Goldman Sachs and the $580 Million Black Hole

James and Janet Baker spent nearly two decades building Dragon, a voice technology company, into a successful, multimillion-dollar enterprise. It was, they say, their “third child.” So in late 1999, when offers to buy Dragon began rolling in, the couple made what seemed a smart decision: they turned to Goldman Sachs for advice. And why not? Goldman, after all, was the leading dealmaker on Wall Street. The Bakers wanted the best. This, of course, was before the scandals of the subprime mortgage era. It was before the bailouts, before Occupy Wall Street, before ordinary Americans began complaining about “banksters” and “muppets” and “the vampire squid.” In short, before Goldman Sachs became, for many, synonymous with Wall Street greed.

And yet, even today what happened next to the Bakers seems remarkable. With Goldman Sachs on the job, the corporate takeover of Dragon Systems in an all-stock deal went terribly wrong. Goldman collected millions of dollars in fees — and the Bakers lost everything when Lernout & Hauspie was revealed to be a spectacular fraud. L.& H. had been founded by Jo Lernout and Pol Hauspie, who had once been hailed as stars of the 1990s tech boom. Only later did the Bakers learn that Goldman Sachs itself had at one point considered investing in L.& H. but had walked away after some digging into the company.

Read the article: Goldman Sachs and a Sale Gone Horribly Awry

The entrepreneur visa

MOST governments say they want to encourage entrepreneurs. Yet when foreigners with ideas come knocking, they slam doors in their faces. America, surprisingly, is one of the worst offenders. It has no specific visa for foreigners who wish to create new companies. It does offer a visa for investors, but the requirements are so stiff—usually an initial investment of $1m, or half that if the firm is in a depressed neighbourhood—that the annual quota of 10,000 visas is seldom filled. Other countries are more open (see table). Singapore offers visas to people who invest $40,000; for some, the government provides additional investment. Britain gives visas to entrepreneurs who meet certain conditions and attract £50,000 ($77,000) of venture funding. New Zealand has no specific capital requirement but offers residency to entrepreneurs whose firms are deemed to benefit the country. Chile is wildly generous: its government gives selected start-ups $40,000 without taking any equity in return.

Read the article: Visas for entrepreneurs: Where creators are welcome

India’s Singh on the Wrong Side of History

India has an unmatched capacity to look opportunity firmly in the face, turn around, and walk off resolutely in the opposite direction.

The latest manifestation of the national pastime comes in relation to public corruption. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could have appropriated the cause and channelled the people’s movement to enact tough new laws to rid India of corrupt practices and cement its economic future. Instead he has responded with vacillation and, by using the powers of the state to intimidate activists, planted his flag on the wrong side of history.

Read the article: India’s Singh on the Wrong Side of History

Google on its transparency and not-so-secret formula

Recently the European Commission opened a preliminary inquiry into competition complaints. Part of the complaint alleges that Google operates without sufficient transparency into how and why web sites rank in our search results. The notion that Google isn’t transparent is tough for me to swallow. Google has set the standard in how we communicate with web site publishers. Let me tell you about some of the ways we explain to sites how we rank them and why.

One of the most widely-discussed parts of Google’s scoring has always been PageRank. That “secret ingredient” is hardly a secret. Here it is. That early paper not only gave the formula for PageRank, but mentioned many of the other signals in Google’s ranking, including anchor text, the location of words within documents, the relative proximity of query words in a document, the size and type of fonts used, the raw HTML of each page, and capitalization of words. Google has continued to publish literally hundreds of research papers over the years. Those papers reveal many of the “secret formulas” for how Google works and document essential infrastructure that Google uses. Some of these papers have spurred not only open-source projects but entire in their own right.

Read the article: European Public Policy Blog: Google, transparency and our not-so-secret formula

A Deeper Look Into Google’s 800-Pound Panda Problem

Now, to the heart of the issue: China. You can think of China as a foxy young girl who knows she’s smokin’ hot. She’s happy to hang out at the club and lure people over to buy her drinks, and even though she’d chat and humor him a bit just to keep him talking and buying drinks, she’d never dream of putting out. Instead, once her suitor had fulfilled his usefulness or she became bored, she’d feign indignation, throw a fit, and then freeze him out. Yes, in spite of her charm and confidence in her looks, there’s something bothering her on the inside: even though others compliment her beauty and tell her she’s special, she looks over to the VIP table and her gut sinks. Why don’t those other people accept her? That’s all she wants!

Read the article: Censor? I barely know her!