Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads Feb 27th, 2022
“The best revenge is massive success” –Frank Sinatra
- “If Russia becomes sympathetic to the bitcoin and crypto industry, including putting the digital currency on their balance sheet or mining with state resources, it will force the hand of the United States. There is a global competition underway that has a decentralized, open system at the heart of it. Anyone can plug into the system. The game theory is that no one wants to start the cascade, but once your adversary does it, you are forced to adopt the technology or risk being left behind.”
Russia Is Playing Geopolitical Chess
Listen now (7 min) | To investors, There have been a plethora of rumors about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in Russia…
2. I thought Web3 made you un-cancellable. I guess not. More on the ENS drama.
The man who got fired by his DAO
An aspiration that people have for what we have taken to calling "web3" is that you could potentially take certain…
3. I am very glad I am not in the Accelerator business anymore.
“In many ways, this is the inverse strategy of late-stage juggernaut Tiger Global. Tiger recently raised $11B dollars and tries to get into the top 10% of late stage companies. Y Combinator appears to be going for 10% of the seed stage.
As even further evidence of the value of the startup index fund approach, research from AngelList found that “at the seed stage, investors would increase their expected return by broadly indexing into every credible deal.” The bet that Y Combinator is making is that they can be the filtering mechanism by which “every credible deal” is determined.
This dual pincer strategy of being squeezed from the bottom by Y Combinator and from the top by Tiger made every single investor I talked to for this piece incredibly nervous.”
“Y Combinator will continue to do YC things. Its network effects are going to chug along for a very, very long time. It is unlikely that any accelerator will truly seize the top spot from YC. However, Y Combinator has grown so large that there is certainly space for little kingdoms to be built in its periphery.”
Is YC the Monopoly It Thinks It Is?
Everyone loves to hate the champ. The king must be dethroned, the leader replaced. In Silicon Valley there is one…
4. This is crazy stuff. So many grifters out there (especially web3)
“So what happened? To be blunt, it appears the entire ENS community just got tricked into abruptly firing one of their top contributors and giving significant control over a massive sum of money to an affinity scammer and his friends.
How can we prevent social media mobs from turning into de facto social engineering hacks of protocols?”
Jackson Dame, once a conservative Christian, cancelled Brantly Millegan to secure the bag
ENS Foundation Director Brantly Millegan was fired for a six year old tweet expressing his constitutionally protected…
5. “What Suarez has recognized, and what NYC’s budget is starting to realize, is that cities are just like the Starbucks. They’re just like the television show. They’re a product.
More specifically, they are a subscription service. The subscription is your rent + municipal taxes, the recurring revenue which governments rely on to provide wages. Rent depends on the service, too; new real estate developments need government. Divorced from requirements to physically be anywhere in particular, remote workers won’t actually all buy acreages, satellite internet and hunker down like frontiersmen.”
Decentralize to Exit
Voice, Exit or: How I stopped worrying and learned to ignore elections. The Wikipedia article for Will Smith's 1997…
6. You should not underestimate the Ukrainians in this crisis. They are tough people whom I admire.
Ukraine trains volunteer militia to fight Russian military threat
Lausanne verliert auch gegen Luzern. Dinamo RIga zieht sich aus KHL zurück. Fähndrich in Lahti starke Elfte. Schweizer…
7. “Regardless of one’s view on the stock, the rare earth element story is worth watching, and MP’s success or failure will have ramifications that extend well beyond the stock price. The combination of national security interests, green energy applications, and the need for domestic onshoring of critical supply chain nodes are aligning in MP’s favor. Failure would be a sobering indictment on the ability of the US to retake control over its own economic destiny.”
Not a Rare to Spare
" I don't think the answer to Chinese aggression or Chinese threats is to continue to subject ourselves to Chinese…
8. This is pretty much the nuttiest thing I’ve seen in a while. Stealing $4.5B.
8 things on the $4.5B Bitcoin heist
Hey, thanks for subscribing to SatPost. Today, we're breaking down the insane $4.5B Bitcoin heist. PS. If you enjoy…
9. Another data point showing how important Ukraine is in the bigger scheme of things. We’re all interconnected. So anyone who says this crisis does not affect you is an idiot. Besides the moral, geopolitical issues this raises, it has direct effect on the economy thru the food that you eat & the electronics that you use.
