Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—CIX

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Phytelligence Lab Space

Lease Signed Today

Phytelligence lab and office | WSURF Research Park
~ Phytelligence and the Washington State University Research Foundation (WSURF) today executed a lease for office and laboratory space in the Research Park operated by WSURF.

The space and the location are very well-suited to the company's needs, and move-in is expected to be substantially complete in less than 3 weeks.

Phytelligence lab
Want an invite to our "office-warming" party? Just contact me at the company and I'll get you on the list!

Disclosure: I am a founder and the CEO of Phytelligence. A similar post was cross-posted to the Phytelligence blog.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Demand More Demand

What's Wrong With the Economy?

 ~ The short answer:

Tom Toles | Corporate cash reserves and lack of consumer demand

A slightly longer answer, but more informative and at least as entertaining:

Economically, the solution is both simple and obvious. Politically, the solution is absurdly complicated and the target of endless obfuscation.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Climate Change Peer Consensus

Thorough Review of the Literature

 ~ It's not unanimous, but it's more of a consensus than one typically sees on anything.

Pie chart of peer-reviewed science regarding climate change

When was science ever unanimous anyway? It is the nature of scientific inquiry for there always to be skeptics.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Superstorm Semantics Are Superbad

'Bad News' Brown
 ~ What media maven came up with the hyperventilating term "Superstorm" Sandy? Despite its destructive power, media types remain seemingly disappointed that they can't technically call Sandy a hurricane. So to heighten the seriousness of the story and of themselves, they award the generic and over-used prefix "super" to the storm.

This makes storms like Sandy seem dangerously larger in importance, and in potency, perhaps not a bad thing. But the cartoonish connotation of super as overwhelming implies these storms as a force beyond our control. We cower in helplessness upon the Supervillain's wanton destruction of the fair metropolis; should we bow down to the Superstorm? No, Superman will save us! No need for us to do anything!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Unlikely Opposition to Energy Independence

Tied to the Grid

Perils of Pauline | Tied to the tracks
 ~ Ironically, aspirations of being (partly) off-grid are thwarted by the grid itself.

Even if the progress to national energy independence is halting, and frustrated by barely-concealed Big Oil interests at every turn, still we can each act locally, right? Each of us as individuals can buy plug-in electric vehicles, retrofit homes with energy efficiency measures, and install solar panels on roofs. Can't we?

Sure. But it turns out that these don't confer the independence one might imagine.

Take solar panels, for example. When Superstorm* Sandy savaged the US Northeast, there were doubtless many who thought their preparation installing rooftop solar panels would prove prudent, and reward them with continued electricity and the breadth of common Western comforts it affords.

They were wrong.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Counting Blessings

Counting blessings...
 ~ Even though the last several years have been very hard on very many people, and tough for my family and me as well, I remain grateful for a great many things. I'm thankful first and foremost for my wife, who has put up with me for more than 15 years now. I'm thankful for my kids, both sired and acquired, who have certainly taught me plenty all the while I was thinking I was the teacher. I'm thankful for my colleagues, my readers and my friends, some of whom have joined us in celebration today. I'm thankful for my friends in Rotary and the powerfully positive good we do in the community together. I'm thankful for my venture consulting clients of Fingo for sharing their passion and excitement for their businesses and letting me be a small part of their vision and their success. I'm thankful for my co-founders at Phytelligence and especially their brilliance and enthusiasm for how we are changing the fruit tree industry. I'm thankful for our investors and partners without whom we would not be able to make the progress we have.

I'm thankful that I can still take joy in life with inspiring people and do work that lifts me up and maybe, some day, will have the lasting impact that lifts up others as well.

Thanks for reading; contact me any time I can help you move your vision forward to a more blessed, prosperous, and meaningful place.

Chris Leyerle

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—CVIII

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Investor Returns

Angels Do Better Than VCs

Chasing money
 ~ John Frankel has an intriguing and detailed post up on TechCrunch that shows angel investing has provided superior returns over venture capital.

Great to have hard numbers, but I doubt many are surprised at this result, or the primary reasons—"misalignment of incentives and overcapitalization." In short, VCs have an incentive to raise ever-larger funds from their limited partners since the bulk of their compensation is management fees calculated as a fixed percentage of the size of the fund. The carried interest incentive, a percentage of the portfolio gains, is a shrinking fraction of the management fee compensation. A VC has a greater incentive to raise more money than to manage it well. "The incentive becomes raising larger funds rather than generating stronger returns."

