Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads January 31st, 2021

“There is no “I” in Team, but there is in “Win” — Michael Jordan

  1. This is very crazy and I kind of really want one now! Or at least to learn more.

“An endangered species in the wild, the Asian arowana is illegal to import, sell, and, in most cases, own in the US.

Every now and again, tales like Lee’s will surface in the news, shedding light on a bizarro black market.

But elsewhere in the world, the fish is a highly coveted (and perfectly legal) luxury good. They’re prized by Yakuza gang members in Japan, business magnates in China, and superfish collectors in Europe — and a single prime specimen can cost more than a Ferrari.”

2. What a story on Stoned Pizza. The Pot infused pizza pusher. So worth a read.

3. Romania is definitely one of the standouts in the Central & Eastern Europe tech scene. Very big fan of the startups coming from there. Also VERY maximum bullish here and can’t wait to return there in person when we can.

4. This seems like a great description of the Silicon Valley bubble or really any cultural bubble. Lots of good insight here.

“Language is the fundamental reinforcement mechanism of why arbitrarily constructed environments eventually turn you into Michael Scott. The more you have committed to being seen as interesting within your particular area, the more you detach from reality and move into a construct of your own creation. As this evolution takes place, more of your and your peers’ language will become Posturetalk, and more of the language that gets spoken to you by outsiders will become Babytalk.

As more of the language surrounding you becomes Posturetalk and Babytalk, the more conclusively you will double down on being “serious” about whatever you’re pursuing, as both a defence mechanism and in pursuit of real praise. This drives the cycle forward again, as your values and environment become increasingly defined by doing Triathlons or whatever.”

5. This is an interesting SPAC. Chamath is on a roll.

6. This is very timely and a good reminder to start getting a little bit more control over your privacy.

7. Great write up on the powerful pull of Superstar cities, even in the time of a pandemic.

“Superstar cities have become a one-stop shop for so many different things that people want out of society — productive work, job opportunities, friends, romance, fun. We’re definitely not going to go to a workforce of hermits living in cabins in Kamchatka.

The real question is whether distributed work will allow second-tier cities like Tulsa to take enough knowledge workers to bring them some of that superstar energy, thus relieving the pressure on places like San Francisco. Even that is a tall order, since the top cities exert many different kinds of gravitational pulls all at once. Escaping these cities isn’t like building a rocket — it’s like building five different rockets and riding them all at once.”

8. I think this is a really smart play by Forbes. The Newsletter wars continue.

9. This guy is becoming one of my new favorite reads & really dig his off the beaten track investment philosophy.

10. “Running a biotech company is capital intensive, and this can make it intimidating to get started. Founders sometimes face a chicken and egg problem: how do you make progress without millions of dollars in funding, and how do you raise millions of dollars in funding without having made progress?”

11. Audience Building 101 is right. From one of the masters.

12. Great conversation here on what’s happening at the earliest stages of startups. Soil stage not even Pre-seed. Two very interesting & different new platforms for developing startups.

13. “One of the biggest risks is having all your eggs in the basket of one country. If you are trying to protect against what may be coming up, you should consider that some of these things are only going to impact certain countries. If you’re hedging against your own country, don’t dig deeper into your own country. Going to a global level gives you different systems to protect you.

Throughout the coronavirus, even for months after the peak, certain countries would not allow you to enter if you were a citizen of one of the other countries they deemed to be a problem — like the US, France, or Italy. A lot of people were being turned away. That wasn’t a global pandemic issue, it was a country-specific issue.

Have different jurisdictions where you can arbitrage risk. This means you should go where you’re treated best so that you have the assurance of knowing that even if the ATMs are shut off in the US, even if they want to bail out the banks in Cyprus, you have different homes, you have different bank accounts, you have different citizenships that welcome you in different places and access to good hospitals and medical care around the world.”

14. Man has a point.

15. “This new type of market mirrors the meritocracy of the internet. It doesn’t matter where the idea, or the capital, comes from. It just matters if they’re right.”

16. Health is wealth.

17. Good news here! Go Donny!

18. SO many people have posted on this. Absolutely fascinating what is happening. “Unwashed Crowds” crushing the Professionals.

19. This is why I’m still so bullish on the tech industry & Silicon Valley.

“we think the rise of no code is a sub-theme in an even larger movement: tools that give knowledge workers superpowers.”

