Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads February 21th, 2021
“Never mistake activity for achievement.” — John Wooden
- “The CEO and founder of Epic Games has had a knack for picking the right battles while also shoring up his company’s independence. Fortnite, the company’s blockbuster battle royale game, recently topped more than 15 million concurrent players and has spawned a universe of fandom. Epic challenged established platforms by launching its own digital video game storefront. And the multi-billion dollar company developed the Unreal Engine, a proprietary software for making its own video games that it licenses out to other developers and animators.
Now Sweeney, 50, is embarking on the biggest battle in his company’s 30-year history: Epic is suing Apple and Google in a legal challenge that could remake the future of the digital economy.”
3. This is a great summary of Zeihan’s work. It has informed alot of my perspective on geopolitics.
“Due to the intervening global breakdown, when the U.S. does again venture forth it should be far more powerful relative to the rest of the world than it currently is. That imbalance may well prompt it to impose some new order, but only after much economic, political, and security degradation, chaos and disorder.
Zeihan’s conclusion: The U.S. is the most powerful country in history and will remain so until long after our grandchildren are gone.
Note: One critique of Zeihan is that he underestimates technology. If we have break throughs in cyber warfare, fusion or other cheap energy sources, or AGI, his model of the world doesn’t account for that. He’s likely correct, but he’s a bit too dismissive of these potential innovations in terms of how they’ll change the overall landscape he presents.”
4. “So the deeper issues in my mind are culture (which comprises of course politics) and geography (which includes diverse regional mindsets in one country). Canada does not have the market size and therefore it is — as compared to the USA — much harder to make quick and larger bets on a continuing basis. We just lack the scale.
And Canadians — at least that is what I think — have a somewhat different view of engaging with 24/7 capitalism and the need to achieve and that goes in particular for the West Coast. Balanced lifestyles with a supportive social network that includes free healthcare creates a very different work and achievement ethic. Immigration and competitive pressures are changing that, but it often seems to me that many here simply are comfortable with the pace of life and would freak out if a Bay Area work routine was imposed on them.”
5. Attack of the drones.
“What is more, experts say, is that the balance of power between drones and air defense systems is shaping up to be a key to global wars in the near future.
“Libya, Nagorno-Karabakh and also Syria have just showed us that if a fielded force cannot protect its airspace, then the large scale use of UAVs can make life extremely dangerous,”
6. Everyone’s SaaS business decelerates at one point in time. This is a good guide on what to do when it happens.
7. “even the most successful products in a market had simple beginnings. No product arrives in the market fully fleshed out. The company behind a successful product has developed its internal capabilities and know-how about various tiny but important details over a long period of time.
On day 1, a startup simply cannot match such capabilities.”
8. Mass trauma is right but more from the incompetence & heavy handedness of most governments response to Covid than just the pandemic itself.
9. Thankfully the giant of the USA is finally waking up.
“The COVID-vaccination drive provides some reassurance that America still operates on that general model — starting slow, fumbling around for a bit, falling behind, freaking out, but finally setting its shoulder to the wheel, and ultimately becoming an irresistible force. There is deep, fundamental strength remaining in this country and its institutions — we can still pull out some of the old magic when we need to.”
10. “The blockchain ensures that media is not owned by the platform. The artwork will live in a decentralized medium where the only source of power is defined by the original smart contract. For example, my own artwork specifies that I will get 15% of every future sale. If ten years from now “Geopolitics” is sold for $10 million, I will get $1.5 million. No one can do anything about that.
Art freed from market power, enabling creators and audiences to engage and transact on digital media directly. Imagine for a moment the social and economic revolution were the same principle to be applied to social media. Endless content, no platforms.”
11. “A typical early stage fund buys ~15% of ~15 assets. Each of those assets has an entry price of ~$10M, yet general partners know most of these assets are not worth $10M. After all, nobody would actually acquire the company at that price on the day the fundraising round closes.
And so each asset they hold is wrongly priced, and thus each reveals itself to be overpriced or underpriced over the long term. The winners cover the losses and the VCs’ portfolios thrive, with top funds like USV returning 30%+ IRRcash on cash on every fund.”
12. “I’m a big fan of successful long-term market investors. It’s similar in that the ones I’ve studied — Warren Buffett, Howard Marks — are big into buy and hold.
In real estate, if you find a good property, hold on to it. Same with stocks. If you find a good company, buy and hold. I’ve made mistakes in the past by selling way too early.”
13. No surprise as these are both very credible & well networked people in Silicon Valley.
14. Actually, who cares? Business school is almost completely useless these days. Unless you are a gullible tool.
15. Great product here. Big fan.
16. I can’t help but agree.
“The founding fathers of this nation had as their goal the establishment of a republic characterized by limited (which is to say, minimal) government and maximum personal responsibility and liberty.
Over time the concepts and institutions imagined by those great men of vision have been corrupted and bastardized almost beyond recognition. Even the most liberal politician of the late 18th century would be shocked at the nanny-state that has taken hold in this country.
A benign tyranny truly has emerged in this country, the Tyranny of Indifference. The prevailing view is that the system is what it is and little can be done to change it.”
17. “The woke left has been targeting liberals because they are the only targets remaining. Those of us on the right, by necessity, long ago made ourselves uncancelable by building or finding platforms that are not dependent on the kind of mainstream center-left liberal institutions that are now driving out the center-left liberals.
A wave of writers like Sullivan and Yglesias have begun their own newsletters on the Substack platform in search of more editorial freedom. I’m not because I already built my own equivalent, an independent, subscription-based online newsletter, all the way back in 2004.”
18. “We do not have full-fledged bubbles yet except in bonds, bonds everywhere are a full-fledged bubble. At the moment, if I will buy countries I would buy Japan, I would buy Russia; both are still down dramatically but lots of money is going to pour into both of them because they are cheap and likewise agriculture. I am not buying America, America is at an all time high. So, Japan, Russia, agriculture,” he said.”
19. Fascinating thread on working with 2 of the greats in tech.
20. “The next wave of entrepreneurs will form and build their ideas from kitchen tables and home offices with spouses, family members or find co-founders entirely virtually. It’s hard to imagine that workers will ever resign themselves to “extreme commuting” again. Instead, we’re entering a new era where individuals have more power than institutions: the corporate era is over and anyone can start the business of their dreams.
The next decade will see new types of builders: couples who join forces, founders with an eye for good design, creative hackers who find distribution by building what’s clever and niche, but not obvious for large companies.”
21. This is really cool. Go Jeremy.
22. “These three island nations have effectively defeated COVID-19 despite their urban population density, proximity to China, and robust international connectivity. Luck was clearly not on their side — but paranoia was. Robust contact tracing, strict lockdowns, enforced quarantines, isolation of vulnerable populations, and other measures were crucial to suppressing the virus in all three places.”
23. The Sovereign Individual is a life changing book. Some great lessons from it. Insightful thread on this.
24. This is infuriating. All I can say is any racist A — hole or crook coming at me better be ready to dodge, run and hide…….
25. “Meanwhile, crypto is unlocking a different path — what I call the Ownership Economy — a broader thesis that the next generation of internet platforms will be built, operated, and owned by users directly.
In media, NFTs — or Non-Fungible Tokens — make it possible for creators to retain ownership of their content, without limiting the propagation of their files across the internet. As a result, NFTs have the potential to invert the ownership model of media — offering creators, their audiences, and developers who build for them, a viable alternative to platform-driven monetization.
A simple way to think about NFTs are as files that live on the blockchain. This means they can’t be copy-pasted, edited, deleted, or otherwise manipulated.”
26. These are all top Gaming VCs for sure.
27. There is so much in here. Every startup person should read this who wants to get acquired by a big company. It’s a must read. (Also describes the stupid PC-fascism that has taken hold in Silicon Valley.)
“I feel we ended up with the worst of both worlds — the challenges of a start-up (scale, access, distribution) with the constraints of a corporation (forced to use internal not-best-of-class systems, cost structure, politics, culture etc) all aggravated by the inability to quickly hire and fire.”
28. “We have brainwashed entrepreneurs that raising VC money is the only way. A lot of entrepreneurs are convinced that they are fundable. Most are far from it. Entrepreneurs need to understand the startup potential. If the prospect is to become a multi-billion dollar startup, VCs are the right play. Only a large influx of money can create such values.
Now, most entrepreneurs need to realize that they are not designed to appeal to VCs investment. That is not shameful. Our economy relies on small companies.”
29. “But even if the product is similar today, the requirements of different segments will force you to perform the most epic of splits. Catering to large enterprises will force you to invest heavily in security, SLAs, on-premise… while catering to SMBs or B2C will push you towards slick design and easy on-boarding.
As a startup, you have limited resources: don’t try to master two products at the same time! It’s the story of Slack versus Discord, or Box versus Dropbox. And know what? All of those are great companies.”
