Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads October 4th, 2020

“A Society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

Very important subject. So insightful. Take Asymmetric Bets!

“Asymmetric opportunities usually have meaningful upside in a success case, and meaningful learning or development in a downside case. If the downside case is still one of the best case scenarios you can imagine, then that’s an easy asymmetric bet to take.

In addition to pursuing things that have meaningful upside (and thus some risk), asymmetric bets can also involve taking a bet in risky spaces that other people aren’t pursuing.”

“The irony is that, in failing to take risks, we fail to gain the optionality that comes from doing so.

Risk-taking brings its own optionality. Especially when you’re young, accumulate optionality through the skills you gain, knowledge you acquire, and the unique experiences you undergo.

Accumulate optionality through differentiation, not conformity!”

“After the buzz of Social Dilemma dies down, the rest of us will still be stuck here with our brains wired to each other in fundamentally uncensorable ways that transcend niceties like national borders or political parties. That startling technological development, the final decoupling of geography from human communication and its democratization to everyone on the globe, will never go away however fervently Luddite nostalgists may wish it so².

Ultimately it’s up to us if the next chapter in our history, to use the printing press/Reformation timeline as a guide, is the Thirty Years’ War — the bloodiest, bitterest conflict in European history until WWII — or the Enlightenment, a period of unprecedented scientific and political progress.”

Incredible talent and character: Lady Gaga.

“What pop spectacles should look like in 2020 is a question mark, as COVID-19 and the nation’s reckoning with systemic racism, sparked by more police killings of Black Americans this year, offer no easy answers for how artists should use their platforms. But if there’s a way to be of service, Gaga is up for the job. To make Chromatica, she had to pull herself out of one of the darkest places she has ever been, and she has a familiar message for anyone trying to do the same: Just dance — it’s going to be OK.

“When I see people struggling like they are right now,” she says, “my brain goes, ‘Put on your superhero suit. Let’s go.’ ”

“The simplest outline of a K-shape recovery is that some industries and companies and individuals will thrive and others will flounder and fail.

The stock market, the labor market, and the housing market are all areas we see this dynamic at work.

Haves and have nots and the way policy shapes the divergence between these two classes in America has been a consistent theme for the last few decades and it seems to be the world we’re barreling towards living in after this crisis ends, too. We choose to support some areas, leave others for dead, and call it the market system when the dust settles.”

“And so like almost everything else with this crisis, the “housing boom” is but a mere exaggeration of what had already been in play during the Before Times: single-family homeownership serving as an increasingly unattainable goal. The bull case for homebuilding stocks and the housing market at large is a bear case on affordable availability.”

What a timely profile. I admit I was feeling pretty crap myself the last few months while stuck in lockdown in the Plague States of America aka USA.

“Sometimes it feels like the world is looking at you saying things like, “Come on, man, just get over it. Don’t think like that. Just move on.”

But what people on the outside don’t always understand is that it takes all of your strength and willpower just to exist. Just to keep on going. Battling depression, battling anxiety, battling any mental health disorder … it’s all just so unbelievably exhausting.

That’s been on my mind a lot lately, considering the millions and millions of people around the world who have lost their jobs, or lost their loved ones, or who are just dealing with the unprecedented anxieties of being a human in 2020. I know so many people out there are suffering right now. I’m no different. I’m still going through it. Even after all the work I’ve tried to do on myself over the last two-and-a-half years, some days are just brutal.

Let’s just call it what it is. Some days are total shit, right?”

“The merchants who make up this bustling microeconomy — largely immigrants and people of color — work long hours hawking everything from hot dogs to t-shirts, often off-the-books and without permits.

And during the summer, one particular product is king: a fruity, frozen alcoholic concoction called a nutcracker.

From May to September, dozens of nutcracker vendors sling their drinks at festivals, parades, and beaches, selling squat, frosty bottles out of garbage bags and coolers. The most skilled operators can clear upwards of $500 in less than 30 minutes.

But during the pandemic, the street cocktail landscape has seen a shakeup.

