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jasonkwok
Think. Do.
Thoughts

amazon_hierachy

Amazon Hierarchy

  One of my friends recently transited to a startup and was explaining how chaotic their organization was. As a PMM from Microsoft, the lack of a solid management structure was both a blessing and a curse. Without management’s vices, he has been able to ship and create products at an astounded speed. Without management’s guidance and structure, however, many startup employees misalign on vision and conflict on work and ideas. One of Amazon’s Vice Presidents, Laura, gave a talk late last year and explained Amazon’s hierarchy principals with more clarity. While Amazon does its best to avoid the traditional blogs and pains of bureaucracy, a company cannot get as big as Amazon does without some level of hierarchy. As Laura herself explains, the work life tends to morph as an employee move up from an entry level individual contributor into a manager role, and then finally into a manager of managers. Now, Laura’s day is mostly spent in meetings. She primarily attends 3 types of meetings: 1. Normal business status meetings with directs, such as weekly business reviews and monthly business reviews 2. Strategy or road-blocking meetings to move forward new projects, new processes, or fix areas that are faltering or behind plan 3. Developmental meetings with directs and more (For example, this talk to the RUP class is an example of a developmental meeting) Individual contributors (ICs) are the employees that do work. As the majority of employees, [...]

detroit

Detroit’s Demise

  Oh Detroit. All eyes recently turned upon the struggling city with its public declaration of bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal’s recent article revealed a small glimpse of Detroit’s difficulties. Detroit’s population fell more than 26% from 2000 to 2012 and totals about 700,000—down from almost two million in 1950, according to the census. An estimated 40,000 structures or land parcels sit vacant or empty. The city spent $100 million more than it took in every year since 2008, on average—borrowing the rest. Some 36% of Detroiters lived below the poverty level between 2007 and 2011, the census found. In 2012, Detroit had the highest violent crime rate for a city with more than 200,000 residents, the FBI says. – http://on.wsj.com/13vVDzR Even before this bankruptcy, Detroit’s unemployment rate was 13.7% in 2006, and in 2008 it’s per capita income was a little under $15K, 54% of the US average. Detroit’s demise has unfortunately been long coming. Once an automobile powerhouse, Detroit has been losing it’s economic prosperity over the last half century with globalization coupled with poor leadership. DETROIT’S STRONG HISTORY Detroit was once a prosperous city. Early Detroit took advantage of early transportation advances and grew in tandem with railroad and water networks. “Detroit grew as a node of the great rail and water network long before Henry Ford made his first Model T. Between 1850 and 1890, the city’s population increased tenfold, from 21,000 to 206,000 people. Detroit’s [...]

Finance_crawler_2

Coca-Cola (KO) Undervalued? Finance Crawler (Part 2)

    I have been making some major changes with one of my projects — my automated finance crawler! Logic Change: Start with companies, and analyze company information first I completely rewrote my previous script to create a more robust and useful equity analyzer. Instead of starting with the industry and finding (potentially endless number of) companies, I have reversed the order of focus. Version 2 starts by pulling comprehensive information about selectively pre-stored company ticker symbols and proceeds to calculate a valuation based on companies’ financials. While version 1 started with a generic landing page of all industries, and dived into each respective rabbit-hole of an industry, and then dived into each sub-rabbit-hole that was a company, backtracked and dove into the next industry and it’s respective companies, version 2 simply looks and directly pulls from a defined list of companies. This currently ignores industries and is poor for new discovery, but holds the tremendous benefit of controlling the mining process and finding all necessary information about a company, while limiting the number of companies analyzed companies to mostly legitimate and respected companies. This also allows me to pull information centered on tickers, which is very necessary for pulling the financial numbers. Increased Finance Robustness Instead of a simple P/E ratio comparison, I have set up a much more complex calculation to perform an automated Discounted Cash Flow to Equity calculation for each company. This obviously increased the number [...]

social_isnt_dead

Social Isn’t Dead

It’s interesting to bring up the “term” social in the context of the tech scene these days. While “social” was once all the rage, many of my peers now consider it “uncool,” overused, or even maybe dead. One of the silver linings of Facebook’s less than amazing IPO is the decrease of the overuse of the term “social”. I think that social, however, will still be considered a very important and necessary feature with future tech products. If you are truly know whats up, I think you will know that social is the furthest from dead. If I were to remove myself from all trending tech terms and all knowledge of current social products, I would defer to Wikipedia’s first two sentences: “The term social refers … to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.” – Wikipedia. I think this definition is a great description of what one should consider when unpacking the word in terms of products. When I think of my normal social interactions, there is a huge spectrum of dynamic interactions. Social interactions range from intense to relax, in professional to personal environment, through well-known connections to strangers, with both private and public ideas, and through numerous other criteria. Thinking and charting human social actions creates a multifaceted dimensional matrix that becomes [...]

