PowerTalk (general)
The Secret Behind Barefoot Cellars Becoming a National Bestselling Brand with co-founder Michael Houlihan
Welcome to another edition of PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits, and these are my 1-1 conversations with the movers and shakers in the business world that take you behind the scenes and in the know. Be sure to check out ChrisVersace.com for more on PowerTrends and past editions of PowerTalk.
Joining me on PowerTalk today is Michael C. Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Cellars where he was president and CEO for 19 years, During that time, Michael and his partner Bonnie Harvey took Barefoot from a startup and grew it to a business that sold over half a million cases making it a national best seller when they sold the company to E&J Gallo in 2005. What’s even more amazing is Michael and Bonnie did it all without advertising. 
As Michael points out, you can have a great product at a great price, but what so many companies forget is that they are also in the distribution business. We’ve seen the product and distribution success of other companies that bear this out — The Coca-Cola Company (KO), PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP), Anheuser Busch Inbev SA (BUD), Molson Coors Brewing Company (TAP) and Diageo plc (DEO), which is the home of many top brands of spirits, wines and beers.
Not only do Michael I talk about how he and Bonnie built Barefoot Cellars into a national bestseller, but we also discuss the New York Times Bestselling book that he and Bonnie wrote  — “The Barefoot Spirit -- How Hardship, Hustle & Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.” 
My advice to you is the following - pour yourself a drink and listen up to this edition of PowerTalk.

Direct download: 12-16-13_BAREFOOTPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:25pm EST

Welcome to another edition of PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits, and these are my 1-1 conversations with the movers and shakers in the business world that take you behind the scenes and in the know. Be sure to check out ChrisVersace.com for more on PowerTrends and past editions of PowerTalk.

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Michael Gorton, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Principal Solar Inc. (PSWW). There’s been a lot of speculation by investors in the solar space, some making big money along the way and others losing it in the shares of companies like First Solar (FSLR), SunPower Corp. (SPWR), and of course Solyndra, Inc. It’s the view by those at Principal Solar that many are thinking about the solar industry the wrong way. Rather than replacing traditional forms of energy — nuclear, coal and natural gas — Michael and his team see solar generated electricity becoming a self-sustaining, investment grade asset within two to three years. 

Driving that transformation are the 40+% price declines in solar technologies over the last two years, and as Michael tells me by late 2014 or early 2015 the price will be substantially lower making them very cost competitive as a generation source for electricity. By riding the innovation wave much like that in the semiconductor industry that has paved the way for personal computers, tablets and smartphones, Principal Solar sees the use of solar expanding dramatically in the coming years. 

Perhaps that is why the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects solar will provide up to 25% of global electricity production by 2050. Now you may not believe that forecast, I’m not sure I do, but it’s not slowing down solar investments by Germany, China and Japan. Meanwhile here at home, traditional electricity generation companies are preparing for that coming move down the solar cost curve. It sure sounds like Principal Solar is on to something and sometimes to see the real opportunity you have to have a different view on things and that’s just what Michael shares with us today. 

Direct download: 12-10-13_PRINCIPALSOLARPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:17am EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Peter Schiff, American businessman, investment broker, financial commentator, author and radio show host as well as the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital Inc. As I’ve come to appreciate about Peter, he is not shy about his views and that always makes for a great conversation, particularly this one that touches on the economy, the direction of the stock market and what lies ahead for both. 

Despite slower earnings growth and the lackluster U.S, economy, the domestic  stock market continues to grind its way higher following the government shutdown. Your probably asking yourself - What’s fueling this continued rise? 

If you look around in your every day life, you are likely thinking there is a disconnect between the economy and the stock market. After all the money the Federal Reserve has used to stimulate the economy, we continue to have huge numbers of people dropping out of the work force each month, wages have stagnated, unemployment remains at high levels and businesses are hesitant to invest and deploy capital. Is it any wonder that Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index remains well below the six year high level of -3. That’s right, the high over the last six years is a negative number!

Yet, the stock market moves higher.

