Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads December 20th, 2020

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” — JP Morgan

  1. Super interesting discussion on the Unicorn Decade. Precursor to the upcoming Decacorn Decade.

“The events of 2020 have settled the debate. At least for this decade’s transition — 2020 is the year that ends a strange and chaotic decade, bringing so many of its themes to a logical endpoint.

Next year, the new decade begins.”

“In business and finance, the rise of the unicorn was a defining feature of the decade now wrapping up. The ubiquity of venture-backed businesses with valuations north of $1 billion created a new, lasting innovation in how investors, entrepreneurs, and consumers think about starting a company. The 2010s were the Unicorn Decade.

And this financing trend will endure just as more efficient food delivery, more available taxis, and more contingent work will change the economy in the new decade. Managing to finance operations for a company worth tens of billions of dollars while keeping that company private was and remains a novel solution for startups and their preferred investors.”

2. I am a big fan and can’t believe I only discovered Khe Hy recently. Although in my defense I am Gen X not millennial.

“Nothing prepares you to see your bank account go down,” admits Hy, who is now 37 and wears polka dot sweaters, jeans and neon blue Nike shoes. “Even if it was going down from a big number, it still f — ks with your head.”

“His biggest realization is that fear — especially the fear of failure or running out of money — holds so many people back from doing what they really want to do in life. Even in his own life, he and his wife budgeted for a two-year break, a deadline that is approaching.”

3. A very inspiring man: Noah Galloway. Amazing profile written by my friend Polina Marinova Pompliano.

“He went on to run ultra-races, marathons, and Tough Mudders. He appeared on the cover of Men’s Health magazine and placed third on the TV show, “Dancing with the Stars.” And still — he recognizes those accomplishments don’t define him. They were just chapters in his life journey.

Galloway embodies everything The Profile stands for. It’s about shedding the labels society has slapped on you and re-claiming the power to re-invent yourself — no matter your age, your current circumstance, or your past traumas.”

“I see a lot of veterans — and other people do it — but I point out to veterans that you can’t live in the past because you’ll never be satisfied with what you’re doing now. You’ll never progress and challenge yourself again because you’ve peaked too soon. But you only peak when you decide you’ve peaked. So Al Bundy chose to peak in high school and never did anything else.”

4. Eric Yuan and Zoom definitely deserve the Time Business person of year title in 2020.

“Yuan soon found himself serving as the world’s relationship liaison, social chair, principal, convention-center host, chief security officer and pallbearer. Despite competition from corporate behemoths like Google, Apple and Microsoft, Zoom jumped out in front of the video pack, catapulting from 10 million daily meeting participants in December to a staggering 300 million in April. Zoom became a verb and a prefix, a defining syllable of a socially distant era. As his company’s valuation soared, Yuan crashed into the Forbes billionaires list.”

“Yuan responded with swift course correction and transparency, at least to the security issues, gaining the trust of many critics — and the company’s stock has tripled since April. Zoom was named Apple’smost downloaded free app of the year. It won the 2020 video wars partially because, like its founder, it’s flexible, intuitive and pretense-free. It was adaptable in a year when there was hardly a more vital attribute — and it offered glimpses, promising and ominous alike, of what human connection might look like for years to come.”

5. Go King James!

“After nearly two decades in the NBA, James has fully embraced that his talent on the court is a means to achieving something greater off it. And this year, more than in any before it, he showed why he is unrivaled in both.

Despite misgivings, James played on in the bubble and led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA championship — his first with the team and fourth overall. By staying, James increased his leverage and influence, and got deep-pocketed owners, fellow athletes and fans the world over engaged directly with democracy. And through it all, he spoke personally to the anguish of Black Americans, channeling pain and outrage into a plan of action.”

6. This is one of the better overviews of the ever growing Creator economy I’ve seen.

“The internet is magic and creators are its purest expression. Where most people see a cultural oddity, I see an entire generation bypassing traditional gatekeepers for the first time in history.”

7. “The hope is that private networks will increase authenticity, vulnerability, meaning, and connection — both for those in the spotlight, and the broader network of users more generally. If users are complaining about it today, it’s clearly an opportunity to build something better for the future.

