Monthly Archives: September 2005

Random Observations and Trends

I like to randomly observe what is going on around me to spot new trends or changes. Changes = Opportunity.
————————————-

I tried to sell bottled water, this Real Estate Investment Club just gives it away to attract visitors to their booth:

—————————————-

I have seen this truck around Austin more than once, and I was intrigued by their unique way of advertising on the streets for free. This moving billboard can go to any high-traffic area and park, allowing their sponsors to target specific demographics and locations (e.g. Night time at 6th Street = Beer advertisement).

I read more about the company and found out they are using a loophole in the Austin advertising ordinance to stay in business. They use 100% green-biodiesel to power the truck, or people get mad they are unneccessarily polluting by aimlessly driving around town.

—————————————-

I noticed that this bulletin board in the Student Union used to be more crowded when I was a freshman at UT. I’m guessing most of these “For Sale” ads are replaced with CraigsList posts.

—————————————-

I enjoy seeing huge changes happen in front of me, and one thing I’ve seen taking a dramatic change is the function of libraries. The largest library at UT recently opened a coffee shop inside! College students + Studying + Coffee Shop…needless to say it is doing quite well.

An even more interesting phenomenon with libraries is no more books!
The UGL (A popluar undergraduate library) used to be a 3-storey library filled with books, a small computer lab and some desks. Now they have completely removed all the books and made the entire thing into a giant study lounge.

The 1st floor outside area is a loud, group-study area:

The 1st floor inside area is now void of books and transformed into a giant study lounge with IKEA furniture:

Nowadays, there aren’t as many people going to books for their research. The libraries are instead catering more towards computers and laptop users. Instead of finding something using an encyclopedia, you can tell someone to JustFuckingGoogleIt.

I find it facinating this LIBRARY doesn’t have a single book. I’ve also heard they are currently adding a coffee shop to this library also. The library is now becoming a much cooler place to go!

Selling Pixel Squares on NevBlog

I’m selling the boxes on the top-right of NevBlog to anyone wishing to advertise. This idea has been done in the U.K., and now I will try it in the U.S.

Product: Squares in the boxes on the top-right of the blog. You can add an image or text to these boxes. Each square can be linked to the destination of choice.

Price: $50 per square.

Space: 20 squares wide, 30 squares long.

Advantages:
Reach a large audience on a widely-read personal finance blog which has been featured in Business Week, New York Times, Yahoo Finance, Financial Times and Wall Street Journal. No other advertisments are present on the site. Site offers draw-back appeal and high PageRanking unlike other pixel-advertising sites. New and unique way of advertising!

Payment: PayPal or Credit Card.

—–Pay directly via PayPal Here:

—–Pay by Credit Card Here:

All the proceeds from this experiment will go directly into my investment account. I use this account soley for re-investing in other money-making opportunities.

No sex or pharmaceutical sites. Any sites I consider a link farm will also not be considered.

Questions? Email Me.

Happy advertising!

——–UPDATE (9-29-2006)———–

I have taken the pixel squares down after one year, they made me a total of $2,300 (minus about 2.40% for fees).

The pixel sale ended up looking like this:

Saving for Holiday’s, Free School Supplies, Dalai Lama Failure

The holiday times are expensive. Traveling, gifts, birthdays, special occasions etc… Before every holiday season I try to build up my spending account to at least a few hundred dollars, but this time I am trying something different.

I have opened up a 2nd spending account for big expenses such as Christmas gifts, big purchases and vacations. I will set an automatic, weekly transfer of money into this account like I do with all my other ancillary accounts.

I hate the idea of allocating more money towards spending during the holiday season, so I will start preparing now.

—————————

I decided to go uber-cheap school shopping after an Entrepreneur Society meeting. Basically whenever I need to stock up on pens, pencils or notebooks, I simply go into some of the very large auditorium classrooms around campus and pick up the good pencils and pens that people leave behind. I walked through two adjacent auditoriums at about 9:00pm before they were cleaned, and picked up the following supplies:


Why buy when it’s free?

—————————

The Dalai Lama speech was this past Tuesday. I wanted to take a picture with the Dalai Lama, but it didn’t quite happen. I had some appointments with professors right before the speech at 4:00pm, so I didn’t have the proper preparation time required. My attempt to gain press access was also not granted (and it turns out would have been useless). The speech filled the whole Erwin Events Center:

The security was not nearly tight as they claimed it would be, so I didn’t have many problems snapping a few pictures.

The speech wasn’t anything amazing, but he did have a sense of humor. Here is a funny picture of the Dalai Lama wearing his red visor to better see the audience!

