Weekly reading – 11th December 2021

Good reads on Business

What the Tech? The Apple Watch’s Straps Are More Than Just a Finishing Touch. “For us, the band is not at all about technology — each band expresses our love for materials, craft, and the process of making.” When we look at the Apple Watch, we may wonder how obvious the band looks. But I believe that a lot of research and technology went into bringing the band and Watch together into beings. We are used to having the tail of the band stick out on normal watches. On the other hand, the Apple Watch tucks the tail under the band itself. Even that little detail is worth commanding.

A couple of good posts on Visa here and here. If you aren’t familiar with what the company whose logo is on your debit or credit card does, have a read.

Web3 is Bullshit. The article is as provocative as the headline. I do; however, agree with some of the points the author made, regarding cryptocurrencies.

Ride-Hailing: Is It Sustainable? A good essay arguing that ride-hailing is a sustainable business and the likes of Uber and Lyft have untapped pricing power. I wrote quite a couple of pieces on Uber, you can check out here: Uber acquired Drizly and Postmates, Uber Q3 FY2021 earnings

Amazon is making its own containers and bypassing supply chain chaos with chartered ships and long-haul planes. “Who else would think of putting something going into an obscure port in Washington, and then trucking it down to L.A.? Most people are thinking, well, just bring the ship into L.A. But then you’re experiencing those two-week and three-weeks delay. So Amazon’s really taken advantage of some of the niche strategies I believe that the market needs to employ”

Kohl’s Urged to Consider Sale by Activist Investor. Engine Capital estimated that Kohl’s eCommerce business can be worth around $13 billion. My question concerns whether that estimate factors in the value of the physical stores. Walmart, Target and Best Buy know the importance of using stores to enhance customer experience and fulfill online orders. If Engine Capital or other activist investors want to separate the online business from physical stores, how do they think the online business alone would fare against the likes of Amazon?

Scaling to $100 Million. ARR and Margin. ARR and Margin.

Stuff that I found interesting

Flutter allows developers to build apps for mobile, web and desktop from a single code base

Climate change: Is ‘blue hydrogen’ Japan’s answer to coal? Any disaster that costs lives is tragic, but I can’t help thinking that the switch back from nuclear to coal is massively disappointing

Grapefruit Is One of the Weirdest Fruits on the Planet. An interesting article on grapefruit. “Because those base fruits are all native to Asia, the vast majority of hybrid citrus fruits are also from Asia. Grapefruit, however, is not. In fact, the grapefruit was first found a world away, in Barbados, probably in the mid-1600s. In 1664, a Dutch physician named Wouter Schouden visited Barbados and described the citrus he sampled there as “tasting like unripe grapes.” In 1814, John Lunan, a British plantation and slave owner from Jamaica, reported that this fruit was named “on account of its resemblance in flavour to the grape. A Frenchman named Odet Philippe is generally credited with bringing the grapefruit to the American mainland, in the 1820s. He was the first permanent European settler in Pinellas County, Florida, where modern-day St. Petersburg* lies.”

The Many Worlds of Enough. “Ambition is largely driven by self-actualization, or the desire to become a more capable person. And when this happens, it’s only natural that good outcomes arise. You’ll witness bumps in your reputation, be offered higher salaries, and so on. But these things happen as a byproduct of your ambition, and not because these outcomes were your primary desires. Greed, however, is when those outcomes become your primary desires. When prestige, praise, and power are the reasons why you are ambitious, that’s no longer driven by self-actualization. That’s when you lust for everything that is external to you. It’s rather difficult to know where this point is, as the boundary between ambition and greed can be blurry. But for the most part, you’ve entered the domain of greed when you no longer pursue an endeavor because you’re curious about it. It’s when the coldness of utility replaces the warmth of curiosity.”

The $11-billion Webb telescope aims to probe the early Universe. If everything goes as planned, the Webb telescope will be 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth. 1.5 MILLION kilometers. Science and technology are just amazing.

