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Billionaire Investor Peter Thiel Is Doubling Down On Bitcoin – Here’s Why

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency investors have been struggling this year to both justify past crypto investments and make new ones.

The bitcoin price, under pressure from the likes of Facebook’s libra project and the ever-present threat of a regulatory crackdown, soared in the first six months of the year only to fall back again.

Some investors have not been put off by bitcoin’s roller-coaster year, however, with billionaire PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel among new backers of Layer1, a renewable energy-focused bitcoin mining operation based in San Francisco.

This week, Layer1 revealed it has raised $50 million at a $200 million valuation from Thiel, Shasta Ventures and other undisclosed bitcoin and cryptocurrency investors, adding to a previous $2.1 million seed round that included Thiel, as well as venture capital company Digital Currency Group.

Layer1 is aiming to challenge the perceived wisdom that bitcoin mining the in the U.S. will not be able to compete with regions such as China, where some 60% of bitcoin mining operations are currently located, with some research suggesting that number could be even higher.

Layer1, which has pivoted to renewable energy bitcoin mining from a previous focus on the development of programmable money and store-of-value applications, wants to bring wind-powered bitcoin mining rigs to West Texas by early next year.

“According to industry research, over 60% of bitcoin’s hash rate and 100% of bitcoin hardware production are located in China,” Layer1’s cofounder and chief executive Alexander Liegl wrote in a blog post announcing the fresh funding.

“Less than 5% of bitcoin’s hashrate and 0% of hardware production are located in the United States.”

China dominates not only bitcoin mining but also the manufacture of computer chips and other equipment needed for the process.

Bitcoin mining uses huge amounts of electricity to both fuel the powerful computers required and keep them cool, making hotter climates in developed nations less appealing.

“The future of bitcoin mining lies in the heart of the United States: Texas,” Liegl wrote.

“This is where world-class electricity prices, friendly regulation, and an abundance of renewable energy sources meet. It is here that we are rapidly scaling our mining operations to bring as much hash rate as possible back to the United States.”

Layer1 has been buying up land in Texas to build its own electricity substations and is creating its own processing chips with a Beijing-based semiconductor company as it puts together its mining machine infrastructure.

Renewable energy bitcoin mining is being used by others around the world, with Germany-listed Northern Bitcoin mining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies deep within a Norwegian former metal mine using hydroelectric power and natural cooling.

However, there have been previous failed attempts to bring large-scale bitcoin mining to North America.

Earlier this month, Virginia-based bitcoin mining firm BCause Mining filed for bankruptcy after pledging to invest $65 million in to its U.S. business in 2018.

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I am a journalist with significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business around the world. As the founding editor of Verdict.co.uk I reported on how technology is changing business, political trends, and the latest culture and lifestyle. I have covered the rise of bitcoin and cryptocurrency since 2012 and have charted its emergence as a niche technology into the greatest threat to the established financial system the world has ever seen and the most important new technology since the internet itself. I have worked and written for CityAM, the Financial Times, and the New Statesman, amongst others. Follow me on Twitter @billybambrough or email me on billyATbillybambrough.com. Disclosure: I occasionally hold some small amount of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

 

Source: Billionaire Investor Peter Thiel Is Doubling Down On Bitcoin—Here’s Why

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Recorded on September 5, 2019. Peter Robinson opens the show by asking Thiel’s views on his own essay “The Straussian Moment.” (Essay link: https://www.evernote.com/shard/s542/c… responds by saying that people today believe in the power of the will but no longer trust the power of the intellect, the mind, and rationality. The question of human nature has been abandoned. We no longer trust people’s ability to think through issues. Thiel notes that this shift began to take place in 1969, when the United States put a man on the moon; three weeks later Woodstock took place, moving the culture in the direction of yoga and psychological retreat. Thiel further adds that there was still hope that things would open up for the world in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, but that the leaders of China and other East Asian countries did not accept that openness would solve their problems. Instead they learned the opposite lessons from those events: that if you open things up too much, then things fall apart. Thiel ends the interview by noting that there is nothing automatic or deterministic about how history happens, and he expresses his views that economic growth plays a vital role in a country’s future. For further information: https://www.hoover.org/publications/u… Interested in exclusive Uncommon Knowledge content? Check out Uncommon Knowledge on social media! Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UncKnowledge/ Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/UncKnowledge/ Instagram: https://instagram.com/uncommon_knowle…

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A Recession Won’t Wreck Your Retirement…But This Will

Here is what matters if you’ve made it and want to keep it.Do the financial markets have your attention? I assume so. After all, Wednesday’s 800-point drop in the Dow was the worst day in the U.S. stock market this year. And while many investors missed it, the December 2018 plunge in stock prices capped off a 20% decline which started in October. That could have put a big divot in the plans of folks recently retired or in the late stages of their careers.

