Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads Dec 12th, 2021

“When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less.” — Paul Brown

  1. “Free on the Internet these days is a gateway drug. Once hooked, we forget why we are wasting our time on stuff that doesn’t add value. If it has a value it’s worth paying for. Making the user the product that is being sold in shady virtual alley deals is not cool.

These days I’m very suspicious of everything free online and prefer to pay for services to avoid advertising and that my data is being sold to who knows whom.

Pay well for what matters, for brands and services that is moving humanity forward. Support initiatives that protects our planet and people, and use technology intelligently to serve humankind and create the lifestyle your heart and mind desires.”

2. This is a good discussion on the China menace to Taiwan & the world.

3. This is a good tweet storm on the future of Fintech in 2022. Worth a read.

4. “For more than 20 years now, the mountains have been the crucible in which Chin has forged his singular life. He is a professional climber, sponsored by The North Face; a mountain photographer, sponsored by Canon; a filmmaker with National Geographic. He shoots big-budget commercials for blue-chip companies like Ford. More recently, of course, he’s also become the codirector of nail-biting, award-winning documentaries — Meru (2015), Free Solo (2018), and The Rescue (2021) — that reevaluate the limits of human potential.

Through that multifaceted success, Chin has become a citizen of two worlds: He’s a Manhattanite and a Jackson local, a dirtbag climber who’s at home on the red carpet. More than anything, perhaps, he’s the consummate generalist whose constellation of skills has never aligned in quite the same way for anyone ever before. Plus, there’s the snow-melting smile.

Along the way, he’s become a survivor — of accidents, disasters, near starvation, bitter cold, trench foot, bandits, and other ordeals on expeditions in places like Patagonia and Borneo, China and Oman. “Jimmy could’ve become a Navy SEAL as easily as he became a climber,” says Into Thin Air author Jon Krakauer, a friend and collaborator of Chin’s. “He’s really good at big-wall climbing, bust-ass-hard endurance stuff where you’ve gotta suffer. He really thrives and excels when you’ve gotta deliver, when failure isn’t an option, when you don’t get a second chance.”

5. Great to see the growth of these kind of new focused funds in tech. Climate tech is important. Very credible people here too.

6. Lots of great life advice here.

“Making money is *never* zero sum. There is always opportunity for wealth and if you are *unhappy* when someone you know succeeds, you’re the problem and you are are parasite. If you are thrilled that they made it, they will *remember* you forever and they will look out for you if you need something in the future. In short, don’t be a hater and don’t be insecure. Support people and you will have powerful friends beyond your wildest imaginations in less than 5 years.

Incentives drive results. If you can do this well, everyone will be happy. Over time incentives do change (which causes infighting), however, the incentives matter over the long term. If you leave a starving dog in front of a steak and expect it to die vs. eating the steak, you’re simply a fool.”

7. This makes sense, many people including myself learned that you have to take ownership of your life and career. Relying on a company or job is plain suicide.

“I believe more people are going to work for themselves and/or going into small businesses that are not part of the employer survey.

Maybe what we are witnessing is not the Great Resignation but the Great Formation.”

8. Getting close to the world of the sovereign individual.

“Overall this is really great. Governments need new sources of tax revenue, and we’re starting to see more of these programs where they roll out the red carpet for foreigners.

There may even come a day when governments are forced to think about all the things they are doing wrong — because people can simply take their lives and their businesses elsewhere.”

9. This was a fun interview for those in tech & investing biz. Geoff is a smart and funny dude.

10. The new Great Game in Africa over Cobalt. Also attracting grifters from everywhere.

“Mr. Mutombo is among a wave of adventurers and opportunists who have filled a vacuum created by the departure of major American mining companies, and by the reluctance of other traditional Western firms to do business in a country with a reputation for labor abuses and bribery.

The list of fortune hunters includes Erik Prince, the security contractor and ex-Navy SEAL; Jide Zeitlin, the Nigerian-born former chief executive of the parent company of Coach and Kate Spade; and Aliaune Thiam, the Senegalese-American musician known as Akon.

All have been drawn to Congo’s high-risk, high-reward mining sector as the demand for cobalt has skyrocketed because automakers around the world are speeding up plans to convert from gasoline- to electric-powered fleets.

But for now, at least, the adventurers have taken center stage, and sometimes their ambitions converge at the Fleuve. Ambassadors, mercenaries, celebrities, musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs — they all pass through.”

11. Yikes: if this was any other source outside of The Information I’d be dismissive of this.

“The enmity between the former co-founders has outlasted a Series D round that today values Modern Health at $1.17 billion. In spite of its unicorn status, Modern Health has become a cautionary tale for startup founders.

Its story, much of it told here for the first time, is a minefield littered with charges of fraud, kickbacks, plagiarism, theft and racism on one side and accusations of incompetence, personal vengeance and corporate sabotage on the other. It offers a rare view inside a Silicon Valley startup that continued to raise hundreds of millions of dollars even as its founding partnership imploded.”

