Failure? What failure?

An article in today’s FT by David Storey, the Associate Dean of the Warwick Business School in the UK, looked at failure among entrepreneurs and likens success to a winning lottery ticket. The more tickets you buy, the more likely your success. According to Storey, the empirical evidence that entrepreneurs learn from their failures is slim. Serial entrepreneurs benefit mostly from a sense of optimism, not by learning from their mistakes. Governments do not need to make it easier to fail (by adjusting bankruptcy laws for example) in order to foster greater entrepreneurial success. Rather, they should focus on making it easier to buy a lottery ticket, i.e. lower the barriers to business formation. The importance of optimism is also a reason that young entrepreneurs are liked by venture capitalists. Still, it seems clear that experience is undervalued at the moment, meaning that the Cowboy will put a BUY recommendation on optimistic, but seasoned managers.

Published in: on May 14, 2008 at 16:32  Comments Off on Failure? What failure?  

Excuse me, sir, may I help you with your flywheel?

The Cowboy first read about flywheel research with automotive applications 10 or 15 years ago. At the time, there was much speculation about what next generation technology would replace internal combustion, with fuel cells being the odds-on favorite at the time. Flywheels were a new and somewhat out-there technology that had a distinct “crazy inventor” flavor, but that some were heralding as an alternative to fuel cells. As hybrid battery technology has become widespread as an additive to, rather than a replacement of, internal combustion, the possibilities for all of these technologies multiply. There is a tendency to think of the future and technology in absolutes, yet here is another example of innovation being more about gradual improvements and new combinations of ideas rather than huge leaps of discovery. On the shoulders of giants…


Published in: on May 8, 2008 at 20:10  Comments Off on Excuse me, sir, may I help you with your flywheel?  


Who knew you could have so much fun with mitochondrial DNA.  In the context of Abbie Hoffman’s recent passing, today’s mind-trip is brought to you courtesy of The Economist’s science section.  While not as potent as your favorite Swiss hallucinogenic, news that bushmen are the ones with the purest bloodlines is fairly trippy, especially if you tend to regard yourself as having a particularly refined line.

Kudos to those who didn’t stay put, didn’t do what they were supposed to, and didn’t just keep grinding away at the the same set of problems.  Now while some back-to-nature primitivists might contest my definition of progress, it seems that we would still be living as nomads in the bush rather than running hedge funds and spewing CO2 into the atmosphere if our ancestors hadn’t quit and gone off looking for greener grass somewhere else.

Of course if you’re a bushman I suppose this doesn’t apply to you – no offense.  But hey, at least you can say you stuck it out for 200,000 years.  And I guess the universe does have a sense of humor because after all that sticking around you got white Europeans coming back to wipe you out, enslave you, and take your land, followed a bit later by hedge fund managers taking eco-tours in the old stomping ground.

Sometimes you really should just try something new.

Published in: on May 5, 2008 at 18:43  Comments Off on Exodus  

Globalization is so 2007…

David Brooks column today was very thought-provoking. I have increasingly wondered myself whether “globalization” was becoming too much of a cliche.  I have an innate bias towards looking at technology not so much as a solution to all that ails us, but as THE agent of change driving many or even most business and macroeconomic issues.  When in doubt about how something will play out, I always look at how unforeseen leaps in technology might affect the outcome.  Brooks also plays on another of my biases – education.  If technology is my change bias, education is my solution bias.  I will be thinking about this cognitive paradigm in the weeks to come.

Published in: on May 2, 2008 at 17:59  Comments Off on Globalization is so 2007…