“According to one power chip design startup executive, unrest in Ukraine has caused rare gas prices to increase and could cause supply issues. Fluorine is another gas that has a large supply from that part of the world and could be affected, the executive added.”
Russia could hit U.S. chip industry, White House warns
WASHINGTON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The White House is warning the chip industry to diversify its supply chain in case…
10. Totally random but interesting nuggets from history. Spanish conquest planned for China in the 16th century.
11. Surprised this movie did not make it to USA. Alatriste: an action packed movie taking place during the 30 Years War as the Spanish empire began its decline in 17th century. These Spaniards in the tercios were tough men.
12. “The power to print money also gives states another kind of power: It enables them to maximize their productivity. By increasing the money supply, they can pull more people on the margins of the economy into the productive process. But this comes at the cost of the scarcity of money and, because it puts the newly minted money directly into the pockets of the less-powerful, tends to decrease the power of those who have already accumulated a lot of money.
Hence, artificial constraints of the money supply, like the gold standard, are often associated with extremely conservative politics. Constraining the money supply hurts productivity, but it preserves social hierarchies.
This is where the more benign hopes of transcending nation-states mix with the darker fantasies of so-called bitcoin maximalists. On the one hand, a meaningful alternative to national currencies could allow people in abusive regimes not to rely on their governments’ worthless “promises.” On the other hand, a mechanistically fixed supply of money could put an unequal social hierarchy beyond the reach of democratic power, as the gold standard once did.”
Cryptocurrency Is Just a Minor Threat to the State
Our friend Nic Carter has recently commented on these questions in dialogue with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York…
13. “Unfortunately, it’s not clear the US actually recognizes yet that it’s under assault, judging by many of its own foolish decisions which only seem to be accelerating us down the path toward Russia/China’s preferred outcome.
The Putin/Xi Bromance is attempting to create a New World Order right before our eyes and the heart of their focus is the elimination of the United State as a hegemonic state. As I mentioned in my post earlier in the week, “Something is Brewing,” I was starting to sniff out something large happening under the hood in markets over the last couple of weeks as Gold, Oil and Bitcoin prices had been rallying aggressively while USTs were selling off and I couldn’t help but think all of this was connected.
This week’s pricing action only exacerbated those trends and has confirmed my belief that what is actually going on here is a speculative attack by Russia/China against the US$ to force the US into major strategic decisions that are likely going to force it to further retreat from global affairs and probably lose the $ as the global reserve currency.”
Russia isn't attacking Ukraine. They (and China) are attacking the US$
I continue to put pieces together post the Putin/Xi meeting from before the Olympics. What I think is happening is that…
14. Good discussion on how to value sales pipeline opportunities.
Why You Should Always Create Sales Opportunities at Zero Dollar Value
Quiz: Your marketing team generates an MQL. It's passed to an SDR, who does basic BANT-style qualification and decides…
15. Hope this assessment below is right & things calm down in Ukraine. But truth is the West has long been in a gray war with both China and Russia.
Center for Defense Strategies: Can Ukraine really be invaded? Scenarios for a Russian attack…
Editor's Note: This is an analysis by experts from the Center for Defense Strategies: Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Alina…
16. Impressive portfolio but seems like a nightmare to work at. Wall Street turned Big SV player: Coatue.
“Yet, as it has grown, Coatue has seemed to lose none of its nimbleness. On the contrary, increased size appears to have bred greater agility, not less. An organization that began life as a long-short hedge fund has spent much of the last decade spinning up new investing practices. Most notably, that has occurred in the private markets with a now-thriving growth stage strategy alongside carve-outs in fintech, climate tech, and beyond. Not all of its experiments have succeeded — a high-profile internal investment in a new quant strategy flamed out spectacularly. But the fact that a firm of Coatue’s scale is willing to move, to experiment, to try, is the core of what makes Coatue special.
Another strange juxtaposition is the firm’s clearest vulnerability. While Coatue has charmed entrepreneurs with its fast decision-making, friendly terms, and impressive data science capabilities, it may have done so while neglecting its internal culture. To an unusual extent, sources I spoke with highlighted the firm’s high churn, aggressive atmosphere, and corrosive managerial practices. All those who shared their experiences — a group that included former employees, co-investors, and portfolio founders — asked to remain anonymous. In one case, that was explicitly motivated by fear of reprisal. “Coatue can have some vengeance,” a former employee said.”
