Weekly reading – 4th February 2023

What I wrote last week

Banks plan to compete with Apple Pay & PayPal

X1+, a credit card for when things go wrong on travel

Business

Understanding Tesla’s operating leverage. A good post on how Tesla managed to increase its operating margin while vehicles prices dropped

($) Americans Are Gobbling Up Takeout Food. Restaurants Bet That Won’t Change. Quite an interesting trend in the restaurant industry. I have no idea how it will go because my personal experience is conflicted. My wife and I are often marveled at the long line in front of every Chick-fil-A store that we pass by. On the other hand, I saw fast food stores with no line, no car in the parking slot and very few diners. Takeout may increase sales for restaurants, as long as they survive

Aldi, H-E-B among growth leaders in 2022: Report. “Small-format stores are cheaper to build and require less land or space to buy or lease. This allows access to more markets than a larger-format store would. Furthermore, as retailers continue to invest heavily in e-commerce, these smaller stores can act as fulfillment centers for online orders.

($) Bed Bath & Beyond Used to Be Great. These Two Are Why. Bed Bath & Beyond’s founders serve as an example of honesty, authenticity, frugality and customer orientation. They are not afraid to admit their own mistake, including not realizing the potential of the Internet. At first, when the company’s budget was tiny, the two men used cardboard boxes as trash bins and still make sure both sides of scrap paper are used. I also found it awesome that they finally learned to let go of their creation after being pushed out.

TikTok is driving an offline lift in sales for some brands. Very helpful and interesting examples of how TikTok is helping brands drive sales.

Other stuff I found interesting

First use of Apple Emergency SOS in B.C. may have saved two lives. Apple’s innovation is increasingly proven valuable in real-life crises. Even one of these cases is even worth working on

($) Japan, Netherlands Agree to Limit Exports of Chip-Making Equipment to China. A great triumph for the Biden administration in hampering China’s ambition in this critical area. Without the most advanced materials and technologies from ASML, Nikon and other important manufacturers, China won’t be able to scale their semiconductor operations and bridge the gap to the US

($) The U.S. Consumer Is Starting to Freak Out. Signs of the troubling times to come are here

The highest rail route in northern Europe. “Connecting Norway’s stylish capital with its most picturesque city, the 496km, 39-station Oslo-Bergen railway is one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys.”

The Antidote to Envy. Understanding yourself is the best way to avoid envy

Package Deal: In 1915, Coca-Cola had many imitators. Then it designed a patented bottle nobody could copy. The origin story of the iconic Coca Cola bottle is a fascinating one.

Stats

Mount Olympus on Mars is the tallest mountain in the Solar System, three times as tall as Mount Everest

Customers loaded $3.3 billion onto Starbucks gift cards during the quarter ending December 31, 2022

Mount Washington in New Hampshire experienced wind chill at -108 Fahrenheit degrees or -78 Celsius degrees. Lowest ever recorded in the US

Source: JLL Research
Source: 9to5Mac

Weekly reading – 30th July 2022

What I wrote last week

Book review: Soul In The Game: The Art Of A Meaningful Life

I adopted the Mediterranean Diet

Take-aways from Netflix’s Q2 FY2022

Business

($) Bed Bath & Beyond Followed a Winning Playbook—and Lost. The urge to change strategy and sell private labels quickly while ignoring the required changes to the existing infrastructure hurt Bed Bath & Beyond. They didn’t have time to design, build and market their private label brands properly. And there is Covid, which makes the situation worse for the big box retailer. Its website is antiquated and doesn’t offer pick-up option for customers. The latest reminder that a strategy may be sound, but execution matters

How the Durbin Amendment sparked fintech innovation. In case you wonder how smaller banks compete and how fintech startups can offer rewards, even on debit cards. A good primer on the Durbin Amendment

($) Jack Ma Plans to Cede Control of Ant Group. It’s interesting to read how Jack Ma structures the ownership of his voting rights and shares at Ant Group. Essentially, two companies control a hair higher than 50% of Ant Group shares. Jack Ma controls the voting rights of such two companies while sharing the share pool equally with two executives from Ant Group. Jack already planned to step away completely from the company he founded for years, but delayed the decision so that the IPO could go smoothly. His debacle with the Chinese government took care of that. It’s, again, amazing what little an unfathomably rich and powerful guy like Jack can do to the Chinese government.

How Big Tech Runs Tech Projects and the Curious Absence of Scrum. A very interesting post on scrum and by extension, project as well as resource management. One common mistake that I often see, especially from people without experience with scrum before, is that scrum and agile is this magic bullet to increase productivity and efficiency. Like any tool, yes, it theoretically can, but it has to be used in the right way. As you can see in the post, it’s not for every company. Even at the right companies that need it, scrum and agile need to be implemented properly. I am personally going through the painful experience of seeing it implemented improperly at my company. Sure, it doesn’t cost companies any additional resources. What it does cost is employee morale and trust in the leadership

Dollar General eyes bigger presence in health care. Dollar General is associated with low prices and smaller store sizes. The fact that they add fresh produce and health care to their line-up makes a fascinating business case to follow up.

A thread on how a Web3 startup that received $365 million in investments has $6,500 in monthly revenue. Yeah that wasn’t a typo

Other stuff I find interesting

In Remote Alaska, Meal Planning Is Everything. The rugged nature of Alaska is strangely appealing to me. I somehow wish that I could spend some time living there

Stats

Venture funding in Chinese startups in Q2 2022 fell to $9.1 billion, a whopping decline from $32.1 billion in Q4 2021

It costs only 4 cents for a 1GB of mobile data in Israel, compared to $5.6 in the US

Online sales during Prime Day 2022 hit almost $12 billion

Source: Bank of America