Sunday, December 18, 2016

Do You Do Your Own Taxes? Half Off on Tax Software Today Only

For those of you that do your own taxes, you may want to get the H&R Block Tax Software, which is on sale for today only. The discount is as much as 51%. The discount applies to both PCs and Macs.
Here are the offers:
H&R Block Tax Software Deluxe + State 2016 Win + Refund Bonus Offer(As an example, normally $44.99, today only, $21.99, a 51% discount)
Remember, these discounts are available for today only!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Exclusive Interview with Dan Schatt CCO of Stockpile: World’s First Gift Cards for Stocks

Stockpile Stock Gift Card
Reprinted courtesy of Stockerblog.com

The following informative interview was provided by Dan Schatt, the Chief Commercial Officer at Stockpile, which is a provider of the world’s first gift cards for stocks, making it extremely easy for the average consumer to invest in the stock market.
Stockpile gift cards are now available at local grocery and retail locations, including:
  • Toys“R”Us
  • Safeway
  • Office Depot / Office Max
  • Kmart
  • Giant Eagle
  • Buehlers
  • Lowes
Over a thousand stocks are available as gift cards, including ETFs and ADRs. Some of the most popular gift cards are for:
  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • BMW
  • Coca-Cola
  • Disney
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • eBay
  • Facebook
  • Hershey
The Interview
You will certainly enjoy all this great information that Dan Schatt provides.
To stream the interview, click:

You can download as an mp3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
More information about Stockpile can be found at Stockpile.com
Let us know what you think about this interview by entering your comments in the comment section below.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Four Failure Points that Undermine Biz Success: #1 is Dont Follow Your Passion

by Ed McLaughlin

Veteran entrepreneur and former Fortune 100 executive, Ed McLaughlin comments below about the reality that Americans can see failure as a stepping stone to success, “It’s difficult to celebrate failure as a stepping stone to startup success if entrepreneurs can’t pay their bills, provide for their families, meet payroll or realize their business visions.” Ed's own research tells us that 75% of new businesses fail within the first five years. Ed continues with this challenge for small business owners and entrepreneurs in some of the big ‘innovation-driven’ cities, “What if we could turn the tables on the startup failure rate by introducing a new set of business principles that increases the probability of startup success?” He also offers the four failure points things that undermine the success of a small business below, excerpted from his book, using his own company as an example. Ed has also highlighted the framework for sustainability and profitability in his new book, The Purpose Is Profit: The Truth about Starting and Building Your Own Business, by focusing entrepreneurs on these principles, including: Distinctive Competence, Dynamic Planning, and the Ten Commandments of Startup Profit.

Only nine months after starting USI, I launched a second business called Sigma Communications Inc., or Sigma for short. Starting Sigma had been the culmination of a long-term vision to create a vehicle that would more efficiently connect buyers and sellers of commercial real estate. After three years of bleeding red ink, I was forced to shut down Sigma.
Here are the 4 failure points that undermined the success of Sigma Communications.  

             Failure Point #1: Starting a business based on passion alone, rather than building a business based on distinctive competence.  
When I started Sigma, I believed that my passion for publishing the magazine would trump everything else. That proved to be a costly assumption. The hardest lesson I learned from the Sigma experience is that a venture filled with passion is not enough. You will substantially increase your probability of startup success if you build a business based on your distinctive competence.

Failure Point #2: Starting up without preorders to validate your business model. 
I made the fateful decision to launch the magazine without selling advertising and securing paying customers first. In the end analysis, I took a huge gamble on a concept business with an untested business model. Sigma spent millions before I shuttered the business in failure. Securing preorders is the single most important point of validation for a startup.

Failure Point #3: Launching your business without adequate time and funding to reach profitability. 
Unfortunately, I had not properly factored the size and scale of Sigma, nor how long it would take to ramp-up to profitability. Since I had never manufactured and shipped a product before, I underestimated the continuous cash drain from ongoing production and distribution. Rather than bootstrapping the business with the profits from USI, I should have lined-up outside funding with a more reasonable timeline to breakeven. Make sure to allocate the time and the funding needed to achieve profitability. 

Failure Point #4: Closing your ears to the advice of industry experts. 
Rather than listening to my advisors, I convinced myself that I could beat the normal ramp-up to profitability in the publishing industry. My unbridled passion for becoming a publisher, combined with my lack of distinctive competence put blinders on me. Cultivate relationships and heed the advice of industry experts.

Ed McLaughlin is the founder & CEO of Blue Sunsets LLC, a real estate and angel investment firm based in Darien, CT. Previously, McLaughlin founded and served as chairman & CEO of United Systems Integrators (USI) Corporation, a corporate real estate outsourcing firm, sold to Johnson Controls (JCI) in 2005. In 2001, he earned Entrepreneur of the Year honors from Ernst & Young, and USI was named to the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest growing companies. His book,  The Purpose Is Profit: The Truth about Starting and Building Your Own Business, is available on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rob Hunt Interview - Largest Marijuana Private Equity Fund

Reprinted courtesy of Stockerblog.com

The following fascinating interview was provided by Rob Hunt, a partner and the Lead Industry Executive at Tuatara Capital, the largest private equity fund in the cannabis industry. He also has an extensive background in cannabis business in Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine as well.

