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Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

The Three Trillion Dollar Question & The Answer Is….

Posted by imrananwar on February 16, 2009

The fact is that the American and the global economy are in a severe recession. The biggest problem is a crisis of confidence. Uncertainty is always known to be the enemy of confidence. I am reminded of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle that we were taught in our electrical engineering studies, at the University of Engineering and Technology at Lahore 25 years ago.

The problem with the uncertainty today is that no one seems to know what they are uncertain about. Almost everyone agrees that the economy will eventually recover. Most people can also see the signs, not just here in America, but also abroad. These show some economic activity has begun to take place.

Some of the positive news that has come out in the American media recently has been a decline in the number of homes going into foreclosure. This has come at the same time as higher retail sales figures for the month of January. Of course these numbers may look higher compared to the very dismal sales figures of December 2008. Regardless, it is a positive sign.

However, it seems that at every stage, and at every piece of news, the stock market reacts adversely. My personal suspicion is that most large investors, including players in the stock market, and other influential figures may also be playing an active but insidious role in ensuring volatility in the stock market.

Mind you, I have no actual proof of this. It is merely a hunch. My suspicion is that these people play the stock market not just for regular profit but for nefarious purposes.

The volatility is actually not random but manipulated by certain key investor groups. It is their way of ensuring that people in government, the media as well as the public at large remain uncertain, as well as demanding of a bigger and bigger stimulus package, that is likely to benefit fewer and fewer people.

In other words, the more volatility they show in the market, the more they can get people to panic. The more that happens, or the more things appear uncertain, the greater the likelihood of being able to force the government to spend billions of dollars more, mostly on pork barrel spending or bailouts of crooked bankers.

There are several other positive signs. The price of oil continues to remain low. President Baraka Hussein Obama, with the support of his Democratic majority in Congress, has succeeded in passing a massive stimulus package. This stimulus package as it is called is nearly $800 billion worth of mostly government spending.

This package has come on top of nearly $2 trillion being pumped into American banks. In other words almost $3 trillion is getting spent on restarting the American economy. But is it going to be enough? That is the massive historical question.

My personal feeling is still ambivalence towards these amounts being spent.

I am highly opposed to the massive money poured into banks that did not lend money to consumers. Some of these shameless perpetrators of corporate malfeasance, and gross negligence and incompetence, went on to give themselves billions of dollars in bonuses. One yearns for the days of public hanging of vile characters like that.

Similarly, the money being spent on big government projects are not the answer for short-term solutions that we need to jumpstart the economy really quickly. For example, many projects will take months, if not years, to actually get rolling. Many approval processes and similar formalities will insure other delays. That means any hiring or new jobs that come from these projects may take years to come into the economy.

As a matter of fact, if the economy recovers on its own, especially with the private sector leading the way, it is even possible that by the time these government projects come online most of the capable talent will already be in private service. That means either less experienced or less capable people will end up running those projects. That increases the likelihood of failure and wasted money.

For months I have been proposing an alternate economic recovery plan. My proposal was based not on spending $3 trillion but one trillion.

My proposal is very simple. I suggest that the government set aside $1 trillion and create a state run bank. This bank would issue a short-term limited use credit card. On average the $1 trillion would be given out as a $10,000 credit card to 100 million American households. The range of credit available on these cards would be $5000-$25,000 (hence the average of about $10,000 per household).

The credit cards would be issued with a very simple set of rules. They would only be given to people who are legal residents, or citizens, and who had paid taxes in the last three years. They would not have filed bankruptcy during that period. People would have between 30 and 90 days to use up the entire limit on their credit card. That means “use it or lose it” would be the rule.

This would ensure that one trillion American dollars would jump right back into the economy within 30-90 days. People would be allowed to buy anything legal at any American merchant who accepts these credit cards. These credit cards could even be used to buy an American automobile, if people wanted to. That way American consumers money would be going to American automakers to help them recover – but without it being a no strings attached bailout, as was previously being asked for.

This credit card would not be a giveaway. The entire money borrowed by the consumers would have to be repaid in full, with interest, to the government. However, instead of 15-25% interest rates that most banks charge on credit cards, if they were even issuing new credit, people would be able to pay in this credit card loan back to the government at a nominal interest rate of about 5%.

