4 TED Talks on Bitcoin

Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies have joined the ranks of “Controversial topics with no clear answer.” Today, the average person has no need to use any sort of Blockchain transaction. But at the same time, in 1986 the average person didn’t need a cell phone.

So as all of the machines around us become connected to the Internet, maybe we need an independent way to transfer funds instantaneously without a central regulatory body in the middle. Or maybe not.

I don’t know the answers, but some people think they do. And four of these people have given TED talks. CNBC aggregated these talks together into one convenient page.

(WARNING – Annoying auto-play ads are enabled on this page, so check your volume.)

On Culture and Chemistry

I heard an interesting interview with Mariners Manager Scott Servais last week. He discussed some of the differences between this year’s team and last year’s, especially when it came to how the players acted in the dugout and clubhouse.

Servais brought up a distinction I hadn’t thought about before, the difference between Culture and Chemistry. I’m going to paraphrase some of his comments, because they make sense to bring into a corporate or start-up environment.

To summarize, “Culture” is the foundation of the organization. It’s embodies the mission your organization is on, the processes and programs you implement and the latitude people have as individuals inside the system. “Chemistry” is how everyone gets along with one another – peer to peer, manager to employee, employee to manager.

So with those definitions in mind, here are some insights he brought forward.

1) Not everyone has to get along, but they all need to be bought in: A culture can’t just be dropped into place from above. It’s going to be started by someone, adopted, and expanded. The Mariners culture isn’t as simplified as, “We always want to win.” From an in-game perspective, it’s focused on, “We’re going to own the strike zone, on offense and defense.” Every member of that team knows that the team philosophy is about owning the strike zone. A guy from Korea and one from Venezuela don’t have to have anything else in common. But as long as they know the process that the organization has designed, and they both contribute to the process, then the culture will be strong. If you don’t believe in the process, then you are a bad cultural fit, and it’s better for both parties to have you move on.

2) You can have great Chemistry and deliver a lousy product: Having everyone love each other is great. But if your team enjoys 2 hour lunches with each other and 4pm happy hours, your culture of laziness and good times isn’t going to net you much success.

3) You can generally define a good Culture in few words: In the case of the Seahawks, the culture is simple – “Always Compete.” You know that whether you are Russel Wilson or a walk-on free agent, you are there to battle for a roster spot, bigger salary, and field time. There’s no gray area for interpretation. If you are going to be a Seahawk, you have a mindset that you will have to win anything you get. You know the guy behind you on the depth chart is trying to take your job. You are only going to continue being a contributing member of the organization for as long as you can outperform everyone else at the job you do. There are no bonus points for tenure. Experience just means you should be able to do the job better, faster and thus be able to do more.

I think you can find the interview on the 710Sports.com web page. Would love to know if you took away any other insights.

Saving Greece and Soccer at the Same Time

In case anyone wonders, this is a completely facetious comment. I don’t honestly believe this is a good idea… But in a make believe world, here’s how you could save Greece and International Soccer at the same time.

Qatar buys Greece.

Think about it. It’s win-win-win-win.

Win 1: Qatar gets the recognition it desires.
Qatar has a ton of money that it can’t spend. They want to change their image and have a larger presence in terms of global awareness. By buying Greece and renaming it “North Qatar,” they get all of the history that comes with it. Just like Gary Payton is somehow the leading scorer in Oklahoma City Thunder history, North Qatar would be where the Olympic games originated. Zeus and the rest of the Qatari gods lives on Mt. Olympus in North Qatar. And where would the world be without the contributions of famous Qataris such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle?

Win 2: Greece pays off its debt.
The banks want to get paid. The Greeks don’t want to pay anyone back. Qatar has dump trucks of cash sitting in gold plated garages. Let’s redistribute some of that cash and keep the country – and Europe – from collapsing.

Win 3: We don’t have to play soccer in 120 degree weather.
The 2022 World Cup can stay in Qatar – it’s just going to be played in North Qatar. (Except they’ll make Germany and the U.S. play their games in South Qatar out of spite.) Tourists will now want to attend the games. And Qatar can send all those poor abused migrant workers home.

Win 4: FIFA moves to North Qatar
Nothing significant in the world can happen without it benefitting Sepp Blatter in some way. This works for him. Qatar can revoke any extradition treaties it has with the U.S. and FIFA can build a 200,000 square fit office complex overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Could it happen? Of course not. Should it? Hmm….