Coatue: An Agile Colossus | The Generalist
The megafund might look like Tiger Global, but it's operating a very different playbook. Coatue's performance has been…
17. “We know the following: 1) inflation is higher than the interest rate that rich people pay; 2) we know that more restrictions are coming — see Canada — which means your account could be locked; 3) we know that the 94% of crypto buyers are the younger generation and the boomers currently control 53% of the wealth and 4) we know that governments are printing tons of money with no way to repay it and you don’t even get to vote on it!”
How Your Future is Being Stolen From You: Inflation, Rates and Fiat
Welcome Avatar! We've started a *free* PDF to answer all newbie questions on crypto. And. We have to do one more…
18. I have deep admiration for Ukraine & its stoic people in the face of this existential threat.
“I think Putin himself knows that the stakes are really high,” Natia Seskuria, a fellow at the UK think tank Royal United Services Institute, told Kirby and Guyer. “That’s why I think a full-scale invasion is a riskier option for Moscow in terms of potential political and economic causes — but also due to the number of casualties. Because if we compare Ukraine in 2014 to the Ukrainian army and its capabilities right now, they are much more capable.
Still, the US and NATO allies have transferred “lethal security assistance” to Ukraine in recent months, including ammunition, Stinger missiles, and Humvee military transports. The US has also facilitated the third-party transfer of US-made weapons — initially sold to nations such as Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania — to Ukraine for use against a Russian invasion. And while Ukraine’s military can’t match that of Russia in sheer scale, Ukrainian ground forces are better trained and better prepared than they were in 2014, with some soldiers having years of experience resisting Russian incursions.”
How Ukraine is responding to escalating threats of invasion
With tensions between Russia and the West increasing and as many as 130,000 Russian troops massed on its borders…
19. “Even amid the growing geopolitical instability, Achin is announcing the new ventures he’s been working on since his resignation from DataRobot, the $6 billion valuation company he cofounded in 2012. A self-professed micromanager, Achin plans to be neck-deep in each project.
He is serving as a lead investor for Cortical Ventures, his new $50 million venture fund, and as CEO of two seed-stage AI companies: NeoCybernetica, which raised $30 million, and hOS, which is backed by $12.8 million in deals both led by NEA, the top VC firm shareholder in DataRobot.
While Achin says both startups will likely come to be headquartered in Boston, the majority of current employees — including both chief technology officers — are based in Ukraine, the continuation of a bet he made while at DataRobot to look abroad for technical talent instead of relying so heavily on American engineers.”
DataRobot's Former CEO Launches Two Startups And A VC Fund From Ukraine
As CEO of artificial intelligence company DataRobot until last March, Jeremy Achin prepared various contingency plans…
20. “But nevertheless, we have a duty to the world to be smarter than our instincts. The 2000s are over (and now the 2010s are over too), and many of the truisms that we learned as young people are not nearly so universal as they seemed at the time.
We need to leave those decades in the past where they belong — to learn deep principles from those historical episodes, rather than spending the rest of our lives in knee-jerk reactions against anything that superficially resembles the policies of yesteryear. The future is here; we’re standing in it now.”
Last War Brain
"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" - attributed to John Maynard Keynes In the 2000s, the…
21. Kaboom! These guys are some of the best investors and operators I know and have worked with. BTV!
No surprise their 2nd fund is massively oversubscribed and at this size.
Not easy in VC which shows how good they are.
Better Tomorrow Ventures closes on $225M fintech-focused fund, which is triple the size of its last…
Early-stage fintech-focused venture firm Better Tomorrow Ventures has raised $225 million for its second fund - triple…
22. Net net: the USA needs to wake the F — up here geopolitically.
“Will there be a war in Ukraine? What’s the definition of war? Is it only when troops start firing? Is it about psychological warfare? Is it about creating conditions where there is no need to fight? Yes, we are in a war. It is global in reach. But, the outcome of this war may be a world where the gangs better understand who has what and where they have it.
Gang warfare can then go back to the usual stuff. Ukraine will have served its purpose as a hostage in the negotiation. Russia and China will be better able to sleep at night. The US will continue to think it can beat anybody else under any circumstances and continue to be preoccupied with domestic issues. In that scenario, the markets go up.”
