Archive for the ‘Options’ Category

Cell Phone nags

June 28, 2007

The first time when I heard about the expression `Cell Phone’, I thought it’s meant for use between people who are doing time. My analogy was that of Car Phone and bingo; it seemed to make sense – the only sense.

I was rudely corrected the next day when I saw my colleague walking in with a black brick with buttons having a stick on top. The first Motorola looked more of a fashionable paper weight with a blinker. Soon I realized the immensity of the insult I had meted out to the more utilitarian (and a lot quieter) paper weight.

But its ubiquity was deafening. Phone conversations till then restricted to phone booths and cozy indoors started filling all outdoors as holding the gadget became a status symbol. Even libraries and court rooms were not spared of ring tone shrills. Even as talk time was costing a bomb (initially), people never stopped talking. Then tariffs were lowered and all hell broke loose.  If you loved peace and quiet, you simply had nowhere to go.

Last week I had the worst experience.  I was waiting to board the Mumbai flight at Bangalore airport when the passenger just behind me was screaming over the phone cockily about some deal that he’d just closed.  He was asking the guy at the other end to take down his number and report back in a while. He rattled out his number so loudly, over and over that made several heads turn. Annoyed at the noise riot within my earshot,  I stepped aside briefly to salvage my eardrum – his number still ringing in my ears.

After making sure he had finished his conversation, I resumed.  As if by rote, he took out his phone again and I feared for my life.  Resolving to deal with it than escaping it, I quietly texted a message to his number – “This is your Cell Phone Operator. We just found out you’re too dumb to use your phone, so please put it on ground and start jumping on it. Thank you.”

That worked. The jerk never used his phone and we had a safe touch down !

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Living with no signposts

June 16, 2007

Eve Ensler‘s ideas suggest that today’s career paths, which wind and stop and turn and surprise us along the way, may be better for us once we get used to not knowing what’s ahead. “When you start working with ambiguity and living with it initially, it’s scary because there are no signposts. But eventually it seems to be a much more interesting way of living.

Marci Alboher did succumb to the irrepressible journalist/writer in her (career epiphany) even as she was paid for being a corporate lawyer – what she calls as the “slash” phenomenon. She is a regular columnist in New York Times now and has authored the book One Person / Multiple Careers.

Some excerpts from one of her columns

“If jumping off track once was stigmatized, it now has cachet. The track itself seems to have all but disappeared.

The reasons behind the rising wave of reinventions are many. Corporate job security strikes most people as a relic.

We are living longer and working longer, too, giving us a larger canvas to paint our work/life dreams. We also realize that life is short, so we want to feel good about the work we’re doing. And we’re determined to meet that goal while still paying the mortgage.

One of the reasons this all interests me is that I am both an actor in the career change story and someone who covers it as a journalist.

After nearly 10 years in corporate law, I did what many lawyers fantasize about and became a former lawyer. I took a couple of classes in freelance writing and learned I had a knack for it. I finally discovered an outlet for my itch to chat up strangers and get their stories. I became what I call a “slash,” a lawyer/journalist.

Until it’s no longer right, we need to start shifting again. Because the idea of what makes a satisfying career is shifting. What satisfied us in our 20s and 30s, might not be what jazzes us in our 40s and 50s.”

Can’t agree more with Marci.

“Workers today will likely have no fewer than three careers in their lives, and they will change jobs frequently when young. After that, they will cut back when they have kids, ramp up when they need money, and switch when their learning curve flattens” says Penelope Trunk in The Boston Globe.

In the context of a woman’s midlife, read this. More on the topic here, here and here  

Happy slashing !

Life axioms

June 6, 2007

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I look up some motivational quotes often when my chips are down.  Guess you could use it too.

“Stop analyzing life. Just live it. Analysis is what makes it complicated.”

“Activity gets you busy. But productivity gets you results. Activity consumes time. Productivity frees it.”

“Your today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday. You are worrying because you are analyzing. Worrying has become your habit. That’s why you are not happy.”

“Uncertainty is inevitable, but worrying is optional.”  

“Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.

“Diamond cannot be polished without friction. Gold cannot be purified without fire. Good people go through trials, but don’t suffer. With that experience their life become better not bitter.”  

“Experience is a tough teacher. She gives the test first and the lessons afterwards.”  

“P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S are Purposeful Roadblocks Offering Beneficial Lessons (to) Enhance Mental Strength. Inner strength comes from struggle and endurance, not when you are free from problems.”

“If you look outside you will not know where you are heading. Look inside. Looking outside, you dream. Looking inside, you awaken. Eyes provide sight. Mind provides insight.”

“Success is a measure as decided by others. Satisfaction is a measure as decided by you. Knowing the road ahead is more satisfying than knowing you rode ahead. You work with the compass. Let others work with the clock.”

“Always look at how far you have come rather than how far you have to go. Always count your blessing, not what you are missing.”

“When they suffer they ask, *why me?* When they prosper, they never ask *Why me?* -Everyone wishes to have truth on their side, but few want to be on the side of the truth.”  

“Seek not to find who you are, but to determine who you want to be. Stop looking for a purpose as to why you are here. Create it. Life is not a process of discovery but a process of creation.”

“Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for the future without fear.”

“There are no unanswered prayers. At times the answer is NO.”

“Keep the faith and drop the fear. Don’t believe your doubts and doubt your beliefs. Life is a mystery to solve, not a problem to resolve. Trust in it.”  

