Uber may deliver marijuana in the future. Update on Credit Karma and Square

Uber’s business reportedly hit a stride in March. CEO hinted at the prospect of delivering marijuana

In a filing today, Uber revealed that it had an astonishing month in March 2021, when its Gross Bookings hit the highest level in the company’s history. Uber said that its annualized bookings for Mobility and Delivery hit $30 and $52 billion, respectively, last month. I have mixed feelings about this. At the first glance, the filing seems like a trove of good news for Uber as the figures imply that its two main business segments are firing on all cylinders. Uber’s total bookings in 2018 and 2019 were $50 and $65 billion, respectively. If the annualized numbers above are realized in 10 months’ time, that will be an impressive achievement for a company of this size, given that our societies spent more than one year in a historic pandemic.

But IF is the important word here. To be honest, I don’t really know how the annualization is calculated. Did they multiply the bookings in March by 12? Or did they multiply the bookings in the best week in March by 52? I may be ignorant not to understand the nuances in these languages, but if you invest your hard-earned cash into a company, it’s healthy to be a bit paranoid.

Another news that came from Uber is that its CEO hinted at the prospect of delivering marijuana.

“When federal laws come into play, we’re absolutely going to take a look at it,” 

Source: The Verge

Two months ago, I wrote about Uber’s acquisition of Drizly, the market leader in liquor delivery in the US. Chief among the benefits of acquiring Drizly for Uber are the proprietary technology that can verify IDs and the team that knows how to navigate the complex legal systems at the state and county levels. These capabilities will be tremendously helpful to Uber if they decide to delivery marijuana. Even in the states that allow the cannabis delivery, consumers still have to show that they are old enough; which is the perfect use case scenario for what Uber gets from Drizly. Right now, marijuana for recreational purposes is only legalized in a handful of states and is still illegal at the federal level. Some Democrats are pushing to change that and I think that it’s just a matter of time before the change takes place. Even if marijuana for fun is legal on the federal level, there will still be a lot of work to be done on the local level as each state will have a different mandate. In that case, having a team that knows how to deal with regulations from county to county on liquor delivery like Drizly will come in handy. The recreational legal cannabis market in the US is estimated to reach $27 billion by 2024. Estimates like this are usually optimistic, but even if half of that estimate checks out, it will increase Uber’s Total Addressable Market significantly.

Update on Credit Karma and Square

Last month, I wrote about Square’s acquisition of Credit Karma’s tax unit and potential benefits that the former can take from the latter

In essence, it benefits Square when customers have balance in their Cash App. The more balance there is, the more useful Cash App is to customers and the more revenue & profit Square can potentially earn. I imagine that once Credit Karma’s tax tool is integrated into Cash App, there will be a function that directs tax returns to customers’ Cash App. When the tax returns are deposited into Cash App, customers can either spend them; which either increases the ecosystem’s value (P2P), or deposit the fund back to their bank accounts. But if customers already direct the tax returns to Cash App in the first place, it’s unlikely the money will be redirected again back to a checking account. As Cash App users become more engaged and active, Square will look more attractive to prospect sellers whose business yield Square a much much higher gross margin than the company’s famous Cash App. 

Today, a user on Twitter noticed the new integration between Credit Karma and Square that would enable users to direct tax refunds straight to their Cash App account. Even though this is a logical move, how it will actually benefit Cash App remains to be seen as there hasn’t been any reporting on the overlap between Cash App and Credit Karma’s tax unit in terms of active users. Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing what Square brings to the market that stems from this acquisition.

Hydrogen fuel cell vs Battery Electric

As the calls to combat climate change become increasingly louder, the interest in an alternative to carbon-based energy heightens. Because our combustible engines used in daily commute emit a lot of carbon dioxide, finding a greener and more environmentally friendly option is believed by many to help us reduce the greenhouse gas. There are two main approaches to replacing gas in our vehicles: hydrogen fuel cell and lithium-ion batteries. I spent a few days reading up on this topic because I believe that it will be an important aspect of our lives moving forward and I was looking for a new investment opportunity. If you aren’t familiar with the topic, the clip below is a very great summary

