Topline: The stock market was off to a rough start on Tuesday, and although it rebounded slightly in the afternoon, rising uncertainty over trade talks with China—set to start Thursday—took a huge toll and prompted a further sell-off.
With fading optimism around U.S.-China trade negotiations, the S&P 500 dropped 1.56%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.19%.
The CBOE Volatility Index spiked 9.5% following Tuesday’s reports that both sides were ramping up trade tensions.
Every sector of the market was in the red, with all but 2 out of 11 sectors falling by more than 1%.
Here are all the latest trade developments roiling the markets:
Just days before trade talks were scheduled to resume, the Trump administration again escalated tensions on Monday, moving to blacklist eight more Chinese technology companies and reportedly discussing limits on pension investments in Chinese stocks.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Tuesday said to “stay tuned” for China’s retaliation, followed by the Ministry of Commerce saying it “strongly urges” the U.S. to remove sanctions and stop accusing China of human rights violations.
The South China Morning Post also reported that the Chinese delegation is toning down expectations and already planning to cut short its stay in Washington.
Later on Tuesday, the Trump administration reportedly implemented new visa restrictions on a slew of Chinese officials over alleged abuses of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
What to watch for: The all-important trade talks on Thursday and Friday. If no progress is made, the U.S. will go ahead with its planned tariff hike on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, from 25% to 30%, on October 15.
I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes, covering breaking news—with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I’ve reported at Money Magazine, The Villager NYC, and The East Hampton Star. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at email@example.com
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Microsoft Chief Product Officer, Panos Panay, unveiled new products on Wednesday that generated a lot of buzz. The products including Surface tablets, laptops and the company’s new smartphone, the Surface Duo. But it was the first five minutes of the presentation that caught my attention.
Last year Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put Panay in charge of all the company’s hardware devices. Panay’s also one of the best presenters I’ve seen in years–in any company. Panay used four advanced storytelling, presentation and speaking techniques that will make you a more effective communicator. Here, I’ll take a deeper look at what he did.
1. Don’t start with products.
People don’t buy products; they buy feelings. The best presenters establish a feeling before explaining a product’s features and demos. Panay established the theme of his presentation in the first two minutes. He showed a video of his daughter, Sophia, playing the piano. He said,
“In order for Sophia to play her best, that piano has to be ready. It has to be tuned perfectly. The bench has to be the right height, her sheet music at eye level.”
Panay was making the point that when the instrument–the technology– is right, it allows Sophia to unleash her creative talent. “When all the pieces line up, you can stop thinking. You’re just inspired to play better.” Panay has just made an emotional connection with the audience and framed the products as much more than new hardware–they’re instruments to help them unleash their inspired creativity.
2. Tell customer stories.
Panay’s first slides showed photos of several people–real customers with inspiring stories. For example, he showed a picture of Steve Gleason, a former professional football player diagnosed with ALS. Gleason is an advocate for Microsoft’s products that help people living with disabilities. Another photo showed Collete Davis, a race-car driver who runs her career like a startup–using Microsoft hardware, of course.
As humans, we’re wired for stories. We think in story, talk about stories, and enjoy information delivered in narrative form. Tell more stories to win people over.
3. Use multimedia to engage the audience.
Stories are engaging, as are photos and videos. We are not wired to engage with text and bullet points on slide. And that’s why there were no bullet points in Panay’s presentation. In fact, the first slide with text appeared ten minutes into the presentation–and even then, it was only one sentence.
Most presenters don’t use video, but they should. People love video. Research shows that videos and images are far more engaging than text alone. But communicators are often reluctant to insert videos into their presentations as Panay did when she showed his daughter playing piano.
Neuroscientists have found that visual and verbal information are encoded in different parts of our brain. University of Washington molecular biologist, John Medina, has addressed the phenomenon in his research. Simply put, Information that’s presented in text, pictures and video for is more richly encoded. Adding a video is more likely to stamp your idea on another person’s brain.
4. Connect with the audience.
Panay uses a speaking style that requires confidence and practice. You can see him in action in the video of the event. From time to time, Panay steps off the stage and walks among the audience members as he delivers information about the products. He’s not relying on notes or a prompter as he does so. Panay hits his marks and makes it look effortless because he’s put in the practice time to make the presentation great.
Delivering a great presentation doesn’t come naturally to most people. Presentations that leave a strong impression on the audience requires creativity and practice. When you get access to an expert like Panos Panay, it’s worth investing the time to watch his performance.
Watch as Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay talks about the importance of technology fading to the background and how these products can help you achieve more. Microsoft products, a symphony of technology between Windows, Surface, Office and AI, are designed to amplify your ideas, get you into your flow and let you build what’s in your mind and heart. Like an instrument, our products, our technology fades to the background so you can focus on your craft. Learn more at http://msft.social/PPTech
DuckDuckGo, which is a privacy-focused online search engine, recently surveyed the general public’s view on the importance of privacy on the internet. The results indicated that people care about the amount of information being collected about them online, and many respondents even claimed they have taken action to better protect their personal data.