With little return in alternative assets, like CDs for example, thanks to continued easy money from the Federal Reserve investors have few other places to turn. What’s worrisome is that the average investor is extremely bullish even though at some point either the Fed will have to taper its efforts or as Peter points out, we will have another crisis on our hands. The most recent American Association of Individual Investor’s sentiment readings points to levels of bullishness that are well above the long-term average. 

It’s the lack of tapering or at least the unlikelihood that the Fed will tighten that have Peter concerned with the health of the economy, the dollar  and more. As we delve deeper into the reasons for what Peter sees ahead - another financial crisis, we also discuss where he is having his clients invest their capital today to deliver returns for tomorrow. 

Direct download: 12-02-13_SCHIFFPOWERTALK_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:38am EST

Joining me today on PowerTalk to discuss all of this is Jeff Lawson CEO and co-founder of Twilio, a company that makes cloud-based telephony tools -- voice and messaging -- for companies and mobile application developers like Uber, Google (GOOG), Hulu, salesforce.com (CRM), Home Depot (HD), AT&T (T) and others. 

With the global explosion of the Internet, smartphones and tablets, we’ve seen a shift in how we can communicate with one another. Instant messaging, mobile messaging, picture messaging, email, messing through Facebook, Google+, chatting and more recently video calls through Skype, Google and even Apple with its FaceTime app.

While many think of these new modes of communication are for personal use -- keeping in touch with family, friends and so on, there’s another aspect to it -- for business. That’s right the Internet and telecommunications technologies are changing the way we connect with companies, and that has implications how a company communicates with its customers It’s not just Twitter and Facebook - a company can interact with customers via voice, messaging or even picture messaging.

In the age of software defined communication, which is having an impact on the business models of Comcast (CMCSA), AT&T, Verizon (VZ), Cisco (CSCO), Avaya and others, Jeff has been named one of the top VoIP CEOs to work for. To me that says he’s worth listening to and as you listen to this edition of PowerTalk you’ll soon see picking up the phone and talking to someone in new light.

Direct download: 11-05-13_TWILIOPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:41am EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Ben Chodor co-founder of Happtique, a company that certifies medical, health, and fitness apps through its App Certification program and helps healthcare professionals fill prescriptions with its App Prescribing prescription tool.

That’s right, we’re going behind the scenes and in the know this week on mHealth.

It’s no secret that our lives are becoming more and more connected. Mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon and others are looking for new revenues streams as smartphone and tablet sales grow. We’re hearing more about The Connected Car and The Connected Home and wearables. In that last category we’ve seen smartwatches and other devices from Samsung, Nike (NKE), Fitbit, Jawbone and others. Smartwatches, Fuelbands, fitness trackers, activity trackers and the like.

With a rich ecosystem of supported devices and applications, mHealth enables you to manage your personal health and wellness from the palm of your hand, anytime, anywhere.

Given the explosive growth of what I call the Connected Society, revenue in the global mobile health market is expected to reach $26 billion in 2017, according to a report released by Research2Guidance. Driving that is the 1.7 billion people that are expected to download health apps by 2017. And there is no shortage to choose from Today - there are about 97,000 mobile health apps in 62 different app stores.

That’s where Happtique comes into play. As you’ll hear Ben talk about, there is a lot going on in the world of health, prescriptions and apps. Before too long, one day your insurance company may reimburse for your home healthcare equipment AND the apps that not only run them, but connect them with you physicians. If you think that’s exciting, just wait until you hear what Ben and I talk about in this edition of PowerTalk.

Direct download: 10-29-13_HAPPTIQUEPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:45pm EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Brian Jaquet, senior marketing manager  of Slingbox. We discuss not only about the past, present and future of place shifting but also what it means for Sling Media and how the company looks to compete in this next battleground. This is what Ted Loeonsis, the acting CEO of Groupon, partner at Revolution Growth and owner of the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics says about Slingbox:

“Slingbox, which turns my iPad into a television, has become an invaluable app for me. Everything that I have on my home TV's satellite setup I can now watch on my iPad, wherever I am in the world.