Vertical networks present the largest opportunity I see in social — unbundle Facebook (or Reddit) demographic by demographic.”

8. WORD!

“In short, the “new rich” will be able to earn their income 100% remote and they will have assets that are difficult if not impossible to seize (such as crypto currencies or NFTs).”

“If you get nothing from the post it should be “liquidity and options”. Under no circumstances do you want to decrease liquidity and decrease your flexibility. In times of wild amounts of change, you need to be able to move with the environment as well.”

“the sovereign individual is coming soon. Self reliance and freedom will become the ultimate “status symbol.”

9. This totally makes sense to me. The Multi SKU Creator. ie. Portfolio Entrepreneur.

It’s my belief that very few “Substack writers” will make 100% of their income from their newsletter and this won’t be a failure of the platforms but instead related to the nature of creation itself. Enter, the Multi-SKU Creator.

The biggest impact of someone like Casey unbundling himself from The Vox is that he is now an entrepreneur with a product called Casey. His beachhead may very well be a paid newsletter (it’s very good by the way) but the newsletter is just one SKU. Maybe the SKU he cares most about. Maybe even the SKU that makes him the most money. But it doesn’t have to be the only SKU. There could be a podcast SKU. A speaking fee SKU. A book deal SKU. A consulting SKU. A guest columnist SKU. And so on. And if he does several of these over the next few years, it won’t be about the success or failure of Substack (for him) but a mix of creative, economic and lifestyle goals.”

10. Pear VC is one of the best seed stage VCs around.

“Hershenson and Nozad invested $250,000 into the seed round of DoorDash, then continued to back the company in its Series A & B rounds for an overall investment of about $1.9 million. When DoorDash went public on Wednesday, their firm, Pear VC, owned 2,518,360 shares, according to two sources with knowledge of the firm’s finances. But at DoorDash’s share price of $176 as of market open on Friday, Hershenson and Nozad’s initial investment is up about 1,000 times, & the blended position up 233 times their committed capital — meaning the duo have, for now, turned $1.9 million into more than $440 million.

Pear VC is far from the only firm to have won big in DoorDash’s IPO, which made Xu and two of his cofounders billionaires…. Pear stands out: a firm launched by two immigrants that stands to return its entire $51 million first fund a few times over from one of its very first bets.”

“As the size of funds are increasing, and everybody’s after the same founders, we think there’s a group of entrepreneurs that are kind of a rock, but they can be turned into diamond,” says Hershenson.”

11. Talk about a modern Renaissance craftsman.

“Ellison is a carpenter — the best carpenter in New York, by some accounts, though that hardly covers it. Depending on the job, Ellison is also a welder, a sculptor, a contractor, a cabinetmaker, an inventor, and an industrial designer. He’s a carpenter the way Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect of the great dome of the Florence Cathedral, was an engineer. He’s a man who gets hired to build impossible things.”

“I couldn’t be employed in most cities in America,” Ellison told me. “This job doesn’t exist there. It’s too idiosyncratic.”

12. “In 2013, Euromonitor pegged Monopoly’s annual revenues at ~$400m. By one estimate, that accounts for ~30% of all mass-market board game sales in the world — equivalent to Google’s share of the US ad market.

The pandemic has created another boom: Gaming sales for Hasbro reached a record high in Q3 of 2020. In the UK this spring, board game and jigsaw puzzle revenues were up 240% — and Monopoly was the top seller.

Ask industry observers and fans why Monopoly has thrived, and they point to the game’s unique storyline, nostalgia, and a desire to escape screens.

But there’s another factor at play: Hasbro created a real-life monopoly that allowed Monopoly to flourish.

How did Hasbro corner the board game market? And could a new wave of collaborative board games threaten to disrupt their dominance?”

13. I will admit I did not like The Godfather 3 at first compared to its previous movies (masterpieces) but I do think its not a bad movie. Can’t wait to see the new recut edition.

“But 30 years after its release, it is time to rescue Godfather III from its terrible reputation. Pacino’s eloquent, fiery, knowing central performance is supported by several bravura set pieces that are mini-masterpieces in themselves. With deliberate echoes of the earlier Godfather films, there is singing and dancing at a family party, a bold murder during the San Gennaro street festival, a tragedy on the steps of an opera house in Sicily.”