20. This is absolutely spot on. Scale ups need a good Chief of Staff: will make all the difference.

“What’s needed is an experienced generalist who can support the CEO and leadership team, complement and deputise for them, roll up their sleeves and lead on short-term projects across the business as and when required.

The role we’re talking about is a Chief of Staff, and it’s one that I think will become both necessary and foundational, as scaleups struggle to solve the inevitable pain that occurs when ever-increasing expectations collide with finite bandwidth.”

21. As a collector of frameworks, this is invaluable and insightful when looking at business or governmental organizations. (ahem, Apple=Dead player)

“We defined a dead player as a person or a group of people that is working off a script, incapable of doing new things.

What can cause a player to die? A player will die if their tradition of knowledge dies and they are unable to replace their thinkers or theorists. Perhaps an individual live player simply runs out of ideas. Even if tight coordination remains, the player is dead. They will compete in old areas, but have a hard time expanding into new areas.

A player will also die if their tight coordination is replaced by formal structures, which can happen as members of an organization change. If you’re constrained by formal structures, it becomes harder to go off script, and this won’t be adaptive enough. Remember, however, that tight coordination can be achieved by just one exceptional person.”

22. Poland represent!

23. Army of Davids is right!

24. Human competition at its worst.

“With the arrival of the vaccines, state competition took a new form, but not a milder one: an ugly global race for enough vaccine doses where the losers are denied a path out of the pandemic.”

25. Such a fan of Calendly and also glad for Atlanta scene + a new example of bootstrapping monster company.

“The company last year made about $70 million annually in subscription revenues from its SaaS-based business model and seems confident that its aggregated revenues will not long from now get to $1 billion.”

26. “I still believe that Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 true fans theory is at the core of what the Internet is about from a making-a-living perspective. Add the maker perspective to this and you have what I believe is the future of work: personal, hands-on, creative, passionate, purposeful, decentralized, and network-based work.

I believe the future belongs to the maker as we are now becoming our own managers by working from home and becoming more independent from larger hierarchies and organizations. That is not to say that the large corporations are not needed, just that they will become much more automatized through digital technologies like artificial intelligence and need fewer human employees.”

27. “Millions of people learned how this game is played and it’s going to come back at some point. Maybe it dies down for a day, a month, a year… But the playbook is now out there. If a hedge fund is foolish enough to put themselves in that type of position, they will get burned again and again and again. This is great as firms should not be levering up 5–10x with customer money to short every single share of a single stock without any repercussions.

On that note this was a huge day for decentralization. Several people on our twitter commentary actually understand it. They will be rich. Filthy rich. The ones that do not, might get lucky and time the next pump. And. The real money goes to the same old people. The visionaries who understand the long-term consequences and invest in the right disruptive technologies/industries.”

28. “The new hedge fund is the Robinhood army self organizing on Reddit. They can move a stock more easily than the largest hedge fund.

There will be calls to regulate this “madness.” But it is the same madness we have always had. It is just a different crowd in charge.”

29. This is way timely.

“The brutal paradox in a marathon is that right when you can sniff the finish line, usually between mile 20 and mile 22, the race invariably feels the longest. The same is likely to be true with COVID-19. Cases are rising and fatigue from far-reaching lifestyle modifications is building. We may be done with most of the race, but there is a good chance the final stretch will feel like forever. Here are six principles to help you get through it.”

30. A plausible explanation for the super mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident.

31. This is such a great show with two of the folks I admire: The Random Show. This episode is worth watching.

32. “Regardless of your political affinity, bans are a kind of public persecution that can be troubling because they undermine freedom of speech, the rule of law and democracy. Cancel culture is on the rise, and social media giants are its main enforcers.

In the increasingly digital world, coordinated efforts carried out by corporations, not by governments, result in what amounts to a digital execution. This corporate overreach, because it’s politicized, won’t diminish overnight. It will likely become greater and more oppressive.

Apart from bans and deplatforming, privacy is more important than ever. Reducing the amount of information that can be used against you is something everyone should consider.”

33. Social momentum goes both ways.

“The idea that people like (or hate) what other people like (or hate) is important, because it lets small ideas grow bigger than you’d guess if you assume everything is ranked by quality alone. Social momentum is hard to model on a spreadsheet, so it’s hard to predict or think about in terms that seem rational. But it’s so powerful.

Once you look for feedback loops you see them everywhere. And once you realize how powerful they can be you start to answer some of the most frequent questions in business and investing.”

