Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads Sept 26th, 2021

“A great obstacle to happiness is to expect too much happiness.” — Bernard De Fontenelle

  1. Woke is a joke.

“This also holds true at country level. Countries that implement ever-stricter woke regulation will likely fall behind economically. This will trickle through to individual companies, and to their owners and employees. “Go woke, go broke” does carry a lot of truth in it, and it will affect people in the US and Europe.”

2. Africa is one of the biggest and most exciting opportunity in the next decades.

3. Big fan of Josh Brolin. Can’t wait to watch him in Dune.

“Im just a junkie at heart. You know what I mean? I don’t want to get too far into this, but the idea of safety sounds like death to me.”

4. “In a way, it’s easy to see why the nickname Little Prince has trailed Wizkid, born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, since he started making music in the mid-2000s. It’s a career arc that runs parallel with the emergence of Afrobeats as a distinct genre, or at least as a distinct wave within Afropop.

The genre fuses the song structures of R&B with the distinctive melodic energy of West African palm wine music, pushing the hard, offbeat pulse of Jamaican dancehall into a more polyrhythmic clave. The sin Afrobeats nicely captures a plurality inherent to the sound itself, which is less a set formula than a constellation of Afromusics, made in West Africa but for an audience that encompasses the whole Black Atlantic diaspora.”

5. Jason Momoa is the MAN!

“This sort of full-throttle enthusiasm is Momoa’s true superpower, demonstrating that he’s got more than physical DNA to sustain his rapidly multiplying pursuits. Beyond his most visible presence as an actor, now he’s producing documentary passion projects and even parlaying his ongoing relationship with Harley-Davidson into directing a six-part series spotlighting real riders around the country.”

6. “In this kind of a conflict, public image will be the key. True, Cold War 2 looks likely to be less ideological than Cold War 1, because the Soviet Union was more interested than China in trying to export universalist principles. But the basic idea will be the same. If people in China think the U.S. offers a better model, they’ll be dissatisfied with the kind of system Xi Jinping is trying to force them into. If people in other countries are turned off by the kind of system they see developing in China, they’ll be more wary of being China’s ally, and so on.

But that process could easily run in the other direction. If people see America as a chaotic, ineffectual, terminally divided, deeply unequal, unfair society, they’re not going to see the U.S. as a model or trust it as an ally. And currently, the U.S. isn’t doing amazingly well in this regard.”

7. Gatorade! Fascinating.

“An undisclosed share of Gatorade’s profits flow to a Gatorade Trust. The trust then sends 20% to the university, which employed the professor who invented the drink nearly 60 years ago.

In 2015, Florida announced it had accumulated ~$250m from the royalties. Its annual take over the last few years has been ~$20m, according to the university.

These days, many universities cash in through IP policies that ensure they get the bulk of proceeds from anything invented by their staff. But that didn’t happen at Florida in 1965. Gatorade led to an expensive dispute between the inventors, the university, and the federal government.

Depending on how much credit you believe belongs to inventors or institutions, Florida’s cut from the sports drink is either way too much, or not nearly enough.”

8. “She’s the first Black woman in the Open era to be ranked the number one female tennis player in the world; she’s won a combined 21 Grand Slam championships and 4 Olympic gold medals. She also, somehow, found the time to get two degrees (in fashion design and business administration) and launch three companies (more on those later). It’s the kind of résumé that would be impressive for any athlete…..”

9. Worth listening to. Jim Rogers is one of the best global macro investors around.

10. Part 2 of a fascinating interview with one of the best Global macro investors around.

11. Lots to learn from Bezos and crew at Amazon.

12. If you want to understand what’s happening in the economy today, this is worth watching. Hard choices for Central Bankers: a credit collapse or riots in the street.

13. Hope he is right.

“On the domestic scene, Xi Jinping has amassed virtually unlimited power for himself and his allies, meaning risking war would be an unnecessary gamble. Xi can already boast of cracking down on Hong Kong, subduing Xinjiang, and reclaiming most of the contested South China Sea. But if invading Taiwan went badly, none of that would matter: his legacy in P.R.C. history would forever be tarnished.

And this brings us to the most important reason why China will not invade Taiwan: the costs of doing so, even given China’s enormous military build-up, would be too high. It would be political suicide.

If China invades, the American people will rally around the besieged democracy.”

14. Always interesting profiles here.

15. This is pretty awful.

“The lead partner took meetings barefoot, and would pick his feet incessantly. During one meeting, he lit a cigarette and smoked it in his office, windows closed. He finally put it down in his lunch plate, and poured his coffee over the cigarette to extinguish it. I didn’t know if it was some weird power play, or if he just lacked any kind of manners.”

SoftBank did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. But the Vision Fund has over the years won a reputation for eccentricity, and executives have even become known for their barefoot meetings — notably Rajeev Misra, the London-based head of the Vision Fund.”

16. This is pretty damn cool. Trento is beautiful.

17. Also appreciate the shout out here.

“This post is intended to show a specific way anyone can create personalized evergreen content. Why would you do that? Because in the digital age, you want to exist online. And you want to bypass the urge to enter into the attention economy’s arms race.”

18. The Asian American Indiana Jones.

19. Can’t wait to read this new book on Peter Thiel whose influence on this generation of Silicon Valley founders & investors is hard to argue against.

