12.09.10

What the SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Success Means to America

Posted in Current Events, Entrepreneurship, Politics, Rants, Technology at 2:50 pm

Yesterday morning, SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and accompanying Dragon capsule into orbit, and safely brought Dragon back home. This was COTS Demonstration I, which means they are proving to NASA that they are capable of launching and maneuvering cargo (and eventually astronauts) into orbit and to the International Space Station.

This mission is paramount because the Space Shuttle program is being decommissioned and we’re going to have to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to get astronauts and cargo to the ISS. America needs to act fast, and SpaceX is stepping up to the plate and has recently hit three home runs.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Takes Off

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Takes Off

SpaceX performed this feat with just a FRACTION of the budget and number of failures that other government entities and larger companies have had. They are showing that privatizing works when done right. Put a bunch of geniuses in a room with a solid vision, a fiscal goal to achieve, and an inspirational leader, and this is what you get.

I am very close to many people at SpaceX, as they were one of my primary customers in my old sales job. I am still friends with many of the employees, as they are a great group of guys. I am honest when I tell you that every time I stepped into that building, I was the dumbest person in the room. I can’t say enough good things about them, the missions they’ve accomplished, and how they do so much with so little.

SpaceX is founded by Elon Musk, who was the co-founder of PayPal and also runs Tesla Motors.

What the SpaceX Launch Means to Me… and America

Note: This is the way I see things. I follow space, but not so closely that this is how it all went down

Over the past decade, we have had two American government administrations that have done nothing but balloon the size of the government with basically zero productive results. There has been nothing but bureaucratic waste, failure, and endless “wars”.

Our Space Shuttle program has been ailing, as was evident by the 2003 Columbia disaster. Our shuttles are no longer certifiably safe, and they need to be put to noble rest. So Congress commissioned NASA to create the Constellation program, a new human space transport program. Sounds cool, we can keep up with Russia and China, right?

Wrong.

As many expected, NASA shit the bed with Constellation. They were so covered in shit that they were unable to even provide a reasonable estimation for how much the program would even cost!! Talk about flying blind! (Original 2004 NASA estimates were that it’d cost $230 Billion to get to the moon)

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch

So much win.

So I have to credit President Obama for doing his homework and canceling the program. Instead, he decided that it was time to take a “bold new approach to human space flight that embraces commercial industry”, as Constellation was “over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation.”

So he created the COTS program, designating $6 Billion to fund commercial technology companies to get it done. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences won the bids, with behemoths Lockheed Martin and Boeing left licking their wounds.

What you see in the video above is somewhere south of $600 million worth of investment. That is less than the amount of “cost threats” NASA calculated as being risky endeavors for the Constellation program. While this bloated program was busy making mistakes (yet keepin’ them cushy jobs!), SpaceX got busy flying rockets – and making profit.

I know that it’s not so clear cut, and SpaceX still needed a LOT of NASA help to communicate out there, but let me continue.

Okay… But why should I care about any of this?

Dragon Capsule About to Splash Down

Dragon Capsule Comes Home

Good question. This country is on a downward spiral, so why are we worried about sending expensive rockets into space?

The first part of the answer is that if the shit hits the fan, we may need manned missions that we can operate. Even with SpaceX, the US still has a gap where we cannot fly manned missions ourselves after Atlantis is decommissioned. We will have no safe shuttle!!!! SpaceX doesn’t think it can officially bring an astronaut to space for 3 more years, which probably means 4.

Sure, we have companies like Lockheed, Boeing, and SpaceX that can bring your satellite into space. But if we need to do spacewalks to fix things, do we really want to rely on the Russians and Chinese? It’s not a good situation if relations go downhill, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. I for one don’t completely trust anyone but Americans with my precious cargo and communications systems.

The second part of the answer is this: While NASA is less than 1% of our budget, it’s a microcosm for everything that is going wrong with this country.

You can spend billions upon billions of good peoples’ money by pushing paper around, or you can let a bunch of smart people attack the problem with the incentive of that forsaken word, PROFIT.

So my question back to you is, if a company of 1200 employees can accomplish at a fraction of a price what a huge government organization of 18,000+ people cannot do… where else can this country save money and put power back into the hands of the people?

