PPP Loan Analysis, Part Two

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The Weekly Data:

As of Tuesday, the Treasury department released the individual loan data for loans below $150,000 and a separate dataset for loans that were $150,000 and above.

The actual dataset proves that the government should probably spend money on a good name parser as the ways people spelled various cities (just search Philadelphia in the dataset). With 661,218 rows, a lot of information on different organizations, from small business to various non-profits to larger businesses (some considered “startups”) are contained in the dataset.

One good way to find organizations is to filter by the lender, and then either filter by location or the NACIS Code (a NACIS Code specifying what is the type of business).

The map would be a population map if certain regions were more represented but in this case the map of PPP loans given by Silicon Valley Bank represents locations of startups from Seattle, SF, and Los Angeles on the west coast to the D.C., NYC, and Boston on the east coast. San Francisco is the most common city, with it then being New York, and Boston.

The list of startups that got PPP money from Silicon Valley Bank include companies, Dataquest Labs, Pattern Brands, or Algorand Foundation. There is something ironic with the later as Algorand is a cryptocurrency, and one would think that a cryptocurrency foundation would be the last group to apply for PPP. Y Combinator Research also got a 150,000-350,000 tier loan as well.

In fairness to the startups involved, some banks applied for PPP loans on behalf of of startups, even when the founder of the startup explicitly decided not to apply for the money. (Kudos to Bird founder Travis VanderZanden for being public about this).

While it is interesting to point out these organizations receiving PPP money, in practice, if they are qualified, they have to right to apply and get the money back, with some exceptions. I reached out to Dean Baker, a senior economist at CEPR to understand why people are complaining that certain companies are receiving PPP money.

I think a lot of the complaints are confused. Everyone should be able to find someone they didn't like who got a loan, so what? The one real category that deserves investigation are portfolio companies that are are owned by private equity (PE) companies. The PE companies like to play a game and pretend that their portfolio companies are small independent companies, when in fact they are wholly owned and controlled by the PE company. There was a provision in the CARES Act that said that companies had to be unable to tap other sources of financing to qualify for loans. This is almost certainly not true for the portfolio companies owned by PE. They should not have been eligible.

Other than that, if the companies met the terms and kept people employed, I don't see much to complain about. That is what we wanted.

To continue on this concept, while as long as companies did indeed keep the jobs they saved, it is okay that they applied for the PPP loan money, the ethics in practice are a bit different. The wording in the CARES ACT is rather broad who is eligible, so while it is disappointing for these gaps to exist, what is more important is that the PPP program saved jobs.

(A) ELIGIBLE BORROWER.—The term “eligible borrower” means—
(i) a small business concern; or
(ii) an organization made eligible by subsection (b) of this section for a loan under section 7(a) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 636(a)).

Would a company owned by billionaire and WV Governor Jim Justice count as a eligible borrower? At a estimated minimum, his owned companies received $6,150,000 in PPP loan money. Robert Rowling and his company Omni Hotels also received PPP money. While jobs were saved, a argument can be made that given that he himself could count as a alternative source of funding. For reference, a map of properties that received funding.

In the best case his chain of hotels received $28,000,000 and in the worst case it was $66,000,000.

In fairness to all the grou[s involved, the majority of loans were on the small side. On any given day when the PPP program was working, the plurality of loans given out were in the 150,000 - 350,000 tier.

Again, from startups to franchises, according to the language of the CARES Act, are allowed to apply and receive PPP loans, if they save jobs with the money. The question is more about diligence from banks and the ethics of if one should apply for the loans.

Now, some links…

Aaron Z. Lewis: The Garden of Forking Memes: How Digital Media Distorts Our Sense Of Time

Digital databases are “unparalleled memory machines” that have radically transformed how information and stories flow between grandparents and children, students and teachers, politicians and voters, journalists and citizens. What Marshall McLuhan called the “perfect memory” of computers has, in our time, spawned a garden of competing narratives and conceptions of the past/present/future. Digital media serves up an inhumanly large corpus of data that becomes raw material for new subcultures, ideologies, and alternative histories. In today’s chaotic media environment, not even a global pandemic can restore a shared sense of Reality.

Like Louisa Banks in the 2016 film Arrival, we are all trying to figure out how the “alien language” of digital tech has transformed our psyches and warped our sense of time. How did the internet disrupt 20th century timekeeping systems and spark an insurgence of alternative historical narratives? How do old media institutions try (and fail) to keep up with the narratives of online subcultures? How does the immediate accessibility of so many alt histories undermine our ability to create shared visions of the future? And how might a more ecological awareness of the internet help us adapt to our disorienting digital time machines?

