Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads August 23rd, 2020
“They muddy the water, to make it seem deep.” — Frederiche Nietzsche
1. “Zoom is the pandemic’s success story. As lockdowns around the world closed offices and made working from home compulsory for vast sections of the working population, businesses and individuals grasped for a way to carry on at a distance. If it felt like everyone was suddenly using Zoom, that’s because they were: in April, Zoom peaked at over 300 million daily meeting participants — up from ten million in December 2019. Its measurement of “annualised meeting minutes” jumped 20-fold, from 100 billion at the end of January to over two trillion in April. For the quarter ending April 30 2020, Zoom reported total revenue of $328.2 million, a 169 per cent increase from the same period last year.
Covid-19 forced the world of work to adapt. But is this a glimpse of the future of the workplace, or will our love affair with video technology dissolve as soon as the virus recedes, the office re-opens and Zoom fatigue sets in? Given a real choice, will we continue to do business via webcam — or will we leave our microphones permanently on mute?”
2. Love this thread on the future of remote work. Or maybe it’s just work. Some provocative ideas.
3. “As the data above reveals, in our experience investing across approximately 180 partnerships, emerging managers have outperformed relative to their established counterparts. We attribute this to a number of factors.
First, attractive emerging firms, especially “spin-outs,” are, in many cases, comprised of a small group of partners with strong track records. Rather than deploying a percentage of a larger fund, these partners are now deploying all of a smaller fund. From an investor’s perspective, this can mean more concentrated exposure to the outperforming partners.
The second reason is a simple one. Most emerging firms raise smaller funds than their established counterparts. In venture capital, smaller funds generally outperform, as a single outlier has the potential to generate strong fund-level performance, even if the fund is only able to garner modest ownership.
Finally, most emerging firms do not have to deal with generational planning in the near or medium term. Given the fact that these firms themselves are new ventures, most partners fully expect to invest for a long period of time.”
4. Dolly Parton is not just a great entertainer but an impressive business person. And always has been. This is a great profile.
“This is Dolly Parton, Businesswoman, in a nutshell: Her sweetness and toughness coexist, never masking or diminishing the other. “[In meetings], she’s tactful in her approach, but she also will lay down what she will and won’t do,” says Nozell. “You’ll know immediately in a room that one thing you won’t be doing is taking advantage of Dolly Parton…….
Parton questions why more entertainers haven’t similarly broadened their holdings. She has always known what the pandemic has forced many in the industry to realize: that diversifying your income streams is one of the smartest things an artist can do. “I often wonder why more artists don’t do more things like that to have something to fall back on if things don’t work out the way they’d hoped — or just to have something more,” she says. “I feel like even if I wasn’t popular anymore, I could always sing at Dollywood.”
5. This is hilarious.
“On Benedetto’s self-described “wall of unnecessary,” you’ll find a world of whimsy: Pants with transparent pockets that are designed to hold slices of pizza; a mini-bed for an iPhone; a solar-powered t-shirt; gloves fashioned to look like Crocs.
Any serious entrepreneur knows that you shouldn’t create solutions to problems that don’t exist. But Benedetto has made a full-time living out of doing just that.
Benedetto’s inventions are partly a critique of modern capitalism. But they’re also a call to action — a reminder that we should all put our ideas out into the world, no matter how zany they may be.
““When people see my stuff pop up in their Instagram feeds, they often think they’re ads for real products,” he says. “But what I’m really doing is making fun of all the stupid products that actually exist — the type of stuff you see for sale on Wish. com and wonder, ‘Who pays money for this crap?’”
But Benedetto also hopes that Unnecessary Inventions can serve as a call to action for gun-shy entrepreneurs.
“None of this would’ve happened if I didn’t just put it out there,” he says. “Just start something and share it with the world. Trust me: Nothing is too stupid.”
6. I like and prefer this narrative for New York. But it will be darker before dawn.
“When companies go through this situation and their stock prices get clobbered, you have to ask yourself if the company is going to go out of business or not. If the answer is no, then the question becomes what price is the right entry price.
