Tag Archive: Bill Gates


“Billionaires should not exist.” — Millionaire U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont)

“Every billionaire is a policy failure.” — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York)

“Personal wealth is at best an unreliable signal of bad behavior or failing policies. Often the reverse is true.” — The Economist

Super talented and accomplished media superstar Oprah Winfrey is worth $3 billion.

Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan’s net worth is $1.9 billion.

Hip-hop star/investor Jay-Z just made into the three-comma club at $1,000,000,000.

Did government fail when Oprah, Michael and Jay-Z all succeeded and thrived, each because of their hard work, fortitude, perseverance and incredible talent?

Did anyone of them trade on their … privilege?

Almost DailyBrett doesn’t remember Oprah engaging in insider-trading.

Do you, Secretary Reich?

Ditto for Michael Jordan profiting from a monopoly unless Mr. Reich is pointing to Michael’s near-monopoly of talent against the competition he faced night-after-night in the NBA?

Is Jay-Z guilty of fraud, a political payoff or did he inherit his wealth?

Wonder if any of these “basically 5 ways” to accumulate a billion dollars in America apply to Nike founder/Philanthropist Phil Knight?

Have you read “Shoe Dog,” Professor Reich? Nike almost went under about nine times.

The former Labor Secretary’s “5 ways” Twitter screed is intellectually dishonest, and remarkably easy to discredit.

Alas, it is beneath the respect normally afforded to Robert Reich. Next time go high Mr. Reich instead of racing to the bottom. Talented and hard working people can earn their wealth on their own without resorting to nefarious deeds.

From a policy standpoint, we need to ask:

Should we punish Oprah, Michael, Jay-Z, Uncle Phil and so many others who worked their tushes off to legitimately make their fortunes with a punitive Elizabeth Warren 6 percent wealth tax (up from the original 3 percent proposal), and income tax rates reaching 90 percent or beyond?

Whattyathink Senators Sanders and Warren?

Class warfare — born out of jealousy — is not new.

The effective tax rate for achievers in the United Kingdom in the 1970s once reached 98 percent. If you don’t believe Almost DailyBrett, ask The Beatles … ask The Rolling Stones, who fled to France and recorded “Exile On Main Street.”

Can a near 100 percent confiscatory tax rate, which was thankfully eliminated in the UK by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, happen in the United States of America? Let’s hope not.

Celebrate Instead of Hate?

Almost DailyBrett remembers boys and girls practicing basketball, so they could be “Just Like Mike.”

Your author can imagine girls admiring and wanting to be the next Oprah.

You should check Ellen’s interview with Bill Gates. They discussed the works and deeds of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, donating a cumulative $50.1 billion to fight global childhood poverty and to improve public schools in our country.

According to Forbes, Gates is worth approximately $96.5 billion — give or take a shekel or two — making him the second wealthiest homo sapien on the planet. Virtually everyone in the first world is using Microsoft’s Windows Operating System, inspired and written by Gates. And his charitable foundation has contributed more than any other non-profit ever to make our world a better place (more than most governments).

His former company Microsoft is valued at $1.14 trillion, generates $96.5 billion in annual revenues, and employs 144,000 in well paying positions with full benefits and stock options. Taken together, the performance of Microsoft as a company and the generosity of the Gates Foundation, puts Bill’s wealth into perspective.

Can we have more “policy failures” just like Bill Gates, Phil Knight, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Jay-Z and so many more?

Instead of hating people who are wealthy, let’s celebrate and cheer for the achievers (e.g., Michael Jordan).

If we are concerned about billionaires, our policies should focus on stimulating competition (i.e., über-tough content streaming, video game, smart phone markets…), not limitless redistribution or punitive taxation.

If our political intent is to further divide, demonizing billionaires (as others have been publicly denigrated for ages) is a good way to engender one of the seven Deadly Sins: Envy.

If our goal is growth and prosperity, then let’s encourage Millennials and the generations, who will follow, to shoot for the stars. Let them become tomorrow’s Oprah, Michael, Jay-Z, Bill Gates and Uncle Phil.

And if they succeed financially, let’s celebrate them and at the same time root for competitors to keep them on their toes.

https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/11/09/billionaires-are-only-rarely-policy-failures

https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2019/11/07/have-billionaires-accumulated-their-wealth-illegitimately

https://www.gatesfoundation.org/who-we-are/general-information/foundation-factsheet

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/02/06/the-lonely-guy-standing-in-line-for-a-burger/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/taxing-uncle-phil-to-death/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/three-comma-club/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/taxing-the-fab-four-exiling-the-stones/

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” — UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

If a private sector position with full benefits isn’t the greatest anti-poverty program ever devised … what on earth is?

In order to avoid saying she will raise taxes on the middle class for “Medicare For All,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is proposing federal confiscation of all pretax employer paid Medicare health care benefits for literally millions of working achievers.

Her plan will eliminate private health insurance for 150 million Americans or more, and nationalize the $530 billion private health insurance industry.

Isn’t the termination of $8.8 trillion in cherished pretax employer-paid health care benefits for millions of employees, the equivalent of a middle class tax increase on steroids? Keep in mind, the annual federal budget is only … $4.45 trillion.

Instead of Starbucks paying $20,000 for this benefit to each of its 291,000 employees for private insurance (e.g., Blue Cross, Kaiser …), the legendary coffee roaster would be compelled to turn-over a similar amount to the federal government. In turn, these employees would lose their Starbucks offered pretax Medicare benefits and choice of private health insurer, only to forced into government paid … and only government paid … DMV-style insurance.

The Bernie Sanders “Medicare for All” bill (which Warren supports) calls for a 4 percent federal income tax increase for middle class workers. In order to avoid saying she is raising middle class taxes, Warren proposes instead federal confiscation of pretax employer paid health care benefits.

