Weekly reading – 23rd April 2022

Business

The Pandemic Was Supposed to Push All Shopping Online. It Didn’t. A great business should pass a macroeconomic test, even one as challenging as the pandemic, without losing its competitive advantages. Take Apple for example. The pandemic gave the company a boost as consumers were more interested in Macs and iPads. But the stay-at-home restrictions also limited traffic to its stores and affected adversely how employees interacted. Nonetheless, Apple’s business grew from strength to strength in the past two years. On the other hand, firms with unclear competitive advantages may have received a boost from Covid-19 but came back down to Earth when things gradually returned to normal. We see that trend in Zoom, Peloton or companies mentioned in the article. Businesses shouldn’t think about it as online vs offline. It’s about how to stay agile to the unexpected challenges and deliver values to customers no matter what.

Amazon’s 2021 shareholder letter. If you think Andy’s writing style is different from Jeff’s, well, it’s because they are two different people and it’s not a surprise. Andy’s primary message in the letter is that Amazon remains a Day 1 company that stays Day 1 by investing in the future and being willing to experiment, fail and iterate. I love the Minimum Lovable Product instead of Minimum Viable Product.

Quartz Drops Its Website Paywall in an Unorthodox About-Face. Quartz specifically said that the decision to go paywall-free results from the analysis of internal data. They found out that readers were more engaged if they could access the content through newsletters and appreciate the value that the publisher brought. They could be wrong about this, but there is nothing wrong with making an informed decision

Charlie Rose’s interview with Warren Buffett. There are always nuggets of wisdom whenever Warren speaks. There are two I specifically love from the interview: 1/ whenever he makes an investment, it’s about the business, not the stock. 2/ Even though Rockefeller was immeasurably richer than most people on this planet, we have a much higher quality of life than he ever did. Would you trade that off?

Kroger Is Building a Grocery Ecosystem for the Future

China’s Covid-19 Restrictions Threaten Economic Recovery. If China continues their insane and stubborn Zero Covid policy, does that mean a recession for the US economy is on the horizon?

An interesting write-up on Divvy

EU approves groundbreaking rules to police Big Tech platforms. It’s great to ban targeted ads on minors or manipulative practice to increase engagement. It’s also really important to police content and fight disinformation. However, a million dollar question remains: how? The devil is in the details. Which information should be policed and removed? Would over-reaction from platforms curb the freedom and diversity on the Internet?

Other stuff I find interesting

Tokyo’s Manuscript Writing Cafe only allows writers on a deadline, and won’t let them leave until finished

TurboTax’s Fight Against Free Tax Filing. Because I was in Vietnam for two months up till the deadline to file tax returns, I had no choice but to use TurboTax to fulfill my obligation. I ended up paying $134 for the service. It’s just plainly ridiculous that some private companies can successfully do this to thousands of consumers and the US government hasn’t been able to do anything about it

Web scraping is legal

Inside the fierce, messy fight over “healthy” sugar tech. A fascinating story of a talented and ambitious Chinese American making great discoveries on sugar tech and getting arrested for defrauding the US government

Stats

Food-at-home CPI jumps 10% year over year in March

According to Bank of America, Zelle transaction volume reached $65 billion in Q1 FY2022

Grocery store sales up over 9% for March

According to PYMNTS.com, Fifteen percent ($91 billion) of all the money U.S. consumers spent on clothing and accessories went to Amazon in 2021

U.S. retail sales of dog and cat treats were expected to reach $9.87 billion by the end of 2021

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