Today I learned – Japanese earthquake resistant architecture

Earthquake is a part of life in Japan. To adapt the inevitable presence of earthquakes, the Japanese have come up with ingenious, intelligent and skillful ways to make buildings and architecture as earthquake-resistant as possible. It’s amazing that they could build wooden structures hundreds of years ago and they are still standing strong today, despite countless shakings over time. The idea is itself remarkably admirable, but the craftsmanship that goes into building constructions is truly outstanding. Smaller models took years to be built. Wooden pieces were crafted by hands so that they could slot into one another without nails. Concrete is checked and poured carefully to have the perfect spread. I was overwhelmed with admiration for the Japanese folks while watching the genius at work. Highly recommend this eye-opening clip

Today I learned – 29th March 2020 – How vaccines are made

This short video clip offers a great deal of information on how our body fights intrusion and harmful pathogen. The pace and the narrative are a little fast, but the infographics definitely aids audience’s understanding

It’s pretty interesting to learn that vaccines are created out of chicken eggs, the method responsible for 90% of our current vaccines

According to this representative from Sanofi, it takes, on average, 6 months to create a successful vaccine, starting from the time an egg enters a lab to the time a vaccine delivered to a customer

This clip details steps taken by scientists to grow viruses in an egg

Today I learned – 11th March 2020

Thanks to the good folks on Twitter, I came across an excellent analysis on Coronavirus. A huge thanks to Tomas Pueyo for the time and effort. It must have taken a great deal of preparation and writing to get this done.

You should have a read here.

WHO already officially called the Coronavirus a pandemic. Two days ago, the US had around 700 cases. Yesterday, the count went past the 1,000 mark, and it is just the count of confirmed cases. The capacity to conduct tests nationwide is nowhere near to the necessary level. So, it’s unknown how many cases there truly are.

Some companies have asked employees to start working from home and limit physical meetings. I truly believe it’s time to take this very very seriously and exercise precaution such as social distancing, hygiene practices or some doomsday stocking.

It makes sense to take everything you read online with a grain of salt, including the words that you are reading right now and especially when it is confusing time like now. But I would say that when countries shut down their entire border, including developed ones such as Italy, Denmark and real lives have been lost, it’s better careful than sorry.

Today I learned – 16th February 2020

There are a few things I learned after this informative clip by Al Jazeera Youtube channel

  • There is a conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia regarding the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam
  • Nile is the only major river in the world that flows from South to North
  • A snapshot history regarding the rights to the water provided by the Nile
  • “Start Here” offers amazing video clips on complicated issues around the world, especially in the Arabic countries

I will continue to read more about the Grand Renaissance Dam conflict. If you haven’t heard about it before, this clip is a pretty good start

Today I learned – 30th Jan 2020

Rise of contactless payment reported by Visa and Mastercard

It is so much faster and easier to just tap your card or phone on a reader than to use the chip or swipe. The frictionlessness of this payment method has clearly wowed users enough that it is on a rise, especially in the US.

In the card-present environment, we continue to see meaningful momentum in tap to pay, what we consider to be the most friction-free way to pay in person. We have reached a point where 1 in every 3 card-present transactions that runs over our network is [tax] versus 1 in 4 a year ago this quarter. This past year, we’ve doubled the number of countries whose face-to-face transactions are at least 2/3 contactless.

Transit continues to be a key user case and an important way to habituate tapping behavior. In New York City, on the NPA, Visa crossed 2 million taps in November from the beginning of the pilot and 3 million in January. The FDA recently announced the tap-to-pay expansion to their entire system by the end of 2020, and we are currently pacing a 350,000 Visa taps a week on the MTA and nearly 1 in every 10 transactions in the New York Metro area is a tap-to-pay on a Visa card.

Source: Visa in its Q1 2020 Earnings Call Transcript, provided by Atom Finance

Echoing the sentiment was Mastercard in its Q4 2019 Earnings Call

..On to contactless, where as I said, we’re making real progress. This quarter, contactless made up over 30% of global card-present purchased (inaudible). Contactless provides a frictionless and fast payment experience, which is opening new categories of spend, including displacing cash on small-ticket purchases. The U.S. point for growth on this front and the New York City MTA is a good example of the potential for rapid adoption by consumers. In fact, they surpassed 5 million taps since the launch in May. And the MTA has planned to roll out contactless acceptance system-wide by the end of 2020.

