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I have an interesting problem.

As part of my co-founder duties for CalendarTree.com I've been on a knowledge-absorption quest in preparation for raising capital.

Your first question might be "Why does the Dilbert guy need money from other people?" The answer is twofold:

1. I have a substantial investment in the start-up already. Portfolio diversification is a standard financial discipline. 

2. Raising funds isn't just about the money. It's how you acquire a network of contacts that have an interest in your outcome. And it is a signal to the world that your business must be credible because serious people are backing it.

I've been talking to some of the smartest people in the start-up world lately and I've learned a few things that I find fascinating. First, experienced investors understand they have no crystal ball for picking winning start-up ideas. As I've often said in this blog, ideas are worthless (because everyone has one) whereas the ability to execute is priceless because it's rare. And indeed I have learned that the quality of the start-up idea only matters to the degree that it isn't obviously dumb. Once your idea reaches the level of "sounds good" you are deemed equal - at least on an idea level - to all other start-ups that also sound good. And there are a zillion of those.

The tie-breaker for attracting funding is the talent you bring to the start-up. Investors have transferred their superstition about their ability to pick winning ideas to a new superstition about their ability to pick winning teams of people. Is that really easier?

Obviously an investor can identify the truly bad entrepreneurs and avoid them. But an investor can also identify truly bad business ideas, and that doesn't help pick winners from the group that is left over. So I wonder if there is any science behind the notion that investors can pick winning start-up teams from the class of folks who are not obviously stupid or insane.

My guess is that there is a whole lot of self-fulfilling prophecy going on. Once an entrepreneur is identified as a potential winner, resources and attention flow to the start-up. The buzz starts. Optimism increases. And sure enough, that entrepreneur ends up with slightly better odds of success than others in the "good enough" group.

The next interesting thing is that you need to have extraordinary technical people on your team to attract funding. But you need funding to attract extraordinary technical people. The chicken and the egg both need to come first. The winning entrepreneurs are the ones that solve this Kobayashi Maru (i.e. impossible*) test. There are two popular ways to solve this problem.

1. One of the founders can be the technical talent. 

2. A founder can have a start-up track record so strong that technical talent can be attracted based on the high likelihood of funding. 

The technical team for CalendarTree is BlueChilli, our equity partners out of Australia. Their business model involves helping founders with the technology end of things (and lots more) then assisting in the transition to funding and building an in-house team of talent for the start-up. That's the phase we're in now. We're looking to build out our local team.

So here's my interesting problem: Can the creator of Dilbert find great hackers (of the code, UX and growth variety) in the San Francisco Bay Area? It's going to be a lot harder than you might think.

First, some background. CalendarTree solves a universal problem in the world of scheduling. Briefly, we turn your schedule into a link that allows anyone to add the entire series of events to an existing calendar without manually typing it. We think that's a strong business opportunity on its own, and it's up and running to rave reviews, but our long term plans are far bigger. I've shared the stealth part of the plan with some top investors who didn't blink when I called it a billion-dollar opportunity. And there seems to be general agreement that the only known obstacle is attracting the talent to execute the plan.

In the interest of full-disclosure, we stumbled on the billion-dollar opportunity while building out the medium-sized business I briefly described. The huge-sized opportunity is sort of invisible until you hear it for the first time.

I'll share the billion-dollar plan with qualified job applicants. If you live in the SF Bay area, and you want to be part of something big, and you're an exceptional hacker (code, UX, or growth) email me at scott@calendartree.com. My co-founder and I would love to meet you.

We're looking for a fast, smart hacker or two with the following skills.

CAL/DAV experience (ideally)

C# .NET specialist. We use .NET 4.5 MVC4 and EF6

Front-end Javascript (Jquery) and HTML5, CSS/LESS

Understanding of GITHUB with NUGET desired

And if you can play with iOS, that's highly desirable

As a bonus, experience with IIS8, Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 desirable

I hope my regular blog readers don't mind a glimpse into the start-up process in return for enduring this job posting. Let me know in the comments if you'd like ongoing updates on CalendarTree when things seem interesting.


