We (that is, all of us on the planet) live, it goes without saying, in perilous times. It would be pointless to list the thousand-and-one reasons why this is so because we all know what they are. But it is not a bad thing to remind ourselves that there has never been a moment in the recorded history of the planet when the times have not been perilous - if not for all, then at least for most. And no one is immune, ever.
One quick, and superficial way of characterizing the success of many dominant technology-driven enterprises (for example, Amazon, Uber and AirBnB) is to attribute such success to the death of the traditional middleman. (Recognizing the importance of language, I’ll use the term middle-person.) With this death, it is claimed, comes more efficiencies and less costs for the consumer. Consider big box retail. It is not a stretch to describe bricks and mortar retail as traditional “middle-people,” providing the marketplaces where buyers and sellers meet. With the advent of e-commerce, the traditional middle-person role has, so it is said, become obsolete. Buyers and sellers can now “meet” directly (via electronic connectivity) and do unmediated transactions.
We are hearing the question these days with some frequency: “Is the market too high?” My first-level response (really more of a hedge or non-answer, some will say) is that the question doesn’t make sense because there really is no single “market.” Rather, there are scores of different markets and market sectors—domestic, international, frontier, emerging; micro-cap, small-cap, mid-cap, large-cap—and these different markets don’t necessarily move in sync with one another. Some might be “too high” while others are not. The fact that there is not really a single “market” makes it hard to definitively answer the question, “is the market too high?”
People love to tell “war stories” that put them in a favorable light. Not so common is the urge to tell war stories that describe personal failures. I’ve used this space in the past to talk about successes. Today, I want to talk about a failure, and some of the lessons to be learned from it.