Rob  Hunt has more than 15 years of experience in the cannabis industry as an attorney, a consultant, and a serial entrepreneur. Rob is currently a Partner, and the Lead Industry Executive of Tuatara Capital.

Mr. Hunt was formerly the Chairman of the Coalition for Responsible Patient Care, based in MA, where he spearheaded the initiative to help develop and implement the fledgling medical cannabis market in the Commonwealth. He was the principal developer of cannabis.org, a website focused on changing the scheduling of cannabis away from being a schedule I drug on the Federal Government’s list of controlled substances, Rob still authors all of the written commentary on the cannabis.org Facebook page where he has an audience of close to 20,000 readers.

We cover a lot in this interview, including:
  • The California marijuana proposition
  • Why marijuana has remained illegal for so long
  • The current credit card ban on dispensaries 
  • Opinion on publicly traded cannabis stocks
  • Crowdfunding for marijuana related companies
  • Willie Nelson's brand of marijuana
  • Advice for investors interested in allocating funds to the cannabis industry
  • Advice for those who are interested in setting up a marijuana startup

The Interview

You will certainly enjoy all this great information that Rob Hunt provides.

To stream the interview, click:

You can download as an mp3 by right-clicking here and choosing "save as."

More information about Tuatara Capital can be found HERE.

Let us know what you think about this interview by entering your comments in the comment section below. You can also check out the stocks in the WallStreetNewsnetwork.com Marijuana Stock Index.

All opinions are those of Rob Hunt, and do not represent the opinions of Stockerblog.com or the interviewer. Neither Stockerblog nor the interviewer nor the interviewee are rendering tax, legal, or investment advice in this interview.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Travel Hacks for Trips to South Korea

Are you planning to take a trip to South Korea, for business or even for pleasure? I recently got back from Seoul and I have some hacks for you to be aware of.

Cheap Flights

First, in regards to flying there, I was able to get a round trip non-stop ticket from San Francisco to Seoul in Economy Class for only $998 plus taxes. And I was able to make this reservation just a couple days ahead of the flight. I found the flight through CheapoAir.com.

The airplane was a 747-8. The airline was Korean Air, a great airline with outstanding service. One thing you need to be aware of with Korean Air is that they base your carryon limits by weight. So if you have a carryon bag and a briefcase, they will weigh them together. If it exceeds that weight, they will require you to check your carryon bag. Check your particular airline to see what their requirements are.

Backup Underwear

My suggestion? I always carry spare underpants, undershirt, and socks in my briefcase/computercase. So if you are forced to check your carryon, and it gets temporarily lost, at least you will have a change of underwear.

Getting through Security

The security issue can always be a hassle. I use a fanny pack, also referred to as a waist pack, one with several pockets. All airports require that you take all metal out of your pockets, and many, including Seoul, require that you take everything out of your pockets. These packs are great for throwing in your keys, your coins, and your iPhone, plus anything else that might be in your pockets, like your passport. It’s nice to know that everything is in one place.

I never run my waist pack through the detector by itself; I always put it in one of those bins, along with my jacket and shoes (unless I’m leaving Korea – more about that later). Also, I always clip the strap together before running it through, so that a loose strap doesn’t get caught on anything in the X-ray machine. I actually had that happen to a pack once, a long time ago. The security guys kept running one of my shoes through the machine to knock it loose.

Language Barrier

You don’t have to worry about the language issue for Korean Air as all the flight attendants speak English. When you arrive at your seat, you will find a blanket wrapped in plastic, a pillow, a large bottle of water, slippers, and headphones.

Every passenger gets a huge television screen in front of them, not the little screen you seen on several other airlines, but large screens that take up the whole width of the seat in front of you. I watched three movies on the flight back and still had time to get some sleep. They were showing such movies as The Revenant, Spotlight, and Concussion.

Transportation From the Airport to Seoul

There are various busses and subway trains that you can take from Incheon to downtown Seoul. I didn’t want to take any chances with getting on the wrong bus or train, and dealing with money and tickets when I first arrived. And I wasn’t sure about taxis. So I used a service called FuntasticKorea, which provides an airport transfer shuttle into Seoul. I paid for it ahead of time, ordering the small van to Gangnam, for 80,000 won (approximately $68).

They said that the driver would meet me at Gate 8 at exactly 90 minutes after my plane lands. This was to allow for getting luggage and going through customs and immigration. Sure enough, we both show up at exactly 90 minutes after landing time.

The ride was great. I was the only one in the van, and got to see the enormous number of buildings on the drive in.


There are plenty of great hotels to stay at in Seoul. I stayed at the Intercontinental Grand Seoul Parnas, one of two Intercontinental Hotels in Gangnam. There was a proximity advantage to staying at either of these hotels, which I will cover shortly.


None of the taxi drivers spoke English, at least none that I rode with. Here is a trick I used to give them directions. Since I had my laptop with me, and the hotel provided free wifi, I would look up on the Internet where I wanted to go. I would then copy the name and address of the location, go to Google Translate, paste it in to the English side on the left, choose Korean on the right and click Translate. Now the final step. I took out my iPhone and took a picture of the Korean language on the screen.  I was then able to show the taxi drivers the picture on my phone with the address.

