Pepsi enters the weight-loss game

“Why choose between a hamburger and a slice of pizza? If you choose Pepsi Special, you can have both!” touts Pepsi commercials in Japan promoting their new product, “Pepsi Special.”

If you haven’t heard about this product before, it’s for good reason. Pepsi launched this product for the first time this Tuesday in Japan. Why Japan? Probably because of more lenient beverage laws, unlike that of New York City.

What makes Pepsi Special so special indeed is that it introduces the dietary ingredient, dextrin, that is claimed to reduce the fat absorbed by the body. Depending on what study you look at, the results are somewhat dubious. According to a 2006 study conducted in Japan – yes, dextrin works as described. Studies in the U.S. also agree, but add that its overall effect is considered modest. “In order for dextrin to really absorb enough fat to cause a considerate weight loss, chances are its adverse effects—like frequent diarrhea, gas, and bloating—would be overwhelming.” (1)

While a little dextrin won’t send you running to the nearest bathroom, chances are if you absorb even dextrin for it reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs – which amount to much more Pepsi Special any human should have in a day – you may have to make a pitstop on the commute home. And still, the soda contains high levels of sugar in the form of fructose corn syrup, which makes it just as unhealthy as it was in the past.

Pepsi Special is a step forward with regard to bringing dietary supplements to the mainstream, but is by no means the final piece of the puzzle to help reduce the level of obesity for those who drink soda. As always, the best way to reduce your weight is to eat healthy and exercise.

(1) http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/pepsi-launches-new-weight-loss-soda

Groupon: what is happening to the company

Groupon’s stock price since IPO in November 2011:

groupon, facebook, stock price, valuation

Groupon (GPRN), has been getting hammered by the stock market for almost two years. Once the “fastest growing company in history,” it has lost over 90% of its valuation since its IPO in November 2011. But Groupon has no long-term debt, is still growing, and has over $2 billion in annual revenue. So what caused Groupon’s beating, and is it time to invest in the company?

Groupon is suffering from what is commonly described as the “Facebook bug.” Its rapid growth and huge buzz created around its IPO shot up its value indiscriminately, but just like Facebook, Groupon did not have the revenues to back up its valuation. For both companies, they have seen tremendous losses in their valuation and stock price (Facebook down about 50%, Groupon at 90%).

Now, with their stock price decreasing, we should expect their revenues to be decreasing also – but they are not. Groupon’s revenue’s have been increasing each quarter since their IPO. Here are the numbers that matter the most (for stocks):

  • Q3 2011: $430 million in revenue
  • Q4 2011: $492 million in revenue
  • Q1 2012: $559 million in revenue
  • Q2 2012: $568 million in revenue
  • Q3 2012: $569 million in revenue

Well, that’s not looking good. Although their revenue is increasing – it looks as if it is about to come to a halt. With competition now rampant, Groupon has not been able to make the extraordinary revenues anymore from its original business model, Daily Deals. But with $1.2 billion in cash and a current valuation of $1.74 billion, it can almost backup each share cash.

Groupon is walking a thin line, and if it goes one direction, it will disappear just as fast as it appeared, and in the other, it can be a great investment. Since Groupon is bleeding revenue and talent (at least eight senior executives have left the company since 2011), BusinessJad does not see Groupon rebounding.

BusinessJad advice to fix Groupon:

1. Refocus on email deals and scale back on mobile apps. With email deals, each deal was likely viewed more than on a mobile app. The mobile app provides let of an incentive to open as it could be tucked away on a user’s phone.

2. Use what you have to your advantage: subscribers. It’s estimated that Groupon has over 60 million subscribers. This is extremely valuable and allows Groupon to market new ideas and products to its entire base quite easily, so they need to use it, which they haven’t done recently!

3. With their massive user base, they can turn themselves into an Amazon or eBay, and be very successful. They have the brand recognition and infrastructure in place to do so. Go for it, Groupon.

The Crystal Ball is not always right, so heed the information and advice in this article at your own risk!

How not to be a leader

A leader is responsible for understanding the parts that make a sum, and making them work as one. The stronger the leader, the stronger the parts, and the stronger the team.

Monday night, after watching the most despicable football in some 16 years, I can clearly illustrate why teams lose because of lack of leadership. With Michael Vick and Andy Reid sleeping on the job, an enthusiastic 10-yr old could have led the team better than those two did.