Advice for New Grads Seeking Those “Jobs” Things

Young people seem to like to ask me about how to get a job. Sometimes I think they don’t really want my advice and just want me to actually “give” them a job, but I get asked all the same.

So here are a few quick thoughts for you new grads. In no particular order.

1) No one wants to “give you a job.” People do want you to “work for them.” These are two completely different sentences and they mean totally different things. If you can’t figure out the difference, then you may want to ask someone.

2) Hiring Managers expect you to bring a skill to the role. It’s your first job. No one expects you to be an all-star. What they want is to see that you have some skill – or set of skills – that they can add to their team that makes the overall team better. Know what you are best at, and get even better. In an interview be able to clearly articulate that you are able to solve some sort of problem that the manager has, because your skill set enables you to do so.

3) If you want to work in a start-up for a career, there is a lot of value in working in a huge company first. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. But working in a large, successful company gets you the following: A nice large network of colleagues to call upon later in your career, experience doing things the right way, an understanding of how large companies work so you know how to sell to them later, a nice brand name on your resume that indicates you *could* work in a big company if you wanted, and finally, stable money that you can sock away in a savings account, so you can take a risk later. Side note: Nothing is more liberating than money in the bank. Nothing is more chilling than being forced to work for someone you don’t like because the rent is due.

4) Your first job is probably going to kind of suck. Here’s why. You’re the low pup on the totem pole. That means your boss is second lowest, and that it’s probably their first time managing people. They will have some managerial growing pains. They’ll also be worried about their own boss 90% of the time and trying to figure out how to get promoted. So you probably will end up flipping from being ignored to being micro-managed based on what your boss just got told by their boss. Accept that this is going to be part of the game, so look for a boss that you like, no matter what the company is like.

5) Interview EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to work there. Go practice. Nothing is more humbling than not getting an offer at a company you didn’t want to work for. But it will help you figure out how to nail the interview you really want.

6) Work for a product, customer base or marketplace you care about. It’s the natural truth. If you don’t like your customers, you can’t do your job. I once worked someplace where the customers were all rich, arrogant, conceited and hard to deal with. Do you know how little I felt like helping them? You can’t do good work unless you have an affinity for what you are doing. So at least identify early who it is that you want to be associated with.

In a nutshell – To “work” for someone, find a skill you are great at, optimize it, sell yourself everywhere, and try to find a manager you like in an industry you care about, no matter how large or small the company. Then save some money, build a nest egg, and never have to fear a lack of a job again.

2010 Sounders – The Power of Scarcity and Supply & Demand

Remember back to just before the 2009 MLS season started.  There was a buzz around the Sounders.  At first we weren’t sure what to expect.  A sold out Thursday night opening match was electric.  More games sold out.  Tickets were impossible to come by.  More seats opened up.  More sell outs.  Barcelona, Chelsea and the MLS Cup brought record crowds. It seemed that the team could do no wrong.

It was the perfect storm.  A soccer enthusiastic public desired something positive to come from their city’s roster of not just losing, but atrocious, sports teams.  That pent up demand, combined with a short supply of tickets, drove incredible buzz and success.

But perfect storms don’t last forever, and now the Sounders have to accept the bad that comes with the good of success.  2010 has been an interesting years for the guys in rave green.  It’s a pretty interesting litany of environmental demand issues:

  • Key injuries got the team off to a slow start.  
  • Spring optimism (which turned out to be very misguided) made the Mariners relevant for a brief period of time.
  • The Barcelona and Chelsea games were replaced with Celtic and River Plate.
  • The team’s European superstar was either whining, moping, in trouble with the front office, or hurt.  We never really knew what it was – except he wasn’t drawing fans

So naturally demand fell.  And that may have been fixable.  But then at the same time, the Sounders faced a problem that no other American sports league has to face.  

Supply rose.

The Sounders qualified for what’s called the Concacaf Champions League. Now this as marketed as the marquee invitation for North American and Central American teams.  It’s a chance to compete in real matches against top talent from Mexico, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, etc….But in reality, it’s a kind of weir tournament for anyone to get too attached to.  You see, you qualify in 2009 to play preliminary games in 2010 to make a championship round in 2011.  You could have literally turned over your entire roster between qualifying and playing in the finals.  

But the other thing it did was add 4 new mid-week home games to the tail end of the season.  And these games weren’t part of your season ticket package.

