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jerryking : illusions   14

Winners in Silicon Valley put in the hard yards
October 24, 2019 | | Financial Times | by Michael Moritz 6 HOURS AGO

The genuine formula for success among Silicon Valley's "real companies" are longevity and persistence against all odds. It is no coincidence that the greatest companies to emerge from Silicon Valley and its sister regions in China share hallmarks that are very different from popular perception. These companies are never “overnight sensations”, and they have usually had plenty of close encounters of the worst kind.

Their founders will not be leading the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Instead, they will be strapped to the mast displaying single-minded devotion to their business, jealous of every minute that is not associated with the welfare and sustenance of their company.

Their reading lists will be long; they will be voracious in their willingness to learn from others; harbour insatiable curiosity; display a fetching mixture of supreme confidence and humility; and have a keen understanding of how to make the impossible possible.

They will also adopt healthy corporate habits in their early days, have a sound appreciation for how their company will become profitable and refuse to pursue a strategy for growth come what may. They will pay keen attention to unit economics, operating expenses, cash balances, positive cash flows and dilution. The founders of the flagship technology companies of the past 50 years — Intel, Cisco, Qualcomm, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Alibaba and Tencent — have all shared these traits and that is true for today’s best privately held companies.......In the technology world, fatuous slogans, broken promises, unlaced basketball shoes and black turtlenecks can only get you so far. It is then that the absence of a sound business model suddenly becomes evident. It is then that heaps of protective voting rights melt away. It is then that people understand gravity has not been repealed and that patience is the best way to build what you want. That’s the life of the persistent majority.
business_models  character_traits  dotcom  founders  hard_work  illusions  Juul  ksfs  longevity  Michael_Moritz  persistence  Silicon_Valley  reading  Sequoia  single-minded_focus  start_ups  WeWork 
october 2019 by jerryking
The Offbeat Genius of a Great American Spy - WSJ
By Sam Walker
Jan. 26, 2019

this experiment in deception and illusion became the central pillar of a unique operational mindset known as “the Moscow Rules.” By learning to outfox the KGB, the Moscow station not only connected with TRIGON, it scored some the biggest espionage coups in American history.
CIA  deception  espionage  illusions  obituaries  security_&_intelligence  spycraft 
january 2019 by jerryking
Disaster and the Wealth of Nations - WSJ
By The Editorial Board
Aug. 27, 2017

The costs will be enormous in losses to property as the region dries out, but the good news is that a rich country like the United States has the resources to respond. The means to cope with disaster, natural or man-made, is one reason that we put so much focus in these pages on policies that promote sustained economic growth and the wealth that flows from it.

Immunity from nature’s fury is an illusion that humans cultivate until we are forced to confront that fury again. We forget the damage that storms and earthquakes can do. Complex societies can better cope with the damage if they have a reservoir of accumulated wealth that governments and private sources can devote to alleviating the suffering and helping communities rebuild.
disasters  natural_calamities  illusions  optimism_bias  man-made 
august 2017 by jerryking
The ever-shifting policies are always grand in this kaleidoscopic new world
June 2017 | Financial Times | by Bachu Biswas

Sir, Gillian Tett (June 17) coined the acronym FUCU, observing that the letters F, U, C and U point to four important cultural shifts among voters in the western world (“fragmentation”, “untrusting”, “customising” and “unstable”). I would argue that her acronym is missing another important letter, and that letter is K, which should be added after the letter C.

The letter K stands for “kaleidoscopic”. The Oxford dictionary describes the kaleidoscope as “a toy consisting of a tube containing mirrors and pieces of coloured glass or paper, whose reflections produce changing patterns when the tube is rotated”. The patterns in today’s politics in the make-believe worlds of Make America Great Again and Brexit are policies that are either big on the nostalgic promises of past glory or economic solutions whose time has passed; but which, when confronted with reality, are often changed instantly, modified or claimed to have been fulfilled by “alternative facts”. The facts reflected in the mirrors of alternative facts create illusions that allow voters to believe whatever they want to believe. And if that belief is not adulatory enough, the political leaders rotate the tube again to create different illusions hoping that the new images will be more favourable.

Promises are short-lived in this world of “FUC(Kaleidoscopic)U” politics, but policies are always grand.

