"Both Warren [Buffett] & I insist on a lot of time being available almost every day to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. We read and think. So Warren and I do more reading and thinking and less doing than most people in business." - Charlie Munger

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A and M Compubook

My friend Michelle Varat and I invented the Kindle in Elementary School, and she just found our prototype when she was visiting her parents the other night. So funny! I am impressed with our thoughtfulness with respect to functionality. She has our entire report that went along with it too...I am looking forward to reading it. Michelle is now a successful business owner: check out her amazing collection of women's intimates: www.topsecretsociety.com

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hiking in Italy (and the islands thereof)

^ The view from three-quarters of the way to the top of Monte Solaro in Anacapri.

^This was my favorite hike of all, in Ponza, "La Passeggiata al Faro della Guardia" or "walk to the lighthouse of the guard". We walked down to the tiny dock at the bottom and jumped straight in the water, where the ocean floor is full of large, soft, rounded rocks. It was magical!

^This is a picture from the same hike to the lighthouse, in Ponza. The time of day that you take the hike will have a big impact on your experience; I suggest starting the walk no earlier than 5pm.

^This picture is from one of the high points of the hike we took in Portofino, to San Fruttuoso.

^This picture is from the very top of the hike to Monte Solaro in Anacapri (Capri).

I just returned from Italy, where I experienced so many majestically beautiful hikes. The pictures above are directly linked to pages that include additional information on the trails (as close as I could find), as I have noticed that great hiking trails are often difficult to locate on the internet. As you see, I have also included captions with the name and location of each hike. I hope this is helpful; I am a strong believer of getting out and experiencing the natural landscape of any place you visit, and, when the topography permits, long walks and hikes to high viewpoints can be an ideal way to take in as much as possible.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Startup Game: Inside the Partnership Between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs

I just finished reading The Startup Game, on my flight back from Italy. I am pretty confident that just about anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit would enjoy reading this book. If you know little about the venture capital community and its relationship with entrepreneurs, you will be introduced to a highly intriguing, incredibly fast-paced and hugely value-creating ecosystem. If you are already familiar with this world, you will still benefit from the wisdom of one of the world's veteran, preeminent venture capitalists, William H. Draper III (also former President and Chairman of the Import-Export Bank of the United States, and former head of the United Nations Development Program), and gain valuable insights through the various anecdotes from years of his firms' investments in some the most innovative and important companies in the world, as well as from his notable stints at the aforementioned distinguished government agencies. As an added treat, Draper also discusses his more recent experience with venture philanthropy, by means of The Draper Richards Foundation (which he co-founded with partner Robin Richards Donohoe), his venture philanthropy fund, where he and Richards have aided the development of some of the most impressive, impactful and innovative non-profit organizations, including Ashoka, Kiva, and VisionSpring. All in all, a highly recommended, quick, entertaining read!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Nudge by Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein

I just finished reading Nudge, and I am glad I read it. This book emphasizes the little things ("nudges") that can be done to profoundly affect behavior, with a particular focus on potential applications for these nudges in public policy (health care, tax reform, education reform etc). Nudges are things that we, as a society, should take the time to explore and utilize so as to guide people to make sensible choices (within the context of free choice). An example of a successful nudge at work is the targets (flies, actually) that were painted in the bottom of the men's urinals/toilets in the airport in Amsterdam, which resulted in an 80% reduction in spillage. Such a small update contributes to consistent (and thus major over time) labor and capital savings for the airport, as well as significant improvements in sanitation (and thus health) and the overall user experience. The authors also emphasize the nudging power of "default options" and how every effort should be made to ensure that default options are presented in such a way so as to maximize optimal outcomes.

Thaler and Sunstein are self-professed "libertarian paternalists". They believe in a system of beneficent guidance that does not hinder or interfere with freedom of choice. Their public policy prescription lies somewhere between the Democratic one-size-fits-most mandates and Republic laissez-faire. It is certainly a worthwhile prescription to consider.

The book is dense and pedantic at times, but this is merely a testament to the amount of substantive research and analysis that the writing is based upon. The recommendations set forth by these two authors are steeped in years of dedicated research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, behavioral science and so forth. This book provides refreshing insights, and will certainly have an effect on the way you think about your own methodology and especially that employed by the government.

As is well-stated on its back cover, Nudge is certainly a worthwhile read for "anyone with an interest in our individual or collective well-being" (I am assuming, or rather hoping, that means most of us).

Here are a couple of websites you can visit, which I read about in the book:

1. The blog associated with the book: http://nudges.org/

2. A website developed in-line with behavioral science to help you achieve your goals. I found this one to be pretty cool: http://www.stickk.com/