“In practice this (redirection of employer-paid health benefits to the government) would be a tax on employment, which seems likely to hurt middle-class Americans.” — The Economist, November 9, 2019

Deciding which plan (Sanders or Warren) is worse is just as difficult as deducing which is better.

How about keeping and retaining private health insurance, and our ability to choose our own doctors, dentists and optometrists?

Almost DailyBrett has always exhibited a libertarian streak. If we empower our $4 trillion behemoth federal government to confiscate pretax employer-paid health insurance, and eliminate private health insurance for 150-million-plus souls, the obvious question is:

What’s next?

Tax On Billionaires

” … if she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us?” — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg commenting on the spectre of a Warren presidency to the company’s 35,000 employees.

The public relations spin by Bernie and Elizabeth has focused squarely on the likes of Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jamie Dimon and Leon Cooperman, including Warren mocking the latter for his tearful concern about the future of our country.

Consider the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given $36 billion to fight third-world poverty. Does no good deed go unpunished?

The centerpiece of the billionaire vilification campaign is a 2 percent wealth tax on those with assets exceeding $50 million (how many folks in blue states California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts … are included in this tax?), and 6 percent for those with $1 billion or more. We are not just talking about giving “two cents” (on each dollar) more.

How would the federal government determine the amount of wealth to be taxed and confiscated? When would it be paid? How much stock will needed (needlessly?) be sold (maybe even at loss) and how much will be immediately bought back? What’s the algorithmic multi-billion dollar impact on the 52 percent of the country investing in stocks and stock-based mutual funds for their retirement or children’s education?

Is this tax, constitutional? Are we talking about double taxation? More to the point, do we want as a nation to empower … there’s that verb again … our massive government to punitively confiscate wealth and with it, achievement? How about a tax on lower upper class wealth? Ditto for a levy on upper middle class wealth? And how about … ? The possibilities are limitless.

Three European nations still impose wealth taxes: Norway, Spain and Switzerland. How’s Spain doing?

Eleven European nations have rescinded their wealth taxes: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Sweden.

That’s right, wealth taxes didn’t work in Denmark and Sweden, why should it fly in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin?

According to the stately The Economist, Warren’s all-government all-the-time programs include requiring Amazon, Facebook and Google to be regulated as platform utilities (before or after their breakups?), 40 percent of all board seats held by “public reps” (read, unions), bans on nuclear power and fracking, 75 percent lobbying taxes, 37 percent taxes on capital gains, and the imposition of taxes on unsold stocks (employing Enron-style mark-to-market accounting or MTM) … and the list goes on and on and on.

Warren supporters caution America’s Investor Class (52 percent of the entire nation) not to worry; her plan will eventually be watered down or not approved. If so … what’s the point?

Are Warrenites and Sandernistas supporting Republican control of at least one house to serve as a check and a balance to radicalism? Didn’t think so.

Some see Warren as a Socialist champion against Capitalism or buy low sell high.

Instead, Almost DailyBrett sees Bernie and Elizabeth as two peas in the same pod.

They are threatening our economic freedom. They will dip into our wallets, and deny us benefits and physician choices we already enjoy. The only winner? Big government.

Instead of wisely controlling the size and scope of government, some will be cool with a greatly empowered … there’s that verb again … carnivorous federal bureaucracy with even more power over our individual abilities to chart our own financial futures.

Be afraid … be very, very afraid.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/03/elizabeth-warren-wealth-tax-european-nations/

https://slate.com/business/2019/11/elizabeth-warrens-health-care-medicare-for-all-single-payer-unfair.html

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/10/24/elizabeth-warrens-many-plans-would-reshape-american-capitalism

https://www.economist.com/united-states/2019/11/07/how-would-elizabeth-warren-pay-for-her-health-policy

https://slate.com/technology/2019/10/mark-zuckerberg-said-elizabeth-warrens-presidency-would-suck-for-us.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/how-blue-cross-saved-my-bacon/

“I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, there’s a certain freedom, meaningful freedom that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger.” – Bill Gates speaking to university students

There are 25.7 million Google results of an image of a middle-aged dude standing all alone with his hands in his pockets.

He is patiently waiting in line for his cheeseburger, fries and a coke.

The maroon pullover guy is patronizing the original Dick’s (1954), which unofficially serves as a gateway to the upper class Wallingford neighborhood in Seattle.

Is the pale dude (gasp) … privileged?

What gave him the right to buy a “Deluxe,” fries and a coke in Wallingford?

Did his parents dote on him? Where did he go to school? Where did he go to college?

Did he ever invent anything of value to society? Did ever provide a living to people?

Did he ever give back to make our world a better place?

And if the answers to these questions do not meet communal approval – Privilege? Family? College? Inventions? Philanthropy? – should we as a collective society even the score in the name of social justice?

It may seem silly to some to have this public good discussion, and yet 25.7 million Google results are triggered in 0.28 of one second, when one inquires about the guy in the sweater standing all alone in line at Dick’s.

Our Obsession With Wealth?

How many billionaires — members of the three comma club — would stand-in line all alone for a burger and fries?

And yet there was Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 63, waiting in line at Dick’s on Sunday evening, January 13.

In our always-on digital imaging world, it did not take long for the celebrity dude doing normal things to go viral, generating stories and impressions about Gates and his love of hamburgers.

The latest estimates place his net worth at $96.5 billion. Couldn’t Gates simply buy Dick’s as opposed to standing in line for a burger? Where was his entourage? Couldn’t he feed the homeless with Dick’s burgers?

And how did he make that money? Did he take full advantage of his privilege? Did he inherit the money?

