and some worth-it reads
|Mar 29, 2019|
Try: Stoop, a newsletter reading app that consolidates your subscriptions into one well designed interface. I’ve talked about my admiration for Substack’s creator-facing newsletter tools before, this feels similar but for readers. Seems like a good example of “do one thing right.” (Download)
Watch: Umbrella Academy. Good superhero show that doesn’t treat you like a dummy. (Trailer)
Watch: The Inventor, HBO’s Theranos doc that just came out. It’s a great hang but also terrifying it you’re even remotely close to the tech industry. (Trailer)
Listen: to My Finest Work Yet, the new Andrew Bird album that frankly lives up to the name.
As we all know (probably not, most likely only the terrible few of us who pay attention to such crap) there’s a big glut of IPOs coming. Lots of companies are gonna go public very soon. I’ve been thinking about dipping my retail investor/degenerate gambler toe into those frothy waters. In particular, Uber and Lyft are both going public and I want in.
Long term, I really think Uber is the better company. I like Uber’s strategy of pursuing an overall transit/logistics marketplace and generally think that the whole is more valuable than the sum of its parts. Ben Thompson, using a “jobs to be done” framework, provides a very good argument for why but it basically boils down to this: things need to get moved and the job to be done is moving them. Therefore, the more ways you have to move things, the more liquidity you have/value you can provide and the more types of things you can move with that liquidity. It’s why Uber has gotten pretty good at delivering food and why they want to get into public transit. Multi-modal transit! So Uber is more forward looking, has better network effects, a more interesting business model, and an overall bigger business.
And yet, I’m not going to buy Uber. I’m going to buy Lyft.
Allow me to explain:
The last point is the key. Uber is much, much bigger than Lyft (5-10x bigger depending on where IPO prices shake out). Neither company has a path to profitability in the short/medium term. As a result, investors are really just buying top-line growth for now and for the foreseeable future. So the law of large numbers would dictate Lyft is a better short/medium term buy because it has more room, on a percentage basis, to grow.
This is borne out in Uber’s semi-public financial statements:
Conversely, per the company’s S-1 (a legal filing to go public), Lyft’s market share has basically doubled in the last two years. If you’re just buying percentage growth, smaller seems better, no?
The MBA Myth and the Cult of the CEO - Dan Rasmussen & Haonan Li, Institutional Investor
This is long and a bit math heavy but well worth it:
Journalists, investors, and boards are placing excessive emphasis on CEO pedigrees and track records. In a world that is feedback-rich, stochastic, and “fat tailed,” the simple narrative of the “great man” does not appear to have much quantitative merit — rather, it seems like yet another cognitive bias in the vein of those discovered by Daniel Kahneman.
Of course, we cannot prove that CEO credentials don’t have an effect on share price. It’s impossible to prove a negative — what statisticians call a null hypothesis. We are simply pointing out that there is no convincing evidence in favor of rejecting that null hypothesis. U.S. companies adopted Jensen’s ideas without any data suggesting that incentive pay would actually result in better stock price performance — and no evidence to suggest Jensen’s thesis was correct has emerged in the 29 years since that great experiment began.
When Did Everyone Become a Socialist? - Simon van Zuylen-Wood, New York Magazine
Anyone who is Very Online has probably seen that everyone who’s anyone is also now a pinko. This article uses the Brooklyn DSA social scene as a window into the group’s origins, ideas, and future. Sarah Leonard, one of the people profiled, was my professor for one semester at NYU, an anecdote I hope will make for a funny aside in a book about me one day.
In the middle of the dance floor I ran into Nicole Carty, a DSA-curious professional organizer I also hadn’t seen since college, who made a name for herself doing tenant work after Occupy Wall Street. (DSA can feel like a never-ending Brown University reunion.) “Movements are, yeah, about causes and about progress and beliefs and feelings, but the strength of movements comes from social ties and peer pressure and relationships,” Carty said. “People are craving this. Your social world intersecting with your politics. A world of our own.”
DSA is led by its dues-paying members, rather than paid staff. It is, essentially, bossless. That has allowed the organizers to reflect back to those members the world they’re trying to create. “It’s playing the role of a place where they seek a sense of fulfillment and rootedness that they otherwise lack in their lives,” says a writer acquaintance, Sam Adler-Bell, yet another Brown graduate and a DSA member. Socialism was appealing not because it promised equality but because it looked like liberation.
I am pretty opposed to proper socialism (longer discussion) and don’t feel super duper into the brand of democratic socialism described here but I would sure as shit rather work my neoliberal dark arts against a socialist to bring them closer to the center than try to survive another term of Trump. So if this really is what is gonna energize voters - and I think it might be - I’m here for it.
A Basketball Star Is Taking 100,000 Shots This Year. She’s in Sixth Grade. - Ben Cohen, Wall Street Journal
The app has recorded millions of shots from players in NBA, top colleges, high schools, middle schools and even the odd elementary school in 6,800 cities and 150 countries. But few players anywhere in the world have logged as many shots this year as Lanie Grant.
“It helped me be more confident about myself,” she said last weekend over chocolate milk at Starbucks . “It opened up my entire game.”
There is no other way to put it: Lanie got really, really good.
Lanie took nearly 5,000 shots in her first three weeks using the app and made 65%. Lanie has taken about the same number of shots over the last month. Now she’s an 85% shooter.
Why Do so Many Egyptian Statues Have Broken Noses? - Julia Wolkoff, Artsy
His training in Egyptology encouraged visualizing how a statue would look if it were still intact. It might seem inevitable that after thousands of years, an ancient artifact would show wear and tear. But this simple observation led Bleiberg to uncover a widespread pattern of deliberate destruction, which pointed to a complex set of reasons why most works of Egyptian art came to be defaced in the first place.
Why Apple AirPods Came to Be Everywhere - Jon Wilde, GQ
I think, the reason for the slow path to everywhereness that Apple’s AirPods have taken. They may be the best-selling product Apple makes right now, but they’re also the ones that most require word-of-mouth, or a leap of faith. With them, Apple fixed the annoying things about wireless headphones, which you didn’t realize could be fixed until you bought a pair. And Apple made the act of using those headphones tactile and satisfying and sometimes surprisingly delightful, but you wouldn’t know until you splurged on a pair. You need a beta-tester friend to rave a little before you make the leap. I’m not saying you should do that if you haven’t. But I am saying you’ll enjoy the hell out of the lid.