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Archive for January, 2010

Conan’s American Dream

Game Plan with Nancy Colasurdo

I have never watched Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno. I caught David Letterman a few times back in the ’90s. No Jimmy, either Kimmel or Fallon, graces my TV after midnight. I’m more likely to be watching a Seinfeld rerun at that hour.

So what I’m about to write has nothing to do with allegiances or who’s to blame for the talk show debacle that unfolded over at General Electric’s (GE: 16.1, -0.24, -1.47%) NBC.

But as a life coach I am compelled to pause for a moment and reflect on the parting words of Conan O’Brien on his last show. After reading an article about it I became intrigued, so I watched the clip online and here’s my takeaway: The next time I have a client who wants to know what it means to have perspective, like big-picture, healthy, adult perspective, I’ll tell him to view that clip.

“I have had more good fortune than anybody I know,” O’Brien said. “And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven parking lot, we’ll find a way to make it fun. We really will. I have no problems.”

Now the folks who see life only through a painstakingly practical or cynical lens just shrug that comment off and point to his millions of dollars. But I would argue that when people who don’t need to work another day in their lives for financial reasons choose to continue pursuing their passions and using their gifts, we get to see who they really are. This is the stuff of role models.

Back in 1931, a book called The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams introduced us to the term, the American Dream. It reads, “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement … It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

Since then, as each decade has passed, the American Dream has become more and more focused on our accumulation of material goods and has even become equated with home ownership in these challenging economic times. I confess sometimes that blows my mind. That’s our collective American Dream? A house in the suburbs? It brings to mind the film American Beauty in which nothing was as it seemed – the lovely house held within it complete dysfunction, the girl who portrayed herself as promiscuous was actually a virgin, the homophobe was in fact gay. The dream was a facade.

Wanting to own a home or whatever else materially defines our American Dream is only part of it, isn’t it? What happened to the “fuller” life described by Adams? It is lost on so many of our citizens. We are so politically polarized we’ve lost perspective on the fact that our nation would be greater if we all lived our own lives meaningfully and thoughtfully. We’ve come to gravitate to the ‘us vs. them’ way of thinking. It’s natural to do so in sports, but in our day-to-day lives as citizens?

As the NBC talk show situation heated up, taking sides became the thing. It was a feeding frenzy. We even had celebrities coming down on one side or the other. On his last show, after thanking his fans for making a tough situation “joyous and inspirational” and emphasizing again and again that he wasn’t joking, O’Brien addressed the flap.

“All I ask is one thing,” O’Brien said, “and I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”

Yes, it allows you to live your American Dream, if only for a fraction of the time you’d hoped. I don’t know Conan O’Brien even a little, but just from his graceful exit I would confidently bet that the next phase of his American Dream is right around the corner. And it will eclipse his expectations in unforeseen ways.

That might be worth tuning in to see.

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Here is an article from ChannelWeb.

“Looking for glimmers of hope for a near-term economic recovery? Well, Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) Chairman Bill Gates isn’t going to sugar coat things for you.

In a Monday morning interview on Good Morning America, Gates suggested that the smoldering effects of the worst recession in decades will continue to impact the economy for the foreseeable future. “When you have a financial crisis like that, it’s years of digging out,” Gates said in the interview.

Although there have been signs of economic improvement in recent months, as well as a collective sense of optimism in the IT industry that spending could rebound this year, there’s little concrete evidence to indicate that this is anything more than wishful thinking. And if unemployment remains high, the dreaded ‘S’ word — stagflation — could begin to creep into discussions about the economy.

Gates said even when the economy does improve the government will have to institute systemic changes in order for any real rebound to take root. “The budget’s very, very out of balance and even as the economy comes back, without changes in tax and entitlement policies, it won’t get back into balance. And at some point, financial markets will look at that and it will cause problems,” Gates told Good Morning America.

Gates’ struck a similar chord last week in his annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Although the acute financial crisis is over, the economy is still weak, and the world will spend a lot of years undoing the damage, which includes lingering unemployment and huge government deficits and debts at record levels,” Gates wrote in the letter.

