Here’s an inspirational video for entrepreneurs I saw at one of the TED lectures.

Categories: English

Company Ideas: Amazon

It is clear that Amazon has pushed its Kindle product aggressively and with the newly granted patent, they stand to control the market leader position for the near future, but how is Amazon to 1.) Compete against the invasion of tablets that has begun with the iPad and is expected to grow with many other companies like HP and Toshiba, when the Kindle’s price point is so similar to tablets, and 2.) Retain customer loyalty for its Kindle platform and become the default source for ebooks?

Here’s how I believe this could be achieved. First, I will talk about Kindle Credits – a way that can both promote an increase in sales and a higher likelihood of a customer opting to purchase a Kindle. Second, I will talk about Kindle’s Books for eBooks, a program that can be promoted as a way to increase customer’s loyalty on the Kindle product.

Kindle Credits
As explained above, tablet PCs, starting with Apple’s iPad are quickly becoming the new form of portable electronic media consumption. Amazon quickly launched Kindle for iPad, before that they had also launched Kindle for iPhone, but their dominance over the market of ebooks is more threatened when Amazon has to compete within a system like Apple’s iPad and iPhone, which have their own competing eBook stores. Ideally, Amazon will have the most control over the market if customers buy the actual Kindle hardware.

So, how do we get people to pay for a Kindle? Kindles have continued to go down in price, but at $189 for the cheapest model, they are still fairly close to tablets which  can do many other things. Aside from price, Kindle can offer the eInk technology and a much lighter and thinner device. Getting to the right price can be achieved with a loyalty promotion that I call Kindle Credits.

Kindle Credits are credits that go towards the purchase of the Kindle hardware with purchases made on Amazon. For example, every time a customer purchases a regular book through Amazon or an ebook, the customer would receive an email informing them that they have obtained 2 credits towards their purchase of a Kindle. Like the miles program, once they reach a certain number of credits, they get the Kindle for “free”. This serves two purposes – one, it serves as an incentive to buy more from Amazon, and second, it reduces the price barrier of the Kindle in a direct proportion to a customer’s commitment with Amazon.

Even though the Kindle can finally be purchased for “free”, it really wasn’t. The customer will have purchased several Amazon products in order to get the Kindle, and thus, it will value the Kindle – unlike other products which are not valued because they are given away. In fact, the Kindle Credits could, upon fine tuning the most effective form, be restricted to only giving credit for purchases of ebooks, which would serve as an anticipation of the Kindle hardware. This way, customers can be incentivized to buy Amazon ebooks, rather than Apple or other company’s ebooks, despite reading them on devices like the iPad. Then, after reaching the amount of credits needed for a free Kindle, they would have a risk free option of switching to the Kindle hardware and dumping the tablet way of reading.

Kindle Books for eBooks
This program is aimed towards solidifying even more the loyalty to Kindle by offering Kindle owners a program where they can ship their old physical books to Amazon, and they can get the eBook version in return. I have lived in several states and have spent considerable amounts of time in different countries. Yet, it is impossible for me to carry all those books, which I might want to read or reference to at a given point. Instead, they are left abandoned because of the hassle of carrying them. Those loved books can be saved forever and reached anywhere, striking into the very hearts of passionate readers who would love the idea of having a full library – their library at their fingertips always, everywhere. Furthermore, it serves as a much stronger bond to have your full library under the Kindle brand, than to just have a few ebooks purchased sitting there. Those old books will serve as a magnet for coming back and purchasing the new ones, because they are all part of their library.

Amazon could then leverage the current press attention to “green companies” and announce a recycling program with the returned books, or they could just funnel the books to the used books for sale channels. Either way, they can get a second benefit from the byproduct of the old physical books. They could also strike a deal with the publishers who are willing to engage in the switch in some form – maybe by giving Amazon a higher sales margin for those types of transactions, or another form of creative deal that would serve to reduce the initial cost of making the switch between physical to digital.

Categories: English

Social Media and Technology Trends Video from The Economist

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Short video on the direction of technology and the Internet and how powerful it has become in comparison to traditional media.

Advice to a Young Man Interested in Going into Law

September 9, 2009 Leave a comment

A twelve year-old boy wrote a letter to Justice Felix Frankfurter requesting advice on the ways to start preparing while still in junior high school. Frankfurter responded:

My dear Paul:

No one can be a truly competent lawyer unless he is a cultivated man. If I were you, I would forget all about any technical preparation for the law. The best way to prepare for the law is to come to the study of the law as a well-read person. Thus alone can one acquire the capacity to use the English language on paper and in speech and with the habits of clear thinking which only a truly liberal education can give. No less important for a lawyer is the cultivation of the imaginative faculties by reading poetry, seeing great paintings, in the original or in the easily available reproductions, and listening to great music. Stock your mind with the deposit of much good reading, and wide and deepen your feelings by experiencing vicariously as much as possible the wonderful mysteries of the universe, and forget all about your future career. With good wishes,

Sincerely yours,

Felix Frankfurter

Categories: English Tags: , , , , ,

Irrational Beings – Susceptibility in Decision Making

August 3, 2009 Leave a comment

If y/a = Z, and (y+x)/a = Z, (where Z doesn’t equal 0) then we could logically assume that the value of x = 0, right? When it comes to decision-making and behavioral economics, the answer many times is no.  x could have a significant value in our decision process. Our brains are susceptible to influences that cannot rationally be explained. In the video below, you will see this in more detail. It is interesting to understand it for the applications that it could lead in the formation of pricing structures, establishment of public policy, and many other areas.

Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our decisions?

Categories: Business, English

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

August 1, 2009 Leave a comment

There’s something many of us are missing when we judge success, when we make ourselves goals, and when we put too much emphasis on “I”. Here’s an interesting and well explained take on measuring success by Alain de Botton.

Categories: English, General

Where in the world is dot com?

I have just returned from a trip across several countries in Latin America and Europe and noticed a consistent trend – ccTLDs are dominating the visual space of major cities outside of the US. Yes, in the US dot com is king, but not for Argentina, Chile, Greece, nor Spain.

Argentina and Chile

In Argentina, .com.ar dominates almost completely in all forms of commercials and billboards that I saw. The local extension is very popular, even though it has had the limitation of not allowing second level registration (i.e. .ar).

The same popularity for the Chile domain extension can be seen throughout their capital, Santiago. Unlike Argentina, the most popular form of the domain is the direct second level domain. Dot com or any other domain extensions other than the .cl are almost non-existent.

Greece and Spain

At Greece I had the opportunity of visiting several places mainland, as well as several of their islands including all of the most popular ones. Again, the ccTLD .gr was by far the most dominant in all the places I visited. In Athens, I saw a few dot com addresses, but possibly no more than a 10%.

Finally, in Madrid and Barcelona I continued to see the same tendency as the other places. One significant difference was Barcelona – which might be indicative of what’s to come. The official extension in Barcelona was not the ccTLD .es. Rather, the gTLD of choice is .cat, which is short for Cataluña – the region Barcelona belongs to. Aside from the government using .cat as their official extension, and many businesses using .es, there was also a few .com and .info domain names used by businesses.


Important regions like Cataluña could push for having their own regional extensions (and they currently are), opening the opportunity to register domains under those new gTLDs. The new CEO of ICANN has expressed ICANN’s path towards the creation of new gTLDs.

“For example, the chief of the Zulu tribe, His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, recently sent a letter notifying us of his intent to register the dot-zulu domain name so that different but related businesses and other groups can be linked by their domain name to the entire Zulu community. According to His Majesty, “We believe that the .Zulu TLD, as conceived and proposed by the Dot Zulu Project Inc. represents the best interests of the Zulu community and will be able to provide a viable structure for us as an evolving community.” New York City and the city of Berlin have expressed a similar interest in their own domain names. It is impossible to imagine the possibilities that could occur when these and a multitude of other TLDs are opened.”

If we extrapolate from Barcelona, when trying to enter a local market outside of the US, descriptive or generic domain names including the region or country (Berlinicecreams.com) will most likely be less desirable or useful than the new forms of gTLDs covering those regions (icecreams.berlin). I can see a dot com as being more desirable if it is in the travel industry, where the visitors are not the locals, but rather a population of foreigners.

There are many countries out there that still have high value generics available for registration. There are also still relatively low prices for premium generics in the secondary market for some countries. However, one big impediment has been the management of these domains, scattered through multiple NICs all having their own particular ways of renewal. So, if you are willing to deal with that inconvenience, then ccTLDs and new regional gTLDs could be a good pocket of growth for Domain Investors.


March 26, 2009 Leave a comment

For the past few months I have been working together with Andreas Krohn on a new project called Blendapps. The first solution is a mashup integrating chat rooms from Meebo and Userplane with the user base of facebook and Ning. More details to come…


Categories: English

On Stock Market Valuations, some light to the recurring scandals

November 15, 2008 1 comment

“There must certainly be a vast Fund of Stupidity in Human Nature, else men would not be caught as they are, a thousand times over, by the same Snare, and while they yet remember their past Misfortunes, go on to court and encourage the Causes to which they were owing, and which will again produce them.” – said Cato several thousand years ago (from The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism)

Here’s an interesting analysis from John C. Bogle‘s book “The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism

“When the S&P Index rose from 130 in March 1981 to 1,527 in March 2000, the return on investor capital, excluding dividends, was 13.8 percent per year. Earnings growth amounted to 6.2 percent annually, less than half of the return, with the remainder the result of a rise in the price-earnings ratio from eight times to thirty-two times. That increase alone accounted for 1,100 points of the 1,400-point gain, or 7.6 percent per year. If one were to attribute even a 5 percent corporate cost of capital as a threshold for stock option grant- a return a company might have earned merely by placing all of its assets in a bank certificate of deposit- corporate management could claim responsibility for an extra 1.2 percent per year.” (emphasis added)