12. Exciting & educational discussion on the rise of Crypto.

13. A little bit simplistic but also why I am a long term buy and hold investor in general.

“Let’s not even discuss the herd mentality, the absurdity of everyone trying to jettison the stock at once. Nobody paused to take a deep breath and see if the fundamentals of this company were somehow less solid than the day before they reported earnings. Were there any red flags beyond the slowing growth, this absurd idea that if you are not continually growing at an accelerated rate, you are somehow less valuable?

If you are growing at a reasonable rate, and you are not losing money, and it looks like that will continue into the future, that sounds like a good company to me.”

14. More information on the supply chain mess in the world.

15. “The People’s Liberation Army poses a formidable threat to Taiwan. Devoting more of Taiwan’s finite defense resources to distributed, mobile, affordable, and lethal anti-air and anti-ship systems could leverage Taiwan’s advantages and exploit the vulnerabilities of China’s military. This porcupine strategy makes sense independent of whether one favors clarity or ambiguity in America’s defense commitment to Taiwan or considers invasion a near-term threat or a long-term possibility.”

16. What a wacky yet interesting story. Crypto meets Seasteading.

17. Wow, I ended up on Venture Capital Journal!

Great to catch up & chat Alastair Goldfisher. Excited by what we are building at with my Partners Carlos Diaz & Chris Allexandre

18. Hard not to see this.

“Money has become something to play with for fun and profit. There are even now hundreds of play currencies, some of which are worth hundreds of billions of dollars, for people who find government-issued money too constrained.

The decadence is increasingly offensive to anybody living paycheck to paycheck, or even just people brought up to respect the value of a dollar.”

19. “Thankfully, a researcher at Wharton took the initiative to run a new study on the relationship between household income and self-reported well-being. Sure enough, he found no evidence that well-being tops out at $75k/year.

Instead, my overall takeaway is this: when it comes to money, a healthy respect for it seems more likely to actually improve our lives than a cynical or dismissive attitude.”

20. “I have used the Gartner Hype Cycle many times in my career to prevent myself from committing a grave mistake that almost any investor will be familiar with. In my experience, spotting an emerging new narrative to latch onto is easier than getting yourself to sell near the peak of the hype.

It is SO easy to eventually believe in the hype yourself. I have trained myself to realise that each time I believe it’s really worthwhile to hold on to a successful investment in anticipation of everything turning out as expected, it’s quite likely the right moment to sell.

This is counter-intuitive, but it has worked for me many more times than it hasn’t. Virgin Galactic is a case in point. I, too, watched the launch of the space ship. Emotionally, I was all in. Rationally, I knew that shareholders were in for a difficult period post-launch.”

21. The OG of authoritarian rulers. Whether you like him or not, Putin is a master chess player.

“What comes next for Putin’s Russia (he’s likely thinking about his legacy) and what comes after he’s gone are the questions I’m thinking about. Clearly, Russia would like to be the regional superpower dominating Europe in commerce, energy, and foreign policy.”

22. I’m such a huge fan of the region from the lifestyle, people and startup investing. I’m very partial to Tbilisi and Belgrade myself, although I always enjoy Skopje, Yerevan and Kotor.

“It’s about time that you leave the trappings of the more popular European destinations in favor of the tranquil, modern, and culturally rich cities of Eastern Europe. There’s always something to try or see here, and it’s always ready to welcome the ones who are brave enough to come.

Not only that, but the cost of living in Eastern Europe is relatively better than most of its counterparts in the European Union. You can choose from a lot of Eastern European countries that have lower costs of living. Whether you’re earning a few thousand dollars or an eight-figure salary, you can get the best value for your money here. You can work, hire or even invest in these countries, and it’s going to be worth your while.”

23. The new drone arms race in the world.

“”Drones would be highly effective delivery systems for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons,” he said. “Drones could, say, spray the agent right over a crowded area.

Drones are not tomorrow’s weapons of mass destruction. They’re here today, and the technology required to fashion such a device is only getting cheaper, smarter and more accessible.”

24. Scale kills quality. That’s the iron law.

“The problem isn’t for the investors; they’re going to be just fine. The challenge is for the startups. Some will argue that network effects get better when the network gets bigger; and that might be true — but that is an incredibly hard problem to solve. Not least because the very best founders don’t have time to actually participate in the network; especially in the early days, they’re heads down building their startups, not rolling up their sleeves to help other founders.

As a founder, I’d question whether it’s worthwhile to be a part of a 1,000-strong cohort. Will the Y Combinator badge of honor help you get a meeting with an investor? Will it help you get bumped to the top of a journalist’s email inbox? Or will it simply cease to be valuable as a filter to the outside world, and drastically reduce the value of having been a Y Combinator alum in the first place?”



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Marvin Liao

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