Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads May 19th, 2024

Marvin Liao
15 min readMay 19, 2024

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” — Seneca

  1. “Transitioning from founder-led sales to a hired sales team is often a difficult process. Failure rates are high with new sales hires, and many of the lessons have to be learned over and over again.

Once product-market fit is achieved and the business is working, the next step is to hire a process-oriented sales assistant to take all the lessons learned, document them, and start mapping out the sales process. With this in place, then it’s time to hire a sales leader to build a team focused on running a scalable process and delivering results.”

2. Such an excellent conversation this week. For those in venture capital, this is a must listen.

3. Mr Perell is a very wise young man. There is so much here. Worth listening to.

4. About time this bill got signed in the USA.

“Finally, the passing of this bill will be a considerable morale boost for Ukrainian citizens and those on the front line. As President Zelensky noted in a tweet just after the bill pased, “our warriors on the front lines, as well as our cities and villages suffering from Russian terror, will feel it.” It is a major vote of confidence in the future of Ukraine.

The passing of this bill may also prompt other nations to step up their support for Ukraine. There are multiple nations besides the U.S. that have stepped up and provided very significant amounts of aid for Ukraine, including the Baltics, Denmark, Poland, Scandanavian nations, Japan, Germany and Britain. However, some nations have been laggards, including my own country of Australia.

Hopefully this bill might prompt the government in the land down under to be a little more generous in supporting the survival of Ukraine.

But for now, the aim will be to get the aid bills back to the Senate and then signed by President Biden in the coming days.

Then the hard work of rapid delivery of aid, and the stepping up of U.S. military industrial production, begins.”

5. Loved this conversation. All about creativity, writing and finding your own path career wise.

6. I LOVE This Show: Shogun.

“Why do you think a show about feudal Japan is really connecting with people right now?

It’s so educational. We really get to understand where Japanese people are coming from, what their history was like. It’s nothing like that right now. No one’s walking around with a sword, but it still teaches us the roots, so I’m so happy. It’s very relative, because it’s talking about politics, human relations, and understanding different cultures — things that you don’t agree with but have to accept. You can come from anywhere and still be able to relate to that. It’s fascinating.”

7. Excellent conversation. Pomp is a friend but I learned a lot from his stories of service in Iraq. He also has a great view on business, investing & BTC and careers.

8. “Shore Capital moves just as quickly as its founder. The health care–focused microcap investment firm sealed 801 deals from 2020 to 2023, making it one of the world’s busiest buyout shops. Its assets under management soared sevenfold to $7 billion during that period, as stellar returns convinced early investors like the University of Notre Dame and Sequoia Capi­tal’s wealth management arm to steadily boost their commitments.

But with its 15th anniversary this year, Shore remains a minnow in the ocean of private equity — where the largest fish, such as Apollo, Blackstone and KKR, oversee more than $500 billion apiece. That’s by design. “We’ve turned away billions of dollars,” Ishbia says. “In private equity, when you’re good at your job, you raise a bigger fund. My thesis was, ‘Who stays in microcap?’ The answer is basically nobody.

STAYING SMALL is working out big time: Shore’s average internal rate of return on its 14 exits, all in health care, is 53%, net of fees. That’s nearly triple the average net IRR of U.S. buyout funds raised since 2009, according to data from Cambridge Associates. After Shore took its 20% to 30% cut of profits, its exits multiplied investors’ money by 5.5 times on average, also nearly triple the average total value to paid-in capital multiple of U.S. buyout funds raised during that period.

Shore has never unloaded a company for less than three times cost before fees, nor, it says, has it ever suffered a loss. “Those are top 1% returns in private equity,” marvels one investor who asked not to be identified, citing his organization’s press policy. “That’s rarefied air, right? That’s more like venture capital than a traditional buyout firm.””

9. “Gig drivers don’t face an edict for speed like past Domino’s drivers, but Wells says the requirement to be fast is built into the job, with drivers hurrying to make financial incentives, avoid bad ratings, and ensure the food is warm upon delivery.

“Your livelihood depends on you getting somewhere and getting there fast,” she says.

That kind of motivation can be dangerous.

