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

Weekly readings – 7th November 2020

What I wrote

Some local propositions that voters approved. I personally support these proposals and think that many people will

Business

Learning from Quibi

32% of those who switched from Android to iOS did it because of Apple’s perceived security benefits to Android.

The rise of cloud in Europe – an excellent write-up by Bessemer Venture Partners

TikTok partners with Shopify whose sellers can now create TikTok content straight from their seller dashboard

Amazon’s exclusive store for luxurious brands – Luxury Stores

A profile of Discord, a communications application that looks a lot similar to Slack

Brave, a privacy-focused browser, reached 7 million Daily Active Users

Walmart+ vs Amazon Prime. As of right now, 17% of Americans subscribe to Walmart+ at least for free trials. The key, though, is how many Walmart can convert to loyal paid subscribers

Once examples of European startup scene, Monzo and Revolut have seen their valuation drop since the start of Covid

Jack Ma spectacularly tanked his company’s IPO

Technology

A brief history of PDF as the de facto file format for official documents

If you care about privacy, here is a list of alternatives to Google products

What I found interesting

The New Yorker’s profile of Signal founder

Have trees planted systematically or grow naturally?

Why do tunnels in America cost more than in other countries?

The time of crisis

In good times and when the sea is calm, everyone can sail the ship. Not everybody can when the sea is rough.

The last few weeks has been nothing, but extremely challenging. Uncertainty and fear take hold of our society. Stock markets suffer beating after beating, dragging along with it our 401k or saving with no signs of the plunge abating. Lives are disrupted or, worse, lost.

In times like this, we need leadership, starting with looking the truth in the face. Germany’s Chancellor honestly told everyone that 70% of the German population would be affected. Whether the citizens approve of the German’s government’s reaction to the crisis is another matter. Nonetheless, at least the head of the state didn’t lie or mislead its citizens. Another example is Dr Fauci. He admitted that the US’s healthcare setup was inadequate to handle the mass testing at the moment. That’s the honesty we need. No spinning. No lies. No misleading information. No claiming that we have nothing to worry about when the crisis is upon our door.

If you watched the series Chernobyl on HBO (if you haven’t, I highly recommend it since we are staying at home anyway), the nuclear disaster could have been prevented. However, lies and denial led to one of the worst catastrophes in humans’ history.

From the enterprise perspective, some CEOs and companies took little time in setting an example and helping out. Aaron Levie and Box are an example:

Or Zoom and its CEO:

Or from a Chinese that wants to help out fellow human-beings, despite the difference in nationalities

On the other hand, there are companies whose behavior in crises like this is highly questionable and deserves scrutiny. Take Whole Foods as an example:

On Wednesday, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey sent out an email to grocery store employees with a list of benefits and options for those who fall sick during the coronavirus pandemic. Among his six suggestions was an option for employees to “donate” their paid time off (PTO) to coworkers facing medical emergencies.

“Team Members who have a medical emergency or death in their immediate family can receive donated PTO hours,” Mackey wrote in an email reviewed by Motherboard, “not only from Team Members in their own location, but also from Team Members across the country.”

In that same email, Whole Foods also said that it will offer unlimited, unpaid time off during the month of March and two weeks of paid time off for workers who test positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus—a policy announced this week for all Amazon employees and contractors that has also been adopted by tech companies like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart.

Source: Vice

I believe that eventually we’ll come out of this and get back to where we were a few months ago. At the end of the day, this is not the first disaster humanity has faced in the last hundreds or thousands of years and we’re still here, more advanced than ever. The issue is whether we’ll be more prepared for the next disaster. Since 9/11, we haven’t had a similar incident like that, but we have had SARS, Ebola and Swine Flu and look how prepared we have been for Coronavirus.

This is a golden time for true leaders to show their worth as well as for us to know who are not.