December 29, 2009

The Accidental Billionaires: By Ben Mezrich

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal By Ben Mezrich

[It is an interesting one, but it is not a nice story to read the undercurrents of Facebook - from beginning to the current state: Greediness still rules; Secondly it is interesting to know that Mark is from my local area].

Eduardo Saverin is the 'connector' who is a people's person in social circle and good with girls, Mark Zuckerberg is the 'sensor' who lacks social skills, but brilliant programming coder.

Mark and one of his buddy had created a software program called Synapse - a plug-in for MP3 players that allowed the players to 'learn' a user's preference and create tailored play-lists based on the information. Based on the software success, big companies started to call him with job offers. Rumor was, Microsoft had offered Mark between one and two million dollars to work for them - and amazingly Mark had turned them down.

In Harvard, Mark and Eduardo were close buddies during their undergraduate days. Eduardo was famous in Harvard campus due to his 'personal hedge fund' that created around $350K profit by investing in oil related industry. Mark became famous by creating the site from his laptop which put faces of girls next to animals and have people vote on which is more attractive. In order to make it working, Mark downloaded - illegally by hacking -, Facebooks from each of the houses in Harvard campus (Kirkland, Eliot, Lowell, Adams, Quincy, Dunster, Leverett, and Mather houses). It was an instant hit, but since he downloaded it by hacking it, he faced punishment/probation from Harvard.

However that short lived website which was hosted from his laptop got him famous in the Harvard circle. Three of his seniors - Winklevoss twin brothers(Tyler, Cameron) & Divya Narendra - were trying to create a website for social networking for Harvard students (Harvard Connect) so that guys can have faster access to girls in the other houses. They approached Mark who liked their idea and Mark started to work on the website creation for realizing their idea to practice.

The idea behind Harvard Connect is creating an online meetign place where Harvard guys and girls could find each other, share information, connect. That the site would have 2 sections - one for dating and the other for connecting. Students would be able to post pictures of themselves, put in some persoanl nfo, and try to find links with one another. In short, Harvard Connect, could bring people together based on their personalities rather than on their proximity.

While working on creating the website for Harvard Connect, Mark decided to deviate from this concept and make an online for everyone in the world where friends can add pictures, profiles and visit their friends profile...

In order to start in a decent way, Eduardo decided to spend some bucks from his fund which acquired by betting on oil market. The initial name was '' and it was quite interesting and got a decent coverage in new york times. This made those three seniors pissed as this was their idea which they shared it with Mark. However there was no contract signed or documented, except few emails and verbal meetings between all of these three seniors and Mark. However, they brought this issue to Harvard President MR. Summers who did not provide verdict from Harvard point of view as an Ethical issue and asked them to handle it face-to-face or seek legal advise. They took the legal option as Mark did not provide any help in responding to their emails or invitations and recently it got settled for $65 million (

Since Eduardo paid for the first financing, Mark setup a partnership where Mark gets 70% of the ownership and Eduardo gets 30%. Mark would handle all computer side of the business and Eduardo will do the business side including finance.

When the site - thefacebook.coom - became famous day-by-day, new player got-in to the decision making. New Financier Peter Thiel injected huge sum into via Sean Parker who became close friend with Mark. As per Sean's suggestion, the new company has new name - from to - and Mark will have 50% of shares, Peter will have 6.5%, Sean with 6.5% and Eduardo with 35%. However Eduardo's shares, he cannot sell for a long long time which Eduardo realized very late that only he would not be able to sell his shares while others could. Sean took care of business deals (getting new VCs, investors) and finally made Eduardo's shares worthless and ousted him from facebook management team.

In a bizarre situation, Sean happened to be in a party which went wild and an accident happened. The police case involved Sean to the accident for being there at wrong time at a wrong party. In order to save facebook's image, Mark kicked Sean out from Facebook management team.

Eduardo filed a lawsuit against Mark and Facebook and that brought by Mark against Eduardo, have remained shrouded in secrecy; however in Jan of 2009, Eduardo's name and title as 'cofounder' were abruptly reinstated into the Facebook manifest, his very existence reinstalled into the company's corp. history.

December 27, 2009

Power Trip by Amanda Little

Power Trip by Amanda Little

From oil wells to solar cells - Our ride to the renewable future.

[Book articulates all the risks (finance and unpredictable factors) in oil exploration in a nutshell and asks the question. A very good book which covers in details on all the segments where we consume energy and possibility of saving them by going Green.]

"If an energy company is going to throw a billion dollars into something untested and possible doomed to failure, wouldn't it make more sense to invest in the inexhaustible greener technologies that will likely replace fossil fuels?".

A New York Times has reported that the global petroleum demand for energy could triple by mid-century. A mere 4 % shortfall in oil production, could lead to a 177% increase in the price of oil. One of world's leading oil industry analyst, Daniel Yergin, who was awarded a Pulitzer for his book, "The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power' mentioned recently that we may reach a plateau... perhaps in 2 to 3 decades.

In the town square of Beaumont, TX holds a 60-foot-tall pink granite inscription reads: "On this spot on the Jan 10, 1901, a new era in civilization began". At 10:30am on this day, while crowd gathered to watch, the geyser coated he onlookers with a mist of inky, pungent liquid the consistency of corn syrup:black gold.(The finding of huge oil well successfully explored that day).

