Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How Super Angel Chris Sacca Made Billions, Burned Bridges And Crafted The Best Seed Portfolio Ever
by Alex Konrad
This story appears in the April 13, 2015 issue of Forbes.

Chris Sacca's signature cowboy shirts make the trip to his new Montana home. (Credit: Jamel Toppin for Forbes)

Between the parade of wet suits and abundant seafood and yoga joints, Manhattan Beach, just south of Los Angeles, tries to cling fast to its surf town roots. It’s a tough battle. Strolling the boardwalk, I pass beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings practicing spikes close by glitzy homes locals say belong to Mark Cuban and former Oracle boss Ray Lane.

My guide, tech investor Chris Sacca, represents another evolution: The beach serves as his de facto office, and the 39-year-old eagerly points out spots more notable for his startup stakes than surf breaks. Here’s where Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom pedaled beach cruisers with Sacca as he wrestled with fundraising options for his photo-sharing app. Nearby, Twitter cofounder Evan Williams pondered the future of social media. There’s the beach house from Beverly Hills, 90210 , past which WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg and Sacca biked toward Redondo Beach. And that’s the spot where Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Sacca endured an early morning workout. “Kevin Rose did half of it and told me I was crazy and he wouldn’t come anymore,” Sacca says, mentioning, unprompted, the founder of Digg.

All these boastful highlights have an underlying number: $1.2 billion, the amount of money that FORBES estimates Sacca is now personally worth, up from pretty much nothing just nine years ago. The young former Google employee suddenly finds himself in the same financial league as veteran venture billionaires such as Jim Breyer, John Doerr and Michael Moritz. And in terms of a hot streak he rates even higher. Sacca has already had two ground-floor bonanzas: Twitter, in which his funds held more at its IPO than any outside investor, and Uber, in which they hold 4% of a company valued at $41 billion. And he’s sitting on investments in billion-dollar startups Stripe, Lookout and WordPress parent Automattic.

“Chris has found every hot startup in the Valley and found them all during angel rounds,” says Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who has invested in Sacca’s funds. “This is completely without precedent or equivalent.” The 39-year-old ranks third on FORBES’ 14th annual Midas List of tech’s 100 top investors.
Sacca didn’t study business or engineering, doesn’t know how to program a computer, never started a company of his own or worked at a big venture firm. What he does is buddy up with well-chosen founders, console them when they’re down and cajole them when they’re wary of big risks. “I don’t feel like I have a big institution to protect,” says Sacca. “That’s made me faster than the big investors.”

But his track record is also flecked with broken friendships and hard feelings. While he keeps a relatively low media profile–this story marks the first time he’s cooperating for a major story–his big mouth, incessant name-dropping and blunt elbows cause eyes to roll. “He’s got a bit of a hero complex,” says a peer who knows him well. “He’s an amazing investor, but that’s not enough–he has to do this heroic stuff.” At Google he crashed every meeting he could and then wouldn’t shut up. Twitter eventually had to pass a rule, driven in part by Sacca, barring nonemployees from showing up at all-staff meetings. He and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, once close friends, now barely speak, despite Sacca’s major stake in the company.

“Chris is brutally honest about everything,” says mentor Steve Anderson of Baseline Ventures, an Instagram backer and No. 5 on the Midas List. “And he’s aware that he’s insecure.” But don’t mistake insecurity for timidity. “I get close to people easily,” says Sacca. “But do something to me, I will light that bridge on fire.”

As we’re talking on the Manhattan Beach pier, Sacca’s iPhone buzzes. It’s a Twitter direct message from Ben Rubin, CEO of Meerkat, a white-hot new app for live-streaming video. Sacca is not going to invest in Meerkat but had been playing with it ahead of its early challenge at the popular conference, South by Southwest. He rapidly types back with a thumb and forefinger combination. “I told Ben that the festival is the first big test, and if you keep the stream up, you win,” Sacca says, thrusting the DM thread toward my face quickly, then back away. “You have to offer value without expecting anything in return.” Such is how new bridges are built, amid the smoldering embers of the old ones.

Sacca is busy building what will be one of the premier houses in Manhattan Beach, a terraced 5,000-square-foot place powered by solar panels. It should be ready by August, but until then, he, his wife, Crystal, and their two young daughters (a third child is on the way) have been camping out at a nearby guesthouse.