Now, factor in that the Sounders qualified for the U.S. Open Cup Final, and are hosting it.  That adds another game, and a very exciting one at that.  That’s extra game #5.

Now, just for fun, throw in that the Sounders promised a 3rd free “Friendly” to season ticket packages.  Here comes Chivas from Mexico, to play a friendly at the most unfriendly time of the year – right before playoffs.  Imagine the Huskies scheduling a practice game with Nebraska the week before the Apple Cup.  Yeah – not much sense to it.

There are 15 games in the season, starting in Mid-March.  Most of those are on weekends, so by the time August comes around, some fans are feeling a touch of soccer fatigue.  A playoff race can reinvigorate the base and get them out to the games they bought a good 10 months ago.

But adding another 6 home games to the season – that’s 40% for you math majors – when kids are in school and youth leagues are firing up, is just an unfortunate turn of events.  And that is why you saw 11,000 people last night.  Even your most ardent supporters and look at the home calendar:


  • 9/29: Meaningless CCL game
  • 10/2: Important MLS game
  • 10/5: Important US Open Final
  • 10/12: Meaningless Friendly
  • 10/15: Possibly important last MLS home game
  • 10/19: Meaningless CCL game


So what’s the 2011 solution?  Because if they win the U.S. Open Cup, they’ll qualify again for next year.  And that schedule won’t change, so you’ll be in a similar bind.  Here’s what I’d do:

  • End the pre-season with a match vs Portland as a free ticket to season ticket holders.
  • Reduce down to 1 mid-season friendly, but make it a good one.
  • Let season ticket holders buy all 4 CCL matches for the cost of one game.

Now, there’s an economic issue with the CCL thing, in which the Sounders probably have to pay the CCL on every fan that enters the stadium.  So, a 4 for 1 deal is going to cost them money.  So they’d have to renegotiate some part of the concessions deal to make the money back.  It’s not a perfect plan.

But the overall lesson is one of supply and demand.  And once you lose scarcity, it’s hard to get it back.  And the same people who wanted to go to the game they couldn’t go to, don’t want to go to the game that no one wants to go to.  It’s a delicate balance.  Interesting to see how they solve everything, now that a few land mines got thrown in their path.



SonicsCentral.com Reviews Candidates

SonicsCentral.com has done a good job of keeping us up to date on Seattle candidates’ views on the NBA returning to Seattle.  

Props to David Nelson of the P-I for asking these questions:


Joe Mallahan:

I think we have to work very hard to attract an NBA team back to Seattle. That particular proposal I haven’t examined closely. The NBA’s not coming back if we don’t provide an arena that’s at NBA standards, the NBA’s come a long way. We have to figure a way for private and public dollars to partner to make that happen but it has to be done in a way where it’s not on the backs of the taxpayer. I am committed to working fervently to get a team back. The NBA is a huge part of our culture.

…With the tax payers paying their fair share. That’s a complex formula that we’re going to have to work on and partner with the private interests that are interested in owning an NBA team. As a community we blew it and we have to recover, it’s a big part of our history and culture and I would be very proud if I could help bring a team back.

Mike McGinn:

I need to know more about the proposal before committing to supporting it. My key issue here is ensuring that we’re making a wise investment of public resources into the arena and not finding our self in a position where the city ends up on the hook, these are pretty serious budget times. I’m open to a renovation of Key Arena, but I have to see what the payoff is.

We have to be careful with taxpayers and we have to make sure we’re doing the right thing for the surrounding business district, the arena, and Seattle Center. But I’m certainly open to people making the case.

Idea for Auto Bailout

This morning I listened to Dave Ross interview Ravi Batra, a professor of Economics and author of The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos.  Mr. Batra had what I think is a fabulous idea for the automaker bailout.

To summarize, the automakers want $50 Billion to save them.  Batra explains that for about $1 Billion, you could buy 60% of General Motors.  Then you could give all those shares to the UAW to distribute amongst their workers, making every union employee of GM a significant shareholder in the company.  Then, they could decide what woul dbe the best courses of action for the company to take.   

It’s brilliant.  It’s not socialism, because the people would get paid if they created value, and lose their jobs if they wouldn’t.  Plus, it would force the UAW to come to grips and decide whether their policies are good for the companies that employee their members.   I think it’s a great idea.  Too bad it will never be considered…