Bachu Biswas
Gillian_Tett  kaleidoscopic  letters_to_the_editor  short-lived  policies  Brexit  politicians  illusions 
august 2017 by jerryking
Chinks emerge in the armour of prized malls
22 July/23 July 2017 | Financial Times | Miles Johnson.

A defining feature of the financial crisis was a group of hedge funds making vast sums by wagering against supposedly AAA-rated mortgage debt well before markets imploded in 2008.

Now some believe a similar story will play out for US shopping malls — that the most risky investments will end up being those that investors now believe to be the safest. Central to their premise is the idea that too much faith may be being placed in a classification system used for shopping malls that is little known outside of the real estate sector.....investors are also actively leaving the office and conducting field research.

In April researchers from a large US hedge fund travelled to the outer boroughs of New York to a shopping mall that is home to Apple and Armani among other retailers....To their surprise the researchers quickly came across a pop-up shop selling cheaply manufactured stuffed teddy bears and plastic toys. Two months later the store had disappeared....
The stock market has until recently appeared to believe that prime “A” malls are largely insulated from the pain being felt across a US retail sector being shaken by e-commerce.

Shares in Washington Prime, an operator of lower quality B and C classed malls, are down by half since the start of 2015. However, until recently shares in “prime” mall operators Simon Property Group and GGP had held up, underpinned by the belief that their A-quality malls in prime locations were safe from the challenge of online shopping.......Yet there is growing evidence to suggest that these prime malls, which have been treated by investors and lenders alike as rock solid bets in the face of the internet headwinds, are not as protected as once thought.

Shares in Simon Property, the largest Reit in America with a market value of $50bn, are down by almost 30 per cent over the past 12 months, having held up strongly to the middle of 2016. Short interest in Simon, which tracks the amount of shares hedge funds have borrowed to bet that its value will fall, rose to the highest level since the financial crisis last month, with bets worth more than $1bn.....The hedge funds wagering against the highest quality malls believe that the wider market will come to believe these A-quality malls are far more similar to lesser ranked ones. “This idea that there are these magic malls in America that are immune to secular change is a myth,” the US-based hedge fund manager says.

Some argue that the market under-appreciates that A class mall operators and B and C class mall operators all have very similar tenant bases, in spite of being in different locations. L Brands, the owner of lingerie chain Victoria’s Secret, is the largest single tenant for prime operator GGP, according to company is also the biggest tenant for the lesser ranked CBL and second largest for Washington Prime.....Russell Clark of Horseman Capital notes the vulnerability malls have to the loss of single big brands, known as anchor tenants, with their departure often triggering a wave of rent loss with other tenants.

“Many tenants have a clause in their lease to reduce rents should an anchor close a store. Thus, even though the loss of rent due to an anchor closing is minimal, the knock-on effect of reduced rents from the remaining tenants is a serious concern,” he noted.....the hunt for opportunities to bet against quality malls outside the US. The share prices of Intu Properties and Hammerson, the UK’s largest publicly listed shopping centre operators, have not yet followed the falls seen in the shares of their largest tenants.
shopping_malls  commercial_real_estate  real_estate  MappedIn  mapping  hedge_funds  primary_field_research  pop-ups  store_closings  pretense_of_knowledge  illusions  under_appreciated  retailers  vulnerabilities  anchor_tenants  REITs  L_Brands  A-class  B-class  C-class  Victoria's_Secret 
july 2017 by jerryking
Have Americans Given Up?
MAR 5, 2017 | The Atlantic | by DEREK THOMPSON.
...this is a mirage, according to the economist and popular writer Tyler Cowen, whose new book is The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. In fact, the nation's dynamism is in the dumps. Americans move less than they used to. They start fewer companies. Caught in the hypnotic undertow of TV and video games, they are less likely to go outside. Even the federal government itself has transformed from an investment vehicle, which once spent a large share of its money on infrastructure and research, to an insurance conglomerate, which spends more than half its money on health care and Social Security. A nation of risk-takers has become a nation of risk-mitigation experts...So, what happened? Cowen’s thought-provoking book emphasizes several causes, including geographic immobility, housing prices, and monopolization.....several studies have shown that many U.S. workers don’t start new companies because they’re afraid of losing their employer-sponsored health insurance. A single-payer system might increase overall entrepreneurial activity. As I read Cowen’s book, I thought of an acrobat show. No circus performer wants to leap between swings without a net to catch them as they fall. The trick is to design for safety without designing for complacency.
large_companies  dynamism  America_in_Decline?  self-defeating  Tyler_Cowen  economists  books  innovation  illusions  Silicon_Valley  geographic_mobility  economic_mobility  housing  Donald_Trump  elitism  restlessness  safety_nets  risk-mitigation  monopolies  the_American_dream 
march 2017 by jerryking
Canada beware: We are suffering a great depression in commodity prices - The Globe and Mail
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

The Great Depression of the 1930s used to be understood as a worldwide structural crisis that was partly an adjustment to the great expansion of crop acreage and other primary industries undertaken to meet the demands of the First World War. Unfortunately the history of those years now tends to be viewed through the distorting lenses of economists fixated on monetary policy and financial crisis management.

They thought that the crisis of 2008 might become a replay of the 1930s. For the most part they have not realized that it is today’s global depression in commodity prices that has eerie echoes of the great crack-up. If it’s true that we have overexpanded our productive capacity to meet the demands of Chinese growth, and if that growth is now going to slow, or even cease, then history is worrisomely on the verge of repeating itself....One sign of the beginning of wisdom is to be able to shed illusions. Make no mistake. Right now, the world is experiencing a great depression in commodity prices, led by the collapse of oil, that represents an enormous shrinkage in the valuation of our wealth. As a country whose wealth is still highly dependent on the returns we can get from selling our natural resources, Canada is very vulnerable. In a time of price depression, our wealth bleeds away.
'30s  adjustments  commodities  commodities_supercycle  economic_downturn  Great_Depression  historians  history  illusions  Michael_Bliss  natural_resources  overcapacity  pricing  overexpansion  slow_growth  wisdom  WWI 
january 2016 by jerryking
You can’t stop Ebola at airports - The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Oct. 07 2014

Ebola is spread by direct contact with a sick person’s bodily fluids – meaning saliva, feces, urine, blood, vomit or semen....For the past 600 years, quarantine has been used with varying degrees of success, and it has an unhappy history. It raises myriad political, ethical and socioeconomic issues.

Quarantine derives from the Italian word quaranta (forty); its origins date back to 1348, when Venice ruled that ships must lay anchor for 40 days to avoid spread of the plague. (Forty days was arbitrary; it was inspired by the biblical 40 days of travails of Jesus.) Draconian measures didn’t stop the Black Plague, or smallpox, or tuberculosis or SARS or successive waves of pandemic influenza, and it won’t stop Ebola. Quarantine has some public health benefits, but it has been used, throughout history, to repress and stigmatize minorities, and to quash political dissent.

What works most effectively for quelling outbreaks of disease like Ebola is not quarantining huge populations, but isolating those who are sick and those in direct contact with them and at risk of infection....The lesson there is that disease containment requires swift, decisive action. It means focusing on the sick and those at high-risk.

Casting a too wide net, such as invoking travel bans and treating everyone who has travelled to or lives in West Africa as a modern-day Typhoid Mary, does not make us safer.

On the contrary, it only provides an illusion of security, and an excuse for prejudice to come bubbling to the surface.
Ebola  airports  Africa  public_health  travel  quarantines  André_Picard  dangers  false_confidence  viruses  illusions  embargoes  biblical  arbitrariness 
october 2014 by jerryking
Whatever the weather
Nov. 24, 2012 | The Financial Times News: p10.|Gillian Tett who interviews Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Until now, Taleb says, modern society has generally assumed that people, systems or institutions fell into two camps: either they were fragile (and likely to break when shocks occur) or robust (and thus able to resist shocks without being impacted at all). Taleb insists there is a third category of people, institutions and systems that are resilient in a way we have been unable to articulate: they survive shocks not because they are immovable but precisely because they do change, bending in the face of stress; adapting and learning. This is the quality that he describes as "antifragile". (In the US the book is being published with the rather more explicit subtitle "Things that Gain from Disorder".)