As many Almost DailyBrett readers know, Gates and the recently departed Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975. Their entrepreneurial spirit and those that followed (i.e., Steve Ballmer and Satya Nadella)  resulted in the ubiquitous Windows operating system, X-Box gaming console, Microsoft Surface PC, Microsoft Cloud and so much more.

Microsoft is one of the three largest competing companies in market capitalization (share price x number of shares) at $814.5 billion, generating $96.5 billion in total revenues and employing 134,944 around the world.

After departing the daily operations of Microsoft, the guy in the maroon sweater with his spouse established The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The charitable organization bearing their names has given a reported $36 billion to date to alleviate third world poverty and suffering. They are without any doubt the most generous philanthropists in America.

And yet …

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” – Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

In her quest to become the 46th President of the United States, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has proposed a 2 percent surcharge on net assets – not annual income – exceeding $50 million, and another 1 percent on billionaires.  Is Warren’s  “wealth tax” really confiscation in disguise?

There are questions about whether a confiscatory surcharge of assets – not an income tax – is permissible under the U.S. Constitution. This legal question is above the pay grade of Almost DailyBrett.

Having said that, your author must ask: Why do so many Washington elites want to punish achievement, service and philanthropy?

Some rationalize this obsession with wealth as a quest to reach some far-reaching social justice nirvana when the solution is the same-old tired remedy: wealth redistribution targeting those who provide great products, create jobs and give back to the less fortunate.

The answer always comes down to new and more burdensome taxes, but in Senator Warren’s case she calls for outright confiscation of assets. One thing is certain is the redistribution does not stop there. There will also be increases in tax rates, most of all the top rate from 39.6 percent, hiking it to 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent or beyond.

Once you have raised taxes and confiscated assets is that the end … or worse … is that just the beginning?

What’s next? Fees on stock and mutual fund transactions? Surcharges on bank accounts? Is the sky the limit?

How about a wealth tax/surcharge on Bill Gates’ hamburger?

https://www.geekwire.com/2019/billions-served-bill-gates-photographed-standing-line-burger-dicks-drive-seattle/

https://www.ddir.com/

https://www.seattlepi.com/seattlenews/article/Billions-served-Bill-Gates-photographed-standing-13539669.php

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/01/24/senator-warrens-plan-tax-ultrawealthy-is-smart-idea-whose-time-has-come/?utm_term=.251e17e49629

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Investor/earnings/FY-2018-Q4/press-release-webcast

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/three-comma-club/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/taxing-uncle-phil-to-death/

https://www.businessinsider.com/biggest-projects-of-generous-philanthropists-bill-and-melinda-gates-2018-8

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/138248-the-problem-with-socialism-is-that-you-eventually-run-out

 

Five years ago Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPE) was kicked off the Dow Jones Industrial Average, replaced by Visa.

Three years ago, AT&T (a.k.a., The Phone Company) was ingloriously removed from the index of 30 share prices, substituted by Apple.

And just last month, General Electric (NYSE: GE) was unceremoniously ushered off the exchange for Walgreen Boots.

Will Itty Bitty Machines (NYSE: IBM) be the next Dinosaur Tech heading for Dow Jones extinction?

Flintstones vs Jetsons

Under legendary CEO Jack Welch, GE was the most valuable (market capitalization) American company in 2000. The company was one of the founding companies of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896. General Electric was a consistent standard on the exchange since 1907, 111 years.

What have you done for us lately, Fred and Wilma Flintstone? GE was replaced on the Dow Jones two weeks ago by a drug store company? How embarrassing.

Almost DailyBrett earlier wrote about companies that are absolutely rocking (i.e.,  Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Google, Salesforce.com), metaphorically packing stadiums as opposed to those reduced to playing “greatest hits” at county fairs and desert casinos (i.e., Intel, Cisco, Dell).

These latter companies were/are directly tied to the mature PC market and thus became fairly valued with limited prospects for investor growth unless and until they credibly changed their story with compelling new information (e.g., Apple from Amelio to Jobs2 to Cook) & (e.g., Microsoft from Gates to Ballmer to Nadella).

Apple was on the precipice of bankruptcy in 1997; now the company is the world’s most valuable at $912 billion. The Wunder corporation may be first to ever to achieve a $1 trillion market cap (share price x the number of shares).

Microsoft has cleverly reinvented itself as the market leader in the cloud, even though the PC software company was late to the party. Macht nichts. MSFT has a $762 billion market cap.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix and Salesforce.com constitute the 21st Century version of the Jetsons.

Conversely, AT&T, GE, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are the Flintstones.

What Are Their Winning Narratives?

Having worked in corporate Silicon Valley public relations for more than a decade, Almost DailyBrett understands the virtue of championing a winning narrative.

What is your company’s raison d’etre?

How does it make the legal tender?

How is the company positioned in the marketplace against ferocious competitors?

What is its competitive advantage?

What is its legacy of results?

What are the prospects for reasonable and achievable expectations for shareholder joy?

For the record, Almost DailyBrett owns shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM).

Both companies have delivered. Both are leaders in their respective fields. Most of all, your author understands their business strategies – lead in consumer innovation and services; provide selected software via the cloud to business customers).

Investing or Gambling?

When you understand how and why a company makes money then markets are investing, not gambling.

What is the winning narrative for GE? The company is restructuring yet again. Give it up J.C. Penney. Forget it, GE.

Tell me more about the business strategy for AT&T. How will it beat Verizon? Your author doesn’t know either.

Your author loves his Lenovo Ideapad. Who commercialized the PC? IBM in 1981. Reagan was president. “Watson,” can you help?

HPites love the 1937 story of HP founders William Hewlett and David Packard and the Palo Alto garage.

If the two gents could see their creation in the post-Carly Fiorina era, they would most likely would be turning over in their respective graves.