 Heading Home

A convenient way to return to Incheon Airport is using a CALT bus. CALT stands for City Airport, Logis & Travel. CALT is located between both the Intercontinental Hotels and above the huge COEX underground mall. The CALT bus is non-stop and it is sit anywhere on the bus, not assigned seating. You can buy a ticket with a credit card at one of the machines there. The price is just 16,000 won (about $14).

The Most Important Tip of All

One other advantage of using CALT is that they have an immigration office right there, which can expedite your navigation through the airport. There is literally no line at the CALT immigration office. They print out your boarding pass and stamp it with a green circular stamp. This is important.

The bus ride was comfortable and arrived at the far end of the airport in about an hour and a half. So I walked up to the long line for security, showed the agent my boarding pass with the green stamp, and the agent literally walked me over to the “express” security line with only two guys ahead of me. I did not have to take off my shoes.

I then headed over to the Korean immigration department, and stood in the back of a long line. But I immediately showed my boarding pass to an immigration agent directing the line of people, and she sent me way over to the left hand side, which was the immigration line for diplomats. There was no one at all in line. I showed my passport and boarding pass with the green stamp, and the officer waived me through.

Returning flight time was 9.5 hours (going there was 11 hours). Immigration in San Francisco was semi-automated. That form you fill out on the plane is basically duplicated on the kiosk machines that basically ask you all the same questions. The machines print out an immigration receipt. You then stand in line and show the officer the receipt who tells you “Welcome home.”

Two more Tips
  1. Speaking of tips, do not tip anyone in South Korea. They consider it an insult. This includes restaurants, taxi drivers, and hotel workers.
  2. Don’t buy Korean currency at a currency shop in a US airport. I was charged a 16% spread plus a $9.95 service charge. I recommend ordering currency through your bank. Make sure you order it with enough days ahead of time so that you can get it before you leave. For many banks, it can take two to five business days for the money to come in.

Hopefully, you will have a trip to the clean, safe, and friendly country of South Korea that will be as enjoyable as mine was. Happy travels!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Latest Books on Startups

Are you looking to start a startup? Are you looking to improve your startup? Many books are hot off the presses that cover how to create your own business and entrepreneurship. One of them even covers 3D printing. Here are several worth checking out for your summer reading.

Effective DevOps: Building a Culture of Collaboration, Affinity, and Tooling at Scale by Jennifer Davis and Katherine Daniels
Some companies think that adopting devops means bringing in specialists or a host of new tools. With this practical guide, you’ll learn why devops is a professional and cultural movement that calls for change from inside your organization. Authors Katherine Daniels and Jennifer Davis provide several approaches for improving collaboration within teams, creating affinity among teams, promoting efficient tool usage in your company, and scaling up what works throughout your organization’s inflection points.
DevOps stresses iterative efforts to break down information silos, monitor relationships, and repair misunderstandings that arise between and within teams in your organization. By applying the actionable strategies in this book, you can make sustainable changes in your environment regardless of your level within your organization.
Before Disrupting Healthcare: What Innovators Need To Know by Pallav Sharda
Healthcare is an industry unlike any other — it’s a matter of life and death, and no field poses as much reward or as many challenges for tech entrepreneurs. 
Before Disrupting Healthcare is a must-read for anyone working on, or investing in, health information products. Health IT veteran Pallav Sharda draws on a dozen years of real-world experience to bring you to the leading edge of health software innovation. 
Before Disrupting Healthcare combines an introduction with the foundational ideas and products of today with a look into what emerging IT trends will rule the future. Outsiders can use this book to become insiders, and insiders can become experts. 
You’ll learn why Electronic Health Records, Health Information Exchanges, Accountable Care Organizations, and Meaningful Use regulation matter so much today―and what will matter even more tomorrow.

The Decentralized and Networked Future of Value Creation: 3D Printing and its Implications for Society, Industry, and Sustainable Development by Jan-Peter Ferdinand and Ulrich Petschow
This book identifies, analyzes and discusses the current trends of digitalized, decentralized, and networked physical value creation by focusing on the particular example of 3D printing. In addition to evaluating 3D printing’s disruptive potentials against a broader economic background, it also addresses the technology’s potential impacts on sustainability and emerging modes of bottom-up and community-based innovation.  Emphasizing these topics from economic, technical, social and environmental perspectives, the book offers a multifaceted overview that scrutinizes the scenario of a fundamental transition: from a centralized to a far more decentralized system of value creation.

Scaling Lean: Mastering the Key Metrics for Startup Growth by Ash Maurya
You’ve talked to customers. You’ve identified problems that need solving, and maybe even built a minimum viable product. But now there’s a second bridge to cross. How do you tell whether your idea represents a viable business? Do you really have to go through the whole cycle of development, failure, iteration, tweak, repeat? 
Scaling Lean offers an invaluable blueprint for mod­eling startup success. You’ll learn the essential metrics that measure the output of a working business model, give you the pulse of your company, communicate its health to investors, and enable you to make precise interventions when things go wrong. 