NYC is not going out of business. It will need a turnaround. It will need new leadership, which it will get. The pandemic will end. Restaurants, museums, broadway, nightclubs, etc, etc, etc will re-open.
It won’t be the same NYC that existed pre-pandemic. But that is a good thing. NYC has sucked for the last decade or more.
Many people who can will leave forever. Rents will be lower (maybe a lot lower). Artists will be able to live in NYC again.
We have the opportunity to reimagine what NYC is. We can reimagine transportation, schools, policing, housing, construction. We can create an environmentally sustainable NYC. We can create an affordable NYC. We can create a better NYC.”
7. “Building in public allows founders to build teams, drive widespread support, attract investors, and foster a community of users and early adopters. Currently, some of the most well-known leaders of the “building in public” phenomenon are Austen Allred, Founder & CEO of Lambda School, Domm, Founder & CEO of Fast, and Suhail, Founder & CEO of Mighty.”
8. Great observations here. Worth a read. Lucky for me I am not a smart person.
“The smart person often finds it harder to be a good decision-maker, because they are so trapped untangling the logic traps all around them. All the issues they can find, that are fixable. They get so stuck fixing all the problems they forget that the main problem of them all is picking which issues to fix.”
9. Good perspective on Rolling VC Funds from my buddy Carlos of Diaspora Ventures. Recommended read.
10. “As a seed-stage investor, we evaluate frontier tech by:
a) the intellectual property and the expertise the leadership team holds.
b) the technology’s potential impact on the market.
With investing in (a) a bright team with a deep, unique understanding of the domain and some early feeling for the commercial strategy being the by far superior variable.
There is no real way to measure frontier tech traction in the early seed stages. However, we can interpret external trends and market movements as either working in favor of or against a particular frontier tech company.”
11. “As I’m wrapping up the last 25 years and extracting learnings and insights, I’ve also started to reflect on the next 25 years and how I’d like to spend my most precious resource — time — to live an intentional, mindful and experience-rich life. The learnings are already there from previous generations: be true to yourself and your own dreams, work less, express your feelings, stay in contact with friends, and allow yourself to be happy.
Of course, these are very general regrets, famously delivered by nurse Bronnie Ware through her work with people on their deathbeds. But I think the perspective is valuable, to fast-forward yourself into the future and then look back to reflect on who you want to become, as we are all becoming, either if we want it or not, intentionally or by chance. To move back and forth, from the big picture to the daily practise, and from the future to the present moment is a very valuable skill. It separates what matters from matters less.”
12. Great discussion on Venture Portfolio Construction. Must read for all emerging VC fund managers.
“Venture is a really hard game. The unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of funds will fail to achieve venture-like returns and many will fail to outperform even the public markets given the headwinds of a “2 and 20” structure. However, LPs continue to invest in the asset class because it has the potential to produce outsized returns. LPs investing in your fund need to believe your portfolio construction has that potential.”
13. “Scott is too sly to say it outright, but it was also the presentation of a vision: a tour through the trippy fantasyland he’s curated in his mind as one of the more potent culture movers of his generation. His woozy, digitally distorted sound has already shaped an era of hip-hop, but his influence has extended beyond music and into art and fashion.
He exists as a kind of strange unicorn in the culture, someone who’s fluent in the language of the youth (mostly young men who spend a lot of money on clothes and want to turn up) but who talks very little about himself. He’s regarded as both omnipresent and a bit elusive, on a wavelength that resists a lot of the contemporary notions of celebrity.
Though he shares a daughter, Stormi, with a Kardashian-Jenner, for instance, he’s withholding and private and refuses to talk about their relationship. To Scott, mystery is a powerful form of currency. You could say he’s almost shy, obscuring his face in photos, the opposite of most modern “influencers” — and yet he’s quietly one of the most influential people on the planet.”
