Weekly reading – 27th May 2023


Apple dives into display-making to cut reliance on Samsung. Apple is a great example of companies that thrive by owning key capabilities and unlocking vertical integration. The challenge for Apple; however, is to retain key personnel across multiple functions and maintain the collaboration to leverage what is an increasingly complex system.

Brian Chesky: I want Airbnb to become a physical social network. I am not happy with the lack of focus from AirBnb on guests. The company seems to constantly talk about what they do for hosts. Hence, I was happy to see Brian Chesky mindful of how expensive his platform has become for guests, especially Gen Z. Plus, his comment on running a business the size of AirBnb as a public entity is very interesting.

Bank of America launches fintech accelerator program. Participants in this program don’t need to give the bank equity in exchange for support and mentorship. What does Bank of America (BofA) hope to gain? I believe that nurturing fintech startups can help improve the deposits now and the future. If your startup already parks money at one institution, you are unlikely to move cash somewhere. Furthermore, BofA can have visibility into what potential technology is on the market. Such insight enables the bank to either build its internal solution or acquire external capabilities.

($) How America’s Largest Restaurant Franchisee Decides When to Raise Prices. Flynn Restaurant Group employs a team of data scientists to maximize revenue by using internal and competitors’ data. ““We had local marketing teams that would go out and steal all the menus and enter them into an Excel file,” said Ron Bellamy, Flynn’s chief operating officer. Data scientists collected prices for individual items across Flynn’s restaurants, then layered on variables that could impact sales, such as bad weather or a change in restaurant hours. They began regularly monitoring prices for competitor restaurants within a three-mile radius of their stores.

How Bud Light Blew It. The urge to appeal to younger drinkers and stop the brand decline is understandable, but what Bud Light did is an own goal. The brewer could have attacked its marketing problem from different angles like other companies did. It did not need to risk angering a divisive society over a sensitive and polarizing issue. I applaud the marketing team at Budweiser for taking a stand. Had the tactic succeeded, the team would have won accolades. Unfortunately, failure means dismissal and that’s exactly what happened.

Dev Kantesaria – FICO: A High Score Business. This is one of my favorite Business Breakdowns episodes. I learned a great deal about Fair Isaac, the company that is more known for one of its products: FICO score. Sign up for a JoinColossus account to read the transcript if reading is your preferred learning method.

America’s Biggest Bank Is Everywhere—and It Isn’t Done Growing. Read this and the decks that JPMorgan Chase used on its Investor Day this week, to learn about how this monster of a bank is run.

Other stuff I find interesting

A traveler’s dream: Cash-free payment systems link up across Southeast Asia. “For the past several years, the central banks of these countries have been attempting to connect their systems, allowing their residents to use QR payments for cross-border transactions without any fees, generally at better conversion rates than those set by payment processors like Visa and American Express. After running a set of quiet pilot programs and sealing an official agreement in 2022, the system is beginning to catch on, anywhere from island party towns to high-end shops.

The U.S. Needs Minerals for Electric Cars. Everyone Else Wants Them Too. To avoid over-reliance on China for minerals, the US must work with other resource-rich countries. Africa is the most notable option. The wealthiest country has long neglected to be a key player in Africa. Such an oversight must change.

When digital nomads come to town. This article discusses the pros and cons of having digital nomads. Like they always say, nothing is perfect indeed.


There are almost 1.8 million apps on the App Store and 37 million registered Apple developers

38% of Americans struggle to make ends meet

6 out of 10 Americans heard of ChatGPT

23% of Gen Z and 24% of millennial respondents reported drinking non-alcoholic beer, wine or spirits often

Target earned $734 million in 2022 from its co-branded credit card issued by TD Bank

12% of all restaurants in the United States serve Asian food

Weekly reading – 20th May 2023

What I wrote last week

Three Good Books On Life

Concerns With PayPal’s New Plan – Unbranded Processing


Online-Only Startups Adopt a Bold New Strategy: Opening Actual Shops. What is old is now new. Online-only startups thought they could do away with physical stores, but now pivot to a hybrid model and establish physical presence. Online-only retailers realized there were two problems with their business model. The first is that it’s increasingly expensive to acquire customers online. Competition gets fiercer. Factors such as Apple’s changes are also a contributor. The second problem is consumer behavior. Folks want to shop in stores and it’s exceedingly difficult to change that. Digital-native retailers would rather change their philosophy than stick to their guns and go bankrupt.