Spark: Take Your Business From Struggle to Significance by David A. Hilton
In this fast-paced allegorical non-fiction, our hero is about to learn all the lessons of business the hard way so that you do not have to. His story is a combination of a fast-paced novel with compelling, impactful and eminently executable business lessons. Join Jack’s journey and take your business from struggle to success, where you’ll find more time, more money and, more importantly, more freedom.

Start Your Business on a Ramen Noodle Budget: 12 Lessons on Becoming a Young Entrepreneur When You are Broke! by Felecia Hatcher
You don't need millions of dollars to get your business idea off the ground, but you do need to START, with what you have and where you probably are financially-on a Ramen Noodle budget! Think about it: Ramen Noodles are one of the cheapest meals on the planet, but when you get creative and add ingredients you have at your fingertips, you can transform it from an inexpensive meal from your college "glory days" into a "grown-up" gourmet meal. So, if you can get creative with Ramen Noodles, you can get creative with limited resources and overcome any roadblocks to starting your own business. You know you have what it takes to launch a startup. It's time to harness that gritty scrappiness, tap into your network to gather the resources you need to launch your business, and stand out-even with limited funds.

Combatting Disruptive Change: Beating Unruly Competition at Their Own Game by Ian I. Mitroff
This book is a critical examination of the main ideas regarding disruptive change and startups. It systematically lays out the full set of challenges and tasks one needs to master in order for existing organizations to weather severe change or make a startup successful. Ian Mitroff outlines the protective actions business leaders must take to ensure their continued existence, providing a clear demonstration of the key roles leaders must assume such as Applied Epistemologist, Applied Ethicist, Applied Systems Thinker, Applied Social Psychologist, and Applied Crisis Manager, and how to perform these roles competently.
Citing cases such as Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb, this book uniquely analyzes the disrupting agent in emerging industries, which is crucial for success in today’s complex and turbulent world. It will be of value to students, academics, and entrepreneurs looking to develop a new product or service.

The Following Book is a Best Seller

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly
Much of what will happen in the next thirty years is inevitable, driven by technological trends that are already in motion. In this fascinating, provocative new book, Kevin Kelly provides an optimistic road map for the future, showing how the coming changes in our lives—from virtual reality in the home to an on-demand economy to artificial intelligence embedded in everything we manufacture—can be understood as the result of a few long-term, accelerating forces. Kelly both describes these deep trends—interacting, cognifying, flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, tracking, and questioning—and demonstrates how they overlap and are codependent on one another. These larger forces will completely revolutionize the way we buy, work, learn, and communicate with each other. By understanding and embracing them, says Kelly, it will be easier for us to remain on top of the coming wave of changes and to arrange our day-to-day relationships with technology in ways that bring forth maximum benefits. Kelly’s bright, hopeful book will be indispensable to anyone who seeks guidance on where their business, industry, or life is heading—what to invent, where to work, in what to invest, how to better reach customers, and what to begin to put into place—as this new world emerges.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summary of the 2016 Twitter Annual Meeting

Article reprinted courtesy of Stockerblog.com 

Jack Dorsey, CEO,
Anthony Noto, CFO,
Vijaya Gadde, General Counsel
Twitter (TWTR)
On May 25, 2016, the Twitter Annual Meeting was held at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, California. There was a turnout of about 60 shareholders. At last year's meeting, Jesse Jackson showed up, but he wasn't there for the meeting this year. On the stage were Jack Dorsey, CEO, Anthony Noto, CFO, and Vijaya Gadde, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary.

Jack Dorsey lead off the meeting showing a presentation of various tweets and videos. He also went over the five priorities for the company, including refining core services and safety. He mentioned the live streaming deal with the NFL.

Then Noto went over the financials. The business part of the meeting, run by Gadde,  took about 15 minutes, where Jack Dorsey and Hugh Johnston were elected to the Board of Directors to serve until the 2019 annual meeting. Also, the Name Executive Officer Compensation passed, the appointment of PriceWaterhouseCoopers as the accounting firm passed, and and the approval of the 2016 Equity Incentive Plan passed.

Then the fun part began: the question and answer period. The first shareholder asked how the expense for software engineers is shown on the financial statements (mostly R&D), and how the stock based compensation is shown (R&D).  Noto explained that the company currently doesn't use stock options; it only issues restricted stock.

Twitter Annual Shareholders Meeting
The same shareholder also asked what types of software the programmers use. Dorsey took that question and said that it has been a transition, starting with Ruby, then Java, Objective-C, then Swift. He said that several programming languages are used, and the programmers use whatever they need to get the job done.

The next shareholder came up with three new verified statuses. He had previously recommended three last year, two of which have been verified.

One young woman came up with a couple suggestions. One was having the ability to send money through Twitter. The other was having the ability to buy Twitter stock through Twitter. Dorsey said that they are looking into a money transfer system.

A shareholder asked about what the catalyst is for an increase in the stock price and both Dorsey and Noto emphasized the push for more live streaming in the areas of sports, entertainment, and news and politics.

When asked if they were open to a takeover offer or a partnership, the answer was essentially no.

Finally, the $3.6 billion in cash that the company has, came up in the Q&A. Noto said that they have a couple of options: share buybacks and acquisitions. Management is regularly evaluation how the money should be spent.

Disclosure: Author owns TWTR.
Article reprinted courtesy of Stockerblog.com 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

It is Now Legal

Monday, May 16, 2016, was a significant day for investors, especially non-accredited investors. First, let me give you some background.

Up until that day, if you wanted to invest in private equity, venture capital, or startups, you basically had to be an accredited investor. An accredited investor is anyone who earned income that exceeded $200,000 (or $300,000 together with a spouse) in each of the prior two years, and reasonably expects the same for the current year, OR has a net worth over $1 million, either alone or together with a spouse (excluding the value of the person’s primary residence).

With these very high thresholds, most investors were excluded from participating hot private deals, especially pre-IPO investments. However, with the implementation of Title III of the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act), the rules have changed giving all investors more of a level playing field for investing in private equity offerings.

As an example, if you have a net worth or income less than $100,000, you can invest the lower of either $2,000 or 5% of your annual income or net worth. Yet, there is a $2,000 floor, so you can invest a minimum of $2,000 per year without regard to your annual income or net worth.

This is similar to crowdfunding, yet instead of the contributor getting a product or being invited to a launch party, they receive equity in the company.

It is not just the small and medium size investors who benefit, the small startups will now have a lot of advantages. such as simplified financial disclosures and streamlined filings, as long as the amount raised  is less than $1 million.

If you feel so inclined to read the actual Securities and Exchange Commission Summary of Title III, you can read it here.

Some of the top equity crowdfunding platforms include CircleUp, RockThePost, MicroVentures, AngelList, and FoundersClub.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Zombie Companies Don’t Have to Haunt Angel Investors

Tech Coast Angels Create Lost Causes Fund So Members Can Capture Tax Loss

IRVINE, Calif. -- May 6, 2016 – Tech Coast Angels has launched an innovative way in which the angel network can assist its members realize tax losses at Zombie companies (companies that have essentially shut down but have not dissolved). The new approach will be announced at the Angel Capital Association Summit next week in Philadelphia.

One of any angel investor’s biggest challenges is what happens when an investment turns essentially worthless, yet the company does not shut down or claim bankruptcy. This can happen either due to struggles in the company’s business, or through a recapitalization of the equity of the company.  Without a document of dissolution, an angel investor cannot declare a tax loss, and the injured startup continues to haunt the investor’s bottom line. While there have been solutions (such as selling holdings to a friend for $1), those answers seem complicated, involve extensive paperwork--and, in reality, most angels don’t pursue them.

“TCA’s Lost Causes Fund provides our members with a solution to these moribund startups on life support,” explained John Harbison, chairman of Tech Coast Angels. “Members can sell shares of a Zombie company to TCA at $1 per holding, which gives them a legitimate tax write-off, since the transaction is documented and irreversible.”

This allows TCA’s members to accelerate recognition of their losses and improve returns.

The Lost Causes Fund is available only to members of Tech Coast Angels, and the holding must be in a TCA Portfolio company.  Should there be a “Lazurus” resurgence of the company and an eventual gain, the angel network will donate any net proceeds for charitable purposes to support entrepreneurship.

Mr. Harbison will discuss the details of TCA’s Lost Causes Fund at The Angel Capital Association Summit in Philadelphia.  His presentation is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 at 11:00 am.  Mr. Harbison is also available for interview before and after the ACA Summit.  Members of media attending the ACA Summit may also request an interview.

About Tech Coast Angels:

Tech Coast Angels (TCA) is one of the largest angel investment groups in the US.  The group comprises over 300 angel members with experience spanning all aspects of successful leadership in almost every industry in five networks that encompass Southern California.  TCA is the leader in providing funding, guidance, mentorship and leadership experience to early-stage, high-growth, exciting companies in Southern California.  CB Insights has ranked TCA ahead of all other angel groups as the strongest network in the country.

Since its founding in 1997, Tech Coast Angels have invested over $176 million in more than 300 companies and have helped attract more than $1.5 billion in additional capital/follow-on rounds, mostly from venture capital firms. For more information, please visit www.techcoastangels.com.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Top Selling Books for Startups

Are you considering a startup? Are you looking to improve the business, sales, and operations of your startup? There are plenty of books for startups available on Amazon. Here are the top sellers.

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businessesby Eric Ries

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Futureby Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

The Startup Playbook: Secrets of the Fastest-Growing Startups from Their Founding Entrepreneurs by Sam Altman and Gregory Koberger

Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup by Bill Aulet

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf

All of the above have at least four and a half stars. I really enjoy The Lean Startup and The $100 Startup. I haven't had a chance to read the others yet.

Read on!!!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Postage and Mail Hacks for Startups

Some startups use FedEx, some use UPS. All have to use the United States Postal Service (USPS) at some point in their operations, and some have found that the Post Office can be cheaper and more efficient than the private sector delivery services. Also, many startups use the USPS as their primary delivery service for their products.