This greater interest in online privacy should have a positive impact on Bitcoin adoption over the long term, as the cryptocurrency is basically the financial equivalent of deleting one’s Facebook account.
DuckDuckGo Research Shows People Care About Their Privacy
According to the DuckDuckGo survey, which involved a random sample of 1,114 Americans aged 18 and older, nearly 80% of respondents adjusted their privacy settings or reduced their use of social media in the past year. Additionally, almost a quarter of those surveyed claimed they had deleted or deactivated social media accounts due to privacy concerns.
The changes social media users have made to their accounts include the removal of location tags on posts and taking their profiles private.
Outside of the social media realm, 38.6% of respondents in the survey said they have used a password manager in the past year and 24.1% said they had used a virtual private network (VPN).
On top of the numbers shared related to the survey, the blog post from DuckDuckGo also claimed the privacy-focused search engine company has seen 68% growth over the past year. Notably, a Pew Research survey from 2018 found results similar to those found in this new evaluation from DuckDuckGo.
The Bitcoin Connection
Now, those who do not quite understand why Bitcoin was created in the first place may be wondering what this DuckDuckGo research has to do with the world’s most popular cryptocurrency. In short, the increased desire for online privacy and true ownership over one’s data should also lead to greater interest in and adoption of Bitcoin because the cryptocurrency is the only option when it comes to digital financial self-sovereignty.
I’m a writer who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. I’ve worked all over the Bitcoin media space — from being editor-in-chief at Inside Bitcoins to contributing to Bitcoin Magazine on a regular basis. My work has also been featured in Business Insider, VICE Motherboard, and many other financial and tech media outlets. I’m mostly interested in the use of Bitcoin for transactions that would be censored by the traditional financial system (think darknet markets and ransomware) in addition to the use of bitcoin as an unseizable, digital store of value. Altcoins, appcoins, and ICOs don’t make much sense to me. Find all of my work at kyletorpey.com. Disclosure: I hold some bitcoin.
If you are trying to figure out how much money you need to save for retirement, there’s an easy rule of thumb that you can use: simply multiply your expected annual expenses in retirement by twenty-five.
For example, if you expect to spend $100,000 annually once you’re retired, you’ll want to have a $2.5 million portfolio saved up. If you’d like to play around with the numbers to estimate your own retirement needs, you can use this simple retirement calculator.
This retirement savings rule of thumb is based on the 1998 landmark study conducted by Carl Hubbard, Philip Cooley and Daniel Walz, in their seminal study known as the Trinity Study. They built on the 1994 work of William Bengen, who originally coined the ‘4% Rule’.
The Trinity Study evaluated safe retirement withdrawal rates, and found that 4% was sufficient for the majority of retirees. A safe withdrawal rate simply refers to the amount of money that can be taken out of an account and allow you to reasonably expect the portfolio to not fail, or run out of money. In this case, the 4% withdrawal rate refers to the amount of money that will be withdrawn from the balance of the retirement portfolio in the first year of retirement. In subsequent years, the balance withdrawn will simply be an inflation adjusted number based on the total dollar amount withdrawn the year prior.
The Trinity Study has become so well-known, that it has been adopted by hopeful retirees from all walks of life, including those hoping to retire early. The FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) is a lifestyle movement with the goal of allowing individuals to retire as early and quickly as possible.
However, one detail that the movement is getting wrong and completely missing, is the fact that the Trinity Study’s 4% rule of thumb was based on a 30 year retirement period. This time horizon was determined to be on the conservative end of retirements by the authors of the study. If you work until you’re 65, having a 30 year retirement seems pretty reasonable. I don’t think many would argue that living until the age of 95 is a short life by any means.
The problem arises due to the FIRE movement seeking a much longer retirement period. If you retire at 45 years old, you may need a portfolio that will survive another 45 to 50 years in order to avoid running out of money. In this case, making a judgement error could end up meaning re-entering the workforce at an advanced age. For this reason, relying on a 4% withdrawal rate is an extremely risky decision if you plan to retire early.
This begs the question of what a more appropriate withdrawal rate is if you plan to retire early. The answer is that it depends. In general, the study found that as the balance between stocks and bonds shifts towards equities, a portfolio is more likely to withstand the test of time. So inherently, your risk tolerance will need to be factored into the equation. If you are comfortable with 75%+ of your portfolio being in stocks (and stomaching the increased risk), you might be safe with a 3% withdrawal rate. If you prefer less volatile investments, a lower rate is more conservative.
This is bad news for a lot of you hoping to retire early.
For one, it would mean having to save an additional $833,000 if you hope to spend $100,000 annually like in the example above. Unless you are an exceptionally high earner, it’ll likely mean having to work for several additional years or having to continue to earn additional income even after retirement.
