Thinking About Thinking

How Many Unique bit.ly Combinations Are There?

Posted in Pop Culture, Technology by larrycheng on August 16, 2010

I was thinking randomly about how many bit.ly combinations there are and how much unique shortened URLs they can generate given their current construct.  Here’s their construct:

  • Up to 6 characters after bit.ly/
  • Any mix of capitalized letters, lowercase letters, and numbers

If you limit the combinations to only ones where bit.ly is the domain (and not partner domains), and you presume they can go up to 6 characters (i.e. 1–6) as opposed to exactly 6 characters – how many total combinations are there?  Any math whiz out there who can figure it out pretty quickly and enlighten us in the comments section?  My small math brain was getting cramps thinking about it. 

Given that they shorten 40–50 million URLS per day, I also wonder how long they can last on this construct.  Probably a long time I suspect even including their growth.  Random thought for the day, and thanks for the help. 

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Which Is More Important – The Stock Market or The Bond Market?

Posted in Economy, Philosophy by larrycheng on August 11, 2010

This topic was raised to me today in a meeting, and after thinking about it, doing some research, and trying to put aside my biased interest in stocks – I think a stronger case can be made that the bond market is more important than the stock market.  There are a number of reasons for this, most notably starting with size.

The global bond market is about $82 trillion.  The global stock market hovers around $40–$50 trillion.  So, on pure size alone, the bond market is almost twice the size of the stock market.  That’s a substantial difference.  Point – bond market.

The bond market has a broader set of issuers as you have different segments: corporate, government & agency, municipal, mortgage backed, and funding.  Whereas the stock market is a construct for a limited set of corporations – for example, the US has 17,000 public companies.  Point – bond market.

The stock market is arguably more influential on sentiment.  What’s the key indicator of the stock market?  My guess is most would say S&P 500 or Dow.  What’s the key indicator of the bond market?  Probably most don’t know (e.g. indexes like Merrill Lynch Domestic Master).  That, in and of itself, gives the stock market a broader reach and voice.  Point – stock market.

That being said, and this may be a reach, but I think the bond market is more influential on the stock market than the other way around.  The primary reason is that the returns on bonds are more predictable due to the fixed yields.  If yields are very high, there’s no reason to invest in stocks.  The comparative risk-reward isn’t there.  But, if yields are low, that’s an incentive to move into risk assets like stocks.  It doesn’t work as seamlessly the other way around because returns on stocks are less predictable and more volatile.  Point – bond market. 

This is hardly a scientific analysis, but based on just off the cuff research, what’s more important – the stock market or bond market?  I’d probably have to go with the bond market.   

Volition Capital Leads First Investment – G5 Search Marketing

Posted in Growth Equity, Technology, Volition Capital by larrycheng on August 10, 2010

G5 Logo

I am pleased to share in today’s announcement that Volition Capital has led its first investment with a $15 million financing in G5 Search Marketing

The investment thesis for G5 is pretty simple.  100% of mid-size businesses would love to have an online presence that consistently generates high quality, low cost leads – and 99% of mid-size businesses don’t know how to do it.  To achieve the goal you need to be expert in website design, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and multi-channel lead management.  And, perhaps most importantly, you need to understand how all of these areas interrelate specifically in your industry.  G5 fills that gap in certain large verticals where they have domain expertise – like self-storage, multi-family housing, and senior living.  The thousands of mid-size businesses that have become G5 customers have their website and marketing efforts outsourced to and managed by G5, and they see the impact immediately in terms of low cost, high quality leads. 

