Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Meet your new masters: the "enlightened" Silicon Valley robber barons

There hasn't been that much enlightenment in Silicon Valley since Buddha drank his first cold brew coffee some 2500 years ago.

Lately it seems, Silicon Valley has embraced a sleuth of self-styled prophets who excel at self-development...and they're on track of seeding poor plebeian minds.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about Big Tech (so no FAANG). Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach are very broad terms. There are others who've built up obscene wealth in the startup ecosystem.

Somebody once said, quoting her father: "My father used to say that intellectual men are weak to the core and traitors. I agree with my father." -FD FYI, I took offense on that, since I consider myself an intellectual man. But...if you wanna play Buddha, perhaps you should at least consider the man's historical pledge of poverty...

I am no Buddha nor do I pretend to be one. I watch the circus and carousel in town from the sidelines and laugh at it. Chamath Palihapitya of Social Capital has called the SV-environment a "multi-varied kind of Ponzi scheme". (linked) Is a growth-at-all-cost model sustainable? Who knows? Chamath is not the self-styled prophet, he is one of the very few who exposes the model, he is the outcast. One of the very few who (as opposed to the prophets) makes sense.

Quote of the day:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Boss who led me by the nose; reaction time exercises

Reader Pat writes in an email:

"Dear Max,
I wanted to tell you of my work scenario. I am the Chief Architect, I maintain the enterprise architecture at my firm, which is a startup that has grown from only 4 people in 2016 to 35 this month. I provide security recommendations for our API and its systems. But it is my boss I wish to write about. For the past year Liz (I'll call her "Liz") has been promising me approval of the framework solutions me and my colleagues have been proposing and working on. After all year showing apparent support of my solutions, she's gotten offensive and reject it. As CTO, Liz holds a decisive vote. Why would she have been-overtly at least, supportive of the design I had, and mar it at the last minute? Our build up framework was sound, well-defined and successful. She now says that we failed.

It just doesn't make any sense. What can I do?"

Hi PatNote,

From what you're saying, you've gotten approval for the better part of a year and got rejected on the final vote. You have a legitimate question of why you were denied approval in the final form.

1. Your final output was lacking. Was there a major deficiency previously not spotted ?

2. You are the problem. You're not saying anything about your relationship with your boss. Is it a cordial, good relationship? Is it not?

3. She is the problem. If your boss is the problem, try to have her overruled.

4. Read the three scenarios in the Book of the Underdog where three people won against the odds. They might be relevant to you.

5. A boss is not supposed to throw their support upon something and suddenly retract it without a thoughtful reason. What is her case?

Quote of the day: "A slave that talks like a master always delights the master for a moment." -F.D.

Answer published in premium posts in an effort to reduce spammers to this site

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Tales from the future

I know we have a few Games of Thrones fans on the site. I don't know if we have any science fiction fans, not counting myself and some odd fellow who calls himself Yoda.

I have been going through the science fiction novel Empire of Silence: Sun Eater: Book One by C. Ruocchio and I recommend it.

This is a tale of a young palatine [noble], Hadrian Marlowe, who runs away from home, from his father and his father's rule. Faith is not kind to the young noble who ends up far away from where he intended, in a backwater world, first destitute living in the streets and canals of a capital city, then fighting in the pits as myrmidon at the Colosseum. He gets captured and held captive for his fortuitous genes by the Ruler of that system, disavowed by his father. He kills the high priest of the land, the leader of the Chantry in a duel. Then he gets to fight the enemy race of the mankind, a race by the the name of the Cielcin.  Why? How? ...because he can speak their language.

Life gets rusty when you get hit left and right, front and back.

For you seldom land where you aim.

But you can still aim. All you can do is AIM.

"The man who hopes for the future delays its arrival, and the man who dreads it summons it to the door."
"The future might come only in its own time, but the scholiasts teach that there are many futures, and it is only the crashing of the waves of time and possibility against the interminable now that makes the world. It is not the future that is present in Ever-Fleeting Time but the futures. Freedom-freedom of thought and action- matter and are guaranteed because the future is not. There are no prophecies, only probabilities. No Fate, only chance. The present time is not when we are, but what we do." -Empire of Silence
Weaklings will not understand that. That's alright, we don't need them. Let them stay home safe and sound.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Reader mailbox read: The Psychopath Workout

A reader by the name of Kim send me this email:


I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book last month. On your Chapter on psychopaths, you've cleverly described those traits and the three CEO commandments.
Your tale of your former banker Mark Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette where you coin the term BOSS as Be Of Special Service gave me a a lot of pause. I needed to reflect on that.

