Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads September 27th, 2020
|The Hard Fork by Marvin Liao||Sep 27|
“Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.”--G. Michael Hopf
"Like a lot of other vacation destinations — the Hamptons, Cape Cod, Aspen and so on — the Truckee housing market is booming during the coronavirus pandemic. It's up over 23% since last year, according to data from Redfin, a real estate brokerage. Truckee is part of a trend that realtors and journalists are calling "Zoom towns," places that are booming as remote work takes off."
Big fan of his work.
“Part of him was just completely untamed. When he sat down with people, he was almost harnessing this madness within him. You get a little of that with Ethan. His antennae are always out, grabbing, catching every little bit of information. He’s an outsider. It’s not like he’s attempting to do it. It’s just that he’s at a different radio station. He’s operating on his own frequency.”
Throughout his career, Hawke has consistently challenged himself to grow. He has appeared in more than eighty movies, predominantly independent films interspersed with Hollywood money-makers. He has directed four films, written three novels, and co-founded a theatre company.The range of Hawke’s roles—a romantic charmer (in the “Before” trilogy), a drug-addled Chet Baker (in “Born to Be Blue”), a guilt-ridden suicidal priest (in “First Reformed”), to name just a few—is also a reflection of his expansive empathy. “Acting, at its best, is like music,” he said. “You have to get inside your character’s song.”
The kids are going to be okay!
“One thing we can all agree on is a willingness to get out there and build things,” said Justin Zheng, 19, one of the founders of the group. “Yeah, we build some meme products, but we also build mission-driven things. We want to build a more positive internet, things that help people.”
"The group was founded as a kind of counterpoint to the Silicon Valley establishment, which its members say is exclusive, elitist and riddled with systemic problems including sexism, ageism and racism. Rather than reinforcing norms and kowtowing to the most prominent and outspoken V.C.s on Twitter, Gen Z Mafia members have tried to cultivate an environment that feels inclusive and aligned with their values."
A company like Cameo could only have emerged in a celebrity driven place like America.
"The pandemic, in a sense, has only accelerated a process that was already in motion. On apps like Instagram & Twitter, celebrities have always acted as laborers in an atomized, precarious economy, exchanging nuggets of seeming love & attention for money. That exchange, though, is circuitous. You might stream a new single by an artist who posts a picture of herself at the beach, or buy the sweatshirt she poses in & tags, but use of the platform remains free, so our sense of “celebrity influence” hovers fuzzily, eliding the monetary and highlighting the social. Cameo strips away the illusion: celebrity content is always a product. This realization is depressing, but there is also something unburdening about it.
On Cameo, performers can be straightforward about the fact that they are exchanging their attention for money, & this frees them from the faux-authenticity of the Instagram influencer; users don’t have to worry that there is some subtle corporate sponsorship buried in the selfies. The transactional nature is out in the open, & videos swerve between overt, unapologetic shilling & surprisingly earnest sentiment."
"Porat is one of the rare corporate executives to have transcended the upper echelons of Wall Street to the highest ranks of Silicon Valley. While the scenery may be different, many of the challenges remain the same: navigating economic downturns, government investigations and regulatory hurdles. Of course, a global pandemic is a new obstacle.
“This environment is more challenging than anything I've seen because you're combining a health crisis with an economic crisis,” says Porat in her first-ever interview with Forbes from her home in Palo Alto, California. “The path forward is less certain.”
"Edward Tenner argues in Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences that we often have to deal with “revenge effects.” Tenner coined this term to describe the ways in which technologies can solve one problem while creating additional worse problems, new types of problems, or shifting the harm elsewhere. In short, they bite back."
"Before we intervene in a system, assuming it can only improve things, we should be aware that our actions can do the opposite or do nothing at all. Our estimations of benefits are likely to be more realistic if we are skeptical at first."
Try Worthix, they are an awesome alternative & addition to NPS.
"There are certainly some admirable benefits to measuring NPS. To (over-)simplify, tracking NPS:
-Enables a culture of customer obsession
-Helps you see (and address) unhappy customers before they churn
-Creates a conversation across teams/functions to spot and address problems
-Allows you to easily benchmark against peers on an ongoing basis
The problem: NPS does not equal retention
NPS doesn’t have mystical powers and it should not be exalted.
For starters, NPS doesn’t turn out to be very predictive of logo retention or net dollar retention rates across SaaS companies, according to new analysis of OpenView’s 2018 SaaS benchmarking data."