Of course, none of this is fundamentally different from what Gates and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer have been saying about the economy since it began tanking in September 2008. Ballmer has presided over several of the weakest quarters in Microsoft’s history, and on several occasions has called the economic situation “the toughest Microsoft has ever faced.”

Read the whole article here.

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Here is an interesting article from The Economist.

“BEIJING recently suffered its lowest temperature in 59 years, but the economy is sweltering. Figures published on Thursday January 21st showed that real GDP grew by 10.7% year on year in the fourth quarter. Industrial production jumped by 18.5% in the year to December, while retail sales increased by 17.5%, boosted by government subsidies and tax cuts on purchases of cars and appliances. In real terms, the rise in retail sales last year was the biggest for over two decades.

A year ago many economists were fretting about unemployment and deflation. Now, with indecent haste, they have shifted to worrying that the Chinese economy is overheating and inflation is taking off. The 12-month rate of consumer-price inflation rose to 1.9% in December, an abrupt change from July when prices were 1.8% lower than a year before.

The recent rise in inflation was caused mainly by higher food prices as a result of severe winter weather in northern China. In many cities, fresh-vegetable prices have more than doubled in the past two months. But Helen Qiao and Yu Song at Goldman Sachs argue that it is not just food prices that risk pushing up inflation: the economy is starting to exceed its speed limit. If, as China bears contend, the economy had massive overcapacity, there would be little to worry about: excess supply would hold down prices. But bottlenecks are already appearing. Some provinces report electricity shortages and stocks of coal are low. The labour market is also tightening, forcing firms to pay higher wages.”

Read the full article here.

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Students from across Georgetown University are invited to attend the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Summit, where you will learn from a variety of industry experts ranging from company founders to venture capitalists. The day will include keynote speakers, panel discussions, and an Elevator Pitch Competition.

Date: Friday, January 29, 2010

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Elevator Pitch Competition: 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

To Register, click here.

Location: Rafik B. Hariri Building , Lohrfink Auditorium Combination of keynote speakers (general interest) and breakout panel discussions (topic-focused). Afternoon keynote to be followed by the Elevator Pitch Competition, highlighting student business ideas – with prize money for the best ideas. Networking reception to end the day.

Discussion Topics include:

  • Understanding Entrepreneurship
  • Tech Entrepreneurs
  • Opportunities in Clean Technologies
  • Entrepreneurship in Consumer Products
  • Minority Entrepreneurs
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Investors’ View: How to Get Funding in Today’s Market

About Gerbsman Partners

Gerbsman Partners focuses on maximizing enterprise value for stakeholders and shareholders in under-performing, under-capitalized and under-valued companies and their Intellectual Property. Since 2001, Gerbsman Partners has been involved in maximizing value for 60 Technology, Life Science and Medical Device companies and their Intellectual Property,, through its proprietary “Date Certain M&A Process” and has restructured/terminated over $790 million of real estate executory contracts and equipment lease/sub-debt obligations. Since inception, Gerbsman Partners has been involved in over $2.3 billion of financings, restructurings and M&A transactions.

Gerbsman Partners has offices and strategic alliances in Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Alexandria, VA, San Francisco, Europe and Israel.

For additional information please visit www.gerbsmanpartners.com

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Here is a good VentureBeat article.

“Now that 2009 is over, we can add up the numbers on how much venture firms invested in startups during all of 2009 — and, well, it was a lot less than in the past. Over the course of the year, VCs invested a total of $17.7 billion in 2,795 deals, the lowest total since 1997, according to the MoneyTree Report from the National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

On the bright side, the worst hit came from numbers that we’ve already reported on, since investments really plummeted during the first half of this year. Funding went up in the third quarter, and more-or-less held steady in the fourth. The amount invested went down from $5.1 billion in the third quarter to $5.0 billion in the fourth quarter, but the numbers of deals went up from 689 to 794. So VCs were making smaller bets, but they placed more fo them. Another reason for optimism: There were more seed and early-stage deals in Q4 than in any other quarter this year, so new ideas are still getting money.