While street vendors don’t qualify for liquor licenses and must run their operations illegally, new legislation has allowed restaurants to sell their own take-out cocktails.

While most vendors have continued to operate in the shadows, one of them — 35-year-old Amseshem Foluké — has decided to fight back by attempting to take his illegal operation corporate.

As it turns out, selling these drinks is not so dissimilar from running a startup: it requires top-shelf marketing skills, a keen understanding of supply and demand, & a willingness to occasionally bend the law.”

“And so one of the planet’s richest medical doctors, who made a $6.7 billion fortune developing breakthrough treatments for cancer and diabetes, seeks to battle the pandemic. The weapons in his arsenal: the cancer treatments he has spent the past decade and a half developing. He’s aiming them at all aspects of the coronavirus, from a vaccine to treatments for mild cases to therapies targeted toward patients on ventilators.

It’s an enormously ambitious plan from a man who has often been accused of being a hype artist. In an earlier incarnation, Soon-Shiong was a respected surgeon and professor at UCLA Medical School, but throughout his wildly successful entrepreneurial second act, he has been derided as more showman than scientist, thought guilty of overinflating results and taking undue credit.

A few years ago, for example, he boasted about using a breast cancer drug to treat a patient with cervical cancer — but other groups were already seeing similar successes. As we wrote in a 2014 cover story, “While he’s undeniably brilliant, Soon-Shiong is equally undeniably a blowhard.”

This is really neat. Amazing scenery. Snowboarding in Ten Sleep, Wyoming!

“Simultaneously, work on yourself. Face your inner demons. Get help. Face mental illness too. Be kind to yourself. Realize you’re doing the best you can. Forgive yourself for your messy past, where you acted like a dictator with too much money. Say sorry to the people you hurt. Forgive people who you banned for life because they violated one of your rules. Forgive people for no reason at all.

Look at what makes you happy now: family, your partner, messages from readers, mending of broken relationships.

Feel what it’s like not to run towards money. Notice how fancy cars, houses and luxury goods have zero appeal to you. Take the simple things in life and let them change your life.

Have money allow you to buy back your time, instead of spending money on things that create a never-ending trail of debt. Make the acquisition of wealth secondary. Focus on how you can be helpful. Get excited by all the people you can meet and do life with.

Learn to make a difference rather than a profit.”

I think this is important & brave (can’t believe I am writing this word but we are in stupid WOKE age) for companies to be clear on what they are about, employees and choose to work there or not.

“The narrower interpretation is how I intended the mission to be understood. I don’t think companies can succeed trying to do everything. Creating an open financial system for the world is already a hugely ambitious mission, and we could easily spend the next decade or two trying to move the needle on global economic freedom. We will keep building the most trusted and easy to use financial products that help people access the cryptoeconomy, so everyone can get the benefits of this new technology and we can bring more economic freedom to the world.”

“Technology will continue to make our lives easier… If true… this means that we should be over-exposed to technology from an investment perspective. Take the S&P 500 and look at the mix of the various industries, oil & gas, real estate, financial services etc. Simply take this mix and buy more of the technology sector. Sure. You may lose money in a particular year, month or week. And. Over the next 10-years you’ll eventually see technology become a more and more important part of the index.

Knowing that technology will continue to push forward at rapid rates (self-driving cars, curing diseases with AI, drones and new automated delivery devices) we can conclude that working in an industry that continues to help technology is a positive as well. For that we have to go “up stream” and move to the supplier side.”

“The tragedy of California is not its cacophony of specific failures, but that our “solutions” are all negative, or restrictive, rather than creative. Banning things, and often things that improve the lives of Californians, is presently our entire philosophy of government: no new science or technology endeavors, no meaningful public infrastructure projects (or, at least nothing resembling success here), and certainly nothing so ambitious as terraforming the Salton Sea. But with each of our challenges comes tremendous opportunity.”

