Explaining Southern California's economy

For Matter, Kickstarter is advertising plus money

There's been a lot of discussion recently about Matter and its swift fundraising on Kickstarter, bringing in over $100,000 in just over a week (I've embedded the pitch video above). Felix Salmon thinks Matter has merit. Stephen Morse thinks it doesn't. You can watch them debate their positions here.

During the course of their he-said/he-said, the question of whether it's a good or bad thing for Matter to be avoiding venture capital funding came up. Felix summarizes:

In our debate, Morse snarked that no one down below us, in Times Square, had heard of Jim Giles or Bobbie Johnson, the co-founders of Matter. And in saying that he revealed his broader mindset: that of a would-be internet entrepreneur who raises venture funding by using the words “platform” and “scale” a lot while promising things like “explosive growth”. It’s no great secret that Giles and Johnson have talked to VCs, many of whom have been very supportive. But what they’re building doesn’t lend itself to the VC business model, where you either have monster, multi-million-dollar success, or else you die trying.

Morse uses the fact that Matter doesn’t have VC funding as a count against them, when in fact it’s a great count in their favor. VCs provide two things: money and advice. And Matter’s getting the advice; it’s just doing so without having to sell its soul to people wanting a monster return on their investment. All it needs to do, at least in the first instance, is pay for itself. And at the end of our debate, Morse finally came up with a number: if Matter can get 20,000 paying customers each week, he said, then he sees a sustainable model there.

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Meet the new iPad: It's faster and costs a lot

Apple Unveils Updated iPad In San Francisco

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 07: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple product launch event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 7, 2012 in San Francisco, California. In the first product release following the death of Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. introduced the third version of the iPad and an updated Apple TV. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The much-anticipated Apple iPad event today continues a worrisome trend for the company. The iPhone 4S launched last year, and it's main new feature was the Siri voice-interface. Now the updated iPad arrives — it's unclear whether we can call it the iPad 3, but we will anyway — and the big news is that the 4G version will cost $829, and that the older base iPad 2 will go on sale for $399.

So there's new. But where's the new new? It will have to wait for the true iPad 3. And the iPhone 5. Perhaps.

This is from Reuters:

The newest iPad will be capable of operating on a high-speed 4G "LTE" or Long-Term Evolution network. At speeds roughly 10 times faster than current 3G technology, that may help banish the sometimes shaky video quality of older devices.

Apple is betting a 4G-equipped iPad will tempt more U.S. consumers to pay extra for higher-quality video on the go. That, in turn, should give Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc a revenue boost, analysts say.

Until now, buyers have been reluctant to shell out extra cash even for iPads with slower 3G connections. The cheaper Wi-Fi-only model - with much more limited Web access - is by far Apple's top-selling one today.

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The Great Tablet Distraction Debate grinds on

Amazon Introduces New Tablet At News Conference In New York

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: The new Amazon tablet called the Kindle Fire is displayed on September 28, 2011 in New York City. The Fire, which will be priced at $199, is an expanded version of the company’s Kindle e-reader that has 8GB of storage and WiFi. The Fire gives users access to streaming video, as well as e-books, apps and music, and has a Web browser. In addition to the Fire, Bezos introduced four new Kindles including a Kindle touch model. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal weighs in, cleverly, on a micro-debate spurred by this New York Times article about how people are too distracted while reading on a tablet — an Apple iPad, an Amazon Kindle Fire — to actually, you know, read.

Madrigal attacks the NYT story at three levels:

•You can just as easily be distracted while reading a book on paper as you can while reading a book in a digital format

•Reality is far more distracting than what's going in that magical little gadget in your hot little hands: "If the e-reader engages you more with the thing in your hand, even though the gadget itself is more distracting, that could be a net distraction win."

•We will evolve into an undistracted, tablet-using species: "Humans respond to the novel technologies they encounter to reshape their experiences of them. If distraction is really bothering all these people, and they really want to read books, then they will find a way to do so."

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The hot Apple time machine

Apple Announces Digital Textbooks Service At Guggenheim

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Apple's new iBooks 2 app is demonstrated for the media on an iPad at an event in the Guggenheim Museum, January 19, 2012 in New York City.

We've all done it. Lamented the fact that we didn't load up on Apple stock back in the day, when it was trading at $10 or $15 a share and and the company, with Steve Jobs in exile, was fumbling toward bankruptcy. 

What a difference a decade makes. Apple is now either the most valuable company in the world or among the most valuable, depending on what the stock market is doing on a given day. Fifteen bucks a share to $533. Zowie!

Oh, how easy it is to set the investment time machine to 1999 and say that you would have bought AAPL instead of sinking your dough blindly into a 401(k) or chasing a dot.com "superstar," post-IPO.

At USA Today, Matt Krantz throws some cold water on that nostalgia trip. Should you consider Apple, which has risen nearly 5,000 percent since 1999, the big beating heart of a current retirement plan? Nope:

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Meet Mark Spitznagel, Ron Paul's L.A. hedge-fund guy

Ron Paul Continues Iowa Campaign Tour

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

LE MARS, IA - DECEMBER 30: Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Rep Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks during a town hall meeting at the Le Mars Convention Center on December 30, 2011 in Le Mars, Iowa.

Ron Paul — Republican presidential candidate, GOP congressman from Texas, father of Sen. Rand Paul, libertarian, and dogged foe of the Federal Reserve — is touching down in Los Angeles on March 20 for a fundraiser. If you think Paul, with his desire to return the U.S. to the gold standard (bimetalism, actually, using gold and silver) and his tendency to subject Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to lengthy disquisitions on inflation, is a litle bit different, just wait until you get a dose of the guy who's hosting this Bel Air shindig, at the former residence of Jennifer Lopez.

He's Mark Spitznagel, a very successful hedge-fund manager whose Universa Investments is based in Santa Monica. There are hedge-fund managers and there are hedge fund managers. Spitznagel is definitely in the latter category. He plies his trade in an exotic corner of the industry, making huge bets on statistically improbable events, now colloquially known as "black swans," after the 2007 book of the that title by Nassim Taleb.

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