With the buzz surrounding the gig economy and the seemingly endless ‘side-hustle’ opportunities available, this seems like a surmountable hurdle. The deficit in retirement savings required also highlights the impact of having to save for retirement as efficiently as possible.
Just as important, you’ll also want to avoid making costly investment mistakes. One that comes to mind is erroneously viewing your vehicle as a sound investment. Another pitfall is picking individual stocks in lieu of index funds or ETFs. To set yourself up for success, minimizing fees and diversifying your investments is the name of the game.
Does all of this mean that the 4% rule is futile and should be completely ignored? Absolutely not. The authors of the Trinity Study ran simulations to find what the safe withdrawal rate would be for varying time horizons. But at the end of the day, they were just that: simulations. Even if you only had an expected 15 year retirement and used a conservative withdrawal rate, there is always the chance that your portfolio could fail. The same is true in the opposite direction: there’s always the chance that a 4% withdrawal could be sufficient for a 50 year retirement.
The question you have to answer is whether you are comfortable taking that risk. I know I’m not.
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Are you wondering about those updated per diem rates? The new per-diem numbers are now out, effective October 1, 2019. These numbers are to be used for per-diem allowances paid to any employee on or after October 1, 2019, for travel away from home. The new rates include those for the transportation industry; the rate for the incidental expenses; and the rates and list of high-cost localities for purposes of the high-low substantiation method.
I know, that sounds complicated. But it’s intended to keep things simple. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows the use of per diem (that’s Latin meaning “for each day” – remember, lawyers love Latin) rates to make reimbursements easier for employers and employees. Per diem rates are a fixed amount paid to employees to compensate for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses incurred when traveling on business rather than using actual expenses.
Here’s how it typically works: A per diem rate can be used by an employer to reimburse employees for combined lodging and meal costs, or meal costs alone. Per diem payments are not considered part of the employee’s wages for tax purposes so long as the payments are equal to, or less than the federal per diem rate, and the employee provides an expense report. If the employee doesn’t provide a complete expense report, the payments will be taxable to the employee. Similarly, any payments which are more than the per diem rate will also be taxable.
The reimbursement piece is essential. Remember that for the 2019 tax year, unreimbursed job expenses are not deductible. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated unreimbursed job expenses and miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor for the tax years 2018 through 2025. Those expenses include unreimbursed travel and mileage.
That also means that the business standard mileage rate (you’ll find the 2019 rate here) cannot be used to deduct unreimbursed employee travel expenses for the 2018 through 2025 tax years. The IRS has clarified, however, that members of a reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States, state or local government officials paid on a fee basis, and certain performing artists may still deduct unreimbursed employee travel expenses as an adjustment to income on the front page of the 1040; in other words, those folks can continue to use the business standard mileage rate. For details, you can check out Notice 2018-42 (downloads as a PDF).
What about self-employed taxpayers? The good news is that they can still deduct business-related expenses. However, the per diem rates aren’t as useful for self-employed taxpayers because they can only use the per diem rates for meal costs. Realistically, that means that self-employed taxpayers must continue to keep excellent records and use exact numbers.
As of October 1, 2019, the special meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) per diem rates for taxpayers in the transportation industry are $66 for any locality of travel in the continental United States and $71 for any locality of travel outside the continental United States; those rates are slightly more than they were last year. The per diem rate for meals & incidental expenses (M&IE) includes all meals, room service, laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing of clothing, and fees and tips for persons who provide services, such as food servers and luggage handlers.
The rate for incidental expenses only is $5 per day, no matter the location. Incidental expenses include fees and tips paid at lodging, including porters and hotel staff. It’s worth noting that transportation between where you sleep or work and where you eat, as well as the mailing cost of filing travel vouchers and paying employer-sponsored charge card billings, are no longer included in incidental expenses. If you want to snag a break for those, and you use the per diem rates, you may request that your employer reimburse you.
That’s good advice across the board: If you previously deducted those unreimbursed job expenses and can no longer do so under the TCJA, ask your employer about potential reimbursements. Companies might not have considered the need for specific reimbursement policies before the new tax law, but would likely not want to lose a good employee over a few dollars – especially when those dollars are important to the employee.
Of course, since the cost of travel can vary depending on where – and when – you’re going, there are special rates for certain destinations. For purposes of the high-low substantiation method, the per diem rates are $297 for travel to any high-cost locality and $200 for travel to any other locality within the continental United States. The meals & incidental expenses only per diem for travel to those destinations is $71 for travel to a high-cost locality and $60 for travel to any other locality within the continental United States.
