Weekly reading – 4th February 2023

What I wrote last week

Banks plan to compete with Apple Pay & PayPal

X1+, a credit card for when things go wrong on travel

Business

Understanding Tesla’s operating leverage. A good post on how Tesla managed to increase its operating margin while vehicles prices dropped

($) Americans Are Gobbling Up Takeout Food. Restaurants Bet That Won’t Change. Quite an interesting trend in the restaurant industry. I have no idea how it will go because my personal experience is conflicted. My wife and I are often marveled at the long line in front of every Chick-fil-A store that we pass by. On the other hand, I saw fast food stores with no line, no car in the parking slot and very few diners. Takeout may increase sales for restaurants, as long as they survive

Aldi, H-E-B among growth leaders in 2022: Report. “Small-format stores are cheaper to build and require less land or space to buy or lease. This allows access to more markets than a larger-format store would. Furthermore, as retailers continue to invest heavily in e-commerce, these smaller stores can act as fulfillment centers for online orders.

($) Bed Bath & Beyond Used to Be Great. These Two Are Why. Bed Bath & Beyond’s founders serve as an example of honesty, authenticity, frugality and customer orientation. They are not afraid to admit their own mistake, including not realizing the potential of the Internet. At first, when the company’s budget was tiny, the two men used cardboard boxes as trash bins and still make sure both sides of scrap paper are used. I also found it awesome that they finally learned to let go of their creation after being pushed out.

TikTok is driving an offline lift in sales for some brands. Very helpful and interesting examples of how TikTok is helping brands drive sales.

Other stuff I found interesting

First use of Apple Emergency SOS in B.C. may have saved two lives. Apple’s innovation is increasingly proven valuable in real-life crises. Even one of these cases is even worth working on

($) Japan, Netherlands Agree to Limit Exports of Chip-Making Equipment to China. A great triumph for the Biden administration in hampering China’s ambition in this critical area. Without the most advanced materials and technologies from ASML, Nikon and other important manufacturers, China won’t be able to scale their semiconductor operations and bridge the gap to the US

($) The U.S. Consumer Is Starting to Freak Out. Signs of the troubling times to come are here

The highest rail route in northern Europe. “Connecting Norway’s stylish capital with its most picturesque city, the 496km, 39-station Oslo-Bergen railway is one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys.”

The Antidote to Envy. Understanding yourself is the best way to avoid envy

Package Deal: In 1915, Coca-Cola had many imitators. Then it designed a patented bottle nobody could copy. The origin story of the iconic Coca Cola bottle is a fascinating one.

Stats

Mount Olympus on Mars is the tallest mountain in the Solar System, three times as tall as Mount Everest

Customers loaded $3.3 billion onto Starbucks gift cards during the quarter ending December 31, 2022

Mount Washington in New Hampshire experienced wind chill at -108 Fahrenheit degrees or -78 Celsius degrees. Lowest ever recorded in the US

Source: JLL Research
Source: 9to5Mac

Weekly reading – 14th January 2023

What I wrote last week

Nike & Netflix partner

Business

The British are coming: Fleet Street’s ‘digital landgrab’ on US news sector. A fascinating piece on UK news outlets finding opportunity in the US. It’s all about finding more eyeballs and the huge ads market that the US has to offer. According to the article, UK newspapers either choose to be tabloidy or position themselves as a place where readers can get news neutrally. It’ll be interesting to watch the competition between the likes of TMZ and the tabloids from the UK pan out. In terms of being neutral news outlets, I have serious doubts over how one can stay neutral for a long time. Then, what’s the differentiation? What can British newspapers have to compete with the American incumbents?

The rise and fall of 15-minute delivery startups, an oral history. These 15-minute delivery startups never had a chance to succeed in my opinion. The unit economics is unfeasible. The cost of completing last-mile delivery is always high. So is the cost of subsidizing user activities or delivery drivers in the beginning. Throw competition, an unfavorable environment and low level of stickiness in the mix and you have a perfect recipe for a business that is destined to fail.

David Zaslav’s Rocky Ride as Hollywood’s Newest Czar. As CEO of a media giant like Warner Bros Discovery, David Zaslav is always going to get negative pieces like this one. And let’s face it: he may very well fail to overcome the current challenges. Investors put a premium on profitability AND growth. One is no longer enough. But to achieve both requires a lot of time, investments and execution; a luxury that the CEO doesn’t have because of the mountain of debt on the books. The combined entity is so big and complex that even to get two different organizations and cultures to gel is a monumental task. The changes that Zaslav made may not come to fruition, but being decisive is probably the only way any executive can succeed in this case.

