Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads November 15th, 2020

Never Lose Hope, Storms Make People Stronger and Never Last Forever — Roy T. Bennett

  1. I really want to read this book now.

“Blockchain Chicken Farm: And Other Stories of Tech in China’s Countryside: a deep dive into how technology is transforming rural life in China, particularly for young people.

A new generation of China’s young people are moving from cities back to the countryside where they grew up, bringing with them new technologies, and a drive to unsettle the old ways.Travelling to remote parts of China, Wang documents the way that communities that are usually left out of Silicon Valley narratives are challenging what it means to live in a tech-dominated world.”

2. “Hims Inc. is a 3-year-old telehealth company in San Francisco. This year, as the pandemic created a surge of demand for online medical care, the startup began providing Covid-19 tests as well as primary care and mental health services. Mostly, though, it’s known for offering generic prescription drugs to treat erectile dysfunction and hair loss.

In Hims ads and on the company’s website, the products’ relevant medical information is scattered among hyperphallic cacti, eggplant emojis, and a cartoon Snoop Dogg. As with other breakout mail-order brands of the past decade, such as Casper and Warby Parker — which sell mattresses and eyeglasses, respectively — the packaging is central to the sales pitch.

In an interview conducted pre-Covid, Chief Executive Officer Andrew Dudum says his goal was to build a health-care delivery system with the inviting gloss of Instagram. “When you use it, endorphins are rushing through your body,” Dudum says of the photo-sharing site. “That currently doesn’t happen in the health system, which is a big problem. It’s an ugly experience.”

3. Arrogance & Ignorance Kills. Literally.

“Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia, Mongolia, Thailand or Vietnam all followed different variants of the Hammer (heavy lockdowns when there’s an uncontrolled outbreak and they don’t know what to do) and the Dance (a series of intelligent measures to keep infections low), yet all have been successful.

This list includes all types of countries: democratic, authoritarian, continental, islandic, freedom-loving, Anglo-Saxon, developing, developed… They prove any country can succeed. And they’re not the only ones: From the Caribbean to Uruguay, Canada’s Atlantic Provinces or several African countries, many countries controlled the epidemic.

Meanwhile, most Western countries didn’t pay attention, suffered massive outbreaks, applied heavy Hammers to stop them, but never learned how to dance. When the summer recess ended, they were not prepared for the back to school season and its new wave of cases. As the winter progresses, it will only get worse.”

4. “Saltarrelli has built his career within the gallery system, elevating his profile most recently with an exhibition of collaborative paintings with Danish wunderkind Farshad Farzankia at Turn Gallery in New York. His paintings sell for many thousands of dollars.

But he discovered a newfound freedom in the direct-to-consumer model. His art was able to reach people for whom the gallery world is inaccessible, bypassing the elitism and exclusiveness and creating a more accessible path. “Over the years I’ve had people contact me through email or Instagram to ask if they could buy something, and I would just refer them to the galleries I work with. But a lot of the people that reach out don’t necessarily have the funds to buy something through the gallery,”

5. “As the person that defines a company’s culture and values, you need to set clear boundaries from the beginning and determine what type of intolerance you won’t tolerate — if you don’t, you risk your hard work being undermined.

Tolerance doesn’t work without intolerance, but this paradoxical thinking applies to so many other aspects of growing a company.

I firmly believe you’re most creative when you have clear boundaries or you face seemingly narrow restrictions. NOT being allowed to do something, pushes you to find innovative solutions — something you might never have thought of if you hadn’t been forced to.”

6. “Bartering relies on something called the coincidence of wants. In simple terms, this means that each kid must possess an item (or service) that the other kid desires.

As we age and start making money, item-for-item trades like this become less common.

But when we’re young, most of us didn’t think about the objective, monetary value of the items we were trading. We base our exchanges on subjective value, or what the items are worth to us.”

7. This is really perceptive and important to understand. Read this! (I am anti-Trump for the record.)

“The common thread of the Trump appeal is that it is a complete and total counter-reaction to undifferentiation. Trumpism rejects the last couple decades of policy and rhetoric that have advanced, more or less, the agenda that “everybody is equal and the government is going to actively make sure that everyone is treated the same.” Trumpism is a rejection of the ideal that we are and ought to be undifferentiated.”