The build-up of troops and tension in Western Europe, which seemed unimaginable only weeks ago, is now obvious. The…
23. Interesting perspective here that I think makes sense.
“But then there is Ukraine, which has 450,000 active-duty servicemen, more than all NATO forces east of the Rhine combined. If properly armed, and backed up by Anglo-American air and sea power, they could be formidable, and consequently, very valuable.
We need to be realistic. Nuclear deterrence is dead. During the Cold War, we were able to deter a Warsaw Pact invasion of West Germany by threatening nuclear war if they tried it. But no one believes that the United States would do anything like that today. If Russia moves into the Baltic States or even Poland, the United States is not about the push the thermonuclear-war button, and Putin knows that.
Consequently, the only way to be able to deter war is to be strong enough to defeat a conventional attack by non-nuclear means. That requires an army.”
NATO Needs Ukraine | National Review
European defense requires an army. Ukraine has one. t is now apparent to any candid observer that Ukraine needs NATO…
24. Still way too early to call this.
“For me, the date to signal relief is early April and the annual Russian military conscription cycle. After that date, new recruits will need retraining, which will stall the level of military preparedness. So this high risk scenario still lasts a couple of months yet, pending some major, defining resolution.
And the core issue here is still is has Putin won anything here? Struggle to see him being a net winner, actually he looks like a net loser: a) Ukrainian sovereignty has been re-affirmed/strengthened, with the nation rallying behind the cause, not panicking and showing real resolve to stand up for itself.
b) Ukraine has been better armed as a result — better able to defend itself.
c) Russian has lost the PR war, look at opinion polls now in the West, showing increased support for Ukraine, Russia seen as the malign actor, and more willingness there to support Ukraine and pushback on Russia. Therein interestingly I was listening to a former US Ambassador wax that DC now views Russia, not China, as the main near term threat.
d) And NATO has rallied to the cause, and it now has a new vision and vigour, with the biggest perceived threat now seen as coming from Russia.
e) Russia is seen as an unreliable energy partner, and the West will accelerate its energy diversification away from Russia — sure it won’t happen next week, but it will accelerate over the medium term.”
Ukraine - bye, bye Vlad?
Markets reading all this as turning point to de-escalation. Russia 5Y CDS which hit 280bps on Monday is back around…
25. Trudeau is an unserious clown & an actor pretending to lead like so many other politicians in the west these days.
“By positioning the protestors as “those who fly racist flags” — as a fringe minority with unacceptable views — Trudeau committed a fatal error: he left himself no face-saving exitfrom the imminent and predictable crisis that would befall him. No respectable politician can strike a deal with such undesirables after libeling them in the way that he did. The only path left was to crush them.
Amateur hour, indeed.”
Just Watch Me
" Yeah, well there's a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can…
26. This was a damn good tv ad.
27. Spot on for startup founders.
“In my experience, desperation is the single greatest advantage you have as a startup. It takes you down to the lowest level of detail.3 Desperation inspires creativity and intense focus. It is an essential ingredient to building great products and services.
So, the next time you feel desperate, lean in. Embrace it. Use it as the fuel to create the next founding moment4 for your company.
And the next time someone tries to tell you to do something because a big company does it, be suspicious.”
People ask me about processes all the time. Planning processes, performance review processes, OKRs, et cetera. I think…
28. The future of domestic insurgencies?
The Convoy Blockade Protest is already in its fourth week as I write this. An ever escalating Country Wide affair. With…
29. “Ever since, I’ve tried to never lose sight of the power of ownership, of having “skin in the game.”
I made this idea a key filter in my investment philosophy. I want to invest alongside people who have a sizable equity ownership in the business. The first thing I do when I look at a business is pull up the proxy. If there are no significant shareholders among the executives and directors, it’s an easy pass. I go on to the next name.
Does it mean I will miss out on great investments run by hired hands with very little skin in the game? Of course. A good investment filter makes the investable universe manageable and is absolutely essential for managing your time and attention. Filters, by design, exclude. You have to be comfortable with the idea that a lot of good ideas will slip through your nets.
A good filter should focus on things that help you find winners. You want to fish in good waters. Stocks with higher levels of insider ownership tend to outperform their peers, as backed up by various studies. In short, there’s good fishing in these pools.”
