Newsletter #53

The Entire A16Z Partnership, World’s Bread Clips, Upside Decay, Monitoring Django Applications, The Optimal Amount of Hassle, Privacy Tech Worker, Meetings, and Social Capital’s 2020 Annual Letter

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The Entire A16Z Partnership

Most of the World’s Bread Clips Are Made by a Single Company

“Bread clips! Consider them for a moment, if you will. They’re those flat pieces of semi-hard plastic formed into a sort of barbed U-shape—you know the ones. They can be found keeping bread bags all over the world closed and safe from spoilage, smartly designed to be used and reused. They’re all around us, constantly providing an amazing service, and yet still, they’re taken for granted. And it turns out they’re almost exclusively all produced by a single, family-owned company.”

Upside Decay

“Avoiding upside decay is simple but difficult. The organization needs to build a virtuous culture that leads to a positive feedback loop. At the same time, it needs to punish bad actions that have short-term benefits.

This is hard because investments in a virtuous culture have no visible effect at the start, so they will tend to be unrewarded. Punishing unvirtuous actions is also difficult because the bad actor can point to the tangible benefits, while the long-term upside decay is invisible. It must be vigilantly enforced from the very top of the organization.”

Monitoring Django Applications

“Every once in a while people reach out to me for advice on how to monitor their Django sites. How do you know when your site breaks? How do you fix things before your users notice?

My answer: it depends.

In this post I'll summarize the different monitoring methods I've found and used for Django projects. Some methods are language and platform agnostic - they apply if you are writing Rails or Node code, while others are specific to Django.”

The Optimal Amount of Hassle

“If you recognize that BS is ubiquitous, then the question is not “How can I avoid all of it?” but, “What is the optimal amount to put up with so I can still function in a messy and imperfect world?””

Privacy Tech Worker

Meetings: How To Make Them Effective and Efficient

“Meetings are a necessary evil.  But only a very small part of meetings is necessary.  The rest actually is evil.

IMHO, there are steps to making all meetings effective and efficient:

  • Assign a Meeting Owner to every meeting

  • Determine a Desired Outcome for every meeting

  • Determine what Asynchronous Preparation can be done

  • Enforce that this asynchronous work actually is done.  

  • Time-box the synchronous agenda.

  • Drive to Actions.  And write down all Actions with a DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) and due date.

  • Track all actions in an action-tracker.

Collect written Feedback on the meeting itself.”

Social Capital’s 2020 Annual Letter

“If 1980-2020 was about rampant globalization, then 2020-2060 will be a moderation of this dynamic. In part because of demographics. As we start 2021, there has been a meaningful shift in the demographics of the West vs Asia. Every two years, the median age in China increases by ~1 year. In America, we are roughly staying the same. As this has played out over time, the median ages of China and America have now become equal. But China will continue to age while America remains relatively young over the next few decades. The scale of this demographic shift means fewer young workers in China, increased domestic consumption by older Chinese citizens and the attendant infrastructure needs to deal with an aging population. As China lowers growth to deal with this trend, the impact on prices should see a reverse of the 1990s and 2000s. In other words, prices, in general, are more likely to go up than down for traditional commodities and goods.

Now as we face rising prices, the existential risk in the market is related to inflation. As inflation goes up so will interest rates which has negative implications to future cash flows (this disproportionately negatively affects tech companies). That said, an eternal truth about interest rates, inflation and the like, is that the only way to be immune is to grow really fast. While it's true that there are cyclical companies to own at certain times over others during a rising inflationary period, the surest way to survive is to keep growing faster than the rate of rising costs. To that end, while we are cautious believers in the case for moderate inflation we remain ardent believers in the case for technology and growth stocks.

The no man’s land, however, is the slow growing company - whose leadership has eroded. These are the new quicksands of the public markets and while tantalizingly offering cheap cash flows, unless that cash can create a new arc of growth for that company or be invested by that CEO at superior rates of return, it is literally the last puff of a used cigar that one is best advised to avoid.”