Innovation, Competition, and Non-Competes

By |2018-08-02T07:51:23+00:00August 2nd, 2018|Global Market Update|

Why is California so prosperous? Map of US economic activity by metro area. Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Howmuch.net A map of economic activity in the US is telling. In our $20 trillion economy, New York City produces 15% of our production, but four cities in California produce almost 20%: San Francisco, San Jose, LA, and San Diego. The wealth amassed in places like Newport Beach is impressive. On a recent trip, I was struck by the forests of masts belonging to million-dollar yachts [...]

Self-Driving Groceries?

By |2018-06-29T05:23:27+00:00June 29th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Remember WebVan? Photo: Mark Coggins. Source: Wikimedia The now-defunct grocery-delivery service has become an example of some of the excesses of the dot-com era. Executives with no experience in the grocery business were going to undercut and revolutionize how we buy groceries by offering consumers a check-the-box website and home delivery. The company was founded in 1996, went public in 1999, and declared bankruptcy in 2001. At its peak, they employed 4,400 people, had $180 million in sales, and served ten major metropolitan areas. [...]

Falling Down, Getting Up

By |2018-05-30T06:02:11+00:00May 30th, 2018|Global Market Update|

What makes a successful innovation? Photo: Dani Simmonds. Source: Morguefile The modern world has been dramatically changed by its innovations: air travel, electric lights, telephones, automobiles, computers. These have had a revolutionary impact, changing not only how we do our jobs, but the jobs we do. Indeed, mastering the dynamics of innovation is critical for any company. Companies talk about innovation in their quarterly reports almost as much as they discuss earnings. But innovation is unpredictable. Doing new things in new ways upsets the [...]

Bad News?

By |2018-05-24T06:30:01+00:00May 24th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Are traditional newspapers doomed? Photo: Florian Plag. Source: Wikimedia Ever since the first newsfeed appeared on the web, the traditional news business model – local business ads, subscriptions, and classifieds – was threatened. A few decades ago, newspapers were filled with lots of non-news items: real-estate listings, grocery store coupons, want-ads. These money-making inserts were bundled with a journalistic product that usually focused on a defined geographic area. Distribution was limited by the cost of physically delivering a bundle of paper. Gradually, each area [...]

Jujitsu Economics

By |2018-04-02T06:57:36+00:00April 2nd, 2018|Global Market Update|

How do you make use of something else’s strength? Photo: Pixabay When Wikipedia first came out, many educators panicked. They were threatened by the universally accessible source of detailed information, and told their students not to use it for primary research. But a few clever teachers found a way to make use of the service’s own inaccuracies. They started assigning their students Wikipedia entries – not to cite, but to fix. A similar thing is happening in health care. We have more of our [...]

A Mature Orchard

By |2018-02-07T07:03:17+00:00February 7th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Is the Apple tree getting old? Photo: Sita Magnuson. Source: Morguefile Companies have life cycles. They get started, expand, mature, and get old. Different life stages have different needs. Start-ups need to prove that their business model works; growing firms have to find the right people and markets for their products; mature companies maximize their profitability and may use excess cash to make targeted acquisitions; and older companies have to either re-invent themselves or prepare for a shrinking annuity business. The question for investors [...]

The Roots of Innovation

By |2017-12-05T08:21:28+00:00December 5th, 2017|Global Market Update|

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Photo Source: Pixabay That’s the lesson from a new study about innovation, inventions, and incentives. The children of inventors are far more likely to become inventors themselves. Income, education, and geography also matter. But it’s the home environment that has the biggest impact. Some researchers studied 1.7 million patent office applications and 1.2 million tax returns, asking why some people innovate and others don’t. If one of your parents holds a patent, you’re nine times more [...]

The Merchants of Venice

By |2017-11-07T07:14:52+00:00November 7th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Whatever happened to Venice? Piazza San Marco, by Canaletto. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art Venice used to be one of the richest cities in the world. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the world devolved into competing factions. There was no uniform standard of exchange, and no central authority. But trade in spices, grains, cloth, and slaves was booming. By 1330, Venice was as big as Paris, and probably three times the size of London. One of the keys to Venice’s success was [...]

The Difficulty of New Ideas

By |2017-10-25T07:11:05+00:00October 25th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Why is it so hard to do something new? Source: Coface.ch Anyone who has tried to introduce a genuinely new idea knows how difficult it is. Counterparties default, it’s hard to obtain funding, and in much of the world, it’s hard to start a new business. People are skeptical of something different. When Alexander Graham Bell’s brought his newfangled telephone to the President of Western Union, he dismissed it as “practically worthless.” In 1995 Newsweek printed an article that predicted internet-based commerce would be [...]

Healthy Innovation?

By |2017-10-12T06:56:24+00:00October 12th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Why should we worry about health care? Source: Vox Public health analysts often bemoan the fact that the US spends a lot on healthcare. Health spending accounts for 18% of GDP, while the rest of the developed world spends about 10%. But we get a lot of innovation for that spending. The US has more clinical trials than any other country. We have more patents. The US has the most Nobel laureates in physiology and medicine. Our research universities are the envy of the [...]