Oil prospecting had begun well before this finding- in mid 1800, when the petroleum by product kerosene was discovered as an illuminant that burned brighter, cleaner and more safety than whale oil and was far cheaper to produce. Instantly, demand for the lantern fuel began to escalate - not just in USA, but throughout EU, Russia and Asia. One man, John D. Rockefeller presided over those ballooning markets. His mission was to deliver 'the git of 'new light' to the world of darkness" - a gift for the moment was supplied exclusively by oil wells in the American Northeast. Rathskeller's entrepreneurial instincts took hold in high school when he dropped out his senior year to study banking, bookkeeping and law at a professional school near his family house in Cleveland, Ohio. Three years later with a partner and $1000 of his won savings, he setup a company that packaged and distributed regional crops and meats. As he watched demand for the illumination fuel escalate, Rockefeller became convinced of its enormous commercial potential. He acquired his first refinery in 1863 at the age of 24 and had achieved near-total domination over the production and distribution of oil in USA by the age of forty.

A compulsively orderly and fastidious man, Rockefeller was never interested in the grimy, frenzied oil-prospecting side of the industry; it was making the end product and selling it to customers that intrigued him. He realized early on that it was much more profitable to let the fluctuations and uncertainties of production - while he maintained tight control of the refining, marketing and distribution of petroleum products. When Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1870, there were some 250 refinery operation in the Northeast and, more than 85% of the market was under his control. Rathskeller's reach extended far beyond refining, he aimed to commandeer all stages of the flow of oil from the moment it surged from a derrick to its processing, packaging and transportation to store shelves and gas pumps. Rockefeller is the first person to create a national product in a country that had never had national products.

Rockefeller told once," Do not many of us who fail to achieve big things fail because we lack concentration , the art of concentrating the mind on the thing to be done at the proper time and to the exclusion of everything else. Rockefeller made it a rule to speak rarely , if ever in meetings- letting his staff and competitions do the talking. " A man of words and not deeds is like a garden full of weeds" went one of his rare credos. Another was summed up in a curious rhyme he kept in his desk:

"A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he listened the less hi spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Why aren't we all like that old bird?"

Rockefeller expressed no outward remorse over crushing smaller companies in his pursuit of control. Instead he celebrated it: "The American Beauty rose can be produced in all its splendor only by sacrificing the early buds that grow up around it", once he remarked.

Due to on growing protest from independent refiners, the Justice Dept sued Standard Oil for antitrust violations in 1909 and after 444 witnesses gave testimony, the company was found guilty and got maximum penalty. The largest of its subsidiaries was Standard oil of New Jersey which later became Exxon. Standard Oil California later became Chevron, subsequently merging with Buckskin's Joe's Texaco. Standard Oil New York later became Mobil. The Standard Oil of Ohio later became part of BP. Standard Oil of Indiana became Amoco. These subsidiaries eventually compromised six of the legendary 'Seven Sisters' that dominated global oil production throughout the 20th century. In 1917, the profits of the spin-off companies had collectively shot up to double, then triple the profits of Standard Oil before the dissolution. Rockefeller, in turn had nearly quadrupled his wealth and become the richest man in the world. The US was in today's terms the Saudi Arabia of the world , a country whose vast plains , deserts and ranch lands supplied the majority if the world's oil - and would continue to do so for several decades.

In US politics, Oil money started to rule as well. Even Eisenhower's smashing personal victory was quickly followed by a fulsome display of gratitude to its oil supporters. Indeed, at the presidential level, event he most respected administrators of the 20th century - esp. the most respected administrations, including FDR, JFK, And Regan's - have brokered and nurtured relationship with oil productions both domestic and international that openly abetted America's appetite for oil. " the trouble with the country is that you can't win an election without the oil bloc," Roosevelt famously said, "and you can't govern with it".

The second world war extended to Soviet Union by Germans and USA by Japans are mainly related to oil. Germany relied mainly on the Soviet Union and Romania for its oil and hence the fight to capture Soviet Union by Germans so that it can fuel its gas-fueled war vehicles without any issue. Like German's, Japan was heavily motivated by oil. By the end of 1930, Japan depended on US to provide the vast majority of its oil needs.Japan hoped to conquer all of Southeast Asia, including the oil fields of the East Indies and open the shipping lanes between those fields and Japan. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was an attempt to immobilize the US Pacific fleet so it could not cut Japanese forces when they moved south of East Indies.

US & Saudi Arabia - setting up a new relationship:

Immediately after the Yalta Conference of Feb. 4-11,1945 at which the Allies established guidelines for their now-certain victory in Europe, Roosevelt set sail abroad USSS Quincy for a destination on the Suez Canal where he'd arranged to meet Abdul Aziz Saud , King of Saudi Arabia. This was to be one of the most fascinating and pivotal meetings of the 20th century. The meeting took place on Valentine's day. After signing the bi-lateral agreement, Ibn Saud said, " Gentlemen, the Japanese offered me twice as much for one-third of what you now obtain. In return, US agreed to provide protection to the sovereignty of the Kingdom.

King Ibn Saud was descendant of one of the first Wahhabis. He was born in the Arabian desert, but as a boy he was exiled with his family to Kuwait by a rival group known as Rashidis. In 1901, then only his twenties, Ibn Saud led a bold and ultimately successful assault to the Rashidis. By 1925, after nearly continuous fighting, he had claim to much of the peninsula, including the religious sites of Mecca and Medina. By 1932, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia was born, with Ibn Saud as its leader.
(Note: Saudi Arabia is the only country that has family name as country name)

America's Top Model (Model T car):

Henry Ford, the father of the American automobile industry, was born outside of Dearborn, Michigan in 1863. The descendant of Belgian and Irish immigrants, Ford attended a one-room schoolhouse and worked on his family's farm until the age of sixteen when he left for Detroit where he worked in a machine shop bu day and by night he repaired clocks and watches. He once said after his very successful automobile automation of Model T car, "Money means nothing to me and there is nothing I cannot have. But I do not want the things money can buy". Ford's automation brought down the car's selling price considerably and thus more people could afford a car. However, their competitor, General Motors, it was all about style. The GM focus was on selling consumers cars not for his mechanical performance, but for social status and sense of identify they conferred.