“Trump is absolutely differentiated from everyone else, both in his metaphorical un-cancellability and in the literal wall he’s built around the White House. He is the perfect satirical caricature of an External Mediator. He flaunts every sacred taboo; his toilet is made of gold.”

“He’s an outlet for all of our stored up anger and frustration, at ourselves and at everyone around us, wrapped up as an invitation to have fun, almost like a practical joke. Trump offers a rhetorical, even satirical, playground where you can shout nonsense slogans like “Obama is the Antichrist!”…….

If you don’t understand what Trumpism is, like what it really is, it’s going to stick around.”

8. “This week, the stock of both Pinterest ($40 billion market cap) and Snap ($67 billion market cap) reached an all-time high.

But there’s another reason they’re both seen as such strong players in the social media world, especially now — because they’re both focused on positivity.

Obviously, there’s no perfect place on the internet (and I should note both organizations had racism claims from ex-employees over the summer), but in terms of content, they are generally happier places than the alternatives.”

9. This is a good list of basic metrics to track for every startup.

10. The only good thing Trump did was to start to act against China & treat them as the competitor/enemy that they are. I hope the Biden administration keeps this in mind.

“In Beijing the change will be very much welcome. If there is something Chinese strategists regret is the end of “bid your time,” the old understanding that what China needs is to be left alone, as it grows stronger both politically and economically, in preparation of the time when it can actively challenge America in each and every dimension of global power.”

11. I like his message.

“Dave Ramsey, America’s most influential personal finance guru, drives a pickup truck that, he says, will eat your electric car. He wears a .45 on his hip with a hollow-point in the chamber. He is an older white male, a self-described “capitalist pig”, and an evangelical Christian who almost always votes conservative. He hates government intervention in his life — and yours.

His mortal enemy, however, is personal debt, and he has spent the last three decades on a crusade against modern usury, in the form of credit card companies (scum), payday lenders (the scum of the earth), and debt collectors (“some good people”, but largely “complete scum”).

Ramsey believes that as long as you have one red cent of debt — credit card debt, student loans, car payments, mortgages, medical bills — you can never be free. The day you take scissors to your credit cards is the beginning of your financial salvation.

God help you if you’re waiting for the government to rescue you. It won’t, he says — and shouldn’t.

Your debt is on you.”

12. Well, this would explain a lot in modern day life.

“So where are the rest of the psychos? The vast majority of them aren’t found in jail cells.

They’re found in positions of power.

If they have the desire to kill, they vault themselves into a place in society that lets them openly sate that desire. A wise psychopath, with a murderous and bloodthirsty will, skillfully works his or her way into a job that lets them kill in socially acceptable ways.

They might become a judge so they have the power of life and death over people every day. They might go into politics so they can use the law to dominate and control people. They might become corporate lawyers who relish destroying small business owners and leaving them with crushing debt that collapses their business.

The line between hero and psycho is thin as tissue.

Psychopaths excel at certain kinds of jobs, like surgery, law and corporate leadership, where their cold-blooded calm keeps them intensely focused when everyone else is cracking under the pressure.”

13. This is amazing, laudable and just awesome! Go Rick Steves!

Rick Steves’ Travel Empire Is on Hold so He’s Paying His Employees to Serve Their Communities

14. Trump is a vile awful man, but the grievances of almost 50% of Americans he claimed to have spoke for are real. Let’s not forget this & help fix America for them too.

“Trump will weigh on America’s consciousness for a long time. For some, these past four years will be a source of PTSD. They will constantly fear a resurgence of Trumpism and that’s not a bad thing. Hopefully, they will stop laughing at people whose worldview is shaped by Fox News and finally understand the nature of the struggle they are in. For the Republicans, by the time Trump has finished calling the election results into doubt, they will have yet another resentment that will never go away.

The power of Trump, whether you see him as leader or demon, is that he gave a human shape to a fact that predated him and will continue after he’s gone: America is perilously divided, with no sense that society will bind up its wounds soon.”