Michael Vick, Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

— Michael Vick and Andy Reid sleeping on the job.
Eric Hartline-US Presswire

Trailing by two scores with 7:00 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the Eagles had the ball and plenty of time to try and defeat the mighty Drew Brees and New Orleans Saints. A great team would have immediately started running their no-hurdle offense, thrown the ball to the outside in an effort to score quickly and save valuable time on the clock. A good team would have used a timeout, or tried to slow the clock down as they attempted a comeback. A ridiculously awful team such as the Eagles would throw the ball 5 yards down the middle, play after play, and casually walk up to the line of scrimmage as if they just left a quiet, little café in Amsterdam after a dessert of special brownies.

The entire Eagles team is to blame as not one of the 11 players on the field hussled to the start the next play, but as was reaffirmed with the Concordia disaster, the blame for failure always falls on the team’s captain. In the case of Eagles, Michael Vick is the captain on the field and Andy Reid as head coach is supposed to be the brains behind the operations running the show on the sidelines. But neither of them cared about the rest of the team, the fans, or to be successful that night. Every time the camera would show Andy Reid on the sideline, all the viewers saw was a motionless man who looked as if he were nothing more than a standing, mummified statue. He just stood in place, no passion, no drive, and seemed to forget how to blink. Same with Vick, who on the field looked as if he were trying to lose on purpose.

For this, Vick should be benched and Reid should be fined by the Eagles’s owner as their actions are unacceptable. And for those of you reading this, to be a successful leader, do the exact opposite of what Vick and Reid did that night.

 

U.S. debt-to-GDP hits a 6-year low

While the U.S. national debt* continues to grow, there is another debt that has been reduced quite significantly: private-held (household) and corporate debt. According to FRED, America’s indebtedness has hit a 6-year low to 3.29x GDP.

Much of the debt that is disappearing rather rapidly originated during the collapse of the housing market, which caused this whole mess to begin with. The reduction of this debt shows that the economy showing resilient signs of improvement from the bottom-up. Let’s look at some charts:

Household Credit Market Debt/Outstanding/GDP:

U.S. household debt, private debt

Non-financial corporate debt/GDP:

Non-financial corporate debt/GDP

Financial sector debt/GDP:

Financial sector debt/GDP

 

*The U.S. national debt is the sum of all outstanding debt owed by the U.S. government. 2/3  is public debt, which is owed to the people, businesses and foreign governments who bought Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. This also includes debt held by individuals, corporations, the Federal Reserve System, and foreign/state/local governments. The rest is owed by the government to itself, and his held as Government Account securities. Most is owed to Social Security.

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Apple: A ship without its captain

Tim Cook, Apple, CEO

Tim Cook, Apple’s current CEO

Since Steve Jobs’s death one year ago, Apple’s stock price has increased 80% and catapulted the company to be the most valuable company in the world. Many will argue that this is case and point of Tim Cook’s success as the new leader of Apple. But the truth is, Tim Cook’s success can only begin to be measured, as the success of Apple over the past year was largely predestined by plans and products set forth before Steve Jobs past away.

Anyone in business would understand that it takes time to see the true abilities of a leader come to fruition. Depending on the institution’s size it could a couple months or a couple years, all depending on the programs that will proceed with any individual after the incumbent has left. In the case of Tim Cook, he has done exactly what he should have done that resulted in Apple’s tremendous growth and that is ride the wave Steve Jobs has already set in place.

While its too early to tell whether Cook is the right man for the job or not, some cracks in the empire Steve Jobs built are starting to be seen. Jobs was a fearless, and sometimes ruthless leader who knew what he wanted and would stop at nothing to get it accomplished. Like a horse with blinds, he only saw one direction, but that direction comprised of incredibly high standards, innovation, and building products for consumers that always worked well. He let very few people into his circle, and allowed very little information out of his company. In this tenure, Apple kept the names of its manufacturing partners under wraps. Many of his products, from laptops to the “i series” of iPods, iPhone, and iPad have refined the market and signal handedly created an industry worth trillions through its App Store. His business model has resulted in Apple stores being the most profitable retail shops in the world.

Cook’s first real test was the launch of the iPhone 5, and what a fail – comparatively speaking to Apple’s previous products – that was. Its back is much fun susceptible to damage due to the aluminum casing. After moving away from Google Maps for legitimate reasons, Apple’s rendition of Maps in iOS 6 achieved the same performance and outcome as this now famously failed restoration of the painting of Jesus:

Apple has also recently confirmed there is a problem with the iPhone 5 camera, which can show a “purple haze” in a picture taken using the phone.

Arguably, Tim Cook is on a learning curve, and yes, the company was never as big as this when Steve Jobs was at the helm, but Tim Cook has so far failed to provide the key ingredient of Jobs’s success, and that’s vision. He may be a great engineer, manager, or leader, but in order for Apple to continue its streak of innovation, Cook has to hold, or better the values and integrity that got the company here in the first place.

