This Week I Learned #46

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


  • Bezos' 2018 Amazon letter -

    • The outsized discoveries – the “non-linear” ones – are highly likely to require wandering.

    • No one asked for AWS. No one. Turns out the world was in fact ready and hungry for an offering like AWS but didn’t know it. We had a hunch, followed our curiosity, took the necessary financial risks, and began building

    • No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said “No, thank you.” Since that first-generation Echo, customers have purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices.

    • As I said in the first shareholder letter more than 20 years ago, our focus is on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees who can think like owners. Achieving that requires investing in our employees, and, as with so many other things at Amazon, we use not just analysis but also intuition and heart to find our way forward.

  • Bezos' 1997 letter

    • We will continue to focus on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees, and continue to weight their compensation to stock options rather than cash. We know our success will be largely affected by our ability to attract and retain a motivated employee base, each of whom must think like, and therefore must actually be, an owner.

    • Word of mouth remains the most powerful customer acquisition tool we have, and we are grateful for the trust our customers have placed in us. Repeat purchases and word of mouth have combined to make the market leader in online bookselling.

    • We established long-term relationships with many important strategic partners, including America Online, Yahoo!, Excite, Netscape, GeoCities, AltaVista, @Home, and Prodigy => none survived. 


  • Weekly dose of wisdom from Charlie Munger on diversification: Great opportunities are rare. To seize such opportunities you must do the work to be ready to seize the opportunity. You cannot seize the opportunity by buying everything. You need not be everywhere. You only need to be in one good part of the world to fish for opportunity. Munger would go to China.


  • Reading deeper into the Cambodian genocide today. Practically, 20% of the population got wiped out in the name of drastic socialism where Pol Pot and the communist regime in Cambodia sought to create an agrarian-focused society that Lenin and Marx fondly spoke of. This led to mass murders and creation of "killing fields" of the wealthy, educated and non-farm working people (i.e. teachers, doctors, business owners, engineers etc..). Children would be trained as child soldiers and ordered to murder their parents in the process. This led to the death of approx. 2M people over a span of 6-8 years. This has resulted in the current society lacking the wisdom of the old generation and a large population of individuals under 40 with no guidance and no formal education and technical knowledge of various fields. 


  • "And what is a brand? It’s not the logo, certainly. I have no idea what Everlane’s logo is. The brand is our shorthand for the feelings that an experience creates, the promises that a product or service brings with it."


  • Tren Griffin's summary of learnings from famed OG VC Arthur Rock:

  • You know, a lot of people are just interested in building a company so they can make money and get out. That doesn’t interest me at all.  Usually it’s not a successful way anyway…”  

    • The venture capitalists I admire most like to spend their time and effort building real businesses. They almost always understand finance deeply, but for them, finance is an enabler of what they most love to do. One of the ironies of venture capital is that the best way to be financially successful is to pay less attention to finance and more attention to building a business. The right financial structure doesn’t mean anything if all it does is guarantee you a high percentage of nothing.

  • A founder or business is not going to get much time from the venture capitalist if that venture capitalist is investing in too many businesses. This is part of the reason why the venture capital business does not scale well.

  • “I was more interested in people, in figuring out whether the people are good people without knowing exactly what it is they are going to do technically.”

    • The company you build is the people you hire. Arthur Rock himself is not a technologist, but he is an excellent judge of people. Finding the right people is fundamental to the success of a startup.


  • “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  - Larry King


  • Ian Cassel's Google presentation on microcap investing. Insights: 1) 11K microcap companies in NA, combine their market cap and that equals $480bn.. similar to that of Google's in 2015 2) Find undervalued companies that can get overvalued. Scale into the companies by averaging up in your investment. Great companies are scarce and scarcity results in overvaluation. 3) Microcap checklist at 20:43min mark. 4) Dominate a small market that is expanding rapidly.


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