In Chapter 15 "The Psychopath School" where you say that "everything is just really a stepping to everything else" I have you accurately describing my boss. Uncanny!

With my boss now, I have the problem of him throwing me on a development project away from my real work, or core work I should say. I need to be back on track as a Cost Accountant at the nutraceutical company where I work. If you have any suggestions for me it'll be much appreciated.


Lol-ed at your frankness when you recollected seeing that parked Aston Martin Vantage. Hilarious! It could have been me who had the same reaction."


Quote of the day: "The passing of years hardens a man to the simple joys of life." -Marcus Crassus, Spartacus



Thanks for reading my book and for your kind words. In this book as well as in everything on this blog the emphasis is on practical. There are always nuances, but if I am able to develop a pattern so much better. So in your situation you have a boss that put you to work on something unrelated, perhaps marginal or foreign to your normal tasks and job duties.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Beta Tales

Reader Tom writes in an email today:

Yesterday Elon Musk taunted the SEC calling it "Shortsellers Enrichment Commission".

Today, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital "Like Lehman, we think the deception is about to catch up to TSLA," Einhorn said in an investor letter Friday. "Lehman threatened short sellers, refused to raise capital (it even bought back stock), and management publicly suggested it would go private. Months later, shareholders, creditors, employees and the global economy paid a big price when management's reckless behavior led to bankruptcy." -via CNBC

Tesla shared dropped 7% thanks to Musk's tweets.

What are your thoughts? 


Tom, I don't know about the future of Tesla (full disclosure: I don't hold any positions in that company).

I can tell, however, beta male behavior. Beta male behavior is unsettling and, sometimes hidden in what appears to be aggressive, alpha-like stance. It is quite obvious Mr. Musk hasn't read this blog or else he wouldn't be writing those tweets.

#Number 1. Twitter is not the place to address critics, ongoing legal issues and such.

#Number 2. Twitter is not the place to impress your girlfriend. In fact, only beta males work hard at impressing their girlfriends. A high value male is a constant target of women's manipulation. Their hypergamy instincts shoot through the roof especially especially if the target is a public figure. I don't know if you went through this blog yet, but we hold dear here the model of Christopher Walken. He's composed at all times, even when he is theatrical. He is an what I call a "class act."

#Number 3. If the shorts are bothering him, at least don't show it. Or show it with humor, i.e. post a picture of dirty shorts or something.

Quote of the day: "Often I have found that liars do this: they watch their dupes closely, searching for the moment when belief sets in." -Hadrian Marlowe in Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A16z data reveals how much Silicon Valley bosses make

They usually keep this information secret. Silicon Valley bosses keep a closed lid on what they make. Their take-home is hidden from the public, even more hidden from the rank-and-file.

BusinessInsider recently published Andreessen Horowitz data of "annual surveys of more than two-dozen executive search firms about more than 4,000 job offers that are made to executives across roughly 30 different roles". The positions range from CEO to senior vice president of technology to general counsel. Accordingly, the data was published in 2017 and corresponds to job offers made up to 2016.

"The median salary offer for a Series C consumer CEO is $325,000, and they should expect a 50% bonus and a 6% equity grant. A senior director of engineering at a Series A startup might take home $200,000 in cash, and just 0.58% equity in their business. A vice-president of sales at a late-stage, Series D (or later) enterprise company is raking in $242,500 in base salary, but their total cash take-home is around $450,000. And so on." -via BI

Of course, the data is applicable to only companies that have secured outside funding.

You may also find helpful The Race for Top Talent, Equity Vesting Schedules May be the Next Battleground published by Radford.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Toughest sport: rock climbing

There are a few dummies out there who peddle activity-based "membership clubs" for people to become "tough and resourceful" in the style of "black ops" and "Jason Bourne skills". Towards that they charge you thousands of dollars, of course. Suffices to say that doesn't make anyone tougher anymore than visiting Dracula's castle makes anything but a bad night's sleep happen.

I would be better of taking up rock climbing, for example. It is tough, physical, and doesn't have a lot of room for error. Rock climbing is not for the faint of heart.

You will certainly have to go to a mountaineering school, and hone your practice over many years. You can start with the bouldering wall at your gym.

