Monday, July 21, 2008

AltosXplorer - Cooler than a Liger....

What could be cooler than this?

What 'til you check out AltosXplorer.... I'm referring to it as the "liger of the real estate market."

From our press release:

AltosXplorer is the first rich internet application that enables users to:
  • Instantly query the vast Altos Research real estate database: Altos publishes hundreds of useful statistics covering nearly 10,000 zip codes around the country every week. AltosXplorer opens the massive 2 terabyte (2TB) Altos Research database to live queries.
  • Automatically chart local market trends: Just a few clicks to grab local market trend charts for your blog, emails, or unique individual analysis.
  • Quickly analyze today's conditions: Sift through mountains of statistics to compare local market opportunities, identify previously hidden trends, and make decisions.
  • Export the data: Easily save graphical charts and export historical data directly to your PC.

We're just so proud of this product, we're telling everyone we know - and so should you! Check it out here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, & Cheap Furniture

A friend of mine that works at a hedge fund called me on Friday. He wanted my opinion on the Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae situation. My immediate reaction was – “Good news – the free market works.” Over the weekend, I thought about it some more, and here’s what I think now -

“Good news – the free market works.”

I remember just after college, another close friend (“Mike”) started working as a manager at Heilig-Meyers Furniture in North Carolina. Heilig-Meyers was a chain that focused on lower income consumers – mostly anyone that needed a chair to sit on and a coffee table to eat off of while watching Jerry Springer… (Mike also informed me that the furniture protection upsell is a crock, but I digress….) Their specialty was extending credit to lower-income purchasers. I remember reading one of their credit agreements once – 24% interest for those lacking the cash to complete the transaction. Additionally, Heilig-Meyers sold credit life insurance at a value above the price paid for the purchased furniture to prevent downside risk against “unpaid indebtedness.”

So if I have this right, Heilig-Meyers would sell furniture to non-creditworthy individuals on credit, include additional debt insurance payments for an amount higher than the value of the purchased goods, and charge an interest rate that reflects the appropriate risk level of the consumer to which they were extending credit. Hmmm…. Sounds familiar for some reason. This may be shocking news, but Heilig-Meyers went bankrupt in 2000.

I wonder what would happen if a mortgage company provides financing for a house to individuals lacking the appropriate credit at an appraisal value above market value, and include additional payments on top of the loan for private mortgage insurance for the total loan amount. And, what if the home mortgage lenders had fair confidence that default risk for these loans would be covered by the US government? Oh wait, that’s happening…

Why is it hard for the market to understand that people and companies respond to incentives? (Check out "THE ARMCHAIR ECONOMIST: Economics and Everyday Life" by Steven E. Landsburg for more on this.)

(More info about eventual lawsuits against Heilig-Meyers’ practices can be found here – some interesting reading. How do companies even get this large following such company practices?)


Friday, July 11, 2008

Venture Capital Trends - Q1, 2008

Found this article on VC Experts (a great source for articles and analysis on a myriad of venture capital topics) a couple weeks ago.

In short, Barry Kramer and Michael Patrick of Fenwich & West LLP analyze the venture funding terms for over 100 companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. For those number-crunchers, this is a great piece to read.

I'll spend some more time analyzing this weekend to infuse my own perspectives, but for now, here's a link to the article.


Monday, July 7, 2008 - One Last Hurrah...

Back in late 1990s, I travelled frequently to the Bay Area for work, and during that time, was convinced that I belonged in Silicon Valley working with one of the great new start-ups. It took me until 2001 to finally get here, just a bit past the prime years of gluttony for many-a-startups.

One of those companies that was particularly interesting to me was - a company that paid its users to surf the Internet. A close friend of mine (who shall remain nameless), worked as an analyst there and still tells stories about how the company would announce how many millions of dollars they paid out to its users (generally denominated in millions); followed by an employe cheer on at the recital of how much money was lost that month. Even as a analyst working on the version of TPS reports, something didn't seem right to my friend.

Now in the lore of Silicon Valley start-ups long gone, managed to resurface in a recent piece on The Industry Standard.

Quite ironic how The Industry Standard is doing pieces on failed Internet start-ups. I attended one of their rooftop parties many years ago - they weren't exactly the frugal type themselves....