Due at a board meeting, Sacca bounds in, ripping off his beach T-shirt to get into his investor uniform. Steve Jobs had his black turtleneck. Chris Sacca has his embroidered cowboy shirt. He bought his first one, impulsively, at the Reno airport en route to a speech, and the reaction prompted him to buy out half the store on his return. He now owns almost 70, in various flavors, which he keeps near his front door and in the trunk of his car in case of emergency. “Entrepreneurs get disappointed when I show up without one of these,” he says, donning a black shirt with silver stitching.

The Howdy Doody look is just one more of Sacca’s incongruities. He’s only from the West if you define it as western New York. He grew up in a suburb of Buffalo, the son of a college professor and a lawyer. A top student, he wound up at his father’s alma mater, Georgetown, and then Georgetown Law.

Sacca did not, however, make for a natural lawyer. As an associate at Fenwick & West’s Silicon Valley office he sat in on a meeting one day with John Doerr, the famed partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. “It became obvious to me that the investing side was where the action was.” Let go during the dot-com bust, Sacca wound up cold-calling members of the FORBES Midas List for a job, with no luck. Finally he landed at a startup, Speedera Networks, helping to fend off continual lawsuits from its larger rival Akamai.

In November 2003 he jumped to Google, where he got a job on the legal and business development team going undercover to scout locations with low taxes–and cheap electricity–for Google’s new data centers and then creating nondescript holding companies to buy up the land.

Sacca started sponging up intel in whatever senior executive meetings he could muscle into. Former Google manager turned investor Hunter Walk remembers walking into a meeting with Larry Page one day to update him on AdSense. Sacca, with no advertising role or background, chimed in with advice. “Google then was a culture that rewarded people who got things done,” says Susan Wojcicki, a longtime Google executive who is now the CEO of YouTube. “He gravitated toward interesting projects and the new important ideas, always trying to work on the next big thing.”

He sometimes put his foot in his mouth. Sacca was on a fellowship at the University of Oxford when, speaking publicly at a conference, he blamed wireless carriers for Google Maps not appearing on U.K. phones, sparking a headline that embarrassed the Google Android group. His boss, general counsel David Drummond, told him to start prepping his résumé. Instead, Page reassigned Sacca to work on wireless projects, including an ambitious but ultimately failed effort to bring free Wi-Fi to San Francisco. “During one of our meetings Chris volunteered to drive around the city and rubber-band routers to street lamps,” says Mayer, who got to know Sacca at Google because of the project.

Sacca tried other projects as well, such as head-faking a multibillion-dollar bid in a spectrum auction (a ploy that succeeded in driving up the price for carriers), but hit a wall with Eric Schmidt when his group pushed to acquire two satellite companies. Schmidt, then the CEO, wanted Google to hoard cash and brace for a downturn. In December 2007, with most of his options vested, Sacca quit.


For the next 18 months Sacca took his spectrum project and helped execute it on behalf of Philip Falcone’s investment firm Harbinger Capital, netting several million dollars in fees for himself. While he spent an increasing amount of time at a house in Truckee, a town that sits atop Lake Tahoe, he decided to focus on angel investing in Silicon Valley.

He’d done a bit of it at Google, but it was somewhat rogue. One of Sacca’s Google friends had gone off to launch a podcasting startup called Odeo. By 2006 the guy, Evan Williams, had decided instead to start a new microblogging service called Twttr and asked Sacca if he wanted in. Sacca wrote a check for $25,000 and started tweeting madly, intrigued by the service’s revenue and data potential. Sacca even caused one of the service’s first gaffes, when he privately messaged graphic details of a fatal car accident he had witnessed in San Francisco and Twitter posted it unintentionally on a public feed.

“He became an investor, an advisor, a friend,” says Williams. “But the most helpful thing was that he’s such an enthusiast. He made us believe in our own product more.” When early celebrity adopter Shaquille O’Neal sent out a viral tweet or when a Twitter handle appeared on a TV talk show, Williams and his core team would get a one-word note from Sacca: “BIG.”

Through 2009 Sacca continued to make savvy individual investments in companies like Kickstarter, Twilio and Lookout, until he started running out of cash. He’d joined Google too late to make tens of millions. Hans Swildens, an old contact from his Speedera days, was running a firm called Industry Ventures in town. Swildens liked what he saw in Sacca’s angel investments and suggested he raise a fund. Industry would sign the first check for Lowercase Capital, joined by Google friends like Mayer and, improbably, Schmidt. “It’s easy to forget now, but in 2009 or 2010 early-stage stuff was still risky-feeling, and the market was still a big question mark,” says investor Brad Feld, a mentor and eventual investor in the fund.