So how does Wall Street manage to “meet” or “exceed” their generous quarterly guidance with such a high success rate? Here’s an example:

“In 2001, Verizon Communications reported a net income of $389 million and awarded its executives bonuses based on that amount. Net income would have been negative, however, had the company not included $1.8 billion of pension income. Thus, Verizon was able to use pension earnings to convert net income to profits, giving the firm cover to provide managers with higher bonuses [and meeting expectations, and keeping their stock options way high in the black]. It gets worse. It turns out that Verizon’s pension funds did not generate any real income in 2001; they had negative investment returns, losing $3.8 billion in value [What?!]. How then, could Verizon report income of $1.8 billion from its pension assets? The company merely increased its projection of future returns on pension assets to 9.25 percent, a move allowed under the accounting rules then in effect. Thus, the $1.8 billion in pension income used to move Verizon into the black did not even reflect actual returns generated by the pension funds. The pension income was simply the result of a change in the accounting assumptions. This certainly did not create any value for the firm or its shareholders.” (emphasis added)

OK, so lets do this simple math. They claim they made $389 million in net income, because of the $1.8 billion of magic pension fund money that doesn’t exist. This means they actually lost $1.4 billion, but that’s not it. They didn’t make $1.8 from pension, rather lost $3.1 billion in value for that fund.

Who ends up carrying those losses? The individual investors, fooled to believe a company is stable, holds the stock and takes the heavy losses when all the cards in the table are finally shown at once.

Acquisition Opportunity for Yahoo or Google- Marchex

October 20, 2008 1 comment

Last time I analyzed CNET’s individual assets, the company was acquired 4 months later. Now, amidst the current economic nightmare, there is a fresh new opportunity to grab a gift – Marchex (MCHX). Yahoo, who’s recent conflicts have left many asking for Yang’s head and who’s stock has lost almost 50% since failed negotiations with Ballmer, has a small opportunity to vindicate themselves.

Of course, there’s also Google who needs to continue increasing their revenues in order to support their generous stock PE. Although I would insist that this is a more logical acquisition for Yahoo! to build themselves into a more attractive position for Yahoo! to be acquired, possibly still by Microsoft.

So, what does Marchex bring to the table?

High quality traffic and prime Internet Real Estate.

By its own, Marchex is priced slightly below their current value. However, when you take Google or Yahoo’s advertiser base and traffic sources and fuse it with Marchex’s high quality domain portfolio you get a multiplier effect.

Marchex has made two brilliant moves:

1. Spanish domain portfolio acquisition

This portfolio contains over 100 of the most attractive Spanish domain names and was calculated to generate more than one million unique visitors per month. Of course, these are mostly visitors coming straight to the sites, because of type-in traffic. Take a look at the jewels:

mujer.com (women.com)
fotos.com (photos.com)
deportes.com (sports.com)
salud.com (health.com)
peliculas.com (movies.com)
mascotas.com (pets.com)
futbol.com (soccer.com)
cocina.com (kitchen or cook.com)
tarjetas.com (cards.com)
dietas.com (diets.com)
computadoras.com (computers.com)

The whole list is found here http://www.emediawire.com/releases/2007/5/emw527846.htm

The value of these domain names are like a slow curve that quickly accelerates exponentially as the Spanish market (Spain, Mexico, Caribbean and South America) online advertising solidifies. One must understand that this market has been extremely slow to develop, mostly because of the number of computers available in each household and lack of understanding from old school marketing executives. However, the panorama is changing quickly and will fuel advertiser dollars to the ‘net.

The Spanish domain portfolio could be easily worth $500 million to $2 billion in a 5 year window, depending on the development of all these domain names into fully usable content and social portals.

The second source of value in Marchex is their 2004 acquisition of UltSearch’s domain portfolio.

In this portfolio, there are over 100,000 domain names of high search traffic value. There are also a few generic jewels in the mix like beijing.com, debts.com, and remodeling.com.

It’s hard to value the whole portfolio and I suspect that most of the names would probably not be of any significant worth. However, assuming even 1% of the names are of the quality of debts.com and beijing.com would make the portfolio highly attractive.

I wouldn’t doubt that this portfolio had at least $100 million in value (Marchex paid over $150 million a few years ago for the portfolio).

Finally, someone over at Marchex decided to accumulate zip code domain name. Wrap them up, put a bow on top of them and sell it for a few million to some telephone company still figuring out their online strategy. I’d also garage sale the auto content generation technology.

Marchex is currently priced at $300 million. Year-to-date they are down almost 30%. This is exactly how much it is worth.. a 30 to 50% premium on its current price.