Stumbling at the finish line?

Demographics tell us that there is massive group of people who are between 55 and 70 years old. They are the majority of the “Baby Boomer” generation. Many of them have built very nice nest eggs, thanks to a robust U.S. economy over the last 40 years. That period of technological innovation and globalization of the economy also produced four decades of generally falling interest rates. That’s provided a historic opportunity to build wealth, if you saved well and invested patiently.

But now here we are, with a stock market near all-time highs and interest rates crashing toward zero. The tailwind that lifted Baby Boomers in their “accumulation” years may flip to a headwind, just in time for them to start using the money.

Focus on what matters

At this stage of their investment life, Baby Boomers are tempted from all directions. They are told to bank on index funds, 60/40 portfolios, structured products and private partnerships. And, while there are merits to each, I am telling you what I see as someone who has been hanging around investment markets since this Baby Boomer was a Wall Street rookie in the beloved World Trade Center in NYC: much of it is bunk. It’s a distraction. It’s a sales pitch.

Take these over-hyped attempts by wealth management firms to boost their bottom line and scale their businesses, and bring your attention to your own priorities. Today, as much as any time in the past 10 years, your focus should be on true risk-management.

That does not necessarily mean running to cash. That is an outright timing move, and it borders on speculation. But it does mean that the intended use of your accumulated assets (when you need it, how much you need, and how you will navigate the markets of the future) should be

inward-looking. It should not be based on trying to guess what the stock market is going to do.

Rate cut? Check. Inversion? Check. Giant stock market drop? We’ll see.

uncaptioned
Source: ycharts.com

The big news on Wednesday was the “inversion” of a closely-watched part of the U.S. Treasury yield curve. Translated to English, that means for the first time since 2007, U.S. Bonds maturing in 10 years yielded less than those due in 2 years. This is far from the first inversion we have seen between different areas of the Treasury market. However, it is the one that is most widely-followed as a recession warning signal.

The chart above shows 3 things that were essentially in sync around the time the last 2 stock bear markets began. The 10-2 spread inverted, but then quickly reverted to normal. The Fed cut interest rates for the first time in a while. And, the S&P 500 peaked in value, and fell over 40% from that peak.

Let that sink in, given what we have witnessed in just the past 2 weeks. Then, fast-forward to today, where we find ourselves in a very similar situation regarding inversion and the Fed. See this chart below:

uncaptioned
Source:ycharts.com

What stands out the most to me in that chart is how the spread between the 10-year and 2-year yields is almost perfectly opposite that of the S&P 500’s price movement. That is, when the 10-2 spread is dropping, the S&P 500 is usually moving higher. But when that spread starts to rise, at it is likely to soon, the S&P 500 falls…hard. As a career chartist, I just can’t ignore that.

I have been writing about the threat of an eventual “10-2 inversion” in Forbes.com since April, 2017. It finally happened this week, 19 months into what increasingly looks like a period of muted returns for investors. That is, if they follow rules identical to those they followed for the past 10 years.

Recessions are bad, but this is worse

We saw on display this week what I have been talking about since early last year: that it will not take the declaration of a recession to tip the global stock market into a panic-driven selloff that rips through retirement efforts. All that is needed is for stock prices to follow through to the downside is to actually see the market react to the preponderance of evidence that has been building for a while now.

In other words, it is the market’s fear of the future (recession) and not the actual event that is most important. By the time a recession is officially declared, you won’t need to react. The damage will already be done.

Specifically, a slowing global economy, excessive “easy money” policies by the Fed and its global counterparts, and a frenzied U.S. political environment. This has shaken investor confidence, and now the only thing that ultimately matters in your retirement portfolio: the prices/values of the securities you own, is under pressure.