You can find the list of high-cost localities for all or part of the calendar year – including the applicable rates – in the most recent IRS notice. As you can imagine, high cost of living areas like San Francisco, Boston, New York City, and the District of Columbia continue to make the list. There are, however, a few noteworthy changes, including:
The following localities have been added to the list of high-cost localities: Mill Valley/San Rafael/Novato, California; Crested Butte/Gunnison, Colorado; Petoskey, Michigan; Big Sky/West Yellowstone/Gardiner, Montana; Carlsbad, New Mexico; Nashville, Tennessee; and Midland/Odessa, Texas.
The following localities have been removed from the list of high-cost localities: Los Angeles, California; San Diego, California; Duluth, Minnesota; Moab, Utah; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The following localities have changed the portion of the year in which they are high-cost localities (meaning that seasonal rates apply): Napa, California; Santa Barbara, California; Denver, Colorado; Vail, Colorado; Washington D.C., District of Columbia; Key West, Florida; Jekyll Island/Brunswick, Georgia; New York City, New York; Portland, Oregon; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pecos, Texas; Vancouver, Washington; and Jackson/Pinedale, Wyoming.
Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anything like that in the future, I enrolled in a tax course. I loved it. I signed up for another. Before I knew it, in addition to my JD, I earned an LL.M Taxation. While at law school, I interned at the estates attorney division of the IRS. At IRS, I participated in the review and audit of federal estate tax returns. At one such audit, opposing counsel read my report, looked at his file and said, “Gentlemen, she’s exactly right.” I nearly fainted. It was a short jump from there to practicing, teaching, writing and breathing tax. Just like that, Taxgirl® was born.
Per Diem is one of the largest tax deductions available to owner-operator truck drivers. Effective October 1, 2018, the daily rate was increased. In this video, we discuss Per Diem and how it will affect owner-operators.
Orlando Bravo discovered his edge early. In 1985, at age 15, he traveled from his home in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, a small town on the island’s western coast, to Bradenton, Florida, to enroll in the legendary tennis guru Nick Bollettieri’s grueling academy.
Bravo would wake at dawn, head to class at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, then return to Bollettieri’s tennis courts at noon. He spent hours warring against peers like Andre Agassi and Jim Courier under the broiling sun. At sundown, after an hour to shower and eat, he would study, then retire to a sweaty, two-bedroom condominium in which players bunked four to a room like army barracks. Then he would do it all over again, six days a week, for a full year. “It was the tennis version of Lord of the Flies,” says his former roommate Courier.
The brutally competitive environment helped Bravo climb to a top-40 ranking in the U.S. as a junior. Then he peaked. “It was quite humbling,” recalls Bravo, who’s still fit from his weekly tennis games. “It was a different level of hard work altogether. It became clear I could operate at these super-high levels of pain.”
That grit and perseverance eventually propelled him to the top echelons of the private equity world. Few outside of finance have heard of the 49-year-old Bravo, but he is the driving force behind Wall Street’s hottest firm, the $39 billion (assets) Thoma Bravo.
In February, the French business school HEC Paris, in conjunction with Dow Jones, named Thoma Bravo the best-performing buyout investor in the world after studying 898 funds raised between 2005 and 2014. According to public data analyzed by Forbes, its funds returned 30% net annually, far better than famous buyout firms like KKR, Blackstone and Apollo Global Management. That’s even better than the returns from the software buyout firm Vista Equity Partners, its closest rival, run by Robert F. Smith, the African American billionaire who recently made headlines by paying off the college debt of Morehouse College’s entire graduating class. Since the beginning of 2015, Bravo has sold or listed 25 investments worth a total of $20 billion, four times their cost. His secret? He invests only in well-established software companies, especially those with clearly discernible moats.
“The economics of software were just so powerful. It was like no other industry I had ever researched,” says Bravo, seated in his office in San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid. He wears a tailored purple dress shirt and enunciates his words with a slight Puerto Rican accent. “It was just very obvious.”
Bravo’s firm has done 230 software deals worth over $68 billion since 2003 and presently oversees a portfolio of 38 software companies that generate some $12 billion in annual revenue and employ 40,000 people. Forbes estimates the value of the firm, which is owned entirely by Bravo and a handful of his partners, at $7 billion. Based on his stake in the firm and his cash in its funds, Bravo has a $3 billion fortune. Not only does that make him the first Puerto Rican-born billionaire, it’s enough for Bravo to debut at 287th place on this year’s Forbes 400 ranking of the richest Americans.
Like a good tennis player who’s worked relentlessly on his ground strokes, Bravo has made private equity investing look simple. There are no complicated tricks. He figured out nearly two decades ago that software and private equity were an incredible combination. Since then, Bravo has never invested elsewhere, instead honing his strategy and technique deal after deal. He hunts for companies with novel software products, like Veracode, a Burlington, Massachusetts-based maker of security features for coders, or Pleasanton, California-based Ellie Mae, the default system among online mortgage lenders, which the firm picked up for $3.7 billion in April. His investments typically have at least $150 million in sales from repeat customers and are in markets that are too specialized to draw the interest of giants like Microsoft and Google. Bravo looks to triple their size with better operations, and by the time he strikes, he’s already mapped out an acquisition or turnaround strategy.