His bet on Instagram, started by another ex-Googler, Kevin Systrom, would follow, but in late 2009 he scaled up his investing to another level when he decided to deepen his position in Twitter. “I wasted months trying to get others to believe it could be a real business, not just a toy,” he says. “And I decided to just buy it all myself.” Emulating his Google land-buying, he created four funds with generic names to buy up privately held Twitter shares from former employees. He wasn’t the only one. Ron Conway, a former mentor and the cofounder of SV Angel, began raising tens of millions with much the same goal.

Sacca had been content to raise a few million more, but a little-known friend with billions under management named Suhail Rizvi convinced him to go big. The coup came when Ev Williams approached Sacca to sell $400 million of his Twitter shares. Sacca then went traveling in Southeast Asia, with a secret plot to propose to his girlfriend (now wife) in the place where her parents had gotten married. That accomplished, he rolled up his sleeves on the Williams deal.

Sacca secretly secured commitments for up to $1 billion in 30 days from J.P. Morgan and municipal endowments. He and Rizvi spent it over the next 18 months, buying out former employees and other investors right up until the cap table closed in May 2013, before the IPO. When the positions became known, other investors were ticked off to see Sacca’s camp had accumulated the largest outside position in Twitter right under their noses. “He was an innovator with that secondary, structuring a number of vehicles that didn’t really exist like that before,” says Anderson at Baseline. “He saw the chance before other people saw, so they asked: ‘How did this no-name dude come up with all this capital?’ ”

The person who gave up the most potential upside in raw dollars, Williams, sees no problem with what Sacca did. “

In retrospect, if I had perfect knowledge I wouldn’t have sold any stock then,” Williams says. “Some people didn’t like what he was doing, but he did what anyone would.” The value of Sacca’s first Twitter fund, Lowercase Industry, has soared about 1,500%. All told, his various Twitter deals have returned $5 billion to investors.

Jamel Toppin for Forbes

Well before the Twitter machination came to light, Sacca was cementing his reputation as a reliable friend to startups post-financial-crisis. A group of San Francisco entrepreneurs and investors would often soak for hours in Sacca’s hot tub at the Truckee house, drinking and laughing and talking. The so-called Jam Tub had its own check-in on Foursquare, and serial entrepreneur Travis Kalanick was its unofficial mayor.

The Jam Tub was an annex to Kalanick’s Jam Pad, his home in the Mission district of San Francisco, where a rotating crew of techies would brainstorm, party and enjoy a home-cooked meal. Sacca went at times, but Kalanick’s friend Garrett Camp, the founder of the website discovery tool StumbleUpon, was a fixture. Camp, who sold StumbleUpon to eBay for $75 million in 2007, had the idea to make an app so his friends could book a black car to take them around town. He first called it UberCab. Camp’s friend and early advisor, the author Tim Ferriss, remembers that the idea seemed “ridiculous” to many outside the Jam Pad circle. “People who had the opportunity to invest laughed it off as this one-percenter vanity service,” Ferriss says. “Chris was not one of them. He had faith very early on.”

Kalanick became a mega-advisor of sorts to the fledgling startup, and Sacca wanted a piece. The pair cemented the startup’s angel $1.3 million financing at the Truckee house, with Sacca ponying up $300,000, a large check for an $8 million fund. “I went all-in,” he says. More than just money, he helped negotiate Kalanick’s compensation and secure the Uber name from Universal Music Group. Lowercase would add another $400,000 worth of Uber at the Series A round in early 2011, led by Benchmark Capital’s Bill Gurley (see story, p. 78), and Sacca would make more side investments later on.

Through a spokesperson, Kalanick declined to comment, but conversations with those with knowledge of the pair and the startup’s early days indicate that the Uber CEO got upset with Sacca for trying to repeat his Twitter move of buying up secondary shares in Uber from other initial investors. “Travis was 110% about the company, and with Chris it became a ‘What about Chris?’ issue,” says one of these sources. Kalanick told Sacca to stop coming to board meetings, which Sacca monitored as an advisor. They barely speak today.

“What’s frustrating is I honestly don’t know what’s wrong,” Sacca says. “I’ve apologized multiple times.” When pushed, he concedes that his efforts to buy shares might have created a rift. Kalanick kept telling him it was impractical to do, Sacca says, yet Sacca kept coming up with workarounds. “I guess I wasn’t hearing what he was really saying, which was ‘Don’t f–king do it.’ ”

If shunned by management, Sacca remains loyal to the product: Back in Manhattan Beach Sacca orders an Uber to take him, cowboy shirt and all, to the board meeting.