When Behrend was preparing his Domino’s case, he remembers speaking to behavioral scientists who explained that delivery drivers stressed by time constraints get a form of tunnel vision. They focus on their destination and less on the world around them, leaving themselves and everyone else vulnerable, because they must arrive a little bit faster.

The 30-minute guarantee may have ended decades ago. But its legacy lives on. “

10. “The show, called “In Good Company,” is the brainchild of Nicolai Tangen, a 57-year-old native Norwegian and former London hedge-fund manager who in 2020 was named CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management. That is the arm of the Norwegian central bank operating what is known as the oil fund, enriched by the nation’s vast oil and gas revenues.

The fund has never been bigger than it is this year, at around $1.6 trillion. But Tangen felt the fund — and the people running it — could be better understood by the public.

“We aim to be the most transparent fund in the world. It struck me that the real transparency here would be to show the Norwegian people what they own,” Tangen said in an interview. “I thought, you know, we own all these companies, we own big stakes, we actually have access to these CEOs.”

Each show featuring a corporate leader at the microphone typically begins by noting the number of shares the Norwegian fund owns of that company, along with the often eye-popping value of that investment. ($5 billion of Exxon shares, $4 billion of Nvidia, $2.2 billion of Disney, etc.)”

11. I like Justin Waller. He is a good man.

12. “That disbelief was the very reason I’d been keen to study Traba, after hearing CEO Mike Shebat on a podcast. Speaking to 20VC’s Harry Stebbings, Shebat had proudly championed his startup’s long hours, “Olympian” work ethic, and mission to build a $1 trillion business. Despite having no previous interest in Traba’s market of light industrial staffing nor familiarity with Shebat’s career, I found myself intrigued by his rhetoric. He was saying something profoundly obvious in one respect — that building an extraordinary company takes extraordinary work — but also transgressive. There are few more efficient routes to an internet argument than to eulogize the 80-hour week.

Traba is taking a different approach. While peers and forebearers emulate the decadence of a banal, patronizing Rome, Shebat is aiming for something closer to Sparta. Intensity, effort, sweat — these are not the unsavory byproducts of building a company; they are the end, in and of themselves. “The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things,” the poet Ranier Marie Rilke wrote. Above all, this seems to be Traba’s pitch: tech’s best talent wants a mountain to climb, not a nap pod.”

13. This is a masterclass in writing and storytelling from 2 masters. What a great conversation.

14. “Russia’s influence in its immediate neighborhood has been diminishing, too. The bulk of non-Russians in the former Soviet borderlands want less and less to do with their former overlord and certainly do not want to be reabsorbed by it. Armenians are embittered, Kazakhs are wary, and Belarusians are trapped and unhappy about it.

Eurasianism and Slavophilism are mostly dead letters: the overwhelming majority of the world’s non-Russian Slavs joined or are clamoring to join the European Union and NATO. Without Russia menacing its European neighbors, NATO’s reason for being becomes uncertain. But that means Russia could break NATO only by developing into a durable rule-of-law state, precisely what Putin resists with all his being.

Russia’s basic grand strategy appears simple: vastly overinvest in the military, roguish capabilities, and the secret police, and try to subvert the West. No matter how dire its strategic position gets, and it is often dire, Russia can muddle through, as long as the West weakens, too.

Peace comes through strength, combined with skillful diplomacy. The United States must maintain concerted pressure on Russia while also offering incentives for Moscow to retrench. That means creating leverage through next-generation military tools but also pursuing negotiations in close cooperation with U.S. allies and partners and aided by so-called Track II exchanges among influential but nongovernmental figures.”

15. Crypto Hayes on Global Macro. A long but valuable discussion to prepare for your financial future.

16. Italian Badasses of WW1. The Arditi.

17. Top conversation between two of the most interesting people on the internet.

18. “So if you are a founder worried you’ve missed the window, don’t. It’s a land grab right now, but a single research paper can mean the difference between [not at all useful] to [useful] and therefore a new opportunity unlock. Obvious in hindsight, but tricky timing to predict. It’s going to be an exciting (and wild) few years.”

19. This is a must listen to for anyone B2B founder. How to figure out Product Market Fit. One of the best frameworks I’ve seen in a while.

