Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads May 1st, 2022
“If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” — Fred Devito
- This seems like a very big hole to close re: Western sanctions on Russia. But expect a cut off of European Natural gas buys with more news of awful atrocities done by Russian army against Ukrainian civilians.
“There are big risks to all this government intervention. The protectionist measures enacted by the Central Bank of Russia are effectively a kind of bridge for the ruble.
If Russia manages to come to some kind of resolution over Ukraine that involves the withdrawal of sanctions and the reestablishment of trade relations with the West, then the ruble might hold its current value once the measures are withdrawn.
If the measures are withdrawn without some kind of resolution, however, the ruble could collapse, hammering the economy, jacking up inflation and causing enormous pain to the Russian people. And the measures — some of them, at least — will have to be withdrawn eventually. Russian borrowers can’t keep paying interest rates of more than 20% for long, if they can even conceive of borrowing at that rate. Growth will be stifled — the Russian economy is already expected to contract by more than 8% this year — and industry will slump.”
How Russia rescued the ruble
subscribe to Planet Money podcast subscribe to Planet Money podcast Russia said last week that it wants the European…
2. Hope he is right.
3. “SaaS wisdom teaches us narrow lessons: start by conquering a narrow market and expand from there, add at least as much in ARR as you burn each year, and build your product either horizontally or vertically.
Rippling rejects these norms entirely. It ignores the mimetic warfare of the Gartner quadrant. Its wedge was a data asset, not a narrow product. It doesn’t let SaaS metrics dictate its strategy.
Reminiscent of the foundational computing companies, Rippling shows what ambition in modern business software looks like. In the age of software incrementalism, Rippling is an anachronism.
With ambition comes volatility, simultaneously enabling outsized success and idiosyncratic risk.
An ambitious product strategy means an expansionary surface area, like the Roman Empire. It can become vast, but is expensive to build, there is far more territory to defend against competition, and you can burn employees out along the way.
But if Rippling works, it shrinks the administrative drag on American business.”
Rippling and the return of ambition
In the 1970s, the tech industry was several orders of magnitude smaller than it is today. But each company had far…
4. “And yet, the 57-year-old Israeli-American has quietly become a player in venture capital, despite operating as a one-man shop and having a tendency toward bluntness in conversation. In 2021 alone, Zeev — whose limited partners include Peter Thiel and top university endowments — invested $683 million and backed 10 new startups across two new funds, Zeev told The Information, a pace that exceeds that of more established VC firms.
Around 80% of that money went to doubling and tripling down on earlier startup investments, according to fund documents viewed by The Information. That’s an unusual approach for a solo investor.
Zeev said he has no intention of hiring more partners for his venture operation, despite the expanding size of his funds. The spoils that come with solo investing aren’t the only reason why. Zeev believes the typical VC partnership, with its relatively small size and shared decision-making, doesn’t provide any unique advantage to entrepreneurs.
“Either you go all the way and you build an Andreessen [Horowitz] with a huge infrastructure and processes that really can help [founders]. Or you might as well gather on the other end of the spectrum,” he said. “The middle is the worst. You get the worst of both sides.”
The Solo Venture Capitalist Who Doubles Down Like Andreessen
Somebody forgot to send Oren Zeev the memo about how Silicon Valley venture capitalists are supposed to act. The…
5. “The world is awash in conversations about supportive and toxic environments, to the point where the words have nearly lost all meaning. But there’s a reason why people talk about it so much: it’s important. If you need a reminder, just watch these two shows side by side. One will leave you feeling the warm and fuzzies of a wedding or baby shower, the other will make you feel like you just escaped the high-school cafeteria of your nightmares.
Human nature isn’t pure evil or good. We do not always cooperate or always defect. Both strategies are available to us, and emerge in any given situation based on a complex interplay of factors like resource scarcity, information transparency, etc. But we do have some influence over what sort of environment we create, in two ways:
1. How we play shapes how others play
2. Where we play shapes what games matter”
Friendly Competition and Subtle Defection
My wife and I recently bought our first home and we're expecting our first child soon, so, as you can imagine, we've…
6. Not sure I agree with all of this. But an interesting view on Bitcoin from Peter Thiel.
7. This is good stuff for single person room clearing. Will be useful one day. Thank u Internet.
8. “Europe faces non-political headwinds, too. The biggest and most stubborn is its ageing workforce, which puts a cap on domestic demand. That forces the continent’s exporters to seek markets outside Europe, Claus Vistesen of Pantheon Macro told us, likely limiting much economic rebalancing toward domestic consumption.