I’m pretty certain that U.S. contactless will keep growing throughout 2020 quite attractively. Because if you look at the numbers of the number of bank partners that have committed to issue contactless cards for a [minute], let’s even forget Apple Pay and Samsung Pay that enable every card through their archive to be used. If you just look at the number of cards, we are talking about 70% of our total cards in the U.S. market will be reissued over this 12-month to 14-month period. My own personal cards are already contactless from Citi.

On the acceptance side, kind of all new terminals going on are embedded with contactless. So (inaudible) large retailers Target and 7-Eleven and CVS have announced that they will accept contactless payments. And in fact, over half of U.S. card-present transactions are now happening at contactless-enabled merchant locations. And when the MT rolls in on system-wide in New York City, and there are other transit systems beginning to do the same in their cities, I think you will get the impetus.

Source: Atom Finance

Vietnam as an important emerging market for Apple

My country was mentioned repeatedly in the latest earnings call of Apple. In a positive light that makes me think that we are going to be, if we are not already, an important emerging market for the Cupertino-based company

Geographically, we established all-time revenue records in many major developed and emerging markets including, among others, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Source: Seeking Alpha

For iPad, we saw growth in key emerging markets like Mexico, India, Turkey, Poland, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam

Source: Seeking Alpha

Phone revenue of $56 billion grew 8% year-over-year, as we saw a great customer response to the launch of our newest iPhones. We set all-time revenue records in several countries, including the U.S. Mexico, the UK, France, Spain, Poland, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Source: Seeking Alpha

Productivity and Business Processes keeps leading the margin game for Microsoft

Microsoft has three main business lines:

  • Productivity & Business Processes that includes Office 365 Commercial and Consumer, LinkedIn and Dynamics
  • Intelligent Cloud that includes server products and cloud services led by Azure, and Enterprise service
  • More Personal Computing that includes Gaming, Search, Windows and Surface

Azure likely receives the most attention, yet it is Productivity & Business Processes (PBP) that consistently took the crown in the margin game at Microsoft. In the latest earnings report, Microsoft reported almost 44% margin for PBP

Source: Microsoft
Source: Microsoft

Even though there have been only 2 quarters so far in 2020, the segment has generated more revenue and operating income than the full year 2019

Source: Microsoft

Today I learned – 24th January 2020

Thanks to this presentation by a16z, I learned that Meituan is responsible for 50% hotel night bookings in China while CTrip plummets to around 20%. I also learned about a startup called Knowable that offers professional courses via audio.

Though the presenter made great points and gave excellent examples of Chinese companies that I know nothing about, I have a couple of disagreements with the material. First, to back up her first big trend that superapps are trending, she used the following slide

The issue I have with the use of the slide is that it’s unclear what activities an average person spends on the phone. Is the rise of usage due to streaming? Video games? Activities that have less to do with superapp wannabes?

Second, letting advertisers have access to user data is a slippery road in the West. It’s acceptable in China, but users are much more conscious of their privacy in the West. Apple tries hard to highlight its privacy-first position to users as much as possible. Facebook and Google repeatedly run into privacy-related trouble with users and lawmakers. I have no idea what the future holds, but at this moment, I have reservation over Western companies repeating the success of Chinese superapps.

It will be interesting to see at what point an app is called a superapp. It’s common to take advantage of a low-margin service segment that brings a lot of traffic in order to offer a higher margin service. Amazon did that. Their e-commerce leads to fulfillment. Along the way, they came up with Prime, AWS and advertising, services that offer a much higher margin than E-commerce. Facebook lets us use their platform for free and then turns around to sell ads at a ridiculous margin.

I do think that the battle for users’ attention and time will eventually lead apps to build more functions and offer more services. I; however, doubt that every app will be a superapp, the same way that those Chinese apps are.

Nonetheless, pops to Connie and a16z for an interesting presentation.