Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

Dubliner Rosemary Smith is a 79 year old woman who owned her own driving school. But from the 1960s through the 1970s she was one of the world’s foremost rally drivers. With the right support, she could have done so much more. Renault decided to put her behind the wheel of a single seater racing car. Rallying and racing are different disciplines, but Smith still had some of the magic as you could see in this video

Westbam featured in a short film talking about how he started off and the intersection of music and culture in Berlin during 1989

American Petroleum Institute has put together a video reminding the public of all (ok just a small amount of) the stuff that oil actually goes into. When Teslas rule the roads, we’ll still need oil

The sound track of my week has been various mixes from DJ Nature

Campfield Futon – Snow Peak – I love the design and quality of Japanese outdoor brand Snow Peak. The Campfield Futon is an amazingly flexible piece of furniture that would be great outdoors or in an apartment

Jump Around – 25 years later

It’s hard to believe that the House of Pain’s Jump Around turned 25 last week. The iconic intro from ‘Harlem Shuffle’ used to be a call to the dance floor when I used to play it on Wednesday night sets at a late closing wine bar in the North West of England.

The video fired my love of American workwear, previously I’d only really seen this worn on African-American  artists. I loved the form follows function, timeless style and burly nature of the garments. I hunted down supplies of Carhartt and Dickies in Leeds and Covent Garden – it’s kept me warm and dry ever since.

More importantly it was emblematic of an Irish blue collar swagger that the UK Irish community just didn’t have. The closest thing we had was the shambolic Pogues or wit of Dave Allen which he welded like a katana in the hands of a samurai. We were much more heads down as the troubles in Northern Ireland and sectarianism impacted our lives.

This was a spectacularly mean-spirited time; where the government used the police to beat the miner’s strike into submission and wilfully demolished the weak industrial base to build the financial services sector. Acid house and rave were created partly because the youth wanted to escape through hedonism.

The post Good Friday Irish experience of Irish emigrants just a few years later was rather different. Britain was on its way to Cool Britannia liberalism – when being in an Irish pub, no longer meant keeping an eye out for Special Branch agent provocateurs or well-known grasses.

A failure of stock markets or innovation?

In the past the Silicon Valley dream was relatively simple. Hard graft with a possibility of a reward in terms of a stock market listing or a buyout by a larger technology company eager for the new, new thing.

Now things are different, businesses like Google, Uber and Facebook held out for as long as possible to go public. Technology companies from Apple to Zynga have been punished repeatedly in the market for real and perceived mis-steps. Activist investors charge around Silicon Valley in a similar manner to the way they bullied the S&P index in the 1980s.
160704 - private equity & the tech sector
Now technology companies are making up almost half of private equity LBOs. An LBO is a leveraged buy out; its where a prospective owner uses a mix of loans and their own money to purchase a company. The company usually has a steady cash flow that is used to pay down the loans and associated interest. These businesses are generally discounted because they are no longer perceived as being high growth companies.

The private equity owner looks to either flip the company to another purchaser, or flip parts of the company to pay down the loan. Either flipping or piecemeal sales are designed to raise more value than the original price paid.

Since these businesses are servicing large amounts of debt, they are vulnerable to fluctuations in their business conditions or interest rate rises. For example, Irish telecoms network Eircom defaulted on corporate bonds in 2012, having been through a couple of LBOs in the previous decade.

There always has been some LBOs in the Valley, Computer Associates bought up rivals and ran them as part of a conglomerate, with a focus on maximising the business cash flow rather than market share growth. General Atlantic Partners and Cerebus Capital Management had specialised for a long time in LBOs of mature ‘also ran’ business software companies with regular support customer support contracts. But the recent growth in LBOs is unprecedented for the technology sector.

*January, 1 2016 – July 1, 2016.

More information
Private Equity Has a Crush on Tech | WSJ – paywall
What are the major reasons behind Yahoo’s drastic downfall?
Barbarians in the valley

Nominated in diaspora category of Blog Awards Ireland

Unfortunately there is no voting process I could ask you to game at the moment :)
blog awards ireland

Postcard from Ireland

I spent most of my time outside of the major cities visiting family and shopping in small market towns.
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Here are my thoughts and observations from four days or so in Ireland:

  • The consumer economic system is largely frozen by a lack of access to credit, this has held the country in stasis with regards reigniting its property markets
  • Economic decline didn’t seem to be as apparent as say the North of England. I am not sure why this is
  • Prices are largely the same as in the UK, but Irish consumer products are generally uncompetitive in terms of price. For instance a bag of Oatfield sweets costs €2.49; a British brand equivalent would be in the region of €1.50
  • Sky usage seems to be prevalent. Irish houses outside the main towns tend to like to keep their aerials inside the roof where possible. However there seemed to be more satellite dishes secured to houses this time. In addition, in public spaces like the airport lounge, Sky News was the default channel
  • Election campaigns don’t seem to have benefited from an ‘Obama’ dividend. I found only one candidate who was using social media in even rudimentary way. They launch their campaigns in a very old school way with public meetings and traditional signs can be found in every townland
  • There was an increasing level of Euro-scepticism amongst Irish voters, despite Ireland having probably benefited the most from the rise of the EU. This has lead to good opinion poll showings for both Sinn Fein and independents focused on local issues
  • Whilst super fast broadband is advertised even in rural townlands; mobile networks gave very patchy coverage indeed