For these and other reasons, transformation in Europe has always been slow, painful, or both. But greater fiscal union, higher investment and a more balanced economy are the way for Europe to close the gap with the US, and finally reward investors for betting on the continent.The twin crises of pandemic and war have opened the door to substantial change.”
Chartbook-Unhedged #3: Is a Bull Market in Europe's Future?
With the war in Ukraine grinding on and the French election heating up, for #3 in the three part exchange between the…
9. “Work will always be work. Some people work doing what they love. Other people work so that they can do what they love when they’re not working. Neither is more noble.”
That last sentence shook me. Until that day, I believed figuring out what to do for work was life’s ultimate mission. I had interpreted Annie Dillard’s words — how we spend our days is, of course, how we live our lives — to mean that my chosen work would define not just what I did, but who I was.
Much as an investor benefits from diversifying their investments, we too benefit from diversifying the sources of meaning and purpose in our lives. The question is: how?
Meaning is not something that is bestowed upon us — it’s something we create. And as with any act of creation, it requires time and energy. One of the downsides of a life completely subsumed by work is that it leaves room for little else. In the words of psychologist Esther Perel, “Too many people bring the best of themselves to work and bring the leftovers home.”
When we give all of our energy to our professional lives, we deprive the other identities that exist within each of us — parent, sibling, neighbor, friend, citizen, artist, traveler — of the nutrients to grow.”
Hi! Dan here-I spent a lot of time in my twenties searching for Ikigai: the sweetspot of what I'm good at, what I…
10. Thread on potential strategies on war in Ukraine. Ukraine will win but it’s going to cost lots of civilian casualties as the barbarian Russian army becomes even more brutal and indiscriminate.
11. Live by hype, die by hype. It’s what happens at the top of a cycle.
“Several rank-and-file workers, whom the company referred to as “Fastronauts,” told NPR they had noticed Holland pouring significant money into deals aimed at creating marketing buzz, like partnerships with sports teams. They questioned the benefits.
“With Fast,” said one former employee who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation. “It was like, ‘how quickly can we set money on fire?’”
Fast, the easy checkout startup, shuts down after burning through investors' money
Fast, a buzzy startup that attracted more than $120 million in investment to help people expedite online purchases, is…
12. More on Fast. Fake it till you make works, until it doesn’t.
“We waited too long and we ran out of money,” said the employee, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation. Fast “misjudged significantly” the mood in the VC community, he added: “What was acceptable revenue and burn and prospects for growth in the summer of 2021 looks very different in April of 2022.”
One-click payments service Fast is closing its doors
Republican lawmakers have long insisted that Sec. 230, which gives social media platforms legal immunity from the user…
13. This is always a good show on what’s up in the technology business. All in Podcast.
14. Interesting take on the failure at FAST. Always lessons to be learned.
15. Bullish on Uranium stocks.
Sitting Down With Sprott
" There is no substitute for face-to-face reporting and research. " - Thomas Friedman Late 2021 and early 2022 will…
16. “While individual founders can’t really influence overall customer demand, there are factors you can control:
-The product category they choose (most important)
-How they differentiate their product competitively
-Their skills, network, resources, experiences
-Efficiency + effectiveness of marketing
-How they control costs
-How they evolve
The most important choice you make will be which product category you decide to pursue. Is there sufficient demand in that market? Are lots of people searching for a solution? Are there new customers being born every day?
Build a product that people are already searching for, in a category where you have some built-in advantages.”
Do entrepreneurs create demand?
Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs don't "create" demand for a product. While companies certainly have some…
17. “It is only the sedentary populations that are creators of arts, commerce and stable legal rules. The danger however is that nomadic populations are often militarily stronger since their way of life predisposes them to be braver and better warriors. Hence a danger permanently looms over the rather fragile fruits of human civilization.”
Ibn Khaldoun and Nikolay Trubetskoy
I recently read the translation of "The Legacy of Genghis Khan" by Nikolay Trubetskoy, famous Russian linguist, who is…
18. “The harsh reality that Russia’s dazed invaders came up against — at least as far as our media allow us to glimpse it — was Ukrainian resistance backed by unexpectedly significant support by NATO.
So if the Ukraine war marks a a break, to put the emphasis on Putin may be misguided. If the honor of rekindling history, of “returning us to the 19th century” belongs to anyone, it is not to Bunga-Putin. That honor belongs to the Ukrainians.