The Chevy was for blue-collar people with solid jobs and young couples just starting out who had to be careful with money; the Pontiac was for more successful people who were confident about their economic futures and wanted a sportier car - one thinks of the young man just out of low-school, the Old was for the white collar bureaucrat or old-fashioned manager; the Buick was for the town's doctor, the young lawyer who was bout to be made partner or the elite of the managerial class; the Cadillac was for the top executive or owner of the local factory.

Road Scholar:
Before Eisenhower became president in 1953, road building had been largely overseen by the states. America's highways were patchy and disjointed; only half of the nation's 3 million miles of roads were paved when Eisenhower took office. He warned that the level of congestion and the state of disrepair on American road was dangerous and could stymie economic growth. "Our unity as a nation is sustained by free communication of thought and by easy transportation of people and goods.... over a vast system of interconnected highways. Together the united forces of our communication and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name we bear - United states. Without them, we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts". His personal convictions would ultimately grow into the biggest interstate highway network in the world, at 40,000-plus miles and the biggest and costliest public works program in history.

Little Boxes:
Among the many beneficiaries of Eisenhower's interstate highway system, real-estate developer William Levitt arguably had the biggest impact on the American lifestyle. Levitt was the architect of America's first mass-produced suburb, Levitton which could serve as a leading model for suburbs throughout the country. Levitt built an identical 17,000 unit development in Pennsylvania. His company produced its homes at rates unthinkable even by today's standard. - a new one was finished every 15 minutes.

Railway network - Derailed.
Historians still debate the factors that led to the triumph of automobiles over railroads, trolleys and streetcars. Did consumers decide that they preferred the convenience and comfort of automobile or was there a deliberate corporate effort to sabotage the intricate network of railways that once webbed throughout the nation? The answer is probably a little of both.
Watch Who Killed the Electric Car documentary film for more details on politics and power that plays in the oil sector.

Plastic Explosive:
Look around you - petrochemical by-products are everywhere.Plastics don't get rusty, rotten, weathered, dull or tarnished. This presents significant and dire problems from an environmental standpoint as we glut our landfills and sully our oceans with permanent waste. But the unparalleled durability of plastics can be a good thing when it comes to safety. The first wave of plastics were not from Petroleum, but from cellophane which was first manufactured in DuPont factory.

One of the biggest problem with plastics with recycling today is that there is such a vast variety of different plastics (around 80,000 types) and they can't all be limped together in a single recycling process.

Population Bomb.
Thomas Malthus was an unlikely prophet of worldwide famine, gloom and doom. 'An essay on the Principle of Population' - a theory by Malthus can be boiled down to this: while population grows geometrically (2,4,8,16,etc,), the food supply grows arithmetically (1,2,3,4,etc,) and so at some point disaster will inevitable ensue as the populace outstrips its sustenance. Investigating the food problem, Europeans scientists recognized that the single biggest constraint on food production was the amount of nitrogen in the soil. Natural deposits of pure nitrate were rare and could only be found in small supply in South America. A pressing question is where to get supplemental nitrogen? German scientist, Fritz Haber came up with an answer and it was as obvious as it was revolutionary: air. the very air we breathe is a mixture of about 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen. Haber discovered that if subjected to enough pressure and heat, those cozy molecules could be zapped apart to form pure nitrogen, which could be combined with hydrogen to form a substance capable of reviving anemic soil. The problem Haber faced is even still true that this conversion require enormous amount of energy(fuel usage).

Haber's invention won him the Nobel price for Chemistry in 1918. Many historians credits Haber with the single most significant invention of the last century. "Airplanes, nuclear energy, space flight, TV and computers,... none of these inventions has been as fundamentally important as the industrial synthesizes of ammonia from its elements." wrote Valclav Smil.

Chain of Fuels:
Growing and harvesting crops only accounts for 20% of the total energy consumption of our food systems and the rest if used in processing, transportation, and storage. The term 'food miles' that refers to the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is consumed. For example, in average produce sold in Midwest travels about 1,500 miles - from farm to fork.

For example, consider a simple banana - a vast majority of bananas consumed in the US are grown in hundreds of farm in Central America where they are picked while still green, placed in cardboard packaging and hauled via trucks to central distribution hubs. The bananas are immediately refrigerated to inhibit ripening, repackaged in sturdier boxes and trucked to coastal shipping ports. Here they are loaded into temperature controlled containers that hold nearly a 1000 banana boxes each and then sent to their ocean voyage. Once they arrive in US, these same containers are hauled to 100s of distribution centers throughout the US by trucks(as due to poor rail system). At these US hubs, the bananas are stripped some of their packages and stored for 4 days in specially designed airtight rooms pumped full of ethylene gas (a petrochemical) which rapidly ripens the fruit to its yellow color. Shrink-wrapped and repackaged the bananas are then driven to tens of thousands of grocers by another round of refrigerated trucks. In total, the bananas go through at least 5 different transportation and three different stages of packaging form farm to grocer.

There is a trend to buy local agricultured products. Google HQ campus has the '150 club' which serves food purchased within 150 miles of the campus. Wall-mart has also recently became the biggest purchaser of local produce. Whole Foods sources around 17% of its produce annually from local farms. This helps the company to reduce their fuel cost and cheaper for them to buy from local supplier(Wall-Mart contracts Florida forms for certain types fo vegetables)

Trade Wins:
As WWII came to close, US spearheaded the effort to broker an era of global corporations. The war ridden Europe, Japan was not only had millions of soldiers and citizens died , but the building , roads, factories and infrastructure of most of their major cities were reduced to rubble,. they needed rebuilding from ground up. America took the level with 2 initiatives - the Bretton Woods accords of 1944 and the Marshall Plan of 1947-51 - that sought to reconstruct war-torn nations and open the world to unfettered trade.

