Weekly reading – 5th June 2021

Business

Sweetgreen Bet Big on Naomi Osaka. Then It Doubled Down. As the world becomes more divided nowadays, celebrity endorsements come with a risk that companies have to make uncomfortable decisions at times. This is one of those moments for Sweetgreen and personally I am happy that they support Osaka.

Self-Driving Cars Could Be Decades Away, No Matter What Elon Musk Said. If a company or an executive claims that their company’s bright future relies on self-driving cars, take it with a big grain of salt and ask a lot of questions because that future is highly uncertain and can be decades away.

Apple’s new App Store guidelines put scammers and bounty hunters on notice. Apple just did themselves and almost everyone else a favor by being more detailed and specific about their App Store guidelines. A major criticism of Apple and the App Store is that their guidelines are too ambiguous and not enforced equally. That’s a fair criticism and since Apple wants to hold a complete unchallenged power over the App Store, they can’t expect that we expect nothing, but perfect from them. I doubt this latest development will quell much the frustration by developers, but it’s a positive step in the right direction

An interesting chat between Kara Swisher and Margrethe Vestager on issues such as a global tax, court cases against big techs and potential remedies towards the oversized dominance of the likes of Apple.

Netflix debuted an online shop that sells merchandise related to their hit shows such as Lupin. This is a natural extension of their business. When some of their shows are fan favorites and garner enough following, why not capitalizing on such popularity? After all, that’s what Disney does. You watch Marvel or Disney movies and visit the theme parks for other experiences. I don’t think this is so much about being on level terms with Disney. Instead, this is about generating more margin and revenue.

What I found interesting

Jordan, Russell, Kareem, even the King of Pop — the astonishing mentors who shaped Kobe Bryant. Everyone wants to be like Kobe, but are they ready for the sacrifices and solidarity like Kobe was? Are they willing to go above and beyond for their obsession like Kobe?

Eddy Cue On Why Spatial Audio Is a Game-Changer

Shedding More Light on How Instagram Works. According to this post from Instagram, it uses a lot of data (they call it “signals”) to determine what content you get to see. There are two sides of this. On one side, it can be convenient and good that you get to see more of what you like. On the other hand, it means that Instagram or Facebook knows a lot about you. Had Facebook had a better track record in terms of privacy in the past, it wouldn’t have been a concern. The reality is that I am not sure users really use Facebook’s platforms because they are trustworthy. It’s likely because Facebook owns the biggest platforms in the world and users only use them out of convenience. Nonetheless, appreciate posts like this one

The World’s Northernmost Town Is Changing Dramatically

How the wealthiest in America avoid paying income taxes

In 2011, a year in which his wealth held roughly steady at $18 billion, Bezos filed a tax return reporting he lost money — his income that year was more than offset by investment losses. What’s more, because, according to the tax law, he made so little, he even claimed and received a $4,000 tax credit for his children.

Stats that may interest you

Solar makes up 4.5% of the US’s electricity, up from 0.1% in 2010

Passenger EV sales are set to increase sharply in the next few years, rising from 3.1 million in 2020 to 14 million in 2025.

Weekly reading – 5th June 2021

What I wrote last week

My experience after setting and maintaining a workout habit for 30+ days

Business

How to do long term. I totally agree with what Morgan Housel wrote here. It’s so easy to claim that whatever you are doing is for the long run. It’s much harder in practice. Have you ever held your nerves with a stock after two big drawdowns in a matter of a year? Have you ever felt pointless in whatever you do despite the grand plan you have in your mind?

Octahedroncapital organizes what they noticed from companies in several major themes. If you don’t follow earnings calls often, it’s a useful summary.

The Pizza Business Is Divided on Delivery. Whether working with a delivery service depends on several factors. How much can you invest in your business’ delivery service? Can you afford it? Are you willing to sacrifice the relationship with your customers? Are you willing to see your prices perceived as high by your customers? What are the priorities? Hence, the answer varies from one business to another. To some, delivery services bring more eyeballs and orders at the expense of a relinquished customer relationship and a lower profit. To others, they just don’t make sense. Nonetheless, I believe the likes of DoorDash, UberEats or Instacart are here to stay because they address some real needs in the market.

The Cost of Cloud, a Trillion Dollar Paradox. A very interesting post on the cost of having your infrastructure on the cloud. It claims that scale public software companies may lose billions in market valuations due to cloud costs, I am not sure what the alternative is, especially for those who operate globally. The exercise of building and creating infrastructure that can support SaaS model in various continents and regions is NOT for every company.

Driving weedshare: Uber and the hazy economics of delivering cannabis

What I found interesting

Here are a few photos of Y Ty rice terraces in Vietnam during the rainy season. If you are traveling to Vietnam, consider the Northern mountainous areas. They are beautiful. But the travel can be dangerous at times as there is no airport, trains are spotty and the roads are treacherous.

How Parking Destroys Cities. Quite a tricky topic. While I understand the point made in the article, required parking can be a source of a city’s revenue. If people don’t like to pay taxes and Republicans don’t want to levy taxes on corporations, how is a city supposed to pay for all the public services and infrastructure? I am a fan of public transportation. A lot of cities in Europe already ban cars in city center. In America, that would require a major rethinking and investment from many many angles.

Highway Fonts — Designed by Various

One of the rarest and most endangered trees in Africa and the world had a flower. The folks who work tirelessly to preserve and protect endangered species in the world don’t receive the headlines that venture capitalists or crooked financialists garner. But I am grateful for their work.

The story of Spain’s ‘terrifying confidence’ – and how it conquered the world. If you are new to football or what Americans call soccer, look for footages of the Spanish national team between 2008 and 2012. They played such a magical football and dominated the world. This is the story of how it all began

An incredible oral history of the events that led to the secret mission to kill Osama Bin Laden

America Has a Drinking Problem

Stats that may interest you

Americans paid more than $31 billion in overdraft fees in 2020. I repeat: $31 billion. A travesty

Wikipedia received $129 million in support and contributions in FY2020 while incurring around $16.7 million in expenses

Prices in April went up by 3.6% compared to the same month last year. It’s always important to put a lid on your expenses. It’s even more important now

The App Store facilitated $643 billion in billings and sales in 2020, an increase of 24% YoY, of which $86 came from digital goods and services. This amount is subject to commission to Apple

Stackoverflow has more than 100 million visitors every month. Visitors aren’t necessarily registered users. So the registered user base must be smaller than that. I am a fan of the platform though. The world is a better place because Stackoverflow exists.

According to a survey by Ben Bajarin, 57% of developers said their apps wouldn’t exist without Apple

Weekly reading – 29th May 2021

What I wrote last week

My review of Amazon Unbound

Business

A long post that outlines a bull thesis on Peloton

An excellent review of the new Apple store in Rome. Apple’s retail stores are great valuable assets. They build up the brand image of the company and function as hubs where customers can try out products, receive services and just really connect with the brand.

Instacart kicks off Priority Delivery. This new move by Instacart to deliver items in 30 minutes shows how cut-throat this market is. Competitors such as Instacart, Uber Eats or DoorDash strive to cut the delivery time to gain customers and market share. What remains to be seen is how it would affect Instacart’s bottom line. I don’t think that they are profitable yet. So, we’ll see when they release their S-1.

DoorDash and Uber Eats Are Hot. They’re Still Not Making Money. A pretty telling piece on delivery services

Amazon Briefing: A look inside Amazon’s cloud gaming ambitions

What I found interesting

Financial and emotional risks of working for a startup. Somebody took the time to write about the potential downsides of working at a startup. There are a lot of things to love about startup life and I am pleased to see people talk about it. But it’s also important to shed light on the risks as well

Google now lets you password-protect the page that shows all your searches. Privacy and security are powerful user preferences that are NOT going away any time soon. In fact, they will only get stronger. Google should do more and talk more about what they do in this area. I haven’t seen a lot of marketing efforts in talking about their initiatives to protect user data and privacy

How a Japanese Company Cut 80% of the Time Needed to Manually Count Pearls

Payment links from Stripe. This is what innovation should be

No, Millennials Aren’t Poorer Than Previous Generations. What stood out for me is that Millennials have more non-mortgage debts.

Stats that may interest you

As of 5/24/2021, 40%, 43% and 62% of Airbnb bookings for the summer of 2021 in Seattle, LA and NYC respectively were more than 28 days

75% of Target’s digital orders were fulfilled by their stores. 30 million Americans shop at Target every week

2.5% – 3.5% is what Costco reported as inflation in the latest quarter

iMac 2021’s thickness is 11.5mm, 1 mm slimmer than iPhone 2

Overwork Killed More Than 745,000 People In A Year, WHO Study Finds

Weekly reading – 22nd May 2021

What I wrote last week

I gave examples of how prices on Amazon can be much higher than what you can find at retailers

A couple of great clips about soy sauce and its history

A review of Disney’s Q2 FY2021 results

My thoughts on Paypal

Business

A Moneyball Experiment in English Soccer’s Second Tier. Although people are quick to point out that Billy didn’t win a title with his Money Ball method, his team did improve within his limited resources. Barnsley will unlikely win any title, especially the Premier League. However, as long as the team makes it to the top tier and earns more money by just showing up, it should be an astounding success itself.

Why former Google ads boss Sridhar Ramaswamy is building an ad-free search engine. A pretty interesting interview. I wonder what would make such a search engine attractive enough that people would pay to use it. I mean, DuckDuckGo is pretty great and it is privacy-focused. And it’s free.

Panera Bread’s new design transforms it into a neighborhood bakery in a bid to build loyalty. Retailers have to focus on delivering experience. The physical goods are a must, but it’s just part of the puzzle.

What I find interesting

Khmer Temple-Hopping Motorbike Loop | Tra Vinh. Vietnam has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. I’d say that instead of frustrating yourself in touristy places, you should head to destinations like Tra Vinh, which have their own charm, beauty and history. Personally, I prefer Tra Vinh to cities like Nha Trang or Mui Ne.

Hyundai Nexo breaks world record for longest distance travelled in a FCEV. Even though a long distance was achieved with one tank of hydrogen fuel, eventually these cars still need to refuel. Hence, the challenge of propping up fuel stations in popular areas still remains. Unless that is accomplished, there is still a long way to go for fuel-cell-electric vehicles. Though the way got a tiny bit shorter.

Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China. Not only is China a $50 billion market for Apple, but it also houses its main irreplaceable yet supply chain. Even a local billionaire hero like Jack Ma disappeared over night and lost his influence after angering the government and President Xi. What chance does Apple have to be anything different? If Apple still wants to do business in China, it has no choice but to do everything it can to balance between appeasing Xi and protecting its customers as well as principles. Some may say that Apple could have pulled out of the country like Google. Well, that’s Google principle. Tim Cook’s principle is to show up because “nothing changes from being on the sideline”. You can disagree with his or Apple’s principle, but you can’t just change it. Additionally, as a Vietnamese, I don’t think it would be much better to relocate all the supply chain to my country. The story would be more of the same. Well, in many countries, it would still be more of the same.

Google Workspace got a huge upgrade. At first glance, the upgrade looks so interesting.

The 1,400-year-old invention Peru is reviving. In the age of technology when our societies are more technologically advanced than ever, ancient techniques tested over the years continue to be effective.

Apple previews powerful software updates designed for people with disabilities

You may soon be able to buy pre-IPO stocks

Stats that may interest you

Ethereum will use at least ~99.95% less energy post merge

There are 3 billion active Android devices

The average age of bridges in America is 44 years

Weekly reading – 15th May 2021

What I wrote last week

App Tracking Transparency & Apple Search Ads

Business

Why DoorDash and Uber Eats Delivery Is Costing You More. The service and delivery fees seem to be bigger than they were before Covid. I am not so sure if that trend is positive to the future of these delivery companies. At some point, it would hurt the relationship with merchants

Walmart is losing its grips on grocery. I don’t really expect Walmart to catch up with Prime soon, but it’s a bit surprising to me that the company is losing its lead in grocery, their bread and butter.

A sensible and good writeup on Epic vs Apple. I may be biased towards Apple as it is my first ever stock, but if you are a reasonable person, you likely won’t look at what Epic did and does, and support them.

Vietnamese startup Nano raised $3 million seed round. I believe this should be one of many fintech startups from Vietnam in the near future.

The Korean Chatroulette-style dating app quietly taking over the world

JPMorgan, Others Plan to Issue Credit Cards to People With No Credit Scores. It’s past time that companies take into account other factors in giving prospects credit cards or not.

What I found interesting

Biggest ISPs paid for 8.5 million fake FCC comments opposing net neutrality

Apple AirTags vs. Tile: The Best Tool for Finding Your Lost Stuff. The current generation of AirTags may have weaknesses and their performance isn’t eye-opening yet. But give it some time and I believe it can be another great segment in addition to AirPods and Apple Watch

Fact-checking Modi’s India. It’s just mind-blowing how the truth can be bent that much so that some people gain so much power.

The Verge has a good article on Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), a new initiative by Google as preparation for life after 3rd party cookies

Jony Ive’s advice to the next generation of designers

Stats that may interest you

Consumer prices increased by 2.6% for 12 months ending March 2021. Perhaps it’s time to be rigorous in saving your money, unless you can increase your income.

App Store stopped more than $1.5 billion in potentially fraudulent transactions in 2020

Weekly reading – 8th May 2021

What I wrote last week

Amazon continues to impress with another blow-out quarter

Uber & Gopuff. Amazon Prime Video streams NFL games in 2022

Uber’s Delivery is on fire despite $600 million expense set aside for the driver dispute in the UK

Business

How Apple does M&A: Small and quiet, with no bankers. Information is extremely valuable in business. Apple’s known culture of secrecy is meant to keep competitors from knowing what it has in the pipeline. We don’t often see Apple make huge purchases. Instead of buying companies to grow the top line, they focus on the people, especially technical engineers. That’s a smart move.

A great Business Breakdown episode on Twilio. If you don’t know about the business, have a listen.

What Is a Business Model? 54 Successful Types of Business Models You Need to Know. This type of content renders expensive MBAs obsolete.

Clubhouse’s downloads plummeted in April. I have been on Clubhouse for 2 months, and yet I haven’t made it to the end of one single chat. Plus, it’s not appealing to the end users that there is no recording. Not everyone has enough time in a day to wait for talks to come and listen to everything. Not so surprising to see the app’s popularity take a huge blow. I just wonder what a16z saw in it.

Amazon Expanding Garage Grocery Delivery to more than 5,000 cities

A great podcast episode on Visa. This company probably has one of the strongest moats out there. Its market cap is higher than those of big banks.

How Shopify’s network of sellers can take on Amazon

What Is an Entertainment Company in 2021 and Why Does the Answer Matter?

What I found interesting

Green gold: Avocado farming on the rise in Africa

Playlists and podcasts? Netflix is exploring developing ‘N-Plus’

Stats that may interest you

60% of Instagram users eligible to link up with their Messenger account did use the feature

20% of electric vehicle owners in California switched back to gas because charging is a hassle. This is indeed not great news for EV as well as hydrogen cells. But I believe that the great potential of green energy cars is here to stay and we’ll overcome this challenge somehow.

Facebook Workplace reaches 7 million paid subscribers. I do wonder how far Facebook’s push into the corporate world will go. I don’t see how they can overcome the disconnect between their own brand and the seriousness that the 9-5 world carries

95% of iOS 14.5 users disabled App Tracking. There are two sides of this debate. Proponents of privacy applaud this move by Apple because it aids consumer privacy and stops cross-app tracking. Critics say that Apple’s motive isn’t altruistic. Instead, they argue that Apple wants to harm the advertising industry, to inadvertently strengthen the position of Google & Facebook and to boost Apple’s own advertising business. Well, when two parties have conflicting interests (advertisers and consumers), Apple must choose one to side with and in this case, whatever their motive is, they side with consumers.

Social commerce made up 40% of Southeast Asia’s $109 billion e-Commerce in 2020

Weekly reading – 1st May 2021

What I wrote last week

Olo, a SaaS company specializing in services for restaurants

The year the Earth changed

Business

Match’s Winning Formula for Online Dating in Japan Gives Women Control, Makes Men Pay. It’s amazing that an app available only in Taiwan, Korea and Japan is the 3rd highest ranked dating app. The ability to infuse a local culture and etiquette into an online dating app is a strength not to be discounted. Also, tucked in this article is IAC’s expertise in identifying hidden gems and turning them into diamonds

Florida is the latest state to create e-commerce tax. This development will be a boon to tax applications. The complexity of handling state taxes will spur SMBs or corporations to adopt these applications

Amazon lets advertisers send targeted messages for first time

Hey Google, Who Has the Best Capital Allocation in the Internet Sector? Google/Alphabet definitely has a shot at being the best capital allocator with their acquisition of YouTube, DoubleClick and Admob. There are various smaller acquisitions that we probably don’t know about

iOS 14.5: A Guide to Apple’s New App-Tracking Controls. I already opted out of all the apps

Music Streaming Royalties 101

What I find interesting

Newark cops, with reform, didn’t fire a single shot in 2020. It’s baffling to me that we put a lot of regulations in place for doctors, nurses or bankers, but we somehow find it impossible to keep the police in check and accountable. What happens in Newark is proof that we can reduce police brutality AND crimes. It’s socially and economically great for our society. It happens in a big city in New York. So what’s the excuse again for not trying?

Why the U.S. Still Can’t Donate COVID-19 Vaccines to Countries in Need. I understand that these drugmakers want to protect themselves from liabilities. But seeing Indians die by the thousands while the US has a lot of unused AstraZeneca doses just doesn’t make any sense. Contract or not, I am confident all parties can come to agreeable conclusions on how to save a nation. In fact, nations for that matter.

Exclusive Photos Inside the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. If you haven’t watched the mini series Chernobyl on HBO, I really recommend it.

A working study by University of Chicago suggested that length domestic travel bans might lead to higher Covid infections

Stats that may interest you

Apple has 27 registered developers and rejects around 40% of the submitted apps

In FY 2019, developers earned almost $11 billion in total revenue from the App Store

Weekly reading – 24th April 2021

What I wrote last week

On Apple’s new product: AirTag

Apple TV+, Netflix and the battle between Walmart and Amazon

Business

Google used ‘double-Irish’ to shift $75.4bn in profits out of Ireland. It’s good to know that 2020 was the last year that the “double Irish” loophole could still be exploited. I am curious to see the impact that the phase-out has on US corporations.

WSJ’s short profile of Korea’s “King of Ramen”

AirTag location trackers are smart, capable and very Apple

The Future of Apple Podcasts

Etsy SEO: How to Optimize Your Shop & Listings for Search

How Netflix and social media helped F1 buck a global sports sponsorship slump. F1 is an extraordinary sport and deserves to be the pinnacle of motorsports around the world. If you look below this entry, you’ll see a graphic showing how F1 cars can go into corners at a speed that we travel on a highway. On the straights, F1 cars can hit 360kmh. The technology that goes into building these cars and the skills that go into driving them are the best in the world. Yet, I still feel that F1 isn’t as popular as it should be. “Drive to Survive” and the resilience shown during 2020 really helped the sport become better known

What I find interesting

Typography at U7 station in Berlin

You can pay at Whole Foods Market with your palm now. While it is incredibly cool and convenient, I don’t think I will jump at the chance to use it soon. Amazon isn’t really known for their privacy practices. I am not too willing to give away my biometrics to them yet.

F1 cars can slow down by 144kmh in 1 or 2 seconds and carry over 150kmh into corners. Just think about that for a second. These cars drive into cars at the speed that is often the top you can reach on the highway

Source: F1

Stats that may interest you

Morning Brew has 3 million subscribers. It’s amazing what you can do with great writing skills and consistency

iPhone 12 models accounted for 61% of US iPhone sales in fiscal Q2 2021

Weekly reading – 17th April 2021

What I wrote last week

Hydrogen fuel cells vs Batteries

Uber may deliver marijuana in the future. Update on Credit Karma and Square

Business

Business Insider has a story on Larry Page, especially when he was determined to fire all Project Managers. Even a genius like him made a mistake, it seems. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Why Delaware is the sexiest place in America to incorporate a company

Vimeo CEO talks about how the company reinvented itself from a video platform, another Youtube competitor to a B2B SaaS company. To be honest, as a consumer, I didn’t know that Vimeo transformed itself into a B2B SaaS player.

TikTok says that it has 100 million monthly active users in the US and is planning to bring new eCommerce-focused ads products

How the pandemic helped Walmart battle Amazon Marketplace for sellers. It’s exciting to see these two behemoths go at it in the near future. While Walmart has the luxury of stores scattered across the country, Amazon is a bigger and more experienced marketplace player.

Why It’s Misleading to Say ‘Apple Music Pays Twice as Much Per Stream as Spotify’. The best article on this particular subject that I have seen this week.

Amazon Plans Furniture Assembly Service to Catch Wayfair. I look forward to reading more about this initiative. While it sounds great as first, the reality may offer some questions that Amazon has to answer. For instance, Amazon is known for pushing its drivers to complete deliveries as quickly as possible. Asking drivers to take time to assemble products goes against that mantra. Hence, how much would Amazon be willing to slow down deliveries? How much would the premium fee offset the cost of such slowed deliveries?

What I found interesting

French lawmakers approve a ban on short domestic flights. If there is a great network of trains; which I believe there is in France, this is a totally sensible decision.

Cloudflare Pages is now Generally Available

How to Create an Interactive AR Business Card Without Code

The vanishing billionaire: how Jack Ma fell foul of Xi Jinping. Jack Ma is one of the richest people on Earth and among the most influential business people. Yet, he has fallen from grace after what he said angered Xi Jinping. Another billionaire tried to lower his net worth to avoid trouble with the Chinese government. I am from that part of the world. I can tell you that no matter how rich a person or how big a Western corporation is, you don’t take your disagreement with the ruling party public. That’s one mistake you usually don’t come back from

Stats that you may find interesting

According to a new survey by National Restaurant Association, only 18% of delivery customers preferred to order from a 3rd-party app

Amazon Prime has 200 million members. 28% of purchases on Amazon were made in 3 minutes or less while 50% were made in 15 minutes or less.

Almost 20% of retailers’ sales in 2020 came from private labels

Weekly reading – 10th April 2021

What I wrote last week

Get back to what you love

My experience so far with Amazon Shopper Panel

Business

An interview with an Apple veteran who shed some light on the culture of secrecy

Supreme Court Sides With Google In Decade-Long Fight Over API Copyright; Google’s Copying Of Java API Is Fair Use. If you have time, look for the opinion written by Justice Breyer on API. It’s good!

Amazon Global Supply Chain and Fulfillment Center Network. Just look at the number of fulfillment centers and warehouses Amazon has!

How We Bootstrapped a $1M ARR Email Client

Shopify: The E-commerce On-Ram‪p‬. I may have found another favorite podcast. The first episode on Shopify doesn’t disappoint!

9.5 million customers traded cryptocurrencies on Robinhood in Q1 2021, compared to 1.7 million in Q4 2020

What I found interesting

A landmark study showed promising results that could help us produce a vaccine for HIV. A remarkable time to be alive. You gotta admire the work that scientists around the world put in.

Barrier Reef doomed as up to 99% of coral at risk, report finds. “The Great Barrier Reef is all but doomed, with between 70 and 99 per cent of corals set for destruction unless immediate “transformative action” is taken to reverse global warming, according to a new report. The Australian Academy of Science says the more ambitious target of the Paris Climate Agreement of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees has now slipped out of reach and is “virtually impossible”.

What the U.S. Can Learn From China’s Infatuation With Infrastructure.

Apple has been granted a patent for Systems relating to a National ID Verification System

NYTimes’ profile of Katalin Kariko, the scientist whose work on mRNA helped save the world from Covid-19

Interesting stats

Lithium battery costs have fallen by 98% in three decades. If I have a kid, he or she will likely have electric vehicles as cheap as ones with a combustible engine.

7% of America’s population or more than 2.3 million Americans don’t use the Internet

Amazon reached 10% of the US advertising market

Plant-based food market grew to $7 billion in 2020, up 27% year over year

80% of Europe’s in-store transactions are now contactless, according to Mastercard

E-commerce Evolution in the US by Mastercard
Source: Mastercard