This is true for any company, and there are many current examples of how new individuals struggle and even fail following people as brilliant as Steve Jobs. For instance, Starbucks’s founder, Howard Schultz, left the company to new management who practically drove Starbucks into the ground. Since staging a successful coup and retaking the helm, Starbucks has shown phenomenal growth – synonymous to what happened when Steve Jobs stepped in to bring Apple out of the brink of extinction in the 1990′s.

Let’s take a look at Apple’s once mighty foe, Microsoft. Since Bill Gates left Steve Ballmer to run the show, Microsoft reported its first loss in twenty years! Once an innovator, Microsoft still hasn’t figured out a successful strategy to break into the smartphone market. They are like a sheep in a cage with a Godzilla and King Kong, respectively Apple and Google. Its gotten so bad, that Apple’s iPhone division alone makes more money than all of Microsoft. Bing? Let’s not even go there. Thank God they have XBox.

Cook and Ballmer are not bad guys, they are actually proven successful individuals. But it is extremely hard to fill the shoes of two geniuses such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. It is because of Steve Jobs’s unique philosophy to “think different” that makes it quite difficult for anyone to take over his role and achieve the same level of results.

Steve Jobs: Think Different

Today marks one year to the day that Steve Jobs, the man whose name will be forever etched in history for changing the way we live through his ideas and products, passed away of pancreatic cancer. Remembered by some for this genius and vision, and others for his arrogance, Jobs is responsible for creating the most valuable company in history and bringing the smartphone/tablet industry to life. With more cash than the U.S. government, Apple today is on its way to be the first company ever worth one trillion dollars. The company Jobs built has so much money, its iPhone division alone makes more money than all of Microsoft.

Jobs had many memorable moments, but none made as big of an impact on me as his commencement speech at Standford University in 1996. In his speech, Jobs reflected on what he knows best, how to think differently and follow your gut. He couldn’t have said it any better, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will connect in your future. Because believing the dots will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even if it leads you off the well-worn path.” -Steve Jobs

 

Corporate profit at an all-time high, wages at an all-time low

The direction and philosophy of our policies is creating a few million nobles, and over 300 million serfs; the gap between the poor and the rich is growing exponentially. Looking at the charts below, it’s clear we shouldn’t be in a recession. Companies are sitting on record profits and not reinvesting it into their own people or the economy. Not every company is guilty, but those that aren’t are the exception, not the rule.

1. Corporate profit margins just hit an all-time high. Companies are making more per dollar of sales than they ever have before. Looks like the stimulus package worked.

2. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. One reason companies are so profitable is that they’re paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP. And that, in turn, is one reason the economy is so weak: Those “wages” are other companies’ revenue as the best way to stimulate the economy is to have a high volume of people spend money, not give tax breaks to the rich.

3. Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades. With the advancement of technology this trend inevitable. From warehouses that automatically ship packages, to advancements in everyday software that reduce a company’s reliance on workers, companies are hiring less which is another factor that increases their profitability.

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99 problems, and the banks are the biggest 1.

Protests have been occurring from corner to corner of Greece and Spain over austerity measures, and similar – yet less “violent” – protests have also been raging in America for over a year through the “99% movement.” All these people from different continents, cultures, and walks of life have one big problem and that is the banks.

The banks are what brought down the US economy to its knees, and this is the same for countries across the globe. Let’s put the indiscriminate spending that banks’ are guilty of on the shelf for a moment; the problem that people are have is that nothing is being done to prevent this from happening again. “Bailouts” are being provided, but the banks take all the money, and leave pennies for those hurting the most, and that’s the people. The banks do not reinvest in the economy, but instead pay off their debts. In the $500 billion Greece has received only $20 billion has been pumped back into the economy while creditors and banks have taken the remaining $480 billion to pay back creditors. How is this supposed to help out the economy? It doesn’t.

While critics defame the protesters around the world, accusing them of looking for handouts or not finding jobs – the truth is these people are doing the rest of us a big favor; they are stepping up to the thugs that think they are “too big to fail.”

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Why is U.S. money green?

  • The U.S. first starting printing currency in the mid 1800’s to help fund the civil war.
  • Since the technology for photographs was available at that time, currency had to be colored so it wouldn’t be counterfeited.
  • The U.S. government discovered a green dye that was hard to remove.
    • The dye was first added on the back of bills, and bills became known as “greenbacks”
  • In the 20th century, green dye was still the color of choice because it was inexpensive and was resistant to chemical and physical changes.
  • Today, U.S. currency has evolved to include additional colors and technology to help fight against counterfeit currency.
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