Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads April 18th, 2021

“The difference between a strong man and a weak one is that the former does not give up after a defeat.”― Woodrow Wilson

  1. “With two major money making operations now stood up in options & ETFs, Susquehanna followed other upper echelon trading firms and began diversifying its investments. In 2006 Susquehanna founded its own venture capital firm focused on startups across the US, Israel and China. Noteworthy portfolio companies today include Credit Karma, eToro and Pyoneer, each worth billions in market value and some undergoing public listings in 2021. In a way, Susquehanna isn’t straying very far from its core strength when it comes to venture capital — like options, startups provide a convex risk/reward opportunity with limited downside but truly massive upside.

No company better explains this theory at work than ByteDance, formed in 2012 with Susquehanna as an early backer. A $5 million investment in ByteDance’s founding year bought 15% of the company and a board seat. As TikTok grew in Asia and was launched in the US in 2017, returns started to build. By the end of 2020, TikTok had become the #1 most downloaded app in the US with over 800 million monthly active users — more than Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat or Reddit. That 15% investment is now valued at over $30 billion, rivaling the value of Susquehanna itself.”

2. I love Japan and Japanese culture (pop and otherwise) and am definitely a Weeb.

“But while some people refer to anyone who loves Japan as a “weeb”, the connotation of the term is usually more specific. It generally means someone who loves Japanese pop culture — cartoons, comics, video games, music, costumes, and so on. Cartoons above all; it’s hard to imagine a weeb who isn’t a fan of anime.

….as the generations turn over and a larger and larger percent of Americans grew up enjoying Japanese pop cultural products. Just as “geek” became a positive thing when the Star Wars generation came of age, “weeb” will probably shift first to an ironically positive word (“LOL, I’m such a weeb!”), and then finally to something lots of people want to be.”

3. “Citizenship insurance is having a contingency plan in place in case you no longer want to live in your home country. It is having a backup citizenship and passport so you and your family can leave quickly, safely and legally if you decide where you are is no longer conducive to your comfort and happiness.”

4. “To me, using business knowledge garnered in the toughest place to do business on earth — the United States — to start a business that is based and sells overseas is the best of all worlds. I believe just living overseas, while a great start, is half the picture.”

“A lot of online entrepreneurs are joining me, relocating to live overseas in some of the best cities in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America to save money and propel their business further.

The idea is simple: by not paying $3,500 monthly rent to live in San Francisco (and the accompanying tab of $200 for a night out partying), you can plow more money back into your business. That money just might be the difference between success and failure.”

5. The Winklevii twins, Bitcoin billionaires helping to drive the decentralized world forward.

“The idea of a centralized social network is just not going to exist five or 10 years in the future,” Tyler predicts when asked about Facebook. “There’s a membrane or a chasm between the old world and this new crypto-native universe. And we’re the conduit helping people transcend the offline into the online.”

6. “The story of the vaccine’s path from development to mass distribution is a lesson in the power of the global capitalist system — the network of corporations and supply chains that, though it can suffocate and disempower us as individuals, can also summon forth immense material and intellectual resources and deploy them for the greater good.”

7. “In 1891, the Garden State adopted an extremely generous corporate tax law that “would allow business to do as business pleases.” By incorporating there, a company based in another state could save big on taxes and enjoy perks like unlimited market expansion.

A flood of conglomerates took up this offer and New Jersey earned so much from taxes that it was able to pay off its entire state debt.

Pressured to incentivize businesses to stay, other states offered their own lenient corporate tax policies.

In this so-called “race to the bottom,” Delaware emerged victorious.

Adopted in 1899, the Delaware General Corporation Law “reduced restrictions upon corporate action to a minimum” and promised to maintain the most hospitable business enclave in the nation — a place where corporations could frolic in the open fields of capitalism, unencumbered by income tax, bureaucratic policing, and shareholder litigation.”

Why do so many companies incorporate in Delaware?

8. The importance of World and Systems building.

“You’ve probably heard a familiar piece of career advice: “Everyone works in sales, even if they don’t realize it.” This is good advice.

I want to propose an updated version for today: “Everyone’s job is world-building, even if they don’t realize it.” It is more or less the same idea, but tailored even more for a world of abundant narrative and complex choices.

The more complex or valuable is whatever you’re trying to sell, the more important it is for you to build a world around that idea, where other people can walk in, explore, and hang out — without you having to be there with them the whole time. You need to build a world so rich and captivating that others will want to spend time in it, even if you’re not there.”

9. So very good.

“…On why voluntary suffering can help prepare you for involuntary suffering:

“The one thing suffering has taught me is that everything is fleeting. Pain is fleeting, feelings are fleeting, how you feel in this moment is going to change. So when I’ve been through heartbreak, when I’ve been through breakups, when I’ve been through job changes, I tell myself, ‘I’m really in it right now. I’m really in it. I’m having a really bad time. Life sucks.’

