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Time to Rage

Co-founder of FinLitTV. Former investment banker and UVA Grad in NYC. Passionate about solving financial literacy. Love sports
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As a follow-up to last year’s post on Facebook’s IPO, I’ve written a new post on FinLit’s blog  - Is It Worth Buying Twitter’s Shares When it IPO’s Tomorrow

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I know a lot of you have been wondering if I’m making any progress with my startup, but I’m very pleased to announce that FinLit has been accepted as a member of the Good Company Ventures 2013 Incubator Class.

So what the hell does that mean?

Good Company Ventures is a program to help for profit companies with a social mission. The slogan is “Where Purpose Meets Profit” and the goal is to get our company in a position to be sustainable, scaleable, and have a major social impact. And it’s based in Philadelphia.

We will be spending every Thursday and Friday in Philly working on every aspect of our business with 9 other great startups and a group of inspiring (and fun) entrepreneurs.

It takes a lot to get me to leave the wonders of NYC for even a few days each week, but this is a fantastic business opportunity that can have a huge impact on the future of FinLit. We’re really excited about this program and think it is a perfect fit for our goal of creating a profitable company that helps young adults do smart things with money.

And it’s a great reason to hang out with some of my best friends and family members that I haven’t spent enough time with the last few years (not too mention the beers are pretty cheap here!)

I will be blogging much more regularly to provide some updates and perspective on this program.

I also want to thank all of you who have supported me and this startup over the past 9 months. Without your support I wouldn’t be in the position that I am now.

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I know it’s been a few months since I’ve written, but it’s the 1st anniversary of me starting this blog and I wanted to take a look back at the past year.

A sincere thank you to everyone who has read any of my posts. While I don’t write to get pageviews, it certainly feels good to know my friends, family, and random Internet people are reading this blog.

I promise to write more often going forward this year.

Productivity (or lack thereof)

  • I wrote 25 Posts 
  • But I have a whopping 48 posts in drafts. I need to do a better job of sitting down and cranking out a post in 1 sitting instead of just half-assing something and thinking that I’ll finish it later.
  • I also only wrote 1 post in October, November, or December. Essentially I stopped writing once I left banking and joined a startup.

Visitors

  • 6,373 visits.
  • 5,349 Unique visitors (the more important stat)

Posts

Traffic sources - 69% Referral, 8% Search, and 23% Direct.

  • Apart from the one post that got a ton of visits from Hacker News, the most consistent referral source was Facebook, which was ~3x better of a traffic source than Twitter. Although this may be a function that I have at least 3 to 4x as many Facebook friends as Twitter followers.
  • My favorite Search term that led someone to my blog was “Why did Surge soda fail” - 10 people searched that and ended up at my sentimental blog post on the topic.
  • Apparently 500 people who searched “tyrone biggums” saw a link to my blog, but 0 of them clicked on it. What a shame. 

Demographics

  • Surprised to see 98 visits from Germany and 35 from Brazil
  • Over 3,000 visits from Chrome browsers, over 1,000 from Firefox, with Safari and Internet Explorer both around 600
  • Only 309 visits on a mobile phone

Thanks again for your support. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see me write more about.

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Dwolla’s CEO, Ben Milne, did something really cool last night. He gave out real money using Twitter.

Using the #Dwolla hastag allows you to easily send money on Twitter, but you can only claim it if you have a dwolla account and sign in with Twitter.

Ben, and several members of the dwolla team, blasted celebrities, tech influencers, and nobodies like me with free money last night.

Now, I can’t tell how much money was actually claimed, but looking at Ben’s twitter stream it couldn’t have cost dwolla (or Ben himself) more than $10,000 at the high end (although it was likely a lot lower). 

So, why was this a great idea?

  • Great for culture - It looked like Ben and his team were having a blast slinging money all over the web. I’m sure things like this make dwolla a fun place to work.
  • Cool way to launch and demo an awesome technology - We can pay people on Twitter!  How awesome is that? This showed people how easy and simple #dwolla is to use in a fun way. 
  • Targeted at Influencers - For the most part, Ben was targeting celebrities who are power Twitter users and tech savvy. If even just 1 was intrigued enough by the $100 or $500 or $1,000 Ben gave them to actively start using dwolla, it could be well worth the cost.

Dwolla is doing some pretty fun and interesting marketing. A couple weeks ago they partnered with Derby Jackpot to sponsor a bar night.

The place was packed and it was a great way to sign up people up and actually have them use it right away, either for funding a bet on Derby Jackpot or buying a drink at the bar. 

In any case, it’s pretty neat that we have the technology to pay people not just wirelessly but over Twitter. It’s exciting to think about what the next breakthrough will be in payments. 

Note: This post is going to sound corny, cheesy, and pretty obvious. I acknowledge that fact but make no apologies for it.

I’m heading off to the wedding of one of my best friend’s from high school and wanted to take a moment to pay him a quick compliment.

I went to his bachelor party two weekends ago in Virginia. We had a great time with the usual hilarious debauchery and shenanigans that come about anytime you get 17 dudes together in one place.

But the thing that stuck out to me is that I really enjoyed spending time with each of the 16 other people there with us. It was a great collection of the groom’s friends from high school, college, studying abroad, and his current city.

I think one of the biggest compliments I can pay my friend is that he surrounds himself with great people.

People like to say that your social media presence is a reflection of your personality, but obiously the truest reflection of your values and character are the people you choose to surround yourself with and your friends. 

Ever since I first met him in high school, Walt has consistently surrounded himself its ally cool, fun, and interesting people - which is just one of many reasons he is us ch a joy to be around.

I’m so thrilled that another one of my best friends from high school is getting married (still hard to imagine) and I wish Walt and MK the best as they start their life together.

Now it’s time to have some fun and start celebrating the wedding of two awesome people!

                      

Have you ever wondered if anyone actually opened up and read your beautifully crafted, life-altering, witty email? Or have you ever sent a party invite to a bunch of your friends and wanted to know how many of them actually got the contents of the message?

One solution is doing an email read receipt but that requires the recipients to take an action. And it’s super annoying and I hate when people use it.

I came across a new solution last week that appears to be a step in the right direction. Bananatag is a simple way to track your daily emails and see what happens after you send them.

It is extremely simple to install as a plug-in to Gmail and works right away. Bananatag operates with a Freemium pricing model that allows you to track 5 emails per day for free. If you’re a power email user or just super insecure, you can upgrade to the Pro version for just $5.00 per month.

Bananatag can send you an email letting you know when someone opens your email or clicks on a link. If you find this annoying or don’t want it clogging your inbox, it is very simple to create a Filter in Gmail that has these emails bypass your inbox and put in a separate folder that you can peruse at your leisure.

Here are some interesting insights so far from tacking 9 emails:

  • UVA fans aren’t that apathetic! - Last week I sent an email to 49 friends from UVA who live in NYC informing them that where the new UVA bar for football games is this year. Out of those 49 recipients, Banatag tells me the email was opened 36 times, the links within the email (map, Bar yelp page) were clicked 34 times. A 73.4% open rate isn’t too shabby, so looks like I’ll be sending more of these emails. Although out of those people, I would guess around 8-10 actually showed up to the bar (unclear if it was due to my email or not). Also, I did have someone I don’t know randomly email me and ask to be included on this “mailing list” next time, so I must be doing something right.
  • Mobile is kicking ass - Out of 88 total opens from 9 emails, 34 have been from desktop while a whopping 54 have been from Mobile. So, 61% of the emails I’ve been tracking have been opened from a mobile phone. And if you don’t think that percentage will be higher next year you haven’t been paying attention to the world around you.
  • People reopen emails a lot - Only 54% of the total emails opened are opened for the first time, which means that 46% were repeat opens. People just can’t get enough of my wonderful prose.
  • It’s not perfect - Bananatag says my unopened rate is 22.2% (2 out of 9 emails), but I know the recipient opened the email (because I got a response). 

Despite these small bugs, Bananatag is a really cool, easy to use, free service that allows you to see whether your email was opened or if your content was read. I definitely would recommend it and definitely plan to continue using it.

                                            

I attended the NY FinTech Startups Meetup last night for the first time. The event was very well organized by Jon Zanoff and the featured guest speaker was Peter Lehrman, the CEO and founder of AxialMarket (and a UVA alumnus!).

Notwithstanding the great insights from the evening, one of the first thoughts that popped in my head was that the crowd seemed pretty old for a tech startup event.

I would guess that the NY FinTech meetup had the oldest average age attendee of any tech event I’ve been to in NYC. Now to be honest, I haven’t been to that many tech events, but the crowd certainly seemed different than other events. 

For one thing, the attendees were generally dressed at least business casual and many people were in suits. And I would say that at 25, I was one of the younger people in the room.

I would guess the average age of attendee was mid 30s with plenty of people in their late 40’s or early 50’s in the room. 

So why might this be the case for FinTech startups?

Finance is Serious

Finance is a pretty serious, complex topic. Not to say that fields like education, clean tech, health care (which probably trends older as well), etc. aren’t serious, but the financial industry isn’t exactly known for innovation and is generally not receptive to disruption (although this is slowly changing).

Regulatory Hurdles

Any time you’re dealing with money, there are a lot of legal and regulatory hurdles you need to clear. There are a myriad of rules you need to follow, government financial regulations to comply with, certifications you need to achieve, etc that make FinTech startups a daunting and expensive task. I would imagine that many tech entrepreneurs without a background in finance are wary of the hurdles in finance (and health care) and choose to focus in other verticals. And the only way you have a background in finance is with…

Experience

It seemed like everyone I spoke to had some level of experience within the world of finance. I think most founders of FinTech startups leverage their expertise to fill holes they have seen popping up over and over again within a particular field of finance. Finance is all about trying to get a tiny edge over the rest of the market and the best way to do to be an expert in a niche area. Or you need to have a lot of…

Relationships

Like most things in the business world, finance revolves around relationships. There is a reason that investment banks say their most valuable assets walk out of the door each day - individuals bring in deals, not the name on the building. In order to deal with large, entrenched finance companies you generally need to have some deep and personal relationships with senior or key managers. It takes a lot of time and effort to build these relationships so it is obvious that older people would be able to better capitalize on these long-standing friendships.

Risk Aversion

Despite the housing bubble and billions in trading losses that seem to occur each week, finance at its core is a very risk averse profession. Most of the hedge fund analysts I know are among the most risk averse people I know. And while Bankers are happy to live a free-wheeling lifestyle on the Company dime, when it comes to spending their own money many are much more frugal.

Perhaps younger people in finance are waiting until they have accumulated sufficient net worth to feel comfortable taking the risk of starting their own FinTech company.

Statistical Anomaly 

Maybe I’m just reading too much into the turnout at one FinTech event.

Really smart analysis from Roger Ehrenberg on the aftermath of Facebook IPO talking about what is the nature of relationship a company wants to have with investors? 

informationarbitrage:

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s missive on mistakes made in the Facebook IPO has given rise to some strong emotions. While Andrew sought to lay much of blame at the feet of Facebook’s CFO, some others (here and here) view the CFO’s responsibility as simply being to get the highest price for the…

                    

I loved Michelle Obama’s speech last night at the Democratic National Convention. She is a supremely eloquent speaker who clearly easily relates to her audience.

I’m sure you’re going to read countless articles and blog posts this morning from people gushing about the First Lady’s passionate and moving speech. I was certainly guilty of expressing that sentiment last night on Twitter and I think it is healthy to enjoy the speech and reflect on its positive and uplifting message (especially in such an ugly and depressing campaign). 

However, before we all get too caught up in the wonder of the moment I think it is important to take a step back and face the reality that this speech will be pretty much irrelevant to the outcome of the presidential election.

Despite the energy and brilliance of the First Lady’s speech, the fact remains that spousal speeches simply do not move the needle in elections.

While I am sure many Democrats will remember this speech for years to come, it is extremely unlikely that Mrs. Obama’s speech will convince Undecideds or Republicans to vote for Barack Obama this November. 

With that being said, let’s get back to the gushing because it is fun to speculate - a potentially relevant outcome of the speech is that it sets the First Lady up for a future political career if she so desires.

She appears to have all the tools necessary to be a great politician - a winning smile, an effervescent personality, and amazing public speaking skills. I legitimately think she might be a better orator than President Obama - she does such a fantastic job of engaging with the audience.

And that doesn’t even take into account her brains (she wrote the speech herself!) or her political savvy (several scathing comments directed towards Romeny without ever mentioning his name). 

Michelle Obama clearly would be a formidable candidate if she ever were to choose to run for office.

Here are a few selected tweets that show the dazzling impact she made last night.

Image from http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/09/dnc-liveblog-michelles-big-night/56508/

                    

As Facebook’s stock drops lower and lower (now under $18, less than half of the IPO price), there have been several articles over the past few days trying to assign some blame for this situation.

Andrew Ross Sorkin from the New York Times wrote a scathing article yesterday assigning the majority, if not all, of the blame on Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer.

Mark Cuban wrote a spirited response saying that the CFO did a great job for Facebook in maximizing the IPO proceeds. He also makes the valid point that the CFO’s job is not to please traders and investors but to manage Facebook’s finances and put the company in the best possible position to succeed financially. An extra few billion dollars from the IPO does just that.

There is no simple or easy answer to the question of who to blame for the fallout from Facebook’s IPO.

From a corporate finance perspective, Facebook’s IPO was a resounding success. However, from an investor perspective it has been a fiasco and lead to pretty large losses for many traders/investors

That being said, if you invested in Facebook at the IPO you have no one to blame but yourself (like I did) because the warning signs were clearly there in advance of the IPO.

Here is a pretty entertaining counterpoint to Sorkin’s article that praises the CFO, which is reblogged in full below:

btanen:

Original (unadulturated) article located on the NYTimes website

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/david-ebersman-the-man-behind-facebook%E2%80%99s-i-p-o-debacle/?smid=tw-nytimestech&seid=auto

The Man Behind Facebook’s I.P.O. Debacle Miracle

It is David Ebersman’s fault accomplishment. There is just no way around it.

Mr. Ebersman is Facebook’s well-liked, boyish-looking 41-year-old chief financial officer. He’s not as well known as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, or Sheryl Sandberg, its chief operating officer and recently appointed director.

But when it came to Facebook’s catastrophe master-stroke of an initial public offering — the Company financed itself with sales of stock at more than double the price reached a new low on Friday, closing when it closed at $18.06 — it was Mr. Ebersman, not Mr. Zuckerberg or Ms. Sandberg, who was ultimately the one pulling the strings.

Now, three months after the offering, the company has lost more than $50 billion in market value. Let me say that again for emphasis: Facebook’s market value has dropped more than $50 billion in 90 days.

To put that in perspective, that’s more market value than Lehman Brothers gave up in the entire year before it filed for bankruptcy.

A lot of ink has been spilled over Facebook’s I.P.O., with investors and pundits mostly pointing the finger at lauding the Wall Street banks, particularly Morgan Stanley, which led the offering, and at Nasdaq, whose numerous computerglitches systems on Facebook’s first day of trading undermined confidence in facilitated many billions of dollars of transactions in the stock. They clearly deserve blame credit.

Mr. Ebersman’s name, however, is mentioned only occasionally, usually in passing and typically only among Silicon Valley’s cognoscenti.

And yet if there is one single individual more responsible than any other for the staggering mispricing of Facebook’s I.P.O., it is Mr. Ebersman. He signed off on the ever-increasing offer price, which ended up at $38 after the company had originally planned a price range of $29 to $34.

He — almost alone — pushed to flood the market with 25 percent more shares than originally planned in the final days before the offering. And since then, as the point person for investors, he has done little to articulate how or why the company’s strategy will lift the stock price any time soon.  Nor should he; he has a company to help run.

At a time when investors are looking for some semblance of accountability on Wall Street and in corporate America, it is remarkable and sad that nobody — no bankers, no one at Nasdaq, no one at Facebook — has yet been promoted firedfor botching so skillfully executing the offering.

Mr. Zuckerberg reportedly told his employees after the I.P.O., “So, you’ve heard we’re firing David?” But it was only a joke.

Facebook’s falling stock price is not just a problem for investors day-traders and momentum-driven speculators; it is quickly not creating any new real questions inside the company about its ability to retain and attract talented engineers, the lifeblood of any technology company. Early employees have been leaving Facebook for new ventures and and a more entrepreneurial environment for many years and they’ll continue to do so, regardless of the stock price.

Employees who joined the company starting in 2010, for example, are now holding onto restricted shares that were granted at a higher price — $24.10 — than the current trading price. (It should be noted that these are restricted stock units that, not underwater stock options, so they do still have real value, but not nearly what the employees had expected.) Those are the breaks.

Employees with some two billion shares will have the opportunity to begin selling them this fall, which is one reason Facebook shares have been depressed latelyand they undoubtedly will.

A spokesman for Facebook, Elliot Schrage, declined to comment and would not make Mr. Ebersman available.