When contemplating these four Dinosaur Techs – AT&T, GE, HP, IBM — in a Jurassic Park era, the hardest questions are also the most basic: How do these companies make money? What product defines their respective businesses?

In stunning contrast, Apple is the #1 company in the world, defined by game changing innovation (e.g., iPhone X) and services (e.g., Apple Music).

Amazon is the #1 digital-retailer in the world with 100 million Prime memberships.

Facebook is the world champion social media company with 2.19 billion subscribers.

Google is the #1 search engine and developed the smart phone Android OS.

Netflix is the #1 digital-streaming-video company (at least for now) with 125 million subscribers.

Salesforce.com pioneered SaaS (Software as a Service) and is a leading-business-software-via-the-cloud provider.

Quick: Can you name a signature product/service directly associated with AT&T, GE, HP or IBM?

Being a jack of all trades, master of none leaves investors will absolutely … nothing.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/19/walgreens-replacing-ge-on-the-dow.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/what-happens-when-the-music-stops/

 

 

“When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work?” – Comedy Central Jon Stewart assertion to CNBC’s Jim Cramer

Heard one of the talking heads of the chattering class last week on CNBC extol the virtues of “passive investing” in the face of massive volatility and the long-awaited arrival of a Wall Street correction.

Isn’t “passive investing” an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms, if not just plain dumb?

The basic premise is the 54 percent of Americans investing in stocks and stock-based mutual funds should put all of their investments on auto pilot, automatically “investing” a fixed percentage of their pay checks into company 401Ks or brokerage managed IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts).

On more than one occasion, Almost DailyBrett has been critiqued for surfing Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Zillow and Wells Fargo each on a daily basis.

Is your author an unreformed capitalist? Please allow me to plead, guilty.

What’s curious is no one seems to raise an eyebrow to those constantly burying their noses into their smart phones, spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook or Snapchat or bingeing on video games or streaming video.

As Jon Stewart correctly surmised in his 2009 televised pants-zing of Jim Cramer, far too many times retail investors have been sold this notion that markets inevitably go up, so don’t mind volatility and fluctuations. Forget about it!

And if that is indeed the case, panicking only leads to losses. No argument.

The question that Almost DailyBrett is raising and arguing is very simple: Do we want to manage your wealth accumulation or be managed by others who may not have our best interest at heart?

The Day, The Music Died

“I went down to the sacred store; Where I’d heard the music years before; But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.” – Don McLean, American Pie

Your author contends that portfolio management is not the same as day trading. At the same time, the notion of long-term investing makes absolutely no sense. Back in the 1990s, one would have been advised to invest in IBM, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft and walk away.

With the exception of Microsoft, the music stopped playing for these “DinoTech” stocks.

Worse, the 1990s investor would have missed the massive upsides of newly minted 21st Century rock stars, the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google (FANG).

Since the days of the three Gees – Andy Grove, Bill Gates and Lou Gerstner (all retired or in one case, deceased), a new trove of corporate rock stars has ensued – Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Tim Cook (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Elon Musk (Tesla).

Don’t you know, these shooting stars will eventually flame out? And as Don McLean wrote and sang, their music will eventually die.

Who will be the rock stars of the next decade? Should we keep some money on the sidelines, ready to buy low and sell high. If we become “passive investors,” we will blindly throw our hard-earned, discretionary dollars at Wall Street regardless of bull market or bear market.

Shouldn’t we be selling near or at the height of the market and buying near or at the low of the market? Or should we just designate portions or our IRAs or 401Ks to this mutual fund manager or that mutual fund manager because they are the “experts”?

Where Do You Shop? What Products/Services Do You Buy?

“I don’t care about a stock’s past, only its future.” – Jim Cramer of CNBC’s “Mad Money”

Almost DailyBrett has his fair share of mutual funds – domestic/foreign; large cap/mid-cap/small cap – and cash under management. Your author also manages four individual stocks, carefully avoiding the perils associated with all eggs coming from one chicken.

Apple: Let’s see, in the morning your author reaches for his Apple Smart Phone, runs to classic rock sounds on his antiquated iPod, and turns on his Mac at work. You bet ya, Apple is part of the portfolio.

Boeing: Considering that Donald Trump is president and more federal dollars are headed for defense and the economy is strong, regardless of market gyrations, Boeing has been a solid buy. The company sold 700 commercial airliners this year and plans to deliver 800 next year. Has your author been transported by Boeing Aircraft? Is the Pope, Catholic?

Nike: Uncle Phil is the founder of athletic apparel market leader and the über-benefactor of University of Oregon Athletics. Nike shoes/gear are worn for morning runs to complement the Nike+ software program on the Apple iPod.

Salesforce.com. Marc Benioff hails from my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Southern California (May The Horse Be With You). Mark is the founder, chairman and CEO of business software innovator, Salesforce.com. Let’s face it, many may claim a cloud legacy, but Salesforce.com was first to SaaS or Software as a Service.

Apple, Boeing, Nike and Salesforce are the four present individual securities in the portfolio of Almost DailyBrett. Are they examined and managed on a daily basis? You bet ya. Will they be there forever? Forget it.

Should an investor, who rejects passivity, consider these individual stocks?

Only your investment advisor knows for sure.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/08/opinion/joe-nocera-on-the-cramer-takedown.html

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/iinzrx/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-jim-cramer-pt–2

https://don-mclean.com/

 

 

“The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.”– Legendary Marquette Basketball Coach Al McGuire

What strategies can American colleges and universities employ to ensure that more freshmen do indeed become sophomores?

Consider the question this way: The late Intel President and CEO Andy Grove wrote about strategic inflection points in his 1996 best seller, “Only The Paranoid Survive.”

There are a few strategic inflection points in everyone’s life.