15. “there is a far more urgent reason to transform our approach to work. Bearing in mind that at its most fundamental, work is an energy transaction, and that there is an absolute correspondence between how much work we collectively do and our energy footprint, there are good grounds to argue that working less — and consuming less — will not just be good for our souls but may also be essential to ensuring the sustainability of our habitat.

The economic trauma induced by the pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to reimagine our relationship with work and to re-evaluate what jobs we consider really important.”

16. “Work may not be fun at first, but we can bring fun into the work as we learn. The more we learn, the better we do, the more we enjoy it. In other words, we discover work we love first learning to do it.

I’d go so far as to say that without learning a new skill, adding to our knowledge, or gaining new experiences, it’s impossible to find our fit. As the subtitle of Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You says, “Skills trump passion in the quest for work you love.”

What’s also obvious (and often unappreciated) is that the only way to get better at something is to spend time being bad at it. You make mistakes, improve, and repeat.”

17. This is one of the best reads in town if you are as interested in Fintech like I am.

18. “We believe the press and investment community is telling the story about emerging consumer brands incorrectly. The difference between VC-backed DNVBs and the other group of equity value creating brands outlined above is two-fold: (1) DNVBs raised buckets of venture capital while the second group of brands were typically bootstrapped and/or funded by PE shops and (2) DNVBs all started online while the other group of brands launched in a more multi-channel fashion from the start.

The whole idea of a “digitally native brand” is outdated. Rather than digitally native, our belief is that today’s customers demand that brands reach them where they are — whether it is a hunter buying a Yeti cooler at Cabela’s, an Allbirds customer shopping at an outdoor mall, a Dolls Kill customer going to Coachella, or a college student buying Kylie Cosmetics on her phone between classes. We are starting to see even VC-backed brands go multi-channel right away: Kim Kardashian’s shapewear business SKIMS entered Nordstrom less than a year after launching online.”

19. “The wheels and gears of democracy may have been rusty from disuse, but in the end it worked. That itself should be a huge shot of optimism heard among all the decent people around the world.

Yes, I know, the other half who didn’t vote for the winning guy. They’ll come along, what unites us is truly more than what divides us, we just forgot that in the bubbles we’ve created for ourselves. We have to win them over with competence of execution. And forgiveness and healing on all sides. Yes, those words we haven’t really meant in a long, long time.”

“The shoots of innovation and optimism even in these locked-down febrile times for the travel industry has been a wonder to see for a realist like me, even in the depths of despair earlier this spring and summer. If we all knew where to look, the fecundity of innovation in travel wasn’t lying fallow, it was just waiting for that first day of sunshine to show through.

This morning of optimism will take us far, that much I sincerely believe. America can still do lots of good in the world if done by right leadership.”

20. Chamath has been on forefront of a lot of things. Believe he is Warren Buffett of this generation.

“Chamath Palihapitiya is an exceptional pitchman. He knows how to get you excited in four-minute bursts on CNBC about a tech company that flips houses or about a data-savvy Medicare insurance company. “He’s willing to saddle up on CNBC and tell the story,” says venture capitalist Bill Gurley. “Chamath — he’s figured out the process for crushing it as a SPAC sponsor and I think a lot of the others are just sitting still and don’t know what he knows.”

SPAC is the four-letter acronym on everyone’s lips in Silicon Valley right now. That’s special-purpose acquisition company. Many enterprising finance-types hope to make a killing in the next two years with their own SPACs. Anxious venture capitalists are more than happy to offload their private portfolios onto a euphoric public market. And cash-hungry companies see it as a speedy path to a becoming publicly traded stock.

There are lots of reasons to care about what happens in SPAC world. Some believe that the process (the mechanics of which I sketch out at the bottom of this post) could represent the future for small and mid-sized tech public listings.”

21. “Sustainable energy has become the new hot thing and it makes me laugh because I’ve been involved in energy for 30 years [including in government roles]. I wrote two books on the future of energy in the ’80s, so I’ve been at this a bit.

Our thesis continues to be that there are revolutions occurring in smart energy, mobility and smart buildings, and they are being driven by renewable energy, which costs less than carbon-based fuels in virtually every part of the world today, from the U.S. to India to Africa. That’s not a political statement; it’s a fact.