fc1

Finance Crawler (Part 1)

Ever since moving to Seattle, I have been meeting a very large number of awesome people that are super involved with the technology scene. This can of course be largely attributed to the influence of Microsoft and Amazon, both of which obviously employee a huge tech interested and tech fluent work force. In contrast to Los Angeles, this has been a refreshing change of company. More importantly, this has been a revitalizing reminder to work on some projects that have been on the back burner. I finally created a semi-functional financial web crawler that organizes some very elementary aspects of financial data and stores it into a mysql table. It works, but it doesn’t work perfectly, and there is a ton of stuff I would love to get input on. Current Status How it works: My crawler pulls HTML from one big page of Yahoo finance, stores all the industries into an array, and one by one dives into an industry page. Once on the industry page, it pulls all the companies in that industry and stores the ticker symbol. Once it pulls the ticker symbol, it then goes to the specific company’s webpage and pulls specific company information. This was necessary to do because I had no idea what the current stocks are, what their ticker symbols are, and what industry they belonged to. Now that I do have a record of large number of ticker symbols, I plan [...]

archiveit

ArchiveIt! An education revolution?

  When I was a high school, I had what I thought was a “brilliant” website idea. I would call it “ArchiveIt!” and it would allow any student to collaborate, share, and “promote” education. From the perspective of a high school student, I always found a great pain in slaving through irrelevant homework assignments. What high school student doesn’t hate the hours and hours of useless homework? I, alongside every other ambitious student, had two goals in mind. Goal one was getting the highest possible grade; goal two was spending the least amount of time making goal one occur. Thus, the bane of our existence was the “meaningless” fill in the choice worksheets, the color-in-sheets, the crossword-puzzles, and the multitude of every other quick to simulate-an-error-and-deduct-valuable-grade-points homework assignments. Plus, what is the point of doing a practice test unless you can compare your work to the right answer? I thought had would be the solution. Introduce ArchiveIt! This revolutionary web product would not cure cancer, but it would cure thousands if not millions of high school student’s pain and suffering of useless homework assignments. It would also help the true nerds achieve better grades and fulfill their parent’s life-long dream of getting accepted to a better college. How would it work? Students would be able to login and share graded homework assignments and graded tests. Based on some type of participation algorithm, uploaders would be able to access other documents. In a [...]

budbabies-sml-busted

Busted Babies

A little while ago I wrote a post analyzing the business model of renting baby clothes. (see it here). While I loved the problem that this business could solve and loved the value added, I simply could not see the financial viability of the company. I just heard that PlumGear, a company tackling this business, went out of business. PlumGear: I’m sorry to see it end like this. I truly hoped you would prove me wrong! You had a strong run and you had some amazing momentum, which should be commended. For the sake of my future children, I hope another company can pull this off. Someone please let me know when it comes around!

college

College

Two weeks ago I took my last final and graduated from UCLA with a degree in Business Economics. Time flies. I still distinctly remember writing my college admissions personal statement; three and a half years later, I am now a graduate of UCLA with a slightly better idea of what defines me and how this life thing works. College is a time for fun and recreation, but college is also a time for people to grow and define themselves for the real world. Here are very several things that I have learned over the past three and a half years. Surround yourself with the best. In my first year at UCLA, I did little but school. Life was enjoyable, but I really wasn’t doing much. It wasn’t until my second year at UCLA that I joined an organization that helped me grow and develop. Because I knew how to make websites and I had a high GPA, I was admitted to Bruin Consulting even after a terrible interview and no real understanding of what business and consulting was. Joining Bruin Consulting was one of the most defining experiences of my college career. While Bruin Consulting didn’t necessarily hand me platters of internships, Bruin Consulting surrounded me with incredible, bright, and talented people that helped me develop. I still remember hearing introductions at the first meeting and realizing that I was the only one without an internship or full-time job lined [...]

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Do Work, Son

Do Work, Son. Over the last few years at UCLA, I have grown and developed in unfathomable ways. I have grown spiritually, expanded my intellect, developed my character and nurtured my interests. One of the most important characteristics that I have grown is my work ethic. Once a child that believed in advancement with minimal effort, I have come to strongly believe in three words, “Do Work, Son.” There is something to be said about doing things very, very well. There is something to be said about always putting forth quality work and owning your activities with a ferocious work ethic. From academics to extracurricular activities, I have grown to admire those with an effective and determined work ethic and I now strive to follow in their footsteps. To those that “Do Work,” I salute you and commemorate the following design to you. PS: I include “Son” here because it simply speaks louder to me since I am a “son.” In no way is this meant to be discriminatory towards females.

