New ventures innovative but are they good?

In the 24/7 news cycle, there are a lot of items that make me question whether the world is slipping off its axis.

Sometimes I wonder; sometimes I know.

Let’s examine a few of these items, starting with an example of local entrepreneurship.

A business has set up shop in a tavern with the novel idea of launching a resale market for long-play bets.

Say you’re a die-hard fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, who have been woeful. You’re in Vegas for a friend’s wedding and after an evening at a club, you stop by the sports book and see the Lakers are 100-1 to win the NBA’s Western Conference title and something closer to 200-1 to win the NBA championship.

Sure, says the wobbly guy in the purple and gold jersey, I’ll put $100 on that.

There are two ways this can go.

If the Lakers start 4-11 or star Kobe Bryant gets injured – again – that bet may not look so wise.

But suppose the team gets off to a hot start and is a media darling? January rolls around and the team has a one-game lead but now the super fan is getting cold feet. He wants to believe but he’d really like to hedge his bet. He’d be delighted to maybe triple his money and let somebody else take the on-going risk.

Think of it as in-game wagering in slow motion – you’re betting on the outcome while the game is in motion. Would there be a player who’d buy that ticket? And at what price? Let’s let the market decide.

The optimistic view is that this could be the start of a trading floor like, say, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The more likely outcome is a few exchanges where professional bettors fleece a few unlucky folks out of winning tickets for pennies on the dollar… before the Gaming Control Board moves in.

Then there’s the matter of Andrew Heaney. He’s a Los Angele Angels of Anaheim pitcher who has turned himself into an IPO. Investors can buy shares of his future earnings – 10 percent of his salary and endorsements. The future looks bright for the 24-year-old lefthander. If he turns into a star with 15 years averaging $20 million in earnings, it’s a good deal for investors. If he injures his arm tonight, well, better luck next time. Either way, Heaney gets $3.34 million now and offloads some risk/reward.

The organizer of this scheme is serious about creating a market for this kind of investment. The company has made similar deals with several other up-and-comers in other sports including NFL players Vernon Davis and E.J. Manuel.

Like our friend in the Lakers jersey, this is one of those moments when a person needs to separate the spectator and the investor. Just because you’re rooting for Heaney to succeed doesn’t mean he’s a good investment.

Heaney is setting his own future worth at $33 million. It’s a deal one of his teammates called the dumbest thing he’s ever seen. Who’s right?

The concept is intriguing in that it narrows the gap between investing and betting, a step that has to be good for Las Vegas long term.

How long will it be before we can invest in the future earnings of a Microsoft vice president or a casino hostess with a book full of whales?

Let that image roll around in your mind while we turn to the latest in bizarre tech perks.

China, like the U.S., has recognized that the world of computer science is a heavily male domain. But the two countries have different approaches to the problem.

Here we have discrimination suits and hand wringing and elaborate programs to get young girls interested in the STEM careers.

In China, they’ve gone the other way and brought cheerleaders into the cubicle farm. Yes, indeed. Companies are hiring young women to ‘encourage’ the young male programmers by chatting them up, buying them breakfast and generally giving them a friendly ear.

At the high end, supporters are saying these women are being hired because they have psychology training that lets them relate to the often isolated and lonely programmer. In part, it’s an investment in socializing the workforce and making these geeks more comfortable around women. But it’s also a way to retain the best talent.

At the other end, well, haven’t we all seen this on The Strip after midnight? What could possibly go wrong here?

So we have three different stories of entrepreneurs reshaping risk and reward. And we haven’t even mentioned presidential politics.

There will be winners and losers but you have to salute the entrepreneurial spirit of all.

And the world is still spinning. For now.


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