Fully 70% of new energy coming online now is sustainable, so people are smart to pay attention to that. Because costs are going down and the cost of storage is going down precipitously — the cost of lithium ion batteries came down so much that we reached an inflection point in 2018, and the cost of a kilowatt per hour costs less than $150 now — everybody is going electric.”

22. Very fair assessment for founders. Must read.

“When I first got going in the world of venture capital, I heard multiple times that the problem with European and Israeli entrepreneurs was that they sold out too early. Of course, I could identify with those founders because I myself had sold out too early on more than one occasion. Each time I felt I needed to — for a different reason.

Perhaps I just didn’t have sufficient belief — either in myself or in the company I was building.

Now I sit on the other side of the fence, I can see that a potentially world-beating company selling out too soon is potentially damaging to our funds. After all, world-beating businesses don’t come along that often and VC returns rely critically on the outliers. We also know that it generally takes at least 10 years to build a large, sustainable business which requires determination and stamina — and contrary to uninformed popular opinions about venture capital, we are patient investors.”

23. I think Spearhead is a brilliant initiative. Democratizing startup investing.

Spearhead launches $100M fourth fund to transform founders into top-notch VC investors

24. One of most observant guys on politics and the mess in SF specifically.

“Today, the only thing anyone seems to agree on is America isn’t great. This is a stark departure from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 clapback to the rise of the MAGA hats: “America is already great,” she said, a now-inconceivable political phrase. That story has been shattered, and for the foreseeable future there’s no going back to that world.

Something is fundamentally off, and as much as I believe Biden is a decent man, he is not going to lull me back into some belief that everything is fine, or that our approach to government before Trump was, in even just some general sense, working. Our middle class is struggling. Our trade and labor policies have gutted our manufacturing capabilities, and much of American industry is stagnating. At every level of government, and from all of our “experts” in media and science, our response to COVID-19 was pathetic. China and Russia are, increasingly, a threat to the free world. Radicalism at home is on the rise.”

25. Highly recommend this movie.

“Since it premiered on the streaming platform in September, the documentary has become a viral hit. Although Netflix does not release viewer data, it says it has been a global success, in the top 10 most watched in Israel, South Africa and Australia. Amy Schumer recommended it to her 10.2 million Instagram followers.

With the same introspective cadences of the film’s voiceover, Foster muses that in a time of growing separation from nature, the film has triggered a fundamental human longing to reconnect with our origins. “Just under the skin we’re still fully wild. And I think this touches on what it’s like to glimpse that.”

26. I’m happy for him! :)

“There’s just so much creativity that happens in the early phases of anything, whether that’s software or physical products or art or music. It’s the “anything goes” phase of creating that I get so much energy out of and that I haven’t really had in years.

I also realized that the same people who are good at starting companies aren’t always the same people who are good at growing or managing them. The company itself has so much more potential than I have the ability or interest in offering and on top of that, I just wasn’t enjoying myself anymore.

So, that’s why I sold it.”

27. “Conventional wisdom says that attempting to move upmarket will be a struggle with never-ending product feature requests and excessive demands of customer support. As a result, the idea of moving upmarket is often associated with fighting an uphill battle or the even more futile struggle of paddling upstream.

But there are many SaaS product categories where the market leaders have emerged from the low end of the market by leveraging intuitive product experience and low-touch go-to-market strategy to undermine any ‘higher end’ competition.

These startups tap into product-led growth initiatives to gradually yet consistently move toward the enterprise to win larger customers, quarter after quarter, without ever forfeiting their command of the market’s longtail.”

28. Well this is frightening.

“Make no mistake: The attempt to harness Trumpism — without Trump, but with calculated, refined, and smarter political talent — is coming. And it won’t be easy to make the next Trumpist a one-term president. He will not be so clumsy or vulnerable. He will get into office less by luck than by skill.”

29. Immigrants to the rescue. Amazing story.

“On Monday, BioNTech and Pfizer announced that a vaccine for the coronavirus developed by Dr. Sahin and his team was more than 90 percent effective in preventing the disease among trial volunteers who had no evidence of having previously been infected. The stunning results vaulted BioNTech and Pfizer to the front of the race to find a cure for a disease that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide.

