Google, Usain Bolt, and Jobs
December 20th, 2013

Not Steve.  Real jobs.  People jobs.  Google just bought another company   Yawnnnnnnnnnnn.  So what’s new?  Well, remember that humming outside that turned out to be your toaster oven being delivered by an Amazon drone?  That seems pretty far out there.  But then there is the science of robotics.  Robotics is not exactly a new phenomenon, and robots are becoming more and more common in many industries – cars being a perfect example.  The company that Google bought has been designing mobile robots for the Department of Defense.  So why is Google interested?

One of the things the company Google bought – Boston Dynamics, has developed is a robot named Cheetah.  A video shows Cheetah running on a treadmill and clocked at 29 miles per hour.  Usain Bolt, the two-time Olympic champion in the 100-meter dash clocks in at about 28.  So is Google getting ready for the Olympics?  Probably not.  But since Boston Dynamics is the eighth robotics company that Google has bought this year, something is up.  Maybe Google is thinking about building a new class of robotic systems that could do things like warehouse work, or if they were really mad at Jeff Bezos, package delivery.  Who knows?

Job growth in the economy is continuing each month.  But at the same time, more and more robots are nibbling around the edges at jobs now being done by people that can be done more efficiently by robots – again, look at the car industry.  As robots continue to get smarter, more and more jobs will be in jeopardy.  Maybe it’s not something to even worry about.  Then again, Google may just be preparing for the Olympics.

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Getting an equity crowdfunding for a small business done is going to be nothing like raising money for something on Kickstarter or Indiegogo or any of their counterparts.  These are known as donation websites.  You put money in and you get something (usually) back, such as money to fund as new book where you might get a first copy.  These sites are not legally (yet) allowed to raise money for actual ownership in a company, because they are not licensed.  A funding portal that’s going to sell investments in a company is going to have to be registered as a broker-dealer with FINRA – the Financial Industry National regulatory Authority.

FINRA used to be called the National Association of Securities Dealers – NASD.  It governs all companies that sell investments to the general public.  One thing that this means is that crowdfunding portals with have to comply with securities laws among everything else.  In the investment business, compliance is synonymous with cost.  Someone within the crowdfunding portal company has to spend time making sure they are always in compliance, which means among other things that offerings that are accepted for funding have to meet the requirements of the securities laws.  In addition, they have to make sure that the company seeking to raise money has met all the SEC regulations.

So just to this one single point, the portal will probably want to do larger deals because they have to cover a certain amount of fixed costs, and since they can only do a very few at a time, they may need larger offerings to cover their costs and make a profit.  So if you have a small offering – let’s say somewhere in the $100,000 range maybe, it might be hard to find a crowdfunding portal to do it.

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How would you like a lot (maybe a whole lot) of people you don’t know to move into your house?  This is one of the ways you could look at equity crowdfunding for small business once final regulations are in place.  Your house is your small business that has just completed a crowdfunding offering on the internet.

Up to now you have been able to manage your household pretty much the way you saw fit.  If you had a problem, you dealt with it.  The neighbors didn’t have to know.  If you didn’t have a good year, no one had to know about it.  But now, all these people (new investors) are living in your house and want to know what’s going on.  You have to keep them up to date.  One of the requirements of the new crowdfunding regulations is regular communication with your investors.  That can take a lot of effort (and time).

Suppose you wind up with some unhappy residents (investors).  Crowds can be volatile.  In today’s wired age, they can take to Twitter or You Tube or Facebook, or lots of other places, and trash your house (even though they don’t realize that they are jeopardizing their own investment in your house).  It could seriously damage your company.

And you want these people living in your house?

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“Oh that?  That’s just the Amazon drone delivering our new toaster oven.”  Insane?  Maybe.  But Jeff Bezos is not the only one looking at drone delivery.  That big brown 800-pound gorilla in the room, UPS, is looking at it too.  UPS delivers more than 4 billion packages a year.  They have more than 95,000 vehicles and 500 aircraft.  I wonder if the drones will be brown.

But now let’s bring it back to earth.  Those 95,000 vehicles have drivers.  What if UPS begins to move certain small deliveries to drones?  Some people would lose jobs.  Drone delivery is still a long way off, and may never become anything more than a great marketing tool, because if you’re flying around two or three drones with packeages hanging under them, you are going to get a LOT of publicity.

One of the biggest obstacles to drone delivery is the FAA.  They have a hard enough time keeping track of and guiding the thousands of airliners flying around now.  So keeping track of hundreds of drones, one of which might stray into the landing path of a commercial airliner would add a level of complexity to the air traffic control system which may be too much to handle.  But… remember teleophone operators?  Telephone linemen?  Technology giveth and technology taketh away.

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