This Week I Learned #17

“Go to bed smarter than when you woke up”
— Charlie Munger


  • Wealthy: In the world of venture money chasing unicorn companies there is a subset called 'zebras'. I found the article quite opinionated and inclusive of some biased views that are used to accentuate their point of view but the delivering message was worth reading. It's odd that people have to come up with another animal-based name for company groups. It's this incessant need by people to make a kind of social cult and following of their own. So far I've heard of elephants, whales, unicorns and now zebras. Zebras are practically any business inside the 30M - 300M market cap. It will include what the "tech" community has labeled "life-style" businesses. Putting aside how ridiculous it is to have the startup ecosystem be labeled as "technology" (FYI a car is a technology, your bathroom plumbing is technology, technology is a goddamn tool that enables) the zebra companies are practically denoting companies that focus on profitability, sustainable growth and providing value to elevate society. It seems ridiculous that an article about these companies must be written because that's what good wealth generating companies that Warren Buffet built his career off of does! We already have an entire world of value investors looking for companies like this and this article just shows how infantile this thought process is in the venture-stage of investing. Needless to say I am happy to see such an article written to bring upon this mindset shift but also shocked that this was not thought of as obvious.


  • Wise: It's a day to be inspired by Jeff Bezos: “We’re willing to plant seeds, let them grow—and we’re very stubborn. We say we’re stubborn on vision and flexible on details. In some cases, things are inevitable. The hard part is that you don’t know how long it might take, but you know it will happen if you’re patient enough.” The part that I bolded I think is key. I think Jeff put it so eloquently well. It's a concept I've wrestled to put into a well thought out statement but Jeff beat me to the punch. Knowing what you are willing to be flexible on and what is so crucial you have to be stubborn on is essential. 


  • Wise: A review of a top notch essay by Paul Graham on the Maker vs. Manager's schedule. By his definition I am on a Manager's schedule at the moment. I'm continuously looking for ways to integrate the two and that has been a journey of various experiments trying to create "space" in my life to have a dedicated chunk of time to induce "flow state". The trick also comes with me constantly meeting different people for coffee to either break into VC or to come on my podcast. Though the podcast itself is part of my "maker - creative art" so maybe that is the time that I'm setting aside to do that which I love doing. My morning routine is now very much a check list of key items I should focus on doing but I think this article has brought on a new perspective to lay on my morning routine. My morning routine has a number of algorithmic tasks like cold showers, morning cardio etc.. and heuristic tasks like writing 300 words, reading etc.. and I think I can make a maker's schedule inside the routine. So not having a time limit to how long it may take me to do my morning routine to give me freedom of duration so if I hit the zone in my writing I can continue moving on while the creativity juices are flowing or cut it short at 300 words to move onto other tasks.


  • Wealthy: People are reaching for yield. We are matched with what is the one of the longest bull markets in US history but the caveat is that the recovery's pace is much slower than in pasts so a correction to match excesses may not be in sight for the near future, a possible outcome. However, something to stay vigilant of is how investor sentiment evolves after year 10 since the great financial crisis. How is every investment manager who started their career in the last 10 years structuring (or not structuring) for risk. Tons of examples of outrageous deals being performed by buyout funds, financial sponsors and other providers of capital. Just continued examples of imprudence in the market with people taking the approach of "risk-tolerance" over "risk-aversion". My current mental model has human psychology being pessimistic (sometimes cynical) to human achievement and optimistic (sometimes euphoric overestimation) to their own correctness and accuracy in decision making. There is nothing like this memo to give me a great taste of facts to calm my own optimism and consider the risk. I agree with Marks that I continue to see debt, rather than equity valuation, being a major source for concern here.


  • Wise: Instagram's co-founders departed Facebook. A wonderful article depicting how that was inevitable because when Instagram sold to Facebook there was a key distinction. Instagram was a product, not a business. Facebook had bought a product and it's creation team. Hence, the founders of Instagram had never been CEOs in the purest form of what it means to be CEO. Instagram had no monetization, no business model to speak of, other than VC funding, at the time of acquisition by Facebook. It definitely was the result of great work by a product team to pivot from a location check-in product called Burbn to a product that would be used by 30MM people when the team only had 12 people. Instagram had not proven its ability to become a viable business in the early days and selling to Zuck further removed the founders from ever taking on the business model strategy of Instagram. Zuck made Facebook profitable within first 2 months of launch and he continued to operate Instagram with the CEO mindset of continuously integrating into the Facebook business model and finding ways to monetize the investment. A product that cannot provide returns on the investment is a dead product. The founders of Instagram are amazing product visionaries and as such, it only makes sense they'd take on a new journey that will allow them the space to be creative to create yet another product. They were never in charge of Instagram once they sold. A fun analysis on the difference of the Product Leader and CEO. It's different.


  • Wealthy: "Correct is fine but it's better to be interesting" - Seth Godin, out-sized gains happen only when you are non-consensus and right. Nothing happens when you are consensus. 


  • Wise: "The great mass of human beings are note acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition - in many cases, indeed, they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all - and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives." - George Orwell, I think the greatest accomplishments come when people are determined to live their own lives. Because living your own life is not one of greed or narcissism but rather one of truth and purpose. Human connection is strongest and sustainable when its forges through honesty and purpose. Thus, by living a life true to oneself one can hope to build up connections with others to create large meaningful advancement for the whole. Like with physical health, our sense of individualism is beat out of us at an early age by society and acknowledging that and undoing the damage from that is essential. 

Daniel LeeTWIL