OK, 2022 was a disaster for Tesla. What next?Now, some of you may have views about the sustainability of Tesla’s regulatory export credits, the value of their energy business, the prospects for an insurance business, the likelihood of reaching Level 4 or even Level 5 autonomous driving technology (and before anyone else does), or even the Teslabot. Some of these may be worth something, or all of them may be worth nothing. This certainly adds a wild card to the valuation of Tesla. But the main driver will probably remain the automotive business.”

How much Netflix can the world absorb? A long profile on Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s Global Head of Television. I wonder if this piece is supposed to support the executive in a time when the “be everything at everywhere” strategy at Netflix seems to run into trouble.

Other stuff I find interesting

Robberies at bank branches and ATMs in Denmark in 2022 dropped to zero due to the move to a cashless society.

India is learning to love electric vehicles — but they’re not cars. A quick look at EV vehicles in India. Similar to the US, India needs to overhaul the infrastructure, subsidizes EV purchases and needs to find a way to lower the manufacturing costs. The difference between the two countries? US favors electric cards while India is all about electric two-wheelers

Here’s how many EV chargers the US has – and how many it needs. The US currently has about 163,000 charging ports. To meet the demand of EV vehicles expected to be on the road by 2030, there must be A LOT more charging ports installed across the country.

Stats

Cash made up 59% of POS transactions and 42% of POS volume in EU in 2022

New York City welcomed more than 56 million visitors in 2022

The number of Mastodon active users dropped to 1.8 million in early January 2023, down from 2.5 million in early December 2022

Black founders raised just 1% of all VC funds in 2022

Dutch people are the most physically active in the world. They spend on average almost 13 hours a week exercising

Consumers spent $167 billion on mobile apps in 2022

Developers earned $60 billion from the App Store in 2022. Apple Fitness+ now has more than 3,500 workout and meditation sessions

Weekly readings – 4th July 2020

What I wrote

I wrote a bit how relying on one metric, such as revenue, can be very misleading

A feature that I wish were available in iBooks

A very excellent and inspiring speech of Steve Jobs

I reviewed this book on Essentialism and this book on Personal Finance

An excellent conversation between Patrick O’Shaughnessy and Brad Gerstner

Business

New Competition Poses Limited Risk to Tesla’s US Marketshare

More than two-thirds of McDonald’s business is earned through its drive-thru operations. And internal figures suggest that nearly ten percent of many franchisee’s 2018 sales were attributed to third-party deliveries from: Uber, Amazon, Delivery Hero, Zomato, Postmates, Deliveroo, Swiggy, DoorDash, and Grubhub.

Source: 2pm

Apple’s Relentless Strategy, Execution, and Point of View

The house servant who pioneered the franchising business model

Average Target store generated $300 in revenue per square foot. The top 25% stores averaged $430 per square foot

Google revealed that news publishers kept 95% of ads revenue when using Google Ads Manager

The fall of Quibi: how did a starry $1.75bn Netflix rival crash so fast?

The real cost of Amazon

Harvard Business Review on rewards

In order for a rewards program to be a profit center instead of a cost center, the payout must be inextricably linked to desired behaviors

Investing in the unknown and the unknowable

Technology

After iOS 14, there’s almost no reason to buy an Android phone anymore

The Fasinatng… Fascinating History of Autocorrect

A cool tool to work with numbers, build models and share them more easily

What I think is interesting

The Consultant: Why did a palm oil conglomerate pay $22m to an unnamed ‘expert’ in Papua?

The value of downtime and enoughness

The true cost of dollar stores

An unprecedented investigative report by Reuters on the misconduct of judges and how the system is unfairly lenient on those judges. Have a read and see if you are not enraged by what is currently going on

How the Chinese government allegedly hacked the then leader in wireless technology from Canada and led to the demise of that company.

A good piece on how money flowing to the local police is invested. Police serve and protect the people, but they are equipped with gears and tools for wars. Who are they going to wars against internally????