The pool of potential deals is growing. On public markets, there are now more than 75 subscription software companies, worth nearly $1 trillion, that Bravo can target, versus fewer than 20, worth less than $100 billion, a decade ago. Investors around the world clamor to get into his firm’s funds, and lenders have checkbooks ready to finance his next big deal. “The opportunities today are the biggest I’ve ever seen,” Bravo says. “Right now we are in a huge, exploding and changing industry.”
Orlando Bravo’s isn’t a rags-to-riches story. He was born into a privileged life in Puerto Rico in the Spanish colonial city of Mayagüez, which for decades was the port for tuna fishing vessels supplying the local Starkist, Neptune and Bumble Bee canneries.
Starting in 1945, his grandfather Orlando Bravo, and later his father, Orlando Bravo Sr., ran Bravo Shipping, which acted as an agent for the massive tuna-fishing factory ships entering the port in Mayagüez. It was a lucrative business. His parents moved him and his younger brother Alejandro to what’s now a gated community in the hills of Mayagüez, where the brothers attended private schools and tooled about on the family’s 16-foot motorboat.
After taking up tennis at age 8, practicing on the courts of a local university and a Hilton hotel, Bravo and his family began making the two-and-a-half-hour drive from their home to San Juan on weekends to allow him to train against better competition. “What I loved about tennis was the opportunity,” he recalls. “I’m from Mayagüez, and I’m going to come to the big city and I’m going to make it,” he says. “Let’s go! The underdog!”
He quickly became one of Puerto Rico’s top players, which landed him at Bollettieri’s academy and then on Brown University’s tennis team. “I was so scared I wouldn’t make it through,” Bravo says of the Ivy League, so he took most classes pass/fail as a college freshman. But he quickly found his footing and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1992 with degrees in economics and political science. That helped him get a prestigious job as an analyst in Morgan Stanley’s mergers and acquisitions department. There he paid his dues, clocking 100-hour weeks under the renowned dealmaker Joseph Perella.
“I learned I didn’t want to invest in risky things ever again. It was too painful.”
Bravo’s Spanish fluency put him in front of clients as other analysts slaved away in data rooms. Working on Venezuelan billionaire Gustavo Cisneros’ 1993 acquisition of Puerto Rican supermarket chain Pueblo Xtra International opened his eyes to the world of buyouts. But mostly he says he learned he didn’t want to be a banker.
Bravo eventually headed west to Stanford University. He’d already been accepted into its law school, but he also wanted to attend the business school. He called insistently and eventually got accepted to pursue both. He worked during a summer at Seaver Kent, a Menlo Park, California-based joint venture with David Bonderman’s Texas Pacific Group that specialized in middle market deals. Upon graduation in 1998, Bravo wasn’t offered a position there or at TPG, and he spent months cold-calling for a job. After about a hundred calls, Bravo’s résumé caught the eye of Carl Thoma, a founding partner of the Chicago-based private equity firm Golder, Thoma, Cressey, Rauner (now known as GTCR), and they hit it off. “The biggest mistake Texas Pacific made was…that they didn’t make him a job offer,” says Thoma, 71, who Forbes estimates is also a billionaire based on an analysis of public filings.
One of the pioneers of the private equity industry in the 1970s, Thoma is a tall and mild-mannered Oklahoman whose parents were ranchers. Thoma and his partners practiced a friendlier version of the buyouts popularized by Michael Milken, preferring to buy small businesses and expand them using acquisitions. When Bravo came aboard in 1998, Thoma and partner Bryan Cressey had just split from Stanley Golder and Bruce Rauner, who later went on to become governor of Illinois, creating Thoma Cressey. Thoma sent Bravo to San Francisco to hunt for investments and eventually expand the firm’s Bay Area presence.
Bravo’s first few deals, struck before he turned 30, were disasters. He backed two website design startups, NerveWire and Eclipse Networks, just as the dot-com bubble popped. The two lost most of the $100 million Bravo invested. “I learned I didn’t want to invest in risky things ever again,” Bravo says. “It was too painful to live through.” Thoma Cressey was also struggling elsewhere, with underperforming investments in oil and gas and telecommunications. It was among the worst performers in the private equity industry at the time.
“Every time we picked up our heads to peek at a deal that wasn’t software, the software deal looked a lot better to us.”
But the failure led to an epiphany that soon made Bravo and his partners billions. He realized his mistake was in backing startup entrepreneurs, an inherently risky move, when for the same money he could buy established companies selling niche software to loyal customers. With Thoma’s blessing, Bravo pivoted and became an expert on these arcane firms. Coming out of the dot-com bust, the market was littered with foundering companies that had gone public during the bubble and had few interested buyers. Bravo got to work. His first big move, in 2002, was to buy Prophet 21, a Yardley, Pennsylvania-based software provider to distributors in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors that was trading at a mere one times sales.