Google staffers praise engineers for I/O, poke fun at execs because they ‘just kept saying A.I.’ While it’s not easy to manage a company like Google, Sundar Pichai, as CEO of Google, has not delivered a stellar performance in my opinion. He did appoint Kurian as Google Cloud CEO, which adds much needed capabilities and leadership. Besides that, there is not much else that gives me the same confidence as what Satya Nadella or Tim Cook has done. Mr Pichai’s employees don’t seem happy with him. He doesn’t show leadership by example when he had a raise after dismissing thousands of employees. As a company supposed to be the leader in AI, Google let ChatGPT and Microsoft take the lead and had an embarrassing launch of Bard, its high-profile rival of ChatGPT. All under Pichai’s watch.

Fast, the easy checkout startup, shuts down after burning through investors’ money. I wonder how much due diligence investors did when they poured $120 million into a startup that generated $600,000 in annual revenue. The cheap money led to recklessness and so did the arrogance.

Amazon Overhauls Delivery Network to Dispatch Packages Faster. Amazon used to ship items across the country to the hands of shoppers. they replaced that model with one that enabled shipping by region. The end results are lower costs, shorter delivery times and higher customer satisfaction. This is an advantage that is difficult and expensive for rivals to copy. In other words, a real competitive advantage.

Marie Schulte-Bockum – FC Bayern Munich: The Best Run Club in Football. I am no fan of Bayern Munich, but it’s admittedly a very well-run club. This Business Breakdown episode discusses how the club makes money and what it does right to be in a position of strength every year.

Target wants shoppers to think of it for groceries as retailer braces for leaner spending. Costco and Walmart are the leaders in low-cost everything. Aldi and Lidl have the lowest prices in groceries. Trader Joe’s brings quirkiness, uniqueness in inventory and a cult. What does Target have that can compete in the grocery world? What draws consumers to Target are several chic-styled goods and convenience. But the retail chain needs to deliver to consumers a reason why they should shop groceries at its stores. Especially when the freshness is disappointing, the uniqueness is lacking and prices are higher than rivals’.

Other stuff I find interesting

How to Become a Morning Exercise Person. “Despite the challenge of waking up early enough for a workout, Dr. Friel said, mornings are better for most people because they have more control over their time before the commitments of the day kick in. In one study, Dr. Youngstedt and his team instructed 101 adults to do an hour of moderate exercise at eight different times for three days. As expected, those who hit the treadmills in the morning shifted their circadian cycles forward, meaning their bodies were ready to sleep and wake up earlier.

($) The Surprisingly Effective Strategy for Buying on eBay. A study that investigated more than 25 million eBay transactions revealed that offering round percentages in discount resulted in higher conversion rates. That makes sense to me from a psychological perspective. Consumers don’t like to do mental maths when shopping. Anything that can make them arrive at the conclusion faster will aid the conversion.

Vicious Traps. “Or curiosity and boldness. They are wonderful on their own, but combined can easily create impulsiveness. How about humility and ambition? Excellent traits, but together they can create successfully disguised arrogance.”

Japan’s sleepy tech scene is ready for a comeback. Bullish signs for Japan’s economy and human capital.

Russia Has a Vodka Addiction. So Does Vladimir Putin – But Not the Same Way. A fascinating tale on how Putin consolidated the vodka production in Russia


More than 81% of Nevada’s state land belongs to the state and the federal government

Americans are keeping cars longer. The average age of passenger cars reached 13.6

App Store stopped more than $2 billion in fraudulent transactions in 2022

Netflix’s ads-supported plan has five million monthly active users

US Podcast Advertising Revenue reached $1.8 billion in 2022

Weekly reading – 13th May 2023


The best wit and wisdom from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting. If you read enough about Charlie and Warren, you won’t be surprised by these nuggets of wisdom. The point, though, is that they are as true as they ever were and it’s always good to be reminded

Many Strategies Fail Because They’re Not Actually Strategies. In my personal experience, folks use the “strategy” very loosely. Everything that resembles even a plan or an order of action can be called a strategy. Worse, strategies don’t often get enough time to show whether they bear fruits or not. There is often an intervention from the top. A whimsical decision made by someone in power that derails the current strategy or consumes valuable resources. And I rarely ever hear about what NOT to do. That part is as important as what to do.

Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ is the key to DC Studios’ future, oddly enough. The recent box office numbers seem to suggest that the superhero genre is saturated. I mean, it may well be true, but as the article suggests, we have been here before. Iron Man 3 and the second Thor movie netted disappointing returns, compared to the high standard that Marvel set for themselves. But the studio went on to create massive successes with several hits that took the top spots of the highest grossing ranking chart. Nobody knows for sure what will happen in the entertainment industry. Perhaps, this is the beginning of a struggle for Marvel. Or maybe the return of Bob Iger and his preference for quality to quantity will turn the tide for his studio. Who knows? Regardless, it’s an interesting space to watch

Want your hotel room cleaned every day? Hotel housekeepers hope you say yes. I get why housekeepers want to minimize the damage by cleaning the rooms everyday. It’s especially tough to clean up a big mess with only 3-4 hours before another check-in. However, as a traveler, I prefer cleaning at most every other day. And property operators will prioritize guest preferences.

Fairfax Financial: No Clues from the Past. An informative writeup on Fairfax

Other stuff I find interesting

Being socially disconnected is as harmful to our well-beings as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even worse than obesity. Go out there and make connections. Seek help

($) Pop-Up Grand Prix: The Formula 1 Race Fans Don’t Get to See. F1 is known for its glamor and being the pinnacle of motor sports. The drivers are celebrities. As they should be. It takes special talent, training and luck to be among the only 20 individuals on Earth that can drive those cars. However, they are not the only heroes. They may not be the biggest heroes even. F1 takes an immeasurable work to put together a weekend. The logistics is hell. The ever increasing number of races across the globe doesn’t make it easy. This article sheds light on what a grueling task it is to make sure that things are where they should be and when they should. Because on Sunday, the green light goes, no matter what.

It’s the Guns. There are numerous examples, studies and statistics that support gun control, especially restrictions on assault rifles. Nobody is asking for taking all the guns away permanently and violating citizens’ freedom to carry. That’s not what is being asked for here. To be honest, gun control, REAL gun control may not work in America. But the point is that we never get to experiment and try to find out an answer definitively. There is always power in this country that prevents us from even testing gun control.

In Norway, the Electric Vehicle Future Has Already Arrived. Norway has stimulated the adoption of EVs better than many other countries , but there are still challenges. The government is concerned about the number of vehicles in circulation. Plus, EVs are not entirely harmless to the environment. EVs require rare minerals in their battery and their weight causes more asphalt and tire abrasion which leads to more unhealthy particles in the air.


Apple Card Savings received almost $1 billion in deposits in the first four days

Amazon’s ads reach totals an average monthly US audience of 155+ million

Non-compete clauses cost Americans $300 billion a year

Safari gained share in the desktop browser market in the US. Source

Weekly reading – 6th May 2023

What I wrote last week

The future of payments lies on the phone

Book Review: Quench Your Own Thirst


($) The Subtle Strategy Behind Elon Musk’s Price Cuts at Tesla. The EV war is so fascinating. Manufacturers like Ford and GM are raising prices to maintain profitability and appease investors. Musk, on the other hand, chooses a different path. He is lowering prices to put more Teslas on the streets and hoping that consumers will pay for a subscription to download latest software. To support the bet, he sanctioned an expansion of Tesla factories. The committed capital can make or break his company’s fortune. If it works, other car manufacturers will lose market share to Musk and will have to lower prices. Otherwise, let’s just say GM got into so much trouble that they required a government bailout because of the same tactic.

The underbelly of electric vehicles. Electric vehicles have their strengths, but it’s inaccurate to say that they are entirely harmless to our nature and environment. It’s because an EV requires a lot of minerals whose extraction and processing can take a toll on Mother Nature. This article offers a good rundown on aspect.

Google Cloud boss Kurian’s rocky path to profit: ‘We were not in a very good situation’. The hiring of Kurian looked masterful. He added the leadership and experience in enterprise sales to a company that is not historically strong in that area.

.James Corden Bows Out. It’s not surprising to read that The Late Late Show is wildly unprofitable, but it’s bizarre to hear that the show runners still wanted to keep James Corden around for 2-3 more years. Regardless, it’s a good read on the late night television space and how it has evolved in the past few decades.

What went wrong with Shopify’s quest to build a logistics business. “In a fulfillment relationship, you only have — let’s call it — $2 to spend on the fulfillment fees. Those $2 go a lot further with one partner than they do when you’re splitting them between a middle management layer, i.e. Shopify, and the fulfillment partner itself. It’s harder to find the right third-party logistics provider for smaller merchants, because most good 3PLs are looking for volume customers. And as Shopify started its business, most of its customers were smaller customers. So there is a legitimate problem that they saw. But it’s more they made a big mistake with how they wanted to solve the problem. What I found in my own experience, is that the approach of an asset light network makes it very difficult to make consistent quality of logistics delivery across an effort, because of having different partners with different processes and things like that.