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Should I Buy (This) Real Estate?

Having grown up with a mother that works as a real estate broker, I have always been very interested in real estate. One of the greatest things about real estate is how understandable and real the asset is. Barring the last few years, real estate has historically grown at a very understandable and logical manner. If you understand the market and buy in at a great location with a good cap rate, that property can generate a reasonable rate of return. Coming out of UCLA, I hope to quickly purchase a house and generate rental income. Big questions that I face are, “Is now the right time to buy?” and “What property should I buy?” There are two things to consider. The first is to examine macro-economic real estate trends. The second is to truly analyze the specific market and property’s specifics. 1) How is the real estate market currently doing? From looking at the Case-Shiller Index and the Fed’s recent work to lower interest rates, one can make the argument that real estate housing prices have hit rock bottom and because financing is incredibly cheap, it is time to buy. But have prices hit rock bottom yet? There are several arguments that point to the possibility that housing prices will soon increase. David Blitzer, Chairman of Standard and Poor’s Index Committee, explains that the housing market is currently giving mixed signals. Housing prices, adjusted for inflation, are still higher [...]

budbabies-sml

Can Baby Clothing Rentals be Profitable?

I came up with a business idea the other month called “Budding Babies.” This system could potentially solve a huge problem for both parents and unfashionable babies while possibly making a profitable margin. The key word that surrounds profitable margin is the word “Possibly.” Everyone knows that babies grow far too fast to actually fit an article of clothing for a respectable amount of time. This leaves parents with two options with their baby: Option 1: They can buy their baby a new, trendy, and fitted outfit every 30 seconds so the child will always look good. Option 2: They can not buy their new baby clothes and instead follow the hand-me down model and recirculate slightly “discolored” clothing. Parents can give their baby their cousin’s “not so old” clothing and then turn around and pass it on to their siblings. The former option leaves a very stylish baby, but is incredibly expensive. The latter saves parents with some extra cash, but may subject their children to social humiliation with a hand-me down with stains in certain areas of their pants. (I have personally decided to dress my children in a pillow sack until post-puberty to refrain from wasting money on clothing that becomes obsolete in the matter of weeks.) Introduce Budding Babies: A revolutionary baby and children clothing rental system that allows parents to save money, stop the accumulation of obsolete clothes, and ensure their children always have un-stained [...]

makemoney

Startups Need to Make Money

ANALYSIS Rob Go, a Venture Capitalist I follow, posted a very interesting article the other day that discussed the influx of VC funding for companies that seem to lack a business model. I found this post incredibly useful and interesting considering the inordinately large amount of funding that start-ups are generating. This article reached into my mind and plucked out a very question that commonly circulates: “How is that possible given that the company isn’t making any money and doesn’t have any business model?” I think it is a safe assumption that because VCs care about generating a return on their investment, most would care about a company that can generate some type of revenue. Rob Go and Lee Howard agree with this thinking and discusses three all encompassing business models that every single Internet based company can possible have. Pasted directly from their posts, they are: 1. Media Models (primarily monetized through advertising) 2. Transaction Models (including e-commerce but also lead-generation) 3. Premium, User-Paid services While I previously decided the only existed 2 valid Internet business models were advertising and a payment service, the distinction in my latter model between Transaction Models and User Paid services clarifies products. These three business models cover every end goal method of generating revenue and holding a substantial business model. I truly believe that every organization that is trying to be a company should have a goal to have a sustainable business model. [...]

passionrulesobligation

Passion Rules Obligation

Last week I finished my internship at JPMorgan Chase. For the last 9 weeks I have been working and learning in one of the world’s most established financial institutions in the Middle Market department and servicing companies that make $20 million to $500 million in revenues. While my team specifically focused on credit, I worked with a wide variety of services such as treasury services, foreign exchange, and second tier financing. I was especially drawn to this department because I personally have an interest in one day working at or owning a company with these revenues. This summer was a fantastic learning experience. After shadowing and working with number of deals, I understand how to look and understand financials, analyze risks, and so on. But the most valuable things I have learned are what I want and don’t want with my life, my work environment, and my coworkers. This can all be condensed into three words, “Passion Rules Obligation.” Why do you work? Why do your coworkers work? Is it a passion for what you do, or are you obligated to work? This internship drastically contrasted with my internship last summer at Google, where the contrast between employee attitudes was stark. One environment encouraged innovation while the other feared employees violating compliance. There were some inspirational role models at JPMorgan Chase whom floored me with their work ethic, passion in work, and example. I am truly thankful I was able [...]