But then I tell myself, ‘Focus on what’s in front of you, and things will slowly start to change. It may not be immediate. It may be longer than you want it to be.’ But I remember that through racing where it’s just you’ll go through ups and downs, and you can’t always predict those.”

10. “Emerging trends are about a collision between the new — typically a new technology — and an age-old, fundamental human need.

The mistake many people make when they want to think in a structured way about the future is that they fixate on what is changing. Usually, that means a shiny new technology: blockchain, machine learning, and driverless cars.

But taken alone, those technologies aren’t trends. Simply saying, ‘there will be more AI in the years ahead’ tells us little that is useful.

Meaningful trends are founded not only in change, but in fundamental and unchanging human needs such as value, security, convenience, status, and social connection.

Here’s the key: New trends emerge when some change — typically a new technology — unlocks a new way to serve one of those needs. So if you want to start spotting trends, start looking at technology through the lens of human needs.”

11. “Our lofty goal is to create the entertainment experience of the future. I think some of that is feeling our way into what feels like it’s going to be a new medium, where it’s this blended entertainment experience that has interactive elements.”

12. “Rae’s deal with Ipsy was but a small part of a major shift in the beauty industry, which is nowhere more complex, and profitable, than the United States. People with clout, from celebrities to social media stars to lifestyle influencers, are changing the way the sell works, exploiting the intimate relationships they have with their fans in a way that wasn’t possible before in the industry.

And while most of their profits aren’t close to comparable to established brands, at the moment, beauty is big business: Americans have long spent more in aggregate on beauty and personal care than any country in the world, about $92.8 billion in 2019, according to Euromonitor, a consumer-research company.

Though revenues dipped during quarantine, over all, global consumers have close to doubled their spending in the past 15 years, as prices of products have risen and beauty has entered a phase of total pop-culture domination, on par with hip-hop and gaming.”

13. “Consuming, signalling, loving, and praying have been the fuel of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google’s ascents, respectively. That the crypto asset class universe has reached $2T reveals, I believe, that it taps into two attributes we instinctively pursue: trust and scarcity.”

14. What a crazy story. 20B dollars gone in 2 days. Still can’t get over it. Leverage: it works until it doesn’t.

15. “Nowadays, cloud is no longer new — it’s the bare minimum expectation. To differentiate, new startups must aggressively (and at their outset) rethink fundamental assumptions of how to build a software company. My partners and I are convinced that we are in the early innings of the next big transition. This era is all about the user, and we want to focus on three strategic pillars that best-in-class software companies will exemplify: user-centric products and distribution, global distributed teams, and creative monetization.”

16. Hmmm……My take though quality of life on many dimensions is WAY better in Europe than in the USA. By far.

“The average European is about a third or more worse off than the average American, and it’s getting worse.

What the heck happened? It could happen here too. Maybe it already has, just not as bad.

This should be profoundly unsettling for economists. Everyone thinks free trade is a good thing. The European union, one big integrated market, was supposed to ignite growth. It did not. The grand failure of the world’s biggest free trade zone really is a striking fact to gnaw on.

Sure, other things are not held constant. Perhaps what should have been the world’s biggest free trade zone became the world’s biggest regulatory-stagnation, high-tax, welfare-state disincentive zone. Still, “it would have been even worse” is a hard argument to make.”

17. “All healthy relationships start with shared values. They are what engender trust and link relationships together. Many different types of values can emerge in relationships but there are three essential — foundational — values:

Transparent Communication + High Frequency

Clear Ownership

Alignment of Vision

Co-Founder relationships are unique, but nearly any healthy relationship will feature these three values.”

18. Some good nuggets here.

“Our trends toward strong federal authority and local rot are clearly intensifying, and Americans, when they’re paying attention, focus mostly on how to destroy each other while an antagonistic, genocidal nuclear superpower grows increasingly belligerent abroad.

But with the cold weather finally broken, and vaccinations fully in play, America is thawing. Businesses are open, mass-remote work culture is looking more endangered by the day, and awoken like the kraken comes the most powerful force in the world: single people who want to get laid. The mass psychological shift has been almost palpable”

19. Neat company.

Hatch, a neobank for SMBs, launches with $20M in funding from investors like Kleiner Perkins, Foundation and Plaid’s founders

20. “If you find yourself focusing on building up your business, Plan A is going to be the most important camp for you to join.

If your company is increasing 100% year over year, Plan A is going to help you keep more of that wealth in the business so you can continue to grow.

Someone who’s actively earning money needs to start with a Plan A.

