Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Interesting Long Read on Tiger Woods

Interesting article on ESPN, about the fall of Tiger. The article is poignant, trying to address the universal things we all feel as we age: regret, the path not taken, the shadow of our parents, the sorrow of our falling abilities.
The article also touches on the curse of fame, thrust on someone who didn't have the personality or maturity for it. 
But I will say this for Tiger: he didn't blow his wealth.  How many former athletes end up broke, high and dead before their time? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Politicians Think Only Politicians Should Do Politics

I don't know anything at all about Sec State nominee Tillerson.  I do know that it takes a rare individual to start at the bottom of one of the largest companies in the world and move his way up to the CEO's desk (like GE's Jack Welch).   The people who do this are unusually talented, incredible at internal politics, and work unbelievably hard.  They are also "lucky", by making their own luck, and jumping on opportunities when they present themselves.
The other thing I will say about public company CEOs I have met is, to a man (and all I have met have been men), they have all had a screw loose.  My personal take is that it takes someone who "thinks different" to work all their way up an existing corporation, or to start then grow a company into a public corporation.  Examples everyone knows is Jobs, Gates and Bezos.  I have no personal history with these three, but heard a lot of direct stories from people who have.  Their zaniness or oddness is not necessarily bad, but are examples of how CEOs are simply different than other people (Trump would also fit into this category).
My take away from my years of business is that Tillerson is probably a good pick for the job, and certainly better than Clinton (experience: First Lady and 1.5 term Senator) or Kerry (experience: career politician who never spent a day in private industry, and married to a billionairess).
As usual cuckservatives McCain and Rubio mouth off against him instead of presenting a united republican front.  One thought here is that Trump needs a "sacrificial lamb" on his cabinet picks to shoot down, taking the heat away from a few his other incredibly good picks that will meet resistance.  By letting the Senate shoot down one, the democrats can claim one scalp and let the others through unscathed.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Yep, China Steals Intellectual Property

How refreshing to see a President who calls it how it is:

President-elect Donald Trump said Thursday that the Chinese "haven't played by the rules, and they know it's time that they're going to start" as his victory tour of states that helped him win the presidency made its way to Iowa.

Trump accused Beijing of "massive theft of intellectual property" and of levying "unfair taxes on our companies," as well as "not helping with the menace of North Korea like they should."

So true. I have personally witnessed grand theft by China over my last 25 years in the electronics industry.  The easiest way is by requiring any company setting up business there to a "partnership".  That partnership has Chinese employees, of course, who duly steal everything they can get their hands on.  Other ways include simply reverse engineering and copying, then having the China "legal system" stonewall and rule against foreign companies.

One estimate puts the loss of Chinese IP theft at $300 Billion a year.   Let that number sink in a bit.  That's $1,000 for every American.  The pro-China "free trade" shills talk about cheap products at Wallmart, but they never talk about the costs in IP, lost jobs and declining communities.

Trump can say this since he is not bought off by the Chinese like Bill or Hillary Clinton.  Love him or hate him, you have to admit that since he didn't take donations from monied interests he can actually call China out. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Start-Up Pet Peeves

I work in the electronics supply chain and am consistently amazed at small customers who don't understand economics.  Company after company expects that if they buy 1,000 of a custom item, that it should be the same price that Apple gets when they buy by the tens of millions.  And when I explain to them that making 1,000 units requires the factory to set-up and do a run, and that the fixed costs have to be amortized over those 1,000 units bringing the costs way up, many customers lose it.  They get angry.  They call me names.  They threaten to go to my competition (which I them welcome them to do).  And it is not an act.  They really can't understand why their little robot which they are making 1,000 (soon to be millions of course) can't have component pricing like the iPhone.  They are totally clueless.
I think this is partly a carryover of their consumer mentality.  Whether it is blue jeans or electronics, most products today are made by the millions, making their incremental cost infinitesimal.  And those costs are passed to the consumer (and economics tells us that in the long run price ends up at incremental cost).  So they see the iPhone cost breakdown and figure their gadget should cost that much or cheaper, and are shocked when it is multiples more.  They don't get the whole volume/price thing.
Those that do ask about forward pricing.  They tell me "My product is going to be yuge volume once it launches!  Price me at a million now and I'll buy more when it takes off!".  Do you know how many times I have heard this and saw the company disappear off the face of the planet?  Literally dozens of times.  When a customer asks me to do this they are asking me to become an investor, and my job is not to invest in companies, but to make money for my own.
The other thing I get tired of hearing is small companies wanting to do a "joint development effort".  That is just a fancy way of saying "can I get free technology from your company?" or "I need more investment money and you look like someone I can sponge from."  I got so tired of hearing this I just started telling customers "We don't do joint development.  We sell and you buy."  That gets rid of most of them.
Now I have been in several start-up's myself, about a third of  my 27 years in business, so I do understand that you have to push to get as much as you can from vendors.  And I do know what it's like to see only a month left of cash left and having to do anything you can to get product out.  But these companies need to understand that I have to make money too, that I have my own company's interests to look out for.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Trump' Shot Across China's Bow

I was quite pleased with Tump's call with Taiwan's President last week.  The US has been sitting on their hands as China expands their territory in the Pacific, and China has been running roughshod over US-China trade for years with absolutely no response.

The "free-traders" seem clueless on the amount of unfairness in current dealings with China.  How US companies have to set up a partnership with a Chinese company to do business there, but Chinese companies here do not.  How US companies have to put IP in China to do business there, but Chinese companies here do not.  How US companies cannot do acquisitions of Chinese companies, but Chinese companies can and do buy here.

And so on.  The list is endless.  The free traders point to Wallmart, as if saving a few bucks on a TV was worth hollowing out our industrial complex and giving our top IP away to a foreign power.

It is time the US makes things more even on Chinese trade and politics, and one way to do that is to dangle Taiwan in front of them.  I see this as a very promising move by the Trump administration.