Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads June 16th, 2024

Marvin Liao
12 min readJun 16, 2024

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“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop” — Ovid

  1. Lemkin knows his stuff. All SaaS & B2B Founders should listen to this. The world has changed in GTM.

2. Drug Cartels will be big issue for Mexico and USA in the future. It already is.

3. “For tech entrepreneurs who don’t have an idea but want to build software, my recommendation is to start a consulting company, build software for clients, and listen to feedback and market trends. Look for opportunities. One of the best ways to become a software entrepreneur is to start as a software consulting entrepreneur.”

4. “The Russians have pushed forward that entire time about 1–2 kilometers. And its hard to argue that the town is any closer to falling than it was then. Note — people were saying a few months ago that Putin wanted to take Chasiv Yar by 9 May for his latest coronation. That seems to have been dropped.

Of course another supposedly strategic benefit of the campaign for Russia was that it would limit Ukrainian attacks into Russia. If that was an intended benefit, this was probably the most disastrous own-goal, strategic calculation so far since the failure of the original invasion.

What Russia has done with the Kharkiv offensive has opened up Russia to attack by US system in a way that would have been inconceivable before. Indeed the offensive was so flagrantly planned to take advantage of US fears, and the Russians compounded that through their terror attacks on Kharkiv, that they caused a boomerang reaction, and the Biden Administration did its volte-face this week and okayed Ukrainian attacks into Russia with US weapons.

This will make the Kharkiv offensive an even greater burden.

Also, it’s worth noting that the US has also given the Ukrainians the ability to disrupt any upcoming Sumy offensive — this time before the Russians cross the border. Another Russian offensive in this area has been discussed regularly — now such an operation will be much harder for the Russians. One of the main reasons for the Russian early, modest successes at Kharkiv was because the Ukrainians could not do such disruption with US systems. Now they can — another Russian own-goal.”

5. “That means we now have two popular independent and centrist candidates against both Biden and Trump. Kennedy and Manchin want to return to a bipartisan world. Manchin tweeted, “Let’s work together to fix America. Don’t hate the other side. There’s only one side — the American side — and we have to work together to save our country. That’s why I changed my party registration to no party affiliation.” This is very similar to the language Kennedy uses to describe his “We The People Party”.

I question whether Kennedy and Manchin will align or fight each other for the middle ground. Could it be that both the left and the right have become so preoccupied with their troubles that they have already missed the electorate’s desire to return to a more collaborative and centrist approach to politics? Yes. Have they understood that the country’s voters want any option other than mendacity and/or senility (terms many Americans apply to both Biden and Trump, depending on which side they are on)? Yes.

Trump will appeal his 34 convictions, of course, but these convictions strongly raise the possibility that President Biden won’t be facing Trump. He’ll be facing Robert F Kennedy and Joe Manchin. On a larger scale, these events mean that the parties are playing for the ends of the playing field, the far left and the far right, while the centrists are now taking the previously ignored and unoccupied middle of the playing field. Middle America seems to want America’s focus back on the middle.

To many, it seems unimaginable that President Trump has been convicted of felony charges.

To others, it is unimaginable that he would not be convicted of felony charges.

To others, it seems unimaginable that President Biden (even if only via his son Hunter) has not been convicted of felony charges.

To others, it is unimportant if his son is convicted of felony charges.

What matters is that we are not witnessing politics anymore. We are witnessing the unraveling of the American social contract. The social contract in many nations is clear. You are either in power or in prison. Political life consists of bouncing back and forth between the two extremes. The US seems to be well on its way to this outcome now.”

6. Latest updates in Ukraine and massive implications as Western weapons now finally allowed to hit targets in Russia.

7. The latest state of SaaS with Jason Lemkin. It’s really good. Net net: its gonna be rough this year.

8. A grand vision for the future. Vinod has been right more than wrong.

9. “But every attempt to create a marketplace in Private Markets has failed. Including the three times I’ve tried. And it is simply because Liquidity and Price Discovery are Bugs, Not Features, in our industry.”