Hydrogen fuel cells contain higher energy density and release energy on demand, instead of packing it all in a container like Lithium-ion batteries. Because of its higher energy density, hydrogen powers vehicles over a much longer distance than the current batteries can. If battery electric vehicles want to cover a longer distance, they have to be equipped with bigger and heavier batteries which, in turn, require more energy to be transported. A classic Catch-22 problem. Moreover, because hydrogen fuel cells use hydrogen stored in a separate tank and oxygen from the air to produce energy on demand, it’s much faster to charge than batteries. While battery electric vehicles (BEV) take like an hour to charge, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) take as long as an ordinary trip to the gas station. Hence, if we’re just talking about energy density and time taken to charge a vehicle, FCEVs are clear winners.

However, the story isn’t that simple. The problems with FCEVs start upstream, before the fuel goes into the vehicles. Even though hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements, it doesn’t exist as a standalone. It takes energy to produce pure hydrogen, store it and transport it to where the end users are. Because there is a lot of inefficiency and work to be done to deliver hydrogen as fuel, the costs in hydrogen production are currently much higher than the costs required to produce Lithium-ion batteries. As a consequence, FCEVs are significantly more expensive than BEVs, rendering it a much smaller and less consumer-friendly market than BEVs. From a manufacturer point of view, that serves a roadblock to the economies of scale. But if they can’t achieve economies of scale, it’s not easier to lower the price of FCEVs. Another Catch-22.

Hydrogen fuel and Battery efficiency rate
Source: Greencarreports

Due to their potential contribution in our fight against climate change and superior efficiency over burning gasoline in a propulsion, battery and hydrogen fuel technologies have received increasing support from governments around the world in terms of subsidies, research grants and friendly regulations. This kind of support will help fine-tune the technologies, accelerate the adoption and make them more economically viable. I believe that they both have a place in our society in the near future. BEVs already have a leg up in scale over FCEVs. Proponents of BEVs such as Tesla or Volkswagen already achieve the scale they need to make their vehicles economically appealing to consumers. As demand grows, so will the scale; which will drive down the total cost of ownership of BEVs even more. Supporters of FCEVs such as Honda, Hyundai and Toyota still believe in the potential of hydrogen fuel in passenger cars, but they have to solve the problem of producing and transporting hydrogen. On the other hand, batteries’ low energy density, barring any technological advances in the future, make them virtually disqualified for large transportation means such as trucks or planes. Due to its high energy density, hydrogen fuel is more apt to use in trucks, cargos, ships, planes or other commercial cases. Microsoft already uses hydrogen fuel to power their data centers. Walmart and Amazon are two prominent clients of Plug Power, a major producer of hydrogen fuel turnkey solutions.

Even though batteries and hydrogen fuel can provide greener energy, their net contribution to our planet remains a question mark. As mentioned above, it takes a lot of energy to produce pure hydrogen and as of now, there is inefficiency from when hydrogen is produced to when it goes into a car’s tank. If a hydrogen producer burns natural gas such as methane to get pure hydrogen, the cost will be cheaper than other methods, but the process will be harmful to our environment. If hydrogen is produced by using electricity, especially electricity from renewable sources (sun, wind), to break down water into constituents (this method is called electrolysis), the environmental harm will be lower, but this method is more expensive. Plus, the most efficient method of electrolysis right now uses Platinum, which is not a cheap material and whose mining can be detrimental to our nature.

On the other hand, the downside of Lithium-ion battery, in addition to those mentioned above, is the extract of Lithium. The mining practice is controversial in some countries such as Bolivia and can leave a lasting impact since requires a lot of water to extract Lithium, as you can see below.

This field is developing fast and sophisticated that the more I read up on it, the more interested I am. By no means do I think that by just spending a few days on research, I became an expert. Not even close. I will continue to educate myself on this important avenue and hope that this is helpful to you and triggers your interest.

Cost of ownership of a 300-ton dump truck when using Diesel or Fuel Cells
Source: Hydrogen Council
cost of ownership of a heavy-duty truck when using Diesel or Fuel Cells
Source: Hydrogen Council
US operational cost for a bus breakdown (FCEV vs BEV)
Source: Deloitte
Current policy support for hydrogen deployment
Source: IEA.org

Weekly reading – 10th April 2021

What I wrote last week

Get back to what you love

My experience so far with Amazon Shopper Panel

Business

An interview with an Apple veteran who shed some light on the culture of secrecy

Supreme Court Sides With Google In Decade-Long Fight Over API Copyright; Google’s Copying Of Java API Is Fair Use. If you have time, look for the opinion written by Justice Breyer on API. It’s good!