“A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom” by Charlie Munger

Weekly readings – 23rd May 2020

The ingredients of a long life. Drinking coffee/tea every day, eating in moderation are nurturing the spiritual life are common in areas where people tend to have a long life

How Facebook Could Use Giphy to Collect Your Data

How Etsy Became America’s Unlikeliest Breadbasket

Inside Trump’s coronavirus meltdown

Politico’s profile of Facebook’s new Head of Policy and Communications

How GrubHub ripped off restaurants even though customers intended not to use it

A Spectacularly Bad Washington Post Story on Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification Project

Doordash and Pizza Arbitrage

Why is New Zealand so progressive?

The hidden toll of lockdown on rainforests

Microsoft announced a new competitor to Airtable

Two monetary systems in Yemen

Source: Grab

DON’T CONSUME HYDROXYCHROLOQUINE! A new study published on the renowned The Lancet proved that the drug and some other similar had harmful effects on health

The healing power of proper breathing

The story of cheaper batteries, from smartphones to Teslas

‘How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?’. CDC and some states inflated the number of tests to drum up the testing abilities and make it impossible to know the exact infection rate.

Weekly readings – 18th Jan 2020

Japan’s Sacred Island

Can a color be trademarked?

Google’s questionable efforts in getting into healthcare

Tesla and Apple Valuation Questions

Unfortunate accidents caused by Amazon’s quest to conquer the last mile challenge

When talking about low unemployment rate, we should also talk about whether the jobs pay enough.

App tracking alert in iOS 13 has dramatically cut location data flow to ad industry

Do DoorDash workers make enough to make ends meet?

Weekly readings – 14th September 2019

Debunking the Silly “Passive is a Bubble” Myth

From mind control to murder? How a deadly fall revealed the CIA’s darkest secrets

40 Favorite Interview Questions from Some of the Sharpest Folks We Know. If you are preparing for an interview, these may actually help.

Tesla battery researcher unveils new cell that could last 1 million miles in ‘robot taxis’. Some interesting good news for Tesla bulls.

Why is movie theater popcorn so outrageously expensive?

Alibaba’s New Chairman Says He Has to Reinvent Retail Before Someone Else Does

Profile of Spotify’s Chief Content Officer – Dawn Ostroff

Apple Watch Series 5: The MacStories Overview

Confessions of an Islamic State fighter

Norway’s Bold Plan to Tackle Overtourism

Travel Is No Cure for the Mind

Weekly readings – 22nd June 2019

“Amazon’s Choice” Does Not Necessarily Mean A Product Is Good. Amazon’s Choice is a popular trigger to shoppers about a product’s quality and popularity. This piece sheds some light on the feature.

Algorithms Won’t Fix What’s Wrong With YouTube.

How a janitor at Frito-Lay invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. An amazing story about the VP of PepsiCo from a janitor to a C-Suite executive of a world class corporation. “I do have a Ph.D.,” he responded. “I’ve been poor, hungry and determined.”

This psychologist explains why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit

IAB Podcast Ad Revenue Study: An Analysis of the Largest Players in the Podcasting Industry

Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019. A very interesting study on consumption of digital news across countries

Tesla, Facing Setbacks and Skeptics, Tries to Get Back on Course. A nice overview of Tesla’s situation

Why Google’s Advertising Dominance Is Drawing Antitrust Scrutiny

The ambitious plan behind Facebook’s cryptocurrency, Libra. A quick overview of Libra, if you don’t have time to read the supporting documents released by Libra Org.

Scooter Breakdowns Weigh on Lime

Weekly readings 25th May 2019

Inside Google’s Civil War. An interesting story on the internal rift between employees and management over controversial projects.

What makes ramen noodles so special? As a fanatical fan of Japanese food, it’s a very interesting read on one of the more known Japanese dishes

Lower pay and higher costs: The downside of Lyft’s car rental program. The ugly truth about ride-sharing business.

Skift Analysis: Amazon’s Travel Strategy Comes Into Focus

Shark Tank deep dive: A data analysis of all 10 seasons. I am not a huge fan of the show, but it’s cool to look at it from the data perspective

Carmageddon Sinks Tesla’s Bonds. I have been pretty bearish on Tesla and this article doesn’t do much to change my opinion.

An incredible story about a woman who was brave and incredible enough to go out on her own terms

How Data (and Some Breathtaking Soccer) Brought Liverpool to the Cusp of Glory. A fascinating read on how Liverpool used data to enable performance on the pitch.