Two of the industries we spend a lot of time covering at VentureBeat took a big funding hit in 2009. Internet-specific companies received $2.9 billion dollars, down 39 percent from 2008. Cleantech fell even further to $1.9 billion, a decline of 52 percent. Meanwhile, VCs put more money into biotech ($3.5 billion) than any other sector, and even then, biotech saw a 19 percent drop from 2008.

NVCA President Mark Heesen acknowledged the drop in a statement released with the report, saying, “The venture industry had no choice but to slow the investment pace in 2009.” But he also offered an optimistic view of the year to come.

“Now that the economy has begun to show signs of improvement, we expect to see dollars flow more freely back into those sectors that offered the most promise before the recession began — clean technology, life sciences and IT,” Heesen said. “The seed and early stage pipeline needs replenishing across all industries and the health of the startup community in the next decade will be dependent upon more robust first-time financings. 2010 should be the year to begin that process in earnest.”

Read the complete article here.

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Here is a good article from PC World.

“With the European Commission seen as virtually certain to approve Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems in just a week, those campaigning to prevent the deal encompassing Sun’s MySQL database unit have shifted their efforts to regulators in Russia and China.

MySQL founder Michael ‘Monty’ Widenius said in a statement Monday that the Commission, Europe’s top competition regulator, showed weakness when it struck a deal with Oracle last month that paved the way for an unconditional approval of the acquisition of Sun. Widenius left MySQL in 2009 and might have been part of a group of possible bidders for the unit should it have been ruled an impediment to the merger.

“The European Commission showed courage and competence during most of the investigation but looked very weak in the end,” he said in the statement, adding that China and Russia “are powerful, self-confident and open-source-friendly countries and they have every right to do a better job on this than the E.U.”

Oracle still has not obtained clearance from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). FAS said last week that it has extended the deadline for its ongoing probe of the deal.

Widenius’ helpmysql.org campaign has over 600 supporters in China and more than 800 in Russia. Widenius said it will now work closely with its local supporters to support the work of the competition authorities in those two countries and will step up its efforts to collect signatures from local MySQL users. Worldwide, the campaign has gathered 30,000 signatures of support since its launch on December 28.

Barring any last minute surprises, the European Commission is set to rule in favor of the deal on January 27. It said as much last month, after Oracle made pledges enforceable only through private lawsuits, not by the Commission, to protect MySQL as an independent open source database competitor to Oracle’s core database product for a minimum five years.”

Read the complete article here.

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Here is an interresting CleanTech article from LA Times business blog.

“The number and value of green-tech mergers, acquisitions and capital raises in the U.S. dropped in 2009, according to a new report.

Overall, there were 248 deals — 188 capital raises and 60 acquisitions — worth a total of $9.5 billion, according to New York-based investment bank Peachtree Green Advisors. The volume of transactions was down 14% from the 289 deals recorded in 2008, and the value dropped 4% from the $9.9 billion that year.

The distribution, storage and efficiency sector had the most transactions, with 90, or 36% of the aggregate. Biofuels saw the steepest decline, with just 27 deals in 2009, compared with 69 in 2008.

The wind industry had deals with the highest value, a combined $3.1 billion, or 32% of the total transaction dollars from 2009. The amount was more than a billion dollars higher than the 2008 total, a 52% boost.

With $2.1 billion, or 22% of the total, the distribution, storage and efficiency sector came in next. The solar and bio sectors each represented 20%.

Deal value in the solar category plunged to $1.9 billion from $3.5 billion in 2008, in part because of the recession, the cost of developing utility-scale solar farms, tight credit and investor concerns.

And capital investment in solar slid 62%, to $1.2 billion from $3.2 billion, while volume fell 31%, to 47 deals from 68. The amount of funding funneled into the wind industry saw an “astounding” 907% upswing to $2.3 billion from $224 million the year before, when there was tightening credit, declining prices for natural gas and oil and the upcoming presidential election, according to Peachtree.

Across all sectors, the overall declines were offset by huge bundles of funding — more than $30 billion to be used in 2009 and beyond — from the Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to Peachtree.”

Read the full article here.

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