Rather than clean house, Bravo kept the company’s CEO, Chuck Boyle, and worked beside him to boost profits, mainly by rolling up competitors. When Boyle wanted to buy a company called Faspac, Bravo flew to San Diego to work out of the Faspac owner’s garage for five days, analyzing reams of contracts to see if the deal would work. “Orlando would help not only at the highest level with strategy but also when we got grunt work done,” Boyle recalls. After seven acquisitions, Bravo sold the business for $215 million, making five times his money.
Software quickly became Bravo’s sole focus, and Thoma Cressey began to thrive. By 2005, Bravo and Thoma had recruited three employees, Scott Crabill, Holden Spaht and Seth Boro, to focus on software applications, cybersecurity and Web infrastructure. All remain with the firm today as managing partners.
Bravo’s big opportunity came during the financial crisis when Thoma put Bravo’s name on the door and split with his partner Bryan Cressey, a healthcare investor, creating Thoma Bravo. From that moment on, the firm invested only in software, with Bravo leading the way.
A string of billion-dollar buyouts followed—Sunnyvale, California-based network security firm Blue Coat, financial software outfit Digital Insight of Westlake Village, California, and Herndon, Virginia’s Deltek, which sells project management software—all of which more than doubled in value under Bravo’s watch. The firm’s inaugural 2009 software-only fund posted a 44% net annualized return by the time its investments were sold, making investors four times their money and proving the wisdom of discipline and specialization. “Every time we picked up our heads to peek at a deal that wasn’t software, the software deal looked a lot better to us,” he brags.
It’s late May, and Orlando Bravo’s 20th-floor offices overlooking the San Francisco Bay are filled with dozens of tech executives from its portfolio companies. Folks from Houston’s Quorum Software, which makes technology systems for oil and gas companies, mingle with cybersecurity experts from Redwood Shores, California’s Imperva. They juggle their rollerboard suitcases and thick financial books as Thoma Bravo partners map out corporate strategies on dry-erase whiteboards. Those on break hammer away at keyboards in small workrooms or demolish chicken sandwiches in a no-frills kitchenette.
This is one of Thoma Bravo’s monthly boot camps for new acquisitions, grueling daylong sessions that are critical to its success. Partners regularly buzz into Bravo’s spartan glass-walled offices, while in the background the drilling and hammering of construction workers making room for 13 new associates disturbs the peace.
With a fresh $12.6 billion war chest, Bravo is now eyeing $10 billion-plus deals and expects to begin buying entire divisions of tech giants.
After two decades studying software, Bravo recognizes clear patterns. For instance, when a company pioneers a product, its sales explode and then inevitably slow as competitors emerge. Often a CEO will use this cue to stray into new markets or overspend to gin up sales. Bravo calls this “chasing too many rabbits.” To fix it, he and his ten partners work alongside 22 current and former software executives who serve as consultants. They begin tracking the profit-and-loss statements for each product line and pore over contracts in search of bad deals or underpriced products. Critically, by the time a Thoma Bravo acquisition check clears, existing management has agreed that this rigorous approach will help. Bravo calls it “making peace with the past.”
There are also layoffs. Those can total as much as 10% of the workforce, for which Bravo doesn’t apologize. “In order to realign the business and set it up for big-time growth, you first need to take a step back before you take a step forward. It’s like boxing,” he says. “These are unbelievable assets with great innovators, and they are usually undermanaged.”
Mark Bishof, the former CEO of Flexera Software, an application management company outside of Chicago that Bravo bought in 2008 for $200 million and sold for a nearly $1 billion profit three years later, has a succinct description for this wild success. “He just kind of cuts all of the bullsh*t,” Bishof says. “It’s refreshing.” Flexera’s profits rose 70% during Bravo’s ownership, largely thanks to four major acquisitions. “Orlando’s like the general in the foxhole with his sergeant. You know he’s knee-deep in there with you,” Bishof gushes.
Under Thoma Bravo’s watch, companies on average saw cash flow surge as margins hit 35%, as of 2018, nearly triple those of the average public software company at that time. “It’s like training for the Olympics. . . . You have a finite goal to make it [in year four], and you make it very, very clear,” Bravo says. Today’s roaring market adds potency to the playbook. Lenders are now gorging on software debt, and stock market multiples for these businesses are surging.
“I learned more about building an efficient software company over the last four and a half years than in the first 30 years of my career.”
