21 August 2022
Welcome back to the Week That Was series highlighting things from the interwebs which are interesting, noteworthy and/or probably worth your time.
Articles📝, Tweet(s)📱, Videos🎥, Charts 📈 all fair game with or without attendant commentary.
where the light leads, u/outrunyouth, digital art, 2022
🧠 Better Decisions
Can you get better at decision-making with practice? Many founders, investors, and builders must make many critical decisions, big and small, every day, and improving the quality of your decision-making process can become a big competitive advantage.
In this a16z podcast episode, expert decision strategist, author and professional poker player, Annie Duke, joins a16z managing partner Jeff Jordan, to discuss some of the frameworks, strategies, and tactics for better decision-making by both individuals and organizations that she outlines in her second book, How to Decide. This was Annie’s second appearance on the podcast – she first joined a16z co-founder Marc Andreessen and host Sonal Chalksee to discuss her first book, Thinking in Bets, where they went deep into how to frame taking risks and placing bets, especially in the context of innovation.
Monzo (Mkt Cap $4.5 billion) neobank co-founder Tom Blomfield posted a writeup on the early years of how they got to their first 1 million customers. The timeline (📝the full blog post is worth reading if this is your type of thing - or you work in product/entrepreneurship).
I’ve been asked a few times recently how we got customers to sign up to Monzo in the early years and I haven’t been able to give a satisfactory answer in a sufficiently short space of time. I thought I’d write out my thoughts in a longer piece so I can feel less bad about giving an incomplete answer - anyone who wants to know the details can read this instead. Let’s start with a rough timeline, which I’ll then flesh out below.
- Started the company in February 2015.
- We had a big, ambitious goal - to start a bank - and worked hard to get press coverage before publicly launching.
- Ended the year with 3k “Alpha” cardholders and a waitlist of 20k.
- We launched an early prototype and continuously improved it.
- Scarcity (waitlist) seemed to drive more signups - there was a standard “invite a friends and we’ll bump you up the queue” mechanic.
- A lot *of hustle and hard work (100+ in-person events).
- Community + Mission + Transparency - lots of blogging and social media. Crowdfunding.*
- Ended the year with about 70k “Beta” cardholders.
- Genuinely great product.
- Market-leading customer service.
- Hot coral card!
- We consciously worked on viral product features & referral mechanics for the first time.
- Ended the year with about 600k “Beta” customers.
- Full banking licence.
- Hit 1m customers in September!
More here … 📝Monzo growth
With energy prices spiking earlier in 2022, energy firm profits experienced a commensurate boom.
To put those Saudi Aramco profits into perspective, they recorded the single largest profit of a listed company EVER in the last reporting period - netting more than Tesla, Meta, Apple and Microsoft combined.
Contrast this with the pretty incredible quaterly loss announced by Masayoshi Son’s Softbank. The Vision Funds in particular, gave up essentially all of their previous eye-popping gains during this downturn and rerating of tech and growth.
$23 Billion(!!!) lost in the quarter 👀
Per The Browser:
Discursive essay about Chinese views of America, arguing that reformist China was infatuated for decades by a utopian vision of America as a benevolent superpower, but that, as China has begun to approach American levels of power and prosperity, so China’s respect for America has collapsed. “They cannot believe that a society can keep rolling along as chaotically as America seems to do
💬🌏 Communication Context
Top 10 economies according to Erin Meyer’s “The Culture Map”. “The Culture Map” looks at how people communicate, make decisions, lead, and approach time. “The Culture Map” does not look at religion, political system, or world view aspects of countries. 2022 data
Per Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of cockpit culture from the book Outliers, a commentor on this thread invoked this story about South Korean aircraft accidents - which alludes to the culture map.
IIRC there was a spate of commercial plane crashes in Korea that ended up being the result of lack of clear communication between the pilot/copilot/tower. Copilots especially had a problem of communicating a critical problem to the pilot with an emphasis on politeness and not wanting to offend their superior. I think they ended up getting a load of training from American companies on how to communicate more directly without worrying about social hierarchy.
If there were only 10 people on earth, this is how wealth would be distributed.
Pretty extraordinary concentration and at this point (per Picketty) not showing signs of abating any time soon.
On the subject of wealth though, to quote Buffet:
“Time is your friend, impulse is your enemy. Take advantage of compound interest and don’t be captivated by the siren song of the market.”
Dear everyone younger than 30: do the math. Make the miracle of compounding work in your favor. pic.twitter.com/ODVn7Bd3C1— Jameson Lopp (@lopp) August 15, 2022
📺🖥️ TV Eats Software
Per Ben Evans:
Disney reported a total of 221.1m paying direct-to-consumer subscriptions, equalling Netflix’s total of 220.7m.
This is not a clean number: it’s actually 152m Disney+ subs, 23m ESPN+ subs and 46m Hulu subs, so there will be a lot of overlapping subscriptions within that in the USA - also, 58m of those 152m Disney+ subs are in India and paying an average $1.2 a month each (versus the rest of Disney+ playing $6.30).
