Harry Newton's In Search of The Perfect Investment
Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
8:30 AM Thursday, September 22, 2005:
Off to Detroit last night for a talk today. Northwest Air is only 1 1/2
hours late. My new friend, the McKinsey consultant sitting next to me, tells
me 50% of his flights are late. He flies all the time. What a miserable
job. The higher he climbs the McKinsey ladder, the more successful he gets,
the more he flies and the more agony he enjoys. He probably got four
hours sleep last night. He looked awful, a sickly gray color.
I'm here to give
a talk to a bunch of corporate telecommunications managers. They install phones,
pay bills and "manage" expenses. It's a totally thankless job. No
president has ever thanked a telecom manager for dial tone. But every president
gets hopping mad when they don't have dial tone, or worse, get a busy. These
days corporate telephone bills remain among the worst managed corporate expenses.
+ Most bills are
wrong in the phone company's favor. Companies are routinely billed for equipment
and services they don't have. I've seen refunds of over $1 million.
+ Companies are often billed for services at prices way above what the phone
company's salesman agreed.
+ Wireless is an egregious ripoff, with individual user bills way above what
the corporate wireless deal is.
+ Call directory assistance. You can easily pay $2.75 to look up a number. That
expense can add up in a big lazy company. There are services that will bill
your company 42 cents a call.
+ Most users accept their phone company's recommendations: "You need
another T-1." Most recommendations are made to fill salesman's quotas,
not to benefit users.
+ Every user wants his own expensive telecom perks, like a Blackberry, broadband
on his laptop, a fax at this desk, and a call center to answer his customers'
My friend Jon Giberson runs a telecom software company. He'll give you a thousand
horror stories. Click here.
Heh, sometimes I get it right: Here's what's
happened to the QQQ since I recommended to sell it short in September 15's column.
It will probably fall some more today. Then I'd cover. Take your profits. Toast
me this evening in your celebration dinner.
Ask and ye shall receive -- Part 456 (again): I
asked my savings bank yesterday to bump my account to 3.3% from the previous
3%. They agreed. They didn't offer, nor do it automatically. Eternal vigilance
and heavy begging are my middle names.
in Startups. Beware the marketing Gotcha: Yesterday
+ For every $1 you spend on engineering, you need to spend $10 on
marketing and sales.
+ You'll go down the wrong marketing path three times before you finally get
it right the fourth time.
A reader writes,
As a marketing
consultant, I can tell you from experience with multiple clients that YOU
ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. People that invent stuff are always "in love"
with their product, and they think that all they have to do is let the world
know that it exists and the world will flock to their door. Wrong!"
you should NEVER invest in Pitney Bowes: I
sold this company exactly 8 years. It's taken Pitney Bowes 8 years to figure
its overpriced meter is missing! What diligence! What competence.
Another sad storm. More lessons: You
need water, food, flashlights, medicine and backups. From the Washington
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch procejt at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosnt
mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht
the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid
deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
The rescue effort
began two days after the city flooded, and interim technology manager Rajeev
Jain entered the building not knowing what to expect. The ground floor of
the New Orleans school system headquarters was under three inches of water,
and when he headed upstairs, he saw that the fourth-floor ceiling was damaged
police to sledgehammer through a locked door. He found what he was looking
for in a storage closet: 170 dry and apparently undamaged computer backup
tapes storing recently updated payroll records and other critical financial
an International Business Machines Corp. data recovery center in New York,
Jain and colleagues from Alvarez & Marsal Business Consulting LLC were
able to recreate the school district's computer system from afar. Last week
the school system resumed issuing paychecks to New Orleans teachers.
As the Gulf
Coast cleans up after Hurricane Katrina, computer consultants, data recovery
companies, and government and business officials say the area was apparently
spared the worst when it comes to the condition of the computer records and
and large companies generally had adequate backup systems in place and data-recovery
contracts with firms such as IBM to help rescue damaged data tapes and rebuild
software systems. The best-prepared had backup files stored on computers outside
the hurricane zone. ...
has become a $6 billion share of the computer industry as companies and governments
have taken to heart the lessons of lightning strikes, floods and other incidents,
such as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Unlike physical assets such
as a building or inventory, lost information can be impossible to replace
and can make it nearly impossible for a business to reopen.
such as IBM and SunGard Data Systems Inc. have entire corporate campuses devoted
to data recovery. Concerns about file protection have even shaped government
decisions about where to put offices. In May, the Agriculture Department,
for example, said it planned to move the payroll and other operations of its
National Finance Center from New Orleans to Kansas City, Mo.
The agency noted
in announcing the move that computer operations in New Orleans "have
significant exposure to risk" -- and indeed the facility's operations
had to be shifted to off-site backup locations after the hurricane.
who runs a computer repair and support business in Gulfport, Miss., said that
a number of his clients did not have backup accounting or customer records
and lost all that information in the storm. He has also taken in dozens of
water-damaged computers and hasn't been able to recover data from any of them.
Others who thought
they had made adequate precautions found that the magnitude of Katrina overwhelmed
even the best planning.
Goldberg, a personal injury lawyer who practiced in New Orleans, said she
created backup files and stored them at her home. In an e-mail she said both
places were wrecked by the storm. ...
hook or by crook:
A pirate walks into a bar. The bartender says,
"You look terrible. What happened?"
you mean?" said the pirate, "I feel fine."
the wooden leg? You didn't have that before."
were in a battle and I got hit with a cannon ball, but I'm fine now".
but what about that hook? What happened to your hand?"
in another battle. I boarded a ship and got into a sword fight.
My hand was cut
off. I got fitted with a hook. I'm fine, really."
that eye patch?"
day we were at sea and a flock of birds flew over. I looked up and one of them
pooped in me eye."
said the bartender, "you can't lose an eye just from some bird poop."
it was my first day with the hook."
+ Blackstone private equity funds. Click
+ Manhattan Pharmaceuticals: Click
+ NovaDel Biosciences appeals. Click
+ Hana Biosciences appeals. Click
+ All turned on by biotech. Click
+ Steve Jobs Commencement Address. The text is available:
Click here. The full audio is available. Click
+ The March of the Penguins, an exquisite movie. Click
+ When to sell stocks. Click
This column is about my personal search for the perfect
investment. I don't give investment advice. For that you have to be registered
with regulatory authorities, which I am not. I am a reporter and an investor.
I make my daily column -- Monday through Friday -- freely available for three
reasons: Writing is good for sorting things out in my brain. Second, the column
is research for a book I'm writing called "In Search of the Perfect
Investment." Third, I encourage my readers to send me their ideas,
concerns and experiences. That way we can all learn together. My email address
is . You can't
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