Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's really behind Sheldon Adelson's backing of Newt Gingrich? (Besides $11 million)

If someone spends $11 million supporting a cause, it would seem safe to assume they really support that cause.

True enough. But as is often the case in American politics, there's much more to the story than what appears at superficial glance.

As has been amply chronicled, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson and wife Miriam have donated said $11 million to the super PAC supporting the Republican presidential candidacy of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Forbes puts Adelson's assets at about $21 billion, give or take a few hundred million dollars. (How cool is it to type a phrase like that?)

So, $11 million is mere lunch money for the casino owner. However, it's safe to say that $11 million through December and January was the lifeline that's literally kept Gingrich's underfunded, unorganized and hopeless nomination ambitions alive.

But now Gingrich's coffers are running so low again that he's broken off the campaign trail this week to visit California, just like President Obama. There's only one reason prominent pols visit California in election years. It isn't for Disneyland's Space Mountain. And it's sure not to campaign; Democrats don't need to and Republicans would waste their time.

Gingrich and Obama are in California to raise money, gobs of it. The Golden state is the unofficial ATM for national politicians.

But now comes word from the Wall Street Journal that next door in Nevada, Adelson is pondering another $10 mil or so in donations to Gingrich's PAC, even as the former speaker fades badly in the polls.

Now, you don't come to possess $21 billion in Nevada by making a lot of bad bets. You come to possess $21 billion in Nevada by letting other people make a lot of bad bets. So, what else is going on here, besides Adelson's affection for Newt?

After last week's caucuses in Maine, Colorado and Minnesota and the meaningless Missouri primary (the first won by Mitt Romney, the other three captured by Rick Santorum), there's not a lot of February action in the Republican race before the important Arizona and Michigan primaries on Feb. 28. And then 10 states on Super Tuesday, March 6.

So, what does $11 million, plus perhaps $10 million more, accomplish?

1) It keeps a competitive Newt in the race.

2) More impportantly, it keeps the number of big-name contenders at three (yes, four counting Ron Paul, who's doing his own fundraising money bombs).

Theoretically, it's possible that Adelson is a philosophical disciple of Sarah Palin, who says she believes the longer a competitive GOP race goes on, the stronger will be the eventual nominee, especially if he's a bona fide conservative. After all, Obama and Hillary "Barack Obama, you should be ashamed!" Clinton ferociously went at each other into June in 2008 and a Dem still won in November.

Theoretically, that could be what Adelson is thinking.

However, he could also be thinking that by financially propping up Gingrich with what is to Adelson minor money to match Santorum's donor bonanza last week, he's keeping it essentially a three-man race. And who's the real beneficiary of that?

Neither Santorum nor Gingrich are really fiscal conservatives. They've never been executives, which five of the last six presidents were before moving into the White House. Nor after long congressional and consulting careers are they real D.C. outsiders, free of financial connections to that tainted city of monuments.

But somehow both Gingrich and Santorum are attracting the party's very conservative vote. Put another way, Gingrich and Santorum are splitting the same crowd. And this benefits Romney, who has his own money and national operation carefully-constructed over years.

So, in this case, the adage about following the money would steer you in the wrong direction. The potential $21 million is really a bank shot for Adelson, going to help Gingrich prevent Santorum from beating Romney.

We'll see if it works. But pretty clever.

get WOMEN to rate your photos for you

From the Okcupid Labs – Check Out This Super Cool App

By: Dave M. | February 16, 2012 | Internet dating profile, internet dating

okcupid logo 285x300 From the Okcupid Labs Check Out This Super Cool AppThis is AWESOME.

The boys at okcupid just came out with this super cool web based app called MyBestFace that you can use to get WOMEN to rate your photos for you and I thought you’d dig it

You can use it here:

What’s cool is they rate your pictures against each other and you can see which one women find more attractive.

AND… It also tells you what kind of people liked your photos: overachievers, deviants, introverts, Divas, whatever.

This is awesome because you can just take the best photos you get from this okcupid thing, then use them in your profiles to get more women messaging you back and messaging you FIRST.

(no point in guessing anymore right?)

Big thanks to the math and engineering wizards at okcupid for coming up with this cool app (and making it free for us).

The $100 Billion Facebook Question

The $100 Billion Facebook Question

Facebook’s long-awaited initial public offering filing has landed, and the company is likely to see the largest market debut ever. And while retail investors are expected to gobble up Facebook shares, experts at Wharton point out that there is no guarantee the social network giant will be a long-term winner on the stock market.