Over the last year or so we’ve talked with a number of people at a variety of companies. This week we’re venturing into some new territory as we hone in on what I think is one of the next battleground to be fought in what I call the connected device space. That’s a key part of my Always On, Always Connected PowerTrend.

We’re in the middle of what I call the smartphone bloodbath between Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry, LG, and a number of others. 

We’re starting to see the same dynamic take shape in the tablet space as well. 

The area that I’m talking about is the Connected Home and the living room in particular. Odds are you have a set top box, maybe a DVR already and perhaps even a gaming console sitting under your TV. 

You’ve probably noticed that given the rise of the DVR and on demand programming, you and people like you that lead busy lives are abandoning what’s been called appointment TV. 

Instead, we’re seeing a sharp rise in what’s called placeshifting.

In fact I bet some if not most of you are placeshifters

That’s a person who consumes content on one device even though its stored on another one.  Slingbox  invented placeshifting back in 2004 and during the ensuing years"Slingbox" has become to placeshifting what Kleenex has been for tissues.

Over the last decade, the ability to store, watch, send, has not just grown, its exploded as first mobile phones then smartphones, tablets and connected TVs have shipped not by the millions, but by the billions. I’d argue the concept placeshifting has expanded and  now include areas like document synchronization, file sharing and other cloud-centric features from companies like Boxee, Dropbox and cloud applications by Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and others as placeshifting ones. 

Brian and I discuss not only about the past, present and future of place shifting but also what it means for Sling Media and how the company looks to compete in this next battleground. Trust me, this isn’t a conversation you’ll want to save and listen to later.

Direct download: 10-22-13_SLINGBOXPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:43am EST

Joining me today on PowerTalk is Leonard Moodispaw - Chairman and CEO of KEYW Holding Corp. (KEYW), a publicly traded company that provides cybersecurity, and geospatial intelligence solutions for U.S. Government,  intelligence and defense customers as well as  commercial enterprises. 

As we move more and more of our lives into the digital frontier, it exposes us to a different set of risks. Whether your a person, a business or a government, the way in which you need to secure yourself is far different than it was 2-3 years ago, let alone 20 years ago. 

What I just described is the downside of my Always On, Always Connected PowerTrend

Cyber attacks, including website and email hacking, malware infection and targeted denial of service, are being increasingly reported by private users and government departments

How big of a threat is it?

Companies such as Google (GOOG), Twitter, Facebook (FB), Evernote, and recently Adobe (ADBE) have all reported being hacked. In fact, Adobe said it suffered a massive security breach which compromised the IDs, passwords, and credit card information of nearly three million customers.

That’s pretty bad, but it gets worse.

As Verizon (VZ) noted in its 2013 Data Breach Investigation Report, it experienced more than 47,000 reported security incidents and 621 confirmed data breaches last year. Over the entire nine-year range of this study, that tally now exceeds 2,500 data breaches and 1.1 billion compromised records .

With that as a backdrop, does it come as a surprise that The Department of Homeland Security awarded a $6 billion contract to 17 companies to protect the government against cybersecurity threats?

That’s good new for KEYW. While it’s list of intelligence community customers may sound like a lot of alphabet soup, it’s important to realize that it includes NSA, NRO, NGA, AGC and other agencies within the Intelligence Community and Department of Defense (DoD). Winning business from those customers and others led KEYW to deliver revenues of $240 million last year -- that’s up substantially from the $39 million in revenue it achieved in 2009. 

During our time together, Leonard and I talk about what’s going on in the cybersecurity market, how KEYW has been able to deliver that great revenue growth, a new KEYW product offering -- HawkEye G, the industry’s first truly active defense solution to detect stealthy advanced threats, and more

While KEYW may not be a mainstream name today, once you listen to today’s PowerTalk I suspect you’ll be wanting to know more about the company.