It is the Ukrainians, to the amazement and not inconsiderable embarrassment of the West, who are enacting a drama of national resistance unto death. Under Russian attack, they are bonding together and demanding recognition of their sovereignty. There are many other peoples who are struggling for their existence and recognition today.
The difference is that the Ukrainians do so in the classic form of a nation in arms rallying around a nation state. And the Ukrainians do so efficaciously. They have turned back a Russian army. They have saved their capital city. Those are not merely symbolic achievements.”
Chartbook #109: War at the end of history
War and history are intertwined. Entire conceptions of history are defined by what status one accords to war in one's…
19. “We often say famously not without good. The war is a tragedy of the Ukrainian people. But we will not only survive, but also become stronger. After the end of the war, after the victory, Ukrainian fintech will become unbreakable. In fact, it is expected to integrate into Europe with the inflow of investment and increased profitability. Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to survive the war. But those startups that survive will be the most desirable targets for investment in Europe.”
Ukrainian FinTech is very much alive and kicking #StandwithUkraine - Chris Skinner's blog
I have spent time in Ukraine and Russia in the past, and live next to the borders (my base is Warsaw these days). It…
20. “But one thing Russia’s ill-fated foray into Ukraine has shown is that with enough outside support, an extremely motivated, highly trained, and well-equipped indigenous force can fend off an invading superpower’s army and make any victory a Pyrrhic one. Pentagon planners often warn against “fighting the last war” — overcorrecting for past mistakes instead of realizing all wars are different.”
21. “The Ukrainian way of war is a coherent, intelligent, and well-conceived strategy to fight the Russians, one well calibrated to take advantage of specific Russian weaknesses.
It has allowed the Ukrainians to maintain mobility, helped force the Russians into static positions for long periods by fouling up their logistics, opened up the Russians to high losses from attrition, and, in the Battle of Kyiv, led to a victory that has completely recast the political endgame of the Russian invasion.
The original maximalist Russian attempt to seize all of Ukraine has been drastically scaled back to a far more limited effort aimed at seizing territory in the east and south of the country.”
Why Ukraine Is Winning
Battles reveal more than they decide. Battles in which the outcome is truly up for grabs are rare, and battles that…
22. These are brave, amazing people. What a great story. Startup skills are useful in Ukraine in the war against the Russian army orcs.
Meet the Entrepreneur Who Left Silicon Valley to Create a Makeshift Supply Chain in Ukraine
Andrey Liscovich, an entrepreneur and former CEO of Uber Works, has been sourcing supplies in his hometown where…
23. “You can start by simply writing a journal entry as though you’re living through a future threat — whether it’s a new pandemic, a climate disaster, an incoming asteroid, or an emerging technology gone awry.
Ask yourself questions like: What will I feel in this future? What will I and others need most? How will I use my unique strengths to help others?
Questions like these spark a “learned helpfulness” process that can make you feel empowered as you look ahead.”
How to future-proof your life from pandemics and other threats
Part of Pandemic-Proof , Future Perfect's series on the upgrades we can make to prepare for the next pandemic. Finding…
24. “Prices for food commodities like grains and vegetable oils reached their highest levels ever last month largely because of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the “massive supply disruptions” it is causing, threatening millions of people in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere with hunger and malnourishment, the United Nations said Friday.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said its Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices for a basket of commodities, averaged 159.3 points last month, up 12.6% from February. As it is, the February index was the highest level since its inception in 1990.
FAO said the war in Ukraine was largely responsible for the 17.1% rise in the price of grains, including wheat and others like oats, barley and corn. Together, Russia and Ukraine account for around 30% and 20% of global wheat and corn exports, respectively.”
Food prices soar to record levels on Ukraine war disruptions
Prices for food commodities like grains and vegetable oils reached their highest levels ever last month largely because…
25. We need to do more to support Ukraine against the barbaric Russian invasion. These are brave men on the frontlines defending their country & democracy against an autocratic evil.
Cut off the Russian oil purchases and send more weapons to Ukraine.
“I ask what the marines think about foreign support for their country. Will NATO “close the skies” over Ukraine, they ask. Almost everyone in the country asks this question. I say I know as much as they do, that Western leaders are afraid a “no-fly zone” could lead to nuclear war. Oleg nods thoughtfully. Oleksiy sneers: “Well, we have already fought Russia for eight years without NATO, anyways.”