“What if a state like California, with all of its potential, were run with a long-term plan in mind for abundant energy, fresh water (drought be damned), affordable housing, thriving, growing cities, and first rate science and technology education? What would a California worth following look like? Up until very recently, the impulse of the American political right was to stop the government from doing anything, while the political left, which dominates in California, was ostensibly in favor of using large, expansive government as a tool for progress. But the California government has no coherent strategy for progress, and with its increasingly anti-creative, reactionary legislative impulse, it’s starting to look… well… pretty conservative.”

“Oper8r hopes to fill in the gap between what it takes to be an occasional investor and become a full-time VC who is backed by institutional dollars. The program, which just completed its debut cohort, describes itself as Y Combinator for funds and emerging fund managers. The goal is to teach investors who want to build an institutional fund about the rules and oh-so-many regulations of the game.

Oper8r was started by Winter Mead, who worked as an institutional investor for years at Sapphire Ventures and Hall Capital Partners, and Welly Sculley, who operated at venture capital-backed fintech companies Ripple and Boku. The friends saw that there was no organization focused on next-gen fund managers. Instead of raising capital to create a program, the friends started a program, free of charge, to train investors.”

Batch 18 represent! Love seeing old portfolio cos thrive!

Unclear if this is a good thing or bad thing but here we are.

“But this year, politics, social justice issues, and current events are inextricable from our daily lives. It’s hard to have a conversation about literally anything without the context of everything going on. The coronavirus has us all socially distanced and unsure what the holidays will look like. The racial justice movement is sweeping through workplaces around the nation. The economic collapse is impacting millions of Americans, with hundreds of thousands of people out of work or running even tighter household budgets.

What Bosstick’s case shows is clear: The era of influencers being apolitical online is over. Influencers who continue to post their usual content without acknowledging the realities of this country face the risk of appearing so laughably out of touch that it renders anything else they have to say irrelevant. And as we get closer and closer to Nov. 3, an influencer who remains silent about one of the most consequential US elections in history may risk alienating and angering their followers in such a deep way that would be impossible to recover from.”

Lots to debate in this write up for Venture Capital aficionados.

“Is venture capital a risky asset class? No. Most VC funds choose to act in a risky manner by not diversifying, but that does not make the asset class risky. To de-risk venture capital, CIOs simply need to acknowledge that VC math is different from public markets math. The importance of low-probability, excess-return-generating investments means that proper diversification requires a portfolio of at least 500 startups.

It will take work to assemble such a portfolio. It is hard to do by investing directly. Current funds and funds-of-funds are rarely designed with diversification in mind. Instead, they concentrate funding in a small subset of ultra-popular entrepreneurs, sectors, and geographies, which risks driving down returns on capital, leaving higher-return strategies underfunded.”

“In a low-growth economy, the gangster way to register a sustainable increase in shareholder value is a move to a rundle (my term for “a recurring revenue bundle”).

Apple boasts the greatest asset in the consumer world, the iPhone. However, the greatest collection of consumer assets assembled under one corporate roof, is also the firm that stands to recognize the greatest accretion in stakeholder value with an aggressive move to a rundle. Simply put, it’s time to unleash the Mouse. Disney+ needs to bust a move to Disney2.”

“The best API-first companies give their users “superpowers” that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

While you might not think of them this way, some of the biggest companies of the past few decades originated from easily-implemented APIs that gave their users heightened power, efficiency or accessibility. API-first companies like Stripe, Twilio & Okta either created new markets or dramatically grew existing categories.”

“Signal is an end-to-end encrypted messaging service, similar to WhatsApp or iMessage, but owned and operated by a non-profit foundation rather than a corporation, and with more wide-ranging security protections. One of the first things you see when you visit its website is a 2015 quote from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: “I use Signal every day.” Now, it’s clear that increasing numbers of ordinary people are using it too.”

“Any time there is some form of unrest or a contentious election, there seems to be an opportunity for us to build our audience,” says Brian Acton, the Signal Foundation’s co-founder and executive chairman, in an interview with TIME. “It’s a little bit bittersweet, because a lot of times our spikes come from bad events. It’s like, woohoo, we’re doing great — but the world’s on fire.”

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

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