Get them right, and life may be a good thing as Martha would say.

Get them wrong, and life may end up simply running out the clock of life drinking PBRs in a dive bar.

What Almost DailyBrett is talking about are those poor souls who fall by the wayside may be directly attributable to the failure to make the transition from the freshman to sophomore year in college.

Based upon the experience of your professor author — more times than naught — is once a student takes time off after the frosh year to take a job, the overwhelming chances are the student never comes back to college.

Worse yet the student may have already incurred an educational loan, ending up with the double whammy of zero degree and crushing debt on the books.

Life is off to a miserable start, and it may only get worse.

Are these former students prepared for the demands of our service-oriented, digital, coding-dominated workforce? You know the answer.

Are they one “bad day” from being unemployed … yet again?

Forget about discretionary income to invest in stocks, bonds and mutual funds, these lowly sods are living pay check-to-pay check.

Sure there are examples of early college drop-outs – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg – who become billionaires, but how many reach the Three-Comma-Club anyway?

Grooving With A High School Diploma

“If you think education is expensive; try the cost of ignorance.” – Former Harvard President Derek Bok

The numbers may be a tad outdated, but the story is still the same.

Pew Research reported in 2014 a startling gap between those who attain a BA/BS degree (let alone a master’s or Ph.D), and those with only a high school diploma.

The percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree in poverty three years ago was 5.8 percent; the percentage of those with a lowly high school diploma in poverty was 21.8 percent or more than one-in-five.

The college grad made on the average $45,500 per year; the high school diploma holder, $28,000 … a $17,500 per year delta. Multiply a $17,500 gap (which most likely will grow exponentially) by a 40-year career and the gulf reaches $700,000.

What does the $700,000 (at least) gulf mean?

This staggering number translates into the college graduate having discretionary income to invest in markets. Since the depth of the 2009 recession, the S&P 500 is up 270 percent. For 2017, the Dow Jones has increased 22.2 percent, the benchmark S&P has climbed 17.4 percent.

Many ponder, pontificate and bloviate about the growing economic separation between those who succeed in our interconnected, digital, service-oriented economy. Pew provides insights into the gap between those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree (about 29 percent of Americans) and those who don’t.

Colleges and universities are rightfully attuned to the percentage of entering freshmen, who graduate within the next five years.

Almost DailyBrett is asking a different question:

If many would-be sophomores are dropping out and co-signing themselves to a meager life (maybe even poverty), including one-bad-day-away from being unemployed, shouldn’t we be more concerned about freshmen retention?

Let’s review the U.S. News & World Report records for freshmen retention of four universities of particular interest to Almost DailyBrett:

  • University of Southern California, 96 percent freshman retention to sophomore year (BA degree in Broadcasting Journalism, 1978).
  • University of Oregon, 87 percent freshman retention rate (MA in Communications and Society, 2012).
  • Arizona State University, 86 percent freshman retention rate (Offered Ph.D Fellowship).
  • Central Washington University, 77 percent freshman retention rate (Presently employed as an Assistant Professor).

Some loss of frosh students because of plain, old life, and that is to be expected.

Losing 10 percent-to-20 percent or more of a freshman class should set off alarm bells.

Will these lost students be tomorrow’s poverty dwellers?

That may sound extreme, but then again it may not.

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/freshmen-least-most-likely-return

https://www.payscale.com/career-news/2014/07/fewer-freshman-college-students-returning-for-sophomore-year

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/11/19/u_s_college_dropouts_rates_explained_in_4_charts.html

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/562419

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/running-out-the-clock/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/the-role-of-college-in-exacerbating-economic-inequality/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/02/stocks-are-high-but-investor-numbers-are-low.html

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/central-washington-university-3771

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/asu-1081

“The president of the United States tweeting negative things about your brand (e.g., ESPN) in an environment where you’re already at risk and you’re already on a downward trend, it’s just not what you want to see happening.” – Stephen Beck, cable TV consultant

“ESPN is about sports … not a political organization.” – ESPN President John Skipper

ESPN proclaims itself as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

If that is true then why are so many labeling the troubled network: MSESPN?

Why is an ESPN anchor (e.g., Jamele Hill) taking to Twitter to call the president of the United States as a “White Supremacist” and a “Bigot”? Sounds like politics, not sports.

With the likes of Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow and Bill Maher filling up TV screens at other networks, does the avid sports fan tune into ESPN for affirmational political commentary?

Do you think more than a few of ESPN’s remaining viewers may not necessarily agree? More to the point, don’t they just want to watch their game of choice, and check out the highlights on “Sports Center”?

Predictably, Trump replied via his own customary tweet, reminding the world that ESPN is losing subscribers in a fast-and-furious way (e.g., 100 million in 2011 to 87 million now).

Time to sell the stock, Disney shares in particular?

Almost DailyBrett needs to ask a basic question: Why is the so-called “Worldwide Leader in Sports” becoming embroiled in politics when the nation is the most divided since the days of the Civil War?

Does the Bristol, Ct., network appreciate that contrary opinions may actually exist west of the Hudson? See 2016 Electoral College map for details.

Some have questioned why the network presented the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner, provided sympathetic coverage of Colin Kaepernick not standing for the national anthem, moved Asian announcer Robert Lee out of the broadcast booth, fired conservative two-time World Series winner Curt Schilling, while not terminating Jamele Hill for her presidential broadsides?.

This commentary is not to suggest that ESPN should not cover provocative sports issues (e.g., O.J. Simpson parole hearing), but one cannot fathom the arbitrary direct shots by a sports network anchor at the commander-in-chief.

Analysts have stated that ESPN’s well-documented troubles are a product of market factors including widespread chord-cutting and the growing acceptance of streaming video. Okay. Then why potentially exacerbate the loss of 13 million viewers by angering millions of viewers, who may just happen to be conservative?

