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

Absolute personal freedom – the power that must be exercised responsibly

Over the recent weeks, there have been disturbing reports on the protests across the country against stay-at-home order. In some cases, the terrifying scenes of a group of protesters carrying guns to local governments’ buildings or signs that stand for the worst of human hatred as below.

Those that are involved in the protests argue that the government has no business in restricting their personal freedom to go out and work. The underlying premise of the protests is that individuals have absolute freedom to do whatever they are pleased to. Extreme and absolute personal freedom is in the fabric of American life. It’s not that citizens in other countries don’t have freedom, yet here in America, it’s something that is almost sacred, non-negotiable and in some cases, regardless of what is the cost. I don’t dispute the merit of individual freedom. Coming from a country like Vietnam, I value a lot the ability to say and do things in America that wouldn’t be possible in my own hometown. Individual freedom is a great power given to us. However, like Spiderman’s Uncle Ben says, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Is this great power being exercised responsibly? I really don’t think that is the case.

I don’t believe that any politician wants to extend a lockdown more than he or she has to. After all, if you listen to every politician, they all want to sell you on “jobs, jobs, good paying jobs”. As a result, an existing or extended lockdown is put in place because they fear that an early reopen of the economy could bring the virus back into play and force us all to go back to square one. Singapore had been very confident in their ability to handle the pandemic. Fast forward to several weeks later, they now have the most confirmed cases in the area. Germany recently allowed football clubs to go back to training. Shortly after, Koln, a German club, reported three new cases. It’s entirely possible that scenario could happen to any US state. In fact, we have a case study. Several citizens in Wisconsin got infected after they went to vote in person because the Supreme Court kinda forced them to. If reopen isn’t managed carefully, we may go back to where we were at the end of March again. And that would prolong our march towards the normal life and economy as we knew several months ago.

The protesters have the right to voice their opinion. But instead of a peaceful civilized protest, they carry around guns and signs of hatred messages. Don’t we have the right to feel safe in community? As somebody who has never touched a gun before, I’d feel terrified by someone carrying guns around on the streets. I mean, if they use guns on a hunting ground legally, by all means. I am not bothered by that and I don’t honestly see anything wrong. But living in a community, why would some’s right to feel safe be inferior to others’ right to carry out guns needlessly just to make their point? Don’t some who lost family to Nazi in WWII have the right not to feel the pain from those messages? If protesters get infected by the virus by participating in these protests, would it be responsible to do so, come home and spread it among their family members and community? What do you think about the photo below? (Source: Twitter. I forgot to save the source link)

Admittedly, it’s hard to completely fault somebody for putting food on the table for their family. There have been 30 million unemployment insurance claims in the country and the figure isn’t likely going to stop there. Folks want to work and make ends meet. Even then, it’s our responsibility to consider what consequences our actions may lead to and whom those actions would affect. I’d argue that instead of what they are doing, protesters can feel free to sign online petitions. Call and write civilly to lawmakers to make their point. If a physical protest is necessary, Israel offers a valuable example

Source: the Daily Beast

Several polls showed that the majority of Americans wanted to continue social distancing and not rush back to work. Hence, I am not sure an extreme irresponsible protest would change the minds of politicians whose interest is in listening to the majority of voters. Instead of disturbing and putting others in danger in the process, protesters may consider exercising their great power a little bit more responsibly.