Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads Feb 6th, 2022
“There is nothing permanent except change”–Heraclitus
- This is important geopolitically. But also personally I have deep affinity for the Ukrainian and Russian people. Alas, politics gets in the way.
The West needs to take a much harder line against any Russian incursion & also should arm up the Ukrainian army more. Good fences make good neighbors. Relevant in any arena. The present wishy washy approach right now is weak and problematic to say the least.
Special Briefing: The Russia Ukrainian Incursion
Mere days ago Russia evacuated their embassy, the United Kingdom has sent disposable anti-tank rockets and Canadian…
2. This is a good thing btw.
“The takeaway is not “fund = bad, being alone = good.” It’s a shifting of the focus towards the person. The influence they have as a renegade. Harry realized he could do more leaning into his own brand than trying to force himself into a monolith.
No one would argue these renegades are going to overwhelm the entire established venture community. The “kingdoms” of Sequoia, a16z, etc. are still powerhouses that aren’t going anywhere. But renegades exist in the ecosystem with them. They’re not after-thoughts like regular angels that VCs might entice into a round to add flavor. They’re frenemies that can contend for deals.
VC renegades have emerged from different backgrounds, whether from traditional celebrity (Serena Williams, Ashton Kutcher), new media (Harry Stebbings, Packy McCormick), operating roles (Elad Gil, Josh Buckley, Lachy Groom) or spin-offs from traditional funds (Lee Fixel, Katie Haun, Dave Yuan). And I think this is just the beginning of these kinds of investors.”
The Unbundling of Venture Capital
In the 1950s when brands had their Don Draper-drenched hey day people used brand recognition as a short-hand to…
3. “Since those early days, Air-Glaciers has become famous in Switzerland for its rapid deployments in Alpine disasters. They’ve extracted the injured from deep crevasses and carried them down from towering ledges on high mountain walls.
The skills to respond to such a wide variety of high-mountain disasters are honed by the Air-Glaciers rescuers through intensive training that begins with a three-year Swiss-mandated course in alpine guiding. That’s followed by months of specialized practice and a yearlong paramedic course. Every 12 months, just before ski season, each of Air-Glaciers’ rescue guides and pilots must also complete a weeklong proficiency course designed to refine their skills in everything from post-avalanche searches to high-altitude extractions.”
Racing Into an Avalanche with the Alpine Disaster A-Team
The world's most elite helicopter rescue team is more important than ever, as skiers and snowboarders venture further…
4. “Given all these events, perhaps it is worth considering the possibility that the potential for conflict is not exclusively in Ukraine. Perhaps there is a chance that the Baltics and the Suwalki Gap are also “in play”.
The difference is immense. Another invasion in Ukraine will capture the world’s headlines but probably not move the world’s markets. Action in the Baltics and across the Suwalki Gap will.”
War/Where: The Suwalki Gap (Part 2)
All eyes are on Ukraine. It's understandable given the headlines: But, what if Ukraine is a decoy designed to distract…
5. “The old warfare was about damaging an opponent’s hardware before it could do any damage. The new warfare is about denial of use. It’s about damaging access to the digital operating space by disrupting access to WIFI, GPS and Sat Nav. But, that has untold consequences for civilian life we should all be thinking about.
Further complicating matters, the Superpowers seem to have spent the last decade pushing militaries themselves off-balance sheet. The debt problem has led to the privatization of militaries. We may have more mercenaries funded by governments today than at any time in history. The Russians have done the same, perhaps for other reasons. Plausible deniability is valuable in a world where conflict is remote and subthreshold.
Private American and Russian mercenaries and Chinese “contracters” seem to be all over Africa, the Middle East and Asia these days. It has become nearly impossible to disentangle the role of the state and private military organizations in this new era of competition, confrontation and sub-threshold conflict.”
WWIII Has Already Started
Peter Drucker delayed publishing his book, The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism, until 1939 because…
6. Important facet of any future war. Cyber aspect of it.
A Beginner's Guide to Cyber War, Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Espionage
Tune in to just about any cable talk show or Sunday morning news program and you are likely to hear the terms "cyber…
7. Man, I really miss Warsaw and Poland overall. Hope to make it back in the summer.
48 hours in Warsaw: Europe's most underrated city
The once overlooked Polish capital is having a gastronomic renaissance - book your seat at the table before the…
8. I am very partial to Ukraine. An interesting diagnosis on the country. Bullish on the place assuming it does not get invaded.
“Ukraine has one huge advantage: It has a very important reason to grow. Becoming a rich country like Poland is Ukraine’s best chance for standing up to a domineering neighbor three times its size. External military threat has been a catalyst for development for countries throughout the ages, most notably Japan and South Korea. Hopefully it will do the same for Ukraine now.”
Why is Ukraine such an economic failure?
Two articles have been very helpful for me in understanding Russia's current threat to invade Ukraine. One is this post…
9. Good analysis on the crisis in Ukraine. I hope peace prevails here.
Moscow's Compellence Strategy - Foreign Policy Research Institute
How ambitious are Russia's foreign policy objectives, and how much force does Moscow believe it must employ to achieve…
10. This is hilarious and eye-opening.
“In recent years, research has suggested that a certain fraction of consumers are particularly skilled at picking out products that are destined to fail, or get discontinued.
They’re called harbingers of failure, or harbinger customers.”
The customers who repeatedly buy doomed products
'Harbinger customers' are really good at picking out things that fail - and in the product marketing business, they can…
11. What a surprise: high employee turnover at high growth startups run by people who have never managed people before. This is frankly endemic in startup world.
But it’s possible to turnaround assuming founders get professional coaches or lean on new experienced execs. Most founders will not though sadly. #Hubris
What's behind the N26 employee exodus?
When Diana Styles joined N26 as chief people officer in September 2020, she had a big task ahead of her to improve…
12. Whatever you think, Putin has been masterful. I personally do not like it at all but you have to give him credit where its due, he has been playing chess while the west plays checkers (badly).
“All this activity is the culmination of years of painstaking Russian planning and effort that long predated active Russian preparations to threaten an invasion of Ukraine. It is another example of Putin’s ability to conceive and pursue coherent strategies over a long period of time, not just to seize opportunities. And Putin has always meant it to threaten NATO as well as Ukraine.”
NATO must reinforce its Eastern flank right now
Russian mechanized forces now rolling into Belarus directly threaten NATO, not just Ukraine. The U.S. and its allies…
13. “So for now, we have to make do with the next best thing: A network of overlapping, mutually reinforcing alliances and partnerships that serve to thicken and reinforce the barriers to aggression. The Quad is part of that; AUKUS helps; the Japan-Australia defense cooperation act signed recently is a good sign. It’s great when six or seven nations get together in military exercises, as happened in the Philippine Sea in October, or when the U.S. and Japan subtly advertise (mostly through media leaks) their plans to cooperate militarily in the defense of Taiwan.
Perhaps one day we’ll get to a more formal, multilateral organization for collective defense in the region, but for now we need a lot of little things that add up to the threat of a very big, multilateral response if China uses force.
The good news is that, even together, Russia and China can’t overmatch the U.S. and its allies. Even a distracted U.S. plus NATO is still capable of competing with Russia; the U.S. plus its allies and partners in Asia has significantly more geopolitical heft than China. I don’t want to make this sound easier than it is. But the balance of power still favors the democracies.”
Interview: Hal Brands, international relations professor and author
International relations are shaping up to be one of the key economic and financial risks in the years going forward…
14. “The risk of being exposed to the liquidity trade (long bonds, tech, private equity, ESG, most of crypto) given peak profit margins and hawkish environment is now significantly higher, and we might want to hedge our exposure or take some profits where we can.
Real Assets continue to be our preferred theme: from commodities to real estate (selectively, and hopefully near a surfable beach) and some buckets of equities (significant preference for value over growth simply because it allows us to sleep at night, and we really like to sleep). This is a multi-year theme that will continue to play out.
You know our view on Bitcoin, and broadly think that we should (1) only allocate money that, if we lose it, it won’t change our life (2) only think about taking profits when Tom Brady retires, or Tim stops trying to be a surfer.
After the beating last year, Emerging Markets might bring some positive upside, especially if the US Dollar softens — but we need to know what we’re investing in, and that also includes an awareness of the local rule of law and of the “in between the lines” shenanigans of politics.”
Higher Rates, Peak Margins, and How We're Allocating
The risk of being exposed to the liquidity trade is now significantly higher. Markets are correcting, but there's…
15. A skeptic’s view of Bitcoin.
Dollars Ex Machina
" When your outflow exceeds your income, your upkeep becomes your downfall. " - Jim Rohn In late 2016, we were…
16. Good summary of key drivers of the crazy market we are in.
“We look at things purely through the money lens of the economy sometimes. But the economy and markets are much more than just stock and flow — it’s human behavior. And when we think about coming out the other side of a pandemic (maybe?), there was a psychological human cost to that. There’s a human cost to ALL OF THIS.
Markets are mechanisms that price change — reflections of ourselves. They tell us what we want to see, what we want to believe. When things get rough, it’s super easy to get pessimistic — in fact, it’s human nature to do so. Reflexivity begets reflexivity.
Everything is a game until it is not. We sometimes get caught in the game, which I think happened to many in the most recent crypto/stock cycle — the game becomes us, we are defined by the money we make, by the gains — money becomes a religion. And when the losses come — well, so does the loss of faith.
However, the game is changing — the possibility to enact change with some elements of crypto/web3, the need for alternative energy sources, demographic shifts — it’s a constant evolution, a constant shift of the economic game.”
On Market Movement
Alright so there are quite a few things going on right now - I was originally going to write about something else…
17. Definitely good perspective here on the Ukraine-Russia issue.
Inside the Biden-Putin Chess Match
On Sunday, the British government announced that Moscow was cooking up a plan to topple the government of Ukrainian…
18. This is an incredible situation that the EU has gotten themselves in & entirely preventable.
“The #1 lesson of Europe’s natural gas dependence is this: European governments have wildly overestimated the ability of solar and wind to provide the energy they need and wildly underestimated the need for fossil fuels and nuclear to provide the energy they need.
If Europe’s level of dependence on Russia for natural gas scares you, know this: America is even more dependent on China for many of the key components of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries than Europe is on Russia for natural gas.”
Europe's extreme vulnerability to Russia was totally preventable
Q: Why is Europe so vulnerable to Russia and what can we learn from it? A: Europe has extreme dependence on Russian…
19. I agree with this. Africa is a super interesting frontier investment opportunity.
One of my favourite long term investments
Just to make things clear upfront, as there are many South Africans on this mailing list, I am not at all bullish South…
20. This is really smart & differentiated. So glad I am not in the accelerator game anymore. Pear, ODX & Hyper are the ones to watch.
“The short version is: distribution. It’s hard to argue with the overall assumption that the Hyper team is working under — capital is majorly commoditized. Frankly, sometimes that’s all you want from an investor whose value add is more of a thorn in your side than anything. But, especially at the early stage there are a few funds and firms that offer a strong value outside of writing checks in the form of, say, hiring, sales introductions or board members that have relevant operational experience.
Where Hyper differs, says Buckley, is that they see distribution as the biggest value add for a nascent startup at the stages where the firm hopes to invest. Product Hunt is one opportunity that he points to as an example. It’s an established launch pad to an audience of extreme early adopters that can provide a seed of a real user base — Hyper itself is launching via a post on the platform.”
Hyper is a new fund that offers $300k checks and promise of a media slingshot for founders
Hyper is a $60M early-stage fund co-founded by Josh Buckley, Product Hunt's current CEO along with writer, founder and…
21. The Russian military is no joke. They mean serious business.
Russia's Military, Once Creaky, Is Modern and Lethal
MOSCOW - In the early years of Vladimir Putin's tenure as Russia's leader, the country's military was a hollowed-out…
22. I seriously hope these guys are right. War in Ukraine is bad for everyone.
We Remain Skeptical That Russia Will Invade Ukraine. | SOFREP
The media reports are pretty uniform, Russia intends to invade Ukraine. This analysis or lack thereof seems to help…
23. Jim Rogers is an international investing legend and inspiration for me personally.
Jim Rogers: Investing Legend & Original Nomad - Codie Sanchez
Note: My articles often contain links to companies I invest/have stake in, or am an affiliate for, meaning we get a…
24. Write up on Jim Rogers. Pay attention to this guy.
❓ He Traveled the World on a Motorcycle & Made 300 Million?
View In Browser But first: Shaan Puri raised $4mil on Twitter from strangers Rob Abasolo made millions from homes…
25. One of my favorite thinkers. Balaji S Srinivasan. Worth listening if you want to understand the future.
26. Part 2 of this amazing interview. Info dense discussion with Balaji.
27. “But a new wave of aging pros competing and winning at the highest level is showing how you can age not just gracefully but masterfully. I’m thinking of Tom Brady (44), LeBron James (37), Chris Paul (36), Serena Williams (40), Sue Bird (41), Cristiano Ronaldo (36), Lionel Messi (34), Phil Mickelson (51), and Roger Federer (40). And I could go on: It’s not just one sport, or a few outliers, or veterans transitioning into supporting roles. It’s a sports-wide revolution.
And you may have heard about the out-there things they’re doing to maintain their bodies: Brady has so optimized his nutrition that he tries to avoid coffee and even tomatoes. LeBron reportedly spends more than a million dollars on his body annually, on everything from cryotherapy to pedicures.
But beyond the expensive equipment and the sometimes dubious cutting-edge science, something bigger is happening: The greatest athletes are realizing that you can’t play your way into shape; performance is a no-days-off, year-round lifestyle. It’s the commitment to fundamental, practical routines that amateurs like you and me can learn from. The moves pros are using to delay their twilight by just a few years can help the rest of us feel and live well for decades.”
How to Age In Reverse, According to a Generation of Super-Athletes
It's a fact of life that our bodies slowly decline as we get older-Father Time is undefeated. But a new wave of aging…
28. This is too bad. But also shows how challenging and early we are in growing IoT space.
Sigfox, the French IoT startup that had raised more than $300M, files for bankruptcy protection as…
We are continuing to see fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the tech industry, with one of the latest…
29. Tech growth stocks, especially in B2B side may be oversold. I like them for the long run.
“Buying growth stocks on the cheap will remain a good strategy for long-term capital growth.
Timing is difficult, though, and no one will ever manage to catch stocks exactly at the bottom.
However, what you do have full control over is to pick companies that are not at risk of going out of business if the market takes longer to turn around. Also, you can (and should) focus on businesses that have a track record of growing even during periods when financial markets and the broader economy are weak.
That’s why I have long been a proponent of companies that run subscription-based business models. Such companies don’t start at zero every year. Instead, they can tell you in advance how much baseline revenue they are likely to generate from existing subscribers. The steady cash flow doesn’t just enable such companies to weather the storm, but they may also be able to invest in growth during times when others struggle to raise funding. Last but not least, some of them can increase their margins by “upselling” their customers to additional services.”
Subscription businesses (part 1): the tech sector's highest-quality bargains? - Undervalued Shares
Is the bloodbath in the Nasdaq Composite Index going to end anytime soon? 40% (!) of companies in the tech-heavy index…
30. “There are countless examples over the last few years that should shake VCs awake and help them realize there are a lot of founders in a lot of sectors at a lot of stages and they don’t all want the same thing. Folks like Boldstart proved that founders are prioritizing people who will actually help them over big brands. Stripe proved that corporate VC’s can be fast-moving value-add partners. Tiger proved that some founders just want to be left alone!
Very few firms have a clear answer to the question “what is your differentiated product?.” There has never been a better time for venture firms to stop and think about what a product-led venture firm would do.”
The Productization of Venture Capital
I'm a big fan of thinking about the history of things. To understand why you do something today you sometimes need only…
31. This is a very disturbing discussion but its important. Possible negative scenarios for the world order but better to understand prepare. Its very worthwhile.
Chaos=Disorganized violence & Decentralized & massive opportunities/Upside/failure
Order=CCP: Organized, Stable and centralized violence
32. Very wise reminder and write up here. Especially as we’ve seen our investment portfolios get decimated in last few weeks.
“Focus on what matters. Be a Stoic in the face of temptation. Use Time to your advantage. Diversify your investments.
In any economic climate, how do we build economic security, foster love, and find joy? How do we get rich?
The Algebra of Wealth | No Mercy / No Malice
T-minus 17 days until Pivot MIA, a new three-day event I'm hosting with Kara Swisher. We'll be joined by the CEOs of…
33. A very cogent discussion on the Ukraine-Russian (and EU/USA) crisis.
Chartbook #68 Putin's Challenge to Western hegemony - the 2022 edition.
As NATO meets to discuss the tension on the Russian border to Ukraine, and the papers fill with denunciations of…
34. This is a really interesting company with some impressive people at the helm.
Investing in Prologue | Andreessen Horowitz
Enter Prologue, a unique company with an audacious vision: to help the best founders around the world level up and…
35. For anyone who cares about democracy or self sovereignty this is worth reading. The place is worth defending.
Ukraine has its problems but it has changed alot in the last 8 years as someone who has been going there since 2007.
No one wants war, either regular Ukrainians or Russians that I know.