En route a famous founder asks him to tweet in support of a new hire. Sacca gobbles up every one of the ensuing Twitter mentions before we arrive at a small, poorly ventilated office building in Santa Monica. This, he says, is the home of his next big score.

Sacca met InVenture CEO Shivani Siroya at a TED dinner when he spotted Siroya sitting by herself on the fringe. Hours later he was sold on the former financial consultant and UN analyst’s vision for a new way to score credit in the developing world. “

Once I determined she wasn’t allergic to money, it was a no-brainer,” Sacca says. Sacca greets Ted Rheingold, the COO he helped match with Siroya, and the other staff like old friends as each discusses the group’s progress.

Six months ago these meetings were depressing. In Venture’s business wasn’t working in India, and since it didn’t handle the loans itself, the payback wasn’t there. Now it’s growing rapidly in Kenya, and the team shows Sacca detailed breakdowns of how Kenyans’ spending varies in different neighborhoods and what they take loans for and why. Their repayment rates, Siroya tells him, are higher than those for loans in the U.S. “How much more fun is this?” he asks one manager whose last project was shuttered. Sacca then leans forward and looks across the table right at his founder, waiting for eye contact. “You’ve got more data on users even than Travis,” he says. “This is freaking big. It’s time to move from the dreamy hypothesis phase to wanting to fan the flames.”

Friends wonder out loud, though, how much more fire Sacca has for the kind of startup discovery and coaching that has defined his rise–especially when success seems twinned with friction. Sacca now oversees a few billion dollars in more than a dozen funds, with cowboy names like Stampede, Frontier and Spur. But he’s going to far fewer meetings, preferring to spend time at the beach and a new house in Montana. Rivals feed this narrative, whispering that he’s dialing back. Sacca is not denying it. Two years ago he brought in his first partner, Matt Mazzeo, a rising CAA agent, who is taking on more of the seed investing for Lowercase’s funds. Says Mazzeo: “I don’t think Chris is one of those guys who makes a ton of money and drops the mic and leaves the room. He loves the people in the room so much that he’ll stay.”

“He’s young,” adds Sacca’s close friend actor Edward Norton, who has cofounded startup CrowdRise, “and I could imagine the appeal of not wanting to manage other people’s money forever.” If Sacca wants to amp it up, given his base in L.A., his outsize personality and his signature look, there’s surely a future for him in show biz, extolling and beating up entrepreneurs in the vein of a Cuban or Trump. Sacca smiles at the thought: “Being quiet is not a natural state for me.”

Follow Alex on ForbesTwitter and Facebook for more coverage of startups, enterprise software and venture capital.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Editorial Bloomberg: Mengapa Indonesia Bisa Ketinggalan Target Pertumbuhan 2015

Editorial Bloomberg: Mengapa Indonesia Bisa Ketinggalan Target Pertumbuhan 2015 |
Sumber Foto: worldproperty

Presiden Indonesia Joko Widodo mengatakan Indonesia, negara dengan ekonomi terbesar di Asia Tenggara dapat mencapai target pertumbuhan resmi 5,7 persen tahun ini. Hal ini lbisa jadi lebih sulit dari apa yang diantisipasi.

Joko Widodoyang menjabat mulai Oktober 2014, mewarisi negara dengan ekonomi yang terbelenggu oleh investasi yang minim di bidang infrastruktur, jatuhnya harga komoditas, dan penarikan stimulus moneter AS. Bank sentral telah mempertahankan kebijakan moneter ketat untuk melindungi rupiah yang rentan dan produk domestik bruto yang mungkin tumbuh 4,9 persen dari kuartal terakhir di tahun sebelumnya, laju paling lambat sejak tahun 2009, menurut survei Bloomberg.

Jokowimenjanjikan untuk memperbaiki infrastruktur dimulai dengan jalan, pelabuhan, dan listrik yang merupakan proyek-proyek besar. Dia berusaha untuk merayu investastor dan meningkatkan ekspor non-komoditas, menargetkan perluasan sebanyak 6,3 persen menjadi 6,9 persen di tahun depan.

