Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads March 21st, 2021

“Do What You Can With All You Have, Wherever You Are.” — Theodore Roosevelt

  1. Bytedance making big moves in the gaming sector.

2. Steve Yeun is such a great actor (and cool dude). Can’t wait to see “Minari”.

“These days Yeun finds himself very much in a hazy in-between space of his own, on the precipice, it seems, of something bigger, something special. It’s not the first time, either. He became famous, basically overnight, as a beloved character on a popular TV show in which a virus ripped through Earth’s population and forced everyone into a gloomy existence in which they wear the same clothes every day. It’s like one day there was no Steven Yeun in the culture, and then out of thin air: There’s Steven Yeun, the Asian guy from The Walking Dead, skinny-dipping at Wi Spa with Conan O’Brien.”

3. Always a good entertaining & educational listen. The All in Podcast.

4. “In school, we’re told to do assignments where you have to write 1,000 words. Volume of words is a primary driver of the output. More words is conferred as more value. In business, it’s easy to fall into that trap.

In lieu of more words, the focus needs to be more clarity. More thought over more verbosity. More crispness over more jargony.”

5. Go Taiwan. I can’t wait to go back in May!

“This island of 24 million, which has seen just 10 Covid-19 deaths and fewer than 1,000 cases, has used its success to sell something in short supply: living without fear of the coronavirus. The relatively few people who are allowed to enter Taiwan have been coming in droves, and they’ve helped to fuel an economic boom.

The influx of people helped make Taiwan one of last year’s fastest-growing economies — indeed, one of the few to expand at all. There was a brief slowdown at the start of the pandemic, but the economy grew more than 5 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the same period in 2019. The government expects 4.6 percent growth in 2021, which would be the fastest pace in seven years.”

6. Absolutely true. Learn to think for yourself.

“It’s hard to know what to believe anymore, but one thing is for sure.

Scepticism towards anything and everything coming from politicians, the mainstream media, large corporations, government-related think tanks, and other members of the establishment will continue to grow. This issue could even become one of the defining developments of the 2020s.

Choose your media diet accordingly.

You need to keep yourself informed about these developments, to ensure you make the right decisions for your savings and financial future.”

7. Super excited for the next decade in tech: Digital Decolonization!

“Worldwide, there will be two to three billion incremental users joining the digital economy across emerging markets. For all the reasons stated above, more of them will utilise the services of companies that are not part of the FAANG group. The trend of domestically-grown tech champions emerging in Latin America, South East Asia, South Asia and Africa has only just started.

Any new such trend takes a decade to take hold, but the potential is vast. Multi-billion tech firms are likely to emerge in Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Nigeria — to name just some of the countries that have a sizeable economy or population. There could also be regional players, just like MercadoLibre managed to expand across a range of smaller Latin American countries which gives the group critical mass despite the relatively small size of some of these nations.”

8. Everything is becoming gaming……super thought provoking thread.

9. The latest from Peter Zeihan. Lots of interesting takes on US politics and geopolitics here. Ramifications for all of us.

10. “I believe we may be in the midst of one of the most tumultuous periods of our day and age in the US (and perhaps globally). That during our lifetimes we will see the internet age run headfirst into the nation-state. They will battle, one will reign supreme, and the world will look much different following.”

11. Sounds about right! Not much to learn from most VCs websites or public statements.

“Our…. primary conclusions:

— Public theses are often inconsistent with how firms actually deploy capital.

— VC theses are often so vague that they’re meaningless.

— Investment theses are just hypotheses; the portfolio shows how accurate the hypothesis was.”

12. Not sure what to make of these allegations. We all have a dark side. This piece strikes me as a hit piece as I don’t think they spoke with Armie at all.

“When Armie Hammer broke through in Hollywood, with 2010’s The Social Network, the sordid lore of his family backstory was a footnote, whether forgotten or purposely ignored.