Though the US in 1945 was churning out half the world's coal, nearly 70% of the world's oil and more than half of its electricity, we were already getting thirsty for more. IN Regan's era, transportation was deregulated - trucking, airline, shipping and rail industries has previously tightly controlled. Air cargo industry for example, experienced 500% growth.

Shipshape: Perhaps nobody knows more about containers than economist Marc Levinson., author of 'The Box: How the shipping Container made the world smaller and the world economics bigger'. says:" before the shipping container came along, transporting goods was so expensive that it did not pay to ship many things half way across the country , let alone the halfway around the world. The container was born out of the same kind of practical ingenuity that gave rise to Tupperware, Levittown, and Model T cars. It was the brainchild of Malcom McLean, a self-made entrepreneur from Maxton, NC.

Petroleum can help feed the masses, regulate heartbeats, grow industries, create wealth, warm homes, clothe our families and get us where we need to go. By the same token, it can also provoke and power war, bankrupt industries, and pollute and heat the planet. It can just as easily as it can corrupt.

Fresh Greens:
Highlights the importance of green energy and President Obama's effort to make millions of jobs by exploring Greenish effect. Alexis de Tocqueville who traveled throughout US in 1830s mentioned about US in his classic works 'Democracy in America' which says, " The greatness of Merica lies not in being more en-lighted than any other nations, but rather in her ability to repair her faults".

Will America does repair its faults in this century too? (by going green?); Watch out!.

November 26, 2009

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne.

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne.

[It is a very good one with different view to Bz. strategy - comes with ample case study/examples. This is about creating 'blue oceans' or niche market]

Book starts with discussing the Canadian circus company -'Cirque du Soleil's success in creating a blue ocean. Cirque du Soleil succeeded because it realized that to win the future companies must stop competing with each other. The only way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition. Blue ocean are defined by untapped market space, demand creation and the opportunity for highly profitable growth. Without going with compete heads-on with theater & circus companies, it created a market by combining some from both these space. By breaking the market boundaries of theater and circus, Cirque du Soleil gained a new understanding not only of circus customers but also of circus non-customers; adult theater customers. This led to a whole new circus concept that broke the value-cost trade-off and created a blue ocean of new market space.

the lasting allure of the traditional circus came down to only three key factors: the tent, the clowns and the classic acrobatic acts such as the wheel-man and short stunts. Cirque du Soleil glamorized the tent, kept clowns but shifted their humor from slapstick to a more enchanting, sophisticated style. Acrobats and other thrilling acts are retained, but their roles were reduced and made more elegant by the addition of artistic flair and intellectual wonder to the acts. By looking across the market boundary of theater, Cirque du Soleil also offered new non-circus factors, such as story line and with it, intellectual richness, artistic music and dance and multiple productions. These factors entirely new creations for the circus industry, are drawn from the alternative live entertainment industry of theater.

By eliminating high-cost factors from regular circus (animals, etc), Cirque du Soleil created a blue ocean by innovating from both Circus & theater space - a differentiation with low-cost strategy. In short, Cirque du Soleil offers the best of both circus and theater and it has eliminated or reduced everything else.

Red Ocean Strategy
Blue Ocean Strategy
Compete in existing market space
Create uncontested market space
Beat the competition
Make the competition irreverent
Exploit existing demand
Create and capture new demand
Make the value-cost trade-off
Break the value-cost trade-off
Align the whole system of a firm's activiti4s with its strategic choice of differentiation or low cost
Align the whole system of a firm's activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost.

The principles of Blue Ocean Strategy

Formulation principles
Reconstruct market boundaries
Focus on the big picture, not the numbers
Reach beyond existing demand
get the strategic sequence right

Execution principles
Overcome key organizational hurdles
Build execution into strategy

Risk factor each principle attenuates
Search risk
Planning risk
Scale risk
Business model risk

Risk factor each principle attenuates
Organizational risk
Management risk

US wine industry: Another Blue Ocean case study.
US has third largest aggregate consumption of wine worldwide. Yet 420 bn industry is intensely competitive. California wines dominate domestic market, capturing two-thirds of all US wine sales. Even with many new comers in wine market place, US remains stuck at 31st places in world per-capita wine consumption. Top 8 companies produce more than 75% of the wines in US and estimated 1600 other wineries produce the remaining 25%. In short, the US wine industry faces intense competition mounting price pressure, increasing bargaining power on the part of retail and distribution channels and flat demand despite over whelming choice.

In looking at the demand side of the alternatives of beer, spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails, which captured three times as many US consumer alcohol sales as wine, mass of US adults saw wine as turn-off. It was intimidating and pretentious and the complexity of wine's taste created flavor challenge for the average person even though it was the basis on which the wine industry fought to excel.

Strategic Canvas: it is both diagnostic and an action framework for building a compelling blue ocean strategy. In the case of US wine market, there are 7 principal factors.

1. price per bottle of wine
2. An elite, refined image in packaging, including labels announcing the wine medals won, and the use of esoteric enological terminology to stress the art and science of wine making
3. Above-the-line marketing to raise consumer awareness ina crowd market and to encourage distributors and retailers to give prominence to a particular wine house
4. Aging quality of wine
5. The prestige of a wine's vineyard and its legacy
6. The complexity and sophistication of wine's taste, including such things as tannins and oak.
7. A diverse range of wines to cover all varieties of grapes and consumer preferences from Chardonnay to Merlot and so on.