Amazon Global Supply Chain and Fulfillment Center Network. Just look at the number of fulfillment centers and warehouses Amazon has!

How We Bootstrapped a $1M ARR Email Client

Shopify: The E-commerce On-Ram‪p‬. I may have found another favorite podcast. The first episode on Shopify doesn’t disappoint!

9.5 million customers traded cryptocurrencies on Robinhood in Q1 2021, compared to 1.7 million in Q4 2020

What I found interesting

A landmark study showed promising results that could help us produce a vaccine for HIV. A remarkable time to be alive. You gotta admire the work that scientists around the world put in.

Barrier Reef doomed as up to 99% of coral at risk, report finds. “The Great Barrier Reef is all but doomed, with between 70 and 99 per cent of corals set for destruction unless immediate “transformative action” is taken to reverse global warming, according to a new report. The Australian Academy of Science says the more ambitious target of the Paris Climate Agreement of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees has now slipped out of reach and is “virtually impossible”.

What the U.S. Can Learn From China’s Infatuation With Infrastructure.

Apple has been granted a patent for Systems relating to a National ID Verification System

NYTimes’ profile of Katalin Kariko, the scientist whose work on mRNA helped save the world from Covid-19

Interesting stats

Lithium battery costs have fallen by 98% in three decades. If I have a kid, he or she will likely have electric vehicles as cheap as ones with a combustible engine.

7% of America’s population or more than 2.3 million Americans don’t use the Internet

Amazon reached 10% of the US advertising market

Plant-based food market grew to $7 billion in 2020, up 27% year over year

80% of Europe’s in-store transactions are now contactless, according to Mastercard

E-commerce Evolution in the US by Mastercard
Source: Mastercard

My experience with Amazon Shopper Panel

I wrote about Amazon Shopper Panel before. The program is on an invite-only basis. Essentially, participants upload 10 non-Amazon receipts (Whole Foods transactions aren’t counted either) every month to earn $10 in Amazon balance and have an opportunity to earn more by completing surveys. In my post, I wrote about the immense applications that can come from this initiative. This time, I want to update you with more details on the program. I myself received an invitation back in February 2021. If you are selected, you will receive an email like this

Amazon Shopper Panel Invitation
Figure 1 – Amazon Shopper Panel Invitation

The app is fairly simple. The first tab gives the user an overview of how much in rewards he or she has earned so far every month. The second tab is where receipts can be uploaded while the third tab houses all the surveys that Amazon wants you to complete. There are other routine sections such as FAQ, Contact Us, Legal Information and Sign Out that are tucked in a window that will open once you touch the three-dot symbol.

How Amazon Shopper Panel App Looks
Figure 2 – How Amazon Shopper Panel App Looks

Receipts can be uploaded via a phone camera. Based on my experience so far, the app is fairly receptive towards even wrinkled receipts and those that have small tears. Email receipts are qualified, as long as they are sent to receipts@panel.amazon.com from the same email that a participant uses to register an account. I got a car wash voucher from a dealership a while back and used it at a random fuel station in Omaha. The receipt from the car wash was still accepted, much to my surprise, because it didn’t have any card information. Since February 2021, I completed two surveys and received 25 cents for each. The surveys featured only one question each time and it was pretty basic such as, I paraphrase here, “where did you get information for your online purchases?”.

 Email receipts are accepted
Figure 3 – Email receipts are accepted
Even a car wash receipt without payment is accepted
Figure 4 – Even a car wash receipt without payment is accepted

Since starting to use the app, I have paid attention to how receipts differ from one another in terms of structure and layout. The computational process used to digest these receipt images will have to be pretty sophisticated to handle the intricacies and variety in how receipts are printed and captured. If Amazon can gain this ability to read images, it can be applied to other parts of their retail business.