"Before COVID-19, office workers were geographically tethered to their offices, and it was mainly business travellers and the lucky few digital nomads who were able to take their work with them and travel while working. Since the start of the pandemic, many digital nomads had to work in a single location, and office workers have become remote workers – giving them a glimpse of the digital nomad lifestyle."
"The idea of tourist destinations touting themselves as workplaces is not new. Japanese technologist Tsugio Makimoto predicted the digital nomad phenomenon in 1997, decades before millennials Instagrammed themselves working remotely in Bali. He prophesied that the rise of remote working would force nation states “to compete for citizens”, and that digital nomadism would prompt “declines in materialism and nationalism”.
It’s a cool & fun place, fortunate to visit many years ago. Punta Del Este.
"Once known as “the Switzerland of South America”, because of its high quality of life and its former banking secrecy laws, Uruguay has now become its New Zealand.
Its population is only 66% the size of the Kiwi state, but both countries have seen fewer than 2,000 cases and coronavirus deaths in double digits. Thanks to a large testing and contact tracing program, most of Uruguay’s schools, restaurants and sports clubs have remained open throughout the pandemic.
In stark contrast, Uruguay’s neighbors, Argentina and Brazil, currently rank third and fourth worldwide in the daily number of reported new cases, according to WHO figures.
With its wide beaches, luxurious mansions and expensive nightclubs, Punta del Este has for decades been the summer home of South American millionaires – and a smattering of wealthy Europeans."
One of the best summaries of VC Rolling Funds I've read.
"AngelList was smart to recognize that emerging venture brands are more often than not a direct reflection of the GP's personal brand.
Several Rolling Funds have launched successfully from managers that have built strong online and offline personal brands. Due to the power of branding online in venture, the product perfectly aligns with the 506c general solicitation rules that allow managers to leverage these same online channels to quickly and continually raise capital.
Currently, the Rolling funds I've seen and heard about have been mainly raised by those from the tech community, but I would not be surprised the product to be leveraged by strong personal brands in other industries (sports, film, media, etc.)."
"So goes the talent, so goes the innovation. Without this wellspring of brainpower lodging itself in America’s top innovation hubs, where exactly do we think it will go? That former aspiring Stanford or MIT computer scientist with ideas in his or her brain isn’t just going to sit by the window gazing at the horizon waiting for the moment when they can enter the gilded halls of the U.S. of A. It’s the internet era, and they are just going to get started on their dreams wherever they are, using whatever tools and resources they have available to them.
All you have to do is look at the recent YC batches and realize that the future cohorts of great startups are going to increasingly come from outside the continental 48. Dozens of smart, brilliant entrepreneurs aren’t even trying to migrate, instead rightfully seeing their home markets as more open to innovation and technological progress than the vaunted superpower. The frontier is closed here, and it has moved elsewhere."
This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. Everyone needs to be working on this if they want to thrive in the future.
"You want to build a competitive advantage that will endure over time. You don’t want to build a competitive advantage that is fleeting or that will get commoditized. Some awards, for example, may have been impressive early on, but as they have expanded significantly they’ve become more diluted and thus no longer as impressive. You want to have skills and accomplishments that are undeniably valuable and indisputably impressive.
Some other hacks to build moats include picking something that isn’t big now, but will be in the future (e.g. crypto in 2016), something that relies on exclusive relationships that you can access (e.g. enterprise healthcare, access to LPs), or something that is legibly impressive or valuable but has no playbook. (e.g. Tyler Cowen, Tim Ferris, Elad Gil examples)
If you were magically given 10,000 hours to be amazing at something, what would it be? The more clarity you have on this response, the better off you’ll be."
"According to Cal Newport, professor at Georgetown University, four hours of deep work is what we can muster on average daily, the rest is for shallow work that is not as demanding (or in my opinion rarely needed).
Deep work compounds over time, create meaning and new opportunities. Deep work is when nothing else matters than your current focus. It takes self-discipline to do deep work, to shut down the outside world, and focus on the inside.
Deep work is being emerged in the moment, creating something with passion and purpose, like writing a book or designing and renovating a new kitchen."
Watch this space: Semiconductors. Critical for technology sector & Geopolitics as whole.
