Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads April 25th, 2021

Marvin Liao
16 min readApr 25, 2021


“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” ― Japanese Proverb

  1. I always learn something new from the Balaji conversations.

#11 Balaji Srinivasan — Crypto is the Future of Our Society

2. “Once a small port on the edge of a desert, Dubai has become a global hub of influencer culture, a magnet for social media stars desperate to tweak their image in what has become the ideal Instagram city. The emirate is home to a vast industry of aspiration: agents and producers trained to boost follower counts; hotels and luxury brands eager to use social media as cheap advertising.”

“Already built on the illusion of unlimited indulgence, Dubai has at times appeared a parallel universe as other countries wrestled with Covid lockdowns. Tourist arrivals peak annually in the Gulf’s temperate winter months, and since July last year, the emirate has allowed travellers from almost anywhere in the world to enter, so long as they have proof of a negative PCR test.”

3. I remember the Beardstown Ladies!

“Aged 41 to 87, the women hailed from a small agricultural town 200 miles south of Chicago. They were retirees, teachers, homemakers, and hog farmers. Before their rise to fame, many of them had never picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal.

Yet, during the bull market of the 1980s, they reportedly turned a few hundred dollars into six figures, outperforming even veteran bankers.

Dubbed the “Beardstown Ladies,” they pumped out best-selling investment books, embarked on multi-state speaking tours, and made the rounds on primetime TV.

It was the perfect story about a group of underdogs who used common sense, intuition, and Midwestern grit to beat the market.

That is, until it all came tumbling down.”

4. Invaluable reminder.

“Suffering is universal, Eger says, “but victimhood is optional.” We’re all likely to be victimized in some way through the course of our lives. At some point, we will suffer some kind of affliction or abuse, caused by circumstances or people over which we have little to no control. “This is victimization,” she says. “It comes from the outside. It’s the neighborhood bully, the boss who rages, the spouse who hits, the lover who cheats, the discriminatory law, the accident that lands you in the hospital.”

On the flip side, victimhood comes from the inside. No one can make you a victim but you.”

5. Good description of Tiger Global’s approach. High Velocity Venture Capital.

6. “The basic idea behind BitClout is to create a token-based marketplace for shares in someone’s (or something’s) reputation and influence. Go viral on Instagram for something delightful? Bull run. Say something stupid on Twitter? Could be the start of a bear market. In theory, every public action and utterance from anyone becomes tradable by anyone else.”

7. Social media influencer marketing coming to real estate. Seems to be working in DC.

“This is all unusual, to say the least. Sure, there are other local agents on TikTok, but with smaller audiences (and no Lamborghinis). Washington is a city where the luxury clientele often includes politically adjacent names who would die if their home were all over the internet, let alone filmed by a drone and set against a Megan Thee Stallion song. But Heider — to the consternation of some critics — sees the norm-breaking as a plus (even if TikTok has generated only a couple of clients so far). For his team’s Blue Steel–like headshots, Heider purposely wore a turtleneck because he didn’t want to look like every other DC agent “in a navy suit with a tie and a white shirt and, like, a mahogany background.”

“This is about attention,” Heider says, sipping a cappuccino made by one of his colleagues. “I like things that are big and extravagant and fun and over the top. It’s just me. I love it.”

8. Not a Bieber fan but glad he has turned around his life. It’s just not healthy to be a child star in Hollywood.

“And we as a society are all too familiar with what happens next to kids like Justin Bieber. We are particularly familiar with what happened to Bieber himself — the litany of distasteful and sometimes dangerous stuff he did that he won’t defend, the equally unkind things people said about him as he did that stuff, etc. But I will share a personal view: Being famous breaks something in your brain.

Especially when your fame comes as a result of your talent, from the thing you’ve loved and nurtured and worked at since you were young. Bieber earned his success while he was still a child; then his gift turned into a snake and bit him. How do you become a good or well-adjusted or normal person when you don’t have access to a single normal thing in your entire life? You can’t. You don’t.”

9. Very critical that the USA & Quad get closer to Vietnam. Very important rising country.

10. “So fab equipment goes from the west into Taiwan, where TSMC puts all the parts together into fabs that can turn raw materials into advanced chips, and the chips then go back out to the west and rest of the world.

Thus the semiconductor market in 2021 is a fully baked cake. You can’t just swap some ingredients out in response to a one-off military invasion, and then keep trucking along. No, we’ll have to bake a whole new cake if TSMC goes bye-bye. And that will be painful for everyone, everywhere.”

