Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads Nov 28th, 2021

“You may encounter defeats, but you must not be defeated” — Maya Angelou

  1. Observant.

“Today we move more bits than atoms. Robots are building our products and artificial intelligence is taking care of the machinery. We order everything we need online which will soon be delivered to our doorsteps with self-driving trucks. And Starbucks, with the help from Amazon, is opening up cashierless coffee shops in New York City.

By letting software do all the hard, repetitive, and boring work we should be able do enjoy more leisure time, right. But that is not what seems to be happening. Everyone is just getting busier, more stressed out, and unhappy in their work as per research. Now why is that? Isn’t the idea with technological innovation to make everything easier and free up time, money, and attention for the really fun stuff in life?

I think part of the problem is that while digital technologies have revolutionized the world over the past 25 years we human beings are still thinking in atoms and not bits. We are getting more addicted to the mindless distractions of the digital world and less engaged in the real opportunities this new brave world offers.

Instead of slowing down to understand the new paradigm shift we are accelerating and becoming busier and busier. But when we move too fast we get tunnel vision and our ability for a 360-view of the world disappears. We are running faster in a hamster wheel that is broken and that will eventually lead nowhere. But we have to change as we are on the cusp of a large-scale human revolution in lifestyle and being.”

2. This was a crazy educational interview. Don’t agree with some of his views/points but I do for most of this. Balaji back on the Tim Ferriss Show. Very thought provoking.

3. What a great time to be alive.

“With the Internet, you can choose your parents, your friends and your belief system through a series of smart decisions. While it seems extreme to suggest your “parents” can be replaced, you can replace the word with coaches (assumes you have a good relationship with them). This was *impossible* 40 years ago. You’d be stuck learning from the same people… living in the same place… working the same jobs, year after year after year.

It gets better! As economies move online (as you can see that’s our plan!), you can move your business/work online as well. You can have your own proposals, your own budgets and your own sub-culture that filters out the bad actors over time.

In short, the future is high-tech. Decentralized Wi-Fi money economies. This means your future is not dependent (at all) on what a 75–80 year old guy does or says. As long as you have internet access you can find a way out of any situation you are in (if you care to do so).”

4. Lots of good stuff here. The man is one big massive brain.

5. “A lot of early majority users are afraid to adopt crypto because the user experience is a radically different experience from traditional finance. An investment opportunity exists in building a digital wallet with UX designed for later adopters, not early adopters. Users that care less about self custody and more about the investment and international use cases. The point is that not all features that appeal to early adopters will be appealing to the early majority. New opportunities will form by adapting early tech to help onboard new users with altered needs.”

6. So many great nuggets on the bleeding edge of the internet and business.

7. This is actually a very smart play. Focus on Japanese crafts businesses.

8. “Which leads me to my third point: making users happy isn’t just a sign that you’re on the right track. Making users happy will also give you the strength to fight the headwind of conventional opinion. And you’re going to need help, because that headwind is strong. You can’t be in denial about that.

What it should feel like in an early stage startup is that you’re having a little party with your users, and it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks, because you’re having such a great time. Except of course that that party has to be growing. It can be small, but it should be growing.

When you can find something that everyone else thinks is dumb but that a growing number of actual users love, this doesn’t just give you the strength to carry on, but is a sign that you could be onto something really big. That’s my fourth point: the bigger the difference between conventional opinion of your idea and users’ opinion of it, the more potential it probably has.”

9. “If you’re a founder who’s trying to decide whether to pursue venture capital or nontraditional investors, ask yourself these questions: What do you need at your stage of development? Have you punched through all the possible failure modes? What risks remain in the business? Given that perspective, how much money should you raise and at what valuation?

If you’re a founder and you are completely confident you know everything needed to build a durable company, and all you need from investors is money, then taking money from an asset manager may be the right path for you.

But if you understand there are risks that happen in the lifetime of a company — things that can go wrong that money alone won’t solve — then pairing up with a venture investor who knows your business might be the best approach. A pure asset play can buy you a little bit more time, but fundamentally you need to have talent in the management team, and a VC firm can help you there.”

https://techcrunch.com/2021/11/17/not-all-money-is-created-equal-a-vcs-advice-for-founders

10. Love these business teardowns.

“Why are tickets so pricey? It’s the nature of live entertainment.

The shows are expensive to produce — and unlike movies, they can’t be scaled globally. Instead, they are performed 1–2x per day in theaters ranging in capacity from ~500 to ~1.7k, creating unusual supply and demand issues that affect both megahits and run-of-the-mill shows.”

11. “Be competitor aware of their latest positioning, messaging, strategy, etc. but don’t obsess over it. Find the balance where the minimal amount of attention is allocated to stay aware of what’s going on with them but no more. As a simple exercise, whenever you find yourself obsessing over a competitor’s press release, immediately email three of your customers to find a time to check-in and see how things are going. The more you obsess over competitors, remind yourself to transfer that energy to obsessing over customers.”

https://davidcummings.org/2021/11/20/customer-obsessed-and-competitor-aware

12. “I have heard a lot of Angel investors say “I never do bridge rounds” or “I’ll just take the markup and save my capital for more shots on goal.” Another view is “Double down on your winners.” Which strategy is superior? In a market where power laws apply and the “winners” deliver the vast majority of the returns at all stages, it is important to have a framework to decide (at every stage) “is this one a winner?”.