The wide disparity in results between using G5 and doing it yourself has led to a highly recurring, bootstrapped business which is right down the sweet spot of Volition Capital’s investment focus:

  • High growth & solid revenue base: 20 consecutive quarters of record revenue. 
  • Capital efficient & founder-owned: They have never taken any outside capital or debt. 
  • Under-served geographic area: Beautiful (and hard-to-get-to) Bend, OR
  • Volition Capital investment: First and last institutional capital, active Board involvement

One attribute of G5 which is key to all of our investments is we want to see the team have an “aspiration for greatness”.  Every Volition portfolio company needs to have both a proven business and breakout potential.  The latter starts with the management team thinking big – which is certainly the case here.  The number of mid-size businesses that could benefit from using the G5 platform is not just thousands, or tens of thousands – but potentially hundreds of thousands if not eventually millions.  The first-generation “local search” vendors adjacent to this space have a narrow/weak offering and poor value proposition – which is readily obvious given their high customer churn rates and lack of profitability.  G5’s intensely loyal customer base and strong financial performance demonstrates that they are doing things both differently and better.  We believe G5 represents the next-generation in local marketing solutions and couldn’t be more proud to partner with them. 

My Trip To Haiti

Posted in Philosophy, Pop Culture by larrycheng on August 1, 2010

I wasn’t originally planning on blogging about my trip to Haiti as the decision to go was more of a personal one.  But, having been back for a week now, I figured if blogging about it could help in some way, then I might as well.  So, here it goes:

I spent a week in Haiti serving through a collaboration between two organizations – Jordan International Aid (JIA) and J/P Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO).  Our sending organization, JIA, has been sending medical teams to Haiti every third week of the month since the earthquake first hit Haiti.  Our receiving organization, J/P HRO, manages one of the larger tent cities in Haiti – Petionville.  The two organizations collaborated such that our team at JIA would be staffing the hospital and triage clinic at Petionville – a tent city of 50,000 people.  J/P HRO also enabled us to set up some mobile clinics at other tent cities where the refugees in many cases had never received medical care. 

When we first landed in Haiti and drove around Port-Au-Prince, I was struck by how the city looked frozen in time a full six months after the earthquake.  There were buildings that had been pancaked from the earthquake and others clearly damaged beyond repair – just sitting there untouched.  I was struck by the lack of both demolition and construction.  The earthquake could have happened the day before.  Port-Au-Prince, itself, was terribly congested with a mix of cars and people owning the broken streets.  Our team stayed at what used to be an orphanage – needless to say, we felt lucky to have some semblance of running water, power, and intermittent Internet access at our home for the week.

The team was principally comprised of doctors, nurses and a couple pharmacists from the Bay Area, alongside a few non-medical folks (like me) from my church.  Our principal role was to help staff and run the “hospital” and “triage clinic” at the Petionville tent city.  If you can imagine M*A*S*H, you’d get the idea of where we were serving.  They were basically tented areas with stretchers and boxes to sit on.  Every day hundreds of people would line up from the tent city, and often wait for hours to receive care.  We had the usual pediatric issues of fever, dehydration, diarrhea, etc.  We would often also see lacerations, burns, and blunt trauma.  There were individuals we treated with longer-term issues like AIDS, cancer, and stroke.  There were a number of babies also delivered during our time.  And underlying all of the traditional physical issues – there were serious issues like post traumatic stress disorder that were prevalent.  Each day, we would see about 150–200 patients at Petionville.  We also had the opportunity to set up mobile clinics at other tent cities in surrounding areas.

Though Haiti was just a 2 hour flight from Miami, I couldn’t have been further from my little world of Boston private equity.  And, that is a good thing.  It was really helpful for me to see the plight of the Haitians and hear their stories.  So many people stick out in my mind from this trip.  The boy who came in without complaint, despite having a severely burned arm from top to bottom.  The woman who gave birth to two very premature twins who did not ultimately survive.  The girl who couldn’t have been older than 13 years old, coming in with her three younger siblings – all orphaned.  The deaf and mute boy on the Petionville grounds whose spirit could not have been brighter.  Our many Haitian friends and staff at the hospital and Petionville who had lost loved ones. 

I’m sure many people have given money to Haiti – but I came to appreciate that giving time in many instances is worth a lot more because it’s through time that you build relationships and start to really care.  I also came to appreciate that in situations of devastation like Haiti, anyone who has an interest to help, can help.  I’m back in the saddle at work now, but I think about Haiti every day – wondering if there’s a broader way to help that country.  I’m quite sure I don’t have the answers, but somehow I think thinking about it is a good thing. 

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