Even if receipts are input by humans, the intelligence that Amazon may gain from this initiative will open up a lot of opportunities:

  • Design new private label products
  • Court other retail partners with unprecedented and reliable data
  • Support their ads business
  • Upsell current customers by understanding them better

My expectation is that Amazon will select enough folks from different backgrounds to join this effort. The participants have to be representative of consumers in America in terms of age, race, income and gender. Plus, the pool has to be big enough and the time period should be long enough so that the data can be statistically significant. As a result, at $10/participant/month, this initiative can reach 6 figures pretty fast. If the time and resources dedicated to the analysis task are factored, the expense will rise even higher. To other smaller retailers, the technical and financial barriers are not easy to overcome. To other retail giants like Walmart, I am surprised not to see a similar effort from them. This is the type of initiative where if your rival gains the first mover advantage, it will be a tall order to claw it back.

In life, there are skillsets which are very difficult to gain, but once mastered, can offer long-term leverage in various aspects of our life. Think: sales, writing, coding, human languages, cooking, fitness. In my opinion, this initiative belongs to the same category. If it proves to be successful, Amazon Shopper Panel can arm Amazon with intelligence and capabilities that are going to lift the company to even greater heights.

Disclosure: I have a position on Amazon and Walmart in my personal portfolio.

Get back to what you love

Google just published a moving ads named “Get back to what you love”. Have a look. It’s been a while since I saw such a good ads from Google.

I got my 1st vaccine this week. The following day, I felt tired and my shoulder was all sore. But the soreness and tiredness didn’t last long. Two days after the dose was administered, I felt fine. After more than a year of isolation by myself in my apartment, I felt a tremendous feeling of relief. I can’t wait to get back to where we were before this nightmare started. You know, a proper haircut, meeting my friends, family & colleagues, taking a walk without a mask, eating a great meal in a restaurant freely, traveling.

You know, back to living.

I took this photo from Downtown Omaha. Folks were talking and having meals on terraces. Street artists were playing music. People were walking hand-in-hand, laughing and smiling. Car parks were crowded. I haven’t seen the area that vibrant for a very long time. According to the CDC, every state in the US has more than 25% of its population receive the 1st dose. I hope to see the herd immunity in a month or two. So that we can get back to what we love.

Downtown Omaha, Nebraska

Weekly reading – 3rd April 2021

What I wrote last week

Handling a lot of data isn’t easy

Business

A drive to survive: How Liberty Media used Netflix and esports to win a new generation of fans and safeguard the future of Formula 1

Apple Watch can function as a reliable indicator of cardiovascular activities

The a16z Marketplace 100: 2021

Credit Suisse’s research on Stripe

Credit Suisse’s research on Payments, Processors and Fintechs

How Vietnam can reimagine tourism

What I found interesting

The Ancient Method That Keeps Afghanistan’s Grapes Fresh All Winter

Who owns the Nile? Another geopolitical conflict that will take years to resolve, if we can even do so.

Stats you may find interesting

A survey by Brickmeetsclick shows that online grocery hit $8 billion in February 2021, down from $9.3 billion in January 2021

Meat sales in the US increased by 20% in 2020, compared to 2019

88% of Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s investment in Property, Plant & Equipment in 2020 was in renewables

Berkshire Hathaway Energy's PP&E in 2020

Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s renewables output made up 34% of its total production in 2020, compared to 12% in 2006

Berkshire Hathaway Energy's Renewables Output

Having a lot of data is powerful. Handling is NOT easy

Brands’ blunders in their emails

Over the past few weeks, I had a couple of incidents in which brands sent me pretty awkward emails. The first incident was with the online pet store 1800PetMeds. A few weeks ago, I found out that my cat had ringworms. I went to 1800PetMeds to buy an oral solution that his vet prescribed. The transaction took place on 21st February 2021 and went smoothly; which I was thankful for. The bottle’s capacity is 52ml. My cat is supposed to take 1ml per day for 7 consecutive days on alternate weeks, meaning that we can’t use up that bottle in 30 days. Even if he takes it every day, it will have to take around 50 days to finish the bottle. Nonetheless, 1800PetMeds waited only for 30 days before they sent me an email encouraging me to buy another bottle. Their email headline read: Kimi’s next Intrafungol order is read. While I appreciate their initiative, I prefer my cat being healed completely to having to buy another bottle.