airbnb

Airbnb: A Movement of Efficiency

  Airbnb is part of a movement of efficiency. When my family lived in Palo Alto, we had 3 bedrooms but really only needed 2. My mother re-rented the extra room out to 3 different college student tenants over the course of four years. My mother loves efficiency.  As a very educated woman with four degrees, one a PhD from Stanford in Management Sciences, my mother found a true passion in operations and efficiency. As a professor, she taught and emphasized efficiency. As a mother, she mandated efficiency in the family. Naturally, if we have extra-unused real estate, the space should be utilized and we should capitalize off it. Having grown up with this standard, I have always had this mentality. I have always shaken my head at inefficiencies in other families, industries, and the world and I see so much wasted opportunity of excessive, unused real estate. Recently, there has been a movement to make housing inefficiencies more efficient with the birth of companies like Airbnb (Air Bed and Breakfast). Airbnb is an online real estate market place founded in 2009 that allows “people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world online or from an iPhone device. Whether the available space is a castle for a night, a sailboat for a week, or an apartment for a month, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to showcase these distinctive spaces to an audience of millions.” Imagine the possibilities! [...]

trafficgt

Los Angeles Traffic is Game Theory’s Prisoners Dilemma

Last school year, I took an upper-division economics class on game theory. Game theory is a topic within economics that analyzes rational decision-making. While Russell Crowe’s “A Beautiful Mind” portrays game theory as a magical science that requires people to write on beautiful stained glass windows, game theory is really a very simple and fascinating subject matter that helps people categorize rationality, payoffs, and decisions. Prisoner’s Dilemma The prisoner’s dilemma is one of the most popular and most studied examples in game theory. Imagine 2 criminals who have been captured for a crime. The police are interrogating each of these prisoners in isolated rooms. The police only has enough evidence to put each suspect away for 2 years, but if one of the criminals rats the other one out, they can put the other criminal away for 4 years and only keep the rat for 1 year.  However, if both prisoners rat each other out, then both will serve 3 years for semi-cooperating in the light of incriminating evidence. This leaves 4 scenarios; they are reflected below in each of the four boxes. 1)     Prisoner 1 is Silent (will receive 2 years in prison); Prisoner 2 is Silent (will receive 2 years in prison). 2)     Prisoner 1 will Rat (will receive 1 year in prison); Prisoner 2 is Silent (will receive 4 years in prison). 3)     Prisoner 1 is Silent (will receive 4 years in prison); Prisoner 2 will Rat [...]

indinerosquare

inDinero: Added Value, Sustainable Revenue, and Strong Leadership

I’ve recently taken to scanning CrunchBase, a wiki-like database of technology startups and investments.  Early last week, a young producer of enterprise finance software called inDinero caught my eye.  The more I researched the company, the more I grew to appreciate not only their work, but the core ideas and people behind their success.  Founders Jessica Mah and Andy Su, computer science majors from UC Berkeley, lead a small team of employees in an effort to provide both comprehensive and comprehendible financial information to small businesses.   Imagine Mint.com, the popular internet-based, personal financial management tool, but scaled and tailored to the needs of small businesses without a dedicated finance department.  These companies can use inDinero to synthesize, simplify, and make sense of their finances without getting caught up in needless accounting gibberish.  inDinero frees small businesses from many of the headaches of ‘back office’ work, allowing them to focus their time, energy, and money on growth and improvement of core competencies.  I have very high hopes for this company.  Let me explain why. Added Value.  inDinero provides real, tangible value.  The primary motivation behind my decision to study Business Economics here at UCLA was a lifelong desire to own and operate my own company.  A sizeable portion of this curriculum involves the study of accounting.  While the cut-and-dry nature of accounting does not particularly invite excitement, I believe a solid understanding of the topic is integral to running a successful [...]

ideasarefree

TutorSpree: This was my idea

I received an email the other about a job offer for tutoring. This is what it read: “Tutorspree.com is offering select UCLA students an easy way to earn extra income as they begin their job search. Tutorspree…[is] an online tech-startup that connects students with local tutors. Our top tutors earn thousands of dollars a month on a part time basis and we would like to invite you to join our growing community. Unlike a traditional tutoring agency, our tutors determine their own hourly rates and schedules and never have to opt into a contract. Once you sign up, Tutorspree gets to work advertising your talents and sending great students your way.” – www.tutorspree.com Back in the junior year of high school, I found out one of my good friends was tutoring at a rate of $25 an hour. After I overcame my shock of her income, I became determined to grab a slice of this pie and found myself a few tutor clients. But I recognized this whole student tutor system had a ridiculous amount of potential. Current tutoring companies charged about $50/hour and usually passed less than 40% of these earnings to their employees. So I came up with a solution. I came up with this amazing idea called Studyhaven.com. The concept was this: some students need tutors, and some students want to tutor. Lets connect the two of them and monetize the entire scenario. It would be efficient, [...]