Other stuff I find interesting

Inside the fortified rooms securing U.S. secrets. An interesting article on SCIF (pronounced “Skiff”), a room where the US government stores the most sensitive and confidential information.

What the U.S.-China chip war means for India. “The investment in design, through the design-linked incentives, is from the perspective of building on our strengths. Government wants to support 100 local firms working on integrated circuit and chipset designs. The other focus is on the outsourced semiconductor assembly and test, where India has a comparative advantage given that we have low-cost labor. Design and testing are two places where we actually have advantages. I don’t think we need to invest in display fabs, because if Chinese companies don’t provide them, we can buy them from Japan or South Korea. It’s a huge cost we are putting up for this display fab. We have a lot of scope and talent. In some estimates, we have 20% of the total design workforce in the world. The India Electronics and Semiconductor Association claims that around nine out of 10 chips that go into the market will have some Indian design center work behind them. So there is capability, but now that needs to be translated into intellectual property and new products that are made from India.

How Roy Wood Jr. crushed the toughest room in comedy. I am not a comedian and I was not familiar with Roy Wood Jr’s profile. Hence, it’s good to learn a little bit about comedy and his story. Fascinating.

Waymo One doubles service area in Phoenix and continues growing in San Francisco. Amazing progress by Waymo and Google. It must have taken immeasurable working hours of a lot of people to get to this point. I am excited about what to come next. With that being said, I remain optimistically cautious that it will still take a lot for us to operationalize self-driving cars as a society.


Only 1 out of 9 US adults are current smokers

20% of vehicle sales in 2023 globally are electric

There are more than 66,000 rules governing search engines in China

Nearly 3 in 5 (57%) U.S. teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021. Source: CDC

Weekly reading – 29th April 2023

What I wrote last week

a16z pushed a weak narrative for ACH. I disagree


($) Pepsi’s New Healthy Diet: More Potato Chips and Soda. Under the previous CEO, Pepsi was pushing towards healthier products and drinks. Under the current CEO, that’s no longer the case. Pepsi is back to being a brand of soda and chips. Ramon Laguarta understands that consumers are more conscious of potential impact that his company’s products can have on health. But he also has a mandate to increase shareholder values. Therefore, Pepsi is trying to thread the needle: still sell the processed food and soda, but make them as less salty or sweet as possible. So far, it has been positive because Pepsi has had a revenue spike. But for how long? There is only so much you can do to limit salt and sugar before soda and chips don’t taste good any more. And the consumer trend towards healthy snacks may accelerate again. Perhaps, the previous CEO didn’t succeed, not because her direction was wrong, but because her timing was.

Bud Light’s attempt to market to new customers alienated old ones. A very interesting article on how direct-to-consumers brands struggle to strike the right balance in a politically volatile market like the US. Success stories like Apple with their inclusive marketing campaigns are as common as drama like Anheuser-Busch. Brands will need to take a leap of faith, test & learn and adjust accordingly.

Some brands pull back on Pinterest ad spend because of weak performance metrics. Pinterest is still a good top-of-the-funnel channel to drive brand awareness. But if you are looking for a channel to improve performance, Pinterest may not be the best option.

Apple’s Device Ecosystem Multiplies its Brand Strength and Stickiness. Incredible stickiness of Apple products and ecosystem.

How Bed Bath & Beyond lost its suppliers’ trust, and doomed itself. Realizing that they had serious problems, Bed Bath & Beyond brought in a Target executive to save the day. The CEO wanted to push the company into omnichannel and private labels. While the new strategy might make sense, it was writing a check that the company’s infrastructure could not cash. Plus, I find it ridiculous that the Board authorized the buy-back program that unsettled critical supply partners and started the downward spiral into bankruptcy. A massive management failure of an iconic retail brand

($) The Boss Wants to Make You More Efficient. It’s important to identify areas where technology can make a difference and be more efficient. It’s equally important to determine whether what you are trying to make efficient is the right thing to do. That’s called effectiveness.