34. I am a fan and supporter of Charity Water. This is a good write up of the innovation they have brought to non-profit world. If u are looking for a charity to donate to, please consider them.

35. “People have been screwed from a system structure that is built to reward investors and punish savers. All this market manipulation and intervention inflates asset prices and devalues savings.

So you have millions of people who are psychologically scarred from the past combined with a continued feeling of being left behind. But the internet steps in and creates a lifeline — the access to information, communication tools, and financial markets has suddenly increased significantly in the last decade.

When you arm the everyday person with information, communication tools, and access to markets, you create a scenario where the crowd can face-off against these institutions that have played a rigged game for so long. Except there is one problem — the second that the tide starts to turn, the game is being shut off.”

36. I am biased but this is a good perspective on the importance of Taiwan to the free world. Also Taiwan is one of the most underrated places in the world. Its just a really cool place full of smart, kind people and amazing food and culture.

“This means that there is a nonzero chance that the U.S. might find itself embroiled in a superpower conflict on Taiwan’s behalf sometime in the next decade. Which is a good reason for Americans to learn more about Taiwan.

But an even better reason is just that Taiwan is a very interesting and unique place. People can argue all day about whether it’s really a country, but what’s more important is that Taiwan is a civilization.”

37. This actually encapsulates my worries of the podcasting space. I think it will get wrecked by all the VC $$ streaming in (just like in eSports and Adtech and many other spaces),

“When investors pour $1 billion+ into a podcast ecosystem that didn’t have $1 billion in total revenue last year, that’s a problem. They’re hoping their money will add fuel to the fire, and supercharge podcasting’s slow and steady growth.

But what happens if the growth, and the potential financial returns, don’t materialize?

Overcapitalization occurs when the real value of an asset (or in this case, an ecosystem) is far less than what’s been invested. It’s when investors realize there’s no possibility for a decent return, and they jump ship.”

38. This is pretty horrible and frightening. A Weaponized Internet by a crazy nut.

39. “It’s cheaper to trade these meme stocks and easier for retail investors to get leverage via options. In short, for investors looking to have a good time or shoot the moon, meme stocks are a more fun place to be than crypto is.”

40. Quite a great thread on some really good startup investment themes.

41. This is very helpful for the emerging VC Fund manager. Useful Techstack. What a great time to be an investor (and startup)

42. “Diarte was being brought in to set up a corporate venture fund for the French power management company, and he wanted to make sure it was done right. He had seen too many CVC venture funds set up the wrong way — set up to fail right from the start — and he didn’t want to fall into the same trap.”

43. There is a lot here. I like the idea of “Clockspeed.” Worth a read.

“We are on the precipice of an era of extreme competition — which means that the amount and pace of competition will accelerate 4x in the next 20 years.

If you don’t prepare now, you will be more and more overworked and overwhelmed and risk being further outcompeted by the best global talents in your field.”

44. This thread is a great rundown on the Gamestop saga.

45. “Zooming out: great communities, in the traditional sense, required limited options so people would remain dependent: no specialists or external trade (to ensure we all collectively worked together), and no diversity or weird ideas (to ensure a homogenous group with a focus on tradition). We had far worse medical treatment, underwent excruciating manual labor, and didn’t necessarily share the same interests with others, but because we were dependent on each other, the bonds were strong. Now the options are virtually limitless, and we’re seeing our social bonds decay as a result.”

46. This is good news for Venture capital! Of course, this is not widely distributed gains but concentrated in top few funds. But still…..good for asset class as a whole.

47. “Nineteen months into taking the job, Docter is ushering in a new, more diverse generation of filmmakers at the studio, developing a pipeline of projects to feed Disney’s 13-month-old streaming service, Disney+, and grappling with taking the place of the complicated, larger-than-life figure that Lasseter represented at Pixar. More than any studio executive since Walt Disney, Lasseter was personally associated with the movies his company made, projecting a public persona of a friendly genius in a Hawaiian shirt responsible for Pixar’s unbroken string of critical and commercial successes.

Lasseter’s departure during the heat of the #MeToo movement punctured that myth and left Pixar employees anxious and adrift. Since taking the job, Docter has been trying to evolve the company while holding on to the principles of creative risk-taking that enabled him to direct some of the studio’s most inventive movies — Inside Out; Up; Monsters, Inc. and Soul, which premiered on Disney+ over Christmas.”

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Marvin Liao

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