34: Daniel Ek Interview, Classic 2007 Bill Gates & Steve Jobs Interview, Google in 1998, Honda Quits F1 for EVs, Docoh Financial Platform

"It doesn't mean we'll ever be able to predict it."

"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."

“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it.”

“Of course truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”

—Mark Twain

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Investing & Business

Bill & Steve

A recent Twitter post by @MineSafety reminded me of this great interview where both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were interviewed simultaneously on stage by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg:

It’s worth watching if you’ve never seen it, and probably worth re-watching, even if you’ve seen it. You can see the clear difference in thinking style between the two men. It’s also a reminder that wow, 2007 was 13 years ago, time flies.

I love the moment at about 14mins30secs in when Gates is starting to tell a story but he’s not exactly a great storyteller, and Jobs just goes “let me tell the story” and tells it so much better and more clearly.

And the Gil Emilio quote (he was Apple CEO before Jobs came back) that Jobs retells is hilarious:

"Apple is like a ship with a hole in the bottom, leaking water, and my job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction"

Around the 29 minute mark, Steve clearly explains that software is the differentiating factor for Apple products, and that they see themselves as a software company first. That the success of the iPod was because of the software, because the Japanese companies that owned the portable music device category couldn’t make, not just on device, but also iTunes and in the cloud, and the Mac is mostly about OSX (now MacOS), and that the iPhone (which had just been announced at the time) was also going to be differentiated by the software.

Interesting that he said it that clearly in 2007, when it took a long time for a large part of the rest of the world to stop viewing them as a hit-driven hardware company.

The discussion around 43-minute in is interesting with today’s context. Bill Gates was a big proponent of tablets, which hadn’t yet taken off at the time, and Apple hadn’t announced the iPad yet, so Jobs just keeps quiet (but Jobs knows about it, because the iPad was conceived internally at Apple before the iPhone).

This line by Jobs was prescient too: “We’re getting to the point where everything is a computer with a different form factor.”

The photos below are from a photoshoot from a 1991 Fortune magazine interview with both of them.

At the time Steve was at NeXt Computer, building the technologies (especially the OS) that would lead to his reverse-takeover of Apple a few years later when his company was acquired, but the NeXT team basically took over the acquirer and its technologies became the foundation of Apple’s revival (they had been struggling on transitioning their OS to a more modern platform for a while (check out the whole Copland saga, if you want to know more).

Anyway, great photos, really captures an era, and two of the people who shaped it a lot:

Google Story from 1998

“The Google Boys, meanwhile, are valued at 10 million dollars, and told me they were off to Burger King to celebrate.”

Interview: Daniel Ek of Spotify

Good in-depth interview of Spotify’s founder and CEO by Sriram Krishan.

At Spotify, we have something called “Company Bets.” These are large-scale initiatives that we believe will have a significant impact on the business within a relatively short period of time. I find that these bets are a much better use of my time. Our Company Bets typically update every six months, so I'm not needed that much in between. This way, I can constantly be thinking: “Where are we headed in the next six months?” Right now, I am thinking more about H2 2021. From a timeline perspective, that's the earliest place where I focus most of my time.

This reminds me of the Jeff Bezos quote, about how “that quarter was baked three years ago. I’m working on a quarter that’ll happen in 2021 right now.”

In the early days of the startup, when everyone sat next to each other and had all the context, when everyone could talk to everyone about any idea, the ideas were flowing.

How do you get that vibe and retain it when you're a large company? I think you need to create a space where ideas can flourish and risks can be taken – where serendipity can take place. You have to remove all the barriers to this.

I've always been a really, really insatiable, curious person. It really starts with that. [...] It's been one of those things that has stuck with me throughout my life. I realized at a young age that even for problems that are messy and complicated, if you put enough direction, energy, and focus into solving them, it’s very possible to figure them out.

You can read the whole thing here.

How’s Your Visibility?

I laugh at the visibility comment, because everybody talks in good markets about high visibility and in bad markets they have none, but it's the same damn market.

I think we've got a reasonable sense of what our customers are trying to do. It doesn't mean we'll ever be able to predict it.

It's why you saw us take the strategy of keeping our optionality very high.

—Rich K. Templeton, CEO of Texas Instruments, on September 9, 2020.

Speaking of TXN, it’s interesting to see how - unlike many companies - their stock repurchases are mostly inversely correlated with their stock price’s movements:

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Docoh Financial Data Platform

There’s a financial data site called Docoh that I don’t see mentioned too often, but I think it’s interesting and has potential.

My primary use for it is getting notification of company filings. If you build a “favorite list” in your dashboard, you can get then notified whenever a company files something with the SEC. You can also see a calendar view showing upcoming earnings (all, or just your favorites via the dashboard).