"And that, I think, reveals the real principle behind the rule. What’s important in Silicon Valley isn’t quite what’s true right now. It’s a different kind of truth; less about factual truth and more about authenticity. That's why the blessing that VCs grant founders is so important: it's a power, but also an acknowledgement of the burden of authenticity that founders have to carry.
It's not so different from the Kayfabe bargain between pro wrestlers and the crowd. Founders will present you with something pre-true, under the total insistence that it's really true; and in exchange, everyone around them will experience the genuine emotion necessary to make the project real. Neither party acknowledges the bargain, or else the magic is ruined.
That bargain, as subtle and as powerful as it might be, only works when it’s in the dark. Shining light on it makes it stop working. And that’s why the taboo around asking, are founders always supposed to tell the literal truth, is such an important social convention. Of course, I’m not in VC anymore, so I can say it. But be careful if you want to talk about it, too. It’s like the game where very time you think about the game, you lose."
This is the future of work and I call it the Multi-hyphen world. Writing about this too.
“Could I, as an architect, work on multiple projects at once? Perhaps at different stages? That require different amounts of my attention?”
The answer, it turns out, was not only “yes” but that it was actually professionally prudent to do so. To have multiple clients and bets. The geographic, spatial distance created this question… and smart architects created the precedent that became the convention that has now become the obvious answer (yes).
With the world being thrown into a distributed work-style with Covid-19 two months ago, where every company and executive in the world became more remote than ever before in a 4 week span (!)… My hunch is that the age of remote work will be a catalyst in introducing this freedom of asking this question and the smart executives creating the precedent that will then become the norm. In other words, the catalyst to asking this question and having thoughtful, fundamental answers in the separation of your physical work from other’s physical work.
I use the term catalyst because it’s already happening in pockets. And I think it’s about to go mainstream in the next decade."
"Near term changes don’t matter if the money printer is on. It means that all companies should be looked at in terms of 2023-2025. Interest rates are going to be 0 for the next 3 years (as already announced) so the real value of money will show up in three years (putting us into 2023 and beyond). Therefore instead of worrying about “cash flows” for the next couple of years, we have to worry about “who is actually going to be around” in 2023-2025? This is a big change in thinking and also explains why ultra-high technology firms are seeing significant increases in valuations/multiples.
For those that want the “gist” you want to take all your cash & buy anything that is scarce/useful & anything extremely high tech that will be used in 3-5 years. The only cash you should have is enough for emergencies at this point since we’ve gone full crazy with the money printing.
.....the simple way to phrase it is you should look at your physical cash & say “This is worthless”. While it is an extreme view, the point is clear. Unless you’re using it to purchase productive assets there is no point in having money in your pocket or under a mattress or in a bank earning 0% (no different than parked under a mattress at 0%). Being responsible is no longer encouraged."
Sutter Hill, the quiet incubation giant. Crazy good returns.
"another, and more important way to judge VC firms is by the value they add above replacement to their portfolio companies. How much do they help their portfolio companies increase their likelihood and magnitude of success? Firms do this most notably by providing capital, but also by other methods like lending their brand or directly helping with operations.
For founders, this value added is what matters. The returns of a VC firm only matter to a startup insofar as they translate into improved brand, network, or access to capital for the startup.
Similarly, Speiser is likely to have more experience in setting up companies and the initial customer development process than the founders will. Perhaps most importantly, he has relationships with customers and an established reputation that can be used to bootstrap the initial pilot conversations, which may be the point of highest leverage for these new startups.
These advantages all compound with every incremental company Speiser originates, and not just because of the typical brand network effects that venture has broadly. In many tangible ways, the spread between Speiser’s process knowledge relative to a new founder should widen with every new company."
Two negatives add to more negative not positive. Woke movement meets Influencer....BARF!
"The Wokefluencer isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon. Stephens points out even before social media, alternative spring break gave a certain stripe of (usually white, usually well-off) college students an opportunity to flex their capacity for empathy. These students would return from their trips with photographs of themselves with needy children or in disaster zones as souvenirs. The difference now is how easy it is now for influencers to dip into a protest or a locked-up mail drop and scrape some of that valor for themselves. “The stakes are much lower,” Stephens says."
"If influencers are struggling to meet this moment—and they are!—it is because of the way the moment transcends social media. Instagram is essentially designed to let each user become the subject of any setting, any occurrence, or any calamity.......In 2020, the influencer then has met their match: a moment that can’t be flattened into a photograph."