To the world Armie Hammer was simply a cartoon-prince-handsome scion. It’s easy to discount a beautiful person, especially a beautiful person with a famous last name, as being one-dimensional. But Armie spent many interviews over his decade-long career telegraphing his own texture.”

13. Fascinating interview with Investor David Halpert. More on the Digital Decolonization trend. I’m a believer here too.

“Eventually, we will see USD 20bn to 50bn of DigDec market cap in the Philippines.

There will be USD 20bn to 50bn of DigDec market cap in Vietnam.

There will be USD 20bn to 50bn of DigDec market cap in Thailand.

There will be USD 5bn to 10bn of DigDec market cap in Bangladesh.

For Pakistan, it will be USD 5bn to 10bn.

In Sri Lanka, make it USD 3bn to 5bn.

Ethiopia will take a while, but it will be USD 5bn to 10bn in DigDec market cap.

In Nigeria, there will be USD 5bn to 10bn — maybe even USD 20bn.

Egypt has such a deep ecosystem that, eventually, there will be USD 20bn to 30bn in DigDec market cap.

Turkey could have USD 20bn to 30bn, but it will take a while because Turkey’s financial market is underdeveloped.”

14. This makes me very optimistic about our green future (clean energy and money). We can do this!

“The issue was that it was just too damn expensive to start stuff back when they were investing. CapEx and OpEx were bonk. And so much of the stuff they wanted to build required handouts from lawmakers because the pricing just didn’t make sense…

But so much is different now. Huge, shared computing clusters have allowed nuclear fusion to be an impending reality. Bio and agricultural advancements are coming out of shared lab space that startups could’ve never afforded. Manufacturing is orders of magnitude easier and cheaper. Electrochemistry and stuff like CRISPR have all come so far that today’s founders can piggyback off of the hard work of those who took stabs at this shit before. Add to this that we now have a generation of hardcore scientists who went to school knowing that they wanted to start a climate tech company. Those folks used to dig into this super geeky biophysics hoping one day they would be a tenured professor with some steady health insurance.”

15. “The story of what happened at Gimlet Media is not unique: In many ways, it’s a classic story about start-up culture. Gimlet, which was purchased by Spotify in February 2019, has been billed as one of podcasting’s biggest success stories, yet its meteoric rise papered over the managerial problems within the company. Soon, one of the industry’s most-coveted companies would erupt in spectacular controversy.”

16. “This emerging category is about the democratisation of software development, unlocking the potential that digitisation brings to anyone that has access to a computer or a phone & the internet.

Let’s be clear: no-code and low-code tools are not about eliminating code or engineers. They are about making life easier for coders, while opening access to everyone, making everyone a ‘citizen developer’. They are about abstracting away the complexity of code to focus on design and logic. It means no longer having to do boring, mundane, and off-project tasks.”

17. Tourism industry got slammed in 2020: no surprise sadly.

18. 2 Buck Chuck!

“Priced at a mere $1.99 to $3.79 per bottle, this magical ether is cheaper than most bottled water. It’s been knighted as the “darling of the discount wine world” by critics, and boasts a cult following among price-minded consumers.

For Trader Joe’s, the wine is also a gold mine.

The grocery chain has sold 1B+ bottles of Two Buck Chuck since debuting the beverage in 2002. Today, some locations sell as many as 6k bottles/day — or ~16%of the average store’s daily sales.

How is a supposedly decent wine sold at such a low price point? Where does it come from? And how did it rise to prominence?

This is the tale of one wine brand, two vintners, and the unlikely democratization of a historically snobby industry.”

19. Good to know!

20. Pipe is the precursor to a very exciting future for alternatives & complements to Venture Capital.

“Pipe starts with a simple idea: shrink the black box. If you have real revenue and real cash flow coming in, and you want to grow your business by pulling that revenue forward, don’t sell debt, or a WBS; don’t sell a claim on the black box of your entire business. Sell the smallest unit possible. Sell the thing itself: your revenue. And the purest way to represent that — the atomic, tradable unit of the subscription economy — is the revenue contract.

