Weekly reading – 27th November 2021

What I wrote last week

A helpful post on the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron

Good reads on Business

Uber introduced the new membership plan called Uber One. Perks include unlimited $0 delivery fees for qualified orders ($30+ for groceries and $15+ for other stuff), 5% off on eligible rides & deliveries, $5 refund if a delivery arrives after the Latest Estimate Time and other perks. It’s the same as DoorDash’s Dash Pass or Instacart’s subscription. The difference is that Uber’s plan also includes rides.

Incentives – How will Visa Amazon Play Out? If you are interested in fintech or payments, subscribe to Tom’s newsletter. It’s good.

More than Joe Rogan: Inside Spotify’s audio revolution. “The same could be said for Spotify, which over the last three years has transitioned from a groundbreaking music streaming service to one that also now offers 3.2 million podcasts on its platform. The expansion has been nothing short of meteoric when you consider that Apple, which has been offering podcasts since 2005, has just over 2 million audio shows. Spotify’s gains were highlighted in its third-quarter earnings report in late October, when it revealed that 3.2 million figure, as well as the fact that advertising revenue from podcasts helped drive total ad revenue up 75% year over year. Stockholm-based Spotify is now on track to pass 1 billion euros (more than $1 billion) in ad revenue for the first time this year.”

Apple taps TSMC to build custom iPhone 5G modem in 2023. A competitive advantage is what you do so much more efficiently and better than your competitors. In the case of Apple, it’s the integration of hardware and software. Within hardware, it’s a combination of so many things, including chip, industrial design and supply chain. Reliant on Qualcomm for the modem chip in the iPhone, Apple decided to be more independent and bring deeper integration by designing its own chip and outsourcing the production to TSMC. Think about it this way. Apple became the most valuable firm in the world while relying on others for parts of their products. Now they gained the capability to own most of the production process. What a company.

Starbucks has opened a store with Amazon Go.At this store, customers that have ordered ahead of time via the Starbucks app can walk in, look to see if their order is ready via the large digital Order Status sign, pick up their drink and walk out. They can also use their Amazon app or credit card to scan into the store and pick up a Dominique Ansel pastry (or a number of other New York City-specific items Ess-a-Bagel), Amazon Kitchen sandwich or sushi roll from the marketplace and just walk out. Once they exit the store with the item, they’ll be charged via their Amazon account via the Amazon Just Walk Out Technology as seen in the Amazon Go stores.” The more Amazon tests this technology, the better it will become. A few years from now, they’ll be miles ahead of others in reimagining the retail experience

AmEx Pitched Business Customers a Tax Break That Doesn’t Add Up. Another shady exercise by a major financial institution.

An interesting write-up on Visa from Greenskeeper Asset Management

Other stuff I found interesting

The ER charged him $6,589.77 for 6 stitches, a cost that led his wife to avoid the ER. The healthcare system in the U.S is really broken and quite frankly just disgraceful.

Workers in Vietnam lived inside factories to keep Samsung’s products on shelves during the pandemic. Poorer countries should band together to pressure tech companies and their suppliers into increasing workers’ pay. Divided, they will be taken advantage of. The economic output is reflected on the paper, but the price that workers have to pay and the longer term sustainability is also damaged

The Humble Brilliance of Italy’s Moka Coffee Pot. “The various species of Coffea, the seeds of which are dried, roasted, and ground to make coffee, are native to east Africa, particularly Ethiopia. Coffee as a beverage first shows up in the historical record—which is not necessarily to say that it wasn’t consumed in its native Ethiopia first—in what is now Yemen. It spread quickly throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and firmly established itself as part of the culture in what are now Turkey and Iran. Italians began coming up with their own gadgets for brewing coffee in the 19th century, but the biggest by far was the idea of applying pressure to coffee in order to create a strong, and more importantly fast, drink. This is the age of steam, a miraculous source of power that can unlock the world, and though it’s not entirely clear who originated the idea of using steam to brew coffee, certainly it was in Italy that it was popularized. The first known patent for a machine we might now recognize as an espresso machine was registered by Angelo Moriondo, who created a giant complicated steam-driven machine in 1884, but who never bothered to manufacture it. Luigi Bezzera, from Milan, modified the Moriondo patent, and hisdesign was further modified (though less so than Bezzera’s) by Desidiero Pavoni, whose La Pavoni introduced the world to espresso in 1906, at a world’s fair held in Milan.”

Stats

JP Morgan estimates that a Prime Membership of $120/year brings more than $1,000 in value to subscribers

63% of U.S Gen Z used TikTok in the last two years

Weekly reading – 20th November 2021

What I wrote last week

My thoughts on Apple Business Essentials

What I think about Apple Pay & Apple Card

Good reads on Business

HelloFresh: Delivering on Process Power. This episode goes deep into the operational aspect of Hello Fresh. I certainly under-estimated it and its operational complexity.

Macy’s CEO, a department store veteran, fights to fit in the Amazon future of retail. Macy is an interesting case study in which its online presence is so valuable that activist investors want it to be publicly traded alone, separate from the physical stores. “Of the company’s 5 million new customers that came in over the second quarter, more than 40% came to Macy’s digitally, Gennette said on the earnings call. In an effort to capitalize on its most valuable customers — those who shop at Macy’s both in-person and online tend to spend three times more than those who only shop at one or the other — Macy’s has invested in data analytics so it can follow when and what they shop, then tailor incentive programs and product messaging to them.”