'We Are Tired of Killing': How Long Can Ukraine Trade Land for Blood?
"The Russians are just over there." The Ukrainian marine driving the truck peers intently into the swirling snow…
26. In principle, think this is right. Don’t like it but think it’s correct.
“The ending of the financially based system is being hastened by geopolitical developments. The West is desperately trying to sanction Russia into economic submission, but is only succeeding in driving up energy, commodity, and food prices against itself. Central banks will have no option but to inflate their currencies to pay for it all.
Russia is linking the rouble to commodity prices through a moving gold peg instead, and China has already demonstrated an understanding of the West’s inflationary game by having stockpiled commodities and essential grains for the last two years and allowed her currency to rise against the dollar.”
The Commodity-Currency Revolution Begins...
Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, We will look back at current events and realise that they marked the…
27. Some interesting things happening on freight and supply chain stuff.
28. “In other words, the perceived need for a higher salary and for higher prices to withstand future inflation leads to higher prices and higher salaries. And inflation keeps churning on.
This cycle is kind of like a game of musical chairs.
Businesses and people know inflation will end at some point, but they want to obtain the best possible outcome before it’s over. So they race around the circle faster and faster, asking for increasing wages and sending costs higher and higher.
The deeper inflationary psychology takes hold, the harder it is to shake off and the longer the cycle continues.”
Why thinking about inflation leads to more inflation
As America continues to reckon with inflation, neither businesses nor everyday people feel good about their financial…
29. Everyone seems to believe China will overtake the USA. Maybe, but only because the USA screws it all up (which it is kind of doing right now) not because of Chinese growth. China has played their bad cards well in past, not sure anymore.
“In many ways, productivity growth is the thread that ties together the entire story of the Chinese economy since 2008. Basic economic theory says that eventually the growth benefits of capital accumulation hit a wall, and you have to improve technology and/or efficiency to keep growth going.
Some countries, like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan, have done this successfully, and are now rich; other, like Thailand, failed to do it and are now languishing at the middle income level.
For several decades, Chinese productivity growth looked like Japan’s or Korea’s did. But slightly before Xi came to power, it downshifted to look a bit more like Thailand.”
Five reasons China's productivity slowed down
It's always an interesting experience to read books about China's economy from before 2018 or so. So many world-shaking…
30. “While the West has imposed unprecedented levels of sanctions against the Russian economy, Russia’s Central Bank has jacked up interest rates to 20% and the Kremlin has imposed strict capital controls on those wishing to exchange their rubles for dollars or euros.
It’s a monetary defense Putin may not be able to sustain as long-term sanctions weigh down the Russian economy. But the ruble’s recovery could be a sign that the sanctions in their current form are not working as powerfully as Ukraine’s allies counted on when it comes to pressuring Putin to pull his troops from Ukraine. It also could be a sign that Russia’s efforts to artificially prop up its currency are working by leveraging its oil and gas sector.
“For Russia, everything is about their energy revenues. It’s half their federal budget. It’s the thing that props up Putin’s regime and the war,”
Russia's ruble has almost totally recovered. Does that mean sanctions aren't working?
The Russian ruble by Wednesday had bounced back from the fall it took after the U.S. and European allies moved to bury…
31. Go Ukraine! Slaiva Ukraini!
“If a single person can be credited with Ukraine’s surprising military successes so far — protecting Kyiv, the capital, and holding most other major cities amid an onslaught — it is Zaluzhnyy, a round-faced 48-year-old general who was born into a military family, and appointed as his country’s top uniformed commander by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in July 2021. Zaluzhnny and other Ukrainian commanders had been preparing for a full-on war with Russia since 2014.
Zaluzhnyy has said that the Ukrainian military is filled with young, professional soldiers and future leaders. “These are completely different people — not like us when we were lieutenants. These are new sprouts that will completely change the army in five years. Almost everyone knows a foreign language well, works well with gadgets, they are well-read,” he told ArmyInform. “New sergeants. These are not scapegoats, as in the Russian army, for example, but real helpers who will soon replace officers.”
“We have already started this movement, and there is no way back,” he added. “Even society will not allow us to return to the army in 2013.”
Ukraine's 'iron general' is a hero, but he's no star
Washington, Moscow and most of the world expected Russia to demolish Ukraine's military within days. But not Valeriy…
32. This is why Ukraine will win: the amazing people. But we need to help them against the barbaric Russian army.
33. This is a great episode this week. All in Podcast.