Taleb goes on to explain how this works: while nation-states tend to be fragile (because they are highly dependent on one vision of the nation), city-states tend to be antifragile (because they can adapt and learn from history). Careers that are based on one large employer can be fragile but careers that are flexible and entrepreneurial are antifragile, because they can move with changing times. Similarly, the banking system is fragile, while Silicon Valley is antifragile; governments that are highly indebted are fragile, while those (such as Sweden) which have learnt from past mistakes and refuse to assume too much debt are antifragile. And Switzerland is presented as one of the most antifragile places of all, partly because its decentralised structure allows for plenty of experimentation...Taleb has plenty of advice to offer us on how to become more antifragile. We should embrace unpredictable change, rather than chase after an illusion of stability; refuse to believe anyone who offers advice without taking personal risk; keep institutions and systems small and self-contained to ensure that they can fail without bringing the entire system down; build slack into our lives and systems to accommodate surprises; and, above all, recognise the impossibility of predicting anything with too much precision. Instead of building systems that are excessively "safe", Taleb argues, we should roll with the punches, learn to love the random chances of life and, above all, embrace small pieces of adversity as opportunities for improvement. "Wind extinguishes a candle and energises a fire," he writes. "Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos, you want to use them, not hide from them."
adaptability  adversity  antifragility  books  chaos  city-states  Gillian_Tett  illusions  Nassim_Taleb  overcompensation  personal_risk  randomness  resilience  scheduling  self-contained  skin_in_the_game  slack_time  surprises  trauma  uncertainty  unpredictability 
november 2012 by jerryking
The Young & Restless of Technology Finance
November 1993| The Red Herring | Anthony B. Perkins.

We think that marketing is everything. We try to help our companies figure out what is going to set them apart. We encourage companies to define their biggest risks-up front, work hard to put the risks behind them, and then move forward with very innovative marketing...During the interview process, you see whether entrepreneurs have passion and tenacity. The hardest thing to determine is their ability to stick-to-it. Entrepreneurs need to be very dynamic, wi11ing to adjust. And that's why an important part of our process is checking references, we have to be convinced the entrepreneur has never give up, even when things get tough. In other words, when Plan A work, because Plan A never works, we like to hear entrepreneurs say "That's O.K.,Plan B is on its way. I've twisted this valve and turned this knob and I really think we've figured it out." What we don't like to hear is "Well,it didn't work out...sorry." We also like to see entrepreneurs who are singularly focused on building -great products that fill distinct market needs. We are less interested in people who like nice digs, hype,and PR.

Moritz: ‘We have a very tight on making sure there is a sizable market opportunity in front. of us before we make an investment. We are much more focused on market growth potential and the ability for a company to reach a market successfully and profitably. We have also demonstrated as a firm and individually the ability to get companies off the ground with a small amount of fuel. We like to start wicked infernos with a single match rather than two million gallons of kerosene. This is clearly a differentiated way of getting a company put together. This approach has terrific benefits for the people who start the companies and for all our limited partners. You might say that we have a morbid fascination with our ROI, as opposed no the amount of dollars we put to work. And this is a very different message than you get from a lot of other venture firms.
The: HERRING: How often does a Sequoia partner actually go in and help operate a company?

Moritz: Pierre is the great unsung hero of Cisco Systems. He spent a tremendous amount of time at the company. working behind the scenes helping to make sure the engineering department was designing and getting new products to market. People don't realize the significant contribution Pierre made to Cisco because Don's name is on the hubcaps as the chairman of the company. The ability we have to help operate companies is a useful tool in our arsenal.

The HERRING: Sequoia's image on the streets of Silicon Valley is that you are the Los Angeles Raiders of venture capital--the tough guys who are quicker than the other firms to boot the CEO or pull the financial plug.
Moritz: We are congenitally incapable of pouring good money after bad. Some people. for their own will thrust us into a position to be harbingers of bad new to management, which is all right. But we do not want to continue propping up a company if we think its chances for success have evaporated. We would be wasting our money as individuals and wasting the money of our limited partners. There have been very few instances where we decided to stop funding a company and have regretted it.
The HERRING: What ’s the hardest part of your job?
Moritz: We usually don't make mistakes when it comes to assessing market opportunity. And we are reasonably accurate in predicting how long it will take to bring a product to market. The great imponderable is to judge accurately and predict how well a president is going to be able to run the business. It is easy to mistake the facade for reality
The HERRING: ‘What characteristics does Sequoia look for in a company president?
Moritz: Frugality, competitiveness. confidence, and paranoia.
venture_capital  vc  howto  Kleiner_Perkins  Sequoia  career_paths  Michael_Moritz  no_regrets  endurance  frugality  competitiveness  paranoia  self-confidence  market_sizing  market_windows  team_risk  market_opportunities  ambitions  large_markets  sticktoitiveness  entrepreneur  perseverance  indispensable  Plan_B  off-plan  champions  reference-checking  unknowns  assessments_&_evaluations  opportunities  unsentimental  wishful_thinking  illusions  overambitious 
july 2012 by jerryking Living in the real world of finance
December 9, 2011 | G&M | by David Parkinson.
Both a scientist and financial guru, Emanuel Derman warns of relying on mathematical models to predict stock movements. As David Parkinson reports, investors should beware the wild card of human nature...Mr. Derman was in Toronto discussing his new book, Models. Behaving. Badly: Why Confusing Illusion With Reality Can Lead to Disaster, on Wall Street and in Life.