14. An old one but it’s so good.
“If you want an average successful life, it doesn’t take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:
1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.
The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility.
Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.
The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.”
15. If you are as interested in the Gaming space as I am. This is a good overview.
“Gaming no longer solely refers to specific hardware, games or gameplay. Increasingly, the lines between entertainment, e-commerce, social media and gaming are being blurred. New areas within the gaming value chain are rapidly expanding and enabling new tech integration and business models. VCs with limited experience in the space are waking up to the fact that early-stage opportunities now extend beyond developers and publishers.”
16. This really explains the growth of the BS “Woke” movement & awful Cancel culture in the USA well. A very uniquely American movement I should add.
“If you go through the list, they are exactly what radicals are objecting to now: bigotry, the ignorance of the uneducated, power, corruption, militarism and oppression. It lines up so perfectly with today’s agitation…..What we’re seeing now is an amplification of what I wrote about five years ago: an intense spiritual hunger that has no outlet.”
“Cancel culture is just the latest and most virulent form of the religious notion of shunning, in which people are chased into further appreciation of their guiltiness.
At the very least, one of the effects of the shunning is to frighten everyone into silence. Its purpose is to get people fired, to put people beyond the pale, to get them out of our sight. This is for a couple reasons. First, it is to ensure we are not infected by this sinfulness. And second, it is a public declaration of our power. It says, look how powerful we are, that we can do this to people.
The Twittermob is really an astonishing phenomenon.”
17. Life longevity is before us. Exciting times.
“Past generations used to say that even though we cannot postpone natural death, we can control how we live. They also believed that there is “nothing new under the sun.” Both statements are inaccurate from our current perspective. With advances in bioscience and technology, one can imagine a post-COVID-19 future when most diseases are cured and our life span will increase substantially.
If that happens, how would our goals change, and how would this shape our lives? Given the luxury of pursuing longer-term plans, we could accomplish more ambitious tasks. We could decide to care more about our planetary environment and interpersonal cooperation, since pollution or hostilities carry long-term dangers. An extended life experience could make us wiser and more risk-averse since there is much more at stake. It would make little sense to send young soldiers to wars, or initiate wars in the first place.”
18. The great reset for Startupland. And why it’s a good thing in the long run.
19. Food for thought here. It’s been a rough 2020. But we will get thru this.
“I didn’t think of San Francisco as Home at that point, but fast forward to today, unbeknown to me, it is home. This past week, three of my favorite neighbors have moved out. Another close friend has packed up and moved out of San Francisco. Slowly, I am starting to lose people and places that gave life some context. Life is the context friends, and places provide us.
Many of my favorite places are shutting down. Reality has a porous quality to it now. And like the ash falling from the sky, it is sprinkling a sense of loss. I wonder how many others feel this social disruption that is happening around us.
We have a framework of vanishing relationships. These relationships give context to who we are, what we do, and where we live. The coffeeshop we sat down for meetings and conversations are now being replaced by two-dimensional take-it-to-go experiences that lack the dimensionalities of human experience. How can you lend emotional payload to picking a cup of coffee from a barista behind a glass wall and a mask?”
20. The Telegram revolution in Belarus. I hope it ends peacefully with the people in charge and with Lukashenka OUT.
“So-called “colour revolutions”, in former Soviet states like Armenia and Ukraine, used similar parallel channels to oust autocrats. But something different is happening in Belarus. In lieu of physical leadership, its uprising is channeled almost entirely through a single app. And right now, it looks as if it might just succeed.
If Europe’s last dictator does fall, Franak Viacorka has no doubt where Belarus’ future will be decided. “Telegram seems to be the most organised, most coordinated group in Belarus opposition right now,” he says. “The political parties cannot choose a leader. Tikhanovskaya is afraid to take responsibility. And what will happen next, if the politicians will not choose their temporary government? Telegram groups will choose this for them. I can say for sure that this revolution can be called the Telegram Revolution. Never before in history has one technology decided so much the political fate of a country.”