First of all, it’s unclear whether Facebook can grow into its estimated valuation of roughly $75 billion to $100 billion, says Luke Taylor, a Wharton finance professor.

On the surface, Facebook, which will trade under the ticker FB, looks like a juggernaut. The company has 845 million monthly active users, who contribute 250 million photo uploads and 2.7 billion comments a day. The company’s financial picture also looks good. For the year ended December 31, Facebook reported net income of $1 billion on revenues of $3.71 billion. In 2010, the firm saw net income of $606 million on revenues of $1.97 billion.

It’s not certain when Facebook will actually go public, but press reports estimate that late April or May is a likely target. Taylor notes that Facebook’s debut prospects will largely depend on how the Nasdaq trades and other market conditions. (The Nasdaq index is often viewed as a proxy for the tech industry.) How will the company’s shares trade ultimately? Facebook is likely to capture the imagination of retail investors, but so-called “smart investors” may pare back demand. “It’s not automatically true that Facebook will soar,” Taylor points out.

What will Facebook’s long-term profits look like? According to Taylor, companies often show strong profits heading into an IPO, but then they drop afterward. He adds that there is a lot of debate about whether the profit drop is related to less innovation or just the higher expenses that come with being a public company. In its IPO prospectus, Facebook cites Sarbanes-Oxley compliance costs as a potential profit margin hit.

Another pitfall would be what Taylor calls “short-termism.” Managers of newly public companies “often become myopic and focus on short-term numbers. That’s a risk of going public.” In a previous Knowledge@Wharton story about Facebook’s future on the open market, Wharton management professor Lawrence Hrebiniak cited a similar risk. “The challenge for Facebook will be to keep top executives focused on strategy and not regulation.”

In a letter to potential shareholders, CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that “Facebook was not originally founded to be a company. We’ve always cared primarily about our social mission, the services we’re building and the people who use them. This is a different approach for a public company to take.”

Lastly, the company may feel the effects of management turnover, as some managers cash out and the leadership team looks to hire seasoned executives to help steer the company while it matures. “Facebook’s IPO will be a massive liquidity event for thousands of employees,” Wharton legal studies and business ethics professor Kevin Werbach said in the Knowledge@Wharton article. “Many of them have already monetized at least some of their stock options through private secondary market activity, but the IPO will still be a massive wealth transfer. It’s difficult to retain employees who have already made millions of dollars on their stock options.”

Cupid on mark thanks to latest mobile apps

Cupid on mark thanks to latest mobile apps
By Brendan Lynch | Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | boston herald | Technology Coverage

If you’re still looking for a valentine, there are apps for that.

The $2 billion online dating industry is even hitting the bar scene as more and more younger users turn to mobile apps to connect with other singles.

“I was sitting at a bar next to two guys checking online dating sites on their phones,” Boston dating and relationship consultant Sara Sharnoff told the Herald. “There’s absolutely a shift, especially in Boston, where you have a lot of young people.”

Sharnoff said online dating is by far the biggest part of her business — helping people choose a site, write a profile and manage the process., a free, New York-based dating website that skews young and casual, launched its mobile app last year with a feature called Locals.

“It uses location to tell you who is close by and set you up,” said CEO Sam Yagan. “But it’s not just an app that alerts you when hot girls are around.”

Half of OKCupid’s users log in through the mobile app and about two-thirds of them use Locals, Yagan said. The app also has a feature called Broadcast, which Yagan described as “Twitter for dating.”

“You can say, ‘I’m going to watch the Celtics [team stats] game tonight wherever, and I’d love to have some company,’ ” he said. “It’s almost not even a date. It’s just, ‘Hey, let’s just hang out.’ ”

Industry research group IBISWorld estimates the U.S. online dating market at $1.9 billion, with more than 14,000 businesses generating $374 million in profit. InterActiveCorp, which owns giants and OKCupid, commands a 25.7 percent market share, while eHarmony users make up 15.6 percent of online daters.

Fast-rising mobile dating already comprises 15.8 percent of the total market.

“The online dating world is rapidly realizing that mobile is going to be a ‘first screen’ for them,” said Adam Towvim, vice president of Cambridge-based mobile ad firm Jumptap, who is speaking at iDate 2012, an industry conference in California in June.

Arvind Mishra, senior director of worldwide product management at eHarmony, said about 30 percent of new users are signing up through the mobile app.

Mishra said eHarmony’s users tend to value privacy, so the company focuses its design on conveying a methodical approach to online matchmaking rather than a casual experience.