Quote of the day: " It’s not about how hard you can hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. —Rocky Balboa, Rocky

In U.S. competitive rock climbing, the so called "V" scale is used to describe the grade of the terrain. For example, VB on the V Scale corresponds to YDS 5.1-5.8. (More information on Climbing and Bouldering Rating Systems at REI).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Equity-based compensation for you bankers

There's an Open Letter to Goldman CFO from Albert Meyer of Bastiat Capital and the reply received where the author criticizes stock options awards to employees and discusses the case of not only Goldman Sachs but Wells Fargo, BofA and others. The author argues against equity-based compensation for employees and makes the case for cash bonuses instead, which "are stable and do not have the effect of shareholder dilution".[All quotes are from the letter]

The author makes the point that Goldman 2007 RSU were underwater until November 2016. Ok, what did you expect from that market?

"One reason Bastiat escaped the carnage in the financial sector in 2008 (caused by imprudent risk-taking) was because we avoided companies with large stock option overhangs." -A.M.
Wells Fargo, it seems, survived it quite resolutely.

"We believe that the expectations of cashing in on significant stock gains might well have encouraged the improper sales practices which lead to the forfeiture and elimination of $91.3 million in incentive awards granted to these two individuals [Wells Fargo executives]". The Wells Fargo case seems to have been a bottom-up as much as top-down exercise in reckless risk behavior.

Quote of the Day: "Privacy and secrecy: the true treasures of nobility." -Christopher Ruocchio, Empire of Silence

Monday, September 24, 2018

Book review: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou is a recommended reading here at Wall Street Financier. It is quite possibly the best business book of 2018.

The foundation of deep thinking and great investigative journalism is skepticism. Carreyrou asked himself the common sense question of how was it possible that a college dropout who completed two semesters of chemical engineering "pioneered cutting-edge new science". Why the Board of Directors of that company [Theranos], high-ranking, prominent individuals, never asked themselves this elementary question... is itself a good question. Older, powerful men, were blinded to the sight of a dedicated young woman so much, as to give her a free pass to glory and wealth. The snowball effect was in full rage in 2014 when Holmes got more titles and accolades that a Zimbabwean general. What possessed these older, prominent men to overlook their most basic responsibilities? The answer: their simpish, bluepill fantasy of the "daughter [or granddaughter] that I've never had." Pay it forward, bluepillers.

We're talking about Elizabeth Holmes here, who as a nine or ten year old child when asked "What do you wanna be when you grow up?" said she wanted to be a billionaire. Imagine that. Most children say they want to be a firefighter, nurse, doctor, teacher, etc. But not this one.

When we get the replay of what it was like to be working at Theranos under Commander-in-Chief Holmes, I think you should all take a look if your current workplace resembles it. At Theranos, employees had to sign non-disclosure agreements, and get this: when fired...Alan Beam had to sign an "Affidavit of Alan Beam" which stated:

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Delving more into the psychopath mark: allowing the illusion of hope

Long-time readers will notice this post comes after you've paid $1.49 for the article. There's some reasoning behind it. After blogging for free and for all for over 5 and 1/2 years, I've come to the conclusion this is is not the best model for the blog.

I realized that you cannot help everybody. In fact, the largest percentage of people out there, some 90-95% cannot be helped, because they are incapable of change. (those 95% still cling to the illusion of hope). Changing the business model from getting page views to getting the 5% that interact responsively is a welcoming change. We do not need trolls and monkey-wrenchers on this site. We are not interested in riffraffs and scammers. I need the people with higher standards. I write for the people who actually appreciate the views of this blog.

The way life works is what is offered free is (rarely) appreciated. What's offered free is usually derided and discarded. Worse, I've heard that corporate executive "coaches" came to this blog, piggybacked on some of the ideas expressed here and sold them to their paying clients: clients who pay them thousands of dollars each month for executive training.  While I want you responsively bounce of the ideas I throw here, taking my concepts and copycatting is not what I have in mind.

Going forward, most of the posts here will still be free and open to all. Some, however, will be paid content. (book reviews will always be free.)

Some of the readers of the book I wrote have enthusiastically suggested that I start a "Psychopath School for higher learning" on Patreon (a paid-only creators platform) and that they will subscribe to it. (the readers' ache is their leaders and bosses are psychopaths.) Let me say I don't believe it such a good idea: