Weekly reading – 8th April 2023

What I wrote last week

10 ways credit card issuers optimize profitability

Business lessons from Apple. Patience & Perseverance


A CEO’s tactical guide to driving profitable growth. A handy list for companies that want to fine-tune the operations and optimize for profitability.

The Five Waves of Fintech. A very good 30,000-foot overview of the fintech landscape.

Silicon Valley Bank’s risk model flashed red. The executives changed it. It’s just mind-blowing to see the extent to which Silicon Valley Bank’s executives mis-managed their company in order to please Wall Street. The risk model indicated that their cash flows would drop by 27% after a 2% drop in interest rates. In the past 12 months, the interest rates went up by 400-500 basis points! And of course, the management changed the model to stop the red flags. Worse, the guy that orchestrated the move was credited and awarded for that. These people deserve jail time.

Google to cut down on employee laptops, services and staplers for ‘multi-year’ savings. Expense management is a real business need, even for the likes of Google. There is nothing wrong with cutting unnecessary fat on the company’s books. Be more selective about who will get a Mac and replace it with cheaper Chromebooks? That’s fine by me. Require higher authorization for certain expenses? Makes sense. Close some facilities on sites when employees are not there? I don’t see anything wrong with that. What I find amusing is the stapler episode. Come on now, how much could they save by being that petty and taking away staplers at print stations? Most of the time, I don’t even use the print stations at my company. And I would like to remind everybody that Google made $60 billion in net profit in 2022. $60 billion.

($) Apple Wants to Solve One of Music’s Biggest Problems. “Everyone who listens to Beethoven as much as they jam to Beyoncé knows it is basically impossible to find the perfect recording of your favorite violinist playing in the best concert hall with the ideal conductor. The world’s richest company released a sleek new product this week that was years in the making and had to meet its exacting standards before it was ready to be used by millions of people. But it wasn’t a phone, a gadget or an AI chatbot. The latest innovation from Apple was a better way of listening to classical music.” This is classic Apple. Identify an area where they can make a difference and solve a problem. Then either build capability in-house or acquire a small startup and diligently work on the problem. Iterate. Repeat. No bold claims about changing the world. No nonsense.

Spotify shows how the live audio boom has gone bust. It’s fair to say that making a business or investment decision based on what is trending likely leads to mistakes and failure. Spotify is another example of that.

Inside Amazon Studios: Big Swings Hampered by Confusion and Frustration. A super interesting piece looking at the inner workings of Amazon Studios. The launch of Thursday Night Football produced “the biggest three hours for U.S. Prime sign ups ever in the history of Amazon.”, but the company had to compensate advertisers because of the shortfall in viewership. The article detailed how the confusion over priorities, direction and organization at the Studios made collaboration with talent difficult.

Other stuff I find interesting

(S) How Disney Dodged Ron DeSantis and Kept Control of Its Florida Land. I have to say that while I don’t support a company having too much power, I took pleasure in reading that Disney’s executives pulled a fast one over DeSantis. Keeping corporations in check is the right thing to do, but it’s troubling to enact laws for revenge and retaliation.

Mental liquidity. “Visa founder Dee Hock had a great saying: “A belief is not dangerous until it turns absolute.” That’s when you start ignoring information that might require you to update your beliefs. It might sound crazy, but I think a good rule of thumb is that your strongest convictions have the highest chance of being wrong or incomplete, if only because they are the hardest beliefs to challenge, update, and abandon when necessary.

The Finnish Secret to Happiness? Knowing When You Have Enough. Happiness has more to do with being content than a massive financial success. We all know it. We just struggle to put it to work.

($) America Has Too Much Parking. Really. My wife and I are constantly baffled at how much space we give away for parking here in the US. The amount of land reserved for parking at a strip mall would rarely ever be found in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where I come from. I get the need to accommodate the culture of driving here in the US, but how often is a parking area full? Or does it mostly sit unoccupied?

How tiny, cheap smart speakers unlocked the rise of digital payments in India. Fintech companies come up with a way to accommodate the need of some merchants in India and to make money. They provide devices that read out loud receipts. Merchants that can’t read nor write will know what is being sold without ignoring current customers. The subscriptions from these sound boxes help fintech startups, infamous for their inability to make money, generate more margin. I love reading articles about this.


The average American drove 4% fewer miles in 2022 than in 2019

The Rings of Power had a 37 percent domestic completion rate (customers who watched the entire series)

Six biggest credit card issuers in the US spent $68 billion on rewards and related costs in 2022, up 43% from 2019

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