Weekly reading – 13th August 2022

What I wrote last week

PayPal Q2 FY2022 Results

Business

Monzo growth. A fascinating story on the early days of Monzo, a successful fintech company from the UK

The Wolf in Cashmere’s Conglomerate. A fantastic podcast episode on LVMH and the empire that they have built

($) How One Grocery Chain in Pennsylvania Is Preparing for a Downturn. An interesting case study of how a low-margin business in a cut-throat industry is responding to the macroeconomic challenges. I wonder if these companies will keep lessons learned during this period long in the future. You know what they say, never let a crisis go to waste

Deckers Brands: “The Ugliest Shoes of All Time”

Multicultural Grocers Drive Sales by Catering to Increasingly Diverse America. It’s imperative for grocers to closely understand the social fabric of the areas where they operate. Folks from different backgrounds have different preferences. Grocers who make the best use of their footprint, aka maximize revenue per square foot, must appeal to as many customers and sell as many goods as possible. This will require efforts, focus and investments in infrastructure and tools. But there is no other choice in the ever highly fragmented and competitive world of grocery

Ad Tech Revenue Statements Indicate Unclear Effects of App Tracking Transparency. A very balanced and reasonable take on ATT. If you are interested, here is my take on ATT

Landmark “Self-Dealing” Arbitration Found Netflix In “Violation” Of WGA Contracts. It’s interesting to learn about contracts and compensation schemes in Hollywood

Other stuff I find interesting

China’s southern tech hub Shenzhen becomes first city on mainland to regulate fully autonomous, driverless cars on some roads. The Chinese may have autonomous vehicles on the streets before we do. I am not talking about a few vehicles or test drives. This is about a large scale adoption of autonomous vehicles. Technology alone is not enough. There are important questions that must be answered. For instance, who will be liable for damages in accidents? Are there regulations for that? Shenzhen’s regulations already took place; something that is not yet available here in the US, to my best knowledge. For me, that’s an encouraging sign and a big step towards the future that many envision.

Prison Money Diaries: What People Really Make (and Spend) Behind Bars. I felt angry after reading this piece. Even though violators of the laws should pay for their transgressions, as one of the most developed and richest countries in the world, we should build prisons that offer sufficient living environments to inmates. According to inmates, everything in prisons is pricey and they get increasingly more expensive over time. To buy goods, inmates have to work, although the pay is embarrassingly low. One receives $7 for 8 hours of work. And he said this: “If I work two sessions, that’s $6.68 per day. Almost nothing else in the Department of Corrections pays like this. Plus, during Covid, they gave us hazard pay — $2 extra per day. Last July, I made $334. The two primary things I spend on are: my phone credit account and commissary store purchases. The food at the chow hall is terrible and of poor quality — it’s not fit for a dog, seriously.” Google the prisons in Finland or Norway and see how badly we treat our fellow citizens.

Global Supply Chains of EV Batteries. A long yet excellent primer on the global supply chain of EV batteries. As everything around us requires batteries, those who hold power in this supply chain have tremendous advantages in the future

iOS Privacy: Instagram and Facebook can track anything you do on any website in their in-app browser. This is exactly why I support Apple in disabling cross-app tracking. Facebook and other advertisers have all the motivation in the world to collect data on us. They are financially incentivized to do so. It’s up to us and companies like Apple to tell them NO

No Great Stagnation in Guinness. Guinness is one of my go-to beers at a pub. It’s great to read a bit about how unique and quirky the business is

Europe’s remote, lost-in-time villages. “Life in Târnava Mare has barely changed in centuries, offering a precious insight into the age-old traditions that are still going strong in its Saxon villages.”

Stats

35% of Gen Z adults in the US don’t trust colleges and universities in the country. Wow!

Adobe’s Digital Price Index found that online prices dipped down 1% year over year in July

Organic fresh produce tends to be twice as expensive as conventional produce. However, conventional fresh produce had a bigger price hike recently

Source: Supermarketnews

Source: IEA

Weekly reading – 6th August 2022

What I wrote last week

Apple Q3 FY2022 Earnings

AWS, what a business!

Even with a loss of $2.6 billion, Uber had a great quarter

Business

($) America’s New Energy Crisis. A worrying report on the state of the energy supply in the US. Demand continues rise and unfortunately, so do oil prices. Projects to produce green alternatives take a long time to be completed and integrated into the national grid. “As U.S. power supplies tighten, developers are struggling to build these projects quickly enough to offset closures of older plants, in part because of supply-chain snarls. Another reason: It takes longer to approve their connections to the existing electricity grid. Such new requests neared 3,500 last year compared with roughly 1,000 in 2015, according to research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Typical time needed to complete technical studies needed for that grid approval is now more than three years, up from less than two in 2015. One renewable-energy developer, Recurrent Energy, filed more than 20 of these grid-connection requests last year in California, a state that needs more clean power to replace several gas-fired power plants as well as a nuclear plant slated for retirement in the coming years. It took the company seven years to get approval and construct a separate battery storage project in that state.”

($) JPMorgan Is Building a Giant Travel Agency. “It bought a booking system, a restaurant review company and a luxury travel agent. It is building its own airport lounges and a force of thousands of travel agents. A new website will launch in the coming months. JPMorgan estimates that its customers account for one of every three dollars spent on leisure travel in the U.S., though those customers book only a tiny amount on the Ultimate Rewards website. With the new offerings, JPMorgan executives believe the bank could capture $15 billion in bookings in 2025, five times what it handled before the recent buildup. That would make it the third-biggest travel agent in the country, based on 2021 volumes, according to industry publication Travel Weekly. The plan has risks. Travel-rewards giveaways have proved expensive for JPMorgan and other banks, and they haven’t always led to the lasting relationships the banks hoped for. JPMorgan also has important corporate partnerships with airlines and hotels that expect the bank to send customers their way. Some of those partners have already complained about the success of Sapphire taking away customers from their cards. The bank is already seeing early signs of that luxury demand. The average price Chase customers are paying for hotels is more than double the industry average, the bank said.”

From legroom to airfare: How JetBlue’s takeover of Spirit could change air travel. If you don’t know how expensive it is to travel domestically in the US, take a trip to Europe and try to fly within the continent. I was really shocked the first time I booked a domestic flight here. I am still shocked sometimes nowadays. There is competition between major airlines, but prices are still high because there is no regulatory pressure on a handful of airlines that fly customers. I don’t know if this merger will help anything. Having another major may drive air fares down. But it could as well join the fun and charge a lot.

US, Japan reaching for a 2-nm chip breakthrough. The race to secure semiconductor supply for the future amidst the political threat from China is more intense than ever. I don’t think China, regardless of whether Xi will be in charge, will give up Taiwan, home to TSMC. It’s not only because TSMC is THE fab of the most advanced chips in the world, but it’s also because China believes Taiwan belongs to them and has no rights to independence. Any nation’s leader will not fulfill their duty if they don’t think about hedging this risk. US and Japan are doing the right thing here. Better late than never.

Ad tracking rules could become much stricter in Europe; Apple’s ATT vindicated. Companies that rely on ads dollars should really pay attention. “This is the single, most important, unambiguous interpretation of GDPR so far. It backs up the approach of Apple.

($) Netflix Is Scrambling to Learn the Ad Business It Long Disdained. “One of Netflix’s goals was to secure a big “minimum guarantee”—a promise that it would get a large influx of ad revenue to limit its financial risk, say people familiar with the discussions. Netflix also hunted for a senior leader with advertising expertise, mindful that it knew little about the business of selling ads. The company approached at least two top Comcast executives for a senior role while the partnership negotiations were continuing with their employer, angering the top brass at the cable giant, some of the people said. Mr. Hastings has set lofty financial ambitions for the ad business. He and other company executives have told investors and ad industry executives privately in recent months that Netflix will eventually be able to charge advertisers about $80 for every 1,000 views of an ad by helping them target specific audience segments, people familiar with the discussions said. That would put Netflix among the most expensive destinations for ads, alongside top NFL television programming. Creating an advertising-supported tier isn’t the only about-face the company is making in its quest to revive growth. After years of treating password-sharing by customers as a marginal problem—Mr. Hastings said in 2016 he loved the practice—Netflix plans to begin charging households a sharing fee sometime in 2023.

Chip Makers Have a Message for Car Makers: Your Turn to Pay. The ever-growing demand for chips turns the negotiation tables around. Chip manufacturers now command more bargaining power than they ever have. Car producers have no choice but either put up or shut up. As every car company is now racing to bring electric vehicles and trucks to the market, they won’t shut up.

