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Friday, 14 February 2020

Weekend Reading


Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

Coffee is good for you
It's now clear that coffee drinkers are less likely to get cancer than people who drink other beverages, including tea.
Just to be clear, coffee can't repair your DNA directly, so it's in no way a cure for cancer. But scientists now know that coffee does reduce cellular damage, including mutations to your DNA that otherwise might lead to cancer.

Brands still matter. Brandless shuts shop!
Today direct-to-consumer retailer Brandless becomes the first SoftBank Vision Fund-backed startup to close down, as it stops taking orders and halts all business operations. Brandless had been one of SoftBank's highest-profile companies. Launched in 2017, the online retailer had a big ambition: to sell "better for you" essential products at lower-than-name-brand prices, going toe-to-toe against Amazon and Walmart. But the economics were tricky from the start. Everything it sold was $3. It was losing money from high shipping costs and was plagued with quality problems. It had tried increasing prices to $9 on some products, but it wasn't enough.

The real risk is what you don't know about
The biggest economic risk is what no one’s talking about, because if no one’s talking about no one’s prepared for it, and if no one’s prepared for it its damage will be amplified when it arrives. Two things happen when you’re caught off guard. One is that you’re vulnerable, with no protection against what you hadn’t considered. The other is that surprise shakes your beliefs in a way that leaves you paranoid and pessimistic. Paying attention to known risks is smart. But we should acknowledge that what can’t see, aren’t talking about, and aren’t prepared for will likely be more consequential than all the known risks combined.

Something I wish someone told me when I was starting off
For more than three decades, I’ve spent my days perusing the business pages, reading finance books, scanning academic studies and talking to countless folks about their finances. Yet, despite this intense financial education, it took me a decade or more to learn many of life’s most important money lessons and, indeed, some key insights have only come to me in recent years. Here are 10 things I wish I’d been told in my 20s—or told more loudly, so I actually listened.

You think you are listening, but you are not!
The closer we feel toward someone, the less likely we are to listen carefully to them. It’s called the closeness-communication bias and, over time, it can strain, and even end, relationships.
Once you know people well enough to feel close, there’s an unconscious tendency to tune them out because you think you already know what they are going to say. It’s kind of like when you’ve travelled a certain route several times and no longer notice signposts and scenery.
But people are always changing. The sum of daily interactions and activities continually shapes us, so none of us is the same as we were last month, last week or even yesterday. It turns out the best way for us to really understand those closest to us is to spend time with them, put down our phones and actually listen to what they have to say.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Weekend Reading


Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

Now you can be as fast as Usain Bolt!!
Nike openly promotes the Vaporfly as "the fastest shoe we've ever made," and Vaporflys were worn last year by 31 of 36 of the top finishers at the six biggest marathons in the world.
But rival shoemakers and many in the running community cried foul, saying the shoe's design amounted to "technological doping." The $250 shoes have foam soles and a carbon fiber plate in each heel to help propel a runner's stride.
World Athletics also announced it would be undertaking further research to "establish the true impact" of new technology that could provide a performance advantage, noting that "there is sufficient evidence to raise concerns that the integrity of the sport might be threatened by the recent developments in shoe technology."

Addressable TV - the new frontier for TV ads
A new era is underway in which media companies can show different ads to different households while they are watching the same programme. advancements in dynamic ad insertion have paved the way for marketers to address specific audiences with assets tailored to their tastes and preferences, calling into question the very future of the traditional TV ad as we know it.

A peek into how online ads work
When you click onto a website, the page has some blank boxes that are set aside for ads. Instantly, those slots are posted on an ad exchange, along with data about you (which your browser dutifully hands over). An auction is held, and the winners send their ads to fill the spots. When it works right, you don’t even notice the lag.
Obviously, no person is sitting there bidding on a display ad for a single viewer. With millions of such transactions occurring every day, it’s all done by computers. That means competitive advantage should come down to who has the best algorithms.

Use your mobile to vote
King County, where Seattle is located, announced on Wednesday that it’s implementing smartphone voting for an upcoming board of supervisors election.
King County’s 1.2 million residents can use their cellphones to vote in the election. The board of supervisors election is one of many “pilots” that Tusk plans to implement over the next five years in counties around the US. There’s no indication yet of whether King County plans to expand the system to statewide or national elections.

Tech in 2020: Standing on the shoulders of giants
A very good collection of datapoints on how technology is changing consumer usage patterns specially in the mobile, ecommerce, media consumption spaces. What are the challenges and what are the paths to the future.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Weekend Reading


1) Now an electric car on subscription
Canoo thinks the tides are changing and a subscription-based car-buying model is the future. Canoo subscribers pay a monthly fee for a bundle that includes a Canoo EV, maintenance, registration, access to insurance, and charging. The service launches next year. Canoo calls its vehicle an "urban loft on wheels." With a wraparound bench, the Canoo’s inside is designed to feel like a living room.


2) Yuval Noah Harari warns that companies and governments can "hack" humans
For Harari, the age of rival investment between the US and China in Artificial Intelligence should worry us all.
"On the most shallow level it could be a repeat of the nineteenth century industrial revolution, when the leaders had the chance to dominate the world economically and politically," he said. "I understand the current arms race as an imperial arms race...You don't need to send the soldiers in if you have all the data on a country."
From the geopolitical to the personal, the age of digital surveillance also threatens what it means to be human and free, Harari warned.
"The point is when you gather enough data on people, you get to know people better than they know yourself. Are we at the point where companies or governments can hack millions of people, that means they know my medical history, personal weaknesses?"
But how do you hack a human being?
"You need a lot of biological knowledge, enough computer power, and enough data about me. You can hack my body, my brain, my life, you can reach a point where you know me better than I know myself," he said.
In his view, there is state surveillance in China, surveillance capitalism in the US, and no serious third player in the arms race for tech dominance.


3) They know where you were last summer!! ;-)
Clearview AI, a relatively unknown tech company, has devised a ground-breaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.
Federal and state law enforcement officers said that while they had only limited knowledge of how Clearview works and who is behind it, they had used its app to help solve shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation cases.


4) Is there a case for central bank digital currency (CBDC)?
Money, as we know, has three functions. It’s a unit of account, a medium of exchange and a store of value. Money issued by central banks, which is the norm around the world, performs all these three functions. Such money is uncontested legal tender. A central bank digital currency (CBDC) is a different proposition, different from these commercial cryptocurrencies because a CBDC will be able to perform like money. It will be able to perform all the three functions of money that I listed above. It will be like traditional money except that it will be in a digital form. The main advantage will be that a CBDC will make payment systems more efficient.


5) A new book walks through business failures
While much can be learned from business success stories, there is a lot to learn from mistakes, failures, blunders, errors, lapses, traps, snags, bad judgment, mistiming, malpractice, deceit, fraud, and foibles as well, Robin begins. Forewarned is forearmed, and the lessons of hindsight and research can help avoid failures on your part as well, and prevent the destruction or erosion of value.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

A peek into biohacking - trying to extend human lifespan to beyond 100 years
Silicon Valley pros see a century of human life as a 20th-century limitation. If we went from a TRS-80 to an iPhone in 30 years, we can surely double human life using big data and self-quantification. What is the body if not another piece of hardware waiting to be hacked? Isn’t it time that death got disrupted?


Renting clothes - the next big disruption!! ;-)
Rental is going strong, with Rent the Runway, the pioneer in this area, now 10 years old and profitable. The global online clothing rental market is expected to grow annually by over 10% for the next four years, according to MarketWatch. And the fashion resale market has been expanding a breathtaking 21 times faster than traditional retail over the past three years, Fortune reports. Millennials and Gen Zers, in particular, enjoy frequenting thrift and consignment stores, shredding the last remnants of social embarrassment about such places and remaking their image into trendy shopping destinations.
Rent the Runway, an online service that rents out designer clothes and accessories, was a major leap toward bringing the sharing economy into the fashion business. Today, the company’s subscription base has crossed 11 million members.


How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist
Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. And this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention.


Here is another reason for trying to be wealthy ;-)
According to a new study, wealthy men and women don’t only live longer, they also get eight to nine more healthy years after 50 than the poorest individuals in the United States and in England. Though education level and social class had some effect, neither was found to be nearly as significant as wealth. Additional study is required to understand why wealth in particular is such a strong indicator of how long someone lives unimpaired, but it was most likely a function of having access to funds when you have ill health. Additionally, poverty has been linked to higher stress levels, which has implications for health.


How to lose a monopoly? Learn from Microsoft and IBM
A big rich company, a company that dominates the market for its product, and a company that dominates the broader tech industry are three quite different things. Market cap isn’t power.
IBM ruled mainframes and Microsoft ruled PCs, and when those things were the centre of tech, that gave them dominance of the broader tech industry. When the focus of tech moved away from mainframes and then PCs, IBM and then Microsoft lost that dominance, but that didn’t mean they stopped being big companies. We just stopped being scared of them.
For both IBM and Microsoft, market power in one generation of tech didn’t give them market power in the next, and anti-trust intervention didn’t have much to do with it. It doesn’t matter how big your castle is if the trade routes move somewhere else.


Thursday, 9 January 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.



Retailers are fighting back online returns
Some in the industry that created the monster are trying to put it back in its cage. They’re taking baby steps—not providing pre-paid mailing labels, requiring a receipt unless an unwanted item is carried to a store—but also threatening to cut off serial returners, the most troublesome of the offenders. Among the others: people who wait months (or more) before returning and the so-called wardrobers, who wear articles of clothing and then ship them back.
Reverse logistics — the transport from buyers to sellers — is not only costly on its own but creates a need for lots of room for storage. Return stock is thrown into an empty space in a warehouse to pile up until someone can get to it.


And fintech startups are getting into the space to facilitate returns
Consulting firm Newmine launched its Chief Returns Officer product. Newmine says that it processes data from multiple sources and uses “data science and AI principles” to determine the cause of returns in near real time. Retailers using the service receive actionable recommendations for resolving problems during the selling season.
Supply.ai’s ReturnSense is a returns prevention platform that learns customer behavior, detects the likelihood of returns, alerts the retailer and intervenes in the purchase process to mediate with customers about their product choices. The firm says its algorithm draws from over 1,000 data variables to predict which orders are likely to be returned. The company says that its service prevents returns and makes shoppers feel more confident in their purchase choices.
Other technology providers include Returnly, a fintech platform that turns product returns into repurchases by enabling customers to buy again with instant exchanges and refunds, before they have even returned their items. Appriss Retail’s Verify service is a consumer-based returns authorization system that uses predictive algorithms and statistical models to distinguish those engaged in fraudulent and abusive behavior and deny them the ability to make returns.


A real-life thriller in the making - the escape of Carlos Ghosn
One of the country’s most famous criminal suspects had slipped past the cameras trained on his house, past the police and border guards and the Japanese citizens who for the past year have followed his every move.
Carlos Ghosn, the deposed chief of the Nissan and Renault auto empire facing charges of financial wrongdoing, had fled to Lebanon, and no one in Japan — not the authorities, the media or even the auto executive’s own lawyer — could explain how it had happened.
It was a cinematic escape, carried out just before New Year’s Day, Japan’s most important holiday, when government agencies and most businesses close for as long as a week.


The search for a distraction free environment goes back centuries!
Medieval monks had a terrible time concentrating. And concentration was their lifelong work! Their tech was obviously different from ours. But their anxiety about distraction was not. They complained about being overloaded with information, and about how, even once you finally settled on something to read, it was easy to get bored and turn to something else. They were frustrated by their desire to stare out of the window, or to constantly check on the time (in their case, with the Sun as their clock), or to think about food or sex when they were supposed to be thinking about God.


Understanding the US-Iran conflict through the lens of history
From the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of Iran's prime minister in 1953, to tension and confrontation under President Trump, a look back over more than 65 years of tricky relations between Iran and the US.