20. “We’ve already seen this story play out in 2008–2009. When there is massive default (Lehman) governments decide to print money. The emergency bailout for 2008/2009 crash was ~$700B. Evergrande has ~$300B in liabilities. We have printed over $5T with another $3.5T bill being pushed through shortly.

Therefore? Our current bet is on a lot of monetary policy measures/bailouts to prevent a massive collapse (once again). In short, money printer go Brr and a continued push for Modern Monetary Theory.

While we’re getting some panic messages about the price action (of crypto) in September we’re not surprised. In the end, none of this matters.

Both solutions end the same: 1) print tons of money? people will then question the value of the currency as they see *asset* inflation pick up — remember the stock market recovery in 2010–2019 and 2) if you allow for widespread default, there is a lot of near-term pain/suffering and people begin to question the merits of the system they are in (painful unemployment numbers).

There is no way we’re changing our macro view of the world since it leads to the same conclusion: the need for a new financial system designed for a deflationary environment as technology continues to eat jobs.”

21. For those folks trying to understand NFTs.

“And now consider NFTs, which bring scarcity along with provenance of ownership to digital goods.

NFTs are essentially digital Veblen goods. For those who want to signal status especially in the digital world, “flexing” ownership of valuable JPEGs i.e. NFTs is one of the easiest ways.

One of the most popular forms of this “flex” is NFTs as profile pictures on Twitter and other forms of social media. You’ve probably seen people with these apes or punks or penguins as their profile photos.”

22. “Altman’s feat reflects a new trend in startup investing. Some founders are taking on the additional role of venture capitalists, investing money from financial institutions and wealthy individuals at the same time they are guiding their own companies through critical growth periods. These include Zach Perret, CEO and co-founder of banking technology startup Plaid, and Josh Browder, founder of startup DoNotPay, as well as Altman.

Armed with fresh capital, some founders are even beginning to lead investment rounds for young startups through their venture funds, a role that reflects the larger size of their investments. They are adding to the ranks of nontraditional investors, including hedge funds and solo venture capitalists, who are increasingly competing with established VC firms for stakes in the next generation of technology startups.”

23. “This is the Hunter Economy: a series of products that will enable people to gain status as hunters and curators, gaining social and financial capital in their favorite people, businesses, and ideas in the process. Product Hunt, Reddit, and Kickstarter may be to the next generation of Hunter Economy startups what Web 2.0 will be to Web 3 more broadly — the inspiration for what was next to come.”

24. Can’t argue with this.

“Yet with COVID, as with the Afghanistan boondoggle, the stated goals have been ever-shifting and often nebulous. “Two weeks to flatten the curve” evolved into “defeating the virus” — whatever that means — and of course “building back better,” which is to say, exploiting the pandemic to forcibly impose a full-spectrum progressive agenda.

Routing al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime that harbored it evolved into making Zurich out of Kandahar. And if “zero-COVID” is the implicit goal, it is equally as farcical. The totalitarian means that would be employed in a bid to achieve that would only compound the disaster. In both cases, mission creep was baked in from the beginning by dint of the mission itself.

The measures by which to achieve these vague goals have proven similarly haphazard. With COVID, our authorities conjured social distancing rules almost out of thin air; urged us to wear no masks and then up to three at a time, despite their questionable efficacy; and imposed on-again, off-again lockdowns — all selectively enforced based on political ideology.”

“Where, when and how does the burgeoning Forever Pandemic end? No one has said, but it is not hyperbole to see the makings of a biomedical security state apparatus.”

25. 110% agree and putting my money and time where my mouth is.

“Despite some of the success stories, I believe many Eastern European startups are still overlooked and undervalued. For investors, this represents a massive untapped opportunity.”

26. Food for thought. George Gammon has a very good Youtube channel.

27. This is the best podcast & with special guest Balaji Srininavasan.

28. “Once people are free to live and work from where they want, governments will have to compete for the “cream” citizens — entrepreneurs and skilled people.

Think about it — let’s say you’re a high-income person who can work from anywhere in the world.

Would you rather live in a place with high taxes, or would you like to live in a place with low taxes?

Would you rather live in a place with good law and order, or a place where it’s unsafe to go out?

Would you live in a place where it costs 80% of your income to live, or a place where you can live a great life in only 20% of your income?

All of these are questions that people will have to answer for themselves.

If a government wants the best of the planet to live in its territory, it will have to offer compelling reasons for doing so. The time where people just didn’t have a choice is now gone.”

29. “There’s a question whether these funds are playing offense or defense. Offense: Snap up larger stakes in the best startups earlier. Defense: Don’t let the Tigers of the world eat their lunch in later stages. The answer: Both, as VCs get sandwiched.

— Tiger Global, Coatue and SoftBank have moved their way down the stack from being purely growth money to leading series A and B rounds with some frequency. They’re even being spotted in some seed deals.

— Bubbling up from the bottom are investor-operators and solo capitalists like Lachy Groom and Josh Buckley. They’re now leading early rounds and besting some name-brand firms in the process.

— Serial entrepreneur Hiten Shah told me that he thinks the new megafunds for seed rounds are more of a reaction to the investor-operator dynamic than the Tiger cram-down. “The founders are going to investor-operators and everyone knows that,” said Shah.

— He sees these announcements more as marketing to attract founders. From his perspective, brand name alone isn’t doing it. “I think those firms are dealing with a deal-flow problem,” Shah said.”

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