Issue 5 - News & Thoughts from Sanjay

Sorry it has been a few weeks since I’ve hit you up with an email. I’m working on my latest startup which has had some trials and tribulations but I’m back on track and will be announcing the name of this endeavor soon. Working on a startup that matters becomes a bit of an obsession with me. I start thinking about it all of the time and almost anything can be the spark of inspiration for a new area of opportunity or growth.

But with those opportunities comes a huge threat - the allure of distraction. I’ve been trying hard to stop all of the distractions which are so easy to hook into now that we’re all at home (well most of us - we’re still sheltering-in-place regardless of the insane claims of some of our elected officials). Among the things I’ve quit are playing some mobile games (goodbye Clash Royale and Asteroids!) and watching TV while I work. On that second, I realized the attention distraction is just too great even when it’s shows that I’ve seen before. So now I’m exclusively listening to music (getting that Spotify Family Plan membership was a good call) which is useful in discovering great new artists that I can recommend to you below.

I’ve also gone deep into using Obsidian.md for knowledge management. I had started using Roam Research but after having some uptime issues and concerns about the integrity of data, I decided to look for alternatives. Fortunately the founder of Roam Research ended up blowing up on Twitter over a user who was also looking for alternatives and that gave me visibility into Obsidian. I will say I’m not a master in documenting everything and taking notes in Obsidian but given that the data is saved as Markdown on my local machine, I have no issues with uptime or note integrity now. Just remember to backup, backup, backup. And once you do, make sure you can properly recover the backups because a backup you can’t recover is the same as never backing up in the first place.

So with that, I hope you’re well and enjoy the rest of the newsletter.

Your friend,

Sanjay


Content From Sanjay

This week I’ve only got one thing for you - the latest episode of Tech Talk Y’all. You really should subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast app (or Spotify!).


Articles I’ve Read That Made Me Think

  • Both the New Yorker and Last Week Tonight have covered the issues and challenges happening with the US Postal Service right now. I find it mind boggling that people can look at what has happened with the privatization of other services (for-profit prisons, anyone?) and think that a common good like the postal service could be privatized and still be a valuable service to a functioning democracy. I’ve read a lot about this issue over the last few years and so many who criticize the USPS don’t understand how Congress pushed through a law in 2006 that mandated the USPS to pre-fund 75 years of pension obligations. That means that future employees of the USPS who haven’t even been born yet must have their pension obligations paid for now. Show me one private company that does that. There are none because that is insane and largely part of the reason behind the USPS’s ongoing annual losses. Prior to this law the USPS (like the US Patent and Trademark Office, by the way) was profitable. Maybe the answer is more autonomy for the USPS without privatizing the whole thing. Also, I had no idea that you could send children through the mail! Also, given that the USPS has the largest vehicle fleet in the United States, I hope that they move into electric vehicles soon - that would be great for our collective air quality. Can someone work on this bit?

  • During the last few months I’ve been watching the stock markets mercilessly trying to figure out how to both protect and grow our assets. I was fortunate to have been able to make some buying moves on March 23rd which, so far, was the bottom of the market. But the amount of time I’m spending on this isn’t helpful for my larger goal of launching this new startup (see above). So I’ve started using Wealthfront again (disclosure: that link to Wealthfront gets you $5k managed for free and I get the same $5k managed for free on my end if you end up using the service). The ability to have computer algorithms optimize my portfolio and maximize my tax savings is something that would be nearly impossible for me to do by hand. Their 0.25% annual fee seems pretty reasonable as well (that $5k managed free amounts to a $12.50 savings per year). But what is more interesting is what is available as account balances reach $100k and beyond. In particular, I went down the rabbit hole reading about their risk parity strategy whitepaper. That was a bit of goop for me, so I headed over to the always great resource Investopedia and read their page on risk parity. Thinking through the use of leverage (i.e., debt) which I wouldn’t be able to manage personally makes a lot of sense to amplify returns. If you’re a long-term investor like me, then amplifying returns is something you should always pay attention to. The other option to look at, if you’re interested, is Betterment. I’ve tried both and I like Wealthfront’s addition of a few more categories for their portfolios (like natural resources) as well as the opportunity to do stock level tax harvesting for larger accounts. Both of these companies are of the same relative size in terms of assets under management (AUM).


Media Recommendation

I’ve got to say that I absolutely love the song “Cold War” from Cautious Clay (aka Josh Karpeh). The harmonic voices of the backup signers reminds me of a lot of Enya songs from way back in the day. As an added recommendation, we’ve been watching the show “All American” (two seasons available on Netflix currently - season three should be on the CW later this year COVID delays notwithstanding) and this song was played in one of the episodes in the first season. Note that Cautious Clay isn’t that unknown with just over 2.5m monthly listeners on Spotify right now. Seems like a lot of folks are unknown when I first hear of them (less than 50k monthly listeners) and then they shoot up by the time I get around to recommending them here. Go figure.

Issue 4 - News & Thoughts from Sanjay

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I had a surge of new folks joining this newsletter (thanks Madison!). This newsletter is weekly-ish and focuses on interesting stories I’ve read and a bit of analysis from me. There is no topic I focus on because I like to read a lot of different things. If you like this newsletter, I’d love for you to share it with someone else and tell them to subscribe as well.

Your friend,

Sanjay


Content From Sanjay

This week I’ve only got one thing for you - the latest episode of Tech Talk Y’all. You really should subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast app (or Spotify!).


Articles I’ve Read

Business & Startups

  • I had no idea how the global trade of flowers was so involved. It’s funny that the country that is often pointed at for the absurdity of their Tulip mania is now in control of over 40% of the worldwide $8.5 billion market of cut flowers. Just like the Tulip mania of 1637, this is not going well now. The market has crashed due to supply chain issues and the cancellation of events worldwide. This has far reaching consequences which is true of nearly any industry right now reliant on a global supply chain. But in this case the lowest workers involved in this supply chain live on hundreds of dollars a month and there is no work-from-home option or Paycheck Protection Plan for them. Expect a sharp increase in global poverty due to coronavirus in the future but importantly, how do we protect the supply chain and workers from a disruption like this in the future? (link)

  • The movie business is being disrupted since no one is currently (well, until this week) going to theaters. I watched the movie “Extraction” on Netflix (if you’re into action flicks, I’d recommend it) which was originally going to theaters but then ended up going direct to streaming. But that isn’t to say that theaters are going to take this lying down. Universal’s CEO said that their three-week $100 million in premium video-on-demand for Trolls World Tour was signaling that in the future they would release movies to theaters and VOD at the same time. This wasn’t something that AMC’s CEO appreciated who then fired off a letter saying that AMC would no longer show any Universal film because of these comments. Wow, this is going to be interesting to watch. (link)

Technology

  • The Pentagon has confirmed previous leaked videos of unexplained aerial phenomena (they apparently don’t like calling them flying objects because to be honest, they might not be objects and could be something else - what, I don’t know). So the Pentagon has decided to release video of UFOs during a pandemic. Must be a coincidence though. 🤔 (link)

Love

  • I want to part with you about two stories of love in the time of a pandemic. First is a story of a 89 year-old German ma and a 85 year-old Danish woman who continue their romance across the closed Danish-German border. (link)

  • In NYC, there is a story documented via TikTok/Instagram videos by Jeremy Cohen. Jeremy is a photographer who has been documenting roof culture in NYC (only in a pandemic would there be something like roof culture). Through doing that, he noticed a girl (aka Quarentine Cutie) and struck up a relationship with her - from her roof to his balcony starting with a drone (yes, it’s 2020 friends). There are five parts to the story so far and really he gets bonus points for doing a Say Anything/Lloyd Dobler serenade in the fifth installment (I don’t think Jeremy is into kickboxing though). Check out the videos in the links. (video one, two, three, four, five)


Recommendation

I didn’t know nerdcore hip-hop was a thing until Madison Hogan sent this link of Alex Trebek roasting a contestant about her love of this genre. So I thought I’d dig in and man oh man, there is some hilarity here. So I’m recommending you check out the “Godfather” of nerdcore hip-hop, MC Frontalot’s song “First World Problem”. With the challenges we’re going through right now being locked down due to coronavirus, this seems to be quite an appropriate song for a lot of people complaining about not being able to go outside.

Recommendation Addendum

Last time I mentioned that I thought I heard the song “Dream Girl” by Anna of the North on an Apple ad. I’ve now absolutely confirmed this is true hearing it on the Apple television ad for their new iPad Pro with backup confirmation from iSpot.tv. Whew! Glad I’m not imagining things.

Issue 3 - News & Thoughts from Sanjay

The week is now just three days - yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Today is "today".

I was ideating on a video chat app this week with a friend. There are a lot of apps out there right now including Zoom, Houseparty, Google Meet, Shindig, Jitsi (you should check this out if you’ve got friends who are technically challenged - works in a browser and just requires a link to connect), and so many others. I’ve been thinking about this idea of how you can make friends in the 2000s. Before the lock down we were constantly looking at our phones and not engaged with each other. I had the idea of building a service where you connect with others for short chats to make new friends - think Chatroulette (remember that? it’s still a thing but I’m not going to link to it) but without all the naughty stuff that ended up making that great idea fall apart.

But then I realized - I don’t have time to take another project on. I’ve been incredibly busy working on my main idea (more on that in the coming weeks) as well as some boards I’m on as well as helping some founder friends with challenges in their startups. I’ve had a hard time giving up on pursuing ideas that I think are worth while but I’m realizing that success (and changing the world) comes through focus. So sorry to all of you, you’re not going to have my new video chat idea - at least not for now. Maybe some day. But for now, I’ve got something bigger that needs fixing in the world.

How about you? What’s the one big problem of the world that you’re working to fix. Lets each focus on that and make 2020 wish that it had never had a thing called coronavirus.

Your friend,

Sanjay


Content From Sanjay

This week I’ve only got one thing for you - the latest episode of Tech Talk Y’all. You really should subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast app (or Spotify!).


Articles I’ve Read

Business & Startups

  • Yes, your toilet paper is at risk. You thought it was because people were just being crazy and hoarding toilet paper (this is what I thought), but there are real systemic issues around delivering this needed staple. A number of sawmills have been shut down due to slack demand (building lumber, etc.) and because of this they aren’t making sawdust and wood chips which are used in the production in toilet paper. Maybe it is time to go buy that bidet. (link)

  • I really couldn’t wrap my head around a negative price for oil so I went hunting for an article that laid out all the details. In a nutshell, the “negative price” for oil is really around futures contracts (so not really today’s price to buy a barrel of oil). The problem is that demand has dropped (factories closed, people not driving, etc.) and supply continues unabated (price war between OPEC and Russia). So this is an inelastic good right now (lower price doesn’t increase demand). The issue is that there is a finite amount of storage space for this oil after it’s out of the ground which has people panicking and not wanting to take delivery of oil that they can’t store or unload on someone else. Of course, you could leave the oil where it is (in the ground) since that’s already “stored” but apparently it takes time to safely shut down oil wells (plus Saudi Arabia is looking to squeeze Russia and others out of the market to regain market dominance). So nuts. (link)

  • Sometimes a pandemic will help bring back “old” tech. In this case a drive-in theater in Florida was the entire box office returns last weekend. (link)

Science

  • Is there any doubt that living in an area with higher air pollution makes you more susceptible to poor health outcomes? In case there is, here is another study (not yet peer-reviewed, mind you) that shows a higher incidence of death from the current pandemic if you live in an area of worse air pollution. We need to get serious about cleaning up the environment - air and water - or we’re handing our descendants a lot shorter life than they deserve. (link)

Technology

  • Biometric authentication (i.e., fingerprint scanners) are incredibly easy to fool. Because of how the data has to be acquired they tend to allow a good amount of data fuzziness. Thus creating opportunities for attack using something as now common as a 3D printer. I implore you not to use fingerprint scanners to protect your devices and instead either use a code that you know (and not “000000” like Kanye West) or a strong encryption key (like a Yubikey) or ideally, both. (link)


Recommendation

This week I’m recommending the artist Anna of the North with the vocals by Anna Lotterud from Norway. I swear I thought I heard her song, “Dream Girl”, on an Apple TV ad but I can’t find corroboration on that so my ears may have played a trick on me. Anna of the North was a hit on the Internet in 2014 with the song “Sway” but I never heard of them then and the song “Sway” doesn’t do it for me. “Dream Girl” and “My Love” (both songs are from the same album) are better songs to me.

Issue 2 - News & Thoughts from Sanjay

What lock down week is this now?

Hey there friend. For this issue I’ve added a separate “coronavirus” section below with some pieces on important news. If you’re tapped out on coronavirus, just skip that section.

Your friend,

Sanjay


Content From Sanjay

This week I’ve only got two things (!) for you - the latest episode of Tech Talk Y’all as always. You really should subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast app (or Spotify!).

I’ve also just published my first blog post in a very long time. I’m giving away four ideas for startups/technologies that would help improve public health and accomplish something real. I’m never going to build these so I hope you or someone you know will. One of the ideas I share would even be one I’d be willing to invest in as an angel. Check out the story on Medium (you can also follow me on Medium!).