“We are thinking about location and we probably will do it at some point in the future, but we need to do it in a way that makes sense for our users,” he said.

True Tales Of Love And Startups: Why You Should Date (Even Marry) An Entrepreneur

True Tales Of Love And Startups: Why You Should Date (Even Marry) An Entrepreneur

Lisa Hodes Rosen and Seth Rosen

By Lisa Hodes Rosen

This guest post is a part of a series on the Work/Life balance of young entrepreneurs: Surviving the Startup: Building a Business While Living A Life.

My grandparents were married for 66 remarkable years. As neighbors in Brooklyn, they met at the tender age of 13 and wed five years later. Together they survived The Great Depression, my grandfather’s Army service in World War II, three children and one global marketing business, started by my grandfather, an entrepreneur, after he left the Army and then dropped out of law school. There was little about life that they didn’t claim to understand. Well, actually, there was one thing: why their 30-something well-educated and ambitious granddaughter was still single. Despite my whining best efforts, I could not articulate the very simple tenet accepted by more recent generations as a fundamental truth:

Dating is hard.

Blind dates, coffee dates, JDates, Skype dates, broken dates, haughty dates, sloppy dates, aggressive dates, cheap dates, boring dates, better-off-forgotten dates. And God help you if it’s a good date… then the real games begin. How do you let someone know you’re interested without looking crazy? Social media and smartphones have seriously complicated what was once the simple act of courtship. To make matters worse, the 40-hour work week is practically extinct thanks to our services economy. Having dated (or attempted to date) many different types, I can say with confidence that almost nobody works nine to five anymore. Simply put, we are all very busy.

Given that these challenges cut across professions, I wonder why entrepreneurs have been branded with a scarlet “E” when it comes to dating. In many cases entrepreneurs actually make wonderful significant others, and – dare I say it – spouses. How do I know? I married one.

Don’t get me wrong, everything you have heard about entrepreneurs is true. They are egocentric, self-righteous workaholics who are enslaved by their vision. And man, are they poor. But, perversely, these characteristics actually make them really great (life) partners. Let me explain.

Entrepreneurs want to change the world – and that’s hot.

My husband, Seth, and his co-founder, Mike, both started their careers in real estate, but for years talked about starting a company together. In 2009, after business school, Seth became an avid consumer of custom items like furniture and clothing, and he soon realized that there was no central online marketplace to find custom artisans. He called Mike and several months later was born. The only problem? Neither had internet experience. Well, that isn’t entirely true: they had both used the internet before. No matter their (dis)qualifications, they set out to change the retail buying paradigm in favor of custom goods. The mere thought that they might be able to fundamentally alter consumer behavior forms the foundation of their commitment to the company (though, in fairness, so does the fear of failure).

If confidence is attractive, then an unbridled belief that one will change the world is striking. It is also incredibly motivating. Not a day goes by without Seth challenging me to think bigger and to work smarter. When I doubt myself, which is more often than I care to admit, he reminds me of CustomMade’s humble beginnings: Seth and Mike thought they could build a marketplace website in a weekend for $25,000. That was three years and $3 million dollars ago. They were very, very wrong, but they figured out how to solve some big problems with guts and horsepower, which are the drivers for many successful people. How lucky I am to wake up to that inspiration every morning.

Entrepreneurs don’t have time to play games.

Everybody says it, He’s Just Not That Into You codified it, but it is hard to believe: a good relationship should be easy with no guessing games. When Seth and I started dating, I was working at a big law firm billing 2,200 hours a year. I was on a big toxic tort case led by a partner who carried an ice ax around the office as a symbol of our litigation strategy. Despite this ball and chain, I still found time to check personal email every so often to see whether my crush-of-the-moment had contacted me yet or trading flirtatious but annoyingly ambiguous texts. Playing The Dating Game was my one non-billable indulgence besides eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom.

Happily, Seth robbed me of The Dating Game drama. As busy as I was, he was even busier trying to figure out his new business. He didn’t have time for any distractions and explicitly said so. The rules were very clear: if he wanted to talk to me, he called. If he wanted to see me, he asked. If he was busy but wanted a raincheck, he said so and he found a time that worked for both of us. And the same was expected from me. There were a few occasions when he accidentally double-booked a date and a business meeting, but in those cases he arranged it so he could do both (but separately), or if he thought my legal input would be useful he brought me along and then treated me to ice cream or drinks afterwards. There were no mixed messages – no “is-he-or-isn’t-he” confusion – because there was no place for it. It doesn’t get easier than that.

Entrepreneurs are good decision-makers.

By the time Seth and I moved in together, I had watched many friends go to neck-breaking lengths to get their significant other to propose. Frankly, it scared me. I didn’t want to resort to an ultimatum or a hit man to force him to put a ring on it. While effective, it just didn’t seem romantic.

Shortly after I settled into his apartment, I did what I thought was the responsible thing to relieve any real or perceived pressure by telling him that we should probably wait a year before we breathed a word about getting married. I had choreographed a whole song and dance about why it was important to make sure that he and I worked as couple living in the same space before thinking about the next step. He nodded in agreement, but didn’t say much. Soon after I found out why: he already had the ring.

Several of my friends were just as stunned as I was at the effortless proposal. What was different here? It wasn’t that Seth loved me any more than their husbands love them. The difference lies in the decision-making process. Everyday Seth has to make decisions that significantly affect the direction of his business. When he makes a decision, he closes the matter and moves on. He rarely revisits a decision for second-guessing. He makes life decisions in much the same way. Once he knew that he wanted to marry me, there was nothing to discuss. He bought a (custom made) engagement ring that he knew I would like and proposed. No arm-twisting necessary.

Entrepreneurs think outside of the box.

Many entrepreneurs are poor, and Seth was no different. For the first two years Seth did not take a salary. He made zero. Zilch. Nothing. I had just changed jobs from a big law firm to an environmental nonprofit, taking a 75% pay cut. And we were planning a wedding. We had to make some sacrifices in wedding planning, but where? Seth decided to tackle the budget cuts because he already had some experience spending scarce funds creatively. CustomMade is always racing against its bank account. It needs to make the biggest bang for the least amount of bucks, which was precisely our goal with the wedding. As an added benefit, Seth had also learned the fine art of sticking to a budget, something his more impulsive bride was not very good at.

Most girls fantasize about their wedding days, and I was no different. As a history buff, my dream was always to have grand affair in a Newport mansion or a castle in Europe. Reality was clearly dictating otherwise. It was Seth who pieced together our master plan over coffee. He had contacts at the Langham Hotel (where we met) who would work with our budget if we had the wedding at an off-peak time. The Langham is also famous for its weekend brunch. Thankfully, brunch is much cheaper than dinner, so we could stay on budget. Finally, we agreed that a small jazz band would be more appropriate than a 10-piece party band on a Sunday afternoon – and cheaper, too. An affordable Sunday afternoon jazz brunch at the historic Boston hotel where we met? It sounded like a dream to me.

Life is never boring with an entrepreneur.

Since starting CustomMade, we’ve been involved in several litigations, re-built the website three times, raised money four times, changed the business model five times, and survived The Great Recession.

There is always something unexpected around the corner. Take the day in the fall of 2010 when Seth marched into my office, a smirk painted across his face. “I have a gift for you,” he said. I responded with a smile. My birthday wasn’t for another week, but gifts always seem to burn a hole in his pocket. He handed me a large envelope and stood over my desk as I opened it, the smile fading from my face. It was a copy of a complaint that had been filed in state court. A former independent contractor had just sued CustomMade, Seth and Mike. The claim was $600,000, an order of magnitude more than we had in the bank. I thought it had been unusually quiet in the office in recent weeks.

For the next six months we fought a frivolous lawsuit. I spent several nights editing briefs, and, while it was exhausting because his company essentially became my second job, it was a storm that Seth and I weathered together. Eventually the plaintiff dismissed his lawsuit and his lawyer withdrew from the case, but not before we spent a ridiculous amount of money on legal fees and forensic consultants.

As soon as the lawsuit wrapped, a fundraising round began. There would be no rest for the weary. CustomMade needed cash and it needed it quickly. “Strap on your seatbelt,” Seth said to me one day. “This is going to get bumpy.” I couldn’t help but laugh. He was just telling me this now?

Although he doesn’t always say it, I know that Seth appreciates my dedication to vigorously defending and supporting his business. Sometimes I think back to my grandparents’ stories about the difficult times they faced as my grandfather struggled to build his business. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that I ended up with an entrepreneur. Maybe I’m attracted to the struggle and sacrifice.

…Or maybe I’m on to something, and entrepreneurs really do make relationships easy and life exciting.

Lisa Rosen is an environmental lawyer by day, and a startup spouse by night. Follow her on Twitter at @Entreprenrswife.