“Time flows in strange ways on Sundays, and sights become mysteriously distorted.”
- Haruki Murakami
Featured artist: Sofi Naydenova
A week in summary: Wanderlusting
- AirBnB’s stock doubles from its IPO price. Last week, the stock was sold to new investors at $68. Since launching on Thursday, prices have gone past $148 valuing the company at over $88 billion. Other notable gig economy IPOs such as DoorDash at over $70 billion have some investors concerned it is another internet bubble with valuation of internet stocks “divorced from the general market”.
- Perhaps we are just wanderlustful as airline EasyJet in partnership with Deliveroo launches the world’s first home delivery trolley service. The promotion will help cabin crew ‘match fit’ and will even provide people with the ‘much loved’ airplane safety routine.
- Despite some bailouts happening across the globe, some brands are pushing for more premium products. Apple has recently announced the $549 bra headphones. Others like Jay-Z (“I'm Not A Businessman, I'm A Business, Man) are making similar forays with ‘premium’ weed on the market with his new MONOGRAM brand selling $50 joints. Perhaps like how Apple acquired Beats by Dr Dre, we might eventually see an Apple CPG some time too!
- After the massive financial success of the Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr fight with a mixture of nostalgic fans and fans of the famous YouTuber undercards, Floyd Mayweather (50-0) will fight Logan Paul (0-1) in a February exhibition match. Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather will certainly be making even more money as sponsors line up for the match.
- Based on the success of celebs running events on Fortnite, Complex gamified shopping through their virtual Complexland event earlier this week. In a throwback to Habbo hotel and a more avatar alternative to virtual events breakout startup Hopin, Complex launched the most fun virtual event of the year.
2021: Accelerating Tech Trends -> Big Tech Breakup?
The global pandemic has accelerated technology usage among corporations. In McKinsey’s COVID-19 technology survey, they found their corporate respondents three times more likelier now than before to say that at least 80 percent of their customer interactions are digital in nature. In the same survey, McKinsey reckons that the global average for technology adoption has accelerated by about 3 years.
Whilst some may applaud the trend as an opportunity to make strides in digital therapeutics, cryptocurrency and even education - evidence suggests that in the Tech market, the winner takes all. Leading VC figures such as Marc Andreesen have long described why tech businesses are different and how “software eats the world”. It is becoming more and more common to describe problems as ‘software’ challenges. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and Palantir, is a famous espouser of the message that “competition is for losers. If you want to create and capture lasting value, look to build a monopoly”.
The US Government has begun taking steps towards regulating Big Tech. Peter Thiel’s favorite example of a company building a Monopoly, Facebook, is now under threat of ‘break up’. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a coalition of US states are suing Facebook on the grounds it has employed a “systematic strategy” to eliminate its competition.
The leaked conversation between Kevin Systrom (founder of Instagram) and his investor over Mark Zuckerberg certainly makes Facebook seem a scary monster. Perhaps Facebook may be forced to sell off Whatsapp and Instagram.
As the US Government goes after Facebook, smaller social media networks nip at the heels. Twitter is introducing frequency caps on an ad being shown to the same user, which may make it cheaper to run ads and Reddit is pursuing more new advertisers.
Across the globe, other governments are also beginning to look to regulate Big Tech. In China, corporations had long already needed to tow the Party line as seen by the cancellation of Ant Financial’s IPO, two days before the anticipated launch. In the EU, France and Germany look to establish ‘digital sovereignty’.
Whilst policy plays catch up, the Big Tech companies have been rushing to acquire AI firms. The ‘acqui-hires’ combined with their large computing resources, have helped Big Tech eliminate many potential rivals and concentrate global talent within their ranks. It has created questions about whether the community is diverse enough to address the potentially massive social consequences of any paradigmatic societal disruption. Google’s recent firing of AI-ethicist, Tinit Gebru, after she refused to rescind research about the risks of deploying large language models on the environment and marginalised communities, is one further example in this narrative.
As Governments attempt to manage the social contract and the unequal boons of the Tech industry relative to the rest of the economy, some Tech figures are pushing back. Tesla, HP and now Oracle are moving their headquarters to Texas where there would be lower tax than California. With many of California’s wealthiest ‘contrarians’ moving to Austin, it is yet to be seen how the upcoming U.S. Administration will manage the post-pandemic wealth divides. Whether Government will do more for the social contract or if Government is only just what Elon Musk claims, “the ultimate corporation”.
The History of The Web (by Jay Hoffman)
Have you ever wondered what is the history behind the World Wide Web? Starting from 12 March 1989, when Tim-Berners Lee submits a proposal on “Information Management, a Proposal”, Hoffman provides an engaging timeline of the pivotal moments in the history of the Internet.
Christopher Alexander’s Fifteen Properties of Nature (Summary written by I Am Ronen)
“If we are to use the theory of centers – and the concept of life – as the basis of all architecture, it would be reassuring to know that wholeness, together with the properties which bring centers to life, is a necessary feature of material reality, not merely a psychological aspect of things which arises during perception of works of art.”
Christopher Alexander phenomenologically derived a set of 15 properties that all structures that we perceive to have “life” possesses. The fifteen properties provided a coherent form of ‘nature’s beauty’.
How To Think For Yourself (by Paul Graham)
The much venerated founder of Y Combinator is back with another of his essays on how to think about the work we do. In an essay appealing to contrarianism, Graham explores the nature of work and how to foster thinking differently.
Graham describes that in most kinds of jobs, one needs to be right. In some others where one needs to foster a different pattern of thinking, say being a great scientist, one must be correct and novel. The essay explores how one could go about being independent-minded and avoid falling into traps of ‘conformist’ thought gathering - by being curious and learning about specific things which others don’t look deeper into.