Walt Disney: Motive Was “Fun” (Not “Money”)

(p. 291) Said Bob Gurr, a member of the WED staff: “One big thrust behind our design work for the World’s Fair was the fact that we were going to own all the equipment. In other words, somebody else would build the pavilion, on somebody else’s property, but the show equipment that went in there was Disney’s, and he had a ready-made location waiting for it. The fact that the Fair was going to run two years meant he could build more expensively, and Disney priced these projects in a way that the sponsors were paying for everything for a two-year use.”

Disney approached the fair with a certain skepticism, even so. “You don’t like to do those things unless you have fun doing ’em,” he said in 1961, when work on the exhibits was just getting under way “You don’t do ’em for money.” Robert Moses, the imperious road builder who was in command of the fair, “wanted us to develop the amusement area and we looked at it,” Disney said, ‘but it just wasn’t for us. I wouldn’t want to try to do anything in New York. I’m not close enough. . . . On top of that, I mean I don’t know whether I want to do any outside of Disneyland because you don’t want to spread yourself thin.”

Barrier, Michael. The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. 1 ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.
(Note: ellipsis in original.)

Despite Importance of Economic Historians, History Departments Hire Fewer Economic Historians


Source of graph: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. C7) Over the last three decades the number of history faculty members at four-year institutions has more than doubled to 20,000-plus, said Robert B. Townsend, assistant director for research at the American Historical Association. Yet the growth has been predominantly in the newer specializations, spurring those in diplomatic, military, legal and economic history to complain they are being squeezed out.

In 1975, for example, three-quarters of college history departments employed at least one diplomatic historian; in 2005 fewer than half did. The number of departments with an economic historian fell to 31.7 percent from 54.7 percent. By contrast the biggest gains were in women’s history, which now has a representative in four out of five history departments.

For the full story, see:
PATRICIA COHEN. “Great Caesar’s Ghost! Are Traditional History Courses Vanishing?” The New York Times (Thurs., June 11, 2009): C1 & C7.
(Note: the online version is dated Weds., June 10.)

Angel Investors Face High Risk and Negative Returns

Some of the difficulties in angel investing are highlighted below. These difficulties support the view that self-financing is likely to remain a crucial mode of initial financing for many high-level entrepreneurs.

(p. B1) An angel investor is anyone who privately provides capital to a promising business, often a start-up, that isn’t run by a friend or family member. Scott Shane, an economist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, estimates that the U.S. has at least 140,000 active angels who collectively invest some $20 billion a year in new businesses.

. . .

Being an angel is hellishly risky. To be sure, one recent study found that 7% of the angel investments with final outcomes went up at least tenfold. And many fledgling angels are driven by the dream of finding the next Google while it still is in the cradle.
But roughly half of all new businesses fail within their first five years, according to the Small Business Administration. Not surprisingly then, researchers have estimated that at least half of all angel investments lose money and 48% of investments with final outcomes result in a 100% loss.
Worse, those returns were earned by “accredited” angels, individual investors with at least $200,000 in annual income and $1 million or more in net worth. The vast majority of the profits from angel investing appear to be earned by the top 10% of angels, who tend to be rich, well-connected veterans of high-growth industries. Unaccredited angels, with less capital to offer and weaker links to expert advice, are likely to see fewer deals with potential for high returns.
Furthermore, these private businesses are illiquid, so angels can’t dump their holdings at will, the way mortals do every day in the stock or bond market. Thus, being an angel takes enormous patience. “Your losers die faster than your winners win,” said Robert Wiltbank, a business professor at Willamette University in Salem, Ore.
. . .

So why would anyone want to be an angel, and who should consider it? “You get to play God a little,” said Paul Kedrosky, an active angel investor and a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship. “You get the charge of helping to create something exciting, without having too many annoying partners.”

For the full commentary, see:
JASON ZWEIG. “THE INTELLIGENT INVESTOR; Can Angel Investors Earn Heavenly Returns?” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., OCTOBER 31, 2009): B1.
(Note: ellipses added.)