A neat feature for filings is that you can see the diffs between two filings. For example, you could be reading a company’s Q2 10-Q filing, and ask Docoh to highlights all the differences between that one and Q1’s 10-Q filing. (f.ex this link should take you to a diff view of two Amazon 10-Qs)

They also have 10 years of financials available, which can be seen as absolute numbers or ratios for the three statements. They have a “data charts” tab under company view that is pretty powerful — I’d even say too powerful for the current UI. It allows you to graph basically absolutely everything under the sun from the filings so the list is endless and it’s overwhelming.

It’s not one of my most commonly used financial sites like Koyfin, Atom Finance and Unhedged, but I like to see the experimentation and different approaches out there. I remember how barren the ecosystem used to be back when Google Finance and Yahoo Finance were about as good as you could expect if you didn’t have thousands of dollars to spend for Bloomberg or Capital IQ.

In the ‘Simple but not Easy’ Category

A lesson I learned in 15 years of managing: when something goes wrong, hold back blame and investigate what really happened. So often what seems like error was reasonable given the constraints and information available at that time, or the person at fault was not who it seems.

And, in fact, sometimes you (the manager) are truly the person to blame! Even if, technically, the error was made by someone else, you may have been the one who imposed the constraints or allowed the lack of information that caused it!

By Spencer Greenberg.


Science & Technology

‘1932 vs 2016 - Comparison in 100m Swim’

The power of incremental and iterative improvements over a long time: Video here. Source.

Honda Quits Formula 1, Wants to Focus on Electric Vehicles

TOKYO, Japan, October 2, 2020 - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. today announced that it has decided to conclude its participation in the FIA*1 Formula One (F1) World Championship as a power unit supplier at the end of the 2021 season. [...]

as the automobile industry undergoes a once-in-one-hundred-years period of great transformation, Honda has decided to strive for the “realization of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Honda needs to funnel its corporate resources in research and development into the areas of future power unit and energy technologies, including fuel cell vehicle (FCV) and battery EV (BEV) technologies, which will be the core of carbon-free technologies. (Source)

Being coherent with your long-term objectives. Not something you see everyday.

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Old Stockholm telephone tower (Swedish: Telefontornet)

“Metallic structure built to connect approximately 5,500 telephone lines in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. Constructed in 1887, the tower was damaged by a fire in 1952 and demolished the following year.

The quadrangular metallic structure was 80 metres tall and soon fell out of favour with the local population. The company requested the architect Fritz Eckert to carry out embellishment work, which was when the four turrets were added.

The tower was quickly made obsolete as telephone companies began using underground cables in urban areas. In 1913, underground cabling for telephony was fully completed and the tower no longer served its original purpose. After 1939 it carried advertising for Nordiska Kompaniet.” Source. h/t Tim Dunn

How do You Know?

I wish I could better know how I know what I know.

Sometimes, I clearly remember the source(s), sometimes it’s been in my head for so long, or is a combination of so many sources and experiences, I’m not sure how the knowledge got there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What prompted this thought: I was talking about lava with my 6-year-old (totally normal topic for a 6yo), and was telling him that even if he had lava, it wouldn't stay liquid for very long, it would harden back into rock, which got us into what made it hot under the Earth’s crust in the first place, radioactive decay, plate tectonics, how heat dissipates, etc.

So I know about all these things. But when did I learn them? That I can’t always really tell. Probably because it’s an accumulation over time. Maybe in school I heard about some concepts and understood them superficially, then later on I added more meat to the bone and started to understand them better, learned more about heavy atoms and radiation in a book, etc.

It’s a bit like asking how do I know what I know about investing. Well, it just kind of accumulated over years, some early ideas were replaced by better ideas, my level of confidence about various things went up and down over time, etc. But I can’t pinpoint specific sources for a lot of it.

I wish our brains were more like Wikipedia articles. That you could audit the edit history and know the source of everything in there. It’d make it easier to debug when there are problems…

Earth’s Ecosystems Carrying Capacity

"I fear is that we are talking about systems that are so complex, that the thresholds beyond which there is no plausible return probably will be crossed without anybody knowing that it is happened... people who are used to dealing with the kinds of systems that shutter before they break apart, who may be thinking that things are relatively all right… are going to lead us into ever greater danger, because the threshold that must not be crossed will be invisible until it’s far too late.”

Bret Weinstein, talking to Jim Rutt.


The Arts & History

How to Light Your Videos

If you’re doing a lot of video (either video calls, or want to get into Youtubing or whatever), these simple tricks to better light yourself and the room could make you look 1000x better for very little effort and $.

Animatronics

CGI is great and getting better rapidly, but don’t forget the magic that talented artists and engineers can do with good old atoms.

More ‘making of” behind the scenes footage from the 2011 movie Warhorse.