This is valuable data on "K" shaped recovery. Rich get richer, poor get poorer. America will be getting in "Revolution" territory if this continues. Not good.
"First, it is obvious that high-wage worker employment has basically recovered to pre-COVID levels, but low-wage workers are still suffering significantly."
It's about time some of the airlines are trying some of this. As testing gets cheaper and easier, I expect this will just become standard & bundled into the price of airplane tickets.
The Democratic Party is broken. So is the Republican Party (maybe more so). It's now voting for the lesser of evils. Politics in 2020.
"The source of this tension: Hoffman’s team thought the Democratic Party was fundamentally broken and in need of well-financed disruption. So he and the donors in his orbit began pushing the envelope and funding risky and unorthodox projects, making mistakes and enemies along the way.
Hoffman has grown to symbolize a bigger debate over whether this Silicon Valley disruptive style has any place in politics. And so the election this fall will offer one answer. If Biden wins, Hoffman is poised to emerge as one of the sages of Silicon Valley’s new political moment. But if Biden loses, it’s not hard to imagine a world in which Hoffman becomes the political poster child for Silicon Valley disruption gone awry, a billionaire who ticked off too many and accomplished too little."
Always wanted to visit Panama. Although I still tend to favor Georgia/Taiwan/Portugal/Ukraine as my bases personally.
Such a huge fan of Richard Koch. His book "The 80/20 Principle" changed my life. This was a great interview.
Taiwan is critical to the USA. I hope selfishly there is better alignment on policy soon against China's aggression.
"America’s ambiguous posture toward defending Taiwan is decades old, and embracing our recommendations would upset the status quo. However, strategic clarity cuts both ways, and neither American policymakers nor Taiwanese voters can afford to delude themselves into acting like China is a paper tiger that will fold at the first sign of resistance.
Deterrence is costly and talk is cheap. If Washington truly believes that it is in America’s national interest to deter China from attacking Taiwan, Washington should also be willing to pay the price — and assume the risks — associated with credibly enhancing Taiwan’s deterrence posture. Arms sales are only the first step toward this end. The next steps — implementing defense reforms, reinstating military conscription, and holding bilateral training exercises — will be harder.
U.S.-Taiwanese relations are changing, but change takes time. Time, unfortunately, is not necessarily something Taiwan has in abundance."
Fully agree with this. Every successful person I know has mentors.
"we should be shouting: WE ALL NEED MENTORS. Not just one but a tribe of them with a range of achievements, skills, and experiences.
A mentor is simply an experienced and trusted advisor. They instill confidence. They inspire. They share stories. They providing a sounding board. They open their network. They help us see around corners. They push us. They lift us up when we're down. They recommend books. They provide input. They accelerate our learning and development. They make us better. They genuinely care about us.
Who doesn't want or need that?"
"But capitalism also produces large wealth gaps that produce opportunity gaps, which threaten the system in the ways we are seeing now. Wealth gaps give unfair advantages to the children of rich people because they get a better education, which undermines the equal opportunity notion. As the number of people who get equal opportunity diminishes, this reduces the possibility of finding talented people in that population, which isn’t fair and undermines productivity. Then the have-nots want to tear down the capitalist system at a time of bad economic conditions. That dynamic has always existed in history and it’s happening now.
So, capitalism and capitalists are good at increasing and producing productivity to increase the size of the economic pie, but they’re not good at dividing the economic opportunity pie. Socialists are generally not good at increasing productivity and the size of the economic opportunity pie, but they are better at dividing the pie."
"We now have too much emphasis on distributing wealth and getting it from producing debt and printing money, and not enough from increasing productivity."
Really neat story. Surfing in Yemen.
It's true. Great mentors can be found anywhere. Invaluable too.
Fintech on the rise. Covid beneficiary.
“Consumer fintech adoption was already strong prepandemic, especially among the 20s to early-40s age group,” says Victoria Treyger, a general partner who leads fintech investing at Felicis Ventures. “The pandemic has become a growth rocket, fueling the rapid acceleration of adoption across all age groups, including 40- to 60-year-olds.”
Several Covid-driven developments are helping specific types of fintech players. For example, consumers’ shift to more online spending and delivery services is a boon to certain companies powering payments."
This is really cool. I miss surfing in the tropics! I just miss the tropics period.
The Malloy brothers: polyglot surfing adventurers who do this in remote areas.