What to do about it

First, don’t fall prey to the hoards of market commentators whose livelihood depends on progressively higher stock prices. Corrections are not always healthy, diversification is often a ruse, and long-term investing is for 25 year-olds!

For those who have “fought the good fight” to get to the precipice of a retirement they have darn well earned, the last thing they want is to have this inanimate object (the financial markets) knock them back toward a more compromised retirement plan.

The best news about today’s investment climate is that the tools we have to navigate through them are as plentiful as ever. Even in a period of discouragingly low interest rates for folks who figured on 4-6% CDs paying their bills in retirement, bear markets in stocks and bonds can be dealt with, and even exploited for your benefit.

Bull or bear? You should not care!

Maybe this is not “the big one” that bearish pundit have been warning about. Perhaps it is just another bump in the road of a historically long bull market for both stocks and bonds. But again, market timing and headline events like 10-2 spreads, recessions and the like are not your priority.

What your priority is, if you want to improve your chances of success toward and through retirement, is something different. Namely, to get away from the jargon and hype of financial media, simplify your approach, and take a straightforward path toward preserving capital in a time of uncommon threats to your wealth. I look forward to sharing insight on that in the coming days.

Comments provided are informational only, not individual investment advice or recommendations. Sungarden provides Advisory Services through Dynamic Wealth Advisors

To read more, click HERE

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am an investment strategist and portfolio manager for high net worth families with over 30 years of industry experience. A thought-leader, book author and founder of a boutique investment advisory firm in South Florida. My work for Forbes.com aims to break investment myths and bring common sense analysis to my audience. Connect with me on Linked In, follow me on Twitter @robisbitts. Visit our website at www.SungardenInvestment.com

Source: A Recession Won’t Wreck Your Retirement…But This Will

Creative Planning President and Founder Peter Mallouk discusses why he thinks the economy is in good shape, who should look to alternative investing and how to invest for retirement. He also discusses why he is not a fan of crypto.

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9 Marketing Metrics Every Business Should Use

In the first quarter of 2009, total ad spend in America fell by more 10%. That was the midst of the recession. Those two things are not unrelated.

Marketing and advertising budgets are often the first things cut during tough financial times. During hard financial times, individuals cut costs on things deemed “not necessary,” and it turns out, businesses act the same way.

The reason marketing is often filed under “not necessary” is that it can be incredibly difficult to measure return on marketing spending. If you show an ad during the Super Bowl, where would you even begin when trying to attribute subsequent sales to that ad? And how about all of the non-revenue value it creates, like brand awareness?

It’s not that marketing is not valuable, it’s just incredibly difficult to quantify its value.

The good news is, we’ve been getting better and better at quantifying it. Thanks, in part, to the internet and the increased ease of attribution, but also due to the recognized need for it.

If your marketing team is struggling to quantify its value, there are a number of go-to metrics you should start measuring. It’s worth noting, there are countless metrics you can choose from, so I’ve narrowed it down to 11 that are easily generalizable regardless of your business industry.

Let’s get started.

#1: Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI)

Okay, I’m putting this metric first because if you can calculate it accurately, it’s the most important one. On its face, it’s a very simple metric and is measured by the sales growth during a marketing initiative munis the marketing costs and then divide that number by the marketing costs.

To make this less abstract, here’s an example.

Before a Google AdWords campaign, a used bookstore had sales of $4,000 per month. After the campaign, sales bumped up to $5,000 per month, making the sales growth $1,000 per month. The campaign cost $100. So, the calculation would look like this:

(($1,000 – $100) / $100) = 900%

Here comes the but:

First of all, these returns shouldn’t be expected from an AdWords campaign, this was just an example.
Second of all, this example doesn’t consider the numerous other potential moving parts that could have an effect on sales growth. This would really only work if you did everything the exact same before and during the campaign (except for the campaign, of course), and even then, it wouldn’t account for some external factors.

Changing your hours of operation, hiring a new cashier, changing the sign in the front of the store, or even HBO’s upcoming Fahrenheit 451 movie inspiring the country to start reading more could all impact your sales and throw a wrench in your ROMI calculation.