There is a reason why Fox News is the consistent ratings leader in cable news, easily beating MSNBC and CNN in the Nielsen Ratings. Why tick off huge swaths of the public?

“Ballmer and Butthead”

Almost DailyBrett earlier questioned Sun Microsystems founder and chief Scott McNealy’s obsession with Microsoft, who he saw as technology’s evil empire.

Thinking he was so friggin’ clever, McNealy drew laughter when he labeled Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates as “Ballmer and Butthead.”

He also raised eyebrows for making these brash comments while his failing company harbored a $3 per share price. Alas after 28 years, Sun Microsystems went into oblivion having been absorbed by Oracle in 2010.

The connection with ESPN is that a company needs to appreciate its raison d’ etre. What are a corporation’s bread and butter? What is a firm’s brand? What are the meanings of the logo, signage, colors, fonts and style?

Southwest Airlines is “The Low-Fare Airline”; Nike is “Just Do It”; Apple is mainly the iPhone as reaffirmed last week. Sun Microsystems was Java script and servers, but the brand sadly degenerated into becoming synonymous with McNealy’s sophomoric punch lines.

ESPN is the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” Does it want to be the worldwide leader in left-of-center sports commentary? If so, the network will become a niche player instead of the market-share leader in sports programming.

The adults at Fox Sports will then take over that leadership position, leaving MSESPN to cater to its chosen core of left-of-center “sports” fans.

http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/15/media/trump-espn/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/15/politics/jemele-hill-espn/

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/15/trump-kicks-espn-where-it-hurts-242785

http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/09/tech-ceos-talking-shit-about-their-rivals/mcnealy-shots-on-gates-and-ballmer

https://www.recode.net/2016/5/4/11634208/scott-mcnealy-is-stepping-down-from-the-ceo-job-you-didnt-know-he-had

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/%E2%80%9Cballmer-and-butthead%E2%80%9D/

http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/09/12/espn-jemele-hill-calls-donald-trump-white-supremacist-kid-rock-pandering-racists

 

 

 

We have come a long way from squeaky chalk or worse – finger nails screeching – on messy blackboards.

Mercifully, we have come nearly just as far from scribbling on overhead projectors (RIP).

Alas, we have not come far enough from wasting literally hours-upon-hours by means of “brain storming” with markers on white boards. Please put me out of my misery.

Now it’s time – way past time — to say goodbye to PowerPoints consisting of nothing more than black words on white backgrounds.

Bore me to the max! Gag me with the clicker!

And yet these mind-numbing presentations still exist. Simply adding more black words on the very same white background doesn’t make the message better, just more dazed and confused.

The author of Almost DailyBrett has sat through more PowerPoint briefings than he would care to even think about, and still he admires Microsoft for creating the ultimate for linear presentations. Bill Gates et al. deserve everlasting credit for developing an enduring tool for presenting ideas, explaining research and making recommendations.

Having said that, one has to ask why are PowerPoints so boring way too many times? They don’t have to be, and yet candidates for major positions, pitch men and women are still using this incredible tool in the most tired, lethargic and desultory ways possible.

Does the candidate really want the job? Do you really want to make the sale? Do you really want to convey an exciting new idea?

If the answer is affirmative, then why are you scratching the surface in what PowerPoint can do for you … and more importantly for the audience?

The Steve Jobs Cult

During Steve Jobs’ way-too-short presence on the planet, he and his company Apple developed a cult following. MacWorld presentations were akin to a spiritual revival. The audience literally gasped when the high priest of global technology held up the iPhone, iPad, iPod for all to see and admire for the first-time.

It was the Kodak Moment on digital steroids.

Steve’s PowerPoints were anything, but complicated … and that works beautifully in a complex world that yearns for simplicity.

There is the iPhone and the Mac. Can there be a new gadget in between? Well yes, there can be. It’s called the iPad. Simple message, well delivered.

The PowerPoint was not bright white with black words, but a black background with images and well-timed words, and most importantly … not too many words.

Venture Capitalist Guy Kawasaki has heard more business-pitch presentations than any human should have to endure. Sure, he gets paid extremely well. Regardless, he is mortal and every minute spent listening to a boring presentation is a minute lost.

He will always have a soft-spot in the heart of the author of Almost DailyBrett for conceiving the 10-20-30 rule: 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30-point font (or above).

The impressive thinking behind the 10-20-30 rule is straight-forward: If you can’t put forward a robust and well-crafter business plan in 10 slides, you don’t have a workable business plan.

The 20-minute rule takes into account the attention span of the average listener, which may be shrinking as you read this missive. People get restless quickly. They want to check their messages on their smart phone. They want to ask questions. They are wondering when is it ‘my turn’?

The 30-point-font or above recommendation is meant to ensure the poor soul in the back of the room can see the presentation. More important is the “tyranny” of the 30-point font because it forces the presentation developer to reduce the number of words. There is just so much PowerPoint real estate.

A Good Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Studies have shown conclusively that we are drawn to pictures, illustrations, pie and bar charts. Who can’t love a bar chart that goes upwards to the right with a CAGR line (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) guiding the way ?

In particular, we can quickly access JPEGs or compressed image files through Google Images to add to our PowerPoints. Every presenter should seriously consider incorporating one image (“Art”) into every slide to maintain audience attention.

An added bonus of a JPEG per page is it forces an economy of words. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

Our PowerPoint backdrops can be different colors. Almost DailyBrett is a big fan of royal blue and black because the words and images literally explode off these backgrounds.

Maybe we want to incorporate video into our presentations? We can drop the video URL into our presentation, and literally play it from there. Keep in mind for a major presento, you want to ensure your video works the first time, every time.