A recent example is Detroit’s Compuware, a decades-old pioneer of software applications to manage mainframe computer systems. In 2013, this Nasdaq-listed giant was all but left for dead and up for sale. There was minimal interest, other than from Bravo and partner Seth Boro, who were keen on Dynatrace, software that helped companies move databases to the cloud, which Compuware had acquired in 2011. Thoma Bravo used $675 million in cash and raised $1.8 billion in debt to buy Compuware and then split off Dynatrace as a separate company. The pair began to move Dynatrace from selling database licenses, once the bulk of its business, to cloud subscription services, now 70% of sales. This past August, Dynatrace went public, and Thoma Bravo’s 70% stake is now worth over $4 billion, with the remainder of Compuware worth nearly a billion more. “I learned more about building an efficient software company over the last four and a half years than in the first 30 years of my career,” says Dynatrace CEO John Van Siclen.
With a fresh $12.6 billion war chest for its 13th fund raised in 2018, Bravo is eyeing $10 billion-plus deals and expects to begin buying entire divisions from today’s technology giants. But thanks in part to the success of his firm, he now faces more competition. Heavyweights like Blackstone and KKR are increasingly sussing out software deals, not to mention his longtime rival Vista Equity. And he’s not immune to mistakes. Bravo’s $3.6 billion 2015 acquisition of San Francisco-based digital network tracker Riverbed Technology is currently struggling because of slowing sales and too much debt. He isn’t worried. “There are bigger and better companies to fix than there were ten years ago,” Bravo says.
His biggest challenge these days is likely back home in Puerto Rico where it all began. Bravo announced in May that he is contributing $100 million to his Bravo Family Foundation that will be used to promote entrepreneurship and economic development on the island.
This new foundation was birthed by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island two years ago. Bravo was in Japan raising cash for yet another massive fund and frantically calling San Juan trying to locate his parents, who were living in the capital. They were fine, but the island wasn’t.
Five days later, he flew his Gulfstream jet with 1,000 pounds of supplies—water, granola bars, meal kits, satellite telephones, diapers, intravenous tubes and hydration pills—to Aguadilla, near Mayagüez. When an airport worker opened the door of his plane, Bravo says, the look of fear on his face was unforgettable. “All you could say was ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you.’ ”
He returned two weeks later in a larger plane with 7,000 pounds of supplies. Then he came in a massive DC-10 cargo plane before ultimately chartering two container ships carrying 600,000 pounds. “It was just like cold-calling for deals,” Bravo says of rounding up all the donations. He personally put in $3 million in just the first 30 days, and committed $10 million altogether.
When the Federal Emergency Management Agency became fully operative there, the island’s richest native turned his attention to Puerto Rico’s future. Though 44% of Puerto Ricans live below the poverty line, Bravo believes in the potential to foster entrepreneurship, citing that a tenth of the population has tried to build a business.
Armed with his money, his foundation is looking to back Puerto Rican technology entrepreneurs, even ferrying them to Thoma Bravo’s offices for training. Bravo admits to being tired of the debate over Puerto Rico’s statehood and holds his tongue when asked about President Trump’s performance during Maria. “My passion, which is the same as with companies, is to move beyond the strategic, long-term pontification, and into the operational and tactical moves that make you move forward today,” he says. “Economies go down, companies miss their numbers, trade stops, product issues happen and people quit. [The question is] do you have a creative approach to problem solving?” Bravo says. “Some people are stuck . . . and some people love putting the pieces together. I just feel like every operational problem can be solved. There’s always a solution.”
Recommended: Read Forbes’ Other Dealmaking Cover Stories
I’m a staff writer at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, M&A and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a part of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara
Orlando Bravo, managing partner of Thoma Bravo and founder of the Bravo Family Foundation, https://www.bravofamilyfoundation.org/, announced he personally will contribute $100 million to his foundation to promote entrepreneurship and economic development in Puerto Rico, where Bravo was raised, and his family still lives.
LONDON – JANUARY 19: Investigators inspect wreckage and debris from grounded British Airways flight 038 from China at Heathrow Airport on January 19, 2008 in London, England. Investigators continue to examine the wreckage of the Boeing 777
The last 40 years have seen continual engineering advancement that solidifies aviation as the safest form of transportation. However, with the actual numbers of air passengers and flights increasing at an exponential rate, you could be forgiven for questioning the statistical evidence.
Recent years have seen multiple aircraft hull losses in the news headlines. British Airways are considered a very safe airline but a relatively short memory will remember images of flight BA38 from Beijing that crash landed at Heathrow in 2008, or the stark images of a British Airways 777 on fire at Las Vegas in 2015. Emirates are another airline who have quietly moved on from the negative PR they received after a Boeing 777 crash landing at Dubai In 2016.
Despite these incidents, major airlines remain relatively very safe. However, there are some airlines that have a safety record that scales from average to absolutely terrible. If you find yourself on the airlines below, ignore everything written above, and assume you’re either flying to a very remote location where you had no other choice, or that you just wanted to book the cheapest fare. Many of the world’s most dangerous airlines are banned from flying into both the USA and the EU, and if the aviation authorities are telling you this, it’s probably with justified reasoning.
