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Showing posts from 2017

The Trouble with Economics by Sahil Grover, Impact Investing Intern, University of Virginia

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On June 20th, 2017, the Brookings Institute invited Alan Blinder, Representative Jamie Raskin, and Former Representative Vin Weber to discuss the "Lamppost Theory" – the tentative title for Blinder’s new book that seeks to explain why economic policy often comes up short. Held in the Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy, the discussion began with Blinder explaining what the book title means. Blinder’s main argument is as follows: “Politicians use economics the way a drunk uses a lamppost – for support, not illumination”
Blinder believes that the reason economists and politicians have not had success working together to create effective policies is because they hail from two completely different “civilizations”. He believes both parties share blame for past policy failures and must learn from each other. Blinder argues that economists and politicians measure success differently, using a completely different set of criterion to make decisions. Economists tend to us…

Liberty Bank, SBA and US Black Chamber Loan Guarantee Program by Kari Nelson, Impact Investing Intern, University of Virginia

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On Wednesday June 14, New Orleans-based Liberty Bank, a black-owned bank, announced that it is partnering with the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Black Chambers (USBC) to guarantee loans for black business owners.

The groups hope this partnership effort will boost access to capital by solving one problem many black business owners experience – they cannot get capital when they need it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2014 only 47% of black business owners who requested funding from banks got the full amount requested, compared with 76% of whites. Statistics such as this are discouraging, and black business owners feel disheartened by the situation – with 57% of black business owners who don’t seek capital citing fear of being rejected as their reason. The credit gap is obviously a huge issue for black business owners and there is a lot of room for improvement in how banks and the Government address the issue. This new initiative by Liberty Bank with the SBA …

“Stay Faithful”: Senator Cory Booker at the U.S. Black Chamber by Austin Wu, Impact Investing Analyst, University of Maryland

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During today’s (6/14/17) U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce meeting, I had the honor of listening to a very emotional yet encouraging speech by the junior United States Senator from New Jersey, Senator Cory Booker.

Senator Booker attended Stanford University, where he played college football and received a Bachelor of Arts in political science, along with a Master’s degree in sociology. Later, he attended the University of Oxford and upon returning to the United States, earned his Doctor’s degree from Yale Law School. He was the 36th Mayor of Newark, in office from October 2013 to July 2016.

Despite his outstanding background, both academically and politically, he never moved out of his neighborhood, a small and crowded black neighborhood in Harrington Park, New Jersey.

His parents, Carolyn Rose and Cary Alfred Booker, were among the first black executives at IBM, and the tradition of excellence his parents represents makes Senator Booker believe that, given the opportunity, black childr…

The Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center by Sahil Grover, Impact Investing Intern, University of Virginia

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When discussing some of the America’s most innovative cities and areas, Washington DC does not immediately come to mind. Despite serving as our nation’s capital and being home to the world’s most powerful government, DC has been known to lag behind other metropolitan areas in the tech space. In an effort to showcase some of the exciting progress being made around the District, Atlantic Magazine teamed up with The Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center to co-host The Game Changers, a two-part discussion panel led by Washington Editor-In-Chief Steve Clemons. The event was underwritten by Microsoft. Videos of the discussion can be found here.

The first part of the discussion focused on sourcing innovation and comprised of 3 speakers:

Dana Grayson, Partner, New Enterprise AssociatesMaria Rose Belding, Director, MEANS DatabaseShane Scranton, CEO, IrisVR
These three served as excellent examples of the unique ways to becoming a leading innovator. Though each speaker had very different backgr…

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) at the Washington Post by Kari Nelson, Impact Investing Intern, University of Virginia

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On June 7, as part of The Washington Post’s recurring series Securing Tomorrow, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, sat down with David Ignatius of The Washington Post to discuss the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion or ties to the Trump campaign. I was in the room for this interview, so I’m going to try to answer the most important question: What important things did we learn from this interview?
Rep. Schiff commented on former FBI Director James Comey’s description of President Trump’s behavior in a written statement submitted by Comey on June 7, which included the President describing the Russia investigation as “’a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country,” and asking what the FBI “could do to ‘lift the cloud.’” Schiff called this behavior “certainly evidence of interference or obstruction.” This is important. As we know from Watergate, obstruction o…

“Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” by Austin Wu, Impact Investing Analyst, University of Maryland.

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Meeting at Atlantic Magazine with Graham Allison: “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?”

Definition: "Thucydides Trap" refers to a situation in which a rising power causes fear in an established power ultimately escalating to war.”

As President Trump’s tenure begins, the relationship between the United States and China is surrounded by an provocatively intense atmosphere with topics like: the trade deficit between the United States and China, whether China is a currency manipulator, and how China should be responsible for control of North Korea’s weapons. Addressing the potential for war between the two nations in his new book, on June 1st, The Atlantic hosted a discussion with Graham Allison, currently Director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affair and a leading analyst of U.S. national security and defense.

The discussion started with the latest news that the United States will walk away from the Paris Climate Agreemen…

eBay Startup Cup by Kari Nelson, Impact Investing Intern, University of Virginia

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Starting a new company is inherently risky, but recently a new methodology called the “lean start-up” has been gaining traction and may help mitigate the risks associated with start-ups. This methodology emphasizes quick business development and testing ideas and products with real customers as soon as possible to get important feedback. The Harvard Business Review has written about these sorts of techniques as the new big thing business schools are beginning to teach and notes that they believe this methodology will help increase growth in the number of start-ups (https://hbr.org/2013/05/why-the-lean-start-up-changes-everything).

One approach to the lean start-up is called the Business Model Scorecard (BMSC) (pictured above), and it’s designed to help entrepreneurs build a viable business model and get products to market to start generating revenue much quicker than more traditional approaches. Last weekend (June 3-4), 111 start-ups got together at in3, a community space and incubat…

Blockchain 1.0

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NOTE: Previously, I wrote an introductory article on cryptocurrencies and other applications of blockchain, The article can be found here: http://twisri.blogspot.com/2017/05/summary-of-bitcoin-and-its-underlying.html. The article below builds on this by explaining the actual “nuts and bolts” of the bitcoin blockchain. Our goal is to have the reader walk away with a better, more technical understanding of the bitcoin blockchain. If the reader is not familiar with terms and concepts such as: blockchain, cryptocurrencies, distributed ledger, bitcoin mining, etc. It may be best to read the introductory article first or obtain the basic knowledge from other sources.)

Many people have a rough idea of how the bitcoin blockchain works, but few understand precisely how it works. This article intends to explain the blockchain in a clear, simple, and visual way.
Part 1 The Hash and the Blockchain [1]
Before we talk about blockchain, let’s talk about a hash [2]. The hash is the foundation of blockc…

2017 Fiscal Summit by Henry Zhang, Impact Investing Intern, University of Toronto

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The US is in major trouble, this being the gigantic amount of debt it has issued. The debt burden is getting bigger by the second and shows no sign of stopping.

For those that aren’t sure what this means, it means less public spending in the future, more inflation, and a large scale economic crisis ahead.

Major trouble attracts major attention, so on May 23rd, 2017, the well known Peter G. Peterson Foundation hosted the 2017 Fiscal Summit, with prominent speakers like Senator John McCain, Senator Mark Warner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (and many others) all convening to discuss the national debt, the current political landscape, and implications of the debt for the nation's future.

The key message from the conference is this: nothing can be done and nothing will be done unless the Republicans and the Democrats work together. Right now, there’s little hope for that.

Bipartisanship is an unknown land at this point, and very, very far away, since each party sees the other …

Too late for bitcoin?

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On April 17, 2017, we made the following suggestion: "Get some Bitcoins. Now! Why? Our economic forecasting models (the same ones that predicted Trump's win, btw) show an extended period of instability coming, and soon. Should things really go south, bitcoin will be one of the few transaction tools you can depend on. (You can thank me later..just don't say we didn't warn you and give you a way out that we both could benefit from...but I digress...) If you don't know what Bitcoin is, this may help: 'Bitcoin is a new kind of money that can be sent from one person to another without the need for a trusted third party such as a bank or other financial institution; it is the first global, decentralized currency. One of the most important elements of Bitcoin is the blockchain, which tracks who owns what, similar to how a bank tracks assets. What sets the Bitcoin blockchain apart from a bank's ledger is that it is distributed, meaning anyone can view it. Since B…