Weekly reading – 9th July 2022

Business

Payments “Revolution” — Visa drives a surge in digital transactions. A great interview with the CFO of Visa. In this episode, Vasant talked about how Visa makes money in general and the company’s position with regard to the supposed threats such as Open Banking, Buy Now Pay Later or Cryptocurrencies.

($) TikTok Turns On the Money Machine. “ByteDance’s hit video app is on track to triple revenue this year to $12 billion, threatening Facebook’s hold on social media. TikTok has an edge against Meta that Apple Inc. helped solidify. Last year, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company updated its iPhone operating system so that users have to opt in to let apps like Facebook track their activities as they used other software on their phones. Most users decided not to let Meta track them, a change Zuckerberg has blamed for financial troubles like those in February. TikTok, it turns out, isn’t relying so much on that kind of tracking data. Its artificial intelligence discerns a user’s likes or dislikes largely from activities on the platform, picking up on how long you watch, say, a cat video, a skateboarding clip or lip-synced dancing. TikTok’s algorithms can then match up users with not just content, but advertising too.”

($) Americans Have Had It With Inflation. Consumers are showing signs that spending is not as strong as some companies make it out to be. With damaging inflation showing no signs of abating, persistent supply chain issues and vulnerable consumer spending, the future looks bleak

($) The Secret Sauce That’s Made Slutty Vegan a $100 Million Chain. A fascinating story about a business founded by a fascinating 34-year-old woman.

How the man behind the Apple Store presided over a Spac catastrophe. Ron Johnson is richer and more famous than most of us, but one thing that we haven’t done is to lose millions of dollars in a business catastrophe in a short time. Past credentials are useful as signals, but they don’t guarantee the same success in the future. Just because someone is rich and famous doesn’t also mean that they have the right opinions or can do everything.

Online grocery shoppers spend more but less loyal. “The vast majority of the 45% of consumers who shop for groceries online are omnichannel shoppers. While their monthly average grocery spend is $594 compared with $388 for in-store-only shoppers, online shoppers spend their dollars across a greater number of retailers monthly, between 3.9 to 6.6 stores per month compared with 3.2 for in-store only, the customer data science firm said.”

($) Intel Bets 17 Billion Euros on a Tech Revival in Eastern German. Intel has made a lot of headlines lately with their planned investments. The key here is that everything is just a plan and full of promises. Nothing has actually come to fruition yet. Intel fell far behind their competitors in terms of technology. In the world of semiconductor, it’s very challenging to make up ground. And I wonder how Intel will pull that off while fulfilling their promises to build plants in Europe and Ohio. Or is that the case of, and I quote somebody in the article, “promises are cheap”?

Other stuff I find interesting

How football shirts chart the rise and fall of tech giants. Football is THE global sport. It’s no surprise to see companies craving for eyeballs spend millions of dollars to appear on teams’ shirts.

Layover or nonstop? UCLA Health research says unique pattern of connectivity lets highly creative people’s brains take road less traveled to their destination. About 15 years ago, somebody said something that stuck with me till this day: it’s all a big giant jigsaw. The more pieces you gather, the more likely you can complete the jigsaw. You just need to find the pieces, whether it’s through experience or reading. It really motivates me to read and improve myself constantly. When I read the article, it reminded of that lesson. In this case, highly creative people have the “pieces” required to take the less traveled path. Somehow, their upbringing, their personality and life experience give them the pieces they need to be who they are and think the way they do.

The local news crisis is deepening America’s divides. You can’t make great decisions without being informed. I don’t think national news outlets have the resources to cover everything in every local community. As more regional news outlets shut down, citizens don’t have enough information on their communities; which affect their votes and decisions. And if there is one thing everybody should know about politics in America in the last 10-15 years, it’s that voting matters at every level.

Japan’s shochu capital becomes new hot spot for whisky. “Traditionally known for its shochu, a clear liquor made from grains, potatoes, sugar cane and more, Japan’s southwestern region of Kyushu has become home to a budding whisky industry as craft distillers chase a larger, more global audience. Surrounded by vegetable fields and rice paddies, Shindo Distillery began producing whisky in the Fukuoka Prefecture city of Asakura in summer 2021. The facility belongs to Shinozaki, a storied barley shochu maker founded in 1922. Shinozaki is branching out “because demand for Japanese whisky is skyrocketing,” said Michiaki Shinozaki, who is part of the eighth generation of the founding family.”

Tips for Productivity, Thinking, and Doing. I wholeheartedly agree with this post, especially on the morning routine, the value of writing and the benefits of getting the most important thing done early.

What Is the Pesco Mediterranean Diet? I am actually following the Pesco Mediterranean Diet right now. It’s more about my love for sea food than trying to meet the daily protein intake. It also makes the transition to a plant-focused diet such as Mediterranean Diet easier. If you are looking for a diet that is great for your health, look this up.

