Explaining Southern California's economy

The app economy: Jobs boom...or bubble?

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Are apps where the jobs are? Maybe not.

A couple of people called my attention to this report from TechNet, on the apparent jobs boom in the so-called "app economy." Here's Slate's Matt Yglesias, who considers it a positive trend — with a future:

[TechNet economist Michael Mandel's] basic point is an extremely sound one. As I've argued before, doing the same old thing but doing it with a smartphone ap is a huge part of the future of innovation in America. A little processor power plus constant internet connectivity plus location services plus a camera has incredibly broad applications for all kinds of everyday service delivery and this, rather than building devices, is where the big economic impact comes in. 

Apple might disagree with this, given its recent, iPhone-fueled financial results. You could certainly argue that there was no app economy — and none of the 466,000 jobs created by it since 2007, according to TechNet — without the Apple App Store. Which came first? The App platform, in the iPhone. Build it and they will come.

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Fred Wilson lobbies for a flat tax, but why not just raise taxes on capital gains?

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The top of a form 1040 individual income tax return.

Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures in New York, blogs daily at AVC and blogs well. His is the first post I read almost everyday, from a Google Reader that pipes in hundreds. I've written about his thinking before. There are times when he's great. And there are times when he drives me crazy.

On Sunday (he doesn't take the weekend off) the crazy was in evidence (in me, not Fred). After some speculation on where Mitt Romney's income comes from and why it's taxed at 15 percent, he goes on to discuss his own misgivings about getting a similar deal in his own business, due to the "carried interest" exception that allows him to treat income as capital gains. Then this:

...I am bothered by the unfairness of the situation. When I get a big distribution from our funds, I always ask my accountants how much of the distribution I should set aside for federal, state, and local taxes. The answer is usually something like 28% (the difference between 28% and 15% is the state and local taxes). And then I often think of my two brothers who probably pay 40-50% of their income each year in federal, state, and local taxes. It just seems so unfair.

And so lately I've been more and more attracted to the idea of a flat tax where everyone pays the same tax rate on income above a minimum amount. In this model, we would eliminate all tax deductions; for mortgages, charitable giving, for medical expenses, etc. There would be no difference in tax rates for ordinary income vs other forms of income (ie capital gains).

If we did that maybe everyone could pay a 15% tax rate like Mitt Romney and our family does. We would have a fair tax system.

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Watch out, Southern California! New York wants to do biotech, too

The guy in the video above is Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and a partner at Union Square Ventures in New York. (He also a very active and disciplined blogger.) I've blogged about Fred and his thoughts a few times here at DeBordReport.

Watch the whole thing to get a sense of his views on engineering, startups, VC — and where New York might be headed in terms of developing a more diverse startup community.

One of the things that means is biotech.

Biotech is a startup industry that Southern Californian already does and does well. Biotech is our version of Silicon Valley and information technology. And that's good, because biotech could be the next big thing. I went down to Orange County earlier this week to find out how and dropped by a new biotech incubator, TechPortal Orange, at the UC Irvine Medical Center.

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How to succeed in business: Get technical?

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José Goulão/Flickr

A meeting of computer programmers.

On Monday, I posted about a new startup called Codeacademy and whether it makes sense to think of programming as an essential skill, right up there with reading and writing and math. I based the post on thoughts offered by Fred Wilson, a New York-based venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures, at his blog, A VC.

But another USV guy, Andy Weissman, also posted on Codeacademy (at the separate USV blog) and commented on my post (making good use of Disqus, a commenting technology that USV has invested in). 

Yes, it's a bloggy, bloggy world.

Anyway, as if on cue, this story appeared in the New York Times — it's all about how the advertising business is desperate for people with "quantitative" skills:

A talent gap is growing between the skills that many new advertising jobs require and the number of people who have those skills. The dilemma, one familiar to many industries across the country, is particularly acute for jobs that require hard-core quantitative, mathematical and technical skills....The talent pool, advertising technology company executives say, is not a deep one. And those who have the skills are in high demand, often fetching annual salaries that can reach $100,000.

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Fred Wilson says we should all learn to program. Maybe not...

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People work at computers in TechHub, an office space for technology start-up entrepreneurs in London, England.

I've mentioned Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and principal at Union Square Ventures, before. Not because he's a noted VC with some big strikes outs, as well as some big wins, in his background, but because he blogs every day and generally blogs very well.

Mind you, he often blogs about companies in his portfolio, including most recently, Codeacademy, an "online resource for people who want to learn to code," according to Wilson. In reading his blog, A VC, I find myself disagreeing with some of Wilson's positions, but he always seems awfully sharp on tech, tech culture, and the world of venture investing generally. He's obsessed with clarity and isn't afraid to share the nuts and bolts of his profession. He doesn't get gobs of traffic and many, many comments (using Disqus, an excellent system we have here at KPCC and that USV has invested in) for nothing.

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