*Yes, I know Kobayashi Maru is a no-win situation, which is slightly different from an impossible situation. But I like the sound of it anyway.

---------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

 

 



 
Pundits are saying it makes no sense for Apple to buy Beats because the Beats headphones are expensive and technically inferior compared to the competition. All Beats does is successfully make millions of consumers lust for its product by using extraordinarily clever design and marketing. It's almost as if the Beats co-founders have some sort of reality distortion field.

Wait, why does that sound familiar?

To my ears, Beats plus Apple sounds like the most perfect match of all time.

Apple can improve the Beats sound quality if it chooses to do so. So that's not a problem so much as a business choice. And buying Beats is a good way to get into the streaming music business quickly, which had to happen because iTunes is a dinosaur with arthritis. And when you buy Beats you get Jimmy and Dre in the deal, and that team might be worth more than all the other Beats assets combined.

Apple's biggest problem lately is that it is charisma-challenged, which makes investors distrust their future vision. That just changed. They just bought a shitload of charisma.

No one can predict how the Beats deal will go. Any deal of this scale and complexity can go bad for any number of reasons. But if you have a strong and unwavering opinion that Apple buying Beats is definitely a mistake, you're either a genius or an idiot who thinks he's a genius. Good luck sorting that out.

Disclosure:
I own Apple stock. I also own several Apple products, half of which are overpriced and inferior compared to the competition. The only reason I don't own any inferior and overpriced Beats headphones is because for some reason they don't make it easy to buy an adapter that will work with my Windows computer. Yes, I've tried to purchase Beats headphones for irrational reasons and failed. That makes me sort of a double-idiot. But I take pride in being aware of it.

[Update: In my defense, two separate employees of Best Buy assured me I would have to search online to find an adapter because  Beats wouldn't work on my Windows computer. Apparently the common problem is the employees at Best Buy because, as some of you noted, my Apple earbuds do work on my Windows computer. -- Scott]

---

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of How to Fail...

 

 




 
Ever wonder what a cartoonist does all day?

The Wall Street Journal published my diary.


----------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com 

WWJR? Maybe this book. You can't prove otherwise.




 
Scientists recently discovered that the blood of young mice rejuvenates the muscles and brains of old mice. One expert optimistically speculated that someday scientists might figure out how to make a supplement for humans that has the same benefits.

Sure, that's one possible future.

The other possibility is that this young blood transfusion trick works in humans too but we never isolate what part of the blood is doing the magic.

My guess is that Rupert Murdoch has already built a secret bleed room that will make him immortal. I can't imagine him waiting for a "supplement."

Now imagine Rupert hanging out on his yacht with one of his top 1% friends after the young blood starts working.

Friend: Why does your skin look so good?

Rupert: Moisturizer. You have to do it twice a day. And make sure you get one with a high SPH value.

Friend: Really? I moisturize but I'm not getting that kind of...

Rupert: HAHAHA!!! Just kidding. I have a bleed room now. Young blood is awesome. Watch this.

Rupert rips off his shirt to reveal his new Wolverine-like physique. Then he runs to the rail and starts scanning the water around the yacht as if he has some sort of super vision, because he does. At just the right time he leaps over the railing and lands on a great white shark as it breaches the surface. Rupert holds on like a rodeo star and rides the shark in circles around the yacht while yelling YEEHAAA!!! Then Rupert stands to ride the shark like a surfer before re-boarding the yacht with one mighty leap. He lands like a gymnast on the deck and shakes off the water like a lion, roar and all.

Friend: WOW! Can I have some of that young blood?

Rupert: You asked at the right time, my friend. I just got some new interns.

An aide brings Rupert a towel and behind its cover of modesty he removes his wet trousers. Rupert and his billionaire friend head down to the bleed room. Rupert is wearing nothing but the towel around his waist, all the better to show off his new physique.

The billionaires enter the bleed room and we see a row of interns on bleed tables. They have transfusion tubes in their arms but they aren't restrained. One sees Rupert and hops off the table, tube still attached.

Intern: Would you like some coffee, sir?

