Weekly readings 18th May 2019

How does WeWork make money? A good write-up on WeWork and its business model.

Saying goodbye to Microsoft. A personal account of the author’s time at Microsoft. Sometimes, the grass on the other side isn’t as green as we thought it was

The professor who beat roulette. A very nice piece on a relatively less known subject and historical figure.

Many Hospitals Charge Double or Even Triple What Medicare Would Pay. Read it and let it sink in. The insane healthcare system here never ceases to amaze me

The Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902 Did Not Go as Planned. A case of incentives leading to unwanted outcomes.

There is more CO2 in the atmosphere today than any point since the evolution of humans.

How Uber Makes — And Loses — Money. Hats off to CBInsights. They delivered a really good piece on Uber.

Dark theme. A cool post on how to design a dark mode nicely

Introducing Translatotron: An End-to-End Speech-to-Speech Translation Model. This is one of the things I like most about Google. Hope the service will be widely available soon.

Editorial: Why Apple created Apple TV+ rather than buying Netflix. I can see the merits of the “Apple should by Netflix” argument, yet I agree with the blog post.

The State of Gen Z. A nice profiling of Generation Z. The part on their slangs is pretty interesting.

Weekly readings – 11th May 2019

Charlie Munger, Unplugged. I try to read as much as possible about Charlie Munger. This is a great interview with him. The part I like most about the interview is when Charlie talked about how he read till he slept.

In News Industry, a Stark Divide Between Haves and Have-Nots. An insightful and fascinating piece on the struggle of newspapers as a whole to generate digital revenue to offset the loss in ads dollars. Only a few exceptions and the Big Three (WSJ, The Times and The Post) seem to have managed reasonably well.

Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit? The “we are going to be the Amazon of transportation” narrative will be used a lot ahead of Uber’s IPO. I can see some value in that, but frankly, I don’t believe that is the case at the moment. The level of competition that Amazon had to face back in the day and Uber has to face now is likely different. I doubt Amazon faced a lot of legal challenges as Uber has had up to now. Plus, the economics of the two companies aren’t the same. Look at the chart below and see if there is any similarity between the two

Eating breakfast is not a good weight loss strategy, scientists confirm.

Can Bird build a better scooter before it runs out of cash? A revealing piece on the scooter business.

Ilargi: Renewables Are Dead. I find renewables polarizing as a subject. There are fans on each side of the argument. No matter what, I guess if we hadn’t tried, we wouldn’t have known what we know now.

New Data: The Airbnb Advantage. According to AirBnb, New York, London and Paris make up less than 3% of its total listings and no city makes up more than 1% of the listings.

Ethiopia’s garment workers make clothes for Gap, H&M and Levi’s but are the world’s lowest paid. Workers in sweat shops in Ethiopia got paid $26/month. The same figure in Vietnam is $180/month.

India’s water crisis is already here. Climate change will compound it.

Uber, Lyft Driver Strike & The Role of Regulators

Yesterday, there were reports on the upcoming strike by Uber and Lyft drivers ahead of the former’s IPO in order to demand minimum or at least higher wages for drivers. Despite claiming that drivers are an indispensable part of their business and having programs such as Lyft Direct or Lyft Driver Centers to support drivers, the ride-sharing companies employ the ones behind the wheels on a contractor basis, not a permanent basis. Hence, drivers are less protected by the laws regarding their benefits.

The thing is that these strikes, in my opinion, are unlikely to change the status quo. First of all, Lyft and Uber lose millions of dollars every quarter. Even if they wanted to help out drivers, I don’t think they would prioritize it over keeping the expenses down. Secondly, I don’t think they want to. Lyft and Juno sued NYC to block the minimum wage bill. Though they may argue the bill will tip the advantage towards a larger business such as Uber, it is clear that they care more about their survival than the drivers, as most of us would if we ran a business like that.

It brings me to the role of regulators. NYC successfully enforced the minimum wage bill. The likes of Uber, Lyft or Juno have no choice but to comply if they want to continue to operate in the Big Apple. It is something that other cities can emulate. Pass an official bill to raise the minimum wage. I don’t think these share-riding companies can afford to exit markets in America, especially bigger and more expensive ones like LA, SF or NYC. If driver minimum wages are raised, it will likely be more expensive for riders. Nonetheless, there will be opportunity for other businesses to come in and offer more affordable transportation alternatives.

While the strikes will bring more publicity and exposure to the issue, I don’t think it can be solved without the lawmakers.