boundary_conditions  finance  quantitative  Wall_Street  Colleges_&_Universities  books  physics  models  mathematics  stockmarkets  biases  modelling  dangers  false_confidence  human_factor  stock_picking  illusions  oversimplification  in_the_real_world 
january 2012 by jerryking
Can Small Businesses Make America Prosperous? :
October 31, 2011| The New Yorker | by James Surowiecki.

There's an ongoing veneration of small business...But the truth is that, from the perspective of the economy as a whole, small companies are not the real drivers of growth....small businesses are, on the whole, less productive than big businesses, and though they do create most jobs, they also destroy most jobs, since, while starting a business is easy, keeping it going is the U.S. the connection between size and productivity is, as a 2009 study showed, especially close. In part, this is because big businesses are able to enjoy economies of scale and scope. Big businesses are also better able to make investments in productivity-enhancing technologies and systems; in the U.S., for instance, big companies account for the vast majority of R. & D. spending....It’s harder for small businesses to innovate in these ways, particularly when credit is tight, as it is now. More important, most small businesses aren’t necessarily interested in expanding or innovating. A recent study by the economists Erik Hurst and Benjamin Pugsley shows that only a tiny fraction of small-business owners have any interest in becoming big-business owners, or even in bringing a new idea to market. Most are people who simply want to run a small company, do work they enjoy, and have some control over their own financial lives.

Those are admirable goals, but they’re not going to make companies more productive....greater productivity is the main driver of long-term economic growth and higher living standards.
small_business  James_Surowiecki  productivity  owners  myths  illusions  large_companies  economies_of_scale  economies_of_scope  managerial_preferences 
october 2011 by jerryking
In a Data-Heavy Society, Being Defined by the Numbers -
Published: April 22, 2011
“Numbers make intangibles tangible,” said Jonah Lehrer, a journalist and
author of “How We Decide,” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). “They
give the illusion of control.”[stories, anecdotes, and ratios make numbers memorable. See also Pinboard article, "To Persuade People, Tell Them a Story"]

Too many people shopping for cars, for example, get fixated on how much
horsepower the engine has, even though in most cases it really doesn’t
matter, Mr. Lehrer said.

“We want to quantify everything,” he went on, “to ground a decision in
fact, instead of asking whether that variable matters.” [jck: that is, which variables are incisive, worth paying attention to, act as signal in a sea of noise?]
obsessions  rankings  data_driven  metrics  statistics  analysis  incisiveness  quantitative  Jonah_Lehrer  dangers  intangibles  meaning  sense-making  data  illusions  false_confidence  anecdotal  books  sense_of_control  storytelling  decision_making  overquantification 
april 2011 by jerryking
Tough-mindedness - Gabor's Positive Thoughts
William James, a great teacher of psychology & philosophy
at Harvard during the early yrs. of the 20th century, made the useful
distinction between being tough-minded vs. tender-minded. The terms have
nothing to do with levels of ethical conduct; the toughness referred to
is toughness of the intellectual apparatus, toughness of the spirit,
not toughness of the heart. It is the attitude & the qualities &
the training that enable one to seize on facts & make these facts a
basis for intelligent, courageous action. The tough-minded have a zest
for tackling hard problems. They dare to grapple with the unfamiliar
& wrest useful truth from stubborn new facts. They are not dismayed
by change. Above all, the tough-minded do not wall themselves in
comfortable illusions. They do not rely on the easy precepts of
tradition or on mere conformity to regulations. They know that the
answers are not in the book.
tough_love  tough-mindedness  attitudes  conformity  mindsets  decision_making  ambiguities  change  illusions  arduous 
april 2011 by jerryking

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