The point is, you can try to control for as many factors as possible to get an accurate ROMI number, but it’ll never be perfect. This is not to say you shouldn’t track it, but rather just be aware that it has its flaws and should be just a part of your marketing reporting and not the whole thing.

#2 Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Customer acquisition cost is simply the amount of money it costs to acquire a customer. Divide all of the costs spent towards getting new customers—these are largely, though not necessarily exclusively, marketing costs—by the number of customers you’ve acquired.

Voila! You’ve got yourself your CAC.

This is a crucial metric as it tells you how effective your marketing efforts are. Generally speaking, the higher your CAC, the less efficient your marketing is.

This rule of thumb does not apply equally to every company of course. Typically, CAC is going to be higher for companies that sell things that are worth more.

And while CAC is an important metric on its own, its real value is apparent when combined with another crucial marketing metric…

#3 Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

This is another somewhat self-explanatory one. A customer’s lifetime value is the projected revenue that a customer will generate will generate during their lifetime. You can take the average revenue generated by all of your customers and use that to tell you how much each customer (on average) is worth.

It might be obvious, but the reason this metric and CAC are so useful when combined is it can serve as a guide for how much you should be willing to spend to bring in new customers. Also, the bigger the gap between your CLV and your CAC the better (assuming the CLV is the higher number).

Kissmetrics provides a nice infographic to help explain how to calculate CLV:

++ Click Image to Enlarge ++
How To Calculate Customer Lifetime Value
Source: How To Calculate Lifetime Value

#4 Churn

Churn is as much a customer service metric as it is a marketing metric, but it’s certainly worth mentioning, as the organizations are often intertwined. Churn tracks the number of customers that you are losing and can be viewed from the total customer or total revenue perspective.

This metric isn’t going to be useful for every kind of business. It’s often used in subscription-based businesses and wouldn’t be particularly useful for, say, an e-commerce company (although e-commerce companies could use this metric to measure things like churn as it relates to an email list).

Here’s the formula for calculating customer churn:

    (Customers at beginning of month—customers at end of month*) / customers at beginning of month = customer churn rate

*The customers at the end of the month number should not include any new customers gained during that month.

You can also use different time periods to calculate this—maybe quarterly or annually.

Revenue churn functions differently from customer churn, and in many organizations, it is the more valued number. It’s a tad more complicated. Here’s the formula for calculating revenue churn:

    {[monthly recurring revenue (MRR) beginning of month – (MRR beginning of month – MRR lost during month)] – MRR in expansions} / MRR beginning of month = revenue churn

Let’s clarify this formula with an example.

Your MRR at the beginning of the month is $100,000. You lost $10,000 in MRR from customers leaving or downsizing. However, you had $20,000 in expansion revenue from people upgrading their subscriptions. That leaves you with:

    {[$100,000 – ($100,000 – $10,000)] – $20,000} / $100,000
    [($100,000 – $90,000) – $20,000] / $100,000
    -$10,000 / $100,000 = -10%

As you can see, in this example, we’ve come out with negative churn. This is a good thing. Since expansion revenue outweighed the revenue lost, you’ve got negative churn, signifying a growing business.

If there was only $5,000 in expansion revenue, your churn would be at 5%, which would be an issue.

The reason revenue churn is often more valued than customer churn is it accounts for customer size. You can lose five customers, but if they’re your smallest customers, it may not be all that big a deal.

#5 Take Rate

The take rate is a very simple metric that does an great job of measuring the effectiveness of a particular campaign. Put simply, it is the percentage of people you contacted who accept an offer.

We can look at a practical example of deriving this metric by looking at when auto mechanics leave fliers under windshields.

Let’s say a mechanic printed 1,000 flyers advertising a deal for a discounted oil change and left all of them on cars. 25 people come in with the flier to get the discounted oil change. This means, of the 1,000 people contacted, 25 accepted the offer, making the take rate 2.5%.

You can then use the take rate to measure CAC for a specific campaign. If the fliers cost $.25 each, the cost of the campaign was $250. Since 25 people became customers, you can divide $250 by 25 to get your CAC for this campaign of $10.

