32 posts categorized "October 2013"

Wisconsin leaders support equality in angel investing

Really pleased to see that the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce are adocating for equality for same-sex couples in angel investing.

Here's a link to the press release. And here's a link to a letter they have written to a member of Congress from Wisconsin.

CaptureCKudos to Zach Brandon for his work on this. I got to know Zach from serving on a panel with him at the ACA Annual Summit a year or two ago. He is a leader in the angel community and it will be people like Zach, stepping up, that will eventually change consciousness on this issue. Right now, it's a sleeper. Few want to talk about it, but, the perverse reality is, the SEC rules for angel investing treat same-sex couples as second class.

Here's the rule change that the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce advocate, as does Startupequality.org:

A spouse of a natural person shall mean another person, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, whose relationship with the person specified: (1) may be characterized as such person's (i) husband, (ii) wife, (iii) spouse, (iv) domestic partner, or (v) designated beneficiary under any applicable state law for the purpose of ensuring that each person in a two-person relationship has certain rights or financial protections based upon such designation; or (2) is that of the other party to a civil union with such person.

Seattle Serious

When I was a grad student at Cornell in upstate New York, I played on a softball team with a bunch of PhD candidates in the English and Comparative Lit departments.

These folks were arch and wry and nothing, not even sport, could be taken at face value.

Lots of Red Sox fans, lots of Mets fans on the team. No one liked the Yankees. No irony there. George Steinbrenner was the Donald Trump of his day.

Teammates referred to baseball's fall classic as the "World Serious."

Well, I know the World Series is in Boston tonight. But I'm in Seattle, hoping the Sounders can extend their season by winning a playoff tonight.

It's serious.

Seattle Serious

Dick Costolo's employment agreement with Twitter

I had a brief look this morning at a couple of exhibits in the Twitter S-1, documents pertinent to Dick Costolo's employment as CEO.

Like Marissa Mayer's employment as CEO of Yahoo, and Sheryl Sandberg's as COO of Facebook, Costello's employment with Twitter is memorialized, not in an "employment agreement" per se, but instead in a letter agreement.

6a01156e3d83cb970c019b00714947970c-580wiBut Costolo's letter is shorter, simpler, and, on the surface at least, not as protective of the executive employee's authority.

Conspicuously missing is a "good reason" defined term, commonly used in executive employment agreements to set up severance benefits in the event that an exec's authority is undermined or she is effectively pushed out without actually being fired. Mayer and Sandberg both have such express protections in their respective letters.

That said, Costolo is entitled to severance, per a plan that is referenced by the letter, if he is fired without cause.

The most striking thing about Costolo's letter is his cash salary: $14,000 annually.

This suggests that his real compensation takes the form of equity.

I should of course look at the compensation disclosure in the prospectus to see what those are and how they are valued. But my real curiosity is with the mechanics of the underlying agreements.

It's possible that other terms material to Costolo's authority are embedded in other docs I haven't uncovered.

Autumn light in Seattle

I used to think Fall was my favorite season, but after the last couple of glorious, long, sun-filled Summers in Seattle, I don't feel that way anymore.

I attribute my change in attitude in part to having gotten used to the slant of arc of the sun this far north. There is never at any time of year a "high noon" here. The sun is never directly overhead - it always shines, when it shines, from an angle.

10540414083_0d28b4e506_c

This means, to pick up on something David Hockney was saying in the Arts section of the NYTimes on Sunday, it's never here the 10x-as-bright-as-anywhere-else that it gets in Southern California.

But it does mean you get a lot of ratio (shadow, depth) in the colors and textures in the environment.

10539801786_98f2697c52_c

It was sunny yesterday and again today in Seattle. These pictures are from yesterday. Not a summer light, and no summer warmth in the air and rising from the ground, but lovely light, full of ratio, yes, and an autumn sepia.

A thought about the government's Obamacare website

I've been busy lately so am not keeping up with the news, but in passing here and there I have been hearing headlines about the Obamacare site crashing, not working.

519913050_4d009775e2_oThis morning I overheard a comment on a Sunday talk show to the effect of, "why in the world wasn't this site built right."

It's as if some people expect the government to have as much experience as Amazon or Google in building complex, consumer-facing e-commerce sites that scale!

They should slap "BETA" all over all versions of the site for the next 2-5 years and otherwise try to tamp down expectations. 

Image: Darla Mack / Flickr.

The Nose

This morning I'm popping up to New York, by way of that classic movie mini-palace, the Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon, Washington, to see the New York Metropolitan Opera's livestream of The Nose, a Shostakovich opera based on the story by Gogol.

The Nose

I'm not an opera fan, but I am a big William Kentridge fan.

Kentridge is the South African artist probably best known for his animated charcoal drawings.

I first encountered his work at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, at a major retrospective there. Next, a couple summers back, my wife and I saw an installation of his in the wing of a train station in Kassel, Germany, during the 100 days of Documenta.

Kentridge also designs sets and costumes for operas, including this production of The Nose.

Will report back.

The limited utility of Title III crowdfunding

I'm hearing from crowdfunding advocates who are deflated by the proposed rules released Wednesday by the SEC.

It was never realistic to expect that the SEC could make something workable from Title III of the JOBS Act.

4411314629_11826f8b11_zNow, in at least some regards, the SEC's proposed rules do in fact improve upon the legislation. See my post from Thursday morning - not the Thursday afternoon post linking to AngelList COO Kevin Laws's most excellent working summary of the entire proposed rule set, which you absolutely must use as your companion guide in whatever review you yourself undertake of the SEC release - but the other Thursday post which talks about the agency's effort to restore the crowd that the Senate took out of crowdfunding.

In other respects, FINRA rules and other overlays make the prospective crowdfunding exemption less viable than the legislation may have absolutely required.

It may be that Title III crowdfunding will end up serving registered broker-dealers as a new product for retail investors.

But the costs imposed by Title III seem disproportionate, when you consider the million dollar cap on what issuers may raise.

There is probably a use-case for Title III, but I think investment crowdfunding advocates should turn from the federal exemption and push instead for exemptions at the state level.

Photo: Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design Communication Design / Flickr.

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