Rupert: I told you not to call me sir.

Intern: Yes, your majesty. (He kneels.)

Rupert (to his friend): Do you remember when we had to PAY interns? It seems so long ago.

Rupert (to the intern): Here. Take my towel and bring me dry clothes.

The intern heads off with the towel. Rupert is completely naked and looking magnificent, like a gladiator. His friend can't resist sneaking a peak below the waist.

Friend: HOLY HELL! Did the young blood do that too?

Rupert: This? Ha ha! No. Remind me to show you my 3D printer with the stem cell upgrade.

You might be thinking this scenario is unlikely because mouse studies often don't apply to humans. But just to be on the safe side I'm starting the paperwork for adoption. I know that sounds awful, but so are wrinkles. And I'd pay those kids a market-rate allowance because I'm not some kind of monster. At least not until I get a 3D printer with the stem cell upgrade. I'm planning to go full-centaur.

Stop judging me.

---

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

How would you feel if everyone except you read this book on success?

 



 
Did you see the story about the Brazilian soccer fan that threw a toilet from the stands and killed another fan? As the article says, there are "many questions to be answered." I'd like to get the ball rolling with a few questions of my own.

For starters, did the perpetrator bring his own toilet to the game or did he run into the restroom and rip a toilet out of the floor when the situation called for it? If it's the former, I have a lot of respect for his time management. If it's the latter, I'd like to know what herbal supplements he's taking. Some mornings I can barely dislodge a few sheets of toilet paper from the mother roll. If that guy ripped a toilet out of the floor with his bare hands, I need to start eating whatever he's eating. I'm thinking spinach and quinoa, but that's just a guess.

I wonder if the perpetrator considered and rejected other ideas before settling on throwing the toilet. I only ask because one of my rules of thumb is that whenever my best idea is murder-by-toilet, I take that as a sign that I should keep thinking of options. For example, before I created Dilbert, the only idea I could come up with involved killing a stranger with a toilet. Now I'm glad I stuck with my brainstorming a little longer.

The news report didn't include details, so we don't know if anyone was on the toilet when it was thrown. You might be thinking that no one could throw a toilet with a person on it. But you probably thought no one could rip a toilet out of the floor or carry one to a game and get it through security? Maybe it's time to admit that you don't know as much about toilet throwing as you think you do.

This toilet murder hits close to home for me because my greatest fear as a cartoonist is dying in a way that makes it easy to write an ironic headline. For example, I don't want to be stabbed to death by a clown. And when I see a banana peel on the sidewalk I cross the street. But that's a risky strategy too because if I get hit by a car the headlines will be "Why did the cartoonist cross the street?"

I don't think I'm alone in this fear. I'll bet Prince William worries about being killed by a toilet. The tabloid headlines would be:  "Royal Flush!" Or "Harry, You're in!" or "Future Monarch Killed by Poop and Circumstance." I could go on, but I think you'll agree there's a downside to being killed by a toilet.

-----

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book.

 



 

 

 
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Every famous person has an idiot picture. That's the picture that the news trots out to illustrate any story in which they want to make you look like an idiot. And when you are famous, that story always happens. I was reminded of that by seeing Jack Welch's idiot picture on Business Insider.

I'm not picking on Jack. Every famous person has an idiot picture. Here's my idiot picture that appears all over the Internet whenever I am quoted out of context to look like an idiot or a douchebag.

The story behind my idiot picture is that years ago a photographer for Playboy told me to "act" as if I were talking to someone in an animated way. They needed four pictures of that sort to put in series at the bottom of the first page of my interview. I was still a rookie at the publicity game and I played along, making exaggerated faces while gesticulating wildly. Little did I know I was inadvertently posing for my idiot picture that would live on the Internet until the end of time.

Eventually I got smarter about how I allow myself to be photographed. Now when I'm asked to do something that will make me look playful in the right context but a douche bag in the wrong context, I decline the offer.