#6 The Test-Drive

In Mark Jeffery’s book Data Driven Marketing: The 15 Metrics Everyone in Marketing Should Know, Jeffery outlines the story of a Porsche ad campaign during the peak (or valley) of the recession. In 2009, the luxury car company delivered “more than 241 million online display impressions and 17 million in print” aimed at getting potential customers to take a test-drive.

Given the state of the economy, many met this campaign with pessimism, especially considering the primary call-to-action was to just test-drive the car and had nothing to do with buying it.

Soon, however, dealers changed their tune, as they were making sales they wouldn’t have under ordinary circumstances. They realized how crucial marketing for a test-drive was.

The test-drive metric is simply of the people who take a test drive (or trial whatever your product is), how many make a purchase. If you give 100 test-drives and 20 people make a purchase, your test-drive conversion rate is 20%.

Once you know your test-drive conversion rate, you can more easily predict total conversions when marketing for a test-drive, or free trial.

#7 Transaction Conversion Rate (TCR)

People often look at traffic and clicks when evaluating the success of their website. Nobody would be wrong to use those metrics, but unless it’s for a website that makes the lion’s share of its revenue from advertising, those numbers leave a lot to be desired.

If you’re bringing people to your site with the hopes of selling them something, it doesn’t matter how much traffic you generate if nobody is buying. You could have a million unique visitors per month, but if 0% of those million result in a transactional conversion, you might as well pack up your things and go home.

This is why your transaction conversion rate is so important. It’s easily calculated as the percentage of customers who purchase after clicking through to your website. So if you get 100 visitors, and 10 of those visitors make a purchase, you have a 10% TCR.

It’s hard to say what a good TCR is because it really depends on your industry and what your selling. However, by knowing what your TCR is, it becomes much easier to predict the value of a marketing campaign.

#8 Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

These last two metrics are a little different from the first seven because they’re much more difficult to measure and sometimes rely on things like surveys.

CSAT is a measure of how likely a customer is likely to become a product evangelist and help you sell by recommending your product to a friend. CSAT is derived from surveying customers and the question behind it is “how likely would you be to recommend [product] to a friend or colleague?” You might also know this metric as the Net Promoter Score.

We all know the value of word-of-mouth, so it’s no surprise that the higher this score, the better. However, obtaining this metric is a little tougher than the others. You can’t just look at a spreadsheet, make a calculation and have your answer.

Getting your CSAT score means actively surveying customers, but if you can do it well, you can get valuable insights about future sales, as well as identify trends. If your CSAT score is trending upward, good news, you’re doing well. If it’s trending down, you need to identify the problem and find a solution.

#9 Brand Equity

I don’t think there are too many people out there who would question the value of a strong brand, but you might find a fair amount of people who are skeptical about measuring the power of a brand.

Their skepticism is not unfounded. Measuring brand equity is very difficult, but not impossible.

To drive home the point that brands matter, Mark Jeffery, in his book, takes a look at water.

“Pure water is an odorless, tasteless liquid made from molecules of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom,” he writes. “So why spend $2 a bottle for the brand and not 25 cents for the generic grocery store brand when the products are identical?”

Right now you might be shouting that Dasani is different from Aquafina. This just demonstrates the power of a brand.

But how do you measure a brand? Well, there are several ways to do it.

One way to do it is to subtract all the tangible assets of a business from the total market valuation of the business. The remaining value is the brand. This is probably the most black and white measurement, but it’s unreliable because it relies on so many approximations and assumptions.

The other approach is to use surveys.

Brand equity surveys are simple but can be laborious. They’re often based on two questions (with several follow-ups meant to refine the answers depending on the product/industry).

  • Question 1: “For [category of product], what is the first [product or company] name you think of?”
  • Question 2: “For [category of product], what other [companies or products] have you heard of?”

Again, these two questions are a great jumping off point, but they are not the finish line. Other questions like “How much more would you be willing to pay for [brand x] than [brand y]?” can help you refine your brand equity.

Conclusion: Using Key Marketing Metrics

Remember, there is no magic bullet when it comes to measuring the success of your marketing campaigns, but that’s no reason not to do it. By using a combination of different metrics, you can get a good view of not only the success of individual tactics but also a holistic view of your overall marketing performance.

By: Kevin Armstrong |  May 17, 2018

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