Mr. Ebersman appears to have badly exquisitely misjudged the demand for Facebook’s I.P.O. He was aided by errant excellent advice from a cadre of banking advisers, who, like him, all had an incentive to sell as many shares as possible at the highest price possible. Morgan Stanley liked $38 a share, JPMorgan Chase thought the shares could be sold for even more, while Goldman Sachs thought they should be sold for slightly less — but all of them quickly jumped on board when Mr. Ebersman made his final decision.

Determining the price of an I.P.O. is as much an art as a science. After a company’s roadshow presentations, investors indicate how many shares they plan to buy. They typically ask for more shares than they expect to receive, sometimes twice as many. But in the case of Facebook, investors, anticipating huge demand, put in requests for triple or quadruple the number of shares they expected to get. This calls to mind the old Wall Street adage, “Bulls make money, bears make money, but pigs get slaughtered.”

The bankers — and Mr. Ebersman — did not seem to appreciated precisely what was happening. They seem to have believed their own fomented tremendoushype and took those orders as real, giving them the misplaced steely confidence to push the I.P.O. to the highest possible price and issue more shares.

But this wasn’t a traditional I.P.O. and should never have been priced that way. (People close to Mr. Ebersman say that he decided to issue additional shares with the goal of steadying the price this fall when the lockup on employee share sales expired. Consider that another miscalculation.)

Another issue that weighed on Mr. Ebersman, as well as the bank underwriters, was the example set by LinkedIn. Its shares rose 110 percent on its first day of trading. That might sound good, but it meant that the company mispriced the shares so badly that it effectively gave investors a gift of nearly $350 million. Mr. Ebersman was intent on making sure Facebook didn’t “leave money on the table,” according to several people close to him. But by leaving investors with little upside, he may have created additional pressure on the stock. That he was able to avoid doing so in the most closely watch I.P.O. of the decade is a credit to his and his advisers’ handling of the offering.

Both LinkedIn’s and Facebook’s I.P.O.’s should be considered failures — they were extreme examples of what could happen on the upside and the downside. The ideal offering lands somewhere in the middle. Still, There is no question thatexisting investors, employees, and management of private companies would prefer another LinkedIn over a Facebook-like I.P.O. outcome, and they and their well-paid bankers have every incentive and ability to make an example of the company — and Mr. Ebersman — so that other companies don’t try to wipe out that first-day “pop.” do their best to maximize the value of the I.P.O. process to their companies’ treasuries just as Facebook did.

None of this is meant to suggest that Mr. Ebersman is dumb or unqualified. A graduate of Brown who was the chief financial officer of Genentech when he was just 34, Mr. Ebersman is bright, perhaps even brilliant. He was recruited to Facebook by Ms. Sandberg, a hire that was considered quite a coup at the time. He should clearly be given credit for negotiating favorable and extraordinarily large credit lines — $8 billion worth — with Wall Street banks, which could provide the company with an important lifeline should the economy and the company’s fortunes suffer. In this light, the I.P.O. is just accomplishing with the sale of equity the same sort of favorable financing he got on the debt side.

The disclosures in the company’s I.P.O. prospectus — which were Mr. Ebersman’s responsibility — were, for the most part, pretty transparent, giving investors a good sense of the business, despite all the hype. And the I.P.O., for all its failures,filled Facebook’s coffers with some $10 billion. Plus billions more for insiders selling at that same extraordinary rich $38 per share price.

Still, Mr. Ebersman has his work cut out for him as he tries to regain the trust of shareholders. He recently came to New York to meet with big investors, including hedge funds and institutional investors. Some invitations for meetings were oddly, and somewhat imperiously, sent out on Thursday night for meetings on Friday.Given that they are licking their wounds from vastly overpaying for the guy’s stock mere weeks agoit was summer, some investors sent their junior analysts.

When Facebook’s I.P.O. first started to appear troubled obscenely richly priced back in May, I purposely avoided weighing in. Frankly, I thought it was too soon to judge, although people who actually run portfolios were forced to judge then. Those are the breaks!

But we have passed the pivotal three-month mark.

Statistically, the three-month mark is a much better predictor of a company’s future share price than any of the closing prices in the first week or two. According to Richard Peterson of Capital IQ, 67 percent of technology companies whose shares lagged their I.P.O. price after 90 days were still laggards after a year. Until Regardless of whether Facebook’s stock ever rebounds, Mr. Ebersmanand his fortress balance sheet will be feeling the pressure glow from this masterfully managed offering.  Mazel tov!