reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 9


  1. Trail Magic – Lessons From Two Years on Invest Like the Best
    Looking back on the incredible guests I’ve had, I realize now the common mindset that unites them, and I’d like to highlight that mindset here. Even though my guests have come from just about every conceivable background, investing and otherwise, they are all in persistent and consistent pursuit of original experience.
    The first common trait is deep curiosity. My take on curiosity after meeting all these people is that it works best in two ways: through building units of exploration, and through embracing strange intersections.
    The second common trait is persistence through randomness. Sometimes when I talk with people about the importance of curiosity, they say it sounds too easy and fun. The good news for the skeptics is that more often than not, it’s not fun, it is a total slog. 
    The third common trait is risk management. It is tempting to view uncertainty as a sort of risk, but I think that is a large mistake. All the good stuff is found in places that haven’t been mapped already.
    More specific to investing, many of my guests have a clear focus on downside risk protection. Several people have told me that there are common ways that things go wrong, but many more unknowable reasons things go right. So instead of trying to predict what will work, focus on avoiding the common pitfalls. 

  2. FOMO in China is a $7 billion industry
    There are podcasts in China that are ad driven and free for listeners, just like in the United States. Chen said though that he believes the quality of the free content is more entertainment driven and not as useful for his self-improvement.
    Podcasts with subscription fees, interactive Q&A’s online with experts or celebrities and live-streaming lecture-sessions where the audience can participate and pay as they wish are what people in China refer to as the “pay-for-knowledge” economy.
    “China’s middle class feel that free content will not be good quality and that paid products are packed with useful information and save people time,” Zheng said.

  3. Andrew Chen on Startup Growth: Zero-to-One vs. One-to-N
    “I think of startup growth in two distinct stages that require very different strategies: Zero-to-one. This is where you’re trying to figure out, does the product even work at all? And one-to-n, where you ask, ‘How can we add in more channels and get very metrics-oriented to scale as quickly and efficiently as possible?’”

  4. Emergence of simplicity and complexity*
    The study of complex systems focuses on understanding the relationship between simplicity and complexity. This requires both an understanding of the emergence of complex behavior from simple elements and laws, as well as the emergence of simplicity from simple or complex elements that allow a simple larger scale description to exist.
  5. How to improve your speech
    The first bucket is simple and straightforward: cut out your worst speech habits.
    The second bucket falls into the choose-your-own-adventure category. There are many paths you can take. I’ve focused on (1) writing regularly, (2) studying rhetoric and (3) emulating my favorite speakers.

  6. Fool Me Three Times And I Give Up
    Two things happen to predictions after you get hit with something big and unexpected:
    You extrapolate what just happened, but happening with even greater force and consequence.
    You forecast with great conviction, despite the original event being improbable and something few, if anyone, predicted.
    Which is exactly what happened in 2008.

  7. Why This VC Is Pouring Millions Into Startups Building ‘a Sci-Fi Future’
    I won’t do the disservice of summarizing this one. Read this one for sure in its entirety. Josh Wolfe is amazing.
  8. The Reports Of Our Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated…
    When making critical decisions I’ve learned to take our time, ignore the noise, be emotionless and always be data driven. This framework has led to the right outcome many times even if it looked “foolish” at the beginning (starting Social Capital, buying the Warriors, buying Bitcoin, investing in Amazon, etc. etc…).
    This is the next decision along this framework and brings us to today and how we intend to iterate Social Capital. We are no longer accepting new outside capital. By the end of 2018, we will have finalized a set of changes we began in 2017 and will become a technology holding company that will invest a multi-billion dollar balance sheet of internal capital only. 
  9. Absolute Success is Luck. Relative Success is Hard Work.
    Luck matters more in an absolute sense and hard work matters more in a relative sense.
    The absolute view considers your level of success compared to everyone else. What makes someone the best in the world in a particular domain? When viewed at this level, success is nearly always attributable to luck. 
    Then there is the relative view, which considers your level of success compared to those similar to you. What about the millions of people who received similar levels of education, grew up in similar neighborhoods, or were born with similar levels of genetic talent? These people aren’t achieving the same results. The more local the comparison becomes, the more success is determined by hard work. When you compare yourself to those who have experienced similar levels of luck, the difference is in your habits and choices.
  10. This VC Always Asks Three Questions Before Investing in a Moonshot Project
    One thing about moonshot investing is that you know the market is there.
    So the market risk is close to zero. That leaves a big technical risk, I’m not underestimating that. But then you ask — What changes in science and technology would actually make this breakthrough possible?
    Before investing, we ask ourselves three questions. The first is “why now,” which is critical for deep tech investing.
    The other thing we spend a lot of time thinking about is whether this is feasible in the time frame that is conducive to venture capital.
    And the third question you ask is, “Given your timeline of development, how does a business stack on top of that?” It’s really fun to invest in these types of companies because you have people who know the science deeply and they’re missionaries. They’re more purpose-driven than opportunistic.



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