We’ve Been Here Before

Abracadabra! Magic Trumps Math at Web Start-Ups in today’s New York Times explores the use by start-up online businesses of “nonstandard accounting metrics”–tools for measuring economic viability of companies that appear non-viable when viewed through traditional valuation methods.  Anyone old enough to remember the web bubble of a decade ago recalls “concepts like ‘eyeballs’ and ‘mindshare'” (as the article notes), new metrics that reflected the fundamental change in the nature of business wrought by c-commerce.  But the Internet did not change the fundamental nature of business.  Start-ups today are not exactly like start-ups in 1999-2001, but their differences don’t mean investors should uncritically embrace these new valuation methods.  That Amazon established itself with years of huge marketing costs does not mean that spending more to acquire each customer than they spend is the path to e-commerce success.  If it takes more than 90 seconds to understand a company’s business plan, be wary.


Should the law require the seller of a house to disclose that a murder or suicide occurred there?  The Consumerist blog posed this question a few weeks ago, noting the Massachusetts law (G.L. ch. 93 §114) does not require such disclosure:

The fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction. “Psychologically impacted” shall mean an impact being the result of facts or suspicions including, but not limited to, the following:

(a) that an occupant of real property is now or has been suspected to be infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or any other disease which reasonable medical evidence suggests to be highly unlikely to be transmitted through the occupying of a dwelling;

(b) that the real property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide; and

(c) that the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.

No cause of action shall arise or be maintained against a seller or lessor of real property or a real estate broker or salesman, by statute or at common law, for failure to disclose to a buyer or tenant that the real property is or was psychologically impacted.

Which does not mean the seller can lie about it:

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the provisions of this section shall not authorize a seller, lessor or real estate broker or salesman to make a misrepresentation of fact or false statement.

Should this be the law?  Would a house’s history of murder or suicide affect how much you would be willing to pay for it?