It’s not rocket science, people. Well, except it is, and privatization STILL worked. Why not try it in places where it’s a bit easier than building space ships?

So congrats once again to SpaceX and all of my friends and past associates.

Yesterday was a great day for America and our founding principles.

Elon is 39, and today I turned 29. I have exactly ten years to be as fucking cool as that guy.

3 Comments »

  1. Larry Salbira said,

    12.11.10 at 9:06 am

    Well said Mike. 10 years. Let’s do it.

  2. Alison Lowndes said,

    12.12.10 at 12:15 pm

    Love this article and love SpaceX – “Put a bunch of geniuses in a room with a solid vision, a fiscal goal to achieve, and an inspirational leader, and this is what you get… a wheel of cheese in space!!!”

  3. Chad Vordemesche said,

    02.07.11 at 6:23 pm

    Great article Mike. I didn’t know you were a great writer too!

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11.16.10

If You Like “All” Music, You Like NO Music

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Rants, Travels at 9:55 am

On my last day in Hong Kong, I had the honor of being the worst-dressed person at a Chamber of Commerce business networking luncheon and speech. The speech was about Hong Kong, so I didn’t learn anything applicable to my business, but I did learn a valuable lesson on how I should network.

We sat at a table with other members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. The typical conversation went like this:

Me: Hi, I’m Mike, good to meet you.
Him: Hi, I’m John. (exchange business cards)
Him: Oh, founder of your company. So what do you do?
Me: I run a network of fitness and nutrition websites that helps users find the best information and lowest prices on different nutritional products. How about you?
Him: I’m a consultant.
Me: (…awkward silence…)
Me: Ummm, doing what?
Him: I’m like a janitor. I clean up problems.
Me: (…awkward silence…)
Me: Oh, ok. Well I’m gonna go over there so that I don’t breathe any of your stale carbon dioxide.

Out of the 8 other people at our table, this was basically the jist of 7 of the conversations. By the end, I quickly recognized the futility and simply started talking about my personal travels and how much I liked Hong Kong, as

  1. These people didn’t give a shit about Internet Marketing and had no use for me
  2. I didn’t own a sweatshop somewhere in China where they could run a Kaizen event, so I had no use for them, and
  3. They wouldn’t know a dumbbell or high-protein meal if it smacked them in the face, so they had no use for my web platform.

This reminded me of the time I went to the “South Bay Internet Entrepreneurs” meetup.com meeting. Some guy gave an INCREDIBLE on-site architectural SEO presentation, and out of the 30 people in attendance, 2 others besides myself actually had a clue. The other 27 were wastes of space who were merely looking for easy “Make Monies Online” schemes.

After complaining about the idiocy that meeting, my friend Larry explained it best: “Because REAL entprepreneurs are busy WORKING, not going to lame meetup.com meetings”.

Lessons learned? Just like you need to focus on a niche (and divide that niche by 1000) in your small business pursuits, you need to stay within your niche when socially networking. Going to general business luncheons like this is where you find generally boring people with no specific passion who are generally clueless.

“If you like ‘all’ music, you like NO music”
– Chuck Klosterman

So I need to start networking better within the fitness/health/nutrition industry. I need to meet personal trainers, dieticians, health counselors, etc.

The reason I haven’t been confident enough to do this yet is because PricePlow is what I consider an absolute wasteland of a website*. It’s on my roadmap to fix it all up in a monstrous project, and even though it’s not there yet, now is the time to plant the seeds in my niche so that I have a better social network ready to go when it’s time to rock.

However, I will attend the Affiliate Summit West. These guys might not all be in the health niche, but they do similar things as I do and use similar tools. I don’t care for 99% of ad networks that will be at this convention… but the party will be awesome and I’m going to learn some new tactics.

Besides that, it’s time to stick with my niche and away from these “consultants”, who I still can’t figure out what in the hell they do anyway.

* It’s never easy for a parent to admit the truth in that that their child is stupid, ugly, and fat… but this is the case so let’s not beat around the bush.