The key to picking a good idiot picture to accompany a celebrity hit piece is that you need to mismatch the photo to the content. In the Jack Welch photo he was obviously having a good laugh about something, and if you imagine that to be the context he just looks like a fun guy who enjoys people. But if you pair that picture with a story of how he made a probably-wrong-but-not-ridiculous assumption about some job statistics, the same picture makes him look like a wild-eyed loon.

My idiot picture usually gets paired with manufactured stories that use my words out of context to show that I must be a secret creationist, a secret holocaust denier, or a secret hater of all women. I say secret because most of those stories can be summarized this way:

"He didn't say anything we disagree with. But the way he says the things that we totally agree with leads us to believe he has bad thoughts in his head."

On its own, that sort of argument would fall flat. But humans are visual animals, so pairing my idiot picture with a report that I must be thinking idiot thoughts is quite compelling. There can't be that much smoke without fire! If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck!

I worry that when I complain about the news industry manufacturing celebrity news that you think I am imagining it. You might not realize how systematic it is. The idiot picture is one of the most important elements of manufactured celebrity news. Start looking for it and you'll find yourself laughing at those stories from now on instead of believing them at face value.

I'm a big fan of Business Insider and I don't think they got the story wrong about Jack Welch. The story was worth reporting. But was that the fairest picture to accompany it?

------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the second-best graduation gift ever.

 

 

 




 
It's never a good idea to get investment ideas from cartoonists. Nothing you hear from me should be construed as advice. And more generally, it's a bad idea for small investors to buy individual stocks or to attempt timing the market.

You have been warned.

I started testing an investment strategy a few years ago that is producing positive results. Yes, I am aware that my small sample is meaningless. And the numbers I present aren't annualized or compared to their same-industry cousins that did even better. But I want you to hear the strategy just so you can keep an eye on it going forward.

The investment idea is that the news always exaggerates risks. This is an extension of the Adams Law of Slow Moving Disasters that says humans generally figure out how to avoid big disasters when they see them coming.

So, for example, when BP stock was in the toilet, and the news media kept telling us the Gulf would be ruined for decades, I loaded up on BP stock because I predicted the opposite: a better-than-expected clean-up. That prediction turned out right. So far, that investment has paid about a 5% dividend in recent years and the stock itself is up 19%. (You should interpret that as just "up" because I haven't compared the performance to the market in general that is also up.)

When the news was reporting that Iranian leaders were on a suicide mission to develop a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel and their own country, I assumed it would all work out peacefully and I invested heavily in a beaten-down EFT of Israeli stocks. It's the biggest single investment I've ever made. That's up 26%.

When the news indicated that the government of Turkey was circling the drain and disaster was near, Turkish stocks crashed. I predicted that Turkey would work things out and get back to business in due time. So I loaded up on the biggest cell phone company in Turkey. As bad luck would have it, that company also has a big position in Ukraine, so it took a hit after I bought it, but now it's up 10%.

To reiterate, I'm not annualizing the gains or comparing them to anything relevant that would tell you how those investments did compared to other investments over the same period. The market in general is up over this same period so it makes almost any strategy look like a winner.

And one must compare investments that have similar risks. Some of you will say I got a meager return betting on high risk stocks. An economist would call that losing. But no one can accurately assign risks for the stocks I mentioned. My investments looked high-risk to the world and low-risk to me. So when I look at the returns for the three investments I mentioned, I compare them to low-risk alternatives and they look fairly good. I would expect most of you to compare them to high-risk alternatives and conclude that they underperformed that class. That difference in risk-assessment is what makes my investment strategy a strategy.

I don't recommend that you invest your own money this way. History is littered with crackpot investment ideas of this type. And my best investment gains over that period were in a diversified ETF. But keep an eye on the strategy just for fun.

I wonder if anyone has ever lost money betting against the news industry's predictions of doom.

-------------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the best graduation gift ever.

 



 
Today I wrote two blog posts about events in the news. That writing is some of my best work. You won't see either post. And for that you can thank Jezebel.com, Gawker.com, and Salon.com.

Unfortunately, both of my posts have content that could too easily be taken out of context by the bottom-feeding parts of the media and special interest groups looking to bolster their causes. Even my standard disclaimer wouldn't be enough in these two cases. My opinions in the two posts aren't the least bit offensive, but out of context they would look so.