This is the first step of the Pipe thesis: the revenue contract is the atomic unit. It’s the closest thing there is to revenue itself, and the smallest possible black box you can trade.

They can work together. Pipe isn’t competitive with Venture Capital! They both strengthen each other. Being able to trade revenue with investors and platforms means you can raise less equity, and take less dilution down the road. And having a strong equity base means you can access that lower-cost capital, and add a bit of leverage by trading revenue, with focus and confidence.”

21. Also bullish on the emerging startup ecosystem in Latin America. Part of the Digital Decolonization trend. Just ordered the book “Viva the Entrepreneur”

22. Chinese SciFi is optimistic and this is why China seems to have a much more utopian and pro-technology culture than the western world.

“But in the past few years — a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets — Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice.

In hindsight, the ascendancy of sci-fi in Chinese literature seems almost inevitable. After all, walking the streets of Beijing today can feel like inhabiting a cyberpunk fiction: Bright yellow shared bikes line the streets, facial recognition cameras hang on street lamps, robot servers deliver hot-pot dinners to your table. Liu Cixin has compared present-day China to the US after World War II, “when science and technology filled the future with wonder.”

23. This is really an impressive yield. Ukrainian real estate property.

24. Fascinated by these globetrotting adventure capitalists. Going to & investing where most business people are wary of.

“In many cases, there is a wide discrepancy between what one can read in Western media and the realities on the ground. Western media is afflicted by groupthink from a class of similarly educated people.

I have absolutely no issue doing deals and investing in “risky” markets such as Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Nicaragua, and African countries emerging from civil war. I firmly believe that with good legal support risk is actually quite minimal.”

25. Low profile is the only way to go.

“In the new world, you do not need the approval of large numbers of people. You only need a few close friends/family members and they don’t need to know your net worth. No one does. In fact, there is always going to be a “richer” person in the world so you’re effectively playing a losing game.

Take a step back and ask yourself “Why do I want people to know I am rich?”. If you ask this enough you will come to the no-BS conclusion, which is that you’re insecure.

If you’re a public figure, you also inherit the following: death threats to your family. Death threats to you. Potential for serious violence particularly after the COVID-19 global recession. Potential for additional security attacks (people will find all your personal information and go straight into attack mode). So on and so forth.”

26. “Love it or hate it, self-care has ballooned into a billion-dollar industry. At one end of the spectrum, exercise, meditation, and journaling help proponents find balance. Meanwhile, at the other extreme, astrology, tarot cards, and healing crystals help disciples find meaning.

Similarly, the HPL (High-Performance Lifestyle) is tapping into meaning. Filling a void left by the collapse of traditional institutions and the changing definition of masculinity, self-mastery has become the holy grail. In HPL circles, those pursuits include stoicism, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, big-game hunting, archery, kettlebells, surfing, contrast therapy, intermittent fasting, and psychedelics.”

27. WOWZA! 95 Billion dollars! I would love to get my hands on some secondary in Stripe. Super exciting company.

28. The Global South aka Emerging Markets is where all the future growth is going to be & SE Asia is leading the charge with Latam & South Asia & Africa coming soon after.

“In other words, something interesting is happening in Southeast Asia. Figuring out what it is will take some digging. But given the vast diversity in characteristics and outcomes among these countries, it seems unlikely that the answer will lie in some strategic industrial policy or change in resource prices. Instead, something appears to be lifting up the economy of the entire region to grow. That could be China, but my guess is that it’s going to be bigger than China.

My guess is that it’s an agglomeration effect — a function of the general clustering of supply chains and product demand in Asia. That would also explain why Bangladesh, which is located very close by, also got invited to the party.”

29. Clubhouse stepping up their platform game.

30. “Despite its enormous population and geographic size, California’s government is highly decentralized–and the exact same thing could be said about the United States in general. That dynamic, according to the Guardian, favors pandemics over people because it ensures that protocols, policies and messaging will be inconsistent from region to region and city to city. That regional inconsistency sowed confusion, misinformation and resentment in California and the country, which intensified the already roiling distrust and tension between pro- and anti-lockdown forces.”