Another incident was with Hulu. It sent me an email at 10AM in the morning with a one-month free trial as a gift for my birthday. While the note was late by some margin, I still appreciated it. Less than 12 hours later, it sent me another email at 7PM, asking me to become a subscriber. If that’s not awkward enough, here is the kicker: I already received the same trial offer a few days ago and took it! I doubt that there is a system in place at Hulu that manages the delivery of marketing emails.

Handling a lot of data isn’t easy

1800PetMeds and Hulu aren’t some mom-and-pop shops that don’t have the resources to acquire and analyze data. On the contrary, they are Internet companies that should be experts in data analytics. Yet, they still have blunders like my examples above. To be clear, there is not a human-being sitting at a desk and sending out emails like above from Outlook. They are all automated from email tools such as Mailchimp. Hence, this is a product of my information being stored in their database and their operationalizing it.

This post isn’t to ridicule them. Since I have first-hand experience in dealing with data and knowing how difficult it is, I feel for them. At work, I deal with credit card data. There are many partners in our portfolio, some of which can have hundreds of thousands of accounts. Many accounts have hundreds of thousands of transactions every year. The sheer amount of transactions, coupled with their randomness in frequency, makes it a monumentally challenging task to figure out the purchase pattern for each person so that we can offer personalized marketing. For good measure, depending on how good your payment processor and internal data system are, the problem can be compounded by the irregularities in merchant descriptions. Below is what I have to do at work to categorize purchases into merchants. Think about what it is to do it for so many merchants out there

This is just one of the many aspects of what my job entails. We also have to look at how some attributes such as FICO, Balance, Credit Limit changed over time, how an account is engaged digitally (whether it enrolls online, mobile, e-statement, billpay, auto-pay or whether it is connected to a digital wallet), how profitable an account is and where that profitability comes from, and how we can be more efficient in acquiring account (whether direct mail, Internet, our retail branches, our Financial Institution partners or our Cobrand partners’ stores are the most efficient channels).

When I first joined my current team, my boss told me that it would take me a year or at least 6 months to be comfortable, not yet proficient, with what we do on a daily basis. He wasn’t wrong. Our learning curve is very steep. Plus, when dealing with a large amount of data, you have to take into account the infrastructure elements. Here are just a few on a high level

  • Is your current data infrastructure set up to assist fast data retrieval?
  • Does your data warehouse have high availability? Or does it crash a lot?
  • Is it easy to get the data you need or does it take hours to run complicated SQL queries?
  • Is there a set of universal definitions of metrics and fields?
  • Do you have a data visualization that can aid in presenting complex data? Is it connected straight to the data warehouse? Is it in a coding language that requires your team to learn?
  • Do you have a machine learning capability in-house to create proprietary models?
  • Is there a tool that can help eliminate biases to create apple-to-apple comparisons? If yes, how is data transferred from internal data warehouses to that tool?

I don’t believe my company is elite in data analytics. Not even close. I don’t know for sure, but companies like Netflix or Google should be an exciting place to work at because you’d be able to see how they handle an ocean of data at their fingertips. For many companies such as my employer, even though data driven operations are worthy visions, they are highly difficult to realize. Well, so is making money, I guess.

Weekly reading – 27th March 2021

What I wrote last week

Great reminders for clustered and busy minds

Business

Amazon Keeps Getting Sued for Paying Drivers Less Than Minimum Wage. It baffles me to see that minimum wages can be such a polarizing issue or that it doesn’t garner more public support. In my mind, the US retail market is too big for any company like Amazon to abandon. Hence, if all the states and the federal government enacted a minimum wage law, what would Amazon do? Leaving the US retail market? Moving their operations to California or Mexico while paying import taxes and incurring more transportation expenses?

An interesting read on the e-signature market. All the companies that sell software to companies should really beware Microsoft. If Microsoft decides to invest in its own e-signature product and embed it for free in Microsoft 365, it will be a huge threat to the likes of Docusign.

Case study: How Akamai weathered a surge in capacity growth

How Nike is using DTC and data to expand its empire. For a legendary brand that has always been technologically competent like Nike, the pandemic is perhaps a blessing in disguise as it spurred consumers towards shopping online and exploring what the company has to offer.