2 Comments »

  1. Lon said,

    11.16.10 at 10:39 am

    Not to take from your very interesting blog, but I love the “If you like ‘all’ music, you like NO music” quote. I think I have often subconsciously thought this when discussing music with people, but couldn’t quite verbalize it. But as shown in this blog, it is so universal.

  2. Jon said,

    11.16.10 at 1:05 pm

    I like this post a lot Mike, especially the comparisons of focusing on niche’s and focusing networking efforts on people that relate to what you do/how you do it. It really drives home the point that in order to get something done you really have to focus on it and not it and everything else in the world.

    Keep it up!

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11.04.10

Land of the Free, Right?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Politics, Rants, Travels at 8:21 am

Throughout my time in “Communist” China, one of the recurring jokes has been how there is often so much more economic and business freedom in China than there is in the U.S.

It sounds counter-intuitive, and small businesses in China definitely have to deal with a lot of hassles and paperwork, but they’re also given a great amount of leeway in terms of how they get to run their operations.

Some great examples of this are in Mike Michelini’s recent blog article titled Maybe I’ve Been in China Too Long. Mike is a businessman who has been bouncing between the US, China, and Phillippines. While I don’t agree with the Healthcare bullet point at all, it’s hard to argue with the other points.

One of the many interesting things I saw in China was a Help Wanted sign at a clothing store that dictated the prospective employee had to be under 5’4″ and 90lbs. Imagine doing that in the States! Every obesity support group in the country would have you in court by the week’s end. God forbid you want someone attractive and healthy modeling your petite line of clothing.

In the US, on the other hand, we have exceedingly aggressive laws and tax codes that have been written by lawyers and CPAs – two regulated industries where you need “certification” in order to enter the industry. This creates a barrier to entry, thus artificially inducing the wage floor. At the same time, since these are the people writing the laws, they write them in such a way that you need to hire one of them to figure it all out – and if you don’t, you’re going to get screwed by someone who does. Land of the free, right?

It’s a vicious circle, and if you’re not one of them, it affects you negatively. Not a day goes by where I don’t respect lawyers less. What am I doing about it? You’ll find out soon enough, but it’s phenomenal to see people such as Rand Paul, who I heavily support, getting elected this week. Rand will fight this kind of nonsense and try to reduce these laws and simplify the tax codes.

In the meantime, we have sticks-in-the-ass like this clown who shut down a 7 year old’s Lemonaide stand in Oregon due to lack of paperwork and licensing. Yes, I know the story had a happy ending, but it should have never have happened in the first place – and WOULDN’T have happened in “highly regulated” China. Land of the free, right?

As for me right now, I’m happy to admit that I’m struggling with the growth of my network. I have several successful projects, but I do nearly everything for every single one of them. The profit margin is great, but it’s time to start hiring other people.

The first thing I want to do is hire a writer. While I love writing, the research and composition takes too much time I’d rather be doing other things (designing, coding, marketing, and surfing, mainly).

Clearly, I want a quality writer who speaks English as his or her first language. But guess what – In the Land of the Free known as the United States of America, you can’t ask or require that English be your first language. That’s illegal become some bureaucrats decided that I need to give everyone a “fair chance”. The best I can do is massage the system and ask backassward questions such as “Do you have any language abilities that would be helpful in doing this job?”. A lot of good that will do.

So I either have to waste my time testing and weeding a bunch of people out (and most likely ultimately arrive at a native English speaker), or I can just say screw it and outsource the service to contractors, who likely aren’t Americans (right now I’m actually working with a British team). I don’t have to pay them benefits that I can’t currently afford, I don’t have to worry about ridiculous Obamacare rules and Welfare policies that may or may not get enacted, and I can stop sourcing to them whenever I want for any reason I choose.

So tell me, who are these laws really helping? Because let me tell you something: Life isn’t fair, and if you don’t meet my requirements, you don’t deserve a “fair chance”. In the real Land of the Free, you don’t have the government make fair chances for you – you make them yourself.

1 Comment »

  1. Mike michelini said,

    11.04.10 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the link bro…..guess im the only crazy white guy to go to a chinese hospital….

    But yes, lawyers and investment banks are screwing america…..i dont try to understand,this crap loophole stuff…..