Jake Hanrahan: Too Cool for J-School // COMING SOON

For example we will have a video showing how to properly use military satellite information for SIGINT stuff. We'll have a video showing how to get to grips with basic camerawork. We'll have a video showing you how to effectively geolocate. We're not acting like teachers or anything, but simply passing on information to anyone who wants to have it. We want to help out anyone who wants to learn I guess. Trust me it's going to be helpful for me too. 

The name of the series is "Too Cool for J-School" which is a tongue-in-cheek joke (that stiffs will no doubt get upset about) that's basically saying "look, you don't HAVE to go to journalism school to learn journalism". I never did. Many who will be featured in the series never did. Think of this as learning for all the misfits here. I hope it helps.

American Compass: Required Reading

Fortunately, a long-standing intellectual tradition offers not only a comprehensive critique of market fundamentalism and consumerism, but also a constructive path forward. Stretching back over a century, and vibrant as ever today, this work returns repeatedly to several key themes: the unavoidable tension between market dynamism and social stability; the necessity of production for national and individual well-being; the importance of an economy’s diversified productive capacity; and the need for national solidarity, which depends upon a common culture that reinforces reciprocal obligations.

While these ideas do not themselves constitute a particular political agenda, they provide the foundation, the tools, and the materials. They also suggest the potential for a realignment of political interests and a new, working political majority. And they are the impetus for the American Compass mission: to restore an economic consensus that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nation’s liberty and prosperity. The readings below have been selected through input from American Compass’s membership; together they trace the evolution of this school of thought and can hopefully help to clarify contemporary political debates and trends.

Tanner Greer: The World That Twitter Made

Allow me to explain something important about Twitter.

 This something is obvious to anyone with more than 10,000 followers on the platform but not so readily apparent to those with only 500 or so. My girlfriend is in the latter category, and she struggles to understand my animus for for it. The difference in follower counts partially explains the gap. But she also came to America's public sphere late, and never really experienced the world before twitter. That was the public sphere of blogs and forum posts, not tweets and retweets. She can be happy with what she has: she knows of nothing of what was lost. 

In many ways the twitter experience of the user with a low follower account is somewhat similar to the experience of the old blogosphere. Many of my readers came to the internet in the 2010s; before I proceed with this point it is probably sketching out just what the internet was like in the world before them. That internet was organized differently. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Medium, Reddit, and Instagram either did not exist then or were the preserve of teenagers and university age students. Those platforms were for flirting and goofing off and gossiping behind your parents back. People who wanted to discuss bigger things—culture, art, history, science, business, politics, or what have you—went to the blogs. Well, the blogs and the forums. 

Moria Weigel (B2): Palantir Goes to the Frankfurt School

Since the election of Donald Trump, a growing body of research has examined the role of digital technologies in new right wing movements (Lewis 2018; Hawley 2017; Neiwert 2017; Nagle 2017). This article will explore a distinct, but related, subject: new right wing tendencies within the tech industry itself. Our point of entry will be an improbable document: a German language dissertation submitted by an American to the faculty of social sciences at J. W. Goethe University of Frankfurt in 2002. Entitled Aggression in the Life-World, the dissertation aims to describe the role that aggression plays in social integration, or the set of processes that lead individuals in a given society to feel bound to one another. To that end, it offers a “systematic” reinterpretation of Theodor Adorno’s Jargon of Authenticity (1973). It is of interest primarily because of its author: Alexander C. Karp.[1]

Karp, as some readers may know, did not pursue a career in academia. Instead, he became the CEO of the powerful and secretive data analytics company, Palantir Technologies. His dissertation has inspired speculation for years, but no journalist or scholar has yet analyzed it. Doing so, I will argue that it offers insight into the intellectual formation of an influential network of actors in and around Silicon Valley, a network articulating ideas and developing business practices that challenge longstanding beliefs about how Silicon Valley thinks and works.


Have you ever had a book that you bought just out of curosity, but turned out to be directly applicable later? This happened to me again with Elad Gil’s High Growth Handbook. This is one of the two books from Stripe Press that have fallen into this category. They are surprisingly good at publishing.


Thanks for taking the time to read this, I will be back next soon! In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter or reach out via email.