reading list

Highlights from my Reading List – Week 11


  1. The untold story of Stripe, the secretive $20bn startup driving Apple, Amazon and Facebook
    Patrick and John Collison have democratised online payments – and reshaped the digital economy in the process

  2. Disruptive versus Radical Innovations
    The innovator’s dilemma is this: a company that does everything by the book — listening to customers, managing by facts, being disciplined about costs and quality, and so forth — can get blindsided by an innovation that rapidly takes away its markets, because it was doing everything right.

    The innovations that cause this “why bad things happen to good companies” dilemma are disruptive innovations. The signature story of disruption reads as follows: an upstart low-end competitor displaces a much larger incumbent in a market, with the incumbent either retreating upmarket to higher margin/lower volume products or dying out altogether.

    The key point to remember is that disruption is a market/business phenomenon and has little to do with technology per se. 

    In particular, a disruptive innovation may or may not represent a major technical breakthrough. Major breakthroughs, which are called ‘radical’ in Christenson’s model, may or may not be disruptive, while minor, or ‘incremental’ innovations can be massively disruptive. The opposite of disruptive is sustaining.

  3. How Startups Are Solving A Decades-Old Problem In Education
    The search for solving Bloom’s 2 sigma problem using technology continues.

  4. The Bastardization of Bloom’s Two Sigma
    Why ed-tech may be heading in the wrong direction. 
    Take a moment to read that again.  This is the mantra of much of modern day ed tech…can we get the same outcomes of 1:1 tutoring without incurring the cost of 1:1 tutoring?  Analytics, personalized learning, adaptive learning, AI, machine learning…amirite?
    So here’s where the bastardization comes in to play.  I think that there has been so much focus on the tutoring part, that we’ve lost sight of the learning part.  “Will it scale?” is arguably the most important question that an ed tech investor will ask.  That’s great, and that’s an absolutely justifiable question.  But if you read through Bloom’s paper, there are two parts to the question.  Will it scale, AND, will it improve learning levels over the conventional baseline.  Like with many “shiny object” technologies, we tend to focus on the scale part and gloss over the improvement part (or worse yet, just “assume” the learning will happen).
  5. The Myth of The Infrastructure Phase
    What comes first – apps or platforms? 

    USV details the history of technology and examines that this chicken and egg problems gets solved like the original one – gradually. 

    A common narrative in the Web 3.0 community is that we are in an infrastructure phase and the right thing to be working on right now is building out that infrastructure: better base chains, better interchain interoperability, better clients, wallets and browsers. The rationale is: first we need tools that make it easy to build and use apps that run on blockchains, and once we have those tools, then we can get started building those apps.

    But when we talk to founders who are building infrastructure, we keep hearing that the biggest challenge for them is to get developers to build apps on top. Now if we are really in an infrastructure phase, why would that be?
    Our hypothesis is that this is not actually how things play out. We are not in an infrastructure phase, but rather in another turn of the apps-infrastructure cycle. And in fact, the history of new technologies shows that apps beget infrastructure, not the other way around. It’s not that first we build all the infrastructure, and once we have the infrastructure we need, we begin to build apps. It’s exactly the opposite.

  6. The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies
    The attack by Chinese spies reached almost 30 U.S. companies, including Amazon and Apple, by compromising America’s technology supply chain, according to extensive interviews with government and corporate sources.

  7. Winner Takes it All: How Markets Favor the Few at the Expense of the Many
    Markets tend to favor unequal distributions of market share and profits, with a few leaders emerging in any industry. Winner-take-all markets are hard to disrupt and suppress the entry of new players by locking in market share for leading players.
  8. A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom As It Relates To Investment Management & Business – Charles Munger, USC Business School, 1994 
    I’m going to play a minor trick on you today because the subject of my talk is the art of stock picking as a subdivision of the art of worldly wisdom. That enables me to start talking about worldly wisdom—a much broader topic that interests me because I think all too little of it is delivered by modern educational systems, at least in an effective way.
    And therefore, the talk is sort of along the lines that some behaviorist psychologists call Grandma’s rule after the wisdom of Grandma when she said that you have to eat the carrots before you get the dessert.
  9. What If You Go To Harvard And End Up A Nobody?
    A happy life is all about managing expectations. If you matriculate at Harvard, great things are expected of you. And if you don’t do great things, are you a disappointment?
  10. All 700 employees at this startup work remotely. Here’s why one of its top execs says it’s given them a major edge on the competition
    InVision’s 700 employees. The company doesn’t have a physical headquarters – every employee works remotely.



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