I didn’t get a picture with him, so Operation Lama failed. Oh well.
Just as in business: You win some, you lose some.

NYTimes Article, Progress Update

An article written by Elizabeth Harris in today’s New York Times mentions me and some other financial bloggers: Psst: Want to Know My Net Worth?

It even has a picture of my………nose, hand and tablet PC.

The main interview was done by Elizabeth Harris about a month ago, and there was a photo shoot done two weeks ago.

Here is a scanned version of the article:


Feel free to copy, steal and use the image.

This NYTimes articles completes one of my goals of being mentioned in 5 major news sources.
On another note….
By September 30th I am planning to upgrade an existing business I own to make more money. So far I have added an SSL security certificate and a added a 1-800 number on my Vonage account.
Some Post I personally like:

Brainstorming Investment Ideas

I like to brainstorm investment ideas, and I always end up with these two in the pile.

I’ve always liked solar power, as I think it’s the simplest form of free energy. I did a partial post about Austin’s solar incentives a while ago. It explains how Austin will write checks up to $5,000/yr for individual households and $100,000/yr for commercial real estate to utilize solar energy. Not to mention the mass amounts of money saved on electric bills.

The Austin Convention Center has solar panels on one face of the building….

Austin Convention Center Solar Panels

….and they don’t look half bad.

I did some research a while back, and Evergreen Solar (ESLR) seems to be a big, publicly traded player in the solar market. I also want to find some other contestants in the solar game.

I already bought and sold ESLR a few days ago, selling because high oil prices are drawing attention to alternative energy companies. I plan on buying and holding the company again when the price goes down a bit.

Another technology I REALLY like is physical media cards.

SD Card

They can often be boiled in water, survive a plane crash and hold a lot of information. They are the size of postage stamps and can currently hold 4+ gigs, and within two years that number will go up exponentially.

They have no moving parts and require no maintenance or special care-taking. This is the perfect technology for the new, fast and small devices to come. I’m thinking SanDisk (SNDK) will be the biggest player in this market. I’ve bought and sold SanDisk stock in the past with success, hopefully a longterm hold will prove the same.

Hurricane Katrina Emergency Identification

Situation: In Austin there are approximately 4,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees living at our convention center in Downtown.

Problem: Most evacuees have lost all forms of identification. Certain logistics are preventing the DMV from responding to this situation.

Solution: Create Katrina Emergency Cards for evacuees.

One of my business friends and I decided to donate our time in a unique way: Create a full-fledged operation in two days to assist the city of Austin in providing identification cards for the evacuees from New Orleans.

We have already had discussions with the head Austin city planner in charge of the evacuees, and he loved the idea and wants us to start soon as possible. Robert will further explain in this video:

Hurricane Katrina Video

Robert owned several ID companies in the past, therefore he has experience in the identification industry. He still has much of his equipment, including $20,000 ID card printers and a $35,000 holographic film generator. He also has hookups like you wouldn’t believe.

One business idea I had come to Robert with just possibly got a big jumpstart. ExpressID’s might now become a reality faster than I expected in order to help the Katrina evacuees staying in Austin. However, instead of being for profit, Express ID’s will be for charity.

To get a better idea of the situation, we decided to volunteer inside the Austin Convention Center which is hosting the evacuees. Video:

This was one snapshot of the inside:

Robert has already spoke to the to the decision makers to make this a reality, so Saturday night we started taking care of some smaller things things like business cards:

I usually party on Saturday, but instead Robert and I will work through the night to get the smaller details out of the way: Business cards printed, signs made, ID card design finished, contacting people and configuring the ID equipment.

We had a friend of Roberts whip up a few sample cards, this was the first he gave back. This most likely will not be the selected card:

If this is going to happen, it will be a combined effort of many people donating their time, talent, money and resources. We are aiming to roll out 2,000 ID cards by Monday.

In a matter of 24 hours, we have:

  • Come up with an idea
  • Talked to the right people – Several major banks have agreed to endorse the card for check-cashing and we already have approval from the guy running evacuee operation.
  • Created a Project Image - Things run a lot smoother when you’re organized.
  • Got Website Up – The ExpressID’s website is by no means perfect, but it’s up.
  • Got donors – Robert obtained donors willing to fund the project. If we end up replicating this process in Houston and other places, it will cost a significant amount.

I decided to document this whole process. Even though this is a volunteer effort, in many ways it is much like starting up a company. We’ve been taking video with my Casio Exilim EX-S500 at every step:

We’ve recieved the permission from the proper authorities and we have the resrouces to carry this project out quickly. It will be interesting to see how it goes!

