Monday, November 14, 2011

Businessweek Pieces: Workplace Productivity Software / Apple Supply Chain / Rare Earth Metal Mining

Several interesting pieces from Businessweek lately with the largest of which on a new productivity software startup. Asana: Dustin and Justin's Quest for Flow was written by Ashlee Vance and profiles the company started by two beginning stage ex-Facebook employees (with Dustin Moskovitz at eight days younger than Mark Zuckerberg being the world's youngest billionaire). As detailed by Vance, Asana is offering a free version for smaller groups (with the idea that even personal tasks will be managed via Asana) and then building larger demand.


Other recent feature of note from BW recently was Alaska’s Billion Dollar Mountain on entrepreneur Jim McKenzie and his mining company, UCore. Focus is on Bokan Mountain near Ketchikan, Alaska and the large support of valuable rare earth metals held deep underground. It's an interesting story written for Businessweek by Daniel Grushkin in the efforts of McKenzie to gain mining access and in how the land reached it's current valuation.

Previous attempts to mine Bokan were unsuccessfully trying to find and extract uranium and this is exactly what McKenzie was initially interested in and hoping to convince the old prospector (Bob Dotson) who owned the mineral rights to allow him access to. Through spending time together, McKenzie learned of it's rare earth metal potential and then brokered a deal with Dotson and his estranged children (to whom who he had granted shared rights) to be able to mine Bokan.

In 2010, China as the world's largest producer of rare earth metals then made the decision to dramatically cut it's exports of these minerals (that go into complicated electronics, jet engines and missiles) and as a result made prices skyrocket and dramatically increased the value of Bokan. It still remains to be seen whether the cost of deep underground extraction will make the investment pay off, but the potential is very much there. Interesting story from a lot of different perspectives.


Final Businessweek piece to mention is Apple's Supply-Chain Secret? Hoard Lasers. Apple combining great consumer experience with supply-chain competitive advantage... that's a pretty compelling proposition.