There's also an interesting corollary.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Things I Learned From My Dad—VI

Grow Things

John Leyerle in his first garden in Hope Township
 ~ My Dad loved everything about a garden.

He loved to create (or as he preferred to say, "install") them. He loved to eat the food he grew. He loved to give it to others. He loved the hard physical labor of digging, of planting, of erecting cold frames, trellises, fences and walls. He loved the pleasure of accomplishment that benefited himself and others. He loved to sit in late afternoon with a cold beer and gaze at the product of his vision and labor and reflect on what he would do next to improve it.

I learned from my Dad the deep satisfaction that comes from envisioning, creating and growing a garden. The garden of course was but one undertaking among many that provides the same teaching. More broadly I learned the power and joy of creating things of lasting value primarily by one's own hard work, and bringing benefit to many beyond myself.

Whether a garden, a curriculum, a family or a business, the principles are very similar.

Thank you Dad.

John Frank Leyerle
11/18/26 - 8/2/06

Saturday, November 17, 2012

You Are What You Eat


Most of the world labels GMOs, but not the US or Canada
 ~ Are genetically modified organism (GMO) foods safe? Monsanto and others say it is, but how much and how far can we trust behemoth corporations to be forthright and truthful when doing so reduces their profits? Their unwillingness belies their assurances:
What’s the issue? If they are so great, why not advertise them? Why does the industry that profits from them fight labeling so vehemently and put so many of their resources into keeping their presence in our foods a secret? Why are corporate rights continually given precedence over consumer rights?
Opponents of California's Proposition 37, which would have required labeling of GMO content on foods, used a flood of mostly out-of-state corporate money to overwhelm the relatively meager resources of advocates 5-to-1. Which companies would fight so hard to keep consumers ignorant? They include Monsanto, DuPont, PepsiCo, Dow Agro, Bayer, BASF, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Nestle, ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg, Smithfield Foods, Del Monte, Campbells, and Heinz, each of which contributed at least $500,000 and as much as $8M to defeat the measure. Other well-known brands fighting for the consumer's right not to know include Hershey's, J.M. Smucker, Ocean Spray, Mars, Hormel, Bumblebee, Sara Lee, Unilever, Wrigley, Cargill and Dole. Their political involvement suggests the likelihood that all of these companies have GMO in their products or expect to do so in future.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Election's True Colors—II

Not A Center-Right Country

 ~ Another revealing electoral map:

Electoral map by county and voting intensity

The country has rejected GOP economic ideas; time to focus on the middle class, not further coddling of moneyed special interests.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—CVII

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fixing the Debt

Fixing the Game

Richie Rich
 ~ A band of CEOs from some of America's largest corporations have united under the banner of Fix the Debt. They argue that the right path to fiscal sanity (and away from the so-called fiscal cliff) entails broadening the tax base and reducing tax rates.

Their argument is disingenuous. A broader tax base with lower rates all around means a tax hike on the middle class and lower taxes for rich CEOs and their companies who have already looted the system for the past decade. Not content with that subterfuge, they're shamelessly lobbying for brand new tax breaks that would benefit only themselves at the expense of everyone else:
The Fix the Debt campaign has raised $60 million and recruited more than 80 CEOs of America’s most powerful corporations to lobby for a debt deal that would reduce corporate taxes and shift costs onto the poor and elderly.


The 63 Fix the Debt companies that are publicly held stand to gain as much as $134 billion in windfalls if Congress approves one of their main proposals — a “territorial tax system.” Under this system, companies would not have to pay U.S. federal income taxes on foreign earnings when they bring the profits back to the United States.
The corporate tax burden is lower than it has been in 40 years. They don't want to fix the debt, they want to fix the system.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Startup Valuations


 ~ Valuations for startups remain quite strong. Maybe too strong.

Iconic Silicon Gulch law firm Wilson Sonsini (WSGR) has released the latest version of their regular survey showing valuations remain quite robust compared to the past several years.