"Kami yakin untuk mencapai target pertumbuhan ekonomi dari 5,7 persen tahun ini”, Presiden mengatakan dalam sebuah wawancara pada 2 Februari 2015 di Jakarta. "Tapi kita harus meningkatkan volume ekspor kita dan kita harus mereformasi birokrasi kita. Kita harus mengundang FDI."

Namun Bank Dunia melihat Indonesia tumbuh 5,2 persen tahun ini dan 5,5 persen pada 2016. Perekonomian mungkin diperluas 5,06 persen pada tahun 2014, menurut survei Bloomberg menjelang data karena 5 Februari di Jakarta. Berikut adalah lima hal yang bisa menghambat target pertumbuhan Indonesia tahun ini.

Harga komoditas
Harga ekspor komoditas utama Indonesia mungkin tidak sembuh dalam waktu dekat. Batubara telah jatuh lebih lanjut tahun ini dan sekarang sudah lebih dari separuh harga sejak akhir 2010. Kelapa sawit mengalami penurunan terbesar sejak Januari 2010 karena permintaan melemah di tengah tingginya pasokan, setelah merosot 16 persen pada tahun lalu.

Sementara harga minyak mentah yang jatuh dapat membantu Jokowi membuat keputusan memo subsidi bensin, namun hal ini juga menyerap pendapatan pemerintah.

Negara akan kehilangan sekitar 158 triliun rupiah pendapatan karena penurunan harga minyak, menurut Nomura Holdings Inc catatan penelitian oleh ekonom termasuk Euben Paracuelles di Singapura.

Indonesia dijuluki sebagai negara berkembang yang rapuh oleh Morgan Stanley pada tahun 2013 karena defisit eksternal yang besar membuatnya rentan terhadap arus keluar modal. Sedangkan kekurangan transaksi berjalan menyempit dari rekor 4,4 persen dari produk domestik bruto pada kuartal kedua tahun itu, Bank Indonesia memperkirakan defisit 3 persen menjadi 3,5 persen dari PDB tahun ini, dibandingkan dengan perkiraan sekitar 3 persen pada tahun 2014.

Proyek-proyek infrastruktur besar yang dijanjikan oleh Jokowi bisa memacu impor, menempatkan tekanan pada keseimbangan, menurut Ndiame Diop, ekonom utama Bank Dunia untuk Indonesia. Defisit terus-menerus ini membuat lebih sulit bagi Bank Indonesia untuk mengikuti rekan-rekan global dalam memotong biaya pinjaman untuk mendorong pertumbuhan ekonomi.

Risiko implementasi
Perseteruan antara kepolisian Indonesia dan lembaga anti-korupsi, KPK, telah mendominasi media lokal dalam beberapa pekan terakhir. Kegagalan presiden untuk menunjukkan kepemimpinan yang kuat bisa merusak kredibilitasnya untuk mendorong ke depan dengan reformasi ekonomi dan menindak korupsi.

"Mungkin ada efek beriak," kata pihak Bank Dunia. Dia juga menunjukkan bahwa sekitar 50 persen dari anggaran pemerintah pusat sebenarnya dikelola oleh pemerintah daerah, meningkatkan kemungkinan bahwa pelaksanaan infrastruktur dan belanja sosial akan lebih lambat dari yang diharapkan karena kesulitan dalam mentransmisikan kebijakan dari atas.

Resiko Global
Ekonomi global tidak mungkin memberikan banyak dukungan kepada Indonesia tahun ini, dengan kelemahan di Jepang, Eropa, dan China, yang merupakan pasar ekspor terbesar di Indonesia. Sementara itu, pemulihan ekonomi di AS diperkirakan akan mendorong Federal Reserve akan menaikkan suku bunga, mengurangi daya tarik aset yang lebih tinggi agar unggul di pasar negara berkembang seperti Indonesia.

"Ini akan menjadi tahun yang sangat sulit secara eksternal," Mari Pangestu, mantan menteri perdagangan Indonesia, mengatakan dalam sebuah wawancara dengan Bloomberg Television, Rabu (3/2).

Penguatan ekonomi AS dan perlambatan pertumbuhan di China adalah "kombinasi yang buruk" bagi Indonesia karena harga komoditas mungkin akan terus jatuh, kata Benedict Bingham, perwakilan residen senior Dana Moneter Internasional di Jakarta.

Selang Waktu
Perombakan ekonomi yang dijanjikan oleh Jokowi akan butuh waktu sehingga bisa bermanfaat. Proyek infrastruktur besar mungkin memerlukan waktu yang cukup panjang. "Apakah kita benar-benar bisa menggelar proyek infrastruktur cukup cepat adalah tanda tanya besar," kata Mari.

