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.

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.

Weekly readings 4th May 2019

The Airbnb Invasion of Barcelona. A look at how tourism-related problems got out of hand at one of the hottest destinations in the world, Barcelona.

Netflix Fights to Keep Its Most Watched Shows: ‘Friends’ and ‘The Office’. It’s amazing that “Friends” and “The Office” make up of 5% of the total watching minutes on Netflix and yet the streaming service doesn’t own the rights to those IPs.

The bitter truth behind the Nutella economy. If you care about the ethical aspect of business, you may want to read about this. I understand that there are a lot of products or services that we use everyday come from organizations with a record of questionable ethical practices. However, given that Nutella is pretty popular around the world and in America, you may want to know a bit more about it. And it’s not good for your health!

IHG Sees Room for Improvement in Hotel Revenue Management. The article discusses mainly the attribute-based booking trend in the hospitality industry. Attribute-based booking refers to the model that allows guests to choose from a room level such as number of beds, view and room type to amenities inside the room. Everything is a la carte. It can create the maximum personalization and excitement for guests, but it will require a totally different operations from inventory, marketing to housekeeping and revenue management.

The Most Valuable Company (for Now) Is Having a Nadellaissance. A great coverage on how Nadella revived Microsoft. I really like his no-nonsense style that was shown when he refused to celebrate the $1 trillion valuation.

The fight for the bundle is the war for the future of TV. A nice piece on the state of TV

The making of Amazon Prime, the internet’s most successful and devastating membership program. I found it interesting to read stories on how Prime came into beings. The stories show how great Bezos’ business acumen is

Weekly readings 20th April, 2019

Half of Instacart’s drivers earn less than minimum wage, labor group claims. This is indeed an issue, but I am not sure if there is any wriggle room for Instacart to increase the minimum wage. From what I understand, it’s already a low margin business. Any pay raise for drivers will cut into the margin even further.

America’s Biggest Supermarket Company Struggles with Online Grocery Upheaval. A story on how Kroger has been transforming itself to stay competitive and avoid the ultimate outcome

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom! The Exclusive Inside Story Of The New Billionaire Behind Tech’s Hottest IPO. A profile of the CEO of Zoom, an imminent tech IPO this year. Eric Yuan was denied a US visa 8 times before getting one on the 9th try. Let that sink in.

Here’s How TurboTax Just Tricked You Into Paying to File Your Taxes. I used Turbo Tax this year to file my taxes and ended up paying $100 or so for the service. Though the service is advertised as free, there are numerous hidden fees that will end up on the final page of your application if you are not careful. Plus, several weeks ago, companies like Turbo Tax successfully lobbied Congress to stop IRS from building an online portal, which is a terrible decision.

In African Villages, These Phones Become Ultrasound Scanners. An example of how practical technology can positively influence and save life.

If you can. How millennials can get rich slowly. A short yet great read on personal finance.

Weekly Readings – 6th April 2019

The Enormous Numbers Behind Amazon’s Market Reach. A nice overview of where Amazon stands in various industries with visuals. 42% of the book retailing market, 45% of the E-commerce space, 32% of the cloud computing market, 35% of the online apparel area. From a business strategy and execution standpoint, Amazon is a remarkable success.

Death by a Thousand Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong. An astonishing and remarkable (long) read on Electronic Health Records in America. I urge you to have a read if you stumble upon this post of mine. Despite throwing billions of dollars at the nationwide EHR effort since President Obama’s first tenure, America has had little to show for it. I’ll let the former Vice President – Joe Biden share his story: “I was stunned when my son for a year was battling Stage 4 glioblastoma,” said Biden. “I couldn’t get his records. I’m the Vice President of the United States of America … It was an absolute nightmare. It was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, that we’re in that circumstance.”

Digital India. A very interesting report by McKinsey on the digital landscape in India. Sneak peek below

By McKinsey

Howard Marks’ latest memo. As insightful and enlightening as always.

Amazon’s Rise in Ad Searches Dents Google’s Dominance. Amazon as an advertising giant is here. Established ads agency such as WPP or Omnicom reportedly spent a good chunk amount of money on Amazon ads on behalf of their clients.

Weekly readings – 30th March 2019

What even is AirBnb anymore? Questions that AirBnb will face ahead of its IPO and after.

2018 Theme Report. An informative study on the theatrical and home entertainment market environment in 2018.

How Kirkland Signature powers Costco’s success. A nice coverage on the signature private label of Costco.

2019 State of the Cloud. A framework to look at cloud businesses by folks at Bessemer Venture Partners.

The 2019 Drunk Shopping Census. An interesting piece on drunk folks’ purchase behavior. It must be tough for one to recall back the purchases made when drunk when one participates in the survey. The folks at The Hustle are good with words and sometimes have pretty good content. Give them a follow if you want daily email with overview of what happens in business and tech.

AirPods. I totally agree with the author of this post. AirPods are truly a massive success. Since I bought them last May, I have used them at least 6-7 hours a day every day. Sometimes, I don’t even feel that they are in my ears. Convenience goes up significantly. The sound may be not as good as power users of wireless headphones would want, but it is good enough for average users like myself. The design is just right. You can exercise without worrying about losing them. (Follow Horace Deliu if you are a fan of micro-mobility and Apple)

The State of Online Travel Agencies – 2019. A good overview of Online Travel Agencies’ performance last year.

How Spotify & Discover Weekly Earns Me $400 / Month. A specific and personal example of how Spotify helps obscure artists get paid for their work. This is why I love Spotify.

Weekly Readings – 23rd March 2019

Chi Dung’s R collection. This guy’s work is impressive. If you are interested in R, take a look.

The Big Brexit Short. I really like this kind of investigative videos by Bloomberg. I honestly don’t follow Brexit enough. Hence, it’s good to know about this potential scheme. I highly recommend you check out Bloomberg’s Youtube channel. Treasure trove of good information.

What the hell is going on. A very long, yet informative study on how the switch from information scarcity to information abundance affects business, education and politics.

On the Hunt for Japan’s Elaborate, Colorful Manhole Covers. An interesting story on a beautiful aspect of Japan’s culture.

How India conquered YouTube. I find the article fascinating and informative. A good overview of Youtube’s popularity in India and the media consumption behavior in the country.

Howard Marks’ memos. His excellent and insightful memos are praised and read by Warren Buffets and many investors.

I found two links here and here that are very helpful in understanding the subscription model.

Nine Reasons Why Disney+ Will Succeed (And Why Four Criticisms are Overhyped). A fair and detailed piece on Disney+, Disney’s upcoming streaming service. I cannot wait to try the service myself

Inside AirBnb’s “Guerrilla War” against Local Governments. A very good article on how AirBnb fought local governments in the US to avoid taxes and restrictions that the local lawmakers sought to put on them. I am a believer in the fact that if the law allows you to avoid taxes, you have every right to not pay taxes and stay competitive. However, fighting hard to stop new laws (laws always play catch-up with the business world) intended to make AirBnb pay taxes is a bit too far. Loss of taxes strips a local government of necessary revenue to fund projects that will benefit citizens. If your business earns millions of dollars in revenue and profit, what’s the reason for not paying taxes? Simply by “being a platform”?

Pinterest S-1. The photo bookmarking company filed to go public.

Weekly Readings – 16th March 2019

How the epic ‘Lord of the Rings’ deal explains Amazon’s slow-burning media strategy. Interesting insights into angles Amazon may be pursuing in their media strategy. I am curious to know the activities to which Amazon prefers users watching videos.

How Equifax neglected cybersecurity and suffered a devastating data breach. I encourage you to read or at least skim it. The data breach affected more than 140 million accounts. So, there is a high chance that you are one of the affected. As one of the three main Consumer Reporting Agencies, Equifax is important in our lives, yet it displayed a shocking lack of care about our sensitive data. According to the report, Equifax didn’t have proper documentation or policy in place. It had 8,000 vulnerabilities that were past the due dates for patching. It didn’t even track the expiration date of SSL certificates, something that is definitely not rocket-science. Upton notice of an Apache vulnerability, Equifax failed to respond in a timely manner. The other two CRAs did and as a result, avoided a similar fate.

Writing is thinking. I don’t think I need to elaborate more on this. I love writing and it’s one of the reasons why I have this blog.

The Clear Case for Capitalism. I am a fan of true capitalism. With emphasis on the word “true”. There I said it. The article lays out the benefits that we can gain and have gained from capitalism. I urge you to read the article before listening to politicians or anyone talk about capitalism.

Lyft IPO: Cautiously Optimistic Unit Economics Despite Significant Losses. I have a pessimistic view on the outlook of Lyft after reading their S-1. However, this is an interesting and positive take on the ride-sharing company’s unit economics.

Where Warren’s Wrong. A 4,900-word masterpiece by Ben on Senator Warren’s proposal to break up big techs.

Microsoft, Facebook, trust and privacy. I find it great for us to have folks like Ben Evans, who has a lot of years of experience in tech and business. His experience, reflection, connecting the past and the present, the writing and multi-dimensional view are always helpful and informative. I agree with him that even though the new change in vision may render it irrelevant the strategic issues Facebook is facing, the new vision asks as many questions as it answers.

Formula 1: The secret aerodynamicist reveals design concepts. Formula 1 isn’t a popular sport in America even though the country features one of the best tracks in the world and has one world champion back in 1980. Formula 1, as people usually say, is the pinnacle of motorsports. It has arguably the fastest cars, at least in corners, and the most advanced technologies. The post will reveal great information on the aerodynamics of the cars.

Don’t Read This If You’re Bullish About Lyft. The title is quite self-explanatory.

Weekly readings – 9th March 2019

Shared scooters don’t last long – a bear case for shared e-scooters. I rode Lime once in Austin. Coming from a country where the primary transportation means is scooters, I see it first-hand what a similar experience is like. Don’t get me wrong. The technology is impressive, but I wasn’t that excited. There is a lot to figure, not only from the economic perspective, but also from the logistics side. People throw scooters left and right on pavements. When the number of scooters explodes, what would happen then? On top of that, there have been quite a number of documented accidents so far from scooters. Finally, I am a fan of public transportation. I’d love to see America invest more in public transit than in shared scooters.

Civil rights under Trump – Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. Important information on what is going on in the US and the Census going into 2020.

Warren Buffett’s FAQ. An impressive collection of WB’s perspectives in different areas

HQ2: Understanding What Happened & Why. I don’t really care that much about the whole situation because 1) different stakeholders (Amazon, citizens in the neighborhood, politicians who want to create jobs, politicians who dislike the potential impact on the neighborhood) have different interests. 2) Nobody could guarantee the outcome if the deal went through. Nonetheless, it’s a very good and informative piece, most of which I tend to agree with.

Its Not Capitalism, its Crony Capitalism. An interesting perspective that is elegantly explained. To me, greed is good, but too much greed is terrible. What people hate and talk about on the news is too much greed. Who wouldn’t want to make money out of their innovation or effort? On the other hand, if education and healthcare are too expensive to afford as they are in the US, why would it be a draconian thing to give some support to the citizens? Social benefits DONT equal to socialism. You also need a nationalization of the economy which the US doesn’t have.

How to Shoot on iPhone series. I am a big fan of short, simple and educational marketing videos. Love this series from Apple. If they can continue to release videos like these to help unlock the functionalities and usage of the hardware, chances are that users would love them even more.

This is actually a double. BestBuy and Target transformation. Retail is interesting as a space to watch. I don’t believe in the apocalypse of bricks-and-mortar stores as many predict. In fact, Target, as mentioned in the article, increased its footprint. I documented some retailers which increased footprint here as well. It’s a matter of responding to the changes in the business environment. If a retailer refuses to embrace technology or to change, the doom is imminent. But if you have a game plan to leverage technology to keep your competitive advantages, it’s not a “it’s Amazon’s to lose” situation. At least not yet.

Weekly readings – 2nd March 2019

I spend quite a lot of time on reading or at least as much time as I can possibly afford nowadays. Long posts, interesting news articles, books or tweets. Sometimes, I share with my friends interesting pieces and reciprocally get some in return. I benefit from the exercise a lot. Since I tend to catch up on the reading during the weekends thanks to the requirements of the new job, I decided to run an experiment in which I would collect interesting content I read during a week on every Saturday, if possible. The content may not need to be recent, but it’s interesting in some aspects, at least to me. Plus, the number of links will vary, depending on what I come across every week. Let’s see how it plays out. Here is the first one:

Lyft S-1

Status as a Service (StaaS)

The questions that matter

Rightscale 2019 State of the Cloud report

The value chain constraint

Privacy complaints received by tech giants’ favorite EU watchdog up to more than 2x since GDPR