Mike Milken

During the 2nd week in May the Global Scholars were hosted by the famous Mike Milken (wiki) at his lake side estate at Lake Tahoe. One’s preconceptions of such an event are obviously going to be well above par given this man’s reputation and illustrious path to infamy. The purpose of the trip was to expose us to one of the most successful investors/entrepreneurs the US has to offer. Mr Milken has been acclaimed with creating the market for junk bonds in the 70s & 80s. The “Junk Bond King”, who according to Forbes is one of the world’s top 500 richest men (estimated at 3-8 Billion), has been called the epitome of Wall Street greed. Oliver Stone has stated that his 1980s film Wall Street was based on Mike – although in my opinion the ultra-cool Gordon Gecko character over-glorifies most aspects of the man’s Wall Street activities. Regardless of this, having the opportunity to meet and talk with the Junk Bond King was a unique and once off event – to be embraced and not wasted.

Mr Gecko’s, sorry I mean Mr Milken’s hospitality was next to none in Lake Tahoe. He put us up in his lakeside home at Incline Village and basically gave us free rein of the place. He had a personal trainer on hand to bring us for a scenic hike around tahoe. Its fair to say we were all impressed with his mansion and its impressive décor, which included thee first print of Encyclopaedia Britannica and apparently 2 of the oldest books in the world (religious illustrations)! Over the 3 days he co-hosted various entrepreneurs and investors with the Sierra Nevada College (SNC), in order to provide us with exposure to thought-leading business minds. Some of these included Bob Preger (7th Oracle employee), Roger Wittenberg (Founder of Trex), Bob Goff (Sierra Angels), Rob Loughan (Chairman of Dexterra, profile), John Osborne (CEO of Tarsin), T.J. Matthews (CEO of IGT), Andrew Hargadon (Prof at SNC), Ian Finnimore (Bally Technologies).

Mike spoke about a number of key topics over the 3 days including:
– America’s changing face – Hispanic & Asian
– A new global perspective – competition for human capital
– Democratization of capital
– Capital Markets
– The most powerful face in the world
– Role of future innovation
– Human capital – the most precious asset
– Accelerating medial solutions

Milken proposed the following top 10 problems facing the world: democracy, disease, education, energy, environment, food, population, poverty, terrorism & war, water.

A couple of interesting remarks Mike made over the few days:
– A bid he put in to buy a 99 year lease of Baja California (wiki) for 40 Billion USD!! He explained that the purpose behind this was to give his organisation exclusivity in developing Baja’s public services, utilities, services, schools, hospitals, infrastructure etc.
– Asian nations will make up 60% of the world’s economy by 2040
– Countries with excess liquidity: Norway, Qatar, Singapore, Kuwait, Taiwan, UAE

Mike asked some of the entrepreneurs/investors in attendance to state pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Here’s some of their words of wisdom:
Rob Loughan: It’s the journey that counts, not the destination; Timing is everything; Surround yourself with the right people; Take advantage of chaos in the market; Start at the top end of the market (e.g. telco’s, utilities) and dive down to consumer
John Osborne: Regards first mover advantage- most ideas are too early; Support networks are key- its still all about who you know!; Hang on by your fingertips!; Do something different tomorrow; Have fun; Its how you come at problems that important.
Ian Finnimore: Stay wide enough with technology offering so that business can adapt; In relation to the entrepreneurial attitude in the States Ian proposed that this was inherent in the original Pioneers that travelled across the continent creating and occupying American States.
Mike Milken: Make time to think; Your talent pool is the “flat” world; Decide when you’ve enough information to make a decision – when you actually have enough you’re army is usually dead (General Schwarzkopf (Quotes)); One must make mistakes and have problems; Various parameters are important when discussing capital finance- markets, industry, economy, regulation, your company, but most important is society (a company’s benefits to society; values; problems being solved/caused); The best time to borrow is when you don’t need it; Don’t rely on one customer; Opportunity is what you love; “There’s more to life than increasing its speed” (Ghandi).
Sierra Angel #1: focus- small team & resources; team work; persistence
Sierra Archangel: collaboration
Sierra Angel #3: results are key; keep your ears/heart open; persist
Sierra Angel #4: listen to what the customer wants; 4 levels of interest from prospective customers (1) they’ll pay you to build it (2) they’ll buy it from you (3) they’ll consider looking at it (4) they don’t care.
Sierra Angel #5: do your due diligence/home work; build your bets “mouse trap” before seeking investment (prototype & bus => best possible investment deal); Succeed now, contribute in your 30/40s!
Sierra Angel #6: you need a superior product – keep working on it if not; exposure; easy to buy; network is critical – people & team
Sierra Angel #7: Go to market fast; Its the journey that matters

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