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-private-secondary-marketplace-never-work-henry-ward-4ysoc/

10. Jason is a friend and I’ve always respected him. I respect him even more after listening to this. So much wisdom and honesty.

11. “Some of the older software companies are slowing — a natural part of the lifecycle. But it would be a mistake to extrapolate that to the entire market. The private markets hide the fastest growing companies.”

12. “At this point you should be close/near financial independence. After you are financially set you begin playing a completely different game vs. everyone else.

You’re getting in on private deals, you are able to buy assets at discounts (long vesting periods) and you can entertain various ultra high risk positions.

While we’re primarily focused on highly liquid investments since we absolutely loathe trusting people with money, there are always illiquid options out there.

Growth Industries: As of this writing (June 3, 2024), it would be the following markets: 1) tech, 2) crypto, 3) fitness/diet, 4) skin care, 5) mental health, 6) pets, 7) mental health and 8) vanity/anti-aging as older childless men/women pay millions to try and stop the hands of time. If you’re involved in those markets they will be stable to growing over the foreseeable future (if something changes you’ll hear it here first as always)”

13. “We take up the subject of how Silicon Valley startups seek to secure new defense contracts for an age of “great-power competition” with China. Many of these defense startups are funded by venture capitalists who promote themselves as the facilitators of global peace.

They promise that their technocratic knowledge and investments in artificial intelligence will deter Chinese aggression and reduce casualties on all sides in the event of a great-power war. If we are to save the world, they argue, the U.S. must have not just a technological advantage, but technological predominance over China and other U.S. rivals.

Indeed, the CEO of Palantir (one of the largest defense startups), Alex Karp, recently declared at the AI Expo for National Competitiveness that “[t]he peace activists are war activists. “We are the peace activists.” Karp and like-minded venture capitalists are on a mission to make money while saving the world from China and Russia; they sell themselves as the “new Oppenheimers.”

14. “First of all, seeing other countries is not the same as understanding them, even though these are both valuable activities. If you go to Japan and see that they have an amazing train system, it can motivate you to think “Why don’t we have a great train system in the U.S.?”, or even “How can the U.S. get better trains?”.

But it will not tell you whyJapan has such great trains. It will not tell you how Japan’s train system was built, or why. It will not tell you how much it cost or how easy it is to maintain. It will not tell you about any political problems Japan’s government had to overcome in order to get the trains built, and so on.

It’s good to know that other countries can do things differently, but that’s only the first step in learning about those differences.”

15. “This dynamic has changed now that social networking makes it possible to fight wars in the moral realm online, using events in the physical realm to advance the conflict.

Now, the center of gravity for wars in the moral realm is online. It’s where the news of events arrives first, where the narratives built upon it are fought over, and how it is distributed to most people (TV news is dying).

Unlike pre-network wars, these wars don’t focus solely on the cohesion of the combatants’ domestic populations. They are waged across the entire network of people, firms, and governments connected to the combatants.

Also, unlike these earlier wars, these conflicts progress to their conclusion in months rather than years and decades.”

16. “The benefit of using alternatives is the potential for higher returns that are less correlated with traditional financial assets. While each of the asset classes listed above will have a different correlation with stocks, bonds, and cash, the hope is that these alternative asset classes will provide a diversification benefit that you cannot get anywhere else. As a result, investing in alternatives should improve your returns while also lowering your portfolio’s overall volatility.

However, these benefits don’t come without costs. One of these costs is less liquidity. Unlike publicly traded stocks and bonds, alternatives can be difficult to sell quickly or at a reasonable price. As a result, your capital can be locked into an alternative investment for much longer.”

17. “This combination of strategic government policies, investment in infrastructure, and innovative production techniques transformed the U.S. industrial base from a state of near obsolescence in the 1930s to the most productive manufacturing capability in the world by the end of World War II.”

18. “Anytime you part ways in any kind of relationship, unless the other person is begging you to stay, it’s a bit of a failure. Even if the parting is amicable, like starting something new after working for something else, at some level, they’re ok with letting you go.

That doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a person or you didn’t create lots of value — but we’re far too dismissive about what we’re missing out on in these periods of transition. The same holds for personal relationships, too. Even if you realize you’re not a great match for someone, it’s worth taking stock of how you could have been a better partner.

