Explaining Southern California's economy

Apple iPad2 v. Amazon Kindle Fire: The battle royal that will define holiday gadget shopping

Amazon Introduces New Tablet At News Conference In New York

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The new Amazon tablet called the Kindle Fire is displayed on September 28, 2011 in New York City.

Back in the good old days — you know, 2009 or 2010 — there was the Apple iPad and everything else. When it came to tablets, there wasn't really a true tablet market; there was an iPad market, as my favorite tech writer, Zach Epstein of BGR.com, has pointed out. But now there's another tablet in town. Here is Forbes' Tim Worstall on how the Amazon Kindle Fire will be different from the Apple iPad, business-model-wise:

Apple makes great kit, no doubt about that, but it charges great kit prices for it too. Then it makes a further margin on selling content (music, videos, movies, books) to go onto that kit. Nothing wrong with it but it is a model that might be vulnerable. Vulnerable to someone using the Gillette tactic (“give away” the razors in order to sell more razor blades) as Amazon is. Price the Kindle Fire at just about break even point and hope to make the profits by having a larger installed base to sell the content onto.

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It's time to say goodbye to the LA business tax

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

KPCC's Brian Watt reported recently that LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to extend the city's business tax holiday "indefinitely." Which could be interpreted as the mayor saying that he wants to get rid of the business tax altogether — rather than simply extend the holiday for another four years, as some city council members have suggested. (Currently, new businesses are exempted for three years.)

LA is facing a budget deficit, of around $250 million, which sounds like a lot but isn't really that bad, given the dreadful nature of the economy. Meanwhile, the business tax is expected to bring in something like $425-$440 million this fiscal year. That sounds pretty good, but the complaint is that LA's business taxes are so high that they actually cost the city money, in terms of lost revenue from other taxes that would flow from increased business activity.

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As Europe melts down, is it time for California to move up?

It's often noted that California has the world's eight largest economy. This depends on how you do that math. At $1.9 trillion, the Golden State is just south of Italy on the IMF list (at number 9). But...Italy is having some rather severe financial difficulties at the moment. So if its GDP slips — and it's already slipped pretty far — and California's increases, will California move up? Then we can lock Brazil in our sights! Then the UK!

Actually, before we get too excitied, we should remember that if California were in Europe, we'd be in serious trouble.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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It's the end of the euro as we know it

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Frank Rumpenhorst/AFP/Getty Images

The European currency Euro logo stands in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt/M., western Germany on August 4, 2011.

Greek gets a new government. Italy will soon get a government. And still the markets aren't calmed. The Dow flirted with a 400-point drop all day before closing at minus-389. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have finally just come out and said it: There should be two Europes — one run by...Germany and France, with the Euro as its currency; the other limping along with whatever's left in the Franco-German wake.

For critics of the Euro — and there have been plenty since the single currency was introduced in the 1990s — this is an "it's about time" moment. But even relative supporters are yelling surrender. At the Financial Times, Martin Wolf throws up his hands:

Will the eurozone survive? The leaders of France and Germany have now raised this question... If policymakers had understood two decades ago what they know now, they would never have launched the single currency. Only fear of the consequences of a break-up is now keeping it together. The question is whether that will be enough. I suspect the answer is, no.

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Building the biomedical future in Orange County

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Matthew DeBord

TechPortal Orange will provide space and access to services in an incubator environment. The location at the UC Irvine Medical Center campus provides startups with the opportunity to work with high-level medical talent.

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Matthew DeBord

TechPortal Orange occupies space on the second floor of a building at the UC Irvine Medical Center campus. Startups in residence at the incubator will also have access to additional labs.

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Matthew DeBord

Jacob Levin, PhD, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research Development at the UC Irvine Office of Research. He has been instrumental in setting up the TechPortal Orange incubator.

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Matthew DeBord

This is where cutting-edge biomedical research will be transformed into commercial applications.

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Matthew DeBord

The "wet" lab area has room for 14 individual companies. More complex equipment is located elsewhere in the building. The overall space is 3,100 square feet.

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Matthew DeBord

Each 150-square-foot lab area has bench space for 4 researchers, as well as instruments for cell culture, microscopy, biochemistry, and molecular biology.

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Matthew DeBord

Valves! Biomedical research may be high-tech, but there are still some elements that are sooooo 20th century.


There's a problem in the venture capital world. The amount of venture funding flowing into startups has been reduced by the financial crisis, but VCs are still looking to make money off new technology businesses. Biotech is another story. A mobile application or social networking website can turn to gold far quicker than a biomedical play. 

"[Information] technology has faster exits than biomedical," said Dr. Jacob Levin, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research Development at the UC Irvine Medical Center. "The burden of the FDA approval process isn't there. It can take eight years to get a new technology or treatment approved."

According to Levin, the dreaded "valley of death" — the point at which a startup moves from early stage funding to more serious investment, commercialization, and revenue — for biomedical is "expanding." This is a major challenge in Southern California, where biotech is often viewed as the region's answer to Silicon Valley's tech juggernaut.

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