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)
Traffic sources - 69% Referral, 8% Search, and 23% Direct.
Thanks again for your support. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see me write more about.
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?
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:
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).
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…
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…
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.
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.
Maybe I’m just reading too much into the turnout at one FinTech event.
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.
Michelle was terrific. So was Ann. But anybody who studies elections will tell you: Spouses please voters but don’t change votes.— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) September 5, 2012
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.
From my floor vantage point: Michelle Obama owned this convention in a way I didn’t see anyone own Tampa. She is clearly personally beloved— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) September 5, 2012
Stunning, brilliant, moving, passionate and right. Flawless. That was a speech a nominee would be proud to have given. thebea.st/TfVJXs— Andrew Sullivan (@sullydish) September 5, 2012
Favorite tweet tonight: RT @glennthrush: Something that I didn’t see in Tampa — wait staff cheering for convention speaker… Michelle— Markos Moulitsas (@markos) September 5, 2012
The past 3 summers I have helped teach financial modeling training for the interns and new hires at my investment bank. We give them a blank model with one year of financials, a set of assumptions, and have them build a fully-functional, 3 statement (Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement) model with varying levels of complexity.
For the interns this can be quite a challenging task. Most of them are rising seniors in college and have barely taken 1 or 2 finance classes. Sure, many have studied the Vault guide and can recite some finance mumbo jumbo in an interview, but actually building a sophisticated model that is flexible under a variety of assumptions is a new and daunting tasks.
And the new hires aren’t that much better at this task. Most of them have been traveling all summer while simultaneously trying to party and rest as much as possible in advance of 2-3 years of intense works and ridiculously late nights, so they really aren’t on top of their game yet.
I remember the first time I had to teach the modeling in the summer of 2010 I was nervous. I don’t know if I should have been, I mean I had crushed the model in 2008 as an intern, went through the new hire training in 2009, and had a full year of real-world experience as an investment banking analyst during 2009-2010.
But still, I was nervous because I knew that in order to teach a subject you have to know it cold. And be able to answer any and all questions on the subject.
Any good student doesn’t want to just know HOW to do something, they want to know WHY it works like that, why that is the best solution, etc. And the somewhat annoying, teachers pet type of students want to know what about each and every potential obscure situation that would never happen in real life.
You also have to be able to explain a seemingly complicated subject in terms that a novice can understand.
Doing the model correctly is only half the battle. You have to able to clearly and concisely explain the analysis that you performed. The only way you can do that is if you thoroughly understand what you’ve done.
My favorite tip when teaching the model training is to tell them to write out their complex excel formulas as if they were real sentences.* To me, that is the easiest and clearest way to make sure you understand the underlying logic behind the calculation (instead of just copying someone else’s formula).
Regardless, going through the process of teaching the model always makes me feel more comfortable with my own excel skills. It forces me to take the time to make sure I understand everything and can clearly explain it to other people
I haven’t had many opportunities to teach outside of the intern training but I’m looking forward to get more involved with tutoring and/or teaching a Skillshare class on a topic at some point.
* For example, “If the Cash Flow Before Revolver Draw/Payment is negative, then give me the minimum of either (i) the negative Cash Flow Before Revolver Draw/Payment balance, or (ii) the Amount of Revolver Availability. If the Cash Flow Before Revolver Draw/Payment is positive, then give me the negative minimum of either (i) the positive Cash Flow Before Revolver Draw/Payment balance, or (ii) the beginning Revolver balance.” or in excel =IF(AB176<0,MIN(-AB176,AB172),-MIN(AB176,AB178))
I read a thought-provoking blog post yesterday by NYC BizDev expert Alex Taub that examined the meaning of accomplishment. I made a comment on the blog and wanted to expand my thoughts into a longer blog post.
My definition of accomplishment is taking pride in making a positive difference, whether it is something relatively small that only affects one person or something massive that has the potential to change the world.
While you’ll never be able to accomplish changing the world if you’re satisfied too easily, I think you’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t take the time to feel accomplished by some of the “little things” in life for which you are responsible.
A sense of accomplishment provides a great feeling. Unfortunately, these feelings tend to come by far too rarely so it is important to savor and enjoy them when they arise. Statistics and science show that we are working more than ever before, and it is healthy (and fun) to take a few moments to enjoy a big win or a personal achievement.
Feeling accomplished also ideally inspires you to do something with an even bigger impact the next time. Like Pringles or a marathon session of reality TV, once you whet your appetite you can’t help yourself from coming back for more - but in this case it is a good thing as it results in more positive actions from you.
The only potential downside of taking the time to feel accomplished is if you decide to rest on your laurels, become complacent, and think you’ve done enough good already.
Alex also posed the question if you can be accomplished and have it all. My answer is that I certainly hope that you can be accomplished and have it all, otherwise what is the point of putting in all the hard work? I refuse to believe that feeling accomplished is an impediment from allowing someone to achieve their dreams, both personally and professionally.
The key takeaway for me from thinking about feeling accomplished is the crystallization that I need to make sure I use these senses of accomplishment as fuel to drive my future endeavors.
Just because it was fun for me to reminisce, here are some random examples of when I’ve felt accomplished in the past, ranging from rather minor impacts to a few things I’m very proud of:
(My Tyrone Biggums Halloween Costume in 2006)