Why U.S. Infrastructure Costs So Much. “Mile for mile, studies show the U.S. spends more than all but five other countries in the world on public transit, and more on roads than any other country that discloses spending data. In 2013, Portland’s 7-mile Milwaukie light rail extension cost more than $200 million per mile, as much as a full subway system would cost in many European cities. The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan, the most expensive subway project in the world, cost $2.5 billion per mile, nearly five times the cost of a similar extension in Paris. Spending swelled across three problem areas: over-design, inefficient project management and misaligned politics”

Stats

Global Logistics and Supply Chain is a $11 trillion market

Lieferando has…99% of Germany’s food delivery market

YouTube removed 2.2 million videos that violated copyrights between January and June 2021

Consumers are expected to spend $133 billion on apps in 2021. The App Store continues to dominate Google Play

Remittances to Vietnam in 2021 are projected to hit $18.1 billion

Weekly reading – 23rd October 2021

What I wrote last week

PayPal in talks to buy Pinterest

Book review: Richer, Wiser Happier: How The World’s Greatest Investors Win In Markets & Life

Good reads on Business

Jokr and Personalized Instant Commerce. The article lays out useful data and information on Instant Commerce, especially Jokr. However, I am still a bit unsure about the unit economics of these delivery services. Last-mile delivery is hard and expensive, especially at scale. The consumer stickiness is naturally low and requires constant incentives to nurture. Competitors are everywhere. Plus, the good-old brick-and-mortar alternatives generally offer sufficient value and people, like myself, like to go out once in a while for some fresh air.

Netflix Loses Its Glow as Critics Target Chappelle Special. Netflix has started to encounter what the likes of Facebook and Twitter have for years: content moderation. The company can’t please everyone; so in this case, it’s natural that one or two stakeholders are disappointed with the Dave Chappelle show. The management team believes that the show brings net benefits to Netflix and acted accordingly. Agree with them or not, you should see where they are coming from. On the other hand, some employees reserve their right to disagree with that decision and be disappointed. That happens to even within families, let alone strangers that merely work at the same place. What remains to be seen to me are 1/ how would this affect staff turnover and talent management at Netflix; 2/ how would Netflix users think about the show?

Inside TSMC, the Taiwanese chipmaking giant that’s building a new plant in Phoenix. “TSMC makes key components for everything from cellphones to F-35 fighter jets to NASA’s Perseverance Rover mission to Mars. Earlier this month, it announced plans for a new factory in Japan, where it will produce chips with older technologies, for things like household devices and certain car components. TSMC is also Apple’s exclusive provider of the most advanced chips inside every iPhone currently on the market and most Mac computers. TSMC alone was responsible for 24% of the world’s semiconductor output in 2020, up from 21% in 2019, according to the company. When it comes to the most advanced chips used in the latest iPhones, supercomputers and automotive AI, TSMC is responsible for 92% of production while Samsung is responsible for the other 8%, according to research group Capital Economics. ”

How YouTube Makes Sure Its Hitmakers Don’t Stumble. YouTube spends tens of thousands of dollars on the top YouTubers to grow their content and ecosystem. Their in-house digital agency also offers guidance and consulting services to these personalities so that they can sustain attractive videos and high viewership. This kind of support, along with YouTube or its parent company’s resources, makes it difficult for other competitors to match.

Squid Game’ success shines a light on how cheap it is to make TV shows outside the U.S. “The total cost of making “Squid Game” was just $21.4 million. Episodes of Disney+’s Marvel shows, such as “WandaVision” or “The Falcon,” cost Disney $25 million per episode — more than all nine episodes of “Squid Game”“. I’d also prefer local characters being played by true locals to by Americans.

Is Best Buy undermining its storybook turnaround? I don’t think it’s a good idea to mess with a formula that works. Especially, that formula is around customer services and satisfaction. If I were a Best Buy shareholder, I’d send the CEO and the Management Team this article with a lot of questions.