Blue Ocean's Four Action Framework:

1. Which of the factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated?
2. Which factors should be reduced well below the industry's standard?
3. Which factors should be raised well above the industry's standard?
4. Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered?

By applying the above framework in US wine industry, Casella Wines [yellow-tales] created a wine whose strategic profile broken from the competition and created a blue ocean. Instead of offering wine as wine, Casella created a social drink accessible to everyone: beer drinkers, cocktail drinkers and other drinkers of non-wine beverages. the wine was soft in taste and approachable like ready-to-drink cocktails. The sweet fruitiness of the wine also kept people's palate fresher , allowing them to enjoy another glass of wine without thinking about it. In line with this simple fruity sweetness, Yellow-tail dramatically reduced or eliminated all the factors the wine industry had long competed on - tannins, oak, complexity and aging. - in crafting fine wine, whether it was for premium or the budget segment. With the need for aging eliminated, the needed working capital for aging wine at Cassella Wine also reduced.

All the other wine bottles looked the same, labels were complicated with enological terminology understandable only to the wine connoisseur or hobbyist and the choice was so extensive that sales clerks at retail shops were at an equal disadvantage in understanding or recommending wine to bewildered potential buyers. Yellow-Tail[Casella Wine] changed all that by creating ease of selection. It removed all the technical jargon from the bottles and created instead a striking simple and nontraditional label.

Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create-Grid:- from yellow-tail case study

Enological terminology and distractions
Aging qualities
Price versus budget wines
Retail store involvement

Wine complexity
Wine range
Vineyard prestige
Easy drinking
Ease of selection
Fun and adventure

Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create-Grid: - from Cirque du Soleil' case study

Star performers
Animal shows
Aisle concessions sales
Multiple show arenas
Unique venue

Fun and humor
thrill and danger
Refined environment
Multiple productions
Artistic music and dance

Imitation Barriers to Blue Ocean Strategy

Value innovation does not make sense to a company's conventional logic
Blue Ocean strategy may conflict with other companies brand image
Natural monopoly: The market often cannot support a second player
Patents or legal permits block imitation
High volume leads to rapid cost advantage for the value innovator, discouraging followers from entering the market
network externalities discourage imitation
Imitation often require significant political, operational and cultural changes
Companies that value-innovate earn brand buzz and a loyal customer following that tends to shun imitators.

November 21, 2009

Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham

Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham (Prof. of Biological Anthropology @ Harvard)
How cooking made us Human

[Some good info which we seldom notice or aware]

Now a days we need fire for wherever we are. Survival manuals tells us that if we are lost in the wild, one of our first actions should be to make a fire. In addition to warmth and light, fire gives us hot food, safe water, dry clothes, protection from dangerous animals, a signal to friends, and even a sense of inner comfort. As per Darwin, "probably the greatest (discovery), excepting language, ever made by man".

Cooked food does many familiar things. It makes our food safer, creates rich and delicious tastes and reduces spoilage. Heating can allow us to open, cut, or mash, tough foods. But none of these advantages is as important as a little-appreciated aspect: cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies obtain from our food.

The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. We humans are the cooking apes, the creatures of the flame.

The most extensive raw-food study is Giessen Raw Food study. The average weight loss when shifting from a cooked to a raw diets was 26.5 pounds. Among those eating a purely raw diet, the body weights of almost a third indicated chronic energy deficiency. The scientist conclusion was unambiguous: "a strict raw food diet cannot guarantee an adequate energy supply". However among people who eat cooked diets, there is no difference in body weight between vegetarians and meat eaters: when our food is cooked we get as many calories from a vegetarian diet as from a typical American meat-rich diet. It is only when eating raw that we suffer poor weight pain. In the Giessen study, the more raw food that women ate, the lower their BMI and more likely they were to have partial or total amenorrhea. Healthy women on cooked food diets rarely fail to menstruate, whether or not they are vegetarian.

In 'How too Do the Raw food Diet with Joy for Awesome Health and Success, the author Christopher mentions that raw-diet reduces sexual appetite. Reduced reproductive function means that in our evolutionary past, raw-foodists would have been much less successful than the habit of eating cooked food. Since cooking predictably destroys many toxins, we may have evolved a relatively sensitive palate. U.S Centers of Disease Control and Prevention state that at least forty thousand cases of food posioning by 'Salmonella' alone are reported annually in US. The best prevention is to cook meat, fish and eggs beyond 140 Fahrenheit (60 degrees) and not to eat foods containing unpasteurized milk or eggs.

Delicious has a different or another meaning- It means high energy, because what people like are foods with low levels of indigestible fiber and high levels of soluble carbohydrates, such as sugars. Even carrots are better quality that typical wild tropical fruit, because they are less fiber and fewer toxic compounds.

Raw-foodiests are very enthusiastic about the health benefits as described in books with such titles as 'Self healing Power' and ' How to tap into the great power within you'. they report a sense of well-being, better physical functioning, less bodily pain, more vitality and improved emotional and social performance. There are claims of reduction in rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia symptoms, less dental erosion and improved antioxidant intake.

Through the changes of raw-food to cooked food, our body changed accordingly. We have small mouth to eat big foods than a cooked food (compared to Chimpanzees jaw /mouth). In humans the surface area of the stomach is less than one-third the size expected for a typical mammal r our body weight and smaller than in 97% of other primates. The high caloric density of cooked food suggests that our stomachs can afford to be small. Our small mouths, teeth and guts fit well with the softness, high caloric density, low fiber content and high digestibility of cooked food. The reduction increases efficiency and saves us from wasting unnecessary metabolic costs on features whose only purpose would be to allow us to digest large amounts of high-fiber food.

