Weekly reading – 26th November 2022

What I wrote last week

Attention to detail matters

Business

Welcome to the Ambaniverse. It’s scarcely believable to me how much Mukesh Ambani and his companies touch the life of Indians

($) What Do the Worst (and Best) Airports Look Like? Ask United Airlines. Ever flew with United Airlines to/from Newark and got delayed? This article will share some insights as to why.

The ‘Amazon of Africa’ is reducing staff and cutting premature products in its new era. Amazon relies on its grip over loyal shoppers who subscribe to Prime in order to woo advertisers and merchants. Jumia is doing the opposite. The company claimed that it was marching towards profitability and cutting initiatives that were not contributing to that goal. A Prime-like subscription is likely not profitable, but it remains to be seen if it is wise to go ahead without one. I really look forward to seeing how Jumia will be in two years and their reflection on the decision made today

Tax filing websites have been sending users’ financial information to Facebook. I haven’t used any website listed in the article, but I am pretty angry. The practice of sharing tax data with another party without consent is distasteful and fraudulent. Even if tax-filing websites shield themselves by using the “terms and conditions” page that nobody ever really reads, the government should just outright ban that deceitful practice and prosecute those that don’t safeguard consumer data properly.

($) Disney’s Robert Iger Loomed Over His Successor as CEO, Creating Tensions. I feel like FTX & SBF and Twitter & Musk became some sort of old news when the headlines were all taken over by Disney and Bob Iger. Bob Chapek’s tenure was littered with missteps and investor doubt. I had a serious concern when he decided to jack up prices at the parks. He increased the streaming target significantly, albeit with little experience to show for it. There were also problems with Scarlett Johansson and Florida’s Governor De Santis. The fact that he was let go is not without cause. What surprised everybody is Bob Iger’s return. He was Disney’s CEO for 15 years and repeatedly reneged on his promise to pick a successor multiple times before choosing Chapek. Bob Iger was a legendary CEO when he retired. The man built Disney’s massive IP library, took the company’s name & its properties to new height and delivered blockbuster after blockbuster. But the company he is taking over faces different challenges than when he left. There is no telling that he will succeed this time. Is he a better choice than Chapek? I think so. Does Iger’s return mean that the company is out of the woods? Not necessarily.

The Perks of a High-Documentation, Low-Meeting Work Culture.I am a fan of a culture that favors documentation and writing. First of all, writing fosters deep thinking and sharpens ideas. Second, it can level the playing field for people who that speak the language fluently. For those who don’t write well, I do think it’s an easier fix than to ask non-native speakers to articulate their points naturally. Third, great documentation transfers knowledge seamlessly. No matter who leave or stay, the domain knowledge stays with an organization and gets passed on to the next persons through write-ups, memos or reports. Last but not least, as the article mentioned, meetings have a way of disrupting and lessen the actual work

($) Was This $100 Billion Deal the Worst Merger Ever? A long great read on the AT&T – Time Warner merger that will go down in history as one of the worst mergers and value destructions ever. Several factors contributed to the mess: a legal debacle that took two valuable years, two cultures that never gelled, the cut-throat competition and executives who didn’t have a strategic plan nor execution to realize all the potential value, if there was any.

Other stuff I find interesting

($) North America’s EV Future Hinges on a North Carolina Turtle Pond. “In Kings Mountain, North Carolina, there’s a tree-filled park that provides urbanites from nearby Charlotte some respite in nature. At its center is a tranquil pond, featuring turtles, fish and other wildlife. The sparkling waters, which plunge some 150 feet deep, are the result of decades of accumulated rainfall in a defunct lithium mine. By contrast, China dominates the global supply chain for EV batteries, boasting 79% of the world’s lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity, versus just 5.5% for the US.

Megalopolis: how coastal west Africa will shape the coming century. Visiting Africa and the stretch described here is a dream that I want to realize in the next 10-15 years. “By the end of the century, Africa will be home to 40% of the world’s population – and nowhere is this breakneck-pace development happening faster than this 600-mile stretch between Abidjan and Lagos. It is a stretch of coastal west Africa that begins in the west with Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, and extends 600 miles east – passing through the countries of Ghana, Togo and Benin – before finally arriving at Lagos. Recently, this has come to be seen by many experts as the world’s most rapidly urbanising region, a “megalopolis” in the making – that is, a large and densely clustered group of metropolitan centres. When its population surpassed 10 million people in the 1950s, the New York metropolitan area became the anchor of one of the first urban zones to be described this way – a region of almost continuous dense habitation that stretches 400 miles from Washington DC to Boston

A very handy website on industrial tourism in Japan

The truffle industry is a big scam. Not just truffle oil, everything. There are three biggest takeaways for me: 1/ the truffle oil is a fraud; 2/ depending on the type of truffle and when it can be harvested, out-of-season truffle is also a fraud because it cannot be preserved for long; 3/ there are many types of truffles and some can be much more expensive than others

Stats

e-bike sales in Finland (by units) in 2022 increased 53% year over year

Alexa is reportedly on track to lose $10 billion this year

Brands pay young YouTubers a lot of money for product placements, from $75,000 to $300,000

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.