Other stuff I find interesting

Some wonderful photos of my country taken by an award-winning photographer

US regulators will certify first small nuclear reactor design. I understand that there are concerns over safety and nuclear waste, but nuclear is perhaps the best tool at our disposal to generate clean energy at scale to accommodate the ever increasing demand. I wonder how and/or if this step would help increase the use of nuclear power

Who Is Collecting Data from Your Car? An eye-opening read on the vehicle data world

Tails, You Win. Now that I think about it. Love is just pure dumb luck. The person that you fall in love with happen to love you back. If you manage to fall in love and spend the rest of your life with the same person, creating happy moments and sharing wonderful children and grandchildren, that’s as taily as tails get.

Biden wants an industrial renaissance. He can’t do it without immigration reform. As an immigrant myself, I can tell you that if I had known what I do now, I would not have come to the US. The immigration process here is very talent-unfriendly. The country pours billions of investments into technology, yet the immigration system is antiquated and undoes all the good that such investments bring. To secure the future of the US, the government needs to massively and quickly reform its immigration

Hidden menace: Massive methane leaks speed up climate change. It’s horrifying to learn that we are pumping an incredible amount of this polluter into the air while knowing that it can speed up climate change significantly.

The U.S. made a breakthrough battery discovery — then gave the technology to China. I could hardly believe what I read. A promising battery technology took a dozen US scientists, 6 years and millions of taxpayers’ money to be developed. Then, the Department of Energy transferred the technology to a company based in China where it is currently further developed and produced

Stats

HALF of the nation’s clean power is generated by nuclear energy

Gen Z has led all generations in terms of 30-59 day credit card delinquency this year, according to Vantage Score

OnlyFans has 200 million registered users

Globally, only 9% of plastic waste is recycled while 22% is mismanaged

Weekly readings – 10th October 2020

What I wrote

Please vote!

Ableist culture

Business

Apparently, Airlines’ loyalty programs are highly coveted and valued

How Singapore’s Sea is surfing Southeast Asia’s digital wave

Insider story on Mackenzie Scott, an author and a reclusive $60-billion woman

A deeper look inside the airline industry. It’s true that this is an extremely tough industry to be in with high capital intensiveness. But looking at it from another angle, can we afford not flying any more? If you open a local restaurant, you may have a new competitor the day after. The chance of such a phenomenon happening in the airline industry is slim to none. There are always two sides of a coin.

Venmo announced its first credit card. The concept of tailoring the highest cash back rate to the highest spending category is pretty interesting

Goldman Sachs and Moody forecast that a Biden administration would be better for the economy and the Americans

A great interview with Daniel Elk on leadership, management and decision-making process

Technology

Additional steps that Twitter is taking ahead of the election

What I found interesting

A very damning account of how this country failed a lot of people. You can’t deny that the US has a problem when it has a man worth $200 billion while there are a lot of men like the guy in this article

A sad story on how the eviction system fails citizens in DC

A study on the brand intimacy of the top brands in the US. Amazon, Disney and Apple lead the way

Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that our limited progress in fighting the COVID-19 virus has at least partially caused our continuing high unemployment rate. Had we been as successful in each measure as the other OECD countries, nearly nine million more Americans would be employed and over 100,000 would still be alive.

Source: Brookings Institution

A study on Gen Z

Source: Zebra

Weekly readings 18th May 2019

How does WeWork make money? A good write-up on WeWork and its business model.

Saying goodbye to Microsoft. A personal account of the author’s time at Microsoft. Sometimes, the grass on the other side isn’t as green as we thought it was

The professor who beat roulette. A very nice piece on a relatively less known subject and historical figure.

Many Hospitals Charge Double or Even Triple What Medicare Would Pay. Read it and let it sink in. The insane healthcare system here never ceases to amaze me

The Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902 Did Not Go as Planned. A case of incentives leading to unwanted outcomes.

There is more CO2 in the atmosphere today than any point since the evolution of humans.

How Uber Makes — And Loses — Money. Hats off to CBInsights. They delivered a really good piece on Uber.

Dark theme. A cool post on how to design a dark mode nicely

Introducing Translatotron: An End-to-End Speech-to-Speech Translation Model. This is one of the things I like most about Google. Hope the service will be widely available soon.

Editorial: Why Apple created Apple TV+ rather than buying Netflix. I can see the merits of the “Apple should by Netflix” argument, yet I agree with the blog post.

The State of Gen Z. A nice profiling of Generation Z. The part on their slangs is pretty interesting.