Be Your Own Venture Capitalist & Build A Broad Portfolio

By the time Baidu, the “Google of China” went public, Venture Capital firm Draper Fisher’s 28% stake was worth over $1 billion dollars by the end of the trading day. Not a bad return considering their likely sub-$50 million investment just years ago! In a world full of strikeouts, it just takes one home run to win a ball game.

The Financial Samurai reader is savvy enough to know that strong work ethnic and good morals are key pieces of the success puzzle. Sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time. When Venture Capital firms fund startups, they are looking to take equity stakes in companies in a robust industry, lead by visionaries who can execute towards enormous profit potential. The majority of investments go bust, and the successes often take years and tons of selfless involvement before returns are seen. Eventually, the exit strategy is for their investment to get acquired or IPO.

We have the opportunity to be our very own individual venture capitalists everyday. Many of us may take for granted the people we meet, but not you. After all, all it takes is one billionaire to give you one million dollars before you’re rich right? Receiving an opportunity is what it’s all about. You’re reading this post essentially because like me, you want to be financially independent sooner, rather than later. The ability to be financially independent by 40 is the reason why we work so hard now. If the deadline was 20 years longer, where’s the fun and challenge in that?

Government Employee Entitled to A $100,000,000 Bonus!

Yes, I know I’m being a tad bit facetious here, but not really. After getting US$45 billion in government aid, the US government and we the people of America own roughly 36% of Citigroup. The interesting debate is whether Citigroup employee, Andrew J Hall should be paid his $100 million bonus as described in his contract.

Most initial responses are with a vehement “HELL NO!” Who on earth deserves to get paid that much, people must think. However, what if Andrew Hall was responsible for bringing in $1 billion in revenue? Is it so egregious to pay the man responsible, a 10% cut? After all, $900,000,000 sure does employ and pay for many other Citigroup employee’s salaries! Should Citigroup risk not paying their star, and his team of employees for the overall sake of the firm and shareholders? As one colleague aptly put it, “RB, we live in America not North Korea!”

Survey Says: Get 1,300 on Your SAT’s and a 3.9 GPA And You’re Set For Life!

A very interesting article in the New York Times highlighted PayScale’s survey of 1.2million college graduates to find out what they made right out of school, and 10 years after graduation. If you look at the picture, it’s interesting to note that the majority of schools are: 1) Private Schools, and 2) Highly Ranked in US News & World Report and other popular college rankings.

The average SAT and GPA scores of these 20 schools are roughly 1,300 and 3.7, respectively. Hence, one could argue that the key to making a six figure income 10 years out of school is simply high test scores and good grades! As such, it behooves all incoming 9th graders to recognize their grades accumulate from 9th to 12th grade, and not to mess their chances up of getting into Dartmouth, UPenn, and Yale.


I really used to think education was not very useful since we forget much of what we learn. But, as I grow older, it becomes apparent that many of the most successful people we know have been very well educated. Barack Obama went to Columbia for his BA, and Harvard Law School. George Bush Senior went to Yale, and even Bush Junior went to Harvard. Say what you will, but anybody who becomes the President of the Free World is successful in my eyes. In the long run, the cream rises to the top, be it whip cream or sour cream.

How High Can Unemployment Go Before We Derail?

The S&P 500 index has rallied 40%+ from its March 2009 low, and is up 8% Year To Date. Despite this solid performance, unemployment has surged to 9.7%, and many forecast the increase will continue until 11-13% unemployment. We’ve got 12% unemployment here in California already.

The question I have is: How high can the unemployment rate go before the bull market derails? Is the level 15%, or is the level as high as 20%? I cannot imagine being unemployed and desiring employment in this market. There’s just so little out there and the competition is tremendous. For those who are already employed, things seem hopeful that with earnings rebounding from 2008 and less people to pay, 2009 could be a big year.

Is the market currently being driven by the “90% employed” segment of the population who thinks the other 10% doesn’t really matter to the economy’s bottom line? With consumer spending consisting of 70% of GDP, how can we ignore the fact that 1 out of every 10 are not working, and likely another 10% are underemployed and looking for more work to survive? Am I looking backwards, since unemployment is a lagging indicator, and the stock market is a leading indicator?

It absolutely perplexes me that euphoria is back in the markets. We shouldn’t be surprised if we double dip in 2H09, and see a long drawn out recovery until mid 2010. Personally, I’m raising cash by pulling money out of the market. We’ve had a great rebound and I don’t want to get greedy.

Readers, where do you think unemployment levels are heading and what are your arguments if you think the markets are going higher?

Update: At 10.2% unemployment as of Nov 7th, 2009, apparently very high!


Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

The Less You Have, The Less You Lose

In October of 2008, Warren Buffet lost about $9.6 billion on paper. Put it another way, that’s a freaking a lot of money! To also put it another way, in my chase to match Warren’s wealth, I caught up to him by about $9.599 billion dollars.

Many of us have lost a lot of money in this market, but we could have lost more if we were already very wealthy. I am absolutely positive that it hurts much more for some poor rich CEO losing $50million of his net wealth, vs us losing $50,000 of our own.

Now is absolutely the best time to be relatively young and buy all the assets we can. And since we have such a wonderful opportunity, it makes wasteful spending that much more expensive because of the potential returns down the road.

Who knows whether we are going to double dip in the 2nd half as unemployment marches to 11%+. What I do feel strongly about is that if we don’t buy some distressed asset now, we are going to be kicking ourselves in 20 years. Personally, my site is set on a vacation property in Nevada, Lake Tahoe. I hope to pick up a foreclosure that is 50% off of peak values, and that can provide a 8% rental yield vs. the current government risk free 10 year treasure of 3.54%. In 8-10 years, i plan to move there and pay 0% state income tax, vs. 9.6% here in California.

Readers, what do you plan to pick up for cheap in this recession?