The law in my country allows free speech, but horrible people who live among us have learned to use the words of well-known folks out of context to weaponize the ignorant masses. It's a real limit on free discussion.

An individual can sue for slander when something is taken out of context, but you can't win unless you prove intent. For a writer at Jezebel or Salon, for example, stupidity is going to be an ironclad defense against slander. "Your honor, I thought the celebrity was saying he ate a baby for lunch. I didn't see the word carrot. It was an honest mistake."

In my defense, I'll bet half of the writers in this country censored themselves the same way this week. The other half will do it next week.

I just wanted you to know I put in the work. I didn't realize my writing wouldn't be safe for the public until I wrestled with it for a few hours. Then I ran out of time. Sorry about that.

---

Regarding yesterday's post, disturbingly motivated reader bubbaJones found a reference to the exact quote "You don't know what you don't know" that is documented about one year before I recall saying it for the first time. So I release on my claim of authorship. Based on the various sources bubbajones helpfully provided, the quote probably evolved from more than one author who said something similar and it got shortened to its best form over time.

----------------------------------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the best graduation gift ever.

 



 
Egos are dangerous things. On one hand it's probably good to have confidence in your abilities. Confidence helps your performance in a wide range of endeavors. Studies seem to support that notion.

On the other hand, if you let anyone see your big ego, you're a giant douchebag. So there's that.

I used to think people either have big egos or they don't. But since I adopted a moist robot view of my body, I noticed I can manipulate my ego by manipulating my body chemistry. When my testosterone is high, my ego expands with it. It's simple biology.

I know what spikes my testosterone. It happens primarily through a healthy lifestyle, including sleep, diet, winning and exercise. And you can feel the changes during the day depending on what you're doing. At this point I'll bet I could tell you my relative testosterone levels at any point in my day. When my levels are down, I feel weak and tired and easily defeated. When my levels are high, I think I can do pretty much anything. And I've seen my confidence and self-image completely transform in less than an hour when I intentionally adjust my testosterone levels via my actions.

I long ago abandoned the juvenile idea that people have immutable good and bad traits. The moist robot view is that we can manipulate our traits within surprisingly wide boundaries. And our personalities are fluid during any given day. The angry Scott is nothing like the happy and creative Scott. The horny me is nothing like the satisfied me. So I reject the concept of "me" as some sort of static thing. Instead I see my moist robot container as something I can manipulate to engineer my mood to the situation. There are times when having more ego is useful. There are times when it is better to be humble. I jack my body chemistry as needed.

I have an advantage over most of you because I don't feel embarrassment like a normal human. I couldn't do this job if I did. Today will be a case in point. What follows would be embarrassing for a typical human with normal thresholds of embarrassment. But for a moist robot, it's just an exercise in chemistry adjustment.

Here's my story.

Have you ever heard the saying "You don't know what you don't know"? It's something you sometimes hear in the American business world but it isn't overly common.

I was about to use the saying in a comic and wondered if I was the original author of it. (Ego alert!) So I Googled to see if anyone else had been given credit for it. There's a Socrates quote on a similar theme, but quite different. And at least one other person was wondering about the source of the quote too, which led to a public question on Yahoo. No one else seemed to know the source of the quote either.

So I decided to take credit for it.

This is the sort of thing you do not do when you have socially acceptable levels of humility and the capacity for embarrassment. But moist robots like me are not burdened by such things. To me it was just a button I could push to boost my testosterone. So I did. You can see my claim-grabbing ways here.

I am fully aware that some of you just labelled me an egomaniacal douchebag for claiming authorship of the quote. But doing so jacked up my testosterone. I'm okay with that tradeoff. This moist robot is feeling good and ready to take on the day.

  ---------------------------------------

Scott Adams


In other news, now you can add your favorite pro sports schedule to your personal calendar with a few clicks at CalendarTree.com.  (I'm co-founder.) So far we have:

Formula 1

NASCAR

Major League Baseball

FIFA World Cup - Brazil


More on the way...