20. “U.S. officials are worried that their hopes of developing a green industrial base will be derailed by China. This is not an unreasonable concern, but the current focus on looming “overcapacity” in green tech (and other sectors) is both confusing and unhelpful.

Instead, the focus should be on underconsumption — both in China, and elsewhere — which is what actually threatens the viability of the green transition, as well as global economic and financial stability.”

21. Always an excellent conversation between two high performers in business and life.

22. What a surprise, cultural clashes at the TSMC plant in Arizona.

“The American engineers complained of rigid, counterproductive hierarchies at the company; Taiwanese TSMC veterans described their American counterparts as lacking the kind of dedication and obedience they believe to be the foundation of their company’s world-leading success.

Some 2,200 employees now work at TSMC’s Arizona plant, with about half of them deployed from Taiwan. While tension at the plant simmers, TSMC has been ramping up its investments, recently securing billions of dollars in grants and loans from the U.S. government. Whether or not the plant succeeds in making cutting-edge chips with the same speed, efficiency, and profitability as facilities in Asia remains to be seen, with many skeptical about a U.S. workforce under TSMC’s army-like command system. “[The company] tried to make Arizona Taiwanese,” G. Dan Hutcheson, a semiconductor industry analyst at the research firm TechInsights, told Rest of World. “And it’s just not going to work.”

TSMC insiders told Rest of World the key to the company’s success is an intense, military-style work environment. Engineers work 12-hour days, and sometimes weekends too. Taiwanese commentators joke that the company runs on engineers with “slave mentalities” who “sell their livers” — local slang that underscores the intensity of the work.”

23. So many good takes on startups and entrepreneurship from Greg Isenberg. Lots of advantages of studios and multi-preneurship.

24. “I sometimes catch myself thinking like a beta cuck loser. And when I do, I must remind myself of the overarching macro theme that the entire retail and institutional investing world is starting to believe. That is, all the major economic blocs (US, China, European Union “EU” and Japan) are debasing their currencies to deleverage their government’s balance sheet. Now that TradFi has a direct way to profit off of this narrative via US and soon-to-be UK and Hong Kong spot Bitcoin ETFs, they are pushing their clients to preserve the energy purchasing power of their wealth using these crypto-derivative products.

As explained above, the political situation in the US gives me extreme confidence that the money printer will go Brrrr. If you thought it was absurd what the US monetary and political elite did to “solve” the 2008 GFC and COVID, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The wars on the Pax Americana periphery continue to chug along primarily in the Ukraine / Russia and Israel / Iran theatres. As expected, the warmongers from both political parties are content to continue funding their proxies with borrowed billions of cash money. The cost will only increase as the conflicts escalate and more countries are drawn into the melee.

Calling all degens to the Left Curve. Your hunch that money printing will accelerate as politicians spend money on handouts and wars is correct. Do not underestimate the desire to remain in office of the incumbent elites. If real rates become positive, then re-assess your crypto conviction. But until that time, let your winners run, you glorious degenerate piece of shit.”

25. Instructive discussion on how to do outbound sales in startups. Worth watching several times.

26. No exits, no VCs in the long run.

27. This came at the right moment for me. Listening to Justin Waller is always helpful, more so today.

28. “A Ukrainian army that is resupplied with air defence and artillery munitions, and with the increase in morale that has accompanied the U.S aid bill approval, will make any expansion in Russian offensive operations in the coming months very difficult indeed.

The new ATACMs are an important new capability for the Ukrainians. It enhances their capacity for operational strike and complicates ground and air defence operations for the Russians.

But, like all weapons, the new, longer range ATACMS are no silver bullet. They will be an important component in Ukraine’s operational strike capability but will need to be used judiciously to ensure their best effect and to slow Russian adaptation to them.

While the Russians may eventually adapt to the impact of these weapons, as they have shown in the wake of new weapons being introduced, they are an important capability for Ukraine.”

29. “This is all good news for founders & users : more models, more choice, better performance across domains, lower costs for training, tuning, & inference. If the recent weeks are any indication, we should expect further flurries of advances & specialization.”