Let’s see: Incorporating the 10-20-30 Rule. Less words. JPEGs, Dynamic backdrops. Video and absolutely no black words on plain white backdrops. Sounds like a winner to little ole me.

Not everyone can be a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, but everyone has the potential to hold an audience’s attention for upwards of 20 minutes even in our always-on, digital texting world. We can do all of this if we think of ourselves more like Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and less Albert Einstein at the chalk board.

https://office.live.com/start/PowerPoint.aspx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndnmtz8-S5I

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/the-wisdom-of-the-10-20-30-rule/

https://guykawasaki.com/guy-kawasaki/

http://whatis.techtarget.com/fileformat/JPG-JPEG-bitmap

 

 

 

“A million dollars isn’t cool. Do you know what is cool? A billion dollars,” – Justin Timberlake playing the role of Napster founder Sean Parker in The Social Networkseanparker

There are problems in America, and much of those aren’t about the sharing economy. Income inequality is rising, and the middle class isn’t better off than they were a decade ago. We don’t need government investment, and we can provide a solution.” – Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder to USA Today

We all have a choice: We can either hate or we can celebrate.

We can resist change and inevitably fail or we can embrace the future.

There are very few that make it to the vaunted three comma club, those with 10 or even 11 figures as their cumulative assets. Nobody has made it to the 12-figure mark … yet.

There are oodles of millionaires, but reaching the billionaire or the three comma club as Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker ($2.6 billion) offered to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg ($33.4 billion) is quite a different story.

Some may try to dismiss the select membership of the three-comma club, contending the majority of the wealth was inherited and thus represents just another indicator of income inequality. This contention for the most part is not correct.

For the vast majority of billionaires, as opposed to mere millionaires or multi-millionaires, the difference lies with what Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen proclaims as “disruptive technologies.”

Under Christensen’s theory, existing corporations usually have the edge when it comes to sustaining innovations (e.g., one generation to the next generation; one model to the next model). When it comes to “disrupting innovation,” the advantage lies in the hands of new entrants/first movers into the marketplace. That is where we typically find new members of the three comma club.

Taking a gander at the Forbes annual list of billionaires, one finds Bill Gates in first place at $79.2 billion. Were Bill Gates and Paul Allen ($17.5 billion) game changers? The question almost seems silly. Microsoft became THE software side to the PC equation with its novel Windows operating system and its Word-PowerPoint-Excel business suite. Intel (e.g., Gordon Moore, $6.9 billion) provided the other half of the Wintel monopoly with its Pentium processors.windows10

Joining the celebrated three comma club is an incredibly difficult proposition. For the most part, it means the new member came up with a novel idea that changed not only the rules of the game, but society itself.

Jeff Bezos at $34.8 billion was the driver behind first-mover, digital-retailer Amazon, which transformed the way the world shopped with its long-tail strategy (e.g., 99 percent of all of Amazon’s inventory is sold at least once a year to at least one grateful consumer). Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba ($22.7 billion) is attempting to do the same as 400 million of the Middle Kingdoms’ population moves up into the middle class.

Mark Zuckerberg ($33.4 billion), the subject of the aforementioned The Social Network, invented Facebook in his Harvard Kirkland H-33 dorm room just 11 years/1.4 billion subscribers ago. Facebook has changed how we instantaneously transmit to friends and family the exciting (or not so exciting) developments in our daily lives.

Google co-founders and former Stanford students Larry Page ($29.7 billion) and Sergey Brin ($29.2 billion) pioneered the world’s dominant search engine, another first-mover victory, as well as the Android operating system for mobile devices.google1

Elon Musk (a mere $12 billion) is attempting to make climate change neutral electric cars a reality for the middle class with his publicly traded Tesla. And if that was not enough, his privately held SpaceX is delivering payloads into orbit for NASA.

Disruptive Technologies

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

It’s not the progress I mind, it’s the change I don’t like,” – Mark Twain

Are there those out of sheer jealously, who don’t like reading or hearing about billionaires? Yes indeed. Do some people rationalize these monetary gains as being ill-acquired? Yes again. And then there is the disruptive part of the equation.uber

There are those with mobile devices with time on their hands and cars that can be put to work. Hello Uber and its $50 billion in market valuation. And who is negatively impacted? The cab industry and their drivers, who would be well advised to be fairer and nicer to their riders.

And there are those with mobile devices with houses and rooms to rent, reaching out to those around the world, who just want to couch-surf. Hello Airbnb and its $25 billion in market valuation. And who is negatively impacted? The hotel and motel industry, which soon will be facing downward pressure on its pricing model as a result of expanding supply.Airbnb

For Uber, Airbnb and other privately held “unicorns” (i.e., Snapchat, Pinterest, Dropbox), they are forcing change onto those who do not want to change. The forces of inertia have powerful allies (e.g., New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman). These change agents need effective public relations, marketing and branding to help the on-demand economy to succeed and for society to advance.

Let the storming of the barricades continue.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/08/19/airbnb-ceo-brian-chesky-change-agents-company-targets-new-growth-opportunities/31888851/

http://fortune.com/brian-chesky-airbnb/

http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/3/#version:static

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/attacking-uber/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/war-on-wall-street/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Parker

http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/in-search-of-another-suite-h33-kirkland-house/

 

 

 

 

“The sales of Apple kept getting stronger, the cash position larger, and the products more creative than any company I can ever recall – all because of the genius of one man, the founder, Steve Jobs.

“When Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011, I told people on ‘Mad Money’ that Apple would never be the same…” – CNBC über-commentator and former hedge fund manager Jim Cramer

The Three Gees

When I joined the ranks of Silicon Valley PR directors/managers in 1995, the business media was obsessed with three CEO rock stars we called, “The Three Gees”: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Lou Gerstner (Itty Bitty Machines) and Andy Grove (Intel).

