Explaining Southern California's economy

Bitcoin: Who needs the almighty dollar after all?

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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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The stakes are very high for future U.S. medical research

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Darren Hauck/Getty Images

Associate research specialist at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center at University Wisconsin-Madison removes a new batch of Embryonic Stem Cells from deep freeze to be thawed before being worked on.

My KPCC colleague Stephanie O'Neill contributed a must-listen report to a recent broadcast of "The Madeleine Brand Show." It was all about the economics of stem-cell research and how this kind of very high-tech, advanced medical therapy is imperative for the future of the country's population. Here's a sample:

Right now the US spends about $2.7 trillion health care annually, a figure that's expected to soar with an aging and increasingly obese population.

"Traditional approaches, whether it's through the use of pharmaceuticals or traditional types of biologics or devices or surgical intervention, really are not going to be able to effectively deal with the challenges we face," said Gil Van Bokkelen, chairman of the non-profit Alliance for Regenerative Medicine in Washington DC and CEO of the Ohio-based biotech firm, Athersys.

"What I think is going to happen over the course of the next several years is we're going to see the first clinical evidence that shows how big of an impact these types of therapies can really have. Which means we can overcome some of the rising tide of pressure that we're trying to fight against with an aging population that's more susceptible to a lot of different, very expensive disease conditions."

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EVENT: Venture Capital in Southern California: Catching Up and Going Beyond

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Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Just a blogger service announcement: tomorrow night, I'll be moderating a panel on venture capital in Southern California at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum. The title says it all: "Venture Capital in Southern California: Catching Up and Going Beyond."

The Southern California region is bumping along in fifth place nationally, where venture capital funding for new businesses is conerned. Texas enjoyed a surge in the third quarter of 2011 (according the PWC MoneyTree Report), otherwise we'd be in fourth place, behind the New York Metro area an New England. Silicon Valley, of course, has a very big lead.

The panel will be talking about how to close that gap and grow various types of startup investment in SoCal. 

Benjamin Kuo, who publishes socalTech, will be joining us, as will Nate Remond from Rustic Canyon Partners and Alex Maleki from Idealab's New Ventures Group

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California housing prices: Case-Shiller say what?

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A bank foreclosure sale sign is posted in front of townhomes on August 12, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

From the LA Times:

Home prices in the California cities are comparatively healthy despite the state's high unemployment rate, because the markets tracked by the index are close to key job centers such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley and are also near the ocean -- where overbuilding was relatively constrained. The index does not track prices in California's Central Valley or the Inland Empire, where housing is still weak.

For background, the unemployment rate in Cali is just south of 12 percent. The latest Case-Shiller index, which tracks housing prices in major cities, showed modest month-over-month declines from August to September 2011, in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Modest, but still headed down. So price deflation in the California housing market continues. And nobody seems to know where the floor is, at least in the Case-Shiller cities. 

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American Airlines goes bankrupt: Why the airline business is so bad

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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 29: An American Airline Plan sits on teh tarmac at Toronto Pearson Airport on November 29, 2011 in Toronto, Canada. American Airlines and its parent company AMR filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy November 29, reportedly in an effort to shed debt and reduce labor costs.

The not-so-big news this morning is that American Airlines has filed for bankruptcy. There had been rumors circulating that this would happen for months, so no one is all that shocked. In fact, American Airlines has simply lived up to the apparent destiny of all airlines. Bankruptcy seems to be baked in the businesses cake.

This is from the Washington Post:

American Airlines on Tuesday joined a long list of airlines that have filed for bankruptcy protection. American was the only U.S. legacy airline that hadn’t yet filed. Several airlines have filed multiple times; Delta and Northwest filed on the same day six years ago. There have been 189 total since 1990.

So why is the airline business so lousy? Slate offered a good explainer back in 2005, on the occasion of the Delta-Northwest bankruptcy-palooza:

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