30. “Anyway, I thought an analogy of why we should be concerned my nerd friends would easily understand is The Borg from Star Trek. They represent a metaphor for what authoritarian far left state control might look like (with a technocratic flavor, on brand for modernity). In a Borg world, you will own nothing and you will be happy.

The Borg’s relentless pursuit of assimilation mirrors the totalitarian nature of communist regimes, where dissent and individuality are taken away in favor of conformity to the collective ideology. Just as the Borg assimilate other species into their hive mind, communist regimes seek to assimilate diverse cultures and beliefs into a homogeneous state-controlled system. Dissidents are quickly stamped out or locked away if assimilation is not possible.”

31. “No tranche of weapons can give Ukraine an easy path to victory — defined as the expulsion of all Russian troops from Ukrainian territory, or the achievement of a position from which to negotiate a full Russian withdrawal. (And the gratuitous delay in U.S. aid has undoubtedly made this path more difficult.)

From the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine in February 2022, reporting on the Ukrainian war effort has whiplashed between pessimistic and optimistic narratives: Ukraine is doomed! No, Ukraine is beating Russia! No, Russia is winning after all! We have now been in a pessimistic phase for the last five or six months, coinciding with the standoff over aid to Ukraine in Congress. But while sober realism is warranted, defeatism is not.”

32. “Asia is a place where the U.S. is both badly needed, and in a position to do a lot of good, by helping democratic nations remain independent of an expansionist superpower. The Middle East is an increasingly irrelevant quagmire — a violent region with little to offer and little hope of resolution.

The days when the U.S. was powerful enough to defend the entire world at once are long gone. Now we have a choice of whether to stretch ourselves to the breaking point in the hopes that we can somehow bluff our way through all the conflicts at once, or to refocus our hard power on the points of maximum leverage in the defense of global liberal democracy. That doesn’t seem like a difficult choice.

So those are the five things I think the U.S. needs to do in order to bolster both its own security and the security of its allies, in the wake of the recent breakthrough on national security legislation. They are all difficult tasks that will require both sustained political will and delicate, skilled management. But I believe they are all within the realm of the possible.”

33. “If an expert would see a few hundred examples of something in their career, an eager novice with AI is now able to process 1,000. It might be the closest we’ve ever been to true democratization of information. At what point does a novice who is willing to use AI start to overtake an expert who resists?

Studies show that AI improves performance by 43 percent for the least-skilled workers, compared to only 17 percent improvement for the most skilled. There now might only be a 5 percent gap between novices and experts. Some specialties will be safer than others, but in others, experts might not be able to command as high a premium.

Luck will continue to play a factor, but sustained differences in outcomes will be defined by good judgment, strong character, and excellent taste. Atomic Habits wasn’t guaranteed to be successful just because it had a great title and drew from the best sources. It still had to be a good, well-written book, drawn from Clear’s own life. Clear directly practiced everything he wrote about, modifying the book as he integrated its advice into his life, giving relatable anecdotes throughout. It is real human experience that will remain valuable in the future, not expertise.”

34. Another great discussion on the news from the edge of the internet and popular culture.

35. “No one should expect a Russian collapse overnight. Even the most optimistic scenarios for Ukraine envision a long and costly war of attrition. Unfortunately, the lengthy and agonizingly difficult process of passing this aid bill suggests Washington may not be so patient.

If the new aid allows Ukraine merely to preserve a new stalemate on the battlefield rather than make significant gains, international pressure on Kyiv to negotiate with Moscow may grow more prominent. Ukrainian leaders will counter that they have no reason to trust that Russia will honor such a settlement.

As for Russia’s own calculations, the passage of the aid bill was an important signal to President Vladimir Putin that there’s still strong political support for Ukraine in the United States, even if it’s not quite as robust as it was two years ago. Of course, that could all change next year if former President Donald Trump, who would likely pressure Ukraine to give up territory to end the war, returns to the White House.

Ukraine and its allies have been reaching out to Trump and his allies in hopes of hedging their bets, and in a slightly positive sign for Kyiv, Trump ended up backing the new aid package after it was structured as a loan rather than a grant, an idea he had floated earlier.

But it’s safe to say that leaders in both Kyiv and Moscow will have to continue keeping one eye on America’s political climate even as they plot their next moves on the battlefield.”



Marvin Liao

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