Any protein that was undigested by the time it reached the ileum was metabolically useless to the person who ate it because in the large intensive bacteria and protozoa digest the food proteins entirely for their own benefits.

Plants are vital food because humans need large amounts of either carbohydrates(from plat foods) or fat (found in a few animal foods). Without carbohydrates or fat, people depend on protein for their energy and excessive protein induces a form of poisoning. Symptoms of protein poisoning include toxic levels of ammonia in the blood , damage to the liver and kidneys, dehydration ,loss of appetite and ultimately death.

Hunters carry high caloric density, such as avocados, olives or walnuts. The US department of Agriculture's national Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and Robert McCance and Elsie Widdowson's The Composition of foods are the principle sources for public understanding of the nutrient data for thousands of foods in US and UK respectively.

Our digestive system consists of two distinct process. the first is digestion by our own bodies, which starts in the mouth, continues in stomach and is mostly carried out in the small intestine. the second is digestion or strictly fragmentation, by 400 or more species of bacteria and protozoa in our large intestine also known as the colon or large bowl. Foods that are digested by our bodies (from mouth to small intestine) produce calories that are wholly useful to us. But those that are digested by our intestinal flora yield only a fraction of their available energy to us - about half in the case of carbohydrates such as starch and none at all in the case of protein.

The % of cooked starch that has been digested by the time it reaches the end of the ileum is at least 95 % in oats, wheat, potatoes, plantains, bananas, cornflakes, white bread and typical Eu & US diet (a mixture of starch foods, diary products and meat). A few foods have lower digestibility: starch in home-cooked kidney beans and flaked barely has an ideal digestibility of only around 84%. Gelatinization happens whenever starch is cooked whether in the baking of bread, the gelling of pie fillings, the production of pasta, the fabrication of starch-based snack foods, the thickening of sauces or we can surmise, the toss if a wild root into fire. The more starch is gelatinized, the more easily enzymes can reach it and therefore the more completely it is digested. Thus cooked starch yields more energy than raw. Glycemic Index is a widely used nutritional measure of food's effect on blood sugar levels. Low GI foods such as whole grain foods, high fiber cereals and vegetables reduce weight gain, improve diabetes control and lower cholesterol. Cooking consistently increases the GU of starchy foods.

Body builders believe that eggs should be taken raw(Charles Atlas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Silvester Stallion - all takes egg in raw to have big muscles as they proclaim). the amino acids of chicken eggs come in about 40 proteins in almost exactly the proportions human require. This gives eggs a higher biological value - a measure of the rate at which the protein in food supports growth- than the protein of any other known food, even milk, meat, or soybeans.

However Belgium scientists study says, cooking of eggs increased the protein value of eggs by around 40%. Researches concluded that simple process of denationalization by heat (causing the proteins molecules to unfold and lose its solubility in water) explained its greatly increased susceptibility to digestion.

heat is only one of several factors that promote de-naturalization. Three others are acidity, sodium chloride and drying all of which humans use in different ways. Acid is vital in the ordinary process of digestion. The acidity has at least three functions: it kills bacteria that enter with the foods, activates teh digestive enzyme pepsin and denatures proteins. Animal protein that has been salted and dried, such as fish, is likewise denatured and thereby made more digestible.

The most expensive sandwich ($148) is a mixture of fermented sourdough bread, Wagyu beef, etc. Wagyu beef explains the high price. Wagyu cattle are one of the most expensive breeds in the world because their meat is exceptionally tender and no effort is spared to make it so. The animals are raised on a diet that includes beer and grain and their muscles are regularly massaged with sake, the Japanese rice wine. the fat in the Wagyu beef claimed to melt at room temperature.

As per Scientist R.A. Lawrie, 'Of all the attributes of eating quality, texture and tenderness are presently rated the most important by average consumer and appear to be sought at the expense of flavor and color". As per the cooking historian Michael Symons, cooking's main role has always been to soften food. "hurrying over our meals, as we do, we should fare badly if all the grinding and subdividing of human food had to be accomplished by human teeth"..

Above 60-70 degrees of temperature (140-158 Fahrenheit) , slow cooking in water can sometimes continue to increase the tenderness. If heated heavily, heated muscle fibers tend to get tougher and drier. The cumulative effect of cooking meat are therefore complex. Bad cooking can render meat hard to chew, but good cooking tenderize every kind of meat. In the book, "Joy of Cooking' recommends grinding top sirloin or scraping it with the back of a knife until only the fibers of connective tissue remain.

Why a regular sandwich have lettuce in them. Eating meat with leaves, provides greater taste. (Chimpanzees always eat meat with leaves; if fresh leaves not available, it will go for dried leaves).

Food contains three major macro-nutrients - protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Cooked food helps us to digest fast and gets us more calories. This idea is used in farming of animals (in Salmon farming, Salmons gets cooked fish and also cow/ox gets cooked food so that they become larger and heavier in size)

Book refereed in this book: ' The Joy Of cooking" , "The US department of Agriculture's national Nutrient Database for Standard Reference" and Robert McCance and Elsie Widdowson's "The Composition of foods".