VC investment pre-money valuations by round 2010-2012

It's astonishing that the median pre-money valuation for a VC-funded Series A round is $8M.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Debt Fears

How Big is Too Big?

 ~ US debt was 76.8% of GDP in 2010, while Singapore's was 107%. Which country will collapse first?
Ranking of country debt as a percentage of GDP
I'm betting neither one.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Coal Trains

We Don't Want All That Jazz

US freight traffic by tonnage and type
 ~ I plucked this map from an unrelated story, but my eye was caught by the fattest red swath.

It shows the largest rail traffic in tons moved per year. So what are all those trains doing in eastern Wyoming? What are all those tons?

Friday, November 9, 2012


Time to Move (Forward)

2012 Election cartoon

 ~ The problem is only partly the candidate.

2012 Election cartoon

This isn't the right response:

2012 Election cartoon

This is.

2012 Election cartoon

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Election's True Colors

Mandate for Real Change

 ~ There are several interesting variations on the standard electoral map, but best of the bunch is this one:

Cartogram of US 2012 election results by county colored by popular vote

It is a cartogram, a map of the US distorted so that each state is sized according to the data, which in this case is the number of electoral votes each state has. The colors are done on a county-by-county basis and are shaded from red to blue based on the popular vote within a county.

There's a lot of purplish shades, but overall the map is plainly more blue-hued than red.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Where's It Wednesday—CVI

An easier one... Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four More Years

But of What, Exactly?

President Barack Obama listens
 ~ "Four more years!" is a popular chant by the supporters of an incumbent president's re-election, but what changes in four more years? My prediction: very little. I expect the GOP to draw mostly the wrong lessons and double down on most of their current policies, strategies, and candidate choices. It will be after 2016 that we see real change.

Here's why:

Monday, November 5, 2012

We Need Election Reform

Voting Should Not be Partisan

 ~ The "two-party system" is destroying American democracy.

David Frum, Republican apostate, points out that virtually every other democracy has a standardized system of voting that is fast, fair, accurate, and free of partisan abuses. Not so in the US, again. In other countries:
Politicians of one party do not set voting schedules to favor their side and harm the other. Politicians do not move around voting places to gain advantages for themselves or to disadvantage their opponents. In fact, in almost no other country do politicians have any say in the administration of elections at all.
Here in Washington State, we have gone to an all-mail ballot, so we will not see the brazenly partisan shenanigans in states such as Florida that seek to make voting so painful and time-consuming that people give up trying. Nor are we likely to see the strange vote tabulations of past elections in states like Ohio or the legal jockeying Frum describes in Missouri.

If we are truly to be the exemplar of democracy we need to conduct our elections at a higher level—one where voting is fair, consistent, easy and transparent.
In every other democracy, the vote is the means by which the people choose between the competing political parties -- not one more weapon by which the parties compete.
If you haven't already (and you'd be wise if you have) get out tomorrow and vote. If you can.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Climate Change Ocean Rise

Interactive Global Map

Puget Sound 5m higher
 ~ What would Puget Sound look like if it were 5m higher? Among other changes:
  • The Ports of Tacoma and Seattle are under water
  • So is most of Sodo, Georgetown and several neighborhoods all the way to Tukwila
  • A much smaller Everett is a narrow penisula jutting north from Mukilteo
  • Mount Vernon is on the coast
  • Tsawwassen is an island
  • In British Columbia, all of Delta and Richmond, including Vancouver Airport, and most of Highway 99, is under the Strait of Georgia
How much will the oceans rise? No one knows for sure, but careful estimates over the next century are for 5m or more. Climate change also brings more frequent and ferocious storms. Storm surges can raise ocean levels 5m or more on their own.

Check out the interactive map to see the effect of rising ocean levels of 1 to 60m anywhere in the world.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Shake Me Baby One More Time

 ~ Who are you voting for?

No, really. Do you even know who it is that you're voting for?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Executive TimeSlice

Joining Forces

Mountain climbing
 ~ Fingo Consulting has joined forces with Executive TimeSlice, the Seattle area's go-to source for interim and part-time C-level executives, IT expertise and strategic business consulting.

I will be working to expand the early stage company practice; meanwhile my current clients will have available the additional resources and expertise where needed. Contact me for details, or if you'd like to explore how we can help you solve your business challenges.