Dalai Lama Line – Stock – Advertising

Since I really want to take a picture with the Dalai Lama, I camped out to get tickets. I already applied for press access, but I’m uncertain if that’s going to be sufficient enough. I also need about 10 extra tickets to give to some non-UT friends.

I waited with friends in a gigantic line from 3:00am till 8:00am…..

….so I could get these two tickets:

It made me laugh when I saw the back of tickets say you CANNOT bring cameras. I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that, and bring my camera (which is also a video camera) anyway. This just adds more fun to the challenge!

—————————————————-
On another note…
I sold my holdings of ESLR today, the gain was over $480 in about two weeks. I expected to hold this stock long term, but the quick rise in price prompted me to sell. I will buy again when this ESLR mini-rally stops.

ESLR was held in my ROTH IRA account, therefore I will not consider the profits as income.


9-6-2005 holdings.

—- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-
Also, I saw a really creative way to advertise while partying on 6th Street this weekend:

This truck simply parks on 6th street before they barricade it off to accommodate the large party-going crowds. The truck then raises a large, rotating cylinder with advertisements on it. For relatively cheap they appeal to a young demographic in a heavy traffic area for hours at a time. Brilliant! However, I wonder if it violates any city advertising laws.

Make More from First Online Business

A business associate and I were speaking when he asked about my first online business, House Of Rave.com.

I told him I started it in high school and it had consistently made an average of $800 or more per month for the last 5 years, I don’t keep any inventory and all the shipping is done in California.

He then asked me, “Can you make more?” The answer was a simple yes. I spend less than 20 minutes a day on it, and if I spent a little time upgrading the whole operation, I could bring in about 50% to 100% more money. I know what works and doesn’t work with this particular business, I’ve just somehow always been satisfied with the money it brings in.

He told me, “This is low hanging fruit for you,” and that sentence re-sparked my interest in the business.

Over the month of September, I am going to enact the following items to improve the business:

-Add 1-800 number - I already have a VOIP phone for the business, so a 1-800 number is only $5 more per month.


Add my own pictures
-
I never see most of the products I sell, so I want to order select popular items for myself, take my own pics and write my own descriptions. I’ve done this before and it was very successful.

Make contact form – An online contact form would allow customers to ask questions without having to physically send an email with their own account.

Put tracking system on my own server -I currently have an order tracking system, but it is hosted elsewhere. Customers do not see it is hosted elsewhere, but it costs more money to host with someone else.

Get exchange server for mail - I use webmail for the business right now, so I cannot keep long term track of old mail/sent mail.

Offer Gift Certificates - My shopping cart software allows for gift certificates, so there is no harm in offering them.

New SSL certificate - I just didn’t want to pay for it, so the user-end shopping cart system has not been on an HTTPS connection for about a year now. I need to get a new certificate now as they are not expensive, and they give customers a better piece of mind.

Updates every three days - This rule would make me update either the main page or the blog at least twice a week. This lets users know there is someone on the other end.

These are just a few of the updates I am going to make. Hopefully within the next few months I can increase net profits by at least 40%.

1st Attempt At Buying Used Fails

I want to buy an Aprilia Scarabeo 50. $3,400 new after tax, title, insurance. So I am looking to score a used one.

I placed a Want Ad on Craigslist and a guy Charles e-mailed me saying he had a blue 2001 Aprilia Scarabeo 50 for $1,000. He knew the scooter was jet-kitted to 70cc, but was very shady about other details.

Charles wanted to meet at 5:00pm today in a Chili’s Restaurant parking lot. That was shady also. 30 minutes before our meeting I went to the small shop he said he bought it from, just to ask them a few questions about what they sell, and I happened to see Charles there, riding the scooter and trying to fix it with a mechanic! I overheard him say, “Why the hell does it always smoke so much?” He didn’t know I was in the parking lot until I got out of my car.

I took the bike for a 5 minutes test drive, and everything worked OK, but the bike was smoking a lot. His response was, “Ohh, those two stroke bikes always smoke.”

He was trying to “patch up” the problems with the scooter before our meeting. He was also playing dumb on all the questions I asked, and I could tell something wasn’t right. I eventually found out the engine was rebuilt, it had 7,000 miles on it and it was used by motorcycle racers to get around the track.

After talking to him, I could easily spot he was hiding something. I don’t want an unreliable scooter, so I told him thanks for the test drive and I walked away. I will eventually buy one, but for more money and in better condition. The test drive however was fun! I took a short video clip before turning onto a main road:

Aprilia Scarabeo Test Drive Video

It looks like I’ll have to wait for another opportunity to buy this scooter.

Oh yea, today was also the first day of my last semester here at UT.