Business Breakdown episode on Uber. If you are interested in gig economy and especially Uber as a business, have a listen. Whether you are a bull or a bear, I think it’ll be worth your time

How Many Users Does Facebook Have? The Company Struggles to Figure It Out. “A separate memo from May said that the number of U.S. Facebook users who are in their 20s and active at least once a month often exceeds the total population of Americans their age. “This brings out an elephant in the room: SUMA,” the memo’s author wrote, using an internal abbreviation for “Single User Multiple Accounts.” The author added that the issue could render Facebook’s ratio of users active each day “less trustable. Facebook said in its most recent quarterly securities filings that it estimates 11% of its monthly active users world-wide—which totaled 2.9 billion for its flagship platform in the second quarter—are duplicate accounts, with developing markets accounting for a higher proportion of them than developed ones.”

Other interesting stuff

Your Guide to the Third-Party Cookie. A very useful primer on the key factor in the digital advertising world. I have been on both sides of this issue. As a marketer, I can see why companies want to get as much data as possible to hone their targeting and make the best use of their ads dollars. On the other hand, as a consumer, I absolutely hate the feeling that somebody follows me everywhere across the Web. Privacy has been on the rise and will continue to be. iOS users now have a choice to voice their opinion on the matter with ATT. I don’t know how this all will shake out, but I would think that marketers would do well if they pivoted from 3rd party tracking.

Belgium’s shift from nuclear under fire as gas price surge strains Europe. It is baffling to me that countries are moving away from nuclear energy for gas-based power.

The Greek region too remote for maps

New Viking artifacts may mean that Christopher Columbus might not be the first one to discover the America continent. I guess it’s time to keep the holiday yet change the freaking name

Stats

Gas bills this winter can be at least 30% higher than last year

Weekly reading – 30th January 2021

What I wrote last week

What I like about Apple Fitness+

Business

An excellent write-up on the state of news outlets or local journalism in America. It’s astounding that half of the local news outlets are now owned by private equity, hedge funds or other investment firms

SoftBank’s plan to sell Arm to NVIDIA is hitting antitrust wall around the world

Brexit has major implications. Whether the net benefits are positive or not remains to be seen, but this new development doesn’t seem to benefit consumers: Mastercard is hiking fees

AirBnb conducted a new survey that said: One in five want their destination to be within driving distance of home. Not a very good sign for airlines

N26 got 7 million customers

Apple published a document that outlines its imminent privacy policies

Some notable data from a letter from YouTube CEO

Over the last three years, we’ve paid more than $30 billion to creators, artists, and media companies.

YouTube Gaming had 100 billion hours of content in 2020

Our Music and Premium Subscriptions have been growing quickly, reaching more than 30 million paid Members in the third quarter of last year.

Source: YouTube

Technology

A glimpse into JPMorgan Chase’s $12 billion annual tech budget. There are quite some interesting features that the interviewee shared

CB Insights has a write-up on 40 companies that are working on autonomous vehicles

A long but great list of big ideas from ARK

What I found interesting

How homogeneous is Japan

What does the night sky look like on Mars?

A French-Vietnamese woman is fighting for justice for victims of war crimes. It’s crazy that US and Korean veterans received compensations from chemical companies because their products which were used in the Vietnam War had life-altering effects. Yet, Vietnamese victims have not received any.

What I find is that it is often these kinds of multiple small mispriced insights that overtime compound to form a business which is very defensible and very difficult to replicate. The discovery of those multiple small insights really requires a bottom-up organic idiosyncratic investment process.

Source: Interview with Mark Walker from Tollymore Investment Partners

Weekly readings – 7th August 2020

What I wrote last week

Uber’s latest quarter

Apple’s acquisition of this promising fintech startup from Canada

Business

Inside Netflix’s Quest to Become a Global TV Giant

US citizens increasingly moved to Canada through its Express Entry program

Content creators on YouTube that no longer rely on advertising dollars on the platform grew 40% between Jan and May 2020

Why Microsoft wants Tiktok

A sensible piece on Amazon, its private label and the antitrust issue that it has to deal with

Eugene Wei’s latest essay is on TikTok and it’s good

ARK’s latest white paper on SaaS

How Tim Cook has molded Apple into his own version, not Steve Jobs’

Technology

Apple secured a new patent that could equip Apple Watch with odor sensor technology

What’s the Big Deal About Revit? Understanding the Role of Autodesk Revit in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction

Other stuff that I think is interesting

Inside look at CloudKitchens

Bill Gates’ conversation on Covid-19

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