31. “As we continue to discuss in this letter, long term holders have a significant advantage over the weak handed short term traders. Humans are emotional. We succumb to fear and greed. But if you have deep conviction in a thesis and refuse to allow the short term price movements to affect your decision making, you will do fairly well over the long term.”

32. “We have leapt over the fence marking society of the past and are racing with increasing speed towards our inevitable future. What we can expect from looking ahead is near constant change. Lifestyles of adaptability and willingness to try new things will do well in this environment. And despite the rapid breakdown of traditional institutions that is inevitable from such rapid change, the future and what it means for society looks bright.”

33. “Some people are natural maniacs, and you can’t ask for the maniac parts you like without realizing there are maniac parts that might backfire.”

34. I have to admit I did enjoy the original Justice League movie……(don’t cancel me!)

But look forward to checking out the new recut version.

35. I’ve been fascinated by Biotech for a very long time since my friend eased me into it.

This is a good guide for those interested in what I consider one of the most important sectors in the next few decades (outside of energy).

“There’s something unique happening in biotech right now. Some once in a generation moment where low cost of capital, a century of maturing discoveries, and a global pandemic collide.”

36. “But it was the rise of the consumer Internet in the 1990s, and especially the popularization of the social web starting around 2007, that allowed scenes to break free of the limits of local geography and time zones. No longer did interest groups have to find enough members willing to drive to a specific place at a specific time. They could self-organize online and become massive networks with incredible buying power, socializing power, and even political power.

Online scenes now attract most of our discretionary attention and social energy. They stream into our living rooms from unknown locations in cyberspace to every Internet-connected device.

We are likewise now discovering that it is easier to find and hang out with people who have similar interests, tastes, and goals online than in the physical world. It is no accident that, in the COVID era, many people are reversing the trend of urbanization and moving to larger dwellings far from cities. We can now access everything and everyone we need online.”

37. Another example of being penny wise, pound foolish. The EU does not look good here. 2021 shaping up to be another lost year for the region.

“The price difference is macroeconomically irrelevant,” Wolfgang Münchau, head of the London-based Eurointelligence think tank and a frequent critic of Brussels initiatives, wrote over the weekend. The potential impact of the pursuit of low prices isn’t. If the EU suffers longer lockdowns because other buyers are willing to move faster and pay more, the “indirect effect of that short-sighted policy will be massive.

The EU’s slower, more deliberative and cooperative effort may have cost precious time, and precious lives.”

38. I do like Squarespace and am a proud customer.

39. “The more that I spoke to this investor, the more it became obvious that much of his success was driven by doing things differently. He didn’t want to speak with inferior investors for fear of ruining his advantage. He also didn’t want to simply be an inbound-based investor either. The second comment that stuck out to me was that the best investments of his career were all the product of a hunting expedition.

The investor would sit down and look at an industry or vertical. They would map out who the best company in the space was and then reach out to the founders. The goal was not to invest in a specific person or company, but simply invest in the market opportunity. The best way to invest in that market opportunity was to find the best company pursuing it.”

40. This is a sad part of America. For the record, this also exists in UK and Canada too. I will admit I’ve had way more racist comments in Canada against me versus in America. But thanks to Trump and the cursed CCP this is coming to fore again in USA.

“The attacks Asian Americans are facing across the country are bringing the dialogue about longstanding prejudices to the fore. And as Americans are having more frank conversations about race and institutional biases, they aren’t as easy to ignore as they have been in the past.”

41. “People are reacting to a broken system and they’re turning to grassroots communities to do so. The 2020s will be shaped by these cultural forces — the search for belonging and the reclaiming of agency — and where they intersect to take down centralized power and build a new architecture for American capitalism.”

42. “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.”

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