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Industry Analysis: Utilities Dig In Against Distributed Rooftop Solar

This is another of my Industry Analysis discussions for UBC students. This time it is perhaps as big an industry issue and clash of competing values as big as the smart mobile phone market, which I call the Mega Market War of Titans. It is about the intersection between two industries, which has recently morphed into a contentious clash. This is about disruptive new technology and strategic inflection points. So what has happened?

United States

Plutocrat Koch Brothers, Corporate Money and U.S. Government Paralysis

The U.S. government shutdown crisis is driven by an entirely new and dangerous dynamic in American politics. It is not easy to discern, but it is there. A number of different U.S. news media have begun reporting on this phenomenon and have editorialized on it. Last night before the shutdown actually occurred, one political commentator abandoned all of the tedious “talking points,” promoted by both sides, and spoke the truth. He said simply that the political paralysis problem in the United States was precipitated by the growing plutocracy (government by the extremely rich), and corporate political money empowered by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Its focus, goal and strategy is exclusively to discredit The President of the United States personally. It has little or nothing to do with opposing policy issues. It is personal and racist.

Europe

Investment Strategist Warns About Climate Change, Food Supplies, and Natural Resources

JEREMY GRANTHAM’S GOT A TRACK RECORD that’s impossible to ignore—he called the Internet bubble, then the housing bubble. While moves like those have earned the famed forecaster the nickname “perma-bear,” in early 2009 he also told clients at GMO, his $100 billion, Boston-based money-management firm, to jump back into the market. It was the same week that stocks hit their post-Lehman low. Now, however, the outspoken Yorkshireman, who is chief investment strategist at GMO, is making headlines with a new prediction: Dire, Malthusian warnings about environmental catastrophe. To hear him tell it, the world is running out of food. Resources will only keep getting more expensive. And climate change looms over it all. Indeed, at times he sounds like someone Greenpeace would send door-to-door with a clipboard. (He’s not above likening the coal-industry spin to the handiwork of Goebbels.) If it were anyone else, Wall Street would probably laugh him off. But because it’s Jeremy Grantham, they just might listen.

Silicon Valley Culture

The Changing Landscape of Entrepreneurial Finance: Or Is It?

This is the best info-graphic I have seen on the historical evolution of venture capital, from the early days of Arthur Rock to the current trend of “platform” investors offering the “everything in a box” approach to entrepreneurial investment. The evolving venture capital models are overlayed onto a trend graph of the cost of startups contrasted with the number of startups. At first glance one might accept the now common refrain that traditional “venture capital is dead.” When I began my career in Silicon Valley, the typical entrepreneurial growth company needed $5 to $10 Million dollars to launch itself. Today, the argument is that a promising company can be started on $5000 or less, and competitors eager to serve this new market have mushroomed. But is this really the future?

Silicon Valley Culture

Time To Thin Out Ineffective Startup Accelerators

If properly managed and matched to local economic need, resources and capabilities, local accelerators can be a significant local economic asset. However, the problem with so many of these “everywhere else” accelerators, is highly unrealistic expectations to be “the next Silicon Valley”, failure to connect with local economic needs, excessive focus on any and every new Web app, and most importantly, poor management. It is also apparent to me that many of these more remote smaller communities are so distant from the mainstream economy, that many of the “great ideas” that come out of them, are embarrassingly late.

User Interface

How Gigabit Fiber to the Home Will Transform Education Way Beyond MOOC's

The post below caught my attention because of the current industry debate and competitive battle over deployment of much higher Gigabit Internet bandwidth via optical fiber to consumers, known as Fiber to the Home or FTTH, at prices much lower than they currently pay for even 50 Megabit Internet connectivity. Gigabit connectivity is already a reality in Hong Kong and South Korea, with Europe not far behind. The big cable carriers, Comcast and Time Warner, have actually argued publicly that consumers don’t want or need higher bandwidth. How they came to that conclusion is a mystery. Now Google has entered into direct competition with the cable carriers, deploying Gigabit FTTH in Kansas City and Austin, Texas to be followed by other locations, at prices a fraction of Comcast’s pricing for lower bandwidth.

Silicon Valley Culture

Social Media May Finally Have Become Radioactive to Investors…

One would think that this should have happened sooner….but, well, there is a human tradition here…Wikipedia currently lists 342 social media apps, emphasizing up front that their list is not exhaustive. I can think of at least two more local social media startups, one of which has just announced significant new investments. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds, the now legendary book by Charles Mackay, first published in 1841, remains a classic text revered for its insights into social psychology and economic bubbles.

United States

Alberta Bitumen Bubble And The Canadian Economy: Industry Analysis Case Study

The Canadian media (CBC, Globe & Mail, Canadian Business) have been buzzing with analyses of Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s pronouncement last month that the “Bitumen Bubble,” is now crashing down on the Alberta economy, and potentially the entire Canadian economy. The Alberta budget released last Thursday, March 7, acknowledged a $6.2 Billion deficit from this year, and “even larger declines in the next several years,” due to forecasts for significant price decreases for “Western Canada Select” (WCS), the market term for Alberta oil sands oil. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty echoed the impact of reduced oil sands revenue on the federal budget, by warning of significant cutbacks in federal spending as well. The impact of this sudden change in the prospects for the Canadian petroleum industry and for government oil tax revenues, will likely also have serious implications for the BC economy, jobs growth, business investment, consumer spending: essentially the Canadian economy as a whole will suffer.

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