Fortunately, there are many "hacks" available to reduce the cost of your postage, and in certain instances,  get Express Mail delivery service for free. (This actually happened to me this week.) Hopefully you will find these strategies of use, and save your company some money.

Express Mail Delivery for Free

If you have ever had to send something fast with a guarantee, the USPS has something called Priority Mail Express. Although the name of the service says "1-Day," it is actually one or two days depending on various factors. For example, if you mail it on a Saturday, it will arrive on a Tuesday by 12 noon.

Earlier this week, I mailed an envelope using Priority Mail Express on a Tuesday afternoon from the San Francisco area to Philadelphia, and it was guaranteed to arrive by Thursday at 12 noon. Keep an eye on the word "guaranteed" as I will cover that shortly.

Anyway, the cost to send something by Express is currently $31.20, or if you use one of the post office's flat rate envelopes (also available are legal size envelopes and padded envelopes for the same cost of postage), the price is only $22.95. By the way, the envelopes that the post office provides are free.

Here's the deal. If it doesn't arrive by when it is stated on the receipt (by 12 noon within 2 business days), you get a complete refund of your cost. And they pay you immediately (no waiting for a check to arrive weeks later). And they pay you in cash even if you originally charged the postage on a credit card.

The point I am trying to make is that you need to check when your Express mail arrives. Easiest way is to go to the USPS web site and type in the tracking number in the Search Box in the upper right hand corner. This is especially true if you send out a lot of mail using Express, as the $22.95 per envelope can add up.

Obviously, there is nothing you can do about your letter or package arriving after the deadline besides getting a refund, but I have sent letters through both FedEx and UPS that arrived after the deadline also.

One other thing I should mention is that in addition to the money back guarantee and free tracking, you also get up to $100 in insurance for free.

The process of getting a refund is simple. You must go into your local post office with both the register receipt and the Express Mail receipt (make copies for yourself because the PO will keep the originals when you request the refund.)

They will hand you a Form 3533-GE to fill out, which just asks for your name, address, phone number, and signature. You hand it to them, they hand you your cash refund, and you sign the back of the form saying that you received the refund.

Free Mail Tracking to Canada

OK, let's say you want to mail some important documents to Canada, and you are not concerned about delivery time but you are concerned about tracking the envelope and confirmation of delivery. For example, maybe you are mailing some documents or a contract in a large envelope that weighs a couple ounces.

Here are your primary options:
Priority Mail Express International for at least $40.95
First Class Mail International Registered for $16.55

Pretty expensive for half a dozen pages. By the way, Priority Mail International (cheaper than Priority Mail Express International but takes a little longer) does NOT provide tracking. So what's the alternative to these high prices?

You can send it as a package, also known interchangeably as a parcel, and use a service called First Class Package International, and get tracking for free. This would bring the cost down to a more reasonable $9.50.

To turn your envelope into a parcel/package, you need to get a stiff piece of cardboard and slide it into the envelope. The best option is corrugated cardboard, because it is lightweight. You can cut a piece out of a large box. Do NOT use a flexible piece of cardboard. The envelope must be considered "rigid."

There is one more important step. You cannot get the free tracking for this service by going in to your local post office. You MUST order your postage online.

Before you get started, you obviously need to know the weight of your envelope. Need a good postage scale? Accuteck makes a good one called the Accuteck All-In-One Digital Shipping Postal Scale. The retail price on it is $49.99 but it is on sale at Amazon right now for only $16.99. Click here for more information on it.

Here are the steps:
1. If you don't already have an account with the post office, you need to set one up by going to https://reg.usps.com/entreg/RegistrationAction_input
2. Go to the Calculate a Price webpage here: https://postcalc.usps.com
3. Enter Canada for your destination and fill in the rest of the fields
4. In the bottom section, choose Large Envelope (lower section of step 5)
5. For step 6, enter the weight in round numbers, and round up. (e.g. if the envelope weight 2.2 ounces, enter 3 ounces.) Then click Continue.
6. Enter the From Zip Code and To Postal Code, then click Continue
7. Check the box that says "The Large Envelope is too Rigid – does not bend easily."
8. On the International Services page, scroll down and click on the blue bar that says First Class International Options and click the little circle next to First Class Package International Service
9. Click the button that says Custom Forms and Extra Services
10. Click the checkbox next to Electronic USPS Delivery Confirmation International. You will notice that for Retail, it says Not Available, but for Click-N-Ship, it says No Charge.
11. Click Continue, then click Print Postage. You will need to log in, enter the appropriate information (don't use strange symbols in the fields), and charge your postage to a major credit card. (By the way, there is a check box at the beginning which asks if you want to be notified of the tracking by email. I highly recommend this.)
12. You will then need to print out your half sheet postage form (looks like a customs form) and tape it to the front of your envelope. Don't cover bar codes with any tape.

Free Mail Tracking to Europe

Need to send an envelope of paperwork to Germany or the UK and want to get tracking without having to pay the high price of Express or Registered Mail? No problem, just follow the directions for Canada and go through the same steps to send your envelope.