In my investment career, I evolved from an “early only” to a “double down on your winners” investor. If you are an “early only” investor today, I encourage you to read on. You may think differently about follow on investing. Or not, this is my model, you need to figure out your own.”

13. “In the age of the individual creator, creator tech’s responsibility to the creators themselves is as much an ethical position as it is one of self-preservation. (No creator tech without a full thriving ecosystem of smaller creators, to err on the side of the obvious.) The superstar economy is ceding ground to independent creators with dedicated followings scattered across platforms and mediums.

If the creator economy is to thrive, the creators must thrive first. Patrons must come from unexpected places and the bottom up. Audiences must be easier to access. Creator tech can’t take the lion’s share and leave pennies for the creators. In other words, creator tech’s success is inextricable from creator success.”

14. “You can only bet on unknown unknowns near the frontiers of human tenacity and creativity. Towards the tail distributions on both traits, unexpected tail events start to happen that dominate everything else. The problem with JC Penney isn’t that the department store business is a bad business (you could argue that the online bookstore business for Amazon was also a bad business). The problem is that JC Penney doesn’t have a high density of people who are either deeply tenacious or deeply creative. The unknown unknowns at JC Penney are 1,000 times less likely than at Amazon, so you likely shouldn’t be betting on them.

When you have groups of people who are especially tenacious and especially creative, magic happens. Amazonians had to be far more tenacious than competitors, otherwise they would die. Amazon’s tenacity has perpetuated into Amazon being one perhaps the most innovative company in the world, continuing to invent and enter new markets at a breakneck pace. At its core, the reason to bet on Amazon is their corporate tenacity, and therefore inventiveness.

A bold vision can sometimes be confused with arrogance or hubris, and sure enough, sometimes that’s how it ends up looking. Betting on unknown unknowns still requires a deep ability to execute.”

15. For those who want to learn more about this DAO thing.

https://future.a16z.com/dao-canon/

16. I like this pay/stay framework for evaluating developer tools.

“Investing in pre-product companies in this noisy environment is particularly challenging as you have to squint to see the potential value that a tool can create once it’s built. This is also true when evaluating startups planning to build a tool tied to an open source project with traction.² The project may point to an unaddressed pain point but that doesn’t always mean there’s a venture-scale opportunity where hundreds of millions of ARR can be generated.

In order to assess the market potential for developer tool startups, we created a framework that we’d like to share with founders. We call it the “pay/stay framework” and break it down below.”

17. Rise of the Solo Capitalists.

“The value proposition is clearly resonating and solo capitalists are proving they’re useful to founders and valuable to LPs,” said Altman, founder of Lattice. “I think they can manage a lot more capital than people historically imagined, and deploy it effectively.”

18. Good interview with one of nicest & hardest working guys in Hollywood. Keanu Reeves.

19. “Whenever obstacles present themselves, I’ve had to find the solution,” says Hart. “Once I find the solution, I find happiness. That cycle repeats. Work to find the solution, find happiness. Let it all go. There’s nothing else you can do.”

20. “While the timeline is still unclear, it’s likely we’re headed toward a future where we could all be using some yet-to-be-determined version of the metaverse to go online. And Facebook is determined to play a major role in building and shaping this new realm, meaning that even if Facebook doesn’t single-handedly own the metaverse (as it has insisted it won’t), it’s still striving to wield control over it. That means Facebook may one day have even more influence over our daily lives.

Today, Facebook still has to operate under the parameters set by Apple and Google, which make and control the world’s dominant smartphone operating systems. But in this new world that will likely rely on VR/AR headsets and digital sensors, Facebook is striving to create its own rules and operating platform.

The metaverse presents a potential future where Facebook won’t have these constraints anymore. If Facebook succeeds at being a pioneering founder of the metaverse, then it would be the company building and selling virtual reality headsets used to access that metaverse, and it could control a major app store distributing metaverse apps. This would all give Facebook a level of control and influence over the future internet that it doesn’t have today on the mobile web.”

21. This is literal gold for SaaS Founders and investors. Amazingly useful data points here for reference.

22. Impressive group of people and investors. Long Journey Ventures.

“One of the secrets to my success is that I have a lot of secret weapons and I’m infinitely curious. A few people across my career really stick out, but two in particular I can now call my partners. If you want to spend time with your friends, the best way is to collaborate and if you are worried they might leave you in the dust eventually, well, the next natural step is to join them.”

23. I agree with this. Tote bag as a flex.

“The tote bag is to the 21st century what the button badge on the lapel was to the 20th. It is a declaration of values for an age when principles come with merch. This is citizenship as consumerism. You either pay for a branded tote bag, or you are given it because you bought something else.

A bookstore tote tells the world not only that you read books, but also that you have excellent taste in retail establishments. A museum bag is a memento of a cultural expedition — but more specifically, the time you spent in the gift shop.”

24. Precursor to the future. Cyberwar effects civilians in Iran and Israel. Expect to see the same across the globe sadly.

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