Startups that redefine social and economic relations pop up in an instant. Lawsuits and regulations lag behind.
Haven’t seen the whole fireside chat, but had to dig up the source when came across this great Jeff Bezos wisdom around 4.5 minutes in, on anticipating future business needs:
I very frequently get the question, “What’s going to change in the next ten years?” And that is a very interesting question. It’s a very common one. I almost never get the question, “What’s not going to change in the next ten years?” And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two. Because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices. And I know that’s going to be true ten years from now. They want fast delivery. They want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future ten years from now where a customer comes up and says, “Jeff, I love Amazon. I just wish the prices were a little higher”. “I love Amazon. I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.” Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up… we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers ten years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.
There’s a life metaphor in there somewhere.
An interesting take I haven’t seen elsewhere. Plenty of stuff I’d never thought about before, like:
One way Uber has fewer costs than the taxi companies is that its drivers use their personal insurance policies as their primary coverage.
The companion piece has some interesting tips and tricks. Gotta know where the free parking and bathrooms are.
Good stuff here. I appreciate the range and pace. It’s a little bit obnoxious, too, but better that than boring.
TYLER COWEN: It’s like Beach Boys music. Sounds optimistic on the surface but it’s deeply sad and melancholy.
PETER THIEL: I remember a professor once told me back in the ’80s that writing a book was more dangerous than having a child because you could always disown a child if it turned out badly.
PETER THIEL: I think often the smarter people are more prone to trendy, fashionable thinking because they can pick up on things, they can pick up on cues more easily, and so they’re even more trapped by it than people of average ability.
One of the lesser-appreciated joys of online shopping is that, in the process of streamlining and compressing the expressions of capitalism we call “retail,” it gives us a god’s eye view of market patterns. In one search on Amazon or Newegg you can see a category’s past, present, and near future: high-margin luxury options on one side, low-margin or out-of-date good-enough options from unlikely or unknown brands on the other. Then, in the big mushy middle, brands fighting over a diminishing opportunity. This is faintly empowering. To watch the compressed cycles of modern consumer electronics pass through your viewfinder gives a calming order to an industry that depends on the perception that it is perpetually exceptional. This perspective also helps to enforce realism about your relationship with consumer electronics. Whether you choose the luxury option, the commodity option, or something in between, you are buying future garbage.
To find out more about this huge, invisible network, I accompanied a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division for a rare voyage on a container ship between Korea and China. The aim of the trip was to follow the supply chain back to some of the remotest parts of China and the source of our consumer goods – and what we saw as we travelled through mega-ports and across oceans looked closer to science fiction than reality.
If I ever change to a new career it just might be container shipping.
Believe me, when I quit my day job almost two years ago, it was not an act of bravery, and if it was a risk, it was an extremely calculated one.
Music fans tend to regard the implosion of the record industry like most Americans think about overseas wars — we know it’s out there, and it’s very likely bad, but we quickly grow tired of hearing about it because it doesn’t appear to affect us directly.
See my Steven Hyden tag for a couple other of his music articles I’ve liked.
One enduring feature of the art world is that a given piece will sell for much more in one context rather than another. The same painting that might sell for 5k from a lower tier dealer won’t command more than 2k on eBay, if that. Yet it could sell for 10k, as a bargain item, relatively speaking, if it ended up in the right NYC gallery (which it probably wouldn’t). Where does Amazon stand in this hierarchy? It doesn’t look promising.
Here are some things to consider that, in my experience, you’re less likely to hear about working in startups.
Good essay. I’ve been thinking this for a while:
Startups are portrayed as an exciting, risky, even subversive alternative to traditional corporate work. Startups are thought of as more free, more open and flexible. Some companies surely begin that way, but a few interviews at later-stage startups will make clear just how quickly they ossify into structures that look very much like the organizations that came before them.
As there was in the first dot com bubble, there is a current proliferation of startups, incubators, accelerators, angel/seed funding, and so forth. In order for the “startup community” to replicate itself, nanobot-like, the mechanics of “doing a startup” have been reduced to an easily transmitted sequence of actions accompanied by a shared set of values, norms, and language.
Savvy advertising is always trying to tell you something about yourself.
Michelle Orange, who continues:
It traffics only in different, better, more fulfilled versions of you. That’s why it’s so miserably effective: an ad can adopt the stance of leading you toward your own best interests. But a brand-centric movie is stuck pretending its purpose is to entertain, even if its job was done the moment it got you through the door, $13.50 lighter.
There’s this dispute in Minnesota where an artist couple has been claiming tax deductions to keep doing their various art things. Trouble is, in the eye of the law, you can’t claim deductions unless you’re (on the way to) running a business that makes profit. Years and years of losses or minimal profit are just asking for an audit. Hilarity ensues.
One of the perks of the job.
xxxx, get your shit together. Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential.
This is straight out of the Marcus Aurelius playbook. One of my favorite passages from Meditations comes in Book 5:
Display those virtues which are wholly in your own power–integrity, dignity, hard work, self-denial, contentment, frugality, kindness, independence, simplicity, discretion, magnanimity. Do you not see how many virtues you can already display without any excuse of lack of talent or aptitude? And yet you are still content to lag behind.
Tyler and the Clancys’ 4 Strike management group recently started a new creative agency called Camp Flog Gnaw, which aims to lend Tyler’s brain to companies that want to engage the youth demographic. The first fruit of the new enterprise is a partnership with Mountain Dew, for whom Tyler has directed four left-of-center TV commercials starring a talking goat named Felicia. “The agency is a way to stay true to Tyler and not do endorsements, but to allow companies to use his creative energy,” Clancy says. “There’s a demographic out there that corporate America has lost, but Tyler has managed to build a brand around it.”
When everyone else is trying to automate everything, using a little human intervention can be a competitive advantage. The problem is when business owners see it as a cost, instead of an opportunity. Trying to minimize costs, instead of maximize income, quality, loyalty, happiness, connection, and all those other wonderful things that come from real human attention.
Management is a total career restart.
Once somebody pays me the first dollar, I’m on the hook to deliver. And wait a second: I don’t know if I want that yet.
People ridiculed George W. Bush when he called them “the internets” but he had it right. Technically, the internet is one huge interconnected network. Linguistically and socially, it is many networks, and they are very distinct. For example: There are 40 million Brazilians on Twitter. Do you follow any Brazilians?* This is a significant fraction of a service that many of us consider our internet front porch—and yet, unless you speak Portuguese, it’s invisible. It might as well be a different service entirely.
Rappers are very much analogous to bloggers in that both groups sort of do what they do because they want to do it, but they also know there’s not really any worth to what they’re doing – except sometimes one of their cohort gets scooped up by some faceless place with money, so there’s always a little halo of maybe-money attached to what they do. Maybe that halo’s worth more than actually making a piddly amount of money.
Q: What are the incentives you think artists are responding to?
Money and fame and sex—the same as always—but now there’s a difference. You can’t perfect your masterwork for 20 years. There’s a bit of a hurry. There’s a sense that things are changing. You can end up obsolete.
Q: How about from the audience perspective? How different is consuming art versus other consumption?
I think it’s changed enormously in the last 10 years. You see it in movie theaters, but it’s everywhere: people text or tweet and don’t pay full attention. They’re in some ways quite fussy. The attitude is, I’m already in control of my own informational life and entertainment. What else can you bring to the table? Not in a hostile way, but in an entirely legitimate “what have you got for me?” way. A lot of creators aren’t really up to it.