Breaking Down the Payment for Order Flow Debate. A good read on the payment for order flow debate and why orders on trading apps like Robinhood are halted when there is too much volatility.

Apple is sticking taxpayers with part of the bill for rollout of tech giant’s digital ID card. As an Apple shareholder, it is good to see the power that Apple wields against even the states. As a tax payer, I am quite concerned that the few participating states so far seem to give that much ground to a private company.

The end of “click to subscribe, call to cancel”? One of the news industry’s favorite retention tactics is illegal, FTC says. I am really glad that the FTC intervened to protect consumers. If you want an example of how governments can help citizens, this case is exhibit A.

Airlines Are Rewriting the Rules on Frequent-Flier Programs—Again. “The airline will make it possible to earn elite status without taking a single flight starting in March. Credit-card miles will count more toward status than ever before. Those who are true frequent fliers will get some added benefits, and business travelers who aren’t taking as many trips will be able to boost their status with their spending. Small-business owners and others who use their credit cards a lot now can be a top dog at American before they ever lift the buckle on a seat belt. Delta says it will automatically roll over status that SkyMiles customers have this year to 2022. In addition, it will pool qualifying miles earned this year and next together toward 2023 status requirements. Delta is also offering bonuses to qualify for elite-status tiers faster and is counting the flying that members do on award tickets toward status levels.” Another change that was encouraged by the pandemic. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I guess.

What Went Wrong With Zillow? A Real-Estate Algorithm Derailed Its Big Bet. When you are in a business of risk management and become reckless and carried away by the pandemic, the consequences can be dire.

Stuff I found interesting

Japanese Philosophies That’ll Help You Spend Money Consciously. “Chisoku talks about being content with what you already have. Wabi Sabi talks about finding beauty in imperfection. As things age and decay, they become more beautiful. Mitate teaches us that every object has more than one purpose.”

New Zealand’s 180-million-year-old forest. “While most petrified forests are far removed from the modern forests that grow near them, Curio Bay’s petrified forest, which is a representation of an ancient Gondwana forest of cycads, gingkos, conifers and ferns, still has its descendants in the present-day forests found here. About 80% of New Zealand’s trees, ferns and flowering plants are native having evolved in isolation for millions of years.”

One of the World’s Poorest Countries Found a Better Way to Do Stimulus. “In Togo, a nation of about 8 million people where the average income is below $2 a day, it took the government less than two weeks to design and launch an all-digital system for delivering monthly payments to about a quarter of the adult population. People such as Bamaze, with no tax or payroll records, were identified as in need, enrolled in the program, and paid without any in-person contact.”

Stats

The state’s venture capital share has jumped from $300 million in 2016, to almost $3.1 billion in 2020 — 866%– according to Crunchbase. That makes it the state with the fastest growing venture capital rate.”

Drug overdose deaths exceeded 100,000 in the U.S in the 12 months ending April 2021

Out of 100 children born prematurely in Vietnam every year, 17 die in the first 28 days. My country has a long way to go in terms of public health.

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Source: Dave Ambrose

Weekly reading 13th November 2021

What I wrote last week

PayPal’s Q3 FY2021 results

Good reads on Business

A very good Business Breakdown episode on MongoDB. Database can be very abstract and tricky to grab your head around. Hence. I appreciate folks taking the time to share knowledge and translate a tricky subject into laymen’s terms. Check it out!

2021 Retailer of the Year: Dollar General. “Food and consumables accounted for 77% of Dollar General’s annual sales last year of $33.7 billion. The expansion of cooler and freezer capacity at new and remodeled stores has for several years been described as the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based company’s most impactful merchandising initiative. Dollar General began selling fresh produce at select stores last year, expanded the program to 2,000 locations this year, and its current plan is to add produce in up to 10,000 stores.” The refusal to call itself a grocer, in my opinion, is spot on. The name of the store is Dollar General, not Dollar Grocery. To change it to grocery would be a mistake as consumers would wonder: what kind of grocery am I getting for $1? Plus, the brand is about getting daily items for at a low price (may not necessarily be cheaper than at Costco, if you talk about unit economics). Hence, it doesn’t make sense to limit themselves to just being a grocer.

Why charging phones is a complex business. An interview with Anker CEO. A really interesting one in my opinion. They plan to avoid going into the phone business and stick to what they do best: accessories. Smart. Strategic.

Experts From A World That No Longer Exists. “Expertise is great, but it has a bad side effect. It tends to create an inability to accept new ideas.”

Facebook launches Shops in Groups and Live Shopping for Creators. The investments and focus on eCommerce, in my opinion, are strategically helpful to Facebook. Its giant cash cow has always been advertising powered by surveillance tracking which falls out of favor of many stakeholders. Politicians, lawmakers, more privacy-conscious consumers, powerful companies like Apple. Facebook has literally millions of people and thousands of brands using its platforms every day. It’s in a prime spot to be an eCommerce powerhouse.

Meta CTO thinks bad metaverse moderation could pose an ‘existential threat’. Boz wasn’t wrong there. What is interesting is that Facebook’s biggest challenge right now, before metaverse, is….moderation. In spite of billions of dollars and an army of technology plus human beings, Facebook still can’t crack the moderation code at scale, without pissing off a whole lot of people. Moreover, because its cash cow is advertising, Facebook has an inherent incentive to encourage engagement, whether it’s toxic engagement or not. I am not saying that moderation is easy. It’s super difficult and, like Boz said, almost impossible. But if your existential threat is impossible to solve, then it should give investors some pause.

Debit cards are hidden financial infrastructure. If you are interested in the U.S financial system, subscribe to this newsletter. I think the write-ups are helpful.

Stuff I found interesting

Hundreds of Ancient Maya Sites Hidden Under Mexico Reveal a Mysterious Blueprint. “In a new study, an international team of researchers led by anthropologist Takeshi Inomata from the University of Arizona reports the identification of almost 500 ceremonial complexes tracing back not just to the Maya, but also to another Mesoamerican civilization who made their mark on the land even earlier, the Olmecs.”

Brazilian Farmers Who Protect the Amazon Rainforest Would Like to Be Paid. “Governments, corporations and business executives are calling for a world-wide market to trade carbon credits so Brazilian farmers like Mr. Weis can be paid to help protect forests on their lands rather than cut them down to make way for more crops and cattle. Existing regional markets for carbon credits, from Europe to California to South Korea, show that the interest—and capital—is there for a global market. The value of carbon markets in Europe and elsewhere grew 23% last year to $274 billion, according to data provider Refinitiv Holdings Ltd. In a global market, carbon credits generated anywhere would be easily tradable anywhere else, just as a security issued by a Brazilian company can be bought and sold on the Nasdaq. Landholding farmers, indigenous groups, state governments and environmentalists could all sell credits.”

Spiders are much smarter than you think. ““There is this general idea that probably spiders are too small, that you need some kind of a critical mass of brain tissue to be able to perform complex behaviors,” says arachnologist and evolutionary biologist Dimitar Dimitrov of the University Museum of Bergen in Norway. “But I think spiders are one case where this general idea is challenged. Some small things are actually capable of doing very complex stuff.””

The nation’s last uranium mill plans to import Estonia’s radioactive waste. The tribes that live close to the U.S’ last uranium mill protest unambiguously and loudly the mill’s owner’s plant o import radioactive waste from Estonia since the water that feeds the tribes is ALREADY contaminated enough. Yet it seems that their concerns fall on deaf ears.

Perfecting the New York Street. “An achievable, replicable plan for a city that’s embracing public space as never before.” Yes, please. Fewer cars, less space for parking and more space for pedestrians

Stats

Cloud Computing Spend is expected to reach $848bn in 2025, according to Battery Venture

Vietnam is forecast to have 53 million online consumers by the end of 2021. The country has a population of 96 million people

“65% of U.S. consumers say they watch free, ad-supported video services”

Weekly reading 6th November 2021

What I wrote last week

I gave two examples from Financial Times on why you should be vigilant about what’s on the Net

Uber’s Q3 FY2021 results

Good reads on Business

Why acquisitions lead DTC exits. “An acquisition, especially from a larger firm in the space, can provide brands with the resources needed for sustained growth, like marketing expertise, a stronger supply chain, access to new customers or a wider distribution network. At the same time, an acquisition — as opposed to alternative exit methods like a public listing — keeps many aspects of the business, namely its financial reports, private. Acquiring a brand gives larger companies access to the brand’s data, e-commerce expertise and its customers. Through an acquisition, a larger company may also be looking for expertise, resources and sometimes real estate it doesn’t have yet, in addition to talent and customers”

The Facebook name was such a drag that employees referred to it as a ‘brand tax’. What it’s interesting yet has been so obvious to me for a while is that while Facebook is supposed to be an entity making decisions based on mountains of data, the call to add “from Facebook” to Instagram and Whatsapp was made unilaterally by Mark Zuckerberg based solely on his preference and against studies with concrete data from his staff. I am sure this isn’t the only instance that this sort of things happen in Facebook or quite frankly any organization

The economics of pumpkin patches. If you haven’t subscribed to The Hustle, you may consider doing so as their weekend write-ups are usually a joy to read.

A New Market Emerges for Online Delivery: 10-Minute Groceries. The idea of 10-minute deliveries is straightforward, but requires gigantic investments and great execution. In other words, it’s exceedingly difficult. On top of the operational challenges, consumers can switch to another provider at any time, making the cost of acquisition and retention expensive. My guess is that these providers use initial investments to generate demand and popularize the concept of 10-minute deliveries. Once consumers are used to the concept and demand it from retailers, these retailers have no choice but to offer it, either by building the capacity themselves or working with the delivery services. The likelihood of retailers building the capacity themselves is low, especially for small and medium-sized retailers. Hence, these delivery services can improve economies of scale by signing up more and more retailers. Oh and don’t forget the ads dollars that will definitely grow once the delivery apps become popular enough.

Is Facebook Bad for You? 360 Million Users Say Yes, Company Documents Show. “Facebook researchers have found that 1 in 8 of its users report engaging in compulsive use of social media that impacts their sleep, work, parenting or relationships, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. A Facebook team focused on user well-being suggested a range of fixes, and the company implemented some, building in optional features to encourage breaks from social media and to dial back the notifications that can serve as a lure to bring people back to the platform. Facebook shut down the team in late 2019.

Rene Ritchie talked to two Apple executives about Apple’s switch to their own chip M1. Two things stood out to me from this interview: 1/ the minimalistic style that Apple follows is reflected on the principle that no transistor is wasted on the chip. If a transistor is on the chip, then it has a job to do and it really needs to be there; 2/ the construction of the M1 chip is a collaborative effort between multiple different teams that starts from the vision for better customer experiences. Other chips are designed to maximize benchmarks and meaningless stats and then hardware and software follow to accommodate the chips.

Stuff I found interesting

The untold story of the world’s biggest nuclear bomb. The deaths that stem directly from these nuclear bombs are tragic. What’s even worse is the long-lasting radioactive effect that can linger for hundreds of years. The next generations didn’t do anything to deserve that

‘Father of tiramisu’ Ado Campeol dies aged 93. “Campeol was the owner of Le Beccherie, a restaurant in Treviso in northern Italy where the famous dessert was invented by his wife and a chef. The dish, featuring coffee-soaked biscuits and mascarpone, was added to their menu in 1972 but never patented by the family. According to the dessert’s co-inventor, Chef Roberto Linguanotto, the dish was the result of an accident while making vanilla ice cream. The pair then perfected the dessert by adding ladyfinger sponges soaked in coffee, and sprinkling it with cocoa – calling it “Tiramisù”, which translates into English as “pick me up”.

A very good M1 Max Macbook Pro by MKBHD

Stats

Chile, Australia and Argentina have 75% of the world’s Lithium reserve with Chile making up 45%, according to World Economic Forum

Source: World Economic Forum

Weekly reading – 30th October 2021

What I wrote last week

My own thoughts and commentary from several companies on App Tracking Transparency

Good reads on business

Intel slipped—and its future now depends on making everyone else’s chips. If the future of Intel depends on making chips for everybody else, then it’s a bleak future. They fall so far behind others, especially TSMC, in this game.

L1 Capital International Fund Q3 Shareholder Letter. It discusses Texas Instruments. So if you are looking for a new idea for your portfolio, it may be an interesting read

Buy Now, Pay Later & Payment Ramifications. If you are looking for a primer on BNPL, this one should do. Follow the author too for payments and fintech content

China is pushing to develop its own chips — but the country can’t do without foreign tech. One thing that I have learned so far is: never underestimate the Chinese. They may be behind in chip design and production, but they have every intention of integrating Taiwan, the hometown of TSMC, into the mainland and they have the will and resources to catch up and surpass the Western world

Mastercard Partners With Bakkt to Bring Cryptocurrency Payments to the Masses. This will definitely increase the usability of Bitcoin in ordinary circumstances. The problem, I think, is who will convince the masses that it’s ok to pay in Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency’s price has gone up by $20,000 in the last 30 days. This fluctuation makes me wonder why I should pay with something that can be 50% more valuable in 30 days.

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Source: Simon Moores

Stuff I find interesting

The Unlikely Outsiders Who Won the Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine. The two companies that helped the world get out of the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic were close to financial ruins. Just think about that for a second. On a side note, while I appreciate the dedication of BionTech’s founder, I wouldn’t want to be as extreme as he is.

Lewis Hamilton’s Plan to Revolutionize Formula 1. “The final report, published in July, confirmed what Hamilton had felt in his bones: Less than 1 percent of people working in Formula 1 are Black. The reasons, laid out across 184 pages, ranged from teams’ hiring practices (which tap the same universities year after year) to major fault lines within British education, as Black students are funneled into the lowest-achieving tracks and expelled at much higher rates. That began to change inside his own garage. Mercedes committed to making sure that 25 percent of new hires come from underrepresented backgrounds. The team, which has raced cars under the nickname Silver Arrows since the 1930s, also made a radical statement in paint. For the first time in its F1 history, the team changed its livery from silver to black last summer. The cars haven’t returned to the old colors. Not only did Hamilton’s latest contract, signed during the 2021 season, include stipulations for increasing diversity within the team—Hamilton also spoke directly with the team’s sponsors asking them to do the same. “Where are you guys at?” he remembers asking the CEO of the Monster energy drink company, which has backed him since 2013. “How are you guys holding yourself accountable? How can we work together?”

Female African Elephants Are Evolving Without Tusks Due to Ivory Poaching. The thing about this trophy hunting that bugs me a lot is that it’s not critical to our survival. We just do it for fun, for ego and because we can. These elephants do us no harm. They just mind their own business and we are the thugs that come in, hurt and kill them for what doesn’t belong to us. Some people say that outrage for trophy hunting is hypocritical because we kill chickens and fish and other animals too. Well, there is a big distinction here. We and our societies have evolved in a way that we look to these animals for protein and survival. I mean we could have been eating grass for dinner too if our ancestors had done it millions of years ago. But here we are through no fault of our own. Why do we commit more sins for absolutely no necessary reasons?

The $3.50 go-anywhere ticket to fight climate change. I am no expert, but I really believe that the U.S has to significantly upgrade its public transportation infrastructure to catch up with other countries and contribute to the climate change fight.

Stats

There were more than 500,000 U.S sellers on Amazon between 1st September 2020 and 31 August 2021. Almost 4,000 sellers surpassed $1 million in sales for the first time

There were 203.7 billion cigarettes sold in the U.S in 2020. A mind-blowing figure

Source: Fox

Weekly reading – 23rd October 2021

What I wrote last week

PayPal in talks to buy Pinterest

Book review: Richer, Wiser Happier: How The World’s Greatest Investors Win In Markets & Life

Good reads on Business

Jokr and Personalized Instant Commerce. The article lays out useful data and information on Instant Commerce, especially Jokr. However, I am still a bit unsure about the unit economics of these delivery services. Last-mile delivery is hard and expensive, especially at scale. The consumer stickiness is naturally low and requires constant incentives to nurture. Competitors are everywhere. Plus, the good-old brick-and-mortar alternatives generally offer sufficient value and people, like myself, like to go out once in a while for some fresh air.

Netflix Loses Its Glow as Critics Target Chappelle Special. Netflix has started to encounter what the likes of Facebook and Twitter have for years: content moderation. The company can’t please everyone; so in this case, it’s natural that one or two stakeholders are disappointed with the Dave Chappelle show. The management team believes that the show brings net benefits to Netflix and acted accordingly. Agree with them or not, you should see where they are coming from. On the other hand, some employees reserve their right to disagree with that decision and be disappointed. That happens to even within families, let alone strangers that merely work at the same place. What remains to be seen to me are 1/ how would this affect staff turnover and talent management at Netflix; 2/ how would Netflix users think about the show?

Inside TSMC, the Taiwanese chipmaking giant that’s building a new plant in Phoenix. “TSMC makes key components for everything from cellphones to F-35 fighter jets to NASA’s Perseverance Rover mission to Mars. Earlier this month, it announced plans for a new factory in Japan, where it will produce chips with older technologies, for things like household devices and certain car components. TSMC is also Apple’s exclusive provider of the most advanced chips inside every iPhone currently on the market and most Mac computers. TSMC alone was responsible for 24% of the world’s semiconductor output in 2020, up from 21% in 2019, according to the company. When it comes to the most advanced chips used in the latest iPhones, supercomputers and automotive AI, TSMC is responsible for 92% of production while Samsung is responsible for the other 8%, according to research group Capital Economics. ”

How YouTube Makes Sure Its Hitmakers Don’t Stumble. YouTube spends tens of thousands of dollars on the top YouTubers to grow their content and ecosystem. Their in-house digital agency also offers guidance and consulting services to these personalities so that they can sustain attractive videos and high viewership. This kind of support, along with YouTube or its parent company’s resources, makes it difficult for other competitors to match.

Squid Game’ success shines a light on how cheap it is to make TV shows outside the U.S. “The total cost of making “Squid Game” was just $21.4 million. Episodes of Disney+’s Marvel shows, such as “WandaVision” or “The Falcon,” cost Disney $25 million per episode — more than all nine episodes of “Squid Game”“. I’d also prefer local characters being played by true locals to by Americans.

Is Best Buy undermining its storybook turnaround? I don’t think it’s a good idea to mess with a formula that works. Especially, that formula is around customer services and satisfaction. If I were a Best Buy shareholder, I’d send the CEO and the Management Team this article with a lot of questions.

Business Breakdown episode on Uber. If you are interested in gig economy and especially Uber as a business, have a listen. Whether you are a bull or a bear, I think it’ll be worth your time

How Many Users Does Facebook Have? The Company Struggles to Figure It Out. “A separate memo from May said that the number of U.S. Facebook users who are in their 20s and active at least once a month often exceeds the total population of Americans their age. “This brings out an elephant in the room: SUMA,” the memo’s author wrote, using an internal abbreviation for “Single User Multiple Accounts.” The author added that the issue could render Facebook’s ratio of users active each day “less trustable. Facebook said in its most recent quarterly securities filings that it estimates 11% of its monthly active users world-wide—which totaled 2.9 billion for its flagship platform in the second quarter—are duplicate accounts, with developing markets accounting for a higher proportion of them than developed ones.”

Other interesting stuff

Your Guide to the Third-Party Cookie. A very useful primer on the key factor in the digital advertising world. I have been on both sides of this issue. As a marketer, I can see why companies want to get as much data as possible to hone their targeting and make the best use of their ads dollars. On the other hand, as a consumer, I absolutely hate the feeling that somebody follows me everywhere across the Web. Privacy has been on the rise and will continue to be. iOS users now have a choice to voice their opinion on the matter with ATT. I don’t know how this all will shake out, but I would think that marketers would do well if they pivoted from 3rd party tracking.

Belgium’s shift from nuclear under fire as gas price surge strains Europe. It is baffling to me that countries are moving away from nuclear energy for gas-based power.

The Greek region too remote for maps

New Viking artifacts may mean that Christopher Columbus might not be the first one to discover the America continent. I guess it’s time to keep the holiday yet change the freaking name

Stats

Gas bills this winter can be at least 30% higher than last year

Weekly reading – 16th October 2021

What I wrote last week

Cardless – The startup behind the Boston Celtics, Manchester United and Cleveland Cavaliers credit cards

The virtual tour of Son Doong Cave by National Geographic

Good reads on Business

Semi-Annual Letter to Partners by the DMZ Partners Investment Management. It contains some great nuggets of wisdom with regard to investment and business

Next Act for Apple Veteran Ron Johnson Is Taking Home-Delivery Startup Public. Ron Johnson’s story is proof that even established names can fail. After making his name at Apple, you can argue that he failed at J.C Penney. Now he is working on another startup poised to go public via SPAC. I have to admit, though, that his startup doesn’t sound really exciting or appealing to me.

Bob Iger’s Long Goodbye. “The thing about Hollywood is, you can behave badly, you can be rude, you can make duds, but the thing you cannot do is fuck with people’s money,” says a producer with business at Disney. “You just don’t do that and hide behind technology as the reason why.” It’s really hard to come to a conclusion on whether Chapek is the right person for the job. In his defense, he was dealt with a very bad hand: his predecessor is one of the best CEOs the world has ever seen and his reign started with Covid-19. However, I am not pleased with his handling of the legal scuffle with Scarlett Johansson. That, along with the departures of key creative executives, shows that people’s skepticism of how he works with Hollywood is not entirely imaginary.

Disney’s shift to streaming puts ESPN in awkward position of clinging to the past. “ESPN probably won’t consider a direct-to-consumer service until the pay-TV bundle falls below 50 million U.S. households, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. Disney makes more money from cable subscribers than any other company, and that’s solely because of ESPN. ESPN and sister network ESPN2 charge nearly $10 per month combined, according to research firm Kagan, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. The reverse is true for ESPN. Swapping an ESPN subscriber for an ESPN+ customer, who contributes average revenue of less than $5 per month, is a significant loss for Disney. ESPN+ is a streaming service with limited content.”

The Nasty Logistics of Returning Your Too-Small Pants. “The average brick-and-mortar store has a return rate in the single digits, but online, the average rate is somewhere between 15 and 30 percent. That kind of fraud accounts for 5 to 10 percent of returns. Many retailers don’t allow any opened product to be resold as new. Brick-and-mortar stores have sometimes skirted that policy; products that are returned directly to the place where they were sold can be deemed close enough to new and sold again. But even if mailed-in products come back in pristine, unused condition—say, because you ordered two sizes of the same bra and the first one you tried on fit fine—the odds that things returned to a sorting facility will simply be transferred to that business’s inventory aren’t great, and in some cases, they’re virtually zero.”

Amazon copied products and rigged search results to promote its own brands, documents show. “The documents reveal how Amazon’s private-brands team in India secretly exploited internal data from Amazon.in to copy products sold by other companies, and then offered them on its platform. The employees also stoked sales of Amazon private-brand products by rigging Amazon’s search results so that the company’s products would appear, as one 2016 strategy report for India put it, “in the first 2 or three … search results” when customers were shopping on Amazon.in.” The fact that they mine sellers’ data and offer their own private labels isn’t new in the retail world. What I suspect will get Amazon into trouble with lawmakers is the rigging of search results.

EA Sports Is Planning for a FIFA Without FIFA. “Sales of the game, which releases an updated edition every year, have surpassed $20 billion over the past two decades for its California-based maker, Electronic Arts. But FIFA has cashed in as well: Its licensing agreement has grown to become the organization’s single-most valuable commercial agreement, now worth about $150 million per year.”

All That Zaz: With Warner Bros. Discovery Merger, David Zaslav Is Angling to Become America’s King of Content. “I asked him before he had to jump off our Zoom for a parade of meetings with producers and agents and talent and other Hollywood folk. Is there yet another megadeal up his sleeve? Will Warner Bros. Discovery need to get bigger still? “I think this deal will be the first sentence of my obituary,” he said, “that Discovery merged into Warner.” And the second sentence? “It soared.”

After a year of missteps, Ikea’s e-commerce business appears to be heading in the right direction. You may think that retailers naturally realize the value of eCommerce and the role that physical stores can play in the fulfillment game. In reality, it takes a once-in-a-generation pandemic for retailers to come to terms with this point. IKEA is one of them. As big and iconic as they are

Other interesting stuff

This 24-year-old dropped out of Columbia to build a $140 million underwear brand. Another example of the American dream right there

Love, Hope, and Worry in Drought-Ridden Page, Arizona

GreenForges digs deep to farm underground. ““I stumbled upon a paper that was analyzing how much food production capacity can we do in cities using rooftop greenhouses,” he said. “It’s a relatively low number; we’re talking 2 to 5% range for the cities of 2050. No one was asking the question, ‘Can we grow underground?’”.

Stats

As of October 2021, only 5% of Twitch users made more than $1,000 in 2021

Thailand has 28 million daily digital transactions as of October 2021, up from 7 million in 2019 and 14.5 million in 2020

“There are over 50 million retirees in the United States and, by 2035, there will be 72 million retirees”

One single mobile device infected with malware costs an organization an average of nearly $10,000, per Apple.

Weekly reading – 9th October 2021

What I wrote last week

The Mundanity of Excellence

Good Business reads

Measuring the Moat. An absolute belter. If you want to understand the bases of competitive moats without paying thousands of dollars for a degree, read this one article instead. Oh and it’s marvelously free.

Google’s pivot away from bank accounts shows why finance is a tough industry for tech giants. The article cited the fear of damaging the cloud business and the regulatory scrutiny as the reasons why Google is abandoning its plan to get into the financial world. But there is perhaps one more reason. Google may have concluded that their organization isn’t set up to do well in the financial world and the likes of Apple or PayPal are far better positioned to compete. Why risking billions of dollars when the upside doesn’t look that likely?

Inside the Rise of the Game-Changing ‘Chipotlane’. “Digital represented a $916 million business for Chipotle in the second quarter of 2021. When Chipotle collected $262 million in digital sales in Q2 2019, it marked a 99 percent year-over-year rise and was more than it produced in all of 2016. The Chipotlane doesn’t have a menuboard. It’s a digital order drive-thru pickup lane where guests who pay in advance arrive and get their food from a quick handoff. Restricting Chipotlanes to digital orders stripped friction out of the process. And it avoided past concerns that kept Chipotle from ever seriously considering the channel, fast casual perception or not. New Chipotlanes continue to open with sales 20 percent higher than traditional formats. They operate with 200 basis-points higher restaurant-level margin. This incremental profit comfortably offsets the $75,000–$100,000 cost of a Chipotlane and yield cash-on-cash return of at least 500 basis points above standard locations, BTIG analyst Peter Saleh said.

LRT Capital Q3 Investor Letter. It includes a nice write-up on Tractor Supply and was written by an intern

Other stuff that I found interesting

Facebook to act on illegal sale of Amazon rainforest. Significant changes only happen when those in power put it to good use. As in this case. It’s a waste and pity that in some cases, powerful entities like Facebook take no action because they fear backlash or hit to their bottom line.

The great Koh Kong land rush: Areas stripped of protection by Cambodian gov’t being bought up. The amount of forest loss has increased markedly in Cambodia in recent years. The same phenomenon has happened in Vietnam for years. What good is technology when we can’t preserve the Earth and natural landscapes for future generations?

iPhone Macro: A Big Day for Small Things

Writing In Public, Inside Your Company. This makes me think a lot about what I can do at work to make writing more popular

Stats

Almost 78% of all new cars in Norway in September were battery electric vehicles

Only 1 out of 4 households in Europe invest in equities and funds since 2008, compared to 50% in the U.S

90% of American shoppers still consider prices as the most important driver in fresh food consumption

40% of US shoppers will start their holiday shopping earlier this year than they did last year. 22% have already begun, with another 22% planning to get started before Black Friday, per Klarna

87% of teens own an iPhone and 88% expect an iPhone to be their next phone; Apple is No. 1 watch brand for first time

The productivity app Notion announced that they currently have 20 million users, 80% of which are outside of the U.S

Weekly reading – 2nd October 2021

What I wrote last week

How our brains receive messages and some implications

Articles on Business

Bessemer Venture Partners struck gold with their investment in Toast, which went public recently. Their memo outlining the rationale such an investment is worth a read, especially for those who want to learn about Toast, those who want to learn Business and those who wish to go into Venture Capital.

Apple’s power move to kneecap Facebook advertising is working. A pretty biased article if you ask me. This is a complicated and nuanced issue, yet the author focuses more on the alleged impact that the privacy-centric features Apple introduced have on Facebook business. It does mention: “People are opting out of Facebook’s tracking for a reason: they no longer trust the company with their data after years of evidence they should not. But the context of Apple’s power move is important too.” What it fails to convey is that small businesses do have a problem when it relies on a single channel (Facebook, in this case) for survival. The article fails to articulate why it is Apple’s responsibility to take care of Facebook’s interest. Look, I totally agree that Apple does things out of its self-interest as all of us do. Most of the time, Apple masks its true intention with shiny marketing language as all companies do. But it’s strange to side with Facebook and its tactic to use small businesses as weapons in the war with Apple WITHOUT looking at the issue from the consumer perspective.

Google, Battling Amazon, Tries an E-Commerce Makeover to Win Back Advertisers.Amazon’s accelerating ad business has raised alarms inside Google, prompting Chief Executive Sundar Pichai to assure Alphabet’s board that rejuvenating its flagging e-commerce efforts is a priority, according to former Google executives. He must fix a mess of Google’s own making. The company has rebooted its digital shopping strategy at least four times over two decades and has had five leaders of its e-commerce operations in 10 years, the former executives said. “Google is almost like the living dead” in e-commerce, said Guru Hariharan, chief executive of CommerceIQ, an online-retail service provider. “No one goes there for shopping.”

How IBM lost the cloud. “Over and over again during the last decade, IBM engineers were asked to build special one-off projects for key clients at the expense of their road maps for building the types of cross-customer cloud services offered by the major clouds. Top executives at some of the largest companies in the country — the biggest banks, airlines and insurance companies — knew they could call IBM management and get what they wanted because the company was so eager to retain their business, the sources said. This practice, which delayed work on key infrastructure services for months or even years, was still happening inside IBM as recently as last year, according to one source.

Narrative Distillation. “Even today, the ability to get strong engineers to work on a problem engineers normally don’t want to work on remains a very strong formula for returns. You can increasingly see other top companies shifting to invest more in their company and founder brands. Product market fit is just narrative distillation for customers. It only makes sense that this same process is as crucial for investors and employees, too. And just as we have spent so many years reinforcing the primacy of founders focusing on product market fit—and the process of how companies converge on it—so too must founders take distilling their narratives for all audiences equally seriously.

BNPL Fund Flows
Neobank Landscape

Other stuff that I find interesting

History’s Seductive Beliefs. “Everything has a price, and the price is usually proportionate to the potential rewards. But the price is rarely on a price tag. You don’t pay it with cash. Most things worth pursuing charge their fee in the form of stress, doubt, uncertainty, dealing with quirky people, bureaucracy, other peoples’ conflicting incentives, hassle, nonsense, and general bullshit. That’s the overhead cost of getting ahead.

Ditching your commute: worth ~$40K/year in happiness

Our constitutional crisis is already here. “There was a time when political analysts wondered what would happen when Trump failed to “deliver” for his constituents. But the most important thing Trump delivers is himself. His egomania is part of his appeal. In his professed victimization by the media and the “elites,” his followers see their own victimization. That is why attacks on Trump by the elites only strengthen his bond with his followers. That is why millions of Trump supporters have even been willing to risk death as part of their show of solidarity: When Trump’s enemies cited his mishandling of the pandemic to discredit him, their answer was to reject the pandemic. One Trump supporter didn’t go to the hospital after developing covid-19 symptoms because he didn’t want to contribute to the liberal case against Trump “. A somber yet real read on the constitutional crisis that is unfolding right in front of our eyes.

This embroidery has a great talent in bringing aerial landscapes to life. Check it out!

Stats

Almost 25 million people played golf in the U.S in 2020

TikTok Claims the App Now Tops 1 Billion Monthly Active Users

Weekly reading – 25th September 2021

What I wrote last week

Is BNPL replacing credit cards?

My thoughts on Visa’s new benefits for U.S Signature/Infinite cardholders

Articles on Business

When to Buy Now, Pay Later, and When to Just Pay Now. “Affirm doesn’t report payments on its four biweekly payment zero-interest loans, it said, or when consumers are offered a three-month payment option with no interest. Afterpay doesn’t work with credit bureaus at all. Sezzle Up explicitly informs users that it will report on-time payments to Equifax and TransUnion. Affirm doesn’t charge late fees, but late or partial payments can hurt your credit score, and may prevent you from using the service in the future. Sezzle Up also reports delinquencies. Klarna and Afterpay revoke access to their platform until payment is made. Both companies also charge late fees, tacked onto your next payment. Afterpay charges $8, or 25%, of the purchase, whichever is less, while Klarna charges a maximum $7, or no more than 25%, of the past due amount. Klarna said it will contact users to collect payment before charging a late fee.

This delivery app went above and beyond for its workers. Then Uber took over. Cornershop’s original operating model was more beneficial and friendly towards workers. After the acquisition, life became more challenging for drivers. It remains to be seen whether the regulation in Chile will allow workers to unionize and force Uber to recognize drivers as full-time employees. This is a classic case of conflicting interests between gig companies and drivers as well as of the important role that governments play in this conversation.

Why the University of Florida gets a ~$20m cut of Gatorade profits every year. A fascinating story on a wildly popular drink.

The Most Important iPhone Ever. “What makes the iPhone and perhaps Apple special is that it seems to deliver things that nobody asks for but then everybody wants while eschewing overshooting a performance dimension that a few demand but most won’t use. The tragedy of overservice and disruption is that if you don’t shift the definition of performance eventually you run out of demand at the top of the performance curve. That opens you up to “good enough” competition from below. Instead you need to re-define the notion of performance: compete on a new basis, reset expectations. That the iPhone can find new dimensions of performance and hence demand is effectively a solution to the innovator’s dilemma.”

PayPal Introduces Customers to the Next Digital Payments Era with the New PayPal App. “The new PayPal app will introduce new features including PayPal Savings, a new high yield savings account provided by Synchrony Bank, alongside new in-app shopping tools that will enable customers to earn rewards redeemable for cash back or PayPal shopping credit and uncover deals with hundreds of merchants. Additionally, the new app offers PayPal customers a single place to manage their bill payments, get paid up to two days earlier with the new Direct Deposit feature provided through one of our bank partners, earn rewards and manage gift cards, send and receive money to friends, family and businesses, pay with QR codes for purchases and redeem rewards in-store, access and manage credit, Buy Now, Pay Later services, buy, hold and sell crypto, as well as support causes and charities they care about.”

Other stuff

The tangled history of mRNA vaccines

Stats that may interest you

“One in five consumers made a purchase using a “buy now, pay later” service within the last 12 months.

One in six consumers who made a buy now, pay later service purchase regret doing so, commonly citing high interest rates, a lack of options to build credit, or making unnecessary or unaffordable purchases.”

There have been 47 startup venture deals in Africa in 2021 so far with the average deal size of $21 million

CPC on Amazon ads is $1.27 in August 2021, up from 86 cents from a year ago, according to a survey

31% of online grocery shoppers use PayPal, according to a new study by ACI Worldwide and PYMNTS

Fuel Wasted Due to U.S. Traffic Congestion in 2020 Cut in Half from 2019 to 2020

14% of U.S consumers said they switched to an iPhone from another operating system in the last two years, a report said