Even God Couldn’t Beat Dollar-Cost Averaging. An interesting look at Dollar Cost Averaging vs Buy The Dips.

What I found interesting

Google and the Age of Privacy Theater. It seems that the new privacy approach that Google announced a short while ago may just be for show and won’t improve user privacy much.

Facebook’s ‘Red Team X’ Hunts Bugs Beyond the Social Network’s Walls

Hospitals Hide Pricing Data From Search Results. I really really hope that the Biden administration will look into this issue and impose a hefty fine on hospitals that actually did this.

A Brief History of Semiconductors: How The US Cut Costs and Lost the Leading Edge

Perseverance and redemption can be a wonderful combination, you know? Pierre Gasly is a young French F1 driver. Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of his, but he grew on me. He got promoted to a top team in his 2nd or 3rd season in F1, only to get demoted half way to the season to an inferior team. He was brutally criticized and doubted in the media. And his best friend died in a tragic incident shortly before his demotion news. Yet, Pierre persevered and has shone brightly after his demotion. He had his maiden F1 win last year in Italy. Sweet sweet redemption. Here is what he wrote on the Players’ Tribune.

Stats that you may find interesting

42% of surveyed Americans reported an average weight gain of almost 30 lbs, according to the American Psychological Association

45% Bridge Millennials would switch grocers for access to contactless in-store payment

DOE aims to cut solar costs to 2 cents per kWh

Renewable energy met 97% of Scotland’s demand in 2020

Great reminders for clustered and busy minds

I came across a couple of things that I absolutely believe are great reminders and lessons in life, especially when our mind is often distracted by the deluge of daily information, and clustered with hours at work.

The better measure of success

When I was a kid or even in my 20s, success was solely associated with money and title. Because how success is measured is personally subjective, that approach must still ring true to some. That’s perfectly fine. But it’s important to keep in mind that it’s NOT the only approach. Liz and Mollie created a graphic below to demonstrate another point of view on success. And I agree with it. Whenever you compare yourself to another person’s title or net worth, it’s important to keep in mind that they are only two small slices of the whole pie. There are other aspects that are as, if not more, important than Title and Money. Would you still trade for bigger Title & Salary slices if the other shrank significantly? Would Title and Salary still mean as much if you hated what you do, got sick often, had bad sleep most of the time and never had time for your hobbies?

If there is anything that I want to add to the pie, it’s relationship. Relationship with friends or loved ones is highly important and it requires time and attention, both of which are limited resources, to cultivate. Sometimes, not “having a life” may be what it takes to achieve professional success and I applaud those who are willing to make that sacrifice. But personally I am at a point of my life where surrounding myself with friends, family, my cat and my girlfriend sits firmly at the top of my agenda. Hence, it’s pretty pointless to compare my situation with others’. And it’s often pointless to make any comparisons, to begin with.

Title 1: How we’re taught to measure success. Image: A pie diagram showing two equal parts, Salary and Job Title.

Title 2:
A better measure. Image: A pie diagram showing more segments, which in increasing sizes are Job Title, Salary, Free Time, Liking What You Do, Physical Health and Mental Health.

Twitter handle in top right: @lizandmollie

The Dunning Kruger Effect

The Dunning Kruger Effect is a bias in which people mistakenly overestimate their ability at something. Barry Ritholtz had a graphic that succinctly illustrates the Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect
Source: Barry Ritholtz

The world’s problems are often complicated, multi-faceted and, in my opinion, can hardly be fully explained in most cases. Should the federal government provide the economic stimulus package to help out citizens in need or should it be aware of the potential federal debt and inflation? Which one outweighs the other at this moment? Would action or lack of it result in a worse scenario for the US? I don’t think anybody can say for sure. Additionally, people in Western countries, especially in the US, often claim that democracy is the best societal form. But is it? Given what is happening with voter restrictions, the spread of misinformation, the dysfunction of Congress, the income inequality and the long lines at food banks, is it really definitively better than what happens in Vietnam, Singapore or China, countries that are essentially authoritarian? Financially speaking, can anyone explain why Bitcoin has risen leaps and bounds in the last few years? What are the underlying rationales for its rise or fall?