Stats

India consumed 6 million tons of meat in 2020

40% of Google users use IPv6

In Zambia, only 10% of the adult population uses a debit card.

FedEx estimates savings of $400 million annually from retiring mainframes

Amazon Prime reportedly had 172 million members in the US as of June 2022

Weekly reading – 29th January 2022

What I wrote last week

Book review: A shot to save the world

Microsoft through charts

Business

MPC Letter Highlights Amazon Action on Visa Credit Cards in UK. The market power of Visa is evidenced by a number of big name retailers unable to ditch them completely. In the U.S, you can use Visa at Costco stores, but you can’t Mastercard. “Walmart, for example, announced in 2016 that it would no longer accept Visa credit cards at its stores in Canada, but began taking them again seven months later. In 2018, Kroger stopped accepting Visa credit cards at about 20 of its Food Co. locations in California and later expanded the ban to 142 supermarkets and 108 gas stations in its Smith’s Good and Drug Store chain across seven states but resumed accepting the cards the following year.”

How France’s Largest Semiconductor Company Got Stolen in Plain Sight. A great example of a power grab from a Board against its own CEO.

Casualties of Your Own Success. “The second is size is associated with success, success is associated with hubris, and hubris is the beginning of the end of success. Some of the most enduring animals aren’t apex predators, but they’re very good at evasion, camouflage, and armor. They’re paranoid. I always come back to the time Charlie Rose asked Michael Moritz how Sequoia Capital has thrived for three decades, and he said, “We’ve always been afraid of going out of business.” Paranoia in the face of success is extremely hard but in hindsight it’s the closest thing to a secret weapon that exists.

Amazon’s Banned China Sellers Turn to Walmart’s Marketplace. Adding merchants is cool, but Walmart should be very careful about losing customer trust because of goods or services of questionable quality.

Battery Swapping for EVs Is Big in China. Here’s How It Works. I do think that battery swapping can have the potential to take EVs to another level, but there are some key questions that need answering. The high cost to build swapping stations, how many batteries should be at a station, how many stations, how we can make sure that drivers can only retrieve fully charged batteries…

Utah’s ‘Steve Jobs of the Skies’ is ready to do it again. An inspiring story of a legend in the airline industry

Interchange is going toward 0.. So what? A thought-provoking post by Tom on the prospect that interchange fees will drop significantly in the US and the risks that issuers have to face. I don’t know when the interchange fees will drop in the US, to be honest. If we had just Democrats in Congress, it would happen in the next 4-5 years. But because we have GOP lawmakers who are easily persuaded by lobbyists, I can’t imagine the change would happen soon. Issuers love the card business because it’s profitable. Users only use credit cards because of the rewards and what pays for those rewards? Part of it is interchange. Nonetheless, Tom’s blog post is very interesting.

Stuff I found interesting

US unveils changes to attract foreign science, tech students. The Biden administration and its successors would be wise to continue this talent-friendly policy and take it further. The competitiveness of a country is forever based on the human capital that it has and is even more so today. Immigrants like to come to the US, but for the past few years, opted for other countries because of the anti-immigrant rhetoric from Trump. Now, it’s Biden’s responsibility to clean up the image and make America the destination for talented immigrants again.

A Journey Along Afghanistan’s Main Highway Leads Through a Country in Transition. I had mixed feelings reading this piece. First of all, I was reminded how lucky I was to live a normal and healthy life in America. Folks in some areas of the world like Afghanistan live in fear and poverty. The image of a mother holding two children and being scared of losing her three-year-old daughter is haunting. Second, it’s tragic how a group of people want to impose their extreme view of a religion on others and inflict immeasurable pain in the process. Third, what did the last 20 years and billions of dollars gain the U.S and the people of Afghanistan? While they may be suppressed under Taliban, some are relieved that the war is temporarily over. That says a lot about what the US and its allies did. Lastly, are the continued sanctions in the best interest of the Afghan people? Yes, the Taliban needs coercing to a negotiation table, but what about hurting the innocent people as collateral damage?

The Nanotechnology Revolution Is Here—We Just Haven’t Noticed Yet. “For decades, computer scientists and physicists speculated that, any minute now, nanotechnology was going to completely reshape our lives, unleashing a wave of humanity-saving inventions. Things haven’t unfolded as they predicted but, quietly, the nanotech revolution is under way. Among the routine items that have benefited from nanotechnology: air bags, cellphones, radar, inkjet printers, home projectors, and 5G and other fast wireless technology. Just around the bend, nanotechnology could enable ultra-tiny cameras, as well as a dizzying array of other kinds of sensors, able to detect everything from air pollution and black ice to hacking attempts and skin cancer. Unlocking your phone with your face is just the beginning, says Metalenz CEO Robert Devlin. Metalenses also have abilities that can be difficult to reproduce with conventional lenses. For example, because they facilitate the detection of polarized light, they can “see” things conventional lenses can’t. That could include detecting levels of light pollution, allowing the cameras on automobile safety and self-driving systems to detect black ice, and giving our phone cameras the ability to detect skin cancer.