However, the detail matters less than the symbolism - there was a time when Silicon Valley people laughed at the idea media companies could ever do streaming (Googlers called Hulu ‘Clownco’ before it launched), but the tech is a commodity (a commodity that’s hard, and that you have to get right, but still a commodity) and the questions that matter are all media industry questions
The lawsuit over the publishing industry’s latest merger is colored by mega-agents, monopsony, and mystifying math…
Adam Tooze and his producer Cameron discuss the overall state of the publishing industry and how digitisation has impacted the business model for major publishing houses as well as their relationship with libraries here.
🌐🕵️ CIA v Chilean Internet
Mashable published a fascinating three-part series of videos which suggest that while America was creating the network which would become the internet we know today, programmers in Chile were building a vision of their own - in a fascinatingly titled project:
…a startlingly advanced computer network developed in Salvador Allende’s Chile of the 1970s. Called Project Cybersyn, the network was a centerpiece of Allende’s effort to modernize the Chilean economy. It was developed in parallel with the American networks that would become the internet, at a moment in time in which President Nixon was trying to undermine the Chilean economy and overthrow Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist leader in Latin America.
Cybersyn, designed by a farthinking British theorist named Stafford Beer and run by a cadre of young revolutionary programmers, was an astonishing success. Using little more than old telephone wires and mothballed pre-war machinery, the Chilean program managed to build out a real-time data stream very much like the social media newsfeed of today, watching and monitoring the country’s industry from a retro-futuristic control room in the capital.
For two years, the programmers used Cybersyn to battle strikes and attempted coups until finally, in September of 1973, Allende was overthrown by a military junta led by Augusto Pinochet. The dream of a stable, modernized Chile died with Allende, and so did the potential for a second internet, built in parallel and evolved under a totally different system of information sharing.
And on the subject of the CIA, ex-spy Andrew Bustamante made an appearance on Lex Fridman’s pod - and it made for a fascinating, albeit lengthy (4hr) discussion. They talk about all manner of topic: his recruitment, undercover disguises, UFOs, Ukraine, Snowden, other intelligence agencies and more.
🏪🌐🎙️ Everything Store
The lads behind the Acquired pod are back with yet another extraordinarily informative deepdive - this time, leaning heavily on Brad Stone’s book “The Everything Store” to finally unpack the Amazon story.
As they say
Amazon. No company has impacted the internet — and all of modern life — more than this one. We’ve waited seven years to do this episode, and are so, so excited to finally dive into every nook and cranny of this legendary company. And of course because we’re Acquired and this is Amazon, we couldn’t contain it all to just one episode… even a 4+ hour one! So today we focus on Amazon.com the retail business, and we’ll have another full episode on AWS coming soon. And because all great series are trilogies, to fully understand Amazon we highly recommend starting first with our previous episode on Walmart, which truly is the giant’s shoulder that Jeff Bezos stood upon
They call out an old very prescient interview early on in the pod which I thought I’d include here.
Use Spotify? This tool will use bots to automate your music discovery for you.
How it works: The tool simply shows your top 50 artists on Spotify over short, medium and long term, and checks those artists for new music. If you select a playlist, every artist involved in the tracks will be checked for new music, after which new releases are shown sorted by most recent release date.
🎨 Tik Tok
Tik Torture, u/musketon, digital, 2022
Pew Research Centre 📚recently published a 2022 study on Teens, Social Media and Technology which has some pretty clear conclusions, one being:
TikTok has established itself as one of the top online platforms for U.S. teens, while the share of teens who use Facebook has fallen sharply
Here are a few interesting (and stark if you’re FB, or great if you’re Youtube brass) results of the survey of US teens.
Lastly, on the subject of TikTok - if you’re a user, this is a PSA. If you use the in-app browser for whatever reason just know there is code injected which allows the application to monitor everything you’re doing - including your keystrokes (which of course means any passwords you’re punching in etc). So… beware ⚠️.
Robert Cottrell notes:
Physicists struggling to arrive at a unified theory of everything are bumping up against “a growing multitude of types of nothing”. It is not the things which cause the conceptual problems, so much as the spaces between the things. The Universe is mostly made up of vacuums. “The key to understanding the Universe may be a careful accounting of these proliferating varieties of absence
This tangentially touches on a notion looked at in the Real Life Mag on the structure of atoms as well:
Our ideas of the atom still default to the stylised model proposed a century ago by Ernest Rutherford. Electrons follow planetary orbits around a central nucleus, making each atom a solar system in miniature. We now know that atoms are not really like that at all, but the model is too good to give up. It is charmingly retro, familiar, even reassuring. It gives us an illusion of understanding
📹📄 Metric Paper
CGP Grey is an American-Irish educational YouTuber, podcaster, and live streamer who creates short explanatory videos on subjects including politics, geography, economics, sociology, history, and culture.
This short video begins with a look at the utility of standard metric paper sizing and ends up being quite an existential take on much larger meditations.
💬 Deep Cuts
“The flesh surrenders itself. Eternity takes back its own. Our bodies stirred these waters briefly, danced with a certain intoxication before the love of life and self, dealt with a few strange ideas, then submitted to the instruments of Time. What can we say of this? I occurred. I am not…yet, I occurred.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah
🎨 One More Thing
Infinite art 2.0
Infinite dream (part 1) pic.twitter.com/9KgUZMlKgk— Vaskange (@Vaskange) August 15, 2022
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