Healthcare in France vs in the US

I came across a really good clip on the comparison of healthcare in France and its counterpart in the US. I urge you to have a listen.

Granted, it’s impossible to have a 100% apple-to-apple comparison between any two countries. However, I think France is a good reference since 1) it is a developed country like the US and 2) it receives a lot of immigrants from other countries, especially from Africa due to geographical proximity. I once listened to a doctor opine that immigrants are the primary cause of the healthcare system. I think it’s false, but having France as a yardstick will, to some extent, take out that element.

According to the clip, France spends around $4,900 per capita every year while the figure in the US is $10,200. Despite spending more, the US delivers worse results whether it’s in infant mortality rate, life expectancy and rate of rehospitalization.

Furthermore, the clip mentioned the higher taxes French citizens have to pay in order for the government to cover the social security. The government is like a business. To cover expenses, it needs to have capital. It can’t print money to cover the costs nor run at deficit forever. To finance the social security, the money has to come from taxes. Even though the French pay more taxes, they don’t have to bankrupt themselves whenever care is needed. On the other, I think that Americans focus too much on lowering taxes and when the federal budget runs red, the government starts to look at where to cut. If it’s not military, then social security is the next big ticket item.

Between paying more in taxes like the French do and paying less in taxes while bankrupting myself like we do in the US, I know my choices. I don’t think having a carbon copy of the French healthcare in the US is without difficulty. Healthcare is an incredibly complex issue and any solution is almost guaranteed to carry baggage and influence other issues such as taxes, minimum wage, etc…However, I also believe that there are plenty of things we can learn from the French.

Weekly readings 18th May 2019

How does WeWork make money? A good write-up on WeWork and its business model.

Saying goodbye to Microsoft. A personal account of the author’s time at Microsoft. Sometimes, the grass on the other side isn’t as green as we thought it was

The professor who beat roulette. A very nice piece on a relatively less known subject and historical figure.

Many Hospitals Charge Double or Even Triple What Medicare Would Pay. Read it and let it sink in. The insane healthcare system here never ceases to amaze me

The Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902 Did Not Go as Planned. A case of incentives leading to unwanted outcomes.

There is more CO2 in the atmosphere today than any point since the evolution of humans.

How Uber Makes — And Loses — Money. Hats off to CBInsights. They delivered a really good piece on Uber.

Dark theme. A cool post on how to design a dark mode nicely

Introducing Translatotron: An End-to-End Speech-to-Speech Translation Model. This is one of the things I like most about Google. Hope the service will be widely available soon.

Editorial: Why Apple created Apple TV+ rather than buying Netflix. I can see the merits of the “Apple should by Netflix” argument, yet I agree with the blog post.

The State of Gen Z. A nice profiling of Generation Z. The part on their slangs is pretty interesting.

How do chained hotel brands make money?

You must be familiar with famous chained hotel brands such as Marriott, Sheraton, Hyatt, Accor or IHG. They are affiliated with a huge number of hotels across the globe. But how do they actually make money? Below is a snapshot of how such brands generate revenue

The bulk of their revenue comes in the form of management and franchise fees. 77% of IHG revenue in 2018 came from management and franchise fees. The figures for Marriott and Accor are 82% and 93% respectively.

Source: IHG 2018 Annual Report

Additionally, these fees typically have very high margin as the expenses are low. The hotel chains receive compensation for their brand power and expertise, which can be easily leveraged. In 2018, the fee business margin for IHG after overheads is 52%, compared to the 7% of owned, leased and managed lease.

Source: IHG 2018 Annual Report

That is why, at the hotel chains, sales department has a target to hit in terms of how many hotels are to be signed in a period. The more hotels are signed, the more fees will flow into these chains.

Automated farming in China

I came across a video clip showing how farming is automated in China. It’s not widely adopted yet, but I don’t think the day when that happens is too far away from now.

This is how farming is done in Vietnam

Source: Wharton University

Admittedly, even though there must be innovation in agriculture in Vietnam and technology is used to some extent, the photo above illustrates the current inferior technique adopted in my hometown.

Imagine the difference in efficiency and value created between the automated method and the manual laborious one.

If you are one of the workers who don’t own land and who is hired to work others’ land, automation isn’t good news for you. Your job is threatened. Nonetheless, if you are in the agriculture business, automation is a boon improving efficiency and lowering costs. If you are an end user consuming agricultural goods, automation can bring the prices down.

If we look at it from a collective standpoint, technology or automation in particular, in the majority of cases, should bring net benefits to the society. Innovation and advancements come from standards continuously being raised, I believe.

CrowdStrike looks impressive in their IPO filing

Today, the security startup CrowdStrike filed to go public and the numbers look impressive in my opinion.

Company background

Founded in 2011, CrowdStrike is a cybersecurity startup that offers their services mainly on a subscription basis. The primary offerings include endpoint security, vulnerability management, threat intelligence and a PaaS solution for cybersecurity.

Growth

  • Subscription customer base grew from 1,242 at January 31, 2018, to 2,516 at January 31, 2019 – a 103% increase
  • Customers include 44 of the Fortune 100, 37 of the top 100 global companies, and nine of the top 20 major banks
  • Total revenue grew from $52.7 mil in 2017 to $119 in 2018 and $250 mil in 2019, an increase of 125% and 110% respectively
  • Subscription revenue grew from $38 mil in 2017, to $92.6 mil in 2018 and $219.4 mil in 2019, an increase of 144% and 137% respectively
  • ARR growth is impressive as shown below
GRAPHIC
  • Dollar-based net retention rate grew from 104% in Q4 2017 to 147% in Q4 2019
GRAPHIC
  • 23% of the company’s revenue came from customers outside of the US in 2019, up from 13% in 2017

Partner & Customers

  • CrowdStrike is deployed on AWS GovCloud after receiving FedRAMP recently
  • Dell & SecureWorks use CrowdStrike’s endpoint security solution
  • Customers include AWS, HSBC, ADP, Hyatt Hotels, The Pokemon Company

Listed Competitors

  • McAfee, Symantec, Palo Alto Networks, FireEye, Cylance and Carbon Black

Financials

  • The company grew the top line significantly while the operating loss had a much smaller increase
  • The increasingly profitable subscription that already has higher gross margin than professional services makes up a bigger piece in the revenue while expenses are better leveraged

Thoughts

The company claimed to have a TAM of $24.6 billion and $29.2 billion in 2019 and 2021 respectively. It is a huge market and as companies go digital and have increased exposure due to more endpoints, more data, more cloud environments and more applications, the cybersecurity need will be there. With that being said, it is also a competitive market. Not only are there quite tough competitors such as Palo Alto Networks, McAfee, Symantec, FireEye, but there are also some smaller ones and on top of that, public clouds such as AWS or Azure also have their own security offerings.

I don’t know how they will compete moving forward, but the numbers look pretty good so far. Like many enterprise SaaS companies filing to go public, the company hasn’t been profitable operationally yet, but the situation looks promising with increased revenue and leveraged expenses. Their growth in ARR, negative churn and customer base is impressive. At least, there is a reason to believe that they are heading to the profitability land.

The partnership with Dell, I think, will be very helpful moving forward.

Steep decline and loss of identity at Manchester United

The season is officially over and it can’t be over soon enough for Manchester United and its fans like myself.

Terrible performance domestically and continentally

Since 2013, the last season of Sir Alex Ferguson, the team has been a complete mess. There have been 4 managers in charge: David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and the current manager – Ole Solskjaer. With regards to the Premier League, the team’s end-of-season position was 7th, 4th, 5th, 6th, 2nd and 6th from 2013 to 2018, missing Champions League on 4 occasions. This season, the gap to Manchester City, the eventual champion, is a staggering 32 points. There hasn’t been such a large gap since Premier League was founded. Yes, MU won the Europa League with Jose Mourinho, but as a three-time Champions League winner and a formerly usual competitor in the tournament, winning a second-tier cup is more of a consolation than an achievement. This year’s presence in the Quarter Finals of the Champions League is the best we have had since 2011.

Alarmingly deteriorating player quality and abysmal transfer policy

Let’s talk about the transfer policy since Sir Alex’s departure. Below is the list of all big-ticket players coming to Manchester United in the past 5 years (Source: transfermarkt)

SeasonPlayerFees (£ mil)Selling Fees  (£ mil)DifferenceEvaluation (my own opinion)
13/14Juan Mata40  Average
13/14Marouane Fellaini2911-18Poor
14/15Di Maria67.558-9.5Poor
14/15Luke Shaw34  OK
14/15Ander Herrera320-32OK
14/15Marcos Rojo18  Poor
14/15Daley Blind1614-2Poor
14/15Falcao7  Poor
15/16Martial54  OK
15/16Schneiderlin31.521-10.5Poor
15/16Depay3114.4-16.6Poor
15/16Darmian16  Poor
15/16Schweinsteiger8  Poor
16/17Pogba95  Average
16/17Mkhitaryan3831-7Poor
16/17Baily34  Poor
16/17IbrahimovicFree yet very high salary  OK
17/18Lukaku76  Average
17/18Matic40  Poor
17/18Vindelof31.5  OK
17/18Alexis Sanchez31  Poor
18/19Fred53  Poor
18/19Dalot20  Average

Most signings haven’t met expectations so far in my book. Only a handful either have or possess so much promise that I give them the benefit of the doubt. More importantly, many players don’t particularly have a lot of resell value. They are at the peak of their market value and given the outrageous inflation of player value following Neymar’s transfer, Manchester United ended up overpaying for the players by a wide margin. Among the transfers, some are particularly terrible. Take Sanchez as an example. He is no longer the player he used to be. Yet, he commands the biggest wage at the club, causing unhealthy envy from his teammates who, admittedly, would deserve his salary more than he does.

Not only did the club fail to acquire quality players, but they were also unable to offload players who don’t meet the standard any more. Take Ashley Young. He is exceedingly disappointing and weak. Yet, he is the captain of the team and features in the starting line-up on a weekly basis. His disastrous performance against Barcelona in Champions League is just one among the many horrible performances over the past two or three years.

Loss of identity

United used to be known and feared for attacking football with flair and never-give-up mentality. United of the past few years has been nowhere near that former self. No creativity. No attacking football. No inspiration. Fewer goals. Only boring defensive football. Teams don’t fear United any more. We are relegated to battling with the likes of Wolves or Everton, which beat United 4-0 a few weeks ago.

United used to promote young players from the academy. Granted, some came through the hierarchy such as Rashford, McTominay, and a bit less from Greenwood or Tahith Chong. But it’s nowhere near enough given that we produced world class players in the past such as Class 1992, or good role players such as Brown, O’Shea, Welbeck, Evans, Rafael.

Manchester United is no longer what it used to be. Worse than the lack of performance on the pitch is the loss of culture, accompanied by the decline in reputation. No great players who want to do great things and achieve results want to play for us any more. City, Liverpool, Juve, Bayern, Barca and Real are all the raves these days. We are relegated to the second-tier club in Europe. Long were the days when United were in the semi-final of Champions League for 5 straight seasons or 3 finals in 4 years from 2008 to 2011. Long were the days when the name Manchester United commanded respect and fear. What is left now is just a well-oiled marketing machine living off of its glorious past with no direction back to redemption.

English is generally easy, except for the pronunciation

From my experience, English is one of the easiest and most logical languages to learn. There is no gender in English like it is in languages such as French or Spanish. There is no special alphabet in English as in the case of Japanese, Arabic or Chinese. Grammar can be a bit complex if it’s in the academic context, but our usual grammar in daily usage is fairly simple.

In English, if you know a noun, you can deduce what the verb, the adjective and the adverb that are related to the noun are, and vice versa. For instance, from the noun fright, I can guess the following: frighten, frightening, frightened. In difficult languages, you often have to learn by heart what each word means. Take Vietnamese as an example.

  • hai: it means number 2 or what you informally call your oldest sibling
  • hài: it means funny
  • hái: it means pick up fruits from a branch
  • hại: it means harmful
  • hãi: it means scary
  • hải: it means sea, often used in literature

None of those words are related to one another, yet they look awfully alike and there is no other way to learn their meanings, except by heart. But at least in Vietnamese, words are pronounced exactly the same as they are spelled. Unlike in English!

The most difficult part of English in my opinion is pronunciation. In Vietnamese, we don’t pronounce the ending letters in the words; which is often the differentiation in many words in English. For instance, without the letter “d”, “beard” would sound the same as “beer”. Some words such as “sixth”, “world” or “word” are a nightmare for us, Vietnamese, to pronounce correctly. So, take it easy on us for our pronunciation. We definitely try, but it’s just not what we are used to, growing up.

Another challenge lies in the irregularity of how words are pronounced. For example, “diversity” can be pronounced /ˈdaɪnəsti/ or /ˈdɪnəsti/, depending on whether you use American or British English respectively. Same for diversity, but the other way around.

Plus, there are words that require pronunciation very different from their spelling, such as colonel, zucchini, mischievous, February, Wednesday and so on… There are far more complicated words than what I listed, but it should give an idea of how a foreigner thinks of English.

Weekly readings – 11th May 2019

Charlie Munger, Unplugged. I try to read as much as possible about Charlie Munger. This is a great interview with him. The part I like most about the interview is when Charlie talked about how he read till he slept.

