Weekly reading 13th November 2021

What I wrote last week

PayPal’s Q3 FY2021 results

Good reads on Business

A very good Business Breakdown episode on MongoDB. Database can be very abstract and tricky to grab your head around. Hence. I appreciate folks taking the time to share knowledge and translate a tricky subject into laymen’s terms. Check it out!

2021 Retailer of the Year: Dollar General. “Food and consumables accounted for 77% of Dollar General’s annual sales last year of $33.7 billion. The expansion of cooler and freezer capacity at new and remodeled stores has for several years been described as the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based company’s most impactful merchandising initiative. Dollar General began selling fresh produce at select stores last year, expanded the program to 2,000 locations this year, and its current plan is to add produce in up to 10,000 stores.” The refusal to call itself a grocer, in my opinion, is spot on. The name of the store is Dollar General, not Dollar Grocery. To change it to grocery would be a mistake as consumers would wonder: what kind of grocery am I getting for $1? Plus, the brand is about getting daily items for at a low price (may not necessarily be cheaper than at Costco, if you talk about unit economics). Hence, it doesn’t make sense to limit themselves to just being a grocer.

Why charging phones is a complex business. An interview with Anker CEO. A really interesting one in my opinion. They plan to avoid going into the phone business and stick to what they do best: accessories. Smart. Strategic.

Experts From A World That No Longer Exists. “Expertise is great, but it has a bad side effect. It tends to create an inability to accept new ideas.”

Facebook launches Shops in Groups and Live Shopping for Creators. The investments and focus on eCommerce, in my opinion, are strategically helpful to Facebook. Its giant cash cow has always been advertising powered by surveillance tracking which falls out of favor of many stakeholders. Politicians, lawmakers, more privacy-conscious consumers, powerful companies like Apple. Facebook has literally millions of people and thousands of brands using its platforms every day. It’s in a prime spot to be an eCommerce powerhouse.

Meta CTO thinks bad metaverse moderation could pose an ‘existential threat’. Boz wasn’t wrong there. What is interesting is that Facebook’s biggest challenge right now, before metaverse, is….moderation. In spite of billions of dollars and an army of technology plus human beings, Facebook still can’t crack the moderation code at scale, without pissing off a whole lot of people. Moreover, because its cash cow is advertising, Facebook has an inherent incentive to encourage engagement, whether it’s toxic engagement or not. I am not saying that moderation is easy. It’s super difficult and, like Boz said, almost impossible. But if your existential threat is impossible to solve, then it should give investors some pause.

Debit cards are hidden financial infrastructure. If you are interested in the U.S financial system, subscribe to this newsletter. I think the write-ups are helpful.

Stuff I found interesting

Hundreds of Ancient Maya Sites Hidden Under Mexico Reveal a Mysterious Blueprint. “In a new study, an international team of researchers led by anthropologist Takeshi Inomata from the University of Arizona reports the identification of almost 500 ceremonial complexes tracing back not just to the Maya, but also to another Mesoamerican civilization who made their mark on the land even earlier, the Olmecs.”

Brazilian Farmers Who Protect the Amazon Rainforest Would Like to Be Paid. “Governments, corporations and business executives are calling for a world-wide market to trade carbon credits so Brazilian farmers like Mr. Weis can be paid to help protect forests on their lands rather than cut them down to make way for more crops and cattle. Existing regional markets for carbon credits, from Europe to California to South Korea, show that the interest—and capital—is there for a global market. The value of carbon markets in Europe and elsewhere grew 23% last year to $274 billion, according to data provider Refinitiv Holdings Ltd. In a global market, carbon credits generated anywhere would be easily tradable anywhere else, just as a security issued by a Brazilian company can be bought and sold on the Nasdaq. Landholding farmers, indigenous groups, state governments and environmentalists could all sell credits.”

Spiders are much smarter than you think. ““There is this general idea that probably spiders are too small, that you need some kind of a critical mass of brain tissue to be able to perform complex behaviors,” says arachnologist and evolutionary biologist Dimitar Dimitrov of the University Museum of Bergen in Norway. “But I think spiders are one case where this general idea is challenged. Some small things are actually capable of doing very complex stuff.””

The nation’s last uranium mill plans to import Estonia’s radioactive waste. The tribes that live close to the U.S’ last uranium mill protest unambiguously and loudly the mill’s owner’s plant o import radioactive waste from Estonia since the water that feeds the tribes is ALREADY contaminated enough. Yet it seems that their concerns fall on deaf ears.