crowdsourcing

Thoughts on 99Designs

I am a fan of the crowdsourcing design website, 99Designs. Back in high school, the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook captivated my imagination and opened my mind up to the potential of the Internet. There is so much that can be done. I always get a little kick of excitement at progress with taste of bitterness when I see other people independently launch society-benefiting ideas that I once thought of. For example, there is pricegrabber.com, a tool that allows shoppers to compare good prices and there is quora.com, a question and answer community. Jealousy aside, I celebrate that these organizations are transforming and improving how society functions and communicates. This should be commended. 99Designs is one of these companies and it is transforming how people find designs and how designers find work. 99Designs acts as a very efficient marketplace for designs. Anyone who needs a design made for them (a logo, a website redesign, a tee-shirt, etc) can host an open competition with a prize. Designers look through the listed competitions and submit entrees to when they feel they can do a good job to or the compensation is attractive enough. 1. From the perspective of an economist, 99Designs provides great value to society. It creates an environment of perfect competition that gives all shoppers a normalized platform to find and buy their design. It gives consolidated information and compares designers on an even playing field, so they can [...]

thinkdo

Think. Do.

You may have noticed the two words that I have written across various parts of my website. “Think.Do.” My definition of the two words are as follows. Think: “use your brain to formulate ideas and thoughts. Do: “take action and turn those thoughts into reality.” Both are amazingly simple functions that most people in the world have learned how to do between the ages of 3-6, but rarely do people truly master both. I myself am included in this bucket. It is like choosing a car route from one part of the city to the other. Think about it so you don’t get lost, but if you think too much you will never start your car. Then there are those in this world that do without thinking. They see something exciting and bright and shiny and chase it like a dog after a car. They might not catch it and forget and immediately chase another unrelated object, claiming they only ever loved that second thing. Then they find yet another.  Many end up chasing the wrong car down the wrong freeway, and end up at the completely opposite side of town from where they wanted to go. Some don’t even realize it. But sometimes, doing without thinking is not the worst. There are those that do without thinking, and end up exactly (or close to) where they wanted to go. The best-case scenario is to first think, but not excessively, and then [...]

calcchickens

Calculate Your Chickens

I am sure you have heard of them saying, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” From such wisdom can come such foolishness. In economics, we calculate the outcome of an uncertain event with a simple concept called “expected value.” Simply put, just multiple the probabilty of something happening by the value. For example, if we have 10 eggs, the event can be 10 chickens. If each egg has say… 20% chance of hatching, one should multiple (value)X(probability) = (10 eggs)x(20%)= expected value of 2 chickens. While this is a simple concept, many find it very difficult to actually gauge reality in such a rational method. Not counting ones chickens is meant to deter the proud from foolishly assuming the outcome is set in stone. Consider, for example, a proud boy dreamed of the chickens he would soon have. After walking back with ten eggs, gloating to all his friends, and promising chickens, he falls over and breaks four. What this boy is doing is rounding the probability of his event up to 100%. On the other side of the story, this adage can be taken too seriously where one assumes he will receive no chickens. The boy had rounded up to 100%, therefore thinking (10eggs)x(100%)=10 chickens. If he had listened to the wisdom, he should have assumed the probability of eggs hatching to be 0%, or (10eggs)x(0%)=0chickens. While the latter attitude fights pride, both can cause distorted perspectives. If [...]

creatingcontent

Creating Content

One of my goals this summer is to create content. While I have historically become busy with school work, this summer I am going to set aside dedicated time to content creation. But what is content creation? I leave the statement intentionally broad because of my broad number of interests such as art, design, technology, business…Because my interests are so broad, I think it makes more sense to talk about more intangible things I would like to develop, rather than narrowed interests. To list a few, I want to develop: 1. Intellect. (Excessive thoughts and slightly philosophical views, that shape world perspective.) 2. Organization, communication, and ability to implement (Business skills. Writing and talking. Finance.) 3. Technical knowledge (Code. Licenses.) Content consumption is very important for development in any of these areas. But arguably more important, is content creation. Writing thoughts. Solidifying ideas. Furthermore, there are aspects of the above list that cannot be developed by intake, and must be developed by doing. Thus, enters my plan where I will create things, write things, and share things.