Here is what you can save. Express will cost you $60.75, and $17.31 for Registered. But sending it as a parcel with cardboard in it will only cost $13.50. In addition, I have noticed that First Class Package International travels much faster than Registered International, because with Registered, it needs to be signed for every step of the way.

Remember, in order to get this price, it must be purchased online.

Free Mail Tracking in the US

Sending paperwork within the United States? It is pretty much the same process to send internationally. Here is how the numbers work out if you want tracking:
Priority Mail $6.45
First Class with Registered $14.20
First Class with Certified $4.65 (delivery verification)

So the alternative is First Class Mail Parcel, which would cost only $2.54 for the same example. There is one BIG difference between buying postage for First Class Mail Parcel in the US versus First Class Mail Parcel internationally. Unfortunately, you cannot buy postage online for First Class Mail Parcel in the US. It must be purchased at the post office.

Free Tracking for Books Sent Media Mail (However a Possible Cheaper Alternative)

If you send out books on a regular basis, you are probably familiar with Media Mail and its very low shipping cost. According to the USPS website, Media Mail can be used for "books, films, manuscripts, printed music, printed test materials, sound recordings, play scripts, printed educational charts, loose-leaf pages and their binders consisting of medical information, video recordings, educational reference charts, and computer-readable media."

If you are sending a box with a book weighing eight ounces, it would automatically qualify for First Class Mail Parcel which would cost $3.54. Yet, if you send by Media Mail, the price is only $2.72.

A couple issues you should be aware of. First, your package is subject to inspection. You cannot send anything else with the book or other media item; no letter, no invoice, no advertising. Otherwise your package will be delayed and returned. Second, media mail generally takes a lot longer than First Class.

Now for the "However." If the box weighs four ounces or less, you are actually better off sending by First Class Parcel, since it is cheaper. As an example, if it weighs three ounces, Media is $2.72 but First Class is only $2.54. You get the tracking and it's faster.

Buying Postage Stamps at a Discount from Retail

It may be hard to believe, but it is possible to buy unused postage stamps at a discount from face value. Many stamp shops, online stamp sellers, and many sellers on eBay sell older stamps that have never been used, sometimes way below what the retail price of the stamps are. Can't believe it? Go to eBay, type in 'Postage' or 'Postage below face' or 'Stamps below face' in the Search box, and look at what comes up. I recently found $225 worth of unused stamps offered at a current bid of $88. I just saw $24.50 of unused postage stamps for 20% below face, Buy It Now, with free shipping. There are plenty of other offers like this. I've even seen Collectible Postage Stamps Below Face Value being sold on Amazon.
Commemorative Stamps

How can this be? Often, stamp dealers will buy stamps from estates of stamp collectors and pay a price that is a huge discount to the face value of the stamps, sometimes 50% of face value. They can then afford to resell them still at a 10%, 20% or 30% discount to face to people who want to use the postage on envelopes. Years ago, small businesses may have stocked up on rolls of stamps before the Forever Stamps came out, and now it is easier for them to just sell the rolls at a discount and buy new rolls, instead of using the stamps with additional stamps to add up to the current rate.

When looking at eBay listings, the two key definitions you should know about are 'Below Face' and MNH, which stands for Mint Never-Hinged or Mint No Hinge. This means that the stamp has never been used, never cancelled and in mint condition. The hinge part refers to little hinges that collectors use to attach stamps to pages of albums. You lick them just like a stamp, so you obviously don't want any that have been hinged.

There is one other type of stamp that you may see offered, and those are the 'no gum' stamps. If the seller got these off of envelopes and packages he received in the mail that weren't cancelled, they are illegal to sell. If they are from flood damaged stamps or soaked off SASE stamps from envelopes that were never used, they are legal; however, it is a real hassle to try to glue these on envelopes whenever you want to send a letter.
Abe Lincoln Postage Stamp
If you do any sort of advertising by US Mail, you should be aware that studies have shown that envelopes with commemorative stamps are far more likely to be opened than those with just a standard postage stamp with just a flag or a metered stamp.

Hopefully, if you do a lot of shipping with the USPS, some of these ideas will help you save money on postage.

All trademarks and registered trademarks referenced above are the trademarks and registered trademarks of the United States Postal Service. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Last Day to Attend the Launch Festival in San Francisco

The Launch Festival at Fort Mason in San Francisco has been running for a couple days, and today is the last day. If you haven't attended yet, you really need to get over there. Many speakers and hundreds of exhibitors.

The Demo Pit opened at 8 am this morning and the theater doors open at 9:30 am. You really need to check out all the exhibitors.

An example is CafeX, which has a large robot arm inside a cylindrical kiosk that will pour and serve you coffee that you order through an app on your phone.

Then there is Bolt Motorbikes, which creates electric bikes that look like motorcycles but legally qualifies as bicycles.

Then there is Meadow, which is an online service that allows you to order medical marijuana through their website, and have it delivered to you.

Don't forget to stop by the Jungle Bar table and taste the cricket bar.

The exhibitors are very diverse in terms of industry, so you really don't want to miss seeing them. More info can be found at:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hey Startupers: Don't Forget to Attend the Launch Festival

The world's largest startup event will be held in San Francisco, California on March 2 through March 4. There will be 250 speeches on three stages, with 15,000 attendees. The LAUNCH Festival is designed to help founders of startups build, scale, and raise money.