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that took our breath away!”

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Giving it back to the VCs

May 2, 2007

What happens when you discover the VC who knocked your pitch cold is a jerk and did it more out of habit ?  You go ahead and rate her. 

That’s exactly what TheFunded.com wants you to do.

It invited entrepreneurs to post to its web site ratings of venture capital firms. After collecting more than 500 reviews, TheFunded.com released a list of the top five venture firms worldwide. Bruce Cleveland, partner with No. 1-ranked InterWest Partners, based in Menlo Park, California, said the site fills a gap for entrepreneurs and evens a one-sided relationship.

TheFunded.com named Clearstone Venture Partners of Los Angeles (“a refreshing firm to work with”) No. 2; No. 4 was given to First Round Capital of Pennsylvania (“smart seed investors”); and two Menlo Park, California, firms tied at No. 5, Trinity Ventures and Sequoia Capital (“all value, no BS” and “rules the VC world” respectively). 

I think this is one helluva’ way for getting back at VCs who are just plain incompetent to assess the worth of refreshing ideas pitched up to them.  How many VC firms do have the guts and courage to confess in their website an anti-portfolio like Bessemer does ? 

That clearly shows a VC is only as good as his last investment. There’s never been another way, except back channels, for people to get a taste of venture firms.

Read the report by Ken Schachter here.

Seth Godin read my mind so well

April 23, 2007

Seth Godin doesn’t need a Viagra of my review to sell his book The Dip. 

But when I found something in print from Godin that so well resonated with my own  thoughts, couldn’t stay repressed for long. Nothing can stop me from carving up the blogosphere anyways !

The Dip is about deciding when to quit something (the goal isn’t worth pursuing) or when to stick with it doggedly. 

Godin quotes Vince Lombardi at the start of his book.

“Vince Lombardi is one of the most venerated American football coaches in history. The team he built, the Green Bay Packers, won the NFL championship five times in the nine years he was coaching them. And Lombardi came up with one of the world’s most famous motivational commands of all, beloved of managers everywhere: “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.”

Godin’s verdict on the great Lombardi’s views ?  “Bad advice.”

Often I’ve felt this during my work life (up until 15 months back, now less rich and a much relieved freelancer) – do I really need to put up with disgusting mediocrity just because it gives me a pay check by month end ? If so, for how long? Gradually the rebellion inside me grew so powerful and on the morning of November 30, 2005 to be precise – I woke up to say “not any more”.

I can relate my own experience to agree with Godin.

When I chose to take up freelance Investment Banking consulting focusing on Private Equity, those in my small world said I was wrong.  It was a bit unsettling, a bit nervy too initially – to deflect those admonitions, but didn’t quite rankle. I began by spending time networking with startup teams and getting to know what they are up to and to see if I could be help in some way. Either called them up or even personally visited almost every startup incubator in the country so that I could be a good feeder for VC firms. Slowly I could enlarge my scope even to growth and expansion stage companies, that came seeking private equity infusion. 

I sensed hitting pay dirt with a difference – I was doing things my way, as I thought was right and with enormous satisfaction. None tells me how to do something. That creative freedom is worth the whole world.  The word `boss’ suddenly meant `a worthy client’ instead of an asshole that it connoted earlier. Suddenly I found time for my family, could pursue my passion and felt on top of everything. Pure joy !

All the while I must thank and acknowledge the selfless initiatives of several of my blog readers who have introduced me to their own employers – corporates and Investment Banks. This is essentially a relationship business and every introduction helps.  Thanks guys !

Do also read this superb interview by Guy Kawasaki here.

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Back to backdating ways

January 30, 2007

Are you one of those who have lost money due to the backdating of stock options by directors and officers – and wondering what it all means ?  Don’t worry, going by the news stream, you are going to be in solid company.

Apple Computer has concluded an internal investigation into backdated stock options and found that while CEO Steve Jobs was aware of the practice, he did not personally benefit from it.  [ Doesn’t quite cover your ass, Steve ! ]

Admitting for the first time that former officials intentionally priced stock options retroactively and falsified documents, KLA-Tencor today restated its past results to include $370 million in charges related to those backdated options.

These corporate directors and officers engage in a scheme that enable them to award stock option grants to themselves on specific dates corresponding to low stock price trade dates in the past. This ensures that these officers and directors would maximize the cash value of their option grants.

A stock option has traditionally been defined as an incentive given to officers and directors to purchase the company’s stock at a lower price based on the actual trade price of the stock at the time the option is granted. Since the compensation committee within a company’s board of directors determines the fair market value of such options, they were backdated so as to ensure better profits for those who received them.

Dr.Erik Lie of the University of Iowa did a study on the behavior of stock prices before and after option grants, looking at 5,977 option grants between 1992 and 2002. In his paper, he discovered that unless executives were truly clairvoyant in their market timing, they had to be backdating the grants. Essentially, companies were pricing options on days in which the firm’s stock was trading at a low for the week, month, or quarter; thereby almost guaranteeing a large profit for the executives. Who wouldn’t want to name their own price on a bonus or a stock? Unfortunately, the market isn’t run by priceline.com, and the practice of backdating options lowered income levels, thus evading certain taxes and bilking company shareholders out of a considerable chunk of profit.

A detailed article and profile of Dr.Lie as appeared in WSJ is available here, that which appeared in AP is here and a copy of Dr.Lie’s testimony to the US Senate Banking Committee is available here.