A move to something better doesn’t mean you don’t still have lots to learn and improve over your last effort.”

19. How to kill a franchise……over-saturation…….Hollywood is renowned for this.

20. This is an excellent and instructive interview to learn the art and science of angel investing and venture capital. Well worth watching.

21. Solid & thoughtful discussion on investing in AI.

22. This is a masterclass in venture capital from 25+ years running a top firm.

23. This is always an enlightening conversation on geopolitics.

24. Everyone in sales should watch this. It’s not FOMO that drives buyer decisions, it’s FOMU, Fear of Messing Up.

25. “The TL;DR:

Burn is normal, and even healthy, in the early stages as long as you have the cash to support it.

There’s almost always a trade-off between growth and profitability.

The relative importance between the two metrics will vary over time. A balanced approach is usually best for valuations.

When growth slows below 50% year-on-year, expect to craft a path toward breakeven or profitability.”

26. “It’s really that simple.

Business = Having something to sell + a source of leads

It’s nothing complex like how people seem to think.”

27. “But I think consumer is actually a great place to be building and investing. Whenever something is out of favor, that’s a sign it’s probably a good place to spend time: this is an industry built on being contrarian, not built on following the herd. We’re entering a compelling few years for consumer entrepreneurship.

Big consumer wins compare favorably to big enterprise wins — relative to Snowflake’s market cap, Uber is ~3x in size, Airbnb is ~2x in size, and DoorDash is roughly equal. (Snowflake is the biggest enterprise IPO of the last decade.) The last few years produced a windfall of consumer outcomes, yet investors today almost write off the category.”

28. “Modern western writing tends to assume a progressive linear development of societies, and that the kind of behaviour described above is just a bizarre anachronism. But older historians from different cultures were well aware that societies rose and fell. Ibn Khaldûn thought that no regime could last for more than three generations before it became decadent and declined.

If he’s right, then we are entering the third generation of unfettered Liberalism now, and neo-tribalism may be the pattern of the future, as society disintegrates into smaller and smaller groups, both elective and ascriptive, looking for security among the few they believe they can count on. Not a happy prospect.”

29. Fun discussion on NIA today with an old Yahoo! colleague Erika Ayers Badan. She is so good.

30. Elad Gil is one of the best operators and investors in Silicon Valley.

31. “In sum, there is a scenario in which Taiwan could face an economic blockade by China, but such a blockade would only make strategic sense if China had already mobilized its military for a full-scale invasion in anticipation of the need to escalate or at least have the blockade buttressed by the threat of force. In either case, Taiwan arrives at practically the same place: staring down the full military might of the People’s Republic of China.

China could, of course, miscalculate and launch a blockade without the backup of a threat of invasion — although it’s puzzling why it hasn’t done so yet if it truly believed it was likely to result in a victory without a fight — but doing so would very likely result in a strategic defeat.

Even if an economic blockade is theoretically on the table, it is not the most likely or the direst outcome that Taiwan currently faces. That ultimate risk belongs to the threat of military invasion — a threat that, unfortunately, Taiwan still has a long way to go to prepare for. If Taiwan proceeds to believe that a blockade is more likely than a military assault, or that a blockade would be the end of the matter, it is making a dangerous miscalculation.”

32. Taiwan needs to wake up, so does the West.

33. Masterclass in building niche media businesses from one of the best.

34. HUR Special forces heroes and bad asses from Ukraine.

“After our successful offensive operations, everybody started to relax and think, ‘Oh, the Russians can’t do anything.’ Every country has its propaganda, but even our government started to think that everything is fine,” Den says over a breakfast in Kyiv just before the second anniversary of the invasion.

“In 2023, we saw the consequences of our wrong decisions at the end of 2022, when everybody thought that everything is fine. But it’s stupid when you’re fighting against a country with a three-times-larger population, a real big country with everything, including nuclear weapons.”

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-the-fearless-ukraine-soldiers-front-lines

35. This is an excellent discussion on media businesses.

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Marvin Liao

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