November 15, 2009

Bernanke's test - Johan Van Overtveldt

Bernanke's test - Johan Van Overtveldt

[Narrates history of Fed and its last 2 governors, and present governor, Bernanke. Since I have prior knowledge, I find it difficult to understand the underling factors. I think, I should read the classic book on this topic - A monetary history of United States, 1867-1960 by Milton Friedman & Anna Schwartz. It's a crucial and critical role that affect us - both locally and globally. This role in generally goes to great economist]
Fed has dual mandate: its bears responsibility not only for price stability but also for maximum employment. This dual mandate is discussed extensively later in this book.
Greenspan as the book recalls, did not get or complete his PhD.D in Columbia university, but later bestowed to him by NYU for his published articles which is almost like given him a decorative PhD.D. There are many western countries bestowed him with their highest civilian awards (UK & France) and there were many who gave him all the praise, but at the end, he got all the blame for the current disaster. As per Greenspan, 'I got all credits for things I did not do and at the end, I am being blamed for things I didn't do. Bernanke also cannot escape from this incident as he wholeheartedly supported Greenspan as one of the Fed governor.
One of the fundamental difference between Greenspan and his predecessors, Greenspan always preferred to present monetary policy as a kind of mystery because that gave him the flexibility to move in whatever direction he wanted. wanted. The monetary policy is mainly based on Taylor rule.
Taylor rule links the interest rate targets by policymakers (e.g. to set the federal interest rate) to three variables: the natural (or neutral) interest rate, the change in inflation and the fluctuation in output produced by the economy.
Fed's role as per Bernanke is as follows:
" The Fed has two broad sets of responsibilities. first, the Fed has a mandate from the Congress to promote a healthy economy - specifically, maximum sustainable employment, stable prices, and moderate long term interest rates. Second, since its founding the Fed has been entrusted with the responsibility of helping to ensure the stability of the financial systems. The Fed likewise has two broad sets of policy tools. It makes monetary policy, which today we think of primarily in terms of the setting of the overnight interest rate, the federal funds rate. And, second, the Fed has a range of powers with respect to financial institutions, including rule-making powers, supervisory oversight ,and a lender-of-the-last resort functions....
By using the right tool for the right job, I meant that, as a general rule, the Fed would do best by focusing its monitory policy, instruments on achieving, its macro goals... while using its regulatory, supervisory and lender-of-the-last-resort powers to help ensure financial stability... In particular alone and in concert with other agencies, the Fed should ensure that financial institutions and markets are well prepared for the contingency of a large shock to asset prices....This ius a robust strategy in that - although it certainly does not eliminate all economic and financial instability - it protects the economy against truly disastrous outcomes, which history has shown are possible when monetary policy goes severely off the track."
Prof. Paul De Grauwe says, " Suppose a hedge fund is hit by withdrawals. That is a liquidity problem. The hedge fund is then pressured to sell assets to reduce its leverage. Asset prices decline and the liquidity problem turns into a solvency problem. In the financial sector liquidity and solvency problems are always closely linked."
Another major concern listed in the book the role of Fannie & Freddie. As Economist magazine well articulated as, " The implicit gov. guarantee allowed the pair to borrow cheaply....It also allowed Fannie and Freddie to operate with tiny amounts of capital".
As per Raghuraram Rajan, a professor at the university of Chicago Graduate school of Business and the former chief economist at IMF, " how do you convert a pig - the NINJA loan - into a princess the AAA bond investors wanted? You securitize it..... More complicated pools, bundling the securities sold by the mortgage pools into securities pools, and selling tranches claims against them.... The the lesser quality securities were pooled and further securities issues against them to get more AAA bonds. Thus were born CDO(Collateral debt obligation), the CDO squared and so on. Over 95% of securities tghus generated were rated A and above and 80% rated AAA."
Regarding the stringent rules for better monitoring, Greenspan who been branded as 'an anti-regulatory zealot, reacted indirectly in FT as the following..
" I have no doubt that we can effectively squash bubbles...[but]... what price do you pay in terms of suppressed economic activity?... There were no bubbles in the Soviet Union.... If we want rapid growth in productivity, innovation, standards of living, we may have to accept that there will be periods of turmoil."

November 3, 2009

The UltraMind Solution - by Mark Hyman, MD

The UltraMind Solution - by Mark Hyman, MD
Fix your broken brain by fixing your body first.
[I think, I am going to follow this Dr.'s research by avoiding toxic foods; in fact he tacitly recommending follow Indian methods - eat vegetable and do yoga. The body-and-mind are a single dynamic bidirectional system; meaning, body directly influences mind]
Obesity is obvious; but issues that creates to brain and mind is hidden and hence watch out your food intake.
There are 7 steps to make your body in balance.
1. Optimize nutrition (nearly all of us are nutritional imbalance).
2. Balance your hormone
3. Cool off inflammation
4. Fix your digestion
5. Enhance detoxification (removal of toxic substances from the body)
6. Boost energy metabolism
7. Calm your mind
Doctor are become so fast in judging patients medicine without seeking what causes the problem. Find the name of the disease then match drug to the disease. (e.g. You have depression, so you need an 'antidepressant'. You are anxious, so then you need anti-anxiety' so on..). It is so much heavy use of wrong practice and it goes to the extend that patient being diagnosed as Prozac deficient!
There is a two-volume book medical professional use called ' ICD-9 (the international Classification of Disease). It is the bible of medical diagnosis which list 12,000 disease to help doctors to whom to bill for their treatment (insurance company or gov. funded medicare). Book gives the impression that these disease are distinct and separate. but it is not so.

What most consumers don't understand is that drug testing is often very limited before drug approval. Then they releases on the market, supported by more than $30bn in pharmaceutical advertising dollars. Once approved these drugs can be prescribed for any use. There is no official tracking of its risks or benefits to the millions who are prescribed the drug. This leaves the public very vulnerable.
For example, medicines like Prozac were reserved for psychosis. But now with little hesitation or scientific evidence, these medicines are given to children with behavioral problem, autism and ADHD and to adults with depression, anxiety,m obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disease, dementia and Parkinson disease.