14. Good for them. Love this story.

“In 2017, CNBC spoke to the Dutch family of five when they were in the process of liquidating their assets — from a profitable business and 2,500-square-foot house, to their shoes — and trading it all in for the popular cryptocurrency and a life on the road.

Nearly four years and 40 countries later, Taihuttu and his family still don’t have bank accounts, a house, or all that much by way of personal possessions. All of the family’s savings remain tied up in highly volatile cryptocurrencies.

“We stepped into bitcoin, because we wanted to change our lives,” said the 42-year-old father of three.

When the price of bitcoin collapsed in 2018, Taihuttu added more to his investment portfolio.”

“This kind of mainstream adoption is hugely important, because cryptocurrencies like bitcoin aren’t backed by an asset, nor do they have the full faith and backing of the government. They’re valuable because people believe they’re valuable. So it goes a long way when bitcoin gets buy-in from some of the biggest names on Wall Street.”

15. “You see your friends posting smiling selfies at exotic destinations and humblebragging about their professional and personal accomplishments, and you end up thinking your own life doesn’t measure up.

Of course, intellectually we all know that our real life selves and our highly curated online selves differ hugely, but it’s still easy to fall into the trap of letting other people’s perfect social-media profiles convince you that you’re somehow falling short.”

16. Definitely one of the winning businesses coming out of 2020.

“According to Stokely, OnlyFans is adding as many as 500,000 users a day and paying out more than $200 million a month to its creators.

Along the way, OnlyFans has grown into one of the biggest media businesses hiding in plain sight. The company has 85 million users, upward of 1 million creators, and will generate more than $2 billion in sales this year, of which it keeps about 20%.

That puts the site on track for $400 million in annual net sales — dwarfing Patreon, a platform devoted to helping creative types monetize their work, which is valued at more than $1.2 billion. “OnlyFans is revolutionizing creator and fan relations,” Stokely said.”

17. “As the technology industry has grown, and as end markets have been proven to be much bigger than most imagined, and with the next decade’s digital acceleration pulled forward to the present due to pandemic shutdowns, big deals are happening at a furious pace. Just this past week, we saw not one, but two, billion-dollar SaaS exits, and then a mega-acquisition of another public SsaS company.”

18. The new ways of monetizing Social beyond ads from A16Z.

“The reigning ad model is becoming less viable for emerging social platforms — and less enticing for creators. Through new monetization tactics such as tiered subscriptions, social ecommerce, paid vertical communities, and more, creators and social platforms are seeking renewed agency and control over their revenue streams and take rates.

As the consumer social landscape becomes increasingly verticalized, platforms are likely to evolve beyond ads into models that better align the interests of creator, consumer, and company.”

19. Lessons from the recent war between Azerbaijan & Armenia for Taiwan.

“Azerbaijan used a mix of modern (but hardly cutting edge) and old systems in innovative ways, cleverly turning an assessed Armenian strength — fortified defenses — into a deadly weakness. More important than equipment is the thinking behind the use of the equipment.

It’s true that China is certainly no Armenia, but on the other hand, Taiwan is also significantly stronger economically than Azerbaijan: Taiwan’s GDP is some 14 times larger than that of Azerbaijan’s, and it is much more technologically sophisticated, to boot.

Taiwan has recently demonstrated an impressive ability to wield organization and technology — a veritable Arsenal of Ideas — to defeat a wide range of adversaries, from COVID-19 to Beijing’s disinformation campaigns. The key to Taiwan’s survival will be to constantly experiment, using this Arsenal of Ideas to offset an adversary with far greater firepower. Therein lies the final lesson of Armenia-Azerbaijan War, encapsulated in the old British Special Air Service motto: “Who Dares, Wins.”

20. Long been a proponent of Remote work. We are never going back.

“Missing from the debate is the fact that it’s not really up to the companies to choose. Employees will ultimately make the decision. The best employees have more options now than ever before, and they’re not going to work for companies that make them shave, get dressed, hop into a car or a crowded subway, and sit at a desk in an office five days a week with their headphones on trying to avoid distractions and get work done.

Choosing to Return to the way things were is like choosing not to adopt software a decade or two ago. It’s an option, but one that will doom a company to mediocrity.”

21. “The internet makes it possible for many knowledge employees to work from anywhere. The earning potential of (many of) the most productive employees is no longer capped by geography. As a result, we will see the emergence of a new class of people earning salaries that are an order of magnitude higher than what we saw in previous decades.

Many of these people will remain directly employed, and some will become self-employed but will work on an exclusive basis with one or a few companies.

Note that I am not talking about the emergence of a handful of highly-paid superstars in the vein of Hollywood’s Brad Pitt or Tom Hanks. I am talking about micro-stars in the vein of TikTok’s Charli D’Amelio: a whole new layer of professionals than earn incomes that are a level below the biggest earners on in their field, but still much higher than what the average employee (or singer, or dancer) could earn in the pre-internet era.

I call this new layer of professionals the 10X Class. Several other trends support their emergence. As machines take up more of our repetitive and predictable tasks, the value of human creativity goes up. Concurrently, creative people can use technology to streamline routine tasks and focus only on what they do best — thus multiplying their own productivity.”

22. “consider that Momoa would be the first to tell you that all of the tough-guy vibes you picked up from his Walk of Fame performances in Game of Thrones (as Khal Drogo) and Conan the Barbarian and Aquaman were just an act. Which makes sense, because he was acting. “I may look big and tough, but I’m not,” he explains. “I’m nothing like Khal Drogo. I’m not even the king of my own house! I’m absolutely terrified of my wife.”

“With Momoa, we’ve got ourselves an altogether different type of star from all the Chrises and Ryans who serve up their own spins on wholesome, well-groomed, on-script masculinity. Spontaneous, humble, earnest, and actually, honest-to-goodness-ly authentic, he’s more like the charismatic spawn of the Rock and wee Timothée Chalamet, bulldozing outdated and restrictive modes of manliness and showing the rest of us how to embrace our full non-incognito selves. Now, at 41, after two decades of playing buff guys without a lot of brains, Momoa is getting his first taste of working on a prestige film with an acclaimed director and a metric ton of Academy Award–winning and –nominated actors. The man is not done surprising us yet.”

23. “In short: We’re fine. We simply can’t travel. We haven’t gone on a trip since returning home from Australia, and we aren’t certain when we will travel again. But I know that when we do, we will do so with intentionality, with care. Travel has lost its levity. It has become gilded, or leaded, with meaning and consequence. Travel is heavy. Perhaps it always will be. And that is a good, if hard, thing — for us and for the earth.”

24. “There is no question that the bay area is losing some talent to other markets but I don’t think that is anywhere near the most important thing. It is also the case that Google and Apple show no signs of leaving the bay area any time soon. Silicon Valley will remain a mecca for talent and tech for as far into the future as I can see.

What is more important is the rise of everywhere. In the most recent Pitchbook 2021 predictions, they project that Silicon Valley will make up less than 20% of all VC deals in 2021. The way that happens is not less funding in Silicon Valley. The way that happens is way more funding everywhere else.”

25. “The market conditions seem perfectly set up to reward asset owners. I realize an investment philosophy of “own assets” is far from earth shattering. And of course you need capital to own assets.

That said, if you have a longish time horizon, good luck sitting on a bunch of cash and bonds. At least for now the 60/40 portfolio is dead. I suspect it’ll be far preferable to own assets that can appreciate and/or throw off income.

One trend I see continuing is rise of alternative investments in retail investors’ portfolios.

Alts are essentially everything outside of public equities. Think real estate, venture capital, private equity, collectibles, and more. They tend to be illiquid and in some cases only accessible to accredited investors.”

26. “Even without knowing what exactly happened in that shed in Connecticut, Hsieh was clearly in anguish. Mental health experts caution that the ongoing Covid pandemic can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness, and offer tips and resources to seek help for yourself or loved ones.

Social isolation means having to “cope and deal with everything entirely on our own,” said Hold-Lunstad. “It has been argued that our brains in essence has have evolved to expect the proximity to others and so when we don’t, when we lack this proximity to others — and particularly trusted others — that this creates a state of alert and threat in our brain.”

27. “Enough is both exciting and terrifying. For the same reason.

No one can tell you what’s enough. There’s no formula, no framework nor book to read to get you there. And that can be daunting.

But that also means that the definition of enough is not purely a function of money. It’s why there are plenty of very happy people who are time rich yet asset poor. (And also why there are Dianas who are asset rich but time poor.)”

28. I love a good rant.

29. “I would say that almost certainly the great stagnation is over in the biomedical sciences. It is less obvious that the great stagnation is over more generally, as we might simply retreat into our former sloth and complacency once we are mostly vaccinated.

If you are looking for a quick metric to indicate the great stagnation might be over, consider total factor productivity. It is entirely possible that tfp in 2021 will be 5 or more, its highest level ever.”

30. “To find the right platform at a fund for your company, you should identify what your needs are (recruiting, network, event exposure), and look for a fund that maps to those specific needs.”

31. Economic Inequality in America. You think? Pandemic has made this more stark.

32. “Today the majority of the world’s population are using the Internet to design their lives. Historically we used to have to rely on the church for that, then universities followed by corporations. But today, 59% of all people make their life choices every month using the Internet. And we have just begun to scratch the surface of all the amazing possibilities that lie ahead.”

33. This is a good explanation for exodus from formerly top cities.

“The coronavirus has reset consumer expectations back to suburban living and the mental health benefits of living in greenspace. There has been an exodus from major industry centers to their suburbs and to the alt-cities. The alt-cities of Miami, Austin, and Nashville all offer car-friendly, suburban living, relatively cheap and ubiquitous housing, and continual housing construction.”

“Rather than going fully remote, key people are aggregating in cities where they will be able to network post-COVID. Austin has attracted well-known technology figures such as Elon Musk, Drew Houston, and Joe Lonsdale. Miami and South Florida have landed finance billionaires Carl Icahn and Paul Singer, as well as prominent technology investors Keith Rabois, David Blumberg, and Sherwin Pishevar.

Nashville hosts well-known artists including Jack White, Miley Cyrus, and Taylor Swift, who rejected Los Angeles and helped shift Nashville from country to other forms of music. These cities are attracting free thinkers known to lead the way, leaving the impression that those left behind in the origin cities are clock-punchers at Google.”

34. This is a bit of an extreme individual and don’t agree with his politics & most of his nutty views. But I agree with this sentiment. Corporate life is pretty soul destroying.

“When you sign on to life in a corporation, especially in any of the GloboHomoCorps that dot the landscape these days, you will be paid a lot of money to, essentially, keep your mouth shut and wallow in filth. Whenever the corporate bumpf says that “our people are our greatest asset!” and “we put our people first!”, don’t believe it. That is perhaps the greatest lie of all.

The modern GloboHomoCorps don’t give the minutest quantum of a damn about you. They view you as cogs in the machine of their operations. The moment that you step out of line, you will be destroyed. Dare to question their orthodoxy, or raise your voice in a manner that someone else deems inappropriate, and you will be fired.”

35. This was fast series B. Neat & needed product though.

36. I don’t like him as a person but he is an incredibly talented artist.

“The genius and talent of Kanye West is undeniable, regardless of whether or not people like him. He checks off every box and is the best artist of this century and one of the best of all time. Kanye West defines greatness in his music, and he has done more than enough to earn the title of “Greatest Artist of This Century”. Nobody else really comes close.”

37. XYZ VC is a rising but one of the quiet in the background seed stage VCs. Impressive portfolio and good rep in SV.

38. “In truth, there are plenty of managers that have thrived despite growing fund sizes significantly — DCVC, Forerunner, and Felicis are firms that have grown fund sizes, but not at the expense of the risk/return profiles they offer LP’s. In contrast, others such as IA Ventures and Founder Collective have determined that staying within a specific fund size range is optimal for their ability to produce the highest returns.

Fund sizing doesn’t have to be overly complicated and isn’t an exact science but does require thinking across several macro and micro dimensions.”

39. “Whenever you can, it might pay to seek to create a game that works for you and for those you seek to serve. Because those games are the sustainable ones and the ones that you can play for a long time to come.”

40. “The Big Tech companies are extremely rich, powerful, and led by people with boundless ambition and supreme arrogance. (When someone like ME says that these people are arrogant, that’s saying something.) They believe that they can get away with anything. So far, they’ve been right, because no government has really dared stand up to them.

That will be changing soon, though. The European Commission has already passed enormous fines on Google, Apple, and Facebook, and those fines will grow over time. The US will follow suit at some point, and so will Asia. But until the Big Tech firms get a serious kick in the teeth, in the form of tens of billions in fines and a real threat of forced breakup, they will continue to run roughshod over people like you and me.”

41. “Another option is to geo-diversify. Honestly, this is where I fall down. This means that your assets, in any way or form (be it money, stocks, gold, real estate or whatever) are not only in one country. The rationale is that if your property is overseas, it cannot be confiscated that easily. I’m not the authority on it, but looking it up, asking around and getting good advice will probably go a long way.

On that note, if you apply for a second citizenship (I started looking into it ~1.5 years ago), that can really help. The best advice I can give here is to consult as much as you can with multiple people and read a lot.”

42. “The sustainability of nations and the defensibility of platforms is better when wealth isn’t concentrated in the top 1%. In the real world, a healthy middle class is critical for promoting societal trust, providing a stable source of demand for products and services, and driving innovation. On platforms, less wealth concentration means lessening the risk that a would-be competitor could poach top creators and threaten the entire business.”

43. “Indeed, underneath the punching and punchlines, Butler has articulated a vaguely political sensibility: He’s performing a sort of gun-toting patriotism, fighting political corruption, redeeming his past mistakes, and turning his insubordination into a virtue. Throughout all these movies, which range in quality, conspiracy lurks around every corner, nobody can be trusted, and family issues are the sacrificial consequences of the profession.

Though his John McClain hand-me-down doesn’t wear a red hat, he feels like a product of the Trump era — emboldened to “restore” America’s greatness at all costs. The role wouldn’t make sense for the regal stardom of peers like Keanu Reeves. Instead, Butler’s weathered face and garbled accent have produced a populist, attainable model of action hero. He’s flawed. But he owns it.”

44. Really good & timely interview. With two giants of investing in Silicon Valley.

45. Go Bucharest. Actually makes sense.

“The country’s talent pool “is one of the most important assets. That human capital in IT is one of the best in Europe,” a high-level Romanian diplomat who requested to remain anonymous.

That talent can have a dark side too. Romania has a sprawling underground scene of cybercriminals that occasionally taints its reputation — though not enough to have swung the vote.”

46. Great perspective and idea here.

“One lens through which to view companies is to ask “what companies are an index of their underlying market”?

Index companies often take a cut of every transaction in their space, or are a piece of infrastructure everyone in the market needs.

For example, it is a hard to launch something into space in the West without using SpaceX. These companies may be ways to participate in the market broadly without having to worry about how wins in it.”

47. This is immensely sad to me. The loss of our independent restaurant industry in 2020.

“It took decades and so much blood, sweat and tears for every single American chef, bartender, manager, waiter, busboy, dishwasher and hospitality worker to create this amazing restaurant renaissance in America.

We were the envy of the world and every independent restaurant was at the center of communities, of revenue-generating tourism and a dynamic culture that people loved and supported. We will lose so much of that and we will become a nation of corporate chain restaurants that will look and taste the same in every city. We will lose the culture of regionalism and civic pride in every city in America.”

48. Most people don’t have access to significant amounts of financial leverage until they’ve demonstrated some level of success. But we all have access to another form of leverage which can be the difference between increasing your salary by 10% per year and doubling it every year.

It’s called Personal Leverage: a measure of your ability to extend your productivity beyond yourself.

There are two ways you can increase your personal leverage:

Decrease the amount of time something takes you

Pay a machine or person for their time

The first option is how you get 10% more productive. The second option is how you get 10x more productive. And most people thinking about productivity are disproportionately focused on the first option at the expense of the second.”

49. This is going to be a prescient thread & forecast. So many business opportunities that will pop up in 2021 and beyond.

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

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