A Good Filter For Finding Winners
I hope you are doing well and holding up through the market turmoil. Once again, the overall indexes mask the pain of…
30. “So if you can’t actually be a superpower that can match the US, then what’s the next best thing? Well, you can act like one — especially if you sense weakness in your enemy. Putin began amassing troops on the Ukrainian border soon after Biden — a man the Kremlin thinks is old and weak — took office.
Once that happened, he got Biden’s attention and it has never wavered since. Biden asks for meetings and calls. He expresses his willingness to talk to Putin any time and any place. That’s the most powerful politician in the world — and a traditional modern enemy — pretty much at your beck and call. That’s Russia being a world actor. That’s prestige; that’s status.”
Why the West fell for Putin's bluff
"Russia says some troops returning from Ukraine border," blasts the update from the BBC. My phone buzzes feverishly…
31. “It seems simple enough, but CLV is still one of the most misunderstood or ignored concepts in marketing because it’s inherently a long view, and our industry has suffered from shorter and shorter term tactical thinking as we rush from campaign to campaign. To adopt CLV is ultimately to take a more strategic method of measurement because it’s considering the future, not simply tracking results of the past.
Understanding CLV will change your thinking on where it’s worth it to invest in acquiring new users, by measuring the value of existing, and where/how you acquired them. Of course you want to keep (most of) your old customers — no one wants to lose customers — but understanding which are the most valuable is what’s truly important, not just in keeping loyal customers, but finding more like them.”
A brief intro to CLV
There's no single perfect metric for understanding a user's economic value (and so also likely satisfaction) to a…
32. This is an incredibly good write up on how to grow your media brand whether as company or individual. Every creator should read this: it’s a great framework.
A primer on growing your media brand - as an indie publisher or for your business
This week I was excited to learn that Hot Takes, which of course you're currently reading, is now ranked in the Top 100…
33. Very exciting new VC fund in Portugal! (biased as an advisor and very tiny LP)
Portuguese VC Shilling tops up its Founders Fund, hitting $59M in capital to deploy
Further evidence of the booming Portuguese tech ecosystem is emerging today with the news that venture capital firm…
34. RIP Virgil Abloh, a creative trailblazing powerhouse.
“Born the son of Ghanaian immigrants in the suburb of Rockford, Illinois, V always remained motivated by the curiosity and dreams of what he called his “17-year-old self.” As a suburban teenage aesthete, he loved hip-hop, graffiti, low and high design, and skateboarding; everything he created flowed from those obsessions.
When he went off to college, that love of design grew into a fascination with engineering, and then architecture, which he studied at the Mies van der Rohe–designed campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology in the early aughts. And then he graduated into a totally different world — Kanye’s burgeoning new chapter of hip-hop, where he became a kind of prophet of the power of youth. First as Ye’s creative director, then as the founder and designer of two fashion labels, Pyrex Vision and Off-White, and finally as the first Black artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, he patiently prodded other young artists, activists, architects, rappers, and designers to action.
Samuel Ross and Luka Sabbat, Tyler, the Creator, and Heron Preston have all acknowledged that V helped clarify their visions and make them real. He understood, as the old African American adage goes, that you lift as you climb.”
In Search of Virgil Abloh
I spent two years trying to bottle up the genius of our greatest multihyphenate for a museum show. But only at his…
35. This is absolutely fascinating for anyone trying to understand what makes people tick and how to make better decisions (in life and in general).
The Surprising Science of How Feelings Help You Think
A new book explains how our emotions-not just our rational thoughts-are often running the show upstairs. Leonard…
36. “So what’s changed might not be the involvement of the national security state in domestic politics, but that it’s now entirely explicit.
What was once covert, agencies like the CIA and MI6 no longer feel the need to disguise, and with good reason: filtered through the polarized culture war that now shapes all political discourse in the United States, the outrage about the involvement of former spies in politics depends almost entirely on which partisan side is affected in any particular case.
What was once taboo has reached a point of soft, tacit acceptance. And maybe that’s the biggest scandal of all.”
Erik Prince and an Army of Spies Keep Meddling in US Politics
The news that Blackwater founder Erik Prince was working with former spies to go after Trump opponents is just the tip…
37. Pretty horrifying discussion in this day and age. Hope rationality and peace prevails. Cursed Putin is playing a very dangerous game.