“It could be the beginning of the end of the Covid era,” Dr. Sahin said in an interview on Tuesday.”

“Dr. Sahin and Dr. Türeci sold Ganymed for $1.4 billion in 2016. Last year, BioNTech sold shares to the public; in recent months, its market value has soared past $21 billion, making the couple among the richest in Germany.

The two billionaires live with their teenage daughter in a modest apartment near their office. They ride bicycles to work. They do not own a car.

“Ugur is a very, very unique individual,” Mr. Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, said in the interview last month. “He cares only about science. Discussing business is not his cup of tea. He doesn’t like it at all. He’s a scientist and a man of principles. I trust him 100 percent.”

30. This was one of biggest surprises coming out of the Pandemic in the USA. Pleasant surprise I might add.

31. Totally true in VC! The best pupils don’t need you.

“There will always be the “star pupils” but the teacher’s job is to serve all of the students. The reward may be to watch the star pupils shine, but the job is not. The job is to serve all of the students equally, or possibly to help the students who are struggling more than the others.

That mindset has helped me navigate this challenging issue in the early stage venture capital business. The work is often in one place and the rewards in another.”

32. “Beyond this, if the Taiwanese marines manage to stage small-scale amphibious operations across the strait to infiltrate and neutralize attack key Chinese air defense facilities, Taiwan’s land attack missiles and air assets, manned and unmanned, will then come in play to enforce intra-conflict deterrence. One can imagine similar roles for the Taiwanese marines in disrupting PLA logistics and communications nodes.

Finally, of course there is the possibility of the U.S. Marine Raiders being deployed for similar cross-strait roles, especially in a scenario where the U.S. is hesitant to risk naval assets, including flattops, in face of China’s denial capabilities at the onset of the conflict. Whatever be the case, amphibious special forces have a major role in Taiwan’s asymmetrical defense strategy and allied support for it.”

33. I agree with this perspective. All depends on type of startup and industry you are focusing on. Open your eyes. #AirplaneArbitrage

“Now, I don’t presume to tell every startup where they should be based, but I can tell you that there are so many places around the world right now that are trying to be the new tech hub.

They are becoming more developed tech hub alternatives to Silicon Valley. Other places like Yerevan, Armenia are pushing to join these new tech hubs.

There are already companies located in Yerevan, but it’s not enough to saturate the market. You have the chance to get in now while it’s a small & emerging market & see a profit in expected growth over the next few years.

While Silicon Valley may be number one right now, these other tech hubs are growing. So why not locate in the Silicon Valley of Mexico? Or the Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe? You can find better places where the laws are going to be in your favor & opportunities are expanding.”

“There are opportunities outside of the United States.

New tech hubs are emerging all over the world.

Don’t stay in an area with more competition and less profit.”

34. “The story of Trump’s rise is often told as a hostile takeover. In truth, it is something closer to a joint venture, in which members of America’s élite accepted the terms of Trumpism as the price of power. Long before anyone imagined that Trump might become President, a generation of unwitting patrons paved the way for him. From Greenwich and places like it, they launched a set of financial, philanthropic, and political projects that have changed American ideas about government, taxes, and the legitimacy of the liberal state.”

35. “From lockdowns to riots to the specter of major tax increases, the events of 2020 have proven to everyone that it makes sense to have a Plan B.”

“And you actually don’t even have to be that rich– certainly not a billionaire– to be able to afford some of the world’s citizenship by investment programs.”

36. The Dynamic Duo of Fintech! These are the guys to know when it comes to Fintech investing. Best in the biz.

This fintech-focused VC firm just closed a $75 million debut fund; backers “came out of the woodwork”

37. “I’m a huge advocate of self-serve. With two caveats. One, in the long-run, it only works when it’s paired with enterprise.I by no means hope to advocate self-serve at the exclusion of enterprise. It’s essential that they go together, and that there are exceptions.

It’s not for everybody. You can look at companies like Viva, which is one of the most successful and capital efficient startups in the past 10 years. They are not a bottoms up company but they’re incredibly successful. It’s not the only path. But for most companies, especially developer and infrastructure companies, it is the path.”

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

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