11. The richest man in the world.

“So here we are a generation later. Putin is still in power and there are no signs he has any intentions of leaving. A few things have changed about him: he gets nenaturalny doses of Botox, he’s gotten divorced, he doesn’t take his shirt off as often for calendar beefcake, and he seems to have forgotten all the German they taught him in the KGB. He lives in palaces that would make a Bond villain whimper in impotent envy. Because after twenty years of skimming double-digit percentages off of one of the world’s largest commodity exporters, nobody on this planet has more personal money than Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Even Crown Princes have to share with the rest of the House, but Putin is a Dynasty of One.”

12. There is going to be a day when we see these Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and slaughterhouses as major crimes. Awful awful. (yes, I know I am a hypocrite as I eat meat but US food system is messed up).

13. Gaming space is on fire! These are good predictions.

14. This is quite good. Learning investing from the best.

“He analyzed every investment and trade made by these 45 managers and found that on average they only made money on 49% of their investments with some of the best ones only making money on 30% of their investments. Despite this, almost all of them made money overall — and yes, slugging % vs. batting average is well understood by anyone reading this. Shor’s most powerful point is that investment performance is largely dictated by what an investor does after they buy a stock, specifically by how they deal with both losing and winning positions over time (obviously an investor needs to be correct in their initial purchase decision at least some of the time).”

15. “South Korea was able to flatten the epidemic curve quickly,” researchers from Harvard and Seoul National University wrote in a review of the country’s response. Among the top reasons for its success: “conducting comprehensive testing and contact tracing and supporting people in quarantine to make compliance easier.”

16. This attitude in the long run is a good thing for most emerging tech ecosystems.

“There is a sociological shift here,” said Mohammad Alshahrani, an advisor for a Saudi fintech firm with a startup of his own. “Tech has changed the way that young people are thinking about money,” he told Rest of World. “It’s not just about making money anymore — it’s about making money in a way that people perceive as impactful and smart.”

Alshahrani said Saudi’s cafés are brimming with young and often wealthy founders. “You can see it from their cars; they’re driving to the cafés in [a] Porsche,” he said. For young Saudis with money, the appeal is less about the fabled and lucrative exit: there is a new respectability to “tech.” “It’s hip, it’s young, it’s the cool thing to do,” said Alshahrani.”

17. Impressive rags to riches story, driven by alot of grit and hard work. Very inspiring.

“His success was built the hard way: from independence, self-discovery and the pursuit of knowledge. He believes that no one is limited or defined by the circumstances of their past — only by the choices made in the present. From sleeping on the floor of Walmart to becoming the founder of an eight-figure international business conglomerate, this is Song’s story.”

18. Kyiv is pretty awesome. Big fan in general & one of my Heptagon cities. (7 places I’m spending most of my time in)

“But to sum it up, I like the freedom and personality responsibility of the Ukrainian culture. There’s no such thing as playing the victim card, or expecting everyone to conform to your extreme beliefs regardless if you’re left, right, vegan, carnivore, feminist, men’s rights, socialist, or capitalist or anti-capitalist. People here are realists and have real problems, but even more than that, they respect and allow everyone to have their own beliefs and don’t try to force others to believe in what they think is the only way. Personally I like the traditional family values that Ukrainians have, which in the west is quickly disappearing.

Plus it’s just an awesome city to live in with tons to do, unique architecture, tech, great wifi, amazing food, people, and relatively low costs of living or a big capital city. As for the weather, I think it’s the best place in the world from Mid April when Spring starts to around October when it starts to get cold.”

19. Very interesting discussion on what being “rich” means. Good stuff.

20. “The first phase of the internet empowered the business models of the old world: It made it cheaper for big middlemen to distribute mass-produced content to a mass audience, and it intensified the competition between these middlemen. But ultimately, new business models emerged to make the old middlemen redundant and address what only the internet can deliver: a relationship between individuals and their fans, at scale. The internet is not a cheaper television; it’s a matching engine for personal connections.

The new European Super League is an example of the first phase. It allows one group of powerful middlemen to wrestle power away from another group of powerful middlemen. It also helps some soccer stars make more money, but it does not liberate them.

This is a temporary phase. What comes next?

The stars will realize that even the new middlemen are far less necessary than they seem.”