30. The man is a horrible investor. BUT, he is a great writer and this is a truly wonderful story. The importance of mentors and giving (and giving back)
31. Clustering is a thing. Andorra becomes hotspot for European Youtubers.
32. Good observation here.
“COVID or no COVID, this blurring of boundaries will continue. More people will work from home and from places previously reserved for other activities. More offices will be located in formerly-residential areas. Home-like amenities — childcare, nap rooms, showers, gyms — will become standard in office buildings. And more people will work in more fragmented ways, within less hierarchical networks and organizations — “leveraging” their “authentic selves” to create “meaningful experiences” for a living.
We will have too many masks to wear, and we will have to switch between them much faster than before. The old physical divisions of home and office will not be able to protect us, to lighten the psychological load.”
33. “Is Tanzania right, after all, to prioritize the economy? Or is Rwanda doing the right thing by putting health and safety first? Only time will tell.
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who’s right or who’s wrong.
So if there’s anything I can draw from this, that is we must not let this virus take control over our lives. Strict measures or not, the virus is clever enough to infiltrate the world where it wants to. And stopping everything to fight against it does not mean we’re winning, but in fact succumbing to it.”
34. “So creative entrepreneurs discovered and partnered with these trusted influencers, convinced them they had a good or service that could genuinely benefit their community. At first they hosted physical gatherings to show off a new app, or software, or mobile money platform and how it could help both individuals and their small businesses.
The sense of ownership was palpable. Such leaders weren’t “employees” of these companies, but were almost viewed in their communities as co-founders of them. Pay them a little bit but regularly, offer incentives to do more, always put the communities needs first and not only would customers join they themselves would share. And they would not switch.
So are these influencers early versions of Instagram stars? One founder told me “They are not Instagram influential, but GENUINE influential.” If they use a product or service themselves or in their own small business, others feel safe to do the same.”
35. “Today the debate is about the rise of China, the “dichotomous” impact of global value chains, and global uncertainty, which just means the explosion of new geopolitical tensions. EU trade policy — the document argues — has to take into account these global trends and challenges to reflect the political ambition of ‘a stronger Europe in the world.’”
36. “As for Texas, I don’t want to see my home state become an economic backwater, shackled to the corpse of a dying fossil fuel age. Texas has several huge and highly productive cities, plenty of human resources, and weather that usually doesn’t remind people of Game of Thrones. It has succeeded in pushing its economy to diversify away from oil and gas in the past; all it needs to do is continue those efforts to their logical conclusion. The alternative — to keep trying to make hay out of unrelated disasters and leverage B.S. culture wars to try to throw up barricades in the path of new energy technologies — is a dead end. Texas can be the future, instead of fighting the future.”
37. San Francisco done in by local government arrogance, incompetence & apathy. Other cities like Miami, Austin & Madison more than willing to pick up the slack.
“A more dispersed tech industry seems like a net positive. Growth could be more distributed. Tech workers and founders could spend more time learning about problems in the real world. And real estate costs could keep falling in the Bay Area. So what Suarez, Adler, and Rhodes-Conway are doing is intriguing. Even if their efforts — along with those in New York, Boston, and Seattle — are imperfect. As these mayors speak directly to the tech industry’s feelings, the Bay Area seems content to let them shoot their shot. Out of the four mayors I contacted, only San Francisco Mayor London Breed declined to talk.”
38. Something many governments still do not realize. But will soon.
“the point is, governments will have to compete for rich/entrepreneurial/highly productive citizens instead of the other way around.
Not everyone will be a sovereign individual, only the top few percentage points. Ultra-rich people, entrepreneurs, and knowledge workers. But these are the people creating all the wealth and who pay most of the taxes.
As a government, you now have to prove why you are worthy of humanity’s best to live in your region.
Do you have the best weather, the best regulations, the best tax structure, the most freedom, the best infrastructure — why should a free, sovereign individual live in your jurisdiction?”
39. “I think in the future, the two combined — 2008 and the pandemic — will shake people’s confidence and they’ll want another way out: “If things are going to get bad, I might as well enjoy my life while I can now.” Living like a nomad prepares you for the worst. There’s no jobs here, you can turn the key, drive away, and find a job. If the coast of Louisiana is getting hit by five hurricanes in a row or California is burning down, you can turn the key and drive away. That starts to be appealing in an extremely uncertain world.”
40. There is so much here.
“ First, we are wholly unprepared for the societal implications of making most wealth and much capital entirely mobile. We have been edging in this direction for decades as software has eaten the world, as Marc Andreessen, professional baller, famously put it.
My preferred philosophical abstraction of Andreessen’s argument would be something like the following: software is productive capital for which the raw ingredients are coherent human thoughts. This has recreated the independent skilled-laborer-cum-entrepreneur as a class of economic agent whose capacity for capital creation is human, not financial.”
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