Here’s how Ohio won a bid by Intel to build the world’s largest chip factory. I am intrigued to see how this long-term plan will fare in the next few years. From the US perspective, it is important to have a domestic fab that can rival TSMC. Whether Intel can make it work as it is so far behind the Taiwanese firm is another matter. But like they always say, you miss all the shots you don’t take. At least Intel is taking its shot here.

Google Topics API – The new Privacy Sandbox proposal from Google. At first glance, it looks like an improvement over FLoC to me, but we’ll see how the technology really works in real life and what the feedback from the community will be.

Don’t shine the turd. “If something is shit, don’t hide it. Because eventually, I’ll smell it.” It’s actually truly great advice.

Stats

YouTube Shorts has 5 trillion all-time views. That’s 5 trillion and it’s not a typo

Online channels only made up 10% of U.S grocery sales in 2021. Among all stats related to digital grocery, this seems right to me the most

45 million Americans used BNPL in 2021

Source: Bloomberg

Weekly reading – 30th October 2021

What I wrote last week

My own thoughts and commentary from several companies on App Tracking Transparency

Good reads on business

Intel slipped—and its future now depends on making everyone else’s chips. If the future of Intel depends on making chips for everybody else, then it’s a bleak future. They fall so far behind others, especially TSMC, in this game.

L1 Capital International Fund Q3 Shareholder Letter. It discusses Texas Instruments. So if you are looking for a new idea for your portfolio, it may be an interesting read

Buy Now, Pay Later & Payment Ramifications. If you are looking for a primer on BNPL, this one should do. Follow the author too for payments and fintech content

China is pushing to develop its own chips — but the country can’t do without foreign tech. One thing that I have learned so far is: never underestimate the Chinese. They may be behind in chip design and production, but they have every intention of integrating Taiwan, the hometown of TSMC, into the mainland and they have the will and resources to catch up and surpass the Western world

Mastercard Partners With Bakkt to Bring Cryptocurrency Payments to the Masses. This will definitely increase the usability of Bitcoin in ordinary circumstances. The problem, I think, is who will convince the masses that it’s ok to pay in Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency’s price has gone up by $20,000 in the last 30 days. This fluctuation makes me wonder why I should pay with something that can be 50% more valuable in 30 days.

Image
Source: Simon Moores

Stuff I find interesting

The Unlikely Outsiders Who Won the Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine. The two companies that helped the world get out of the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic were close to financial ruins. Just think about that for a second. On a side note, while I appreciate the dedication of BionTech’s founder, I wouldn’t want to be as extreme as he is.

Lewis Hamilton’s Plan to Revolutionize Formula 1. “The final report, published in July, confirmed what Hamilton had felt in his bones: Less than 1 percent of people working in Formula 1 are Black. The reasons, laid out across 184 pages, ranged from teams’ hiring practices (which tap the same universities year after year) to major fault lines within British education, as Black students are funneled into the lowest-achieving tracks and expelled at much higher rates. That began to change inside his own garage. Mercedes committed to making sure that 25 percent of new hires come from underrepresented backgrounds. The team, which has raced cars under the nickname Silver Arrows since the 1930s, also made a radical statement in paint. For the first time in its F1 history, the team changed its livery from silver to black last summer. The cars haven’t returned to the old colors. Not only did Hamilton’s latest contract, signed during the 2021 season, include stipulations for increasing diversity within the team—Hamilton also spoke directly with the team’s sponsors asking them to do the same. “Where are you guys at?” he remembers asking the CEO of the Monster energy drink company, which has backed him since 2013. “How are you guys holding yourself accountable? How can we work together?”

Female African Elephants Are Evolving Without Tusks Due to Ivory Poaching. The thing about this trophy hunting that bugs me a lot is that it’s not critical to our survival. We just do it for fun, for ego and because we can. These elephants do us no harm. They just mind their own business and we are the thugs that come in, hurt and kill them for what doesn’t belong to us. Some people say that outrage for trophy hunting is hypocritical because we kill chickens and fish and other animals too. Well, there is a big distinction here. We and our societies have evolved in a way that we look to these animals for protein and survival. I mean we could have been eating grass for dinner too if our ancestors had done it millions of years ago. But here we are through no fault of our own. Why do we commit more sins for absolutely no necessary reasons?

The $3.50 go-anywhere ticket to fight climate change. I am no expert, but I really believe that the U.S has to significantly upgrade its public transportation infrastructure to catch up with other countries and contribute to the climate change fight.

Stats

There were more than 500,000 U.S sellers on Amazon between 1st September 2020 and 31 August 2021. Almost 4,000 sellers surpassed $1 million in sales for the first time

There were 203.7 billion cigarettes sold in the U.S in 2020. A mind-blowing figure

Source: Fox