    And yes, why hire an obama healthcare american when u cab outsourc.its

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10.22.10

You Can’t Live the American Dream in Europe

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Politics, Travels at 9:34 pm

Greetings from Guangzhou, China! A few weeks ago, I traveled to Europe with friends. We did a weekend in Amsterdam, spent Sunday night in Belgium, hung in Interlaken, Switzerland during the week, and then finally the boys and girls split and we guys headed to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest (the girls opted for somewhat-less-exciting Paris). It was an utterly epic trip.

Throughout these travels, I met an incredible amount of European men and women, and we often compared lifestyle and culture. No matter what part of Europe I was in, one theme remained constant in each one of these conversations: When I told the other person that I ran my own business, they were absolutely floored and couldn’t have been any more interested.

In America, it’s interesting to meet business-owners, but there are a great number of us, so it’s no big deal. From independent limo drivers to contracting plumbers to wedding photographers to Internet marketers, we’re not that rare.

However, in Europe, that didn’t seem to be the case. The Socialist regimes put a government stamp on basically everything, and everyone is complacent to work their 9-5 job so that they can save up enough to go on “Holiday” for the month of vacation that they’re given. And I’m not one to argue – our measly vacation policies are probably the #1 thing I hate about Corporate America. Europeans don’t have that problem.

In the meantime, someone like me who wants to rise above the masses in Europe has to deal with ridiculously high taxes and unlimited amounts of government bureaucracy. With these obstacles, combined with the fact that you can get taken care of considerably well without using much of your brain, why bother going above and beyond to produce something new to the world? The status quo is fine for most.

However, I was amazed by the amount of attraction I created in women that I talked with. Sure, maybe it was the mustache I rocked that one day, but I think it goes deeper than the physical. In their eyes, here is a guy who does whatever he wants, reports to nobody, and is at least wealthy enough to go on a trip overseas with the sole purpose of drinking beer and throwing Euros around like they’re Monopoly money. On the surface, he’s an alpha male – the leader of his tribe who leads the pack (even if it’s a tribe of 1 – but they don’t know that). And to women, that’s naturally attractive, no matter what society or tax system you live in.

The troubling thing is that our current Administration is steering our great country towards the demotivational mindset of Europe. Right now, the question entrepreneurs ask is, “Why should I hire more employees when I don’t have a clue what kind of health care and welfare I’m going to have to provide this person?”. We have absolutely no foresight into what’s around the corner, and it’s scaring a lot of business owners into inaction. But at the big picture level, while this is hurting our country, it’s not stopping us from starting our own businesses.

I just desperately hope that we stick to our revolutionary roots and change direction before that question becomes “Why should I bother producing something new when there’s a 40% tax and everyone gets spoonfed from the Uncle Sam anyway?” It’s a question that I will actively fight from ever existing in America.

But in the meantime, I will continue to lead my tribe of 1, rise above the masses, and continue to mystify German women who want the unfamiliar – because You Can’t Live the American Dream in Europe.

1 Comment »

  1. Larry said,

    10.23.10 at 4:42 am

    It was the mustache.

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10.13.10

My Mission Statement

Posted in Entrepreneurship at 2:27 pm

Information, Awareness, and Competition

There are several industries that are dominated by companies, individuals, and even government agencies that spread false and/or unverified information that is unfit for the average consumer. They promote products and services that serve no purpose beyond creating profits without benefit to the end-user. Moreover, these companies often plague the industry with anti-competitive practices, further hurting consumers through high prices and lack of choices.

It is my mission to use my skills in web design, internet marketing, and search engine optimization to provide factual, research-backed information to users in a way that helps foster awareness and increased levels of competition amongst vendors. I will pull no punches and will put all of my energy and resources into attacking these non-competitive, predatory, and deceitful practices, even if my own profit margin suffers because of it.

I will remain focused, and will attempt to focus on one industry at a time. I will employ high-quality, deserving individuals, and will show no favortism whatsoever. While my gameplan may change, my overall mission will not.

I will not, however, sacrifice my own personal health in the attainment of this mission, nor will I sacrifice personal fun.

If you are one of these predatory companies or government agencies employing deceitful, anti-competitive practices, be warned: I’m coming for you.

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