much younger than Piazza.
You know what's even more exciting? Carlos Beltran was a Jesuit--he was on my fantasy team for the last two years. I got him last year for a paltry $23 bucks, which meant I got to keep him this year for $28, because I'm in a franchise league. Clearly one of the best fantasy signings ever. So, I've rooted for this guy... waiting for him to come up on SportsCenter every time I was out at a bar, checking the box scores on the net. When I watched the playoffs this year, I had a special kind of pride in Carlos Beltran... the kind of special pride that can only come from watching one of your fantasy guys succeed in the real world. Geeky? Perhaps, but hey, its 2005, and this is the bizarre state of the game for the internet generation. I'm a rotohead loser, so shoot me.
And yet, the press says that the Mets aren’t even done yet. There’s apparently an outstanding offer to Carlos Delgado on the table. Pedro, Beltran AND Delgado? That’s just nuts. Imagine this opening day lineup…
Now that’s potent with a capital M. :)
I feel behind in my posting over the weekend because of the "Spite Monkey."
The Spite Monkey is a irratating little critter who messes up your life in little annoying ways for his own personal amusement. Over the weekend, the Spite Monkey once again knocked out the cable internet connection to my whole building, and also delayed the installation of an amp to fix the problem. I can't even threaten Time Warner to jump for DSL b/c I don't have a land line and having one just for DSL is more expensive, PLUS I left DSL because the service was even worse.
After that, he crashed the hard drive on my work laptop, leaving it in FUBAR status. Unfortunately, my San Fran pics were on there (which was stupid on my part), but FORTUNATELY, I had uploaded my San Fran pics to Snapfish. You know, it kind of bugs me that I have to pay to get the hi-res images back, but, to be honest, I think this episode really underscores the need for some kind of online storage for photos. Snapfish will charge me 10 bucks to get a photo CD of 50 pics if I really want it and, to be honest, that's a better deal than paying for some kind of monthly file storage. I just like the option value of keeping all my stuff on my own drives. I thought maybe I would burn them to CDs, but then what if my apartment goes up in flames. (Perish the thought, but stuff like that happens, you know.)
I'm also thinking of scanning up a whole bunch of old letters, etc and uploading those to Snapfish. I have a love letter that my girlfriend from 8th grade wrote to me. You can't replace that kind of sappiness. Yes, truly, some document/photo archiving is in order.
The good thing is that GM was able to get me back up in running in a short amount of time. They had an image of my disk from September, so I have all my progams. It also has all of the spyware that I got rid of since Ad-aware came to the rescue, so I need to do that again. More posts to follow...
Bob Lutz is now a blogger, and to celebrate my GM design pride, I'm posting my wheels proudly on my blog. :)
Now if I could only afford to keep the car AND buy a one bedroom apartment in the city. The car was well priced... the apartments... not so much. :(
In my experience, I think I've gained at least a rudimentary conception of value creation in acquisitions, and how to evaluation acquisition targets. Sometimes, you get a good financial buy, where you are able to pickup an accretive stream of operating income for a good price. On top of that, operating synergies may exist that allow you cut some overhead and, again, improve your bottom line given your purchase price. Other times, you have strategic synergies that allow you to distribute your product in other markets or up/cross sell products.
Today's announcement of Six Apart's Acquisition of LiveJournal, to me, anyway, fits a different catagory. I don't necessarily believe that it gives its users a more fullsome offering, because I think that the user bases are dramatically different and I don't think you have people. However, where it does make sense is that the offering seems more "whole" as a company now. The two companies are amazingly complimentary, with LiveJournal really fitting nicely as a free offering to go with the paid Typepad service and liscenced Moveable Type software. Perhaps that might make it more attractive to a strategic, but I'm not entirely sure that makes the most business sense. To what end do you create a company that touches all the bases when all of the bases might not be independently viable? Fred argues that there exists a great opportunity to "monitize" the LJ content with ad placement, but I don't think the average LJ user would be too happy having ads on "their" space. I think Danah would probably cringe at the mere mention of the word "monitize." I wrote on Fred's blog that I think you'd see the kind of outrage that baseball fans had when Selig tried to put Spiderman ads on the bases.
So, yes, now Six Apart is "more complete." I can see that and perhaps that makes them more formidable, but better? Not sure. It kind of makes me think of the General Motors strategy of putting a car in every single damn segment they could find. At one point, the company had close to 100 different models. Some were profitable, some not as much, but you always knew that somewhere, GM had a car for you, no matter who you were. I guess I'm not sure where "complete" gets you.
I don't think you can upsell the LJers into Typepad, and even if you could, you didn't need to buy them to do it... I'm sure they are aware of the service regardless. In any case I never liked the idea of buying customers you couldn't win on your own.
So everyone keeps saying that Six Apart is now better because its bigger, more diversified, has a complete set of offerings... and while those sound better, I guess I haven't heard anyone really come up with a believable business case on how this will translate into better earnings and value.
Perhaps they just didn't spend that much on it? That might be the key. If the stats are right, and LJ has about 90,000 users paying $25 a year, they're bringing in about $2.25 million. Now, let's say that the acquisition went at a very healthy 4x multiple of sales, making the purchase price about $9 million. They've raised a little more than that, but not much more, so this would represent a big chunk of the venture money they raised. Let's say its in the $7-9 million range, so we don't assume they went and spent all their money in one place. I have no idea what it really was... I'm just pulling numbers out of my butt. (Well, the multiple isn't out of my butt... you usually see private venture companies go at about 3x forward sales, plus or minus a turn.) At $7-9 million, with estimates of about 2.5 million *active* LJ accounts, you basically paid $3-4 a viable customer. Now, the question is, is that expensive or no? I have NO IDEA. I mean, can those blogs generate that kind of dough each? What if only 25% of LJ users (which would be some pretty good penetration) sign on for whatever advertising or business proposition you send their way... now you've got the number up closer to $16 a viable customer and that seems like it would be tough to make back. Remember, while bloggers can make a lot more than this with contextual advertising, the blog service doesn't get a piece of that. If the service got a cut, that would be different, but bloggers *own* all the equity in their blogs the way its set up now.
If anyone else has any shorthand models they want to throw around here, I certainly welcome them. This is about as halfassed as you can get, but its a start.