Pemerintah juga perlu meninjau kebijakan perdagangan dan ketenagakerjaan, yang terlihat lebih defensif ketimbang fokus pada memenangkan pangsa pasar global, menurut Bingham.

"2015 harus dilihat sebagai tahun yang menjadi dasar bagi strategi jangka menengah yang ditetapkan," katanya. "Ini tidak akan menjadi tahun yang menguntungkan kecuali jika strategi sudah menjadi jelas." ***intan (Sumber: Bloomberg)

Sri Mulyani: Ada Kesempatan Besar Pada Reformasi Energi

Sri Mulyani: Ada Kesempatan Besar Pada Reformasi Energi |
Sumber Foto: Bussines Inquirer

Sri Mulyani Indrawati Managing Director World Bank, bersama rekannya Kaushik Basu kepala Ekonomi Universitas Cornell menulis untuk Gulf Times (20/02) bahwa penurunan harga minyak cenderung memiliki dampak sangat positif besar pada ekonomi global - lebih besar daripada kebanyakan pengamat perkirakan dan prediksi.

jika pemerintah mengambil keuntungan dari harga minyak yang lebih rendah hari ini untuk melaksanakan reformasi energi, manfaatnya akan dapat meningkatkan fitur struktural ekonomi mereka dikemudian hari.
Alasan utama mengapa dampak penurunan harga itu sejauh ini diremehkan adalah bahwa tidak ada yang tahu berapa lama ini akan berlangsung. Dan, memang, pergerakan harga di masa lalu memberikan sedikit gambaran dalam hal ini. 
Ketika harga jatuh pada tahun 2008, harganya naik kembali hampir lebih cepat dari para ahli bisa prediksikan "normal baru"; adapun pada 1986-1987 drop, harga tetap rendah selama satu setengah dekade. Artinya ada fluktuasi.
Kali ini, lintasan harga kemungkinan akan ditentukan oleh pemain baru dalam permainan energi: serpih minyak. Biaya marjinal produksi shale minyak (biaya terus memompa) bervariasi dari $ 55 sampai $ 70 per barel. Menambahkan $ 5 profit margin, dan kurvapasokan minyak sekarang mengalami segmen horizontal panjang dan dekat di kisaran sekitar $ 60-75 per barel.
Terlepas dari permintaan, ini akan menjadi kisaran alami untuk harga minyak - menyebutnya "rak shale" - dan kemungkinan akan tetap di tempat untuk jangka waktu yang berlarut-larut.
Ini memberikan beberapa wawasan ke dalam keputusan OPEC November lalu untuk tidak mengurangi pasokan. Arab Saudi benar dengan alasannya bahwa pemotongan produksi tidak akan meningkatkan harga, tetapi hanya memberi ruang untuk pemain baru untuk masuk dan merebut pangsa pasar.
Tentu saja, pola ini bisa terganggu, jika, katakanlah, jika ada perang atau konflik besar di wilayah yang bisa membatasi pasokan ekspor minyak yang cukup untuk menyebabkan kenaikan pada rak shale. Namun, dengan tidak adanya kejutan yang tak terduga besar, perusahaan minyak akan tetap berada di bawah tekanan untuk terus menjual minyak, bahkan dengan harga yang rendah, karena mereka mesti membayar utang pada investasi ketika harga minyak yang tinggi. 
Tekanan ini adalah tepat apa yang mendorong harga minyak sangat rendah pada bulan Desember dan Januari.
Dengan catatan macam ini sangat masuk akal untuk mengharapkan pasokan minyak tetap berlimpah, dan harga tetap moderat, sampai 2016 - tren ini yang akan meningkatkan pertumbuhan global diperkirakan 0,5 poin persentase selama periode ini. 
Dampaknya akan sangat besar bagi negara-negara seperti India dan Indonesia, di mana tagihan untuk impor minyak sebanyak 7,5% dari PDB. Bahkan, giro India, yang telah mengalami defisit selama bertahun-tahun, kemungkinan akan mencatat surplus tahun ini.

