What I wrote last week
Layoffs, accountability and leadership
Book Review: Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science And What The Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves
This letter from Patient Capital on Google is a great primer on the giant tech company. While I agree with the tenet that Search is the cash cow for now and YouTube/Waymo/Cloud offers future growth, I don’t see any coverage on the threats: competition, organizational challenges and regulatory scrutiny
Amazon’s drone delivery unit hit with layoffs just as 10-year-old project finally launches. There is no guarantee that drone delivery program will be a game changer for Amazon. Even that possibility is in jeopardy as Amazon laid off hundreds of employees, including many in Prime Air, which operates the program.
Bad batteries, software glitches: VinFast’s EV drivers say they feel like guinea pigs. Despite grandiose promises, ambitious goals and loud announcements, drivers encountered serious software glitches and faulty batteries with VinFast’s EVs. As a Vietnamese, I am happy to see a national brand take it to the world stage, in an industry that Vietnam has never excelled in. The problem is that the one company that has the vision and resources to do it is not known for sustainable growth. The company tends to throw money at a problem, scaling operations up at a breakneck speed without much regard for details. It stood up resorts touted to be luxurious in less than a year. As you may imagine, such properties are not up to par in terms of quality. It’s not rare to hear complaints about how VinGroup’s residential projects deteriorated only after a few years. That’s why I was not surprised to read about their problems with EVs. I never imagine it easy to sell EVs, but the field is very competitive. What evidence is there to prove that VinGroup has the core competencies to compete and win on a global scale?
How the Spotify layoffs impact its podcasting business. It makes sense that Spotify is trying to make its podcasting business leaner and more efficient. However, there are two concerns that stand out from this article for me. The first is that Spotify replaced the head of content, who has a lot of experience and Hollywood connections, with an operations guy. That doesn’t instill much confidence in a shareholder like myself. The second is that Spotify hasn’t been able to incorporate the tech stacks of all the companies it acquired. That leaves synergies and saved expenses on the table. What’s the holdup?
Meta Embraces AI as Facebook, Instagram Help Drive a Rebound. “Indeed, for all of Meta’s efforts to rebrand itself, the core Facebook “Blue” app remains its workhorse. While outside financial analysts have generally estimated that Instagram accounts for between 40% to 50% of the company’s ad revenue, internal statistics viewed by the Journal show that Instagram generates a little more than 30%—and it isn’t rapidly catching up. Making money on Reels remains an additional hurdle. The video feature’s rapid takeoff created a near-term problem: Because ads in Reels videos don’t currently sell for as much as those sold against regular posts and stories, Reels’ growing share of content consumption was denting ad revenue. To protect the company’s earnings, the company cut back on promoting Reels, which lowered watch time by 12%.”
The oral history of how Priceline acquired Booking.com. Expedia made one of the biggest mistakes in the travel industry’s history by not purchasing Booking.com when they had a chance. In fairness, the business models were quite different, but the price to pay is too high
Other stuff I find interesting
Somebody was kind enough to compile and share a 140-slide deck on France’s tech landscape
Inside CNET’s AI-powered SEO money machine. “Under the two-year-old management of a private equity company called Red Ventures, CNET’s editorial staff has often been left wondering: was this story written by AI or a co-worker? Even today, they’re still not sure. “I don’t lay any blame at CNET’s or its masthead’s feet,” one former staffer says. “This is all due to the machinations of the greater Red Ventures machine, and its desire to squeeze blood from a stone.””
($) Little-Known Surveillance Program Captures Money Transfers Between U.S. and More Than 20 Countries. “Hundreds of federal, state and local U.S. law-enforcement agencies have access without court oversight to a database of more than 150 million money transfers between people in the U.S. and in more than 20 countries, according to internal program documents and an investigation by Sen. Ron Wyden.” I don’t dispute the role of monitoring money transfers overseas in tackling crimes and terrorism. It’s a legitimate purpose. However, it’s very disturbing when every law enforcement agency can gain access to citizens’ sensitive data without a court order. Is data even anonymized? That’s just gross negligence and governmental overreach
Welcome to Hillstone, America’s Favorite Restaurant. “It’s never going to win a James Beard Award. Or try to wow you with its foam experiments or ingredients you’ve never heard of. But it is the best-run, most-loved, relentlessly respected restaurant in America. And, oh yeah, Danny Meyer, David Chang, and Shaq all agree. Welcome to Hillstone.”
Seaweed researchers find bright future for underwater crop. It’s fascinating to learn that seaweed could help reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.
Axios’s subscription service, launched in Jan 2022, garnered 3,000 subscribers and $2 million in revenue in the first year
7% of US households used a new streaming service in Q4’22
“Global venture funding reached $415.1B in 2022, marking a 35% drop from a record 2021.”