21. “In the fall of 2020, when no single person could protect themselves, there was at least some utilitarian argument in favor of the Forever Lockdown (which is not to say it was a good argument, or a moral argument, or that the tradeoff ultimately made sense — just that there was some argument). But in a world of abundant, accessible, free vaccines it’s much more difficult to link the assumption of individual risk to the assumption of risk on behalf of the greater public. We all have the choice, now, to vaccinate or not.

If you want the Bill Gates microchip flex, that’s on you. If you’d rather risk permanent lung damage, that’s also on you! For my part, I went with the Borg implant. But I’m also not here to do a Pfizer commercial. This is America, baby, choose your own adventure.”

22.“Most people think product innovation and growth are what drive $Trillion+ outcomes. In practice, operational excellence is the key driver to executing consistently for the long term. This is how you harness creativity that compounds value over time.”

23. Neat picture book here. Soviet Monotowns.

24. Sabbaticals are an important tool to recharge, retool and think about your future. Have done 3 of them now and have completely changed my life and also what has taken my career into completely new and exciting arenas.

“A sabbatical is not something you do, which can be optimized to do more efficiently. Instead, think of it as a space where you can be. It takes a while — a lot longer than you’d think — to disentangle yourself from your work identity. Just think about how long it can take some evenings after work to transition from executive to mom, from boss to creative hobbyist, or from product manager to loving partner.

Most people in our study described needing at least six weeks(!) just to lose the anxiety around tasks piling up, phantom phone alerts, and old responsibilities that were no longer theirs.”

25. This makes me sad that this is even happening. Big fan of both Russia and Ukraine. Both being cursed with evil self serving politicians making a mess for their respective peoples.

“Seven years on, the war continues. And seven years on, I see the truth of what Sasha told me that winter in 2014: Russia may keep on attacking, but Ukraine will not surrender.”

26. “They’ll tell us that the inflation is ‘temporary’ and ‘transitory’, and not to worry because they’re still in control of the situation.

But anyone who visits a grocery store, fills up a gas tank, or pays tuition, will know the truth.

I’m not suggesting the sky will fall and we’ll see some Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation. But a return to the painful inflation levels in the 1970s? That’s absolutely a possibility.”

27. “This is a battle just beginning over who will control the communication satellites so central to our economy as well as the vast resources of other planets. But ultimately, the new space battle represents a war over opportunities for colonization, for an increasingly resource-stretched and crowded earth.

This may sound like apocalyptic sci-fi. But space is already becoming big business, and it’s certain to get much bigger. Boosted by a huge surge of investment, space-industry global revenues are up more than twofold since the early 2000s, from $175 billion in 2005 to almost $424 billion in 2019. By 2040, Morgan Stanley projects annual global space-industry revenues to reach $1.2 trillion.”

28. These are great Biohacker tips from one of the best in the biz. He literally wrote the book on it.

29. Good concept. “Micro-coach” who is there when you need guidance in certain point of negotiation in deal whatever it is. A good investor, advisor or fellow founder friend can serve as this when you need.

30. This is quite the story even by Silicon Valley standards. Grit & great execution.

“Founded in 2011 to help app developers get discovered and make money, AppLovin grew up without the help of venture money, reckoned with a scrapped acquisition, raised a big private equity round and transformed itself into a leading game publisher by going on a buying spree.

AppLovin was valued at $28.6 billion in its IPO ahead of the start of trading on Thursday, based on a reported $80 share price, which was in the middle of the expected range. Foroughi, who created AppLovin after starting a couple other ad tech companies, owns 27.9 million shares valued at $2.2 billion.”

31. This makes sense! YOLO!

32. “The shift in power from publishers to personalities will manifest across mediums. Incumbent organizations will continue to hemorrhage talent until they properly compensate their top performers, offer long-term incentives for building the publisher’s brand, allow co-ownership of persona-driven properties like newsletters and podcasts, and lift up individuality rather than sterilize it.

Media should take cues from sports teams, which intimately understand how spotlighting and retaining stars is crucial to building a popular franchise.”

33. This is a good thing in my book. YOLO!

“Some are abandoning cushy and stable jobs to start a new business, turn a side hustle into a full-time gig or finally work on that screenplay. Others are scoffing at their bosses’ return-to-office mandates and threatening to quit unless they’re allowed to work wherever and whenever they want.

They are emboldened by rising vaccination rates and a recovering job market. Their bank accounts, fattened by a year of stay-at-home savings and soaring asset prices, have increased their risk appetites. And while some of them are just changing jobs, others are stepping off the career treadmill altogether.

