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

Fall of Microsoft

Eichenwald’s conversations reveal that a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate. “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

Read the article: Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant | Blogs | Vanity Fair

Steve Jobs on Average vs Best Software Developers

“I observed something fairly early on at Apple, which I didn’t know how to explain then, but have thought a lot about it since. Most things in life have a dynamic range in which average to best is at most 2:1. For example if you go to New York City and get an average taxi cab driver versus the best taxi cab driver, you’ll probably get to your destination with the best taxi driver 30% faster. And an automobile; What’s the difference between the average car and the best? Maybe 20% ?  The best CD player versus the average CD player? Maybe 20% ? So 2:1 is a big dynamic range for most things in life. Now, in software, and it used ot be the case in hardware, the difference between the average software developer and the best is 50:1; Maybe even 100:1….”

Read the article: Why You Need To Hire Great Developers

The 7 Greatest Ideas in History

Just a few stand out above all the rest. They change the course of history and affect the lives of millions who aren’t even aware of them. Amazingly, they are often the work of a single person. Those ideas are truly great and seven really stand out. To make my selection, I applied three criteria: Longevity (i.e. they survive a long time without being amended or surpassed in any significant way), impact (i.e. they greatly affected the lives and work of others) and authorship (i.e. they can be traced to one person).

Read the article: The 7 Greatest Ideas in History

Russia plans $65bn tunnel to America

Russia has unveiled an ambitious plan to build the world’s longest tunnel under the Bering Strait as part of a transport corridor linking Europe and America via Siberia and Alaska. The 64-mile (103km) tunnel would connect the far east of Russia with Alaska, opening up the prospect of the ultimate rail trip across three quarters of the globe from London to New York. The link would be twice as long as the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France. The $65 billion (£33 billion) mega-project aims to transform trade links between Russia and its former Cold War enemies across some of the world’s most desolate terrain. It would create a high-speed railway line, energy links and a fibreoptic cable network.

Read the article: Russia plans $65bn tunnel to America

Friends Don’t Let Geek Friends Work In Finance

While the practice of poaching engineering talent slowed after the economy tanked in 2008, Wadhwa is dismayed to report that thanks to hundred-billion-dollar taxpayer bailouts, investment banks have recovered and gone back to their old, greedy ways, snagging engineering grads who might otherwise solve the world’s problems, making them financial offers they can’t refuse, and morphing them into quants, investment bankers and management consultants. ‘Not only are the investment banks siphoning off hundreds of billions of dollars from our economy with financial gimmicks like CDOs,’ writes Wadhwa, ‘they are using our best engineering graduates [25% of MIT grads in ’06] to help them do it. This is the talent that our country has invested so much resource in producing.’ He concludes: ‘Let’s save the world by keeping our engineers out of finance. We need them to, instead, develop new types of medical devices, renewable energy sources, and ways for sustaining the environment and purifying water, and to start companies that help America keep its innovative edge.’

Read the article: Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Into Finance