I understand that there are scenarios where we need to “fake it till we make it”, as in we demonstrate a high level of confidence than what our competence can back up. In interviews for a new job, how can an outsider applicant be sure that he or she will do a better job than an internal candidate? How can a person be confident in succeeding in a new industry or a new environment? Yet, all of us sell ourselves hard in interviews all the time. In entrepreneurship, investors pour plenty of money in startups and make expensive bets that these startups will be able to cash all the checks that they claim they can write. I am not naive enough to think that confidence doesn’t play a role in our society.

However, if one is serious about intellectual curiosity, it’s important to beware of the Dunning-Kruger Effect and avoid overconfidence when one is not competently ready. The tricky parts are to know where one is on the curve and how to move to the right of the x-axis. Everybody has their own method. Mine include 1/constantly remembering that in most cases, nobody really knows what is going on, 2/ reading everyday to keep myself as informed as I possibly can and 3/ writing things down. The act of writing my thoughts down really helps. Often, the end result is much better than my initial thought, regardless of whether it is good enough to thousands of people out there.

One implication is that if you have a different point of view than some authority voices out there who have a better reputation, a brand name or a celebrity mark on social media, it doesn’t mean that you’re wrong and they are always right. I am a fan of Twitter as I learn a lot from the people on it, but I am often taken back by claims that some experts make with startling confidence. For instance, some chastised the AB5 law in California as a disaster, but recently the top court in UK forced Uber to recognize drivers as employees and the company followed suit, pointing out that the extra expenses would not raise fare. In another instance, some experts called GDPR a disaster as it would help incumbents like Google or Facebook and reduce competition. Well, the WSJ yesterday said that Amazon, Google and Facebook are now responsible for 90% of the US’s digital ad market. The US doesn’t have GDPR, yet there is a triopoly. Also, it’s difficult for me to believe that analysts think that they can run companies better than insiders who have a lot more information. Yet, I have seen many who make declarations with overwhelming confidence on social media all the time.

We’re nobodies in the grand scheme of things

A couple of days ago, Business Insider published a picture of the Milky Way, which took a Finnish astrophotographer 12 long years to put together. Just look at the magnificence and grandness of the picture below

When viewed from outer space, we will look extremely small, like a peck of dust on Earth. Imagine how would you describe each of us when Earth itself looks extremely small in the Milky Way? Microscopic is the best adjective I can come up with, but that doesn’t even come close to doing the scenario justice. Plus, most of us don’t make it past 100 years of age. Yet, the Earth is millions of years old and the Milky Way is much much older than that. What if there is a civilization out there that is so advanced that our current one looks like BC to them? Whenever I think about life from this perspective, it’s easy to get me grounded. And that often helps with avoidance of the Dunning-Kruger Effect or of the thinking that success is just about money and title.

Weekly reading – 20th march 2021

What I wrote last week

The economics of a credit card

Business

Hy-vee CEO shared how Covid shaped the company’s operations moving forward

Why Amazon Fresh stores will likely rock a few boats. As its competitors do more shipping from their own stores, Amazon can get on level terms in that sense with having more stores of their own in strategic locations. Plus, if they can get these cashierless stores to run properly, they will be able to cut back a significant line item on the Income Statement, paid employees!

How Trader Joe’s $2 wine became a best-seller

Telegram App Is Booming but Needs Advertisers—and $700 Million Soon 

The new Google Pay repeats all the same mistakes of Google Allo

Apple brand loyalty hits all-time high as Samsung loyalty dives

Austin Rief: How Morning Brew went from college newsletter to $75 million in 5 years

She Came to the US to Study With Only $300 in Her Pocket — Now She’s a NASA Director For the Mars Rover

What I found interesting

Does Atlantic Canada have a blueprint for rural revival in the post-pandemic era?

Facebook’s GDPR bypass reaches Austrian Supreme Court

Stats you may find interesting

BNPL grew by 215% year over year in Jan and Feb 2021. Total eCommerce spending reached $121 billion so far

As of February 2021, 45% of Square sellers accept online payments, up from 30% a year ago

56% of the people surveyed by AirBnb preferred domestic travel post-pandemic