 
It's easy to forget that the concept of money was an important invention at some point in history. With the advantage of hindsight we know it was a great idea, but one can imagine the how hard it was for the inventor of money to sell the idea to his friends.

Inventor: I have a great idea. Let's assign arbitrary value to shiny rocks. We'll call it money.

Friend: Why would we do that?

Inventor: Well, for starters, I could trade my shiny rocks for your cow and we'd both be happy.

Friend: Can I get milk from those shiny rocks?

Inventor: No, no. You'd use the money to buy goods from other people who think small shiny objects are worth as much as a cow.

Friend: How many idiots like that are there in the world?

Inventor: I'm hoping you'll be the first.

Somehow, despite all odds, the concept of money went on to be a big success. And because money exists, so does the modern economy.

But the problem with money is that every system devised by humans eventually results in the top 1% having most of the money. No one has figured out how to fix income equality without making something else worse.

My solution to income inequality is to invent a new type of money called the "ute" which is short for "utility." There will be no physical bills or coins involved. It's just a digital store of value. You can only earn utes by being useful to your fellow humans. And unlike regular wealth, your ute value would be public.

The hard part of the ute system is assigning objective values to subjective things such as usefulness. But regular money has the same problem and that is solved by the marketplace, supply and demand, and some government control. I think the same could be true of utes.

Utes would not replace regular money and would not be used for direct purchasing. Utes would only be a way of knowing who is contributing to the well-being of others and who is not. Utes would be a measure of prestige, respect, and general worthiness. And I could imagine society providing special privileges and rights to people who have high ute value.

Perhaps the high ute folks get preferred parking spots. Maybe they board airplanes first. Maybe they can use the carpool lanes all by themselves. Maybe they get two votes instead of one. Maybe every business starts treating high ute folks as priority customers. Perhaps employers would start checking the ute value of job applicants. One could imagine lots of privileges that don't directly involve purchasing goods and services. And the best privilege of all might be the respect of your peers.

The benefit of the ute system is that it grants respect to the folks who are doing the right things for society. But more importantly it gives the rich a more useful purpose for their money. If you're a billionaire with low ute, and everyone knows it, eventually that will make you uncomfortable. It's not as much fun to be a billionaire if everyone thinks you're a selfish tool and they have the ute statistics to prove it. The media would report your ute value with every story. It would never go away.

So I can see the ute system encouraging the rich to focus their excess wealth in areas that generate high ute return. For some that might mean investing in ways that create lots of employment. If you create a job for someone, you get a lot of utes. And if you go full-Bill-Gates-charity you get more utes than anyone. But a standard rich person would have to try hard to beat the ute value of a nurse, for example.

One need not have a paying job to accrue utes. A stay-at-home parent would have plenty of utes. Charity volunteers would have plenty too.

We humans tend to focus on whatever can be measured. As things stand, we can measure traditional wealth but we can't measure an individual's total contribution to the world. By creating a more general measure of a person's contribution -inaccuracies and all - it will cause people to think harder about their value to the world. And that will change how people act.

I think the ute system would contribute to social mobility. Under our current system a poor person with a sub-standard education has a huge challenge. But if that person could build a high ute value by being of service to others, employers would take notice. That person is a team player, a person of character, and a person of action. And perhaps you can earn utes by mentoring someone, so it's a win-win.

Humans act on the things they can measure. If we want people to do more useful and respectable things, we need to measure their progress.

You will be tempted to quibble about how hard it would be to compare the ute value of, for example, a lawyer versus a plastic surgeon. But keep in mind that we have lots of useful systems with the same degree of flaws and inaccuracies. Case in point, my credit score is bad because some of my minor bills once went to an old address and I didn't know of them until a collections agency called me. So in my case, credit reporting is totally broken, yet the world is better because of credit reporting. It's a terribly inaccurate system that is still better than none. The ute system would be similarly full of terrible inaccuracies while still being useful overall.

Or not. How much do you hate this idea?

----------------------------------------------
Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the best graduation gift ever.

 



 

 
 
 
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