Peristiwa ini juga menciptakan kesempatan yang langka untuk kebijakan reformasi energi.Di mana sekian banyak negara membuang bahan bakar subsidi, dalam konsumsi yang boros. Harga minyak yang rendah menawarkan pembukaan yang ideal untuk mengurangi subsidi, sehingga melepaskan dana untuk pemerintah pada layanan dasar dan program-program kesejahteraan sosial yang memajukan pengurangan kemiskinan.
Namun berharap subsidi lebih rendah pada suatu negara seringkali tidak berarti. 
Di negara-negara di mana pemerintah menentukan harga BBM - seperti India dan Indonesia  - harga pasar yang lebih rendah akan mengurangi subsidi secara otomatis. Itulah sebabnya menekan subsidi menjadi hilang tujuan bagi negara-negara tersebut.
Tujuannya harus bergeser dari sistem harga tetap, dengan penyesuaian-ditetapkan pemerintah sesekali, untuk rezim harga berbasis pasar, di mana pemerintah membuat janji kredibel untuk tidak membatasi harga, dengan pengecualian yang telah ditentukan keadaan ekstrim 

Sementara langkah tersebut akan memiliki efek yang dapat diabaikan pada harga sekarang, akan memberikan negara-negara keuntungan besar selama fluktuasi harga minyak di masa depan, karena konsumen dan pemasok ritel tidak lagi terputus dari sinyal harga.
Di tengah semua kabar baik ini, dua keprihatinan serius menonjol. 
Dalam jangka pendek, penurunan harga minyak membuat tantangan serius bagi mereka yang, berinvestasi memperluas produksi ketika harga tinggi, sekarang menghadapi biaya besar dan gagal bisnis. 
Lebih bermasalah, harga minyak yang lebih rendah mendorong konsumsi yang berlebihan - dampak lingkungan jangka panjang yang akan diperparah oleh insentif melemahnya investasi dalam sumber-sumber energi alternatif.

Pembuat kebijakan harus mengakui risiko inidan menerapkan kebijakan untuk menanggulanginyaSecara khususpemerintah harus mengalihkan uang yang merekasimpan pada minyak dan subsidi untuk program yang ditargetkan ditujukan untuk membantu orang keluar dari kemiskinandan mereka harus memberikan insentif pajakinovasi dan investasi dalam energi bersih.

Dengan pendekatan yang benarvolatilitas minyak harga saat ini bisa berubah menjadi titik balik penting di jalan menuju masa depan yang lebih fiskal berkelanjutanditandai dengan kemakmuran bersama dan kemajuan pada pengurangan kemiskinan.***
Red (Gulf News)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What Special Forces Can Teach Us About Investing
By Joseph L. Shaefer

When I was a young Army officer (well, a 2nd Lieutenant, anyway, which only other 2nd Lieutenants believe to be a “real” officer rank) I was assigned to a Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Group. PSYOP doesn’t exist in the Army today; political correctness has softened the harshness of Psy War (Golly, “harshness” as an element of warfare?  Perish the thought).  It’s now called Military Information Support Operations.
Whatever we call it, the job of the Psy Warrior is to either induce or reinforce behaviors favorable to United States national objectives, assuming of course that the United States leadership actually has objectives (and can articulate them.)  We trained with and deployed with other special operators so it was a challenging and exciting job, but I noticed that the Special Forces (Green Beret) teams seemed to have even more fun and adventure.      
I was attached to these teams but not a real member of the team, so after a year in my first assignment I began training to become a Special Forces officer.  In those days, there was the Army and there was Special Forces.  That is to say, the common wisdom back then of Big Green (the conventional Army) lay in the fact that everything was hurry up and wait; that there was an SOP (standard operating procedure) for everything; that prior ways of doing things were proven and therefore to be duplicated whenever possible and “this is the way we do things around here;” and that the job of the Infantry was to fight and someone else would take care of getting the beans and bullets to us.  

I learned very quickly what makes Special Forces different: all of these shibboleths were stood on their head.  I think many of those lessons learned can stand us in good stead as investors, as well.  Lessons like…
  1. In unconventional warfare, there is no hurrying the process.  It takes time to build relationships with the indigenous population, more time to train them, and more time to test them and prove to them that you will die alongside them if need be.  This is a continuous process; it moves as quickly as can rationally be done but it is the antithesis of hurry up and wait.
  2. There are no SOPs.  Sure, in Vietnam you might have heeded the British experience in what was then Malaya, but there is nothing “standard” about dealing with a different culture, new information, and situations and terrains that are unique to the job at hand.  Your response to a situation may be informed by others’ experiences, but it is your responsibility to determine what makes this situation different and adapt to it.  “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” is the SF mantra, not “What’s the SOP?”
  3. Nothing is ever “proven” just because it worked somewhere else 5 times in a row.  If that were the case, we’d still be using the Greek hoplite or Roman phalanx in fire and maneuver situations. Or, as succinctly stated by one fine NCO instructor I had when I looked around at the three items and one tool I had to perform a particularly difficult training mission, “Stop looking outside yourself for resources.  Your most important resource is your brain. Use it.”
  4. Special Forces teams live off the land most of the time.  There are resupplies of essentials like ammunition as the situation on the ground allows but the resources that are native to the area are those most often used.  Nobody drops SF troops bottled water.  Unconventional warfare means you drink what the indigenous population you are training and fighting alongside drink and you eat what they eat.  You never have enough of anything so you must constantly reallocate scarce resources to get the biggest bang (literally) for your buck.

How does understanding these distinctions help us become better investors?  Let me count the ways…
  1. Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.  Having a plan and sticking to it for as long as it makes sense  is the way to succeed.  Slow and steady wins this race every time.  If you are 80 years old and suddenly decide you have to make up for lost time, the market is no place to do it.  I have had two difficult periods in my 40 years in this business, including one in recent years when I underperformed.  But my eye was always on the long term, never on doing something stupid to try to rapidly over-compensate for something already done.  I always remember that, like every facet of unconventional warfare, we must constantly learn, tweak, use what is valuable and discard what worked somewhere else or at a different time  but is no longer working. There is no hurrying the process.  The faster you go and the more anxious you are to chase chimeras, the less likely your chances of success.  
  2. There are few SOPs that mean anything in investing.  Yes, the market over any 50-year period returned “x,” but how does that knowledge help you today?  Are you supposed to believe that “x” is some sort of standard now?  Do you have 50 years of investing left?  Challenge every “sure thing” or “guaranteed path” to success.  Take “As Goes January, So Goes the Year” as an example of an SOP that some investors use by which to invest or not invest.  Back in January, I wrote disparagingly of the propensity to make something of the fact that the first 2 days in January were down, with some gurus noting that was a likely harbinger of a down year.  Then it was the First 5 January Days Down Indicator, then, “If the month of January is down, it is likely the entire year will be down.”  Of what possible value is an SOP like that?  If you had sold in January, you’d have locked in a sizable loss and missed February, the best month in nearly 4 years.  The year may still end down, of course, but the point is: each day in the market you must Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.  That doesn’t mean you need to “do” something every day; maybe you simply decide that your current approach makes the most sense and therefore you’ll stick with it.  But a truism, cliché, or SOP will not lead to your success.
  3. Right now, Robert Shiller’s Cyclically-Adjusted-Price-Earnings Ratio (CAPE) is in disrepute because the market has clearly overshot where it “should” go based upon where it has typically gone in the past before correcting.  Does that render CAPE invalid or of little interest?  Heavens, no.  The intelligent investor, like a good Special Forces A-Team, considers all the possibilities as having merit at some time — but neither shackle themselves to any one path for life (and then be as angry as a spurned lover when, this time, it doesn’t work out the way it has in the past.)  Nothing is “proven” until it proves itself this time. No one knows what will grab the popular imagination and what will not, at least not before it happens.  Just because some indicator worked before doesn’t mean it will work today.  There’s a reason I have returned to my reallocation roots after dilly-dallying around with some advanced quant theory which left me poorer than I was before!  By diversifying across sector and asset class, we are protected from those days when everything does not go up in beautiful concert — and those days are more numerous than not!
  4. What makes the markets so interesting is that every day they make fools of some and poets of others.  (Some days, we are one and the next day the other…)
  5. Like a Special Forces ODA (Operational Detachment “A” — what I had the honor of commanding back when we called them A-Teams,) you too must reallocate scarce resources.  Unless you have unlimited wealth, you must decide between A or B, X or Y.  And you must decide when to expend ammo and in pursuit of which targets; you can’t just waste it on some whim.  That’s what strategic allocation ensures.

Allocation of your financial resources, and reallocation as appropriate, are constant logistical challenges we all face.  In this case, you are the one on the financial battlefield.  It is your money and your future that is at stake.  I’m pretty certain, as nice a guy as he may be, if you followed Warren Buffett into Tesco (TSCDF), he won’t be sending you a check for the difference...

Joseph L. Shaefer
Money manager with 40 years experience / Geopolitical analyst US intelligence community