Thursday, May 29

Lake Tahoe - Mike Milken

I had the opportunity to visit Lake Tahoe which was an extremely cool place with absolutely breathtaking scenery. The reason I was there was to spend some time with the renowned Mike Milken with the other Kauffman Foundation Fellows. During my three days there I was lucky enough to not only hear from Mike himself, but also a number of other inspiring entrepreneurs. I wanted to share some of the fantastic information that I acquired from this experience.

We spent a day at the Sierra Nevada College ( at Tahoe with students, faculty members and esteemed visitors. We toured the facilities there, one of the only buildings in the US to have been awarded a Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (

Milken spoke to us on a number of occasions about a variety of topics, focusing on the strength of human capital in today’s economy, growth areas of the world and general facts from his wealth of knowledge. Mike is a strong believer in research and knowing all the information about a topic. His belief is that if you know all the information, then you can envisage what’s going to happen in the future, as long as you utilize that data appropriately of course.

For instance, it’s a fact that there are 50% more children being born in India than in China, therefore if that trend continues, India will house the largest population. Also the amount of children from Asia and Latin American origins is increasing in the US; therefore education will inevitably change to adapt to these different cultures in terms what’s taught in history lessons for example.

Another topic that resonated with me is the evidence of the costs of various technologies. The costs of communications is approaching zero, storage costs are approaching zero, and computational speed is rapidly increasing. These points have implications in a number of areas such as telecommunications for instance in globalization, through to the ability for developing countries to equip all residents with communications devices.

Other interesting information that I gleamed from Mike was that Qatar will have the highest capital per person within two years (and coincidentally is where the next Futurallia Conference is being held). Also Asian nations will represent 60% of the world’s economy. Some general business advice that hit on some of the topics I’m dealing with at the moment are its important to build your business where people want to live, and the bigger your competition, the more capital you will require so that you can show you’re not going anywhere when pressured about your ability to survive.

Some other people that were kind enough to give up their time to speak to us were Rob Loughan from Dexterra, the self confessed dreamer and highly successful entrepreneur from previous ventures including Octane Software. He’s taking the mobile business world by storm with his new platform, and I’ve got no reason to suspect that it’s not going to continue to grow at an exciting rate. Also John Osborne of Tarsin, his 4th company that is extremely well versed in the entrepreneurial space having raised seven rounds of venture capital in his previous ventures and has two great beliefs. One is that most ideas occur too early for them to be successful from the outset, giving a great opportunity for late adopters and innovators in the space. Secondly to always ask yourself “what are you going to do differently tomorrow?” A simple yet interesting exercise.

Another aspect of the trip was the gaming theme, with a visit to IGT with TJ Matthews and also hearing form Ian Finnimore from Bally Gaming. It was interesting to hear their differing perspectives on the gaming market, especially as the monopoly share of gaming in the US has switched from Bally to IGT over recent years, yet are both still highly profitable. My worry was that IGT is too large a beast to successfully be able to adapt to what I believe will be a big swing of the casino floor from traditional gambling machines to new networked, highly interactive machines that will appeal to a new generation of gamblers who have grown up with Xbox and PlayStation games. It will be interesting to see over the coming years who reigns supreme, but my gut feeling is new entrant might end up swooping in and stealing the prize.

One of the resounding themes of the week was the fact that the successful entrepreneurs I met were all in it for the journey, not the end result. Some had been successful in the past and had retired to Lake Tahoe, only to miss the journey and have since ventured back into entrepreneurial activities, not for the financial gains, but for the activity itself. The ones that embraced this philosophy, which most of the people I met that week did, were the happiest in what they were doing and were truly enjoying the life they were living.

Mike Milken’s home on the edge of the Lake was simply breath taking and it was an honor to spend time there. I hope I’m lucky enough to visit Lake Tahoe again someday and explore more of the mountain walks and surrounding area, in the meantime I have some great memories of the week there.

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