Even at this 5% rate consumers would be saving a ton of money in interest payments. At the same time even the government would be making a lot more money in interest income than it has been getting from literally giving away taxpayer money to banks at nearly 0%.

Instead of the government trying to set up the infrastructure for doing this, I would have MasterCard, Visa and American Express compete for the business of merchant processing. The condition would be that they would not charge the typical 3-5% transaction fee to merchants but 0.5%
In exchange merchants would have to pass that in savings to consumers. It would still be a win-win-win for everybody.

The credit card companies would still get to process hundreds of millions of new transactions – without having to do any marketing. Merchants would be ensured of immediate new cash coming in through these transactions – without additional cost. Consumers would benefit from the lower costs being passed on to them – without having to wait for expensive credit lines from sleazy banks.

People would have the choice of paying this credit card in monthly statement payments, just like any other credit card. In addition they could also make payments to this credit card loan by adding some of the amount due to the annual taxes that they pay.

Within five years most of the money will be recovered in full, with interest. $1 trillion will immediately go into the US economy to jumpstart it. Many consumers will be able to buy things that they are unable to afford for lack of credit right now. Thousands of merchants will be able to stay in business with the influx of cash. States will benefit from sales tax revenues starting up again. Manufacturers will be able to keep factories running and people employed. Above all, the solution benefits every American, at every level of education and economic strata, not just a few.

I believe my $1 trillion answer is the solution to the $3 trillion question. What do you think?

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Posted in 2009, America, Automakers, Banking, Barack Obama, Consumers, Credit Cards, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Future, Imran Anwar, Investment, Money, Obama, Politics, President | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Three Trillion Dollar Question & The Answer Is….

Simonyi’s INTENTIONAL Software History Revision?

Posted by imrananwar on June 25, 2008

I am shocked that InformationWeek would allow the publication of an interview with someone without questioning some wild claims, or possible untruths, the person made in a High Five interview with J. Nicholas Hoover on August 20, 2007.

It’s bad enough that Microsoft still cannot even successfully COPY others’ products (anyone know how to spell ZUNE), still has its vision coming from people who thought 640KB RAM was enough for everyone and the Internet was a fad, and is a company that continues to blatantly practice anti-competitive behavior as showed by the recent court findings against it in many places.

But, Charles Simonyi, now of Intentional Software, and an ex-Microsoft executive, is either delusional or intentionally revising history of the tech industry. In his HIGH FIVE Interview in InformationWeek recently, he makes the laughable claim that Microsoft was working on the GUI (graphical user interface) and trying to sell computer mice way before Apple.

If only I could dig up an old letter from Microsoft to me, in response to the offer I made to license them a mouse I had invented for disabled computer users in the 1980’s. Microsoft’s management had clearly stated to me in writing and a follow up conversation, that Microsoft had no desire or intention of ever selling hardware or computer mice as they did not see a fit with their business!

Mr. Simonyi has the money to buy a trip to space, but is either now spaced out, or just high, or just not “intentionally” truthful in his claims in the InformationWeek High Five interview. The InformationWeek writer should have dug deeper on that question but seems to have let it slide.

Imran

Posted in History, InformationWeek, Microsoft, Millionaire, Money, Space | Leave a Comment »

Pssst, Want To Make Money Monetizing Social Networking Instead Of Time-Wasting Social NOT Working?

Posted by imrananwar on June 20, 2008

FaceBook, MySpace, linkedin, and so many other social networking sites offer great ways to connect with people – and lose touch with reality (and the total time spent on a computer). That is even before location-aware GPS and RFID devices, married to addictive platforms like FaceBook, Twitter and MySpaceTime.net (more on that later) make social networking mean even more being social and not working even during working hours.

It is so ironic that just about 16 years I wrote an article contradicting people’s then assertion that computers and the Internet were going to make us all anti-social.

Having started what was considered the first online matrimonial sites, at http://imran.com, I dared to disagree.

I felt that though we may spend more time on our computers, the Internet would actually help us find that one in a million connection from places around the world we could never have gone or known or met that person.