Individual YOLO decisions can be chalked up to many factors: cabin fever, low interest rates, the emergence of new get-rich-quick schemes like NFTs and meme stocks. But many seem related to a deeper, generational disillusionment, and a feeling that the economy is changing in ways that reward the crazy and punish the cautious.”

34. Wow. This is actually quite impressive on so many levels when you think about it.

35. This seems really bizarre but its a strange time. I’ve actually subscribed to some of Agora Publishing’s newsletters & am a fan of Rickards, Bonner, Stansberry, Rees-Mogg & Davidson’s writings.

36. “Modern creation is always-on and the creators who define the next generation of culture will be the immersive creators. They will glide so effortlessly between the real and digital realms that they’ll nearly always be producing content. Emma Chamberlain is one example of such a creator: there’s rarely a moment in Emma’s life when she’s not filming or livestreaming. The camera is a fluid extension of who she is.”

37. “So why are people choosing to earn 0.6% or lower, when they can earn 8% or higher? There is a lack of education in the market. This will change very quickly though. From finance professionals to corporate executives, the world is going to wake up to the massive arbitrage opportunity that exists in simply holding your dollars in digital stablecoins rather than electronic CUSIP cash.”

38. “To create new value, publishing needs to unbundle and then rebundle in much more rational ways. The destruction of the cable bundle was a necessary and messy step. We’ve seen the start of the unbundling of publishing with Substack. The defection of many well-known writers heralds the needed collapse of the op-ed pages.

But the people who dismiss Substack and newsletters as just hot takes sound a lot to me like the people in the early 2000s who dismissed bloggers as dudes in their parents’ basement with pizza stains on their t-shirts and a desperate need for vitamin D. How things start are not how they end.”

39. This is a really interesting idea. Universal Creative Income. Makes sense.

“For platforms, the idea is simple: use company revenue to fund a Universal Creative Income program for emerging creators on the platform. For instance, companies like Facebook or YouTube could carve out a fund to support creators on the platform and send them a monthly check to cover basic living expenses, regardless of skill, training, or background.

UCI differs from most prevailing platform creator funds in terms of consistency of payments, transparency of eligibility criteria, and focus on smaller emerging creators. To the last point: we believe focusing on creators who are in the greatest financial need would create the largest impact on participation in the creator economy.”

40. “George Floyd the man is dead, and his family have received the justice they deserve, but George Floyd the icon will live on, a powerful symbol for the faithful as they strive to build a third age of racial equality.

(This) political ideology mostly offers only rewards — status, popularity and often jobs and money.

This kind of moral confusion is the perfect environment for bullies and sadists because it is far easier for people to be punished for using the wrong language, or having the wrong opinions, and for many it is a ruthless competition to reach the top. Most of the nastiness is mercifully online, but we had a taste of the medieval at one point when a latter-day mini-Münster — the CHOP — sprang up in Seattle.

The victims of that utopian experiment, not being part of the litany of the saints, have been largely forgotten, but the underlying violent energies of the social justice movement shouldn’t be.”

41. Have heard good things about these folks. Also from LP perspective it seems like a differentiated offering too. (which is unlike most VC funds these days).

42. “Welcome to the TINA Economy. There is no alternative. Embrace risk, or suffer guaranteed decline.”

43. “What’s in store for the new head of the SEC? Gensler is taking over an agency whose situation is not unlike the CFTC in 2009. The SEC’s influence significantly faded under the Trump administration. Insider trading cases are near all-time lows. Repeated budget cuts have severely hindered the SEC’s ability to track & prosecute fraud.

Celebrities walking the legal tight-rope like Elon Musk have blatantly taunted the agency with little consequence. While I believe Gensler will have the power to reverse some of this, the hole his predecessors have dug for him is a deep one. The equity markets are as close to the Wild West as they’ve been in a long time.”

44. “It is a little naive — or then disingenuous — to discuss Bitcoin’s energy consumption while leaving out the profound links between traditional finance and carbon emissions. Have those impetuous Bitcoin critics at the Financial Times heard of the petrodollar?

As large volumes of oil revenue from energy-producing countries were invested directly in Treasuries and in other financial markets of the major industrial economies, a perpetual motion machine quickly developed: those financial markets could not work as planned without an ever greater supply of petrodollars and thus an ever greater extraction of fossil fuels.

Should we inquire about the carbon footprint of the greenback or are those sins reserved for Bitcoin?”

Listen to this Newsletter:



Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything!