Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads December 27th, 2020

“Celebrate endings — for they precede new beginnings.”-Jonathan Lockwood Huie

  1. “The good news for anyone in traditional media seeking to stake out on their own is that generations of digital creators have paved the way. Internet culture writers have chronicled these struggles, which offer valuable lessons for navigating this new environment. But in 2021, I think we’ll see a lot of independent media figures learn things the hard way.”

2. “Traveling has taught me there is no one right way to make, save, and invest money. Every country has its own traditional beliefs and wealth generation creators.

But I did notice a couple themes across the world.

The first is to control your lifestyle costs. Whether that’s by moving to a more affordable area or tightening your proverbial “budget belt,” financial longevity starts by saving at least 10% of your income.

Second, your money should work for you. You can buy property, start a business or learn how to earn passive income. Just do whatever you need to do to ensure you’re not dependent on just one source of income.”

3. This guy got away at the right time, leaving CD Projekt & their big 2020 gaming disaster Cyberpunk.

“Michał Kiciński comes across like a man who values his Buddhist beliefs more than his tenuous billionaire status — which he achieved twice during Cyberpunk’s recent hype cycle. (Two weeks ago, Kiciński was worth an estimated $1.2 billion. His stake in CD Projekt has now fallen to $750 million.)

“I’m not in the position to advise anybody,” he told Forbes on the phone as Cyberpunk 2077 neared its crunch period in July. “Of course [it’s] very close to me. I see CD Projekt as my child, which is now mature and goes by itself.”

4. This really is amazing. Influencer starting a national burger restaurant chain. Seriously amazing & impressive. Apparently they had download & delivery issues because it was so popular.

5. “In 2007, he founded Fisker Automotive, which made one of the world’s first plug-in cars, before failing spectacularly six years later.

Now he’s back–and three things are different. First and foremost, he has a vital new partner: his wife, cofounder and Fisker Inc. CFO Geeta Gupta-Fisker. Second, his Los Angeles-based company is public this time around, raising more than $1 billion in an October 2020 IPO. And finally, Fisker’s stock price, up 56% since its debut, has made both Henrik and Geeta billionaires, each worth about $1.1 billion as of Friday’s market close.

The auto industry has seen father-son and sibling leadership teams, but Fisker Inc.’s CEO-CFO combo is the fast-changing sector’s first husband and wife power couple.”

6. Really surprised at how big this industry is. But I guess I should not be. Markets are so big in general these days.

“By one estimate, the global wig, weave, and hair extension market is worth ~$7B — and it’s projected to grow to $10B+ by 2024 (an 8% CAGR).

In the United States, these products have long been popular among sufferers of hair loss, African American and Orthodox Jewish communities, and entertainment professionals.

But in recent years, celebrities and social media influencers have attracted a new subset of human hair consumers.”

7. “But it’s not just the big things we’ve lost. We lost little things like going to the gym or going on vacation. I spent my whole life working so I had the freedom and flexibility to travel the world and now I’m grounded with everyone else, looking at the same four walls, day in and day out.

The only solution is to adapt and adapt now.”

“But have something to hope for, something you’re working towards: a project; a destination in the future; a better body; travel; a new partner; a career change. Have a goal. Any goal. The bigger the better. But little ones work too.

But this is not about wishing for it only. It’s about doing something towards it every day.”

8. Love and people are strange. This is one of the most wacky stories I’ve read in a long time.

9. WOW, Nathan Myhyrvold was prescient.

10. “This future, Christakis predicts, will not come until society has had time to distribute the vaccine, probably through 2021, and had time to recover from the socioeconomic devastation it has wrought, probably through 2023. But the vision he lays out for 2024 and beyond is one filled with experiences pined for in isolation: packed stadiums, crowded nightclubs and flourishing arts.

“In 2024, all of those [pandemic trends] will be reversed,” he said. “People will relentlessly seek out social interactions.” That could include “sexual licentiousness,” liberal spending, and a “reverse of religiosity.”.

11. “I think it takes the investment community a long time to understand any newly public company. At the end of the day, the IPO is just one day, right? What really matters is how companies perform over the next 10 or 20 years.

I would look at Microsoft or Amazon or more recently, Facebook, whose [share price] dropped 50% in the week or two following its offering and Facebook has gone on to be an incredible business. I have no idea what the market is going to do tomorrow [or] the day after. But over a decade, if you can really build a great sustainable business that compounds, it all comes out in the wash.”

12. “Investors are trying to recalibrate where seed valuations should be. $100B is the new $10B. $10B is the new $1B. Does that mean ultimate outcome potential for all these companies is higher, so valuations can move up with it? But are those public market values realistic? Are we all using comps, but the comps themselves are totally unrealistic and being messed around with by market structure? Not value?

Does that mean a lot of seed investors can shift their mandates a bit with more flexibility? Does that mean we should start participating in these double seeds?”

13. “interviews with two dozen people close to Alloy tell a more unsettled story that goes beyond just infighting over a few employee firings. Alloy seemed doomed to fail by this winter, people close to the company described to Recode, because of intense internal strife and sharp external mistrust. The staff coup just accelerated that conclusion, compressing what would have likely been a years-long reckoning over Democrats’ lagging data operation into a week-long combustion.

Backed with $35 million — half from Silicon Valley celebrity billionaire Reid Hoffman — Alloy was pictured as the left’s belated big money answer to the right’s supremacy in the world of political data. Hoffman and his aides wanted to build a sophisticated operation that could outmaneuver Republicans in the foxholes of the data wars. It was such a priority for Hoffman that it was his biggest public bet since he became involved in politics after Donald Trump’s win in 2016.

It didn’t quite work out as his team hoped, serving instead as a public study of how billionaires’ political experiments can fall short of expectations.”

14. Fascinating space & emerging industry of Psychedelics. This is one one of the most exciting areas for humanity to develop.

15. Lots to learn in the USA from how the state of Vermont is handling the pandemic.

16. Well said.

“Whatever the risk to ourselves, however, we don’t take vaccines to protect ourselves. We take vaccines to protect everyone, to avoid becoming a fiber in the web.

In May of 1940, the British sailors and bargemen who set course for France did not know if U-boats, bombers, or bad weather would await them. They didn’t need to know. They knew their countrymen were at risk, and that was enough.

Today, it feels as if we’ve lost sight of the connection between sacrifice on behalf of our country and the personal prosperity and liberties we are blessed with. But we’d do well to remember that they weren’t really blessed upon us — they were earned.”

17. Been meaning to read “The Alchemist”

“DURING THE OFFSEASON, Diggs put himself through what he calls a “personal reevaluation.” The goal, he says, was “self-healing,” and the process involved several days of reflection, isolation and reading. One of the books he chose was “The Alchemist.”

The novel, written by Brazilian Paulo Coelho, is a tale about a young shepherd in Andalusia who literally follows his dreams. The story focuses on the importance of destiny and belief. It spoke to Diggs. “It’s probably the best book I’ve ever read,” he says.

The idea that each of us has a personal legend we should be chasing — chasing, as opposed to idly hoping will someday happen…”

18. “Reddit is one of my favorite places on the internet. It’s like an early version of a metaverse, where people come together to create interconnected worlds, each with its own culture.

That interconnectedness is what makes Reddit great, but for the system to work, each community has to conform to the one-size-fits-all mold of a subreddit. One size fits all, but it doesn’t fit anyone particularly well. That creates unbundling opportunities.

There are hundreds of wonderful startups waiting to be built using this simple strategy: create a product that serves the unmet needs of an individual subreddit.”

19. I especially like the idea of “Liquid employment” & “Living Online

“Investors would never choose to invest in just one company; the risk is too concentrated. Instead, they build portfolios. Over time, workers will invest their time in a similar way.

Currently, liquid employment is largely impractical for workers and employers alike. But the same thing could have been said about remote work at one point. Spreading risk over a few companies makes sense for employees. That means that the companies that want an edge to hire the best people for a given role will eventually adopt it.”

20. Not a good thing btw.

“A big % of graduates of elite colleges take such jobs, and the other jobs they take don’t make nearly as much money. The other big employers, such as hedge funds, private equity firms, and tech firms, choose similarly. And elite colleges use similar criteria to pick their students. So this is a window into how we pick a big % of the top elites in the US today.”

21. “Brose and others have made a strong case that over the past two decades, while the US focused on overmatched battles (Libya, Iraq, non-state actors) and grew complacent with its single-superpower status, our near-peer competitors, Russia and China, focused on the US. They studied our methods and legacy systems, identified weaknesses, and developed a new type of warfare — combining speed, cyber, and new technologies — designed to exploit those vulnerabilities (the recent FireEye and SolarWind breaches are just one example).

We’re racing to catch up.”

22. “This year’s growth is also part of a longer-term trend for Swedish game developers, which have seen their sales more than double to 24.3 billion kronor ($2.9 billion) between 2014 and 2019, according to the trade group the Swedish Games Industry.

“There’s a notable indie scene in Sweden, with quite a lot of studios and relatively good access to venture capital,” said Tomas Otterbeck, an analyst at Redeye AB in Stockholm.”

23. Great write up on MrBeast Burgers!

“With excess capacity at casual dining and a need for new demand, celebrity-driven virtual dining has emerged as a new prospect for a suffering industry. It just might work.”

“Before year’s end, you’ll see Marques Brownies and Dobrik’s Dumplings. And while the creators will certainly line their pockets, Robert Earl’s foresight into this marketing strategy is due to revolutionize an industry crippled by the lack of foot traffic that leaders like Kat Cole once relied upon to fuel growth in the industry.

MrBeast wasn’t the first creator to put his mark on a fast casual product. But this partnership will be the most transformative for an industry in need.”

24. The new face of war. Drones better integrated into war fighting tactics.

“The expanding array of relatively low-cost drones can offer countries air power at a fraction of the cost of maintaining a traditional air force. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh also underscored how drones can suddenly shift a long-standing conflict and leave ground forces highly exposed.”

25. “Developing a diverse toolkit of mental models for investing is a proven path to success. Nicholas Sleep, Charlie Munger and James Anderson, mavericks when it comes to investment thinking, are evidence of such. The learnings these Masters have extracted from nature, biology, physics, psychology, economics, politics and complexity science have lead to investment insights and success others couldn’t see.”

26. Cannabis is back although It never really left. Good for Snoop Dogg & Casa Verde Capital.

27. This was a great, rational & hopeful discussion between Yang & Chamath. Covered alot of good stuff about politics and tech.

28. Lots of insights for angel investors. From 2 of the top investors and operators in SV.

29. This is the fight we should be paying attention to. Advanced Semiconductor chips are critical to any country’s digital future.

30. “The most interesting writers and “thought leaders” to me are the ones who are out doing something, and then use what they’re working on to influence their writing and other media.

The problem with being a full-time creator is you have to start caring about the business of what you create. When you primarily make money from your following, you are no longer as free to say whatever you want or create whatever you want to create.

Paul Graham is an incredible writer partially because he’s entirely free to say whatever he wants. He has more fuck-you-money than he could possibly know what to do with, so if he pisses off a million people on Twitter it doesn’t really matter.”

31. Food for thought.

“But the pandemic has put a lot more people than usual in direct need of U.S. government help, and many are discovering that they don’t like the idea of workfare. It’s one thing to talk about personal responsibility during normal times (especially if you have a nice job yourself), but does the government really expect people to lift themselves up by their bootstraps in the middle of a goddamn PANDEMIC??

So it’s possible that the anger over the $600 checks indicates a growing rebellion against the whole workfare concept. It may be that in the coming years we’ll see more support for universalist programs like national health insurance and universal basic income.

And maybe that will be a good change. It certainly is something that bears thinking about. But in the meantime, don’t say that the government only gave out $600 checks.”

32. The real reason SF is a mess: bad local government.

“I do think the technology industry can and should be blamed for one thing: taking this bullshit for as long as it has. While the industry has caused none of the problems it’s accused of causing, absence of tech workers from local politics has been problematic, if understandable. The technology industry is ripe with opportunity, and attracts people excited by the prospect of building technologies and companies that have never before existed, unencumbered by bureaucracy, and limited only by the bounds of their imagination.

No one moved to San Francisco because they wanted to run for the local Board of Supervisors. I get it. But if 2020 proved anything, it’s local politics is almost the only thing that matters in terms of our day-to-day existence, and if the deterioration of San Francisco can’t be stopped, I at least hope it will be remembered. We can ignore local politics, but local politics will nonetheless shape our lives, and a sufficiently unhinged City Hall can destroy almost anything.”

33. If it works for Tony Robbins! Biohacking tips from the best.

34. This is pretty awesome actually. One of neatest I’ve read in awhile.

“On this autumn Wednesday, musician and performer Har Mar Superstar, né Sean Tillmann, isn’t on the road touring or in rehearsal. He’s out delivering the mail — outfitted head to toe in official U.S. Postal Service–issued flannel blues. This is his fifth week as a city carrier assistant, or CCA, earning $17-something an hour plus overtime and clocking around 25,000 steps a day.”

“He swears he’s not doing this for a movie role or because he’s writing some new USPS concept album. Nope, he was simply at the post office mailing some vinyl one day and decided, spur of the moment, to apply for a gig. He was hired almost immediately, and, poof, Har Mar Superstar became a regular working man.”

“The post office is like the military for slackers,” he says. “You punch in at 0700 hours, and then you’re on tour.”

35. “Be grateful for what material comforts you have. If you see fit to add to them, then do so — but do not make the pursuit of comfort your sole aim in life. Otherwise, you will one day find yourself without comfort of any kind — and if you ignore my advice above, then on that day, you will have no idea what to do.”

36. I don’t agree with this guy’s politics. But I agree with the message. The lockdowns don’t work (or at least they way they have been implemented in California).

“Don’t let yourself be trapped by stupid governments and fearful people. Make your choices and take your stand. You were free from the day of your birth — but if you surrender that freedom, then you, and you alone, are to blame. Fight back with everything you have. Do not submit to the madness of their crowd, but stand alone proudly for the truth.”

37. It’s a newsletter boom. Neat company.

38. “I also make a point that I wish the filters for venture capital were different than what they currently are. But they aren’t, and it’s because venture capital is not built for outsiders. It’s not built for outsiders because I know that there are no good filters to evaluate an outsider, even if they are the next Katrina Lake. This is losing VCs billions of dollars in value every year.”

39. “Before the pandemic, Rabois believed that the only “acceptable place for a highly ambitious VC and technology executive” was to live in the Bay Area. “What the pandemic clarified is that perhaps that thinking was erroneous. Maybe never true, but certainly less true than the perceived wisdom. Second, the pandemic removed or lowered the opportunity costs to try new places.”

40. The future of war: an interesting sci fi take.

41. These guys have been pretty good on predictions and views on trends. Worth a read.

“The big picture is that technology has been accelerated by 5 years or so and that companies have learned a good 30–50% of their headcount is unproductive. There is no need for multiple middle management layers and there is no need for low end labor when software can do the job. For example, budgets can be blocked/allowed based on certain metrics making it difficult if not impossible to cheat the system. If there is an exception then they must email the decision maker. This creates one job in total when there used to be 10–15.”

“Re-prioritize your life. After spending a year in a global pandemic, you’ve likely reassessed what is important to you. You can reduce clutter in your inbox, reduce noise in your messages and increase productivity while claiming to be “at work” on a particular project. Also. During this re-prioritization process you should know with certainty that online income is the way forward and you just got another 6–9 months to figure that one out (June of next year is the earliest things will normalize based on current projections… at best).”

42. “In the United States, interest rates are at his­toric lows, but the political will for an interest rate rise is no longer present because it would have such a devastating impact on bond markets and the real economy. The question is whether investors will continue to flow to the dollar if the currency can no longer generate yield.

Should we be surprised that in places such as Myanmar people now seems to prefer the local currency? “I feel safer now when I have kyat rather than U.S. dollars,” said Zaw Moe Ko, a business professional in Yangon. The kyat has gained as much as 11% versus the dollar this year.”

43. Jack Ma being clipped by the CCP. End of an era in China for sure. Also why I would not do business as the rules change all the time.

“While his wealth and influence are being curbed, Ma isn’t on the verge of a personal downfall, say those familiar with the situation, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, as did other officials and executives with whom Bloomberg News spoke for this story. Instead, his public rebuke is a warning that Beijing has lost patience with the outsize power of its technology moguls, increasingly perceived as a threat to the political and financial stability President Xi Jinping prizes most.”

“The [Communist] Party is trying to make it clear that Ma is not bigger than the party,”

44. I think we all feel this way sometimes. Especially in 2020.

“Having periods without joy is completely normal. In fact, it would be a little weird for someone to be living in a perpetual state of joy. But sometimes your joy tank runs low and you feel empty and unmotivated. The key is to recognize that these moments are normal and they’re usually temporary.”

45. I like Miles Teller. Especially in “Whiplash” and “War Dogs”

“As with everybody else, Teller’s next big step has been postponed due to COVID-19. Maybe you were going to take a new job. Maybe you were going to move to a new city. Maybe there was that girl you’d finally worked up the courage to ask out. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re Miles Teller and you were about to star in a film that might do a billion in global box office.

Now he waits and tries to make sense of it all. He is like a Top Gun pilot looking to land his plane after a long mission. But the guy with the sticks on the flight deck is waving him off. He refuels and keeps circling. He is on pause, just like the rest of us.”

46. Wesley Snipes!

“You spent a couple of years in jail for tax problems. What did you learn most from that?

The value of time. I was gone for two years and some months, and the most amazing thing was to return back to what they call the world — interesting term — and find that there were people who were doing the exact same thing, in the exact same situation. It’s almost like time stood still for two years. Now who was in jail? Who is still in jail?”

47. YAH!

2021 starting off right! Cobra Kai Season 3!

48. The Rock is the best!

“When Johnson started in Hollywood, his ambitions were extraordinary — and his incredible capacity for work has made them a reality.

Johnson is the highest-paid actor in the world, making more than $20 million per movie, thanks to a string of box office hits. His films have grossed over $10.5 billion worldwide, which makes him one of the highest-grossing movie stars of all time.

The reason? His charisma and drive for greatness. Johnson tests well in what the film industry refers to as “all four quadrants:” old men, young men, old women, and young women. In other words, the people who don’t like The Rock are few and far between.”

49. This looks amazing. I can’t wait to watch this: chasing the American dream. “Minari”

50. “This feels different. Maybe it doesn’t feel different from the Dot Com Crash, I don’t know. But I know you’ll tell me that I don’t know. From everything I’ve gathered this is different. First and foremost because not only is the tech industry not collapsing, it’s thriving. But the city is nevertheless rotting.

Perhaps the rot is, in part, because of the tech industry. I certainly think it’s a part of it. Too many in our industry are arrogant at best and completely out of touch with reality at worst. But the more pressing issue would seem to be that despite tech being such an important part of the city, nothing has changed. Things have only gotten worse.

Our city is on fire and we elect gasoline, a San Francisco story.”

51. This is worth a review for those interested in consumer trends in 2021.

52. Always a great discussion with lots of insights. I am definitely a Chamath fanboy.

53. This to me is one of the biggest tragedies of the 2020 pandemic. Death of small businesses like Mr Yao’s.

Let’s hope he makes it through. We need more people like this in America.

“The fates of these small business owners and employees have been in the hands of a virus that has refused to retreat. Many have seen dreams drown in debt, livelihoods gone dark.

An estimated one-third of New York City’s more than 200,000 small businesses may never reopen. Altogether they will leave a staggering void.”

54. BTS is crushing it around the world.

“Since the start of their careers, BTS have shown a certain confidence in their aesthetic, their performances, and their music videos. It’s right there in the name: BTS stands for “Bangtan Sonyeondan,” which translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts,” but as their popularity grew in English-speaking markets, the acronym was retrofitted to mean “Beyond the Scene,” which Big Hit has described as “symbolizing youth who don’t settle for their current reality and instead open the door and go forward to achieve growth.”

And their affection with one another, their vulnerability and emotional openness in their lives and in their lyrics, strikes me as more grown-up and masculine than all the frantic and perpetual box-checking and tone-policing that American boys force themselves and their peers to do. It looks like the future.

The Recording Academy’s seal of approval is one thing. But BTS have already conquered the world, clowned tyrants, inspired individual fans to perform the small and achievable acts of activism that have collectively begun to save the planet, challenged toxic masculinity by leading with vulnerability, and, along the way, become bajillionaires and international idols.”

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

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