Some of the more interesting companies that will be featured include:
Opendoor - the company that will provide liquidity for real estate
Udacity - the free college class company
Carbon3D - Star Trek type replicator
Houzz - connects homeowners with designers and architects
FanDuel - daily fantasy sports
Planet Labs - over 100 satellites

Founders of the above companies, and many others, will be speaking at the conference.

You still have a chance to get tickets. You have four options:
Festival Plus
Super VIP

The LAUNCH Festival is being held at Fort Mason at 2 Marina Boulevard, in San Francisco. Last years' conference was extremely successful, and I highly recommend that you attend. More info can be found at the LAUNCH website.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review: The Sustainable Edge

The book, The Sustainable Edge: 15 Minutes a Week to a Richer Entrepreneurial Life, by Ron Carson and Scott Ford, is a guide to help entrepreneurs with their work-life balance. With the spectacular growth of startups, many startup founders and entrepreneurs have their entire lives revolving around their businesses. The authors can help business owners improve in the four areas of business, teams, clients, and personal lives.

The book covers everything from knowing your core competencies to listening to your customers to setting your company's one clear annual goal to creating your brain trust to measuring your progress to time management to delivering value.

One nice feature of the book is that at the end of every chapter, there is a quick exercise to help you apply the principles of the book.

In addition, the appendix section has extensive charts, worksheets, and resources to provide further support for the reader.

The authors relate many of their personal experiences from their financial services businesses (both authors are CEOs of wealth management companies).  The authors obviously know what they are talking about as they are very successful in their fields. As a matter of fact, Barron's ranked Carson Wealth as one of the Top 100 Financial Advisors for 2015.

If you want to improve your business life while maintaining a balance with your personal life, you should check out  The Sustainable Edge.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Exclusive Interview with Ken Fisher, Billionaire Money Manager & Forbes Columnist

Republished courtesy of Stockerblog.com

The following fascinating interview was provided by Kenneth L. Fisher, head of the money management firm Fisher Investments, long time columnist for Forbes Magazine, billionaire, and author of numerous books. His latest book is Beat the Crowd: How You Can Out-Invest the Herd by Thinking Differently, which I highly recommend.

Ken Fisher
You may have seen him on TV commercials, or you may have spotted his magazine ads. If you are a reader of Forbes, you would definitely find his column. Fisher is on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans and Forbes world billionaires list. According to Investment Advisor magazine, he is one of the 30 most influential people in the investment advisory business over the last 30 years. Fisher is considered to be the largest wealth manager in the United States.

We cover a lot in this interview, including:
  • Whether or not we are still in a bull market
  • What it means to be a true contrarian
  • What the professional forecasters are predicting for the stock market this year (and why they are probably wrong)
  • Using the Leading Economics Index to predict the next few months
  • The concept of "not in the next 30 months"
  • Positive and negative "Elephants in the Room"
  • Concerns about the future consequences of punishing good banks for bailing out bad banks
  • Annuities, terrorism, climate change, debt, and much, much more.

Books by Ken Fisher

Here are some other books by Ken Fisher, which are worth checking out:

The Only Three Questions That Still Count: Investing By Knowing What Others Don't 
(A great companion to the Beat the Crowd book.)

The Ten Roads to Riches: The Ways the Wealthy Got There (And How You Can Too!)  
(This is actually my favorite book of his, maybe because it is so different from all the other finance books. It basically tells you ten ways, with all the steps, to get really rich, including "marrying a billionaire." Lot's of insight and lots of humor.)

Markets Never Forget (But People Do): How Your Memory Is Costing You Money and Why This Time Isn't Different 

The Little Book of Market Myths: How to Profit by Avoiding the Investing Mistakes Everyone Else Makes 

Debunkery: Learn It, Do It, and Profit from It-Seeing Through Wall Street's Money-Killing Myths 

How to Smell a Rat: The Five Signs of Financial Fraud 
(If you want to avoid getting ripped off, you really need to read this book.)

Other Books that Ken Fisher Recommends

In Chapter 8 of his Beat the Crowd book, he recommends several books for additional reading. Here are many of those books:

The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing 

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits 

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator 

Contrarian Investment Strategies: The Psychological Edge 

Where Are the Customers' Yachts?: or A Good Hard Look at Wall Street 

That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen: The Unintended Consequences of Government Spending 

How Capitalism Will Save Us: Why Free People and Free Markets Are the Best Answer in Today's Economy 

Business Cycles 

How to Lie with Statistics 

A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 

Growth and Welfare in the American Past: A New Economic History 
The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Senseless Panic: How Washington Failed America 

The Interview

You will certainly enjoy all this great information that Ken Fisher provides.

To stream the interview, click:

You can download as an mp3 by right-clicking here and choosing "save as."

Let us know what you think about this interview by entering your comments in the comment section below.

All opinions are those of Ken Fisher, and do not represent the opinions of Stockerblog.com or the interviewer. Neither Stockerblog nor the interviewer nor the interviewee are rendering tax, legal, or investment advice in this interview.