But maybe you’re past that stage. Maybe you’ve already scored the wins. Maybe you’ve already seen all the success you want or you’ve developed a Plan A that is working well for you.

Plan B is about creating those insurance policies that will extend the shelf-life of your wealth.”

21. A very good write up and why Tiger Global is eating traditional VC’s lunch. Approach=Better, Faster & Cheaper.

“The hedge fund most often in the crosshairs is Tiger Global — a tech-focused “crossover” that has dominated media headlines & VC gossip circles for the last 12 months due to its record-breaking deal pace & aggressive style. From an outsider’s perspective, Tiger’s investment strategy can be roughly summed up as:

— Be (very) aggressive in pre-empting good tech businesses

— Move (very) quickly through diligence & term sheet issuance

— Pay (very) high prices relative to historical norms and/or competitors

— Take a (very) lightweight approach to company involvement post-investment

— Above all, deploy capital, deploy capital, deploy capital

And Tiger isn’t the only fund employing this type of strategy. Addition (led by ex-Tiger Global Partner Lee Fixel), Coatue (a “Tiger Cub”, just like Tiger Global), and several others exhibit these tactics to varying degrees2, and have elicited similar amounts of frustration from more “traditional” VCs.”

22. Good to know. I’d favor Portugal, Mexico & would check out Colombia and Vietnam. All nice places to retire.

23. “What happens to the job market if people live longer? How about housing? Or like in the controversial case of Joe Biden, what if our leaders are in office later into their lives but suffer more cognitive deterioration? What about the funding and administration of social welfare programs with benefits for retirees, like Social Security? The point — we haven’t had a public conversation about the 2nd and 3rd order consequences of human life extension.”

24. The best show on air these days…..a great discussion on what’s going on in business and America.

25. PG really nails it.

“Part of the reason it’s getting easier to start a startup is social. Society is (re)assimilating the concept. If you start one now, your parents won’t freak out the way they would have a generation ago, and knowledge about how to do it is much more widespread. But the main reason it’s easier to start a startup now is that it’s cheaper. Technology has driven down the cost of both building products and acquiring customers.

The decreasing cost of starting a startup has in turn changed the balance of power between founders and investors. Back when starting a startup meant building a factory, you needed investors’ permission to do it at all. But now investors need founders more than founders need investors, and that, combined with the increasing amount of venture capital available, has driven up valuations. [8]

So the decreasing cost of starting a startup increases the number of rich people in two ways: it means that more people start them, and that those who do can raise money on better terms.”

26. “The thing is, some (maybe most) of the stress that we experience in our daily lives is stress that we bring on ourselves via the habits that are part of our regular routine. Harsh to hear, but the good news is that means by modifying these habits we can dump unnecessary stress.”

27. Ordered the book. Have a Scout’s mindset.

“The central metaphor in the book is that we are often in soldier mindset, my term for the motivation to defend your own beliefs against arguments and evidence that might threaten them. Scout mindset is an alternative way of thinking. A scout’s goal is not to attack or defend, but to go out and form an accurate map of what’s really there.”

28. This is one of the coolest companies I’ve seen in a long time. Factory of the future in space.

29. “The lesson here is very, very simple. If you want to motivate yourself — first, BE ABSOLUTELY HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Admit to yourself whether or not you actually want something. If you do, you will act in accordance with your desire. If you don’t, nothing and no one can motivate you to get it.”

30. Love this idea of building Guardrails in your life.

“If you stick to these guardrails every day for a number of years, they’re almost guaranteed to yield some degree of outlier returns.

The compounding nature of some guardrails is easier to wrap your head around than others. Take lifting for example. It’s obvious to anyone that a daily workout will compound over a number of months and get you in better shape.”

“Guardrails are just a fancy word for your default settings. Meaning, the best guardrails reduce your reliance on willpower and snap decisions.”

31. “He who pursues his purpose should beware, then, of distractions and troublemakers who wish to deflect him from his path: for it is they who “mix mead with misery.” And in the end it is the quest for knowledge that redeems us all; it is this that transforms every single-minded pursuit of a worthy mission into a virtuous exercise.”

32. Pure gold. This is one of the best recent write ups on finding Product Market fit. Also love the overly-simplified Ries vs. Rabois models. Very much worth a read.

“So, for most businesses, instead of measuring satisfaction, measuring retention is the best signal of product/market fit. Measuring retention is pretty easy. Perform a cohort analysis, graph the curve over time and see if there is a flattening of the retention curve.

As I’ve discussed before, what you measure for your retention curve matters quite a bit though. For your product, there is usually a key action the customer takes in a product that best represents product value. For Pinterest, it was saving a piece of content. For Grubhub, it was ordering food online. For your product, there is also a natural frequency to product use.”

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