AirlineRatings.com have published their list of the most dangerous airlines in the world based on a rating system of seven stars. Factors such as fatalities over the last decade, country blacklists and International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit certificates (IOSA) all play a factor in how the airlines are rated. None of the airlines below attained any more than two out of seven stars.
Tara Air managed to accumulate just one out of seven stars. Multiple fatal accidents in 2010 and 2011 have not assisted this Nepalese based carrier’s rating which operates a fleet of eight aircraft in and out of the dangerous mountainous approaches in Nepal.
Nepal has seen nine fatal accidents over the last eight years. Statistically, flying in the mountainous kingdom is relatively dangerous. Nepal Airlines has been flying since 1958 under the name Royal Nepal Airlines, and its safety record leaves a lot to be desired. Accumulating just one star, Nepal Airlines is banned from flying to the EU. Although the last 20 years has seen a vast improvement in the airline’s safety record, a fatal accident in 2014 resulted in 18 fatalities.
Ariana Afghan Airlines
Serving as Afghanistan’s national carrier, Ariana has just five aircraft in their current fleet and a disproportionately stagering record of 19 aircraft being written off during its history, including seven fatal incidents.
Bluewing are based in the small South American nation of Suriname. The loss of three different Antonov An-28 aircraft over a three year period has found the airline banned over European airspace, which includes neighbouring French territory French Guiana.
Kam Air finds itself in exclusive company at the bottom of this safety list, with just 3 other one star airlines for company. This Afghanistan based airline finds itself banned from US airspace, and when Kam attempted to fly to the EU in 2010 they found themselves banned from there too after incidents that included a fatal accident and a seperate bomb threat.
Trigana Air Service
With 10 hull losses and 14 accidents involving Trigana operated aircraft, it is no wonder that the Indonesian airline was only awarded a one star rating. Like it’s peers on this list, Trigana is also banned from EU and US airspace.
This Kazakhstan based airline has an unimpressive safety record, however it has not seen a fatal accident since 2013. Although SCAT doesn’t operate with an internationally recognized safety audit certificate, the airline is making huge improvements to be internationally recognized and operate safely.
Get more Tips here! http://www.destinationtips.com Sometimes we also want to know which are the most dangerous airlines in order to avoid them when we are organizing our trip, so here are The 10 Most Dangerous Airlines in the World rated by AirlineRatings.com, non certified by the IOSA 10) Southwest Airlines This is a major United States airline established in 1967. Ironically, this was considered among the ten safest in the world in 2012, what happened then? apart from the lack of minimum standards and certification, of course… 9) AirAsia Thailand This is a joint venture of Malaysian low-fare airline AirAsia and Thailand’s Asia Aviation. This was the only low-cost airline operating both domestic and international flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s not certified by the IOSA, but, at least it’s allowed to enter in the EU. 8) Iraqi Airways This is the national carrier of Iraq, being the second oldest airline in the Middle East, and a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization. It has had several incidents, accidents and hijackings since it began operations in 1945. And it’s not certified by the IOSA nor allowed to enter the EU. 7) Kam Air This one is headquartered in Kabul and it was founded in 2003. It operates 90 percent of domestic flights in Afghanistan. But it’s not certified by the IOSA, not allowed in the EU and not even follows the ICAO, so… 6) Ariana Afghan Airlines Also known simply as Ariana, it is the largest airline of Afghanistan and serves as the country’s national carrier. Founded in 1955, it has been on the list of air carriers banned in the European Union since October 2006. And it has had 13 incidents and accidents, so not the best option. 5) Blue Wing This airline from Suriname, started in 2002, but after three accidents and legal problems, now it performs cargo as well as commercial flights to the interior of Suriname and the surrounding region. At least, it follows the ICAO, not the other certifications but this one yes. 4) Airlines PNG PNG Air is an airline from Port Moresby, that operates scheduled domestic and international flights, as well as contract corporate charter work. It started in 1987, but it has had seven accidents since then. It’s allowed to enter the EU, but… there’s no need, really… 3) NOK Air This is a low-cost airline in Thailand operating mostly domestic services, the second largest in the country. It’s free of fatalities, but it’s not certified by the IOSA, ICAO or endorsed by FAA. So, maybe, it’s not the best option. 2) Yeti Airlines This airline is based in Kathmandu since 1998. This airline is only endorsed by the FAA. Togetherwith Tara Air, form the largest domestic flight operator in Nepal, and during its short history has had 4 accidents that bring it to the second place in safety. 1) Nepal Airlines Formerly known as Royal Nepal Airlines, the airline operates domestic services. Founded in 1958, the airline has been banned in the European Union since 2013. It has had 15 incidents and accidents. And it’s only certified by FAA. So it really is the most dangerous airline rated in 2018. Do you think any other airline should be on this list? Comment below!
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