Saturday, October 25, 2008

Humor - not so funny

As an early adopter of the Internet (I remember using line editors on a mainframe to send an “electronic mail” message), I was also the beneficiary of some of the first Internet humor – those sometimes funny, mostly annoying forwards of forwards of forwards that can clutter our already stuffed inboxes.

As a public service, I started a highly selective distribution list of like-minded individuals who appreciate the occasional off-color joke (and if you’re nice to me, I’ll add you to the list). I distribute only the very finest of Internet humor.

In the last month or so, in addition to all the political humor, which I generally don’t forward since that will only generate more unsolicited email to my inbox, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of email humor I’m receiving. I attribute it to the economic meltdown being so bad that people have no recourse but to laugh.

I’ve been using the analogy that we’re sitting at a red light. Those of us who have been around the block a few times have seen this before. We’ve also been at red lights and wondered if they will be a long one or a short one. We know they will eventually change, it just a matter of when. And when they change, we always get where we’re going.

Having said that, I have to admit that as Fred Sanford would say, “this is the big one, Elizabeth.” To make matters worse, we have comments like those from Sequoia on the ‘future’ for entrepreneurs. Still, I don’t think it’s quite the end of the world that some would have us believe.

Bad economic times don’t stop innovation or good ideas. They may raise the bar on funding of those ideas, but it’s not the end of the world. Additionally, as Warren Buffett clearly understands, this is a time to buy, not to panic. It’s just like in It’s a Wonderful Life when George Bailey reminds his customers that “Potter isn’t selling, Potter’s buying! And why? Because we’re panicky and he’s not.” I don’t exactly have my head in the sand, but we’ll get through this and come out stronger. We always do.

And how did we end up here? There are lots of experts much smarter about the economy than me, but in my opinion, it all started with the NOW account. Remember them? Negotiable Orders of Withdrawal. When I was a kid, checking banks were for checking, savings banks were for savings, never the twain did they meet, and God knows they didn’t cross state lines. Once we started to relax, it was the beginning of the end.

There are some industries that need to be regulated. Pharmaceuticals. Food. Liquor. Finance! While SOX has put an undue strain on small companies and has had the unintended consequence of preventing many entrepreneurial companies access to the public markets, we need some kind of oversight here; it’s completely out of control. One hundred percent mortgages?! NINJA loans?! How does any of that make sense?!

Yes, we will get through this, but it ain’t gonna be easy. And we’ll need to gird for the inevitable second wave of the tsunami – new government commissions, agencies, and regulations. Yuck.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

From today's Daily Biofuels News Digest

Despite the financial crisis, clean energy attracted $2 billion in new capital investment in the first half of 2008, compared to $3 billion for all of 2007, according to Ernst & Young.The sector has attracted $7.29 billion in US investment, covering 301 companies. Globally, 11 percent of venture investment in 2008 has gone to clean energy, up from 1.6 percent in 2003. Greentech has also released updated investment numbers and the Renewable Energy and Finance Directory has updated its database.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Voyage of the San Antiago

OK, here goes.

My colleagues have been encouraging me to start blogging. I'm surprised, since they are normally telling me to shut up. So, for better or worse, here it is. My plan is to make this a weekly event, so put it on your calendars now. I'll try to provide some kind of meaningful commentary, but I reserve the right to wax on about some completely random observation.

For my first entry, I'm taking a gimme. I'll simply point you to my most recent missive in Mass High Tech. It was (of course) originally too long for them, so I had to do some major reconstructive surgery. But I hope the point still holds. Cleantech smells a lot like biotech did back in the day. Complex, protectable technologies, long runways to success, huge capital requirements, and a drastic need for talented senior leadership in a nascent field.

I promise something more original for the next posting. I also plan to keep these short. I hope you derive some pleasure/information out of this blog.

Oh, and the name? Well it turns out that there's a fair bit of controversy surrounding the voyages of Amerigo Vespucci, but one thing is clear – he sailed the San Antiago after Columbus had already discovered the New World. So I thought this was kinda the same thing. I'm certainly not the first to discover the blogosphere, but it's new as far as I'm concerned.

Happy reading.