Perfecting the New York Street. “An achievable, replicable plan for a city that’s embracing public space as never before.” Yes, please. Fewer cars, less space for parking and more space for pedestrians

Stats

Cloud Computing Spend is expected to reach $848bn in 2025, according to Battery Venture

Vietnam is forecast to have 53 million online consumers by the end of 2021. The country has a population of 96 million people

“65% of U.S. consumers say they watch free, ad-supported video services”

Weekly reading – 3rd July 2021

What I wrote last week

My thoughts on why investing is hard

Business

Credit Suisse 2021 Report on Payments, Processors & Fintech. This deck is long and has tons of information. You can get a lot of pointers out of it, but be aware that many slides have quite old data.

The economics of dollar stores. An excellent post by The Hustle on how dollar stores work. The most interesting things to me are 1/ unit prices on some items at these stores can be higher than those at bigger chains such as Target or Walmart. The absolute prices are lower, but they are also on a much smaller volume. 2/ These stores seem to be more concentrated in poorer neighborhoods. I read somewhere that richer customers don’t mind the stigma of buying stuff at dollar stores. I wonder if that’s still true and how much the trend is a boost to these stores’ business.

How a Beer Giant Manages Through Waves of Covid Around the World. A great story of how a global business uses data analytics to make decisions in the tumultuous pandemic. Even when the AB Inbev’s data team accurately predicted the second surge in India, it did get the previous predictions wrong. Nobody has a crystal ball to see the future. All we can do is to increase the odds with a wealth of data and machine computing.

Mac sales in India tripled after online Apple Store opened. One aspect of Apple’s business that I think should be discussed more is its retail stores and website. The report here credited the presence of Apple’s website for the significant increase in sales. I also learned from the article that to launch own-brand eCommerce sites in India, companies need to source locally 30% of their production. I guess there is a side benefit of expanding supply chain in India, apart from lowering the risk of over-reliance on China.

What does MongoDB do?

An interesting article on the next CEO of Amazon, Andy Sassy. The level of detail orientation described in the article is admirable. I love the concept of the Wheel of Death. People naturally tend to get complacent. Having them on their toes and preserving the unpredictability is a great way to ensure that they perform to the level required.

What I found interesting

Inside Wikipedia’s endless war over the coronavirus lab leak theory. Content moderation is super difficult at scale. Especially when you are widely considered to be neutral and often accurate. And during a global pandemic.

Equipping cargo ships with puffy sails could help Michelin improve a vessel’s fuel efficiency by 20%

The 5 coolest trends in urbanism … in Europe

Stats that may interest you

U.S online grocery sales hit $7 billion in May 2021, just a bit higher than the figure in March 2020, right before Covid

1/3 of U.S grocery sales comes from independent supermarkets

1 out of 3 men in the U.S reported to have fewer than 2 close friends, excluding relatives, according to a survey in May 2021

According to Bain, Covid increased the forecast online sales as % of all grocery sales in the US in 2025 from 8% to 13%

Average Prime Day order in 2021 was $47.14, down from $54.64 and $58.91 in 2020 and 2019 respectively

Amazon Pay Later hit 2 million sign-ups in India

97% of customer auto purchases in the U.S involves online research, but auto eCommerce only makes up 1%

Weekly readings – 4th September 2020

What I wrote

I detailed my thoughts on the common criticisms of the App Store

I found a new business content website called InPractise and it is great!

My thoughts on Walmart’s new membership program called Walmart Plus

Business

Analyzing the Bentley Systems IPO Prospectus

A breakdown on Palantir’s S-1

Vietnam recorded 30 million daily online transactions in April 2020

Apple looks to expand its advertising business. I am not sure I am a fan of this move.

CB Insights deep dive into Stripe

Source: Credit Suisse
Image
Source: 2020 Debit Issuer Report

Technology

A developer’s account of trying to set up App Clip for his app

MongoDB History

Inside Amazon’s New Fresh Grocery Banner

Stuff I found interesting

Larry Ellison, one of the world’s richest people, asks for a second chance at charity

The Hustle’s piece on designers who help restaurants improve sales through menus

Electric bike owners progressively use cars less, finds study

Social media preferences in Vietnam. Source: Decision Labs