Toxic Foods:
1. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (or any form of sugar or refined carbohydrate)
Sugar uses up your body's store of vitamins and minerals without providing any in return
High sugar consumption is tied to so many mental disorders
Sugar causes crusting in your brain
2. Trans or Hydrogenated Food
This comes from processed foods, baked goods, most fried foods, margarine and virtually any product that comes from a factory (an food comes with a calorie label)
3. Caffeine
4. Alcohol (however lower doze is OK )
5. Nicotine
6. Mercury & led included items (big fishes, river fish, grapes, apple, peach, pears..)
Other helping tips:
1. have a 7-8 hour sleep.(lack of sleep has been linked to Alzheimer's disease)
2. Do proper exercises (when you don't exercise you have lower levels of IGF-1 (indicator of growth hormone) and lower levels of BDNF(brain derived neurotropic factor - which is like super fertilizer for your brain)
3. Relax ( do yoga, meditate). People who meditate regularly actually have increased brain size along with better mood and cognitive functions.

In order to see a quick change in you, author suggests 6 weeks plan that consists of 4 basic components
1. A healthy eating plan
2. Basic supplements
3. Lifestyle changes
4. Living clean and green
Healthy eating plan include:
1. Eat whole, real, fresh, organic , unprocessed food
fresh vegetables, beans, nuts, lean animal protein, such as small fish, chicken and egg
2. Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables full of colorful phytonutrients
Organic or local foods (visit
3. Eat foods with plenty of fiber
4. Eat foods containing omega-3 fats.
5. Eat something every 4 hours to keep your insulin and glucose levels normal
6. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before you go to bed.
Avoid the following:
1. Sugars in any form
2. Trans fats
3. Food additives and chemicals (Any food in a box - if it has a lebl, don't eat it)
4. Toxin rich foods
5. Red meats and organ meats
6. Large predatory fish and river fish including sword fish, tune, tile-fish, and shark
7. Acid fruits and vegetables with the highest toxin load - apple, grapes, peaches, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberies, cherries, lettuce and pears are the worst 10 offenders
(pleas see the list - for list of low & high pesticide containing foods)
8. Confine (soda, coffee, tea)
9. Alcohol
10. Gluten (from wheat, barley, rye, splet, kamut, triticale, and oats)
11Diary (milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream)
Few food recommendations:
Omega-3 fats are the most important building blocks for a healthy brain and cells.
1. Cold-fish such as salmon(esp. Alaskan), sardines, herring, small halibut and sable(black cod) -
2. If the above not available, go for canned/bottled ones
3. Eat omega-3 eggs (8 per week)
4. Use extra virgin oil
5. Beans or legumes
6. Nuts (almonds, walnuts,macadamia nuts, pecans)
7. Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia etc.)
8 . Use slow burning, low-glycemic vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
9. Eat more antioxidant-rich and energy-boosting foods - orange & yellow vegetables, dark green leafy vegetables (kale, collards, spinach), anthocynamidins( berries, beets, grapes, pomegranate), purple grapes, blueberries, bilberries, cranberries, and cherries. In fact antioxidants are in all colorful fruits and vegetables.
10. Include detoxifying foods (broccoli, collards, kale, broccoli, broccoli Rebe, cauliflower, cabbage, green tea, garlic, citrus and even cocoa.
11. Use hormone-balancing foods such as whole soy foods and ground flax-seeds
12. use herbs such as turmeric, rosemary and ginger which are powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and detoxifiers
13. Eat garlic and onions - noted for cholesterol blood-pressure lowering and antioxidant effects. they also anti-inflammatory and enhance detoxification
14. Drink green tea which contains abundant amounts of anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and antioxidant plytonuterients
15. Chocolate - only darkest (more than 70% cocoa) - once a day
Needed basic supplements:
1. High-quality, high potency, highly available broad spectrum multivitamin, which contains all the basic essential vitamins and minerals
2. Calcium and magnesium
3. Vitamin D3 (this usually happens with lack of sun light; lack of this vitamin cuases depression; esp. in winter due to lack of sun lights)
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
5. Methylation factrosL folate B6 and B12. (These are really needed for brain health)
6. Probiotics or beneficial bacteria to improve your digestion, reduce food allergies and reduce gut inflammation.
7. Omega-6 fat (GLA or gamma linoleic acid) can help balance sex hormones
Special herbs for brain:
Huperzine A - it works by increasing acetylcholine in the brain
Vinpocetine - is an extract of the periwinkle plant
Ginkgo biloba
St. John's Wort (it contains many phytonuterients, called hypericins. Don't combine with other antidepressants.
Relaxation or Yoga:
1. Soft-belly breathing - follow this step.
Put your hands on your belly and allow your abdomen to relax
Close your eyes or soften your focus, looking at the floor a few feet in front of you
Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth
breath deeply into your abdomen and feel it expand to teh count of five
Pause for a count of one
Exhale slowly to a count of five, allowing your body to relax and release tension
Repeat for five breaths or until you feel relaxed.
Repeat this 3-5 times a day
Additional recommended books:
Dr. Gary Small's 'the money prescription; Dr. David Perlutter's 'the better brain Book, and the 'the Healthy Brain Kit by Dr. Andrew Weil and Gary Small.
Important links:
Heavy metal toxicity -
Amalgam Removal -
Belleruth Imagery center -
Mind body medicine -
Tools for relaxation and healing -
Educational retreats http://www.kripa/;
Omega institute -
Brain exercise -
Ultramind simple diet -
Ultra metabolism - www.