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Thursday 27 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.

The ends of the world are melting
he ends of the Earth are melting at a rate not seen in at least 115,000 years.  And over the past few months, there’s been increasing evidence that the changes we’re seeing at our planet’s poles are only growing more severe. These changes in the most remote places on Earth have huge consequences for our daily lives because our daily lives have huge consequences for the most remote places on Earth. Decades of routine human activities – going to work, driving a car, eating a hamburger, choosing a stock portfolio – have transformed the frozen parts of this planet on a scale never seen before. If we do not change our behaviour drastically to slow down and eventually stop the Arctic melt, rising sea levels and even faster rising global temperatures will threaten our very way of life.

The Japanese toilet - a marvel of technology
Japanese toilets are marvels of technological innovation. They have integrated bidets, which squirt water to clean your private parts. They have dryers and heated seats. They use water efficiently, clean themselves and deodorize the air, so bathrooms actually smell good. They have white noise machines, so you can fill your stall with the sound of rain for relaxation and privacy. Some even have built-in night lights and music players. It's all customizable and controlled by electronic buttons on a panel next to your seat.

The last great thing about the internet
Wikipedia is the eighth-most-visited site in the world. The English-language version recently surpassed 6 million articles and 3.5 billion words; edits materialize at a rate of 1.8 per second. It is the only not-for-profit site in the top 10, and one of only a handful in the top 100. It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling. Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good. More than an encyclopaedia, Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto—the closest thing there is to an online public square. It is one of the few remaining places that retains the faintly utopian glow of the early World Wide Web. A free encyclopaedia encompassing the whole of human knowledge, written almost entirely by unpaid volunteers: Can you believe that was the one that worked?

Subscription for your monthly coffee!
Panera Bread is hoping to disrupt the morning coffee. The company is unveiling a subscription plan for its most popular caffeinated drinks. For a flat rate of $8.99 a month, customers can get unlimited coffee (hot or iced) and tea at all of its stores nationwide. Coffee is an imperative component of the breakfast wars. Both Starbucks and Dunkin’ have been seeing a surge in coffee sales, thanks to the steady growth of mobile orders placed via smartphone apps. But coffee is only the start. Having a menu that reflects Americans’ desire for healthy, protein-rich breakfast items is now an industrywide mandate.

Online buying in India is fuelled by discounts
Digital buyers in India are going to reach 330 billion by the end of 2020. The phenomenon of online shopping has taken India by a storm. What sets online shopping from traditional offline stores is the practice of discounts.  Online stores, save a few exceptions, do not have to pay sales taxes- the explanation being the absence of a physical sales storefront, an office or a warehouse. While major players like Amazon and Flipkart do have warehouses, not paying sales taxes means a great deal for smaller sellers, resulting in lower prices automatically.

Thursday 20 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.

Augmented reality comes to car workshops
Porsche Cars North America is completing the rollout of its Tech Live Look program at its 189 U.S. dealerships. The effort uses online augmented-reality technology to enable dealership techs to communicate directly with Porsche's Atlanta-based technical support team about thorny repair issues in real-time in such a way that the factory experts see what the tech sees.
The new technology enables a precise recalibration of cameras to specific distances and heights to capture needed images. It also permits precise measurement of high-voltage batteries on electric and hybrid vehicles.

Union in a tech firm
Employees at crowdfunding platform Kickstarter voted Tuesday to form a union, the first of it's kind in the technology industry, after an 18-month battle with the company’s management.
Kickstarter United will now be formally recognized by the management after a vote held by the National Labor Relations Board, in which workers voted 36 to 47 in favour of unionizing. It is the first union comprised of white-collar, full-time employees in the technology industry. Toward the end of the dot-com bubble in 2001, customer service workers at a website called etown.com successfully voted to unionize with the Communications Workers of America, which was reported by The New York Times as the first dot-com union, but the company folded the next month after it failed to secure more venture capital funding.

A brief history of advertising
In the 1830s, New York City’s most popular newspaper was just 4 pages and circulated to fewer than 3,000 people in a city with a population fast-approaching 300,000. News was a luxury item, costing 6 cents an issue, which was too expensive for most people at the time.
Then 20-something Benjamin Day had an idea. He would sell his own newspaper for just a penny, undercutting the competition. To make up for a lower price, he would sell advertisements. The idea, which was novel at the time, was not just to sell newspapers to his readers, but to sell the attention of his readers.
It may be harder than ever to get people’s attention these days because our entertainment options are now seemingly unlimited.
But the leaps forward in technology have given advertisers more avenues to reach us than ever before. And they have the ability to personalize to the end-user because so much of our lives are now available for everyone to see online.
The avenues will change and things will become more personalized. The advertisers understand human nature as well as any other industry.

When the security guard is the thief
Avast, the multibillion-dollar Czech security company doesn’t just make money from protecting its 400 million users’ information. It also profits in part because of sales of users’ Web browsing habits and has been doing so since at least 2013.
That’s led to some labelling its tools “spyware,” the very thing Avast is supposed to be protecting users from. Avast claims it recognizes customers use Avast to protect their information and so it can’t do anything that might “circumvent the security of privacy of the data including targeting by advertisers.”

The rise and reign of Jeff Bezos
The last one today is not an article, but a documentary. I have always been fascinated by Amazon and Jeff Bezos. He is a person who has shaped how today's generation view shopping. He has even changed our behaviour patterns. Very few people I know of, who do not check amazon while making a buying decision. His next big ambition of space expedition is another big and audacious goal. The recent donation of $10 billion dollars to combat climate change is another remarkable gesture. On the other hand, he also has his detractors. Those who paint him and Amazon as the villain. The documentary explores some of these aspects. Worth a watch for those who love documentaries.

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.