The Three Gees dominated (today’s legacy) media at the time, seemingly making every cover of the leading business magazines, namely BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune.

They respectively represented the software, manufacturing and semiconductor sides of the PC, and the growth of their stocks was something to behold.

jobsamelio

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple one year later – 11 years after being forced out by John Sculley and the Board of Directors of the company he created – the media coverage was breathtaking. The Mercury News above-the-fold treatment left one wondering what the editors would do for the “Second Coming.”

And yet Steve Jobs was indeed mortal. There was no OMG product that Jobs bequeathed to his successor, Tim Cook. Today, Apple is losing ground to Samsung. Will Apple ever regain its Steve Jobs-era glory? Most are betting the under.

Fast-forward to the present: Microsoft is offering new generations of Windows in the post-Gates era. IBM sold its PC division – the technology it pioneered – to China’s Lenovo. Intel and other semiconductor companies are now mere commodity suppliers to the new newsmakers, the social media (e.g., LinkedIn), cloud computing (e.g., Salesforce.com) and mobile technology (e.g., Google) firms or as Cramer says: social, cloud and mobile.

Bench Strength?

In the big four American sports, particularly beisboll, football and hockey you cannot win the World Series, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup respectively with just superstars. This is less the case with basketball, but players contributing off the bench are still needed. The point is champions must have talent, including superstars, but they also need deep benches, intelligent systems and solid coaching.

A team winning the Stanley Cup cannot just rely on one superstar center, left-wing, right-wing line, but also scoring from lines two, three and four, solid defensemen and lights-out goalies. There will be nights when the top line is not producing. That means that others must step up and contribute.

penguins

My former boss, Wilf Corrigan, founded custom-chip designer LSI Logic in 1981 and also served as its chairman and chief executive officer until he decided in concert with the company board of directors to step down in 2005. He surrounded himself with extremely talented lieutenants as mentioned in an earlier Almost DailyBrett post. They went on to serve as CEOs including: John Daane (Altera); Brian Halla (National Semiconductor); Moshe Gavrielov (Xilinx); Jen-Hsun Huang (NVIDIA); Ronnie Vashishta (eASIC) and Bruce Entin (Silicon Valley Communication Partners).

The most important point is that Wilf, despite his status as a captain of industry, did not want the LSI Logic story to be exclusively about him. He also wanted to feature his deep bench. Instead of the first-person singular (e.g., I, me, myself), he insisted on personally speaking in the first-person plural (e.g., we, us, ours). He wanted the same for those who spoke on behalf of the company team … that would be me.

The Imperial CEO

carly1

Just last week, The Economist cited Czarina Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, in a story as to why female CEOs are more likely to be shown the door – the glass cliff — as opposed to their male counterparts. The central reason offered was that female CEOs are more likely to be hired from outside to save the day.

The Economist cited the “disproportionate publicity” that Carly received in her rocky tenure, making her a media star and synonymous with her company Hewlett Packard (particularly during the Compaq acquisition debacle) and ultimately contributing to her demise.

mayer

Almost DailyBrett wrote earlier about glamorous Yahoo! rock star Marissa Mayer, and her decision to pose horizontally for Vogue. The question was asked then, and asked again now whether we care as much about Yahoo! as we do about Mayer? Maybe the coming $15 billion – $16 billion IPO of Chinese digital retailer, Alibaba, will bring some attention back to 13.6 percent part-owner, Yahoo!

We should also not lose sight that Mayer came to Yahoo! from Google. Is there another glass cliff in the offing?

“Tesla is Elon Musk”

Last week, a CNBC talking-head analyst declared that electronic car innovator Tesla was in reality an ion-battery maker in drag.

CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth replied that Tesla is Elon Musk. Guess the same would apply to privately held, rocket maker SpaceX. According to a recent profile on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Musk devotes three days of his typical week to SpaceX, two days to publicly traded Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) and two days to his relatively new wife and five sons from his previous marriage.

Can Musk petition for weeks to be extended to nine days?

As a shareholder of Tesla and as a public relations counselor/commentator for three decades, Musk comes across as a good guy and relatively modest. He simply calls himself an “engineer.” Whether he likes it or not, he is first and foremost a technology rock star.

So what should Tesla, SpaceX and Musk do?

At a minimum, they all should be thinking about succession planning even though Musk is only 42 years young. The comparisons made by 60 Minutes and others, comparing Musk to Jobs, should be seen as both extremely flattering and downright scary.

Tesla and SpaceX seemingly have extremely talented corporate lieutenants. We need to see them and get to know them. Will they replace Musk in stature? No. Having said that, there will be a future of these companies after Musk, just as there was a future for Apple after Jobs.

muskstraubel1

For example we could learn more about Tesla’s chief technology officer JB Straubel, who rebuilt a discarded electric golf cart at 14-years young. Today, the Stanford grad in energy engineering is now tasked at building an affordable (e.g., $30,000) Tesla electric car with acceptable range.

The same will eventually be true for the leading rocket scientists (they really are rocket scientists) at SpaceX, particularly if Musk decides to take the company public.

The Tesla and SpaceX teams need to remember that running a company is not a sprint, but a marathon. To make it for the long-run and go deep into the playoffs, you need a seasoned team and a strong contributing bench.

http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Cramers-Get-Rich-Carefully/dp/0399168184

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/03/27/briefly-steve-jobs-1996-return-to-apple-depicted-in-rare-set-of-photos

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21601554-why-female-bosses-fail-more-often-male-ones-glass-precipice

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/mayer-vogue-nasdaq-yhoo/

http://www.teslamotors.com/executives

 

 

 

 

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