In News Industry, a Stark Divide Between Haves and Have-Nots. An insightful and fascinating piece on the struggle of newspapers as a whole to generate digital revenue to offset the loss in ads dollars. Only a few exceptions and the Big Three (WSJ, The Times and The Post) seem to have managed reasonably well.

Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit? The “we are going to be the Amazon of transportation” narrative will be used a lot ahead of Uber’s IPO. I can see some value in that, but frankly, I don’t believe that is the case at the moment. The level of competition that Amazon had to face back in the day and Uber has to face now is likely different. I doubt Amazon faced a lot of legal challenges as Uber has had up to now. Plus, the economics of the two companies aren’t the same. Look at the chart below and see if there is any similarity between the two

Eating breakfast is not a good weight loss strategy, scientists confirm.

Can Bird build a better scooter before it runs out of cash? A revealing piece on the scooter business.

Ilargi: Renewables Are Dead. I find renewables polarizing as a subject. There are fans on each side of the argument. No matter what, I guess if we hadn’t tried, we wouldn’t have known what we know now.

New Data: The Airbnb Advantage. According to AirBnb, New York, London and Paris make up less than 3% of its total listings and no city makes up more than 1% of the listings.

Ethiopia’s garment workers make clothes for Gap, H&M and Levi’s but are the world’s lowest paid. Workers in sweat shops in Ethiopia got paid $26/month. The same figure in Vietnam is $180/month.

India’s water crisis is already here. Climate change will compound it.

Recommendation to Vietnamese Tourism Board: Make data accessible and easy to process

I love my country. I want to promote my country as much and as honestly as I can. Given my past experience in the hospitality industry, I am a bit drawn towards reading and writing about it. I really want to do some analysis on the arrivals to Vietnam, but the government body responsible for recording data makes it annoyingly challenging for me to work with the data.

Problem 1 – No excel files

First of all, there is no feature on the website to download data in an Excel file. You have to download data and put it yourself in an Excel file. On the other hand, the Singapore Tourism Board makes it super easy to store data on an annual basis as you can see below

Source: Singapore Tourism Board
Each file stores data by month

Problem 2 – Inconsistent naming and order of entries

Copying data from an HTML table wouldn’t be so bad if the order of entries stayed the same across the tables. However, it isn’t the case. The order is all over the place as you can see below. Countries are mixed up differently from one month to another

Even that is the case, vlookup can still help overcome the challenge. However, vlookup requires consistency of variables’ names. In the screenshot above, Cambodia is spelled differently in April and March 2019 reports.

Problem 3 – Redundant variables’ names

Redundant variables’ names like in the screenshot above violate the integrity of data. If you use vlookup, the results will be redundant and inaccurate.

Given how they display the data online, I don’t have much faith that internally, things are different. My bet is that there is no data-centric approach and even if data is used, it must be a time-consuming, laborious and primitive endeavor.

Whenever you can help, do and do it kindly

I am working in the Marketing Analytics for a big private bank in America. I didn’t work in the banking industry before. The learning curve is really high. I have to learn not only the products and the terminologies, but also the data, the tools we use to extract data for different products (mortgage, loans, credit cards) and programming language (SAS, SQL). Having been here for some weeks, I still have a lot to learn. My manager told me that he expected me to be comfortable with what we do in at least 6 months and one year is a normal timeline.

Today, I was asking one of my teammates about a specific product and campaign at the bank. Even though it was around 4:30pm on a Friday when there were only two of us left in the office, he patiently explained to me and went over and beyond to show the code he did and what the code meant. In the end, he told me of his experience in his previous company where he was also trying to learn his way around like I am and he was discouraged since his former colleagues didn’t seem eager to teach him. He said their attitude made him try not to bother them and ask questions, unless he really really had to. The experience taught him to really take the time to help out others properly.

It’s sad when somebody doesn’t feel like asking you for help even when that somebody really needs help. Reaching out for assistance isn’t easy. In my opinion, it takes a little bit of courage as nobody wants to appear vulnerable, inferior or incompetent in a professional environment. If you can help out, please do. If you are busy at the time, schedule another time or point to another source of information. Nonetheless, don’t try to explain a complex issue in 1-2 minutes and abruptly leave and say: I am so busy, I don’t have time for this. It makes things even worse. It’s humiliating to the other person.

One of the most important things I have learned growing up is that you show your true color more when you deal with people who are inferior, less unfortunate than you, not when you deal with people superior to you. Plus, I don’t think anybody can be good at anything without once having a mentor or help along the way.