Other stuff I find interesting

($) Still Going Fast, Inflation Changes Drivers. A great article discussing the drivers of inflation. First, it was about the supply chain crisis. Then, the war in Ukraine happened. These days, services drive inflation

The EU has approved the world’s first carbon tax on imports. Everything is going to get pricier in Europe. “The carbon tax is part of a wider overhaul of the bloc’s carbon market that will require European industries to comply with strict emissions standards, making their products more expensive to produce. The tax is intended to ensure that the costlier, lower-carbon EU goods will not be undercut in price by those from countries with more lax rules on emissions. Any companies importing such products into the EU will be required to buy certificates to cover their carbon emissions, based on the volume of goods they bring in and the emissions footprint of those goods. The tax will also prevent manufacturers, hoping to evade the EU emissions standards, from moving operations to another country, and then sending their goods into the EU, a process known as “carbon leakage”. The carbon tax, to be phased in from 2026, will cover some of the most polluting industries: steel, aluminum, cement, fertilizer and electricity, as well as hydrogen. In the future, it could be expanded to include organic chemicals and polymers, including plastics.

Africa fell in love with crypto. Now, it’s complicated. I think this sums it up nicely. “Mohamed Taysir, co-founder and CEO of Egypt’s Singularity Finance, believes the trend of crypto startups closing down is driving attention away from the promise of quick money to more “beneficial use cases of blockchain.” Adepoju Adebowale, a 27-year-old crypto enthusiast from Nigeria, told Rest of World he once believed Africa and crypto were the perfect couple. However, the events of the last few months have forced him to change his mind. He said his crypto investments grew from 70,000 naira ($152) to 3 million naira ($6,514.23) within six months in 2021. Now, Adebowale has lost almost all of that money

The Italian farmers saving an ancient fruit with solar power. I hope the Italian government can support farmers in this endeavor. This is where some governmental subsidies can make a lot of difference, given how expensive it is to install solar panels on farms.


PetSmart has 60 million customers in its loyalty program

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that car dealer markups contributed between 0.3 and 0.7 percentage point of the nearly 16% rise in the consumer-price index between the end of 2019 and the end of 2022

iOS App Store has 101 million monthly active users in Europe

Nearly Half Of New Subs Find Netflix’s Ad Load ‘Heavy’. Source: MediaPost

Weekly reading – 22nd April 2023

What I wrote last week

Make Something Wonderful – Steve Jobs In His Own Words

Apple Savings


($) The Unexpected Reason Apple Is Dominating the U.S. Smartphone Market. It’s very hard to pinpoint one reason why Apple dominates. It’s a list of factors. But I like the fact that the article mentioned how Apple worked to retain customers within its walled garden. Support old phones, retain customers, milk service revenue and incentivize customers to upgrade with new capabilities. The company understands that once a customer leaves the ecosystem, they may need to wait 1-2 years before they can get that customer back. It’d be lost revenue.

Tim Cook on shaping the future of Apple. One of the best profiles that I have read on Tim Cook. Folks are so obsessed with Steve Jobs (rightfully so) that they don’t realize how important and great Tim Cook is to Apple. As a shareholder myself, I am not ready for the day when this man decides to retire. It will be a big blow to the company and shareholders. Not only because of his world-class management skills, but also because of the person he is and the values he brings.

($) The World’s Richest Person Auditions His Five Children to Run LVMH, the Luxury Empire. An interesting read on succession plan and parenting in business. It makes sense that Bernard Arnault gives his children assignments at some companies in his empire and closely watches how they are doing. After all, if they can’t run a child company, how would they run an entire empire? I also find it inspiring how Bernard strives to be rational and still wants to learn at an old age. According to the article, he once pulled out a mathematics textbook on a plane to refresh his memory. He also said this about the education that he received from Polytechnique: “It is above all a program that gives you a rational mindset, which allows you to analyze a situation or a problem very quickly”.

Ford F-150 Lightning fire footage highlights a growing EV risk. Even though this is a freak incident, there is no denying that the authorities and manufacturers must address the safety issues while pushing the adoption of EVs.

($) When Apple Comes Calling, ‘It’s the Kiss of Death’. I understand that business is cut-throat. Any company has to find a way to beat the competition to avoid being eaten. It sounds unfair that Apple uses its limitless resources to lure talents to their home turf. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the sound of that either, but from a legal perspective, how can it be ruled illegal? Should there be a law that prohibits big companies from recruiting from smaller ones? It doesn’t seem feasible or sensible to me either. I; however, do think that lawmakers should look into whether Apple abuses its position as the platform owner to access others’ technologies to gain unfair advantage or even violate copyrights.

($) Will Apple take a big bite out of the banks?A former Apple executive says the company’s cost of acquiring new customers for Apple Card was “laughably lower than every other credit card company” because it had so many distribution channels. Apple also has another, longer-term advantage of iPhone user data — which could potentially be used to assess credit risk more comprehensively than a traditional Fico score.” The report confirmed some of the things that I long suspected. The marketing appeal of Apple and the distribution channels at their disposal make their cost per account competitive. In addition, even though online credit card applications are riskier than pre-approved direct mail ones with data from the bureaus, Apple has an advantage that they can leverage first-party data to battle fraud and lower risks. Much as I like to conjecture stuff about business, I don’t know if I believe Apple will bypass banks and the networks.

Other stuff I find interesting

How Tokyo Became an Anti-Car Paradise. Tokyo puts down a lot of deterrents to discourage citizens to own cars. Need to own a parking lot approved by the local police to buy a car? Checked! An expensive inspection every two years that gets more expensive over time? Checked! Have no street parking or make it super pricey? Checked! Make the streets unfriendly to cars? Checked as well! Just a fascinating look at a fascinating city.

Purdue University goes all-in on Apple Wallet student IDs, will no longer issue physical cards. Apple is low-key and patiently making the Wallet app an indispensable element of their products. Consumers can use the apps to hold their driver license, state ID, student ID, many kinds of passes and tickets and cards. Soon, the Wallet app will replace physical wallets with more convenience and infinitely more capacity.

Why Does a Plastic-Wrapped Turkey Sandwich Cost $15 at the Airport? It’s infuriating that an agency charged with controlling prices at airports and bound by laws to be transparent does neither of those things. Great job by Hell Gate to raise this issue and doggedly hold the Port Authority accountable.

($) Just 2 Minutes of Walking After a Meal Is Surprisingly Good for You. “All seven studies showed that just a few minutes of light-intensity walking after a meal were enough to significantly improve blood sugar levels compared to, say, sitting at a desk or plopping down on the couch. When participants went for a short walk, their blood sugar levels rose and fell more gradually. Although light walking at any time is good for your health, a short walk within 60 to 90 minutes of eating a meal can be especially useful in minimizing blood sugar spikes, as that is when blood sugar levels tend to peak.


26% of alcohol buyers purchase beer, wine and spirits

Alcohol saw 6.3% increase in prices due to inflation, half of the inflation in food & beverages in total

Better-for-you beverage (low ABV) totalled around $8.3 billion in sales in the US in 2022

Weekly reading – 15th April 2023

What I wrote last week

3 CEOs that gain truths on the ground by being hands-on



Meta’s job cuts are gutting customer service, leaving influencers and businesses with nobody to call. Content creators and influences become increasingly important to platforms such as TikTok, Reels or YouTube Short. Yet, Facebook dismissed critical customer support staff during recent layoffs, leaving this clientele’s needs and cry for help unattended. It’s even more bizarre when WSJ reported that there are many recruiters at the company getting paid more than $190,000 a year for absolutely no output.

Before embarking on a brand redesign, consider the following. As the old adage goes, if it is not broken, don’t fix it.

Meta Verified requires users to use their legal names. What a mess! Facebook has a lot of immigrant employees. That’s why I am surprised that nobody tells the ones in charge that it’s common for immigrants to have their real names mixed up when they arrive in the US. Specifically, middle names become first names and first names become middle names. How would these immigrants feel using their Facebook to interact with friends and family back home? And there is a privacy concern for those that want their identify protected. Plus, why on Earth would anyone pay for Meta Verified again?

CEO Andy Jassy’s 2022 Letter to Shareholders. Some good nuggets on Amazon, how it’s being run and key themes such as AI, supply chain, grocery and AWS

Basecamp wasted $300,000 on billboards in Boston. Kudos to DHH for being transparent about this and sharing their marketing lesson. It’s not common at all for companies to raise their hands and say that one of their marketing campaigns went wrong. In my experience, it happens at every company. The key is how each company reacts to the disappointment.

Other stuff I find interesting

($) American manufacturing jobs comeback. Companies are furiously investing in US based factories. Their goal is to control their destiny and be more responsive to changing consumer demands. To me, that makes sense. China is the factory of the world, but the relation between the two countries makes it too big a risk. The supply chain crisis in the last two years is still likely on the mind of executives. Factoring all the risks into the calculation, they must think that it’s a sensible gamble to manufacture in the US

Ben Affleck on ‘Air,’ New CEO Gig and Those Memes: “I Am Who I Am”. Quite an honest conversation with Ben Affleck. You learn a bit about the actor/director, but also the film industry.

($) A Barcode Unlocks Indonesia’s Billion-Dollar Informal Economy. “Indonesia is now a distant first place in Southeast Asia both in the use of e-wallets and QR payments. Indonesia’s young population and pervasive mobile-phone use helped QR become the perfect springboard for it to leave cash behind. That’s true at least in major cities. For the easternmost islands, central bank officers must brave seas and drive armored trucks for days to distribute cash. This year, they will give out about 3 trillion rupiah of new bills to 85 islands so people there can transact as old cash tends to tear or stain. Bank Indonesia expects broader QR use to reduce the need for their grueling cash journeys.”

($) The U.S. Cracked a $3.4 Billion Crypto Heist—and Bitcoin’s Anonymity. A fascinating tale of how law enforcement cracked a wire fraud case involving cryptocurrency


“Merchants paid $126.4 billion in processing fees for credit cards in 2022”

US residents use about 1.24% of their daily wages to consume power

The average monthly payment for a new car has soared to a record $777, nearly doubling from late 2019“. Absolutely insane.

Medicare drug negotiation provision would have saved the U.S. $26.5 billion

Digital ad revenue in the U.S. rose 10.8% year-over-year in 2022

Ad spend on TikTok in the US grew by 30% YoY in March 2023

Almost 19% of cars registered in 2022 are 8-11 years old. Source: WSJ

Weekly reading – 8th April 2023

What I wrote last week

10 ways credit card issuers optimize profitability

Business lessons from Apple. Patience & Perseverance


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other stuff I find interesting

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Weekly reading – 1st April 2023

What I wrote last week

Travel to DC


($) Social Media Platforms Are Asking Users for Money. They Probably Don’t Mean You. Charging power users makes sense. It’s impossible in my mind that social media can charge ordinary users while they can only make money when their platforms are accessible to many. The problem is that the current benefits don’t justify a subscription. Even if the benefits are good enough to warrant a recurring payment, the platform operators need to thread the needle carefully. Content creators are sought after. Platforms incentivize creators to generate exclusive content. If charged too high, what would stop creators from uprooting their content and bringing it to another?

JPMorgan Chase buys data platform for startups in push to serve venture capital investors. JPMorgan Chase is showing that it’s serious about becoming a key player in the venture capital game. There is already a matchmaking platform in place for investors and entrepreneurs. The acquisition of aumni brings in a data analytics platform for venture firms. In addition, there is also Global Shares, a startup specialized in managing employee stock grants. The behemoth bank is ready to open its wallet to bring in critical capabilities from the outside. The end game? My GUESS is that JPMorgan Chase wants to be the commercial bank for these startups, to nurture the relationship till they become public names and to house the enormous sum of deposits that can fuel the lending side.

How to hire a CFO and build a finance team. “Seasoned chief financial officers (CFOs) help a business ramp toward IPO, optimize treasury management, and even navigate major external crises, as we’ve seen with recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. But it’s not always clear when and how to find the right finance leader. 

($) Uber Eats to Take Down Thousands of Virtual Brands to Declutter the App. As a shareholder, I am happy to see Uber take this action. It’s not cheap for the company to acquire and retain customers. Hence, it’s imperative to make the user experience on the app as smooth and great as possible. Removing bogus listings that erode the consumer trust is a low hanging fruit and a good start.

Other stuff I find interesting

There’s a ‘Subterranean Galapagos’ Deep Inside the Earth. “There is a vast biosphere deep underground that is nearly twice as big as Earth’s oceans and contains some 23 billion tons of organisms.”

What happens when you subsidize EVs but not charging stations. The adoption of EVs hinges on how fast the installation of the charing network takes place. And I have a nagging feeling that Chinese companies, not their peers from the Western world, will take advantage of the situation

Charlie Munger in Conversation with Todd Combs. “I think the people who tend to get the best results are these fanatics who just keep searching for the great businesses. And the best of them don’t expect to find 10 or 20 or 30. They find one or two. And that’s the right way to do it — but all you need are one or two.”

M-Pesa has been huge for Kenya’s economy — and for scammers. The rule of thumb when looking at news reports on fintech startups is that you should inquire about losses, delinquency and fraud, in addition to the shiny objects like revenue or growth


99% of Warren Buffett’s net worth came after he turned 50

Private jet pollution in Europe has skyrocketed 855% since the pandemic. For a region that always sounds committed to the fight against climate change, this is hypocritical.

The value of venture deals on e-Commerce startups was $8.8 billion in 2022, a marked drop from $12.6 billion in 2021

Source: Twitter

Weekly reading – 25th March 2023

What I wrote last week

Early 2023 musings


Andrew Hollingworth – Ryanair: Low Cost Obsessed. Why did he buy 10% of the whole industry in 2017? The reason he did is because the industry is consolidated, and he could see that the industry was then having and is still enjoying a level of permanent pricing power. Now that pricing power, it isn’t permanent in the sense that it bucks recessions or it bucks pandemics, but it is permanent in the sense if your market shares roughly stays the same and if participants of that market broadly behaves themselves. And I think that’s the conclusion that Buffett reached in 2017.”

Panera Bread tests Amazon’s palm-scanning technology in St. Louis. First Starbucks, now Panera. This technology has a lot of growth potential and I expect it to be adopted by more retailers in the future. However, to foster this growth, Amazon needs to have its brand associated with privacy and security, rather than scandals and data leaks.

How a wildly popular 5-foot-long promotion became a logistics nightmare for Subway

($) Starbucks’s New CEO Brews Coffee at Stores to Prepare for Role. If you invest in a consumer-facing business like Starbucks, you’ll want a CEO that is obsessed with customer satisfaction and listening to customers. The new CEO of Starbucks is doing that and he already found areas to improve.

Arm seeks to raise prices ahead of hotly anticipated IPO. “Arm charges royalties of about 1 to 2 per cent of the value of each chip sold based on its designs, according to Sravan Kundojjala, an analyst at TechInsights. According to the new business model being presented by Arm, royalties would be set according to the average selling price (ASP) of mobile devices rather than that of the chips. Some of Arm’s customers, including Apple, are both chipmakers and device makers, and have special licensing and royalty agreements with Arm. The iPhone maker is not involved in discussions about the change to Arm’s business model, said executives with knowledge of the company’s recent discussions.

Hindenburg Research’s short report on Block/Square. An explosive report from the famed short seller on Square/Block. The report accuses the company of inflated operating metrics and widespread fraud on its platform. If what was said by Hindenburg is true, Block would surely be in serious legal trouble and could see their valuation tank because the company’s health isn’t as good as what it made out it be. There are two things worth noting. One is that Hindenburg has a great track record on their research. So far, I haven’t heard any of the targets of their reports successfully refute the findings. Plus, I don’t think Hindenburg risked lawsuits if they weren’t confident of what they found. The second issue is how Block chose to respond to the allegation. Not silence. Not rebuttal with facts and logics. But with a threat to pursue legal avenue. It really makes you think, doesn’t it?

Other stuff I find interesting

Commuting to work post-pandemic: Opportunities for health? A scientific paper on the health benefits that shorter daily commute brings. WSJ also published an article on the same topic. I’d save at least a couple of hundred dollars a month on rent if I relocate to West of Omaha and work from home 2-3 days a week. But my mental health and daily energy are paramount to me. So I instead choose to pay more for rent to be able to walk to work.

Why Japanese Web Design Is So… Different. I used to be baffled by the look and feel of some Japanese websites I visited. They look so heavy and littered with text and photos. A complete contrast to the minimalist style I often associate with the Japanese culture. This post sheds light on why and it makes sense to me

60 days to find a job or leave the country. A somber read on the H1B visa and the anxiety that H1B holders have to carry every day. The US is blessed to be an attraction to so many talented white-collar workers and entrepreneurs around the world. I don’t get why it has to be that difficult for people to build a life here. Give a green card to master-degree graduates from a US university. Raise the annual cap on green cards. Streamline the process. Just do something to make people’s lives easier. If you are in the position of power to do and don’t do anything, what good is it to have that power?

Wealthy Executives Make Millions Trading Competitors’ Stock With Remarkable Timing. I don’t believe for a second that a CEO-level person doesn’t have non-public information on a competitor. Nonetheless, I get why the number of insider trading charges is smaller than what we want. It’s not easy to prove and there is a fine-thin line to tread between catching insider traders and violating freedom to trade. And if there is a more obvious case, I’ll look towards Congress…

Should I Buy a House Now? An excellent article on whether one should buy a house right now, given the high mortgage rates. What makes me like the article is that it lays out the arguments for both sides and understands that buying a house is a personal decision and this decision is about more than just money. Hence, there is no blanke right or wrong answer. It varies from one person to another.


Bird raised more than $880 million in venture capital funding. The company is worth less than $40 million as of this writing.

29% of BNPL users first became interested in a BNPL service upon seeing it at checkout

An average US-based AirBnb host earned $14,000 in income from hosting in 2022