septiembre 11, 2004

Never forget

September 11th changed everything. Freedom is expensive, and we must fight to keep it.

septiembre 10, 2004

Selling wine samples

Via John Moore:
At Tuscany Market, a "gourmet market and eatery
located in north Austin, shoppers can sample one-ounce tasters of 32 red and white wines through the first computerized wine sampling system of its kind in the United States, reports Dale Rice in the Austin American Statesman (9/8/04). Tuscany co-owner Mike Sattler says, "There are a lot of times I would like to buy a bottle of wine that's a little more expensive, but I'm afraid to get it home and find I don't like it. This creates the ability for people to taste wine, experience it, learn, and go."

I may have to go check this out.

I'm not surprised at the success of the idea. There's definitely many young professionals who want to become more wine savvy. And the only way to acquire that savviness is to drink a wide selection of wine.

A great idea. I wonder if this would be possible to turn into a bar, rather than a super market. A nice upscale, romantic date spot/married couple spot.

septiembre 09, 2004

SEO - Search Engine Optimization

In the past few weeks I've been researching how to get high rankings on google and yahoo. It turns out that there is a whole industry called SEO which tries to get websites into the top 10 of Google.

The industry is mainly self-employed consultants who help small businesses and ecommerce sites crack the resulsts pages for their desired searches. Some of these people appear to make a very good living doing so.

There are also some consultants who help less reputable sites that try to make money by affiliate programs of porn, viagra type supplements, illegal drugs, gambling, etc. Most of these consultants are going for spam ways to get their site to the top of the rankings as quickly as possible. Sure, they realize that their site may get banned in the future, but in the meantime they make a quick buck.

But here's the funny part of it: as far as I can tell, no one has really figured out Google's algorithm. These professional consultants just clean up a website's code and help websites create inbound links. The more seedy consultants do similar things, but they employ alot of spam in order to get their inbound links.

I've successfully gotten several sites to #1 on google before, with some search terms being fairly competitive. In all my research the past week, I've picked up some techniques to fine tune websites (non-spam techniques, mind you, I wouldn't do that), but nothing groundbreaking.

It's surprising to me. I guess I could start an SEO business as well, as I know how to get to the top of the rankings.

Business books

It was much remarked recently when the Economist published an article commenting that "so many business books are awful."

One problem is that most books are given positive reviews.

I think this is something that probably has very little to do with any book itself. When reading, the reader takes time to sit down and think. They get a chance to let their mind wander on a subject and find a new angle.

I'm hardly an expert on business, and it's certainly true that I could use more formal business education. But most business books seem very good to me at the time, but the lessons I've "learned" are as longlasting as lightning in the sky.

So I've come to view business books as good for inspiration and new perspective. Sometimes that's worth my $20.

(inspired by John Moore's review of "The Pirate Inside," which I confess does look interesting).

Capitalism is hard

Wikis -- and the popular Wikipedia -- is discovered by the old media:
The free Wikipedia also features a publicly authored current-events page recapping the day's top news, and it is rapidly expanding into other languages -- more than 10,000 articles have been created in each of roughly a dozen languages besides English.

Yet some worry that because it charges users nothing, this new-age reference work may siphon readership away from old-school encyclopedias and take a devastating bite out of their revenue -- without delivering the same levels of accuracy and quality.
People who are hurt by competition always start crying. Technological advances render the old ways obsolete. We don't have many cobblers anymore, because now machines make shoes. Same with coopers.

Capitalism is tough. Why don't schools teach this?

septiembre 06, 2004

Speaking of bubbles...

the Beanie Baby bubble.

DC Real Estate

It's a good time to be a real estate owner in the DC area. The Capital area has been growing so quickly for so long that the real estate market is red hot.

Even the spot in question in the article was in a bad neighborhood not too long ago. Since the MCI center opened, however, the neighborhood is getting much nicer.

It is an interesting question though: is there a bubble in the DC real estate market right now? If so, when will it pop?

My take: yes, there's a bit of a bubble, but I don't think it will pop. I think the real estate appreciation is reasonable considering the likely continued growth of the area. There's also the substantial immigrant communities in DC which are likely to continue their rapid growth -- particularly the Latino communities. Interestingly, last year the candidates for president of a Latin American country (Salvador?) both came to the DC area to campaign.

Poker and business

It seems as though the WashingtonPost has discovered poker.

