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

Three Good Books On Life

Three Good Books On Life

Excellent Advice for Living: Wisdom I Wish I’d Known Earlier

Kevin Kelly is the founding editor of Wired magazine. On his 68th birthday, Mr Kelly started to compile things he had learned about life for his adult children. Things that he wished he had known sooner himself. The final result is this short book filled with nuggets of wisdom and I really enjoyed this page-turner. Below is a glimpse of what you can expect:

“Don’t take it personally when someone turns you down. Assume they are like you: busy, occupied, distracted. Try again later. It’s amazing how often a second try works.”

“Following your bliss is a recipe for paralysis if you don’t know what you are passionate about. A better path for most youth is “master something.” Through mastery of one thing you’ll command a viewpoint to steadily find where your bliss is.”

“The consistency of your endeavors (exercise, companionship, work) is more important than the quantity. Nothing beats small things done every day which is way more important than what you do occasionally.”

“The real test of your character is not how you deal with adversity— although that will teach you much. The real test is how you deal with power.
The only cure for power is humility and the admission that your power comes from luck. The small person believes they are superior; the superior person knows they are lucky.”

Those Bastards: 69 essays on life, creativity, & meaning

A writer, blogger and investor, Jared Dillian is the author of Street Freak: Money and Madness at Lehman Brothers. As the title indicates, “Those Bastards” is a collection of 69 short essays, each of which draws heavily from the author’s personal experience and carries valuable insights on an aspect of life. Some chapters are lighter and funnier than others, but overall, I enjoyed the honest storytelling, brutally honest if I may add, and wittiness that Mr Dillian brought to the pages.

I say that worrying is praying for a bad outcome. And like I said, all fear is about the future—and why are we living in the future? We should be living in the present, in the moment, right now. And in the present, everything is fine. If there is something that will happen a month from now that you are worried about, are you going to make yourself miserable for an entire month until it happens? That doesn’t make any sense. I frequently tell myself: “I don’t have to decide this today.” I wait until the last possible minute to make decisions, which eliminates fear and anxiety.

Everything is going to be okay. And even if it’s not okay, it’s still going to be okay. I don’t stress about much. And the reason is that I only stress about things that are within my control, and when you think about it, there is very little that is within your control. It cracks me up that people stress about politics. I know some people who get consumed by politics, and pour out their rage on social media. They are profoundly unhappy about things that are completely out of their control.

You do the work, you put on the trade, and the result is not up to you. You have to get out of the results business. Instead, focus on the process. If the process is good, and repeatable, everything will work out in the long run. And if it doesn’t? That’s fine, too!

Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons

Born in 1940, Seymour Schulich is a successful businessman, investor, philanthropist and author. He co-founded and led Euro-Nevada and Franco-Nevada, two of the largest royalty resource companies in the world. In 2007, he published Get Smarter to educate aspiring young Canadians. The book contains conventional wisdom that’s often talked about in other self-help books. There is no ground-breaking insight, but the content is a valuable reminder for those well-versed with the genre and a great introduction for newcomers. The straightforwardness and brevity that Mr Schulich brings to the pages are refreshing. No long winded back stories. Just straight to the point that he wants to make.