Explaining Southern California's economy

VC in SC: A panel discussion at KPCC

CFF VC Panel

Venture Capital in Southern California panel. From right, KPCC's Matthew DeBord, Rustic Canyon Partners' Nate Redmond, Idealab's Alex Maleki, and Ben Kuo from socalTECH.

Last night, I sat down with Nate Redmond of Rustic Canyon Partners, Ben Kuo of socalTech, and Alex Maleki of Idealab's newly formed New Ventures Group to talk VC in SoCal.

We enjoyed a lively and informative 90 minutes of discussion at the Crawford Family Forum with plenty of good questions from the full-house audience (Thank you, KPCC community!)

I'm going to post some outtakes from the event, but one of things that struck me, for whatever reason, was a recent grad who asked the panel about how to break into venture capital as a career. This got my attention because VC is a relatively new option in professional finance (dating back to the late 1960s and early 1970s) and because, well...most young people seem to want to start companies, not fund them.

That said, in my experience VCs, at every level, are interesting people, glad to share their knowledge and committed to the idea of entrepreneurship, innovation, and a positive future. I wasn't surprised that Nate Redmond's advice was simple but insightly. 

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LA region's mighty wind could lead to mighty federal stimulus

Tree down in Old Town Pasadena By Susan Long

I didn't wake up to carnage at my house this morning, but many other people in the Los Angeles region did — especially in Pasadena, which got hit hard by the Santa Ana wind event that's ongoing over the next few days. We've had gusts in the 80-90 mph range in the region's canyons, while in places like Pasadena, it blew 60 mph overnight.

This was enough to take out, evidently, hundreds if not thousands of trees. Tree limbs, too. And, of course, it's LA, so there are dead palm fronds all over the place. 

My question is, with unemployment in excess of 12 percent regionally, is this not an opportunity to hire some unemployed people to cut back the "urban forest" to levels that won't create such a mess the next time we have a Santa Ana? And we will have another Santa Ana...

Pasadena actually has an Urban Forest Advisory Committee. I plan to check in with them to to find out what kind of money Pasadena spends on tree maintenance, and what it demands of homeowners with trees on their properties. I did spend a year recently learning a lot about forest management on a large scale (for bioenergy and real-estate investments), and the consensus is that a well-managed forest — meaning one that's logged and cleared frequently — is a healthy forest.

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The Future of Wealth in LA: Entrepreneurship is the name of the game

Dollars

AFP

The California Community Foundation has released a new study, "The Future of Philanthropy in L.A.: A Wealth of Opportunity." My KPCC business vertical colleague Brian Watt will have a report on air later that you can listen to, and I'm going to provide a bit on insight in the overall trend of wealth formation and transfer in the LA area.

The numbers are far from trivial: "Despite the recession, Los Angeles County residents have an estimated net worth of almost $1.3 trillion." Just to put that in perspective, the entire annual GDP of the United States is about $14.5 trillion. What's truly staggering, however, is how much of this money will transferred generationally: the RUPRI Center estimates $1.4 trillion by 2060 — a huge increase over 2020's projected $114 billion.

What's truly fascinating about these numbers is where the wealth is coming from. According to the report, "LA's growing and future wealth will be driven by entrepreneurs, especially immigrant entrepreneurs." 

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Markets rally! Have we finally turned a corner on global crisis?

Sarkozy, Merkel And Monti Meet In Strasbourg

Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

STRASBOURG, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 24: French President Nicolas Sarkozy (C) shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti (R) on November 24, 2011 in Strasbourg, France. The three are meeting to seek agreement on how to resolve the Eurozone debt crisis as both Monti and Sarkozy are under pressure to reassure financial markets over the future of their respective countries' economies. (Photo by Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images)

The markets are rallying big-time today, with the Dow alone up more than 400 points. So what's going on? Elizabeth Harrow at Shaeffer's Research sums it all up rather neatly:

[T]he good news seems to be pouring in from all corners of the globe: Euro-zone leaders finally agreed on ground rules regarding the expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF); policymakers in Beijing lowered their reserve requirement ratio for banks; and the Federal Reserve coordinated with the European Central Bank (ECB), Bank of England, Bank of Japan, and other major central banks to lower the cost of emergency dollar loans. And, as if the bulls needed another catalyst, the day's slate of domestic data was surprisingly robust. Payroll giant ADP announced that the private sector added a stronger-than-forecast 206,000 jobs last month, while pending home sales and the Chicago PMI also improved beyond economists' expectations.

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Bitcoin: Who needs the almighty dollar after all?

Images_of_Money/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

Is the dollar bill done for?

Some thoughts from Fred Wilson's blog:

So it seems to me and my colleagues...that an alternative currency with roots in peer to peer networks and based on an algorithm that is transparent to everyone is an idea whose time has come. The question remains if the Bitcoin algorithm or some other algorithm (possibly a derivative of the Bitcoin algorithm that deals with some of Bitcoin's weaknesses?) will ultimately win out. That's an important issue that has a lot to do with when this space becomes investable.

But Bitcoin or something else, I'm confident we'll see the emergence of currencies that are not controlled by nation states in my lifetime. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen. I think it is, but there are significant ramifications that will result from the decoupling of currencies from governments. And one of them is an interesting investment opportunity that we hope to participate in.

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