The article opens with the standard "old media discovers the latest fad" information. We learn that poker is really hot and very hip these days. Which basically you know if you talk to anyone under 40. Then it discusses the twin growth engines of poker: the impact of the World Poker Tour and the internet offering an expanded opportunity to play poker. The article ends with the standard media warning about problem gambling.

A few notes on the article:
1. When poker is hot enough for the Washington Post to report on it, it makes me wonder whether poker's popularity has crested.
2. Annie Duke is not the only tutor Ben Affleck has had.
3. PokerRoom makes $4 million profit? Interesting.
4. PartyPoker/EmpirePoker (the largest site) is estimated to make $100-$200 million. Some of us have estimated even higher than $200 million.
There are still new sites opening up that are attempting to get a piece of the action. Some even offer the chance to play against well known tournament pros.

It's relatively easy to open up your own site. Some of the lesser known sites will let you have your own site -- you take care of the branding and marketing, and they run the servers and customer service for a percentage of the profits. I actually thought about doing this, but decided I'd rather make a fortune a more reputable way.

I know some people run underground games and make a fortune off of them. Again, I chose not to do this, as it's illegal, but it's only a misdemeanor, and you can usually get it plead down. Sure, it's a little bit like something you'd see on the Sopranos, but very good money can be made this way.

One reputable way to possibly make money off the poker boom (besides learning how to play and then playing) is to invest in the World Poker Tour. The WPT just went public recently and trades on the NASDAQ. I'd been planning to check out the WPT after the IPO. I still may buy some shares, but I'm wary. I'm already getting bored of the WPT, and that seems to be a common trait among those of us who play frequently. There's definitely plenty of possible growth for the WPT (eg, moving to a better known channel), but on the other hand, there's no suspense towards the end. You always know when the last hand will be, because the episode is almost over.

Poker is a great game, in some ways a metaphor for life. To be a good poker player, you'll need many of the same skills necessary for business. It can take awhile to learn how to play well, just like in business. You'll probably fail at first. You need to master many of the concepts, learn some basic odds (implied odds, effective odds, reverse implied odds, etc), and develop the experience necessary for intuition. You need to be good at gathering lots of information that you can synthesize and make a quick decision with.

I think I've rambled about poker enough for now.

septiembre 05, 2004

Branding of a different sort.

An interesting look at the Joe Gibbs brand:
When the Washington Redskins play at home this season, the sideline in front of the bench will not be the only piece of turf at FedEx Field controlled by Joe Gibbs. Joe Gibbs Racing has leased a 24-seat luxury suite at the stadium to entertain sponsors, fans and assorted VIPs to generate marketing opportunities for his successful NASCAR team.

The convergence of Gibbs's renewed role as football coach and his ongoing business interests outside the game has been generating a financial and marketing windfall for the Redskins, Gibbs's family and his NASCAR corporate sponsors since he announced in January that he was returning to the NFL after an 11-year absence.

The Redskins' coach is at the center of a marketing blitz this season for companies as diverse of Wix oil filters, Cintas uniforms, Interstate Batteries and Home Depot, each of which has ties to his family's NASCAR operation.
. . . .

Many NFL head coaches have cashed in on their fame by building side careers as entrepreneurs and corporate promoters. But the scale of Gibbs's side business interests in which he has parlayed his coaching success into a lucrative second career as a NASCAR team owner and corporate backer is unique. "When all is said and done, what Gibbs has done is build himself into one of the most successful personal brands in the [sports] business," said David M. Carter, a principal at the Sports Business Group, a consulting firm in Los Angeles. "Joe Gibbs is not just a NASCAR personality and not just a football personality, but he is one of the most well-branded individuals in this country's sports industry."

. . . .

Gibbs has been around business opportunities for decades, starting with several get-rich-quick schemes that Gibbs documented in his book, "Racing to Win." Gibbs lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in several investments from racquetball courts to real estate, dating from the 1970s. It took years for him to dig out from under those setbacks.

By all accounts, Gibbs Racing is a success. Gibbs started the NASCAR racing team in 1991 with help from Miller and funding from Gibbs's speeches for the Washington Speakers Bureau. His racing team is considered one of the best-run in NASCAR and returns several million dollars a year, according to J.D. Gibbs. The family plows most of the profits from Gibbs Racing back into the business, which includes 240 employees, two airplanes and a state-of-the-art race shop in North Carolina.