Little did I realize how social networking would grow. Lesson learnt, something that you consider merely a social observation, or the earliest makings of a trend, must be pursued zealously even as the trend changes shapes and directions from market forces. If you are riding, even shaping, it along the way, your opportunities to start something huge are….well, huge.

Of course, as is my forte, I have a knack for starting new things. But, in the past I also had a “rebel without a cause” habit of not sticking around in such businesses long enough to become a millionaire off them. So, my advice is to never lose your idealism – as that is what will help you achieve the impossible. But, temper that idealism with pragmatism.

Wanting something to be a commercial success does not necessarily mean you “sold out” your dream. Take an alternate view. If you work hard and make Project X a huge money-making success, even if you have to sell the company to investors or venture capitalists, you did not sell out.

All you did was leverage Project X to give you the freedom to freely experiment and play with your many other some-crazy some-great ideas without being worried about getting funding for them. That can take you from being a “serial entrepreneur” to a “parallel serial entrepreneur”, capable of trying multiple new ideas and businesses and achieving success far beyond what Project X alone would have given you.

In my own case, idealism was a strength, but it was also definitely a huge liability. Usually, I sat back and a few years later watched someone else do the same thing, with funding instead of personal funds, and grow rich/er. I saw the same thing as online dating grow into a huge business with the likes of match.com and others many years after I had launched the first matrimonials database.

When I started Internet email for my native country of Pakistan, I also became “co-owner and co-founder” of the .PK top level domain with my friend and neighbor, the technical genius Ashar Nisar, who went on to establish PKNIC to manage the ccTLD.

Besides getting a kick out of being called “father of the Internet” (at least in Pakistan), I even gave many people free email addresses on imran.pk (the country’s first email provider and ISP) to promote email. But, never could I have imagined that sticking around giving something for free I could later have sold it to a giant corporation as hotmail.com did a few years later. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Today, FREE is a valid business model. If you grow a business large enough, no matter how much money it is losing, as long as you have enough users, someone will buy you out for millions of Dollars.

When I started writing an online journal and political opinions (Occasionally Obnoxious, Obviously Outspoken Opinions) at http://imran.com in 1995-96, little did I know that I could have built some sort of “blogging” empire on that.

Once again, despite having an MBA and thinking of myself as a savvy entrepreneur, I missed the boat. So, look around you – some of the very ordinary problems you are solving daily without thinking twice may hold within them huge business opportunities. First, recognize them. Then, go for them with everything you’ve got.

In 1995 I became a heavy GPS user in boating and later in aviation as a pilot. In 1998-2000 I became CEO of EverTrac, among the first out the gate selling RFID and GPS based solutions. Alas, as usual, like Panasonic’s slogan, I was just slightly ahead of my time.

Fortunately, EverTrac and my team survived the dot-com bust, but only because we were gobbled by a Fortune 50 level company – which did nothing with what they bought. Lesson learnt. It’s important to survive, but if you sell out to a big company, try not to feel heartache when they don’t make any use of the technology.

But, this current new momentum of GPS based devices we are seeing will prove I was on the right…. umm.. EverTrac?

Hopefully, this time, with my current projects, covering GPS, social networking and mobile-monetization – I’ll actually make some “real” money if I can sell something to a Google or Yahoo or, some even smarter business!

If that does not happen, I guess the pattern (or call it the Corporate Culture of an Entrepreneur) here is that I love to start new things, just before their time, that others make billions off later. But, so what? The sheer joy of starting something new, taking something from an idea that everyone says is dumb, or will never work, and making it at least take shape, get launched, and become popular is, in itself, a huge reward.

So, feel free to call me about what I an doing now. Surely I can help you become a Web 2.0 multi-millionaire doing whatever I am too lazy (or not smart enough 🙂 ) to make money from!

Good luck and God Speed, fellow entrepreneurs.

Posted in Billionaire, Business, Entrepreneur, FaceBook, Google, GPS, Innovation, Internet, Invention, Media, Monetization, Money, MySpace, MySpaceTime, New Media, Online, Opportunity, Pakistan, Revenue, Strategy, Technology, Time, Venture Capital | 5 Comments »

 
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