Direct download: 10-09-13_KEYWPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:49pm EST

Joining me on PowerTalk today is Chris Burruss, President of the Truckload Carriers Association and we talk about the trucking industry, what its responsible for, and what the key issues are facing the industry. 
When most people talk about the economy, we tend to think of manufacturing, retail, restaurants and other industries that require goods be they finished products or key parts and assemblies. 
We all know we need these, but how often do you think about how products and parts get where they need to be? 
No deliveries means there is nothing to sell and nothing to buy. How does our economy work in that environment?
Even before I started my investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits, as part of near 20 years keeping tabs on the U.S. economy as an equity research analyst on Wall Street, I kept an eye on transport activity -- trucks, rails and intermodal activity. For those not familiar with intermodal, it’s when something is shipped by truck to rail or rail to truck. 
Think about it, if goods are not getting shipped to and fro it means factories are not producing and demand from the consumer or business is weak. That means trucking is a key barometer of the domestic economy. While that was true decades ago, it’s even more true today given the shift toward just in time manufacturing.
Simply put if trucks are not rolling, the economy is not moving. That’s something think about every time you drive down I-95, 40, 70, 80, the 5 or another interstate highway.  If you don’t see many trucks, don’t be shocked if the economy isn’t that strong.
Direct download: 10-01-13_TRUCKLOADPOWERTALK_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:42am EST

Joining me on PowerTalk today to discuss the e-reader market, it’s new line of Android tablets that are designed with readers in mind as well as how it works with small book retailers and more is Mike Serbinis, the CEO and founder of Kobo.
If your like me, your an avid reader. Books, newspapers, magazines and all sorts of reports be it from companies like Gallup or the Congressional Budget Office. As the old say goes reading is fundamental.
Much like many other industries, the publishing industry has been rocked by technology -- how we consume information has changed and that means how people read has changed as well. Print continues to cede ground to digital publications that can be read on e-readers, tablets, smartphones and even on your computing desktop. We’ve seen magazines, like Newsweek, shift from print to only digital and newspapers such as The New York Times (NYT) try to figure out a pay-wall solution for its content. We’ve seen once prominent bookstore chains go out of business or in the case of Barnes & Noble (BKS) shrink its footprint. 
Now when most people think of reading digitally, they tend to think of either the Apple (AAPL) iPad or Amazon.com’s (AZMN) Kindle e-reader and Fire tablet. While those are viable solutions there is another out there.
The Wall Street Journal named the Kobo  Aura HD the “best e-Reader” beating out Amazon’s Kindle and the Nook from Barnes & Noble. I have to say I have been trying out the Kobo Aura and it’s great and it’s online bookstore has 4 million books to choose from as well as newspapers, magazines and more. 
Mike shares a number of insights to where all of this is headed and he reviews some of the strategic moves that Kobo is making to be ahead of the curve. 
Direct download: 09-24-13_KOBOPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:49pm EST

When most people think of hanging out with family and friends it tends to involve one of my favorite subjects -- food. According to The Bureau of Economic Analysis, on average the U.S. consumer spends $6,129 or 9.81% of their paychecks on food each year. That makes the food industry, which includes eating at home and eating out, a big big business.

Joining me to talk about the success as well as the challenges that Domino’s Pizza (DPZ)  faces is Lynn Liddle, Executive Vice President, Communications, Legislative Affairs and Investor Relations at Domino’s. Lynn’s been with the company since 2002 and has seen the good, the bad and the ugly along the way.

Like any business, the food industry has its ups and downs -- new products and better service to tighter consumer spending and cut throat competition to rising input costs and  potential regulations. Despite those and other challenges, people need to eat, which means balancing demand with consumer tastes that sometimes shift based on the diet trend du jour. 

With $1.6-$1.7 billion in annual revenues and more than 9,700 company owned and franchised locations, it’s a player in pizza and more. Lynn and I talk about all of that as well as break down the company’s key cost items and discuss some potential regulation that is winding its way through Washington, D.C. that could take a bite out of small businesses. You’ll even learn what the number one pizza toppings are in Japan and India.  Here’s a hint, they aren’t what you think they might be.

Direct download: 09-16-13_DOMINOSPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:52am EST