The Legal Argument That Could Destroy Uber. A really interesting read on what can be a serious legal threat to Uber.

Exceptionalism vs Humanity/Common Sense

America is perhaps the poster boy country for exceptionalism. After 2.5 years here, I have come to realization that exceptionalism is revered around here and by-product of the optimism and entrepreneurship that have become the hallmarks of the American dream. Unfortunately, exceptionalism is pursued and achieved in some cases at the expense of humanity/common sense.

Take the article on Elon Musk and Tesla today on Bloomberg as an example. The article revealed the length Elon and Tesla went to to ruin the life of a whistleblower. I highly recommend you to read the article. Below are the pieces that disturbed me:

The leaker, they determined, was one Martin Tripp, a slight man of 40 who’d spent his career in a series of low-level manufacturing jobs before finding his way to the assembly line at the Gigafactory. Tripp later claimed to be an idealist trying to get Tesla to tighten its operations; Musk saw him as a dangerous foe who engaged in “extensive and damaging sabotage,” as he wrote in a staff memo. He implied that Tripp had shared the data not only with the press but also with “unknown third parties.”

On June 20, the company sued Tripp for $167 million. Later that day, Tripp heard from the sheriff’s department in Storey County, Nev. Tesla’s security department had passed a tip to police. An anonymous caller had contacted the company to say Tripp was planning a mass shooting at the Gigafactory.


When the police confronted Tripp that evening, he was unarmed and in tears. He said he was terrified of Musk and suggested the billionaire might have called in the tip himself. A sheriff’s deputy attempted to cheer up Tripp and then called Tesla to tell the company that the threat, whoever had made it, was bogus. Tripp wasn’t dangerous.

Musk’s treatment of Tripp threatens to complicate this legal and regulatory mess. The security manager at the Gigafactory, an ex-military guy with a high-and-tight haircut named Sean Gouthro, has filed a whistleblower report with the SEC. Gouthro says Tesla’s security operation behaved unethically in its zeal to nail the leaker. Investigators, he claims, hacked into Tripp’s phone, had him followed, and misled police about the surveillance. Gouthro says that Tripp didn’t sabotage Tesla or hack anything and that Musk knew this and sought to damage his reputation by spreading misinformation.

The following day, news of the lawsuit hit the internet. Tripp Googled himself and saw a story titled, “Martin Tripp: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” which said he lived in a rental apartment in nearby Sparks, Nev. Panicked about who might come find him, he sent an email to Musk. “You have what’s coming to you for the lies you have told to the public and investors,” he wrote.

His former boss, of course, engaged him with gusto. “Threatening me only makes it worse for you,” Musk replied. Later, he wrote: “You should be ashamed of yourself for framing other people. You’re a horrible human being.”

“I NEVER ‘framed’ anyone else or even insinuated anyone else as being involved in my production of documents of your MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF WASTE, Safety concerns, lying to investors/the WORLD,” Tripp responded. “Putting cars on the road with safety issues is being a horrible human being!”

No one can question Elon’s greatness. I myself read a book on him and had a lot of respect for the guy, but what was described above was really difficult to read. No matter how great you are, that’s not how you should treat a person who has nowhere near the power or resources you have.

I read the Bad Blood book, which chronicled the scam of Theranos. It’s mind-blowing to read about how such a deceptive scheme transpired, how many people got hurt along the way as a select few individuals sought exceptionalism and how such individuals, like Musk, went out of the ways to ruin the lives of others who stood up to them.

There is also no lack of documented materials on how millions of dollars in savings vaporized through the Internet bubble and the 2008 economic crisis because exceptionalism was pursued in spite of common sense.

I am pretty sure I am and will be nobody in this world. But at the end of my days, I will still be proud of myself for not screwing anybody over to get what I want. To me, compassion, common sense and humanity matter more than exceptionalism.

Video: Tesla and the nature of disruption

I came across this very interesting conversation between Ben Evans and Steven Sinofsky on Tesla and disruption. When we say Tesla is disrupting, what exactly is it disrupting? Also, who is Tesla truly competing against? Between the electric part and autonomous part, which one is bigger? If you are interested in Tesla, have a listen.

a16z recently started to release their podcast episodes on YouTube, which I truly really appreciate. I learned a lot from them and it serves as an inspiration with regards to B2B marketing/content marketing.