Articles I’ve Read

Coronavirus

  • There may be hope on the horizon for a coronavirus treatment that seems to work if used early in the infection. The rates of recovery shot up from 62% without the drug to 91% for those treated with favipiravir. The study needs to be confirmed but there is perhaps a glimmer of hope on the horizon. (link)

  • Due to the current pandemic and a lack of ventilators, a group has launched an open source ventilator project out of Ireland. In my view, once we’re past this pandemic we should have groups doing this for every possible piece of medical equipment in the hopes to cut worldwide healthcare costs and make us more resilient (in terms of speed and available funding) to attack the next medical crisis. (link)

  • This video of a new ventilator setup (one ventilator serves two patients without the need to “split” the ventilator) from Georgia Tech is inspiring. It makes you wonder - why didn’t this simple innovation already exist in current ventilator devices? Could it because that would halve sales? Nah - that’s too pessemistic of a reason. (link)

Business & Startups

  • Airbnb successfuly closed a debt and equity deal for $1 billion. Obviously this puts a pending IPO on hold and I wonder what it means for employees who are now going to see their options expire if they don’t exercise them. Of course, the company could modify the terms but that may cause IRS scruitiny since there would likely be tax consequences of doing so. I hope none of those employees leveraged those options as collateral for loans. I always say, the deal isn’t done until the cash is in the bank - this applies to startup funding and making out on a stock grant (and a lot of other things). (link)

Technology

  • The new Xbox Series X (these names are just crazy by the way) is officially slated to come to market during the “Holiday 2020” seasons (no idea when that actually means). This article says this means around Thanksgiving based on past console launches. I never realized there was 7-8 years between console launches so I think we may make the plunge and get this new Xbox later this year. (link)

  • Those terracotta warriors from China and their weapons are incredibly well preserved and previous thought was there was some ancient preservation technique used. As it turns out, the secret isn’t in the craftsmanship (which is incredible) but it’s in the soil. (link)

  • Sorry, but a little coronavirus throw into this one. This tweet shows a heatmap tracking all of those (dumb) kids in Florida for spring break and where they went afterwards. Visually this shows you how much spread one group of people have and why it is so important to isolate right now to slow the spread of this virus. Also, your phone is giving up a lot of info about you. (link)


Recommendation

I’ve got another band recommendation for you this time. I have been loving a lot of songs from Litany (real name: Beth Cornell). Litany is definitely still under the radar but her voice is amazing and the lyrical work is really well done. One example is the song “Call On Me” where she implores “you can hit me with hadouken” (and I’m totally stealing that line for my next Q&A session). If that line doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re either too old or too young and this artist might not be for you. :-)

I’ll also recommend “My Dude” as well. Unless you’re listening really well you’ll miss the very interesting lyrical word splits that happen through the verses. Really well done and easy to miss unless you understand what is being said line by line (if you still don’t get it, might I suggest following along on genius.com?).

Issue 1 - News & Thoughts from Sanjay

March 18, 2020

Welcome to the first issue of my new weekly(ish) email newsletter. I’m going to cover articles I’ve read and things I’m thinking about. Also included is a recommendation at the end of this email. I was going to send this to you a few days ago but I got swamped with all of the pandemic/quarantine issues that have been going on. I hope each of you and your families is safe and healthy. Please enjoy this first newsletter and I’ll try to minimize the coronavirus talk in the future since we’re all getting way too much about that in the news as is. Enjoy!

Your friend,

Sanjay


Content From Sanjay

This week I’ve only got one thing for you - the latest episode of Tech Talk Y’all. You really should subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast app (or Spotify!).


Articles I’ve Read

Business & Startups

  • Coronavirus is changing how big tech is going to handle hourly worker wages. I think we need to rethink the application and use of sick leave across the board. Too often I’ve worked with people who come in knowing that they are sick and refuse to go home. (link)

  • Coronavirus may be responsible for killing off bandwidth data caps and that’s a good thing. (link)

  • Sonos took a questionable approach to letting users launch a “recycle” mode on their products to get a discount on buying new Sonos gear. But selecting this option launched a 21 day countdown (which you couldn’t cancel) to the device bricking itself and then not ever working again. After a groundswell of complaints (I was also thinking about never buying another Sonos again) they’ve gone back on this decision. Users can still get a discount but the devices won’t brick themselves. (link)

  • After making a $21 million investment, Sequoia realizes that their investment in Finix conflicts with their very large investment n Stripe. Instead of asking for their money back, they returned their stock and resigned from the board. They gave the company the $21 million with nothing in return. Basically, they did the right thing. This article perplexes me because instead of applauding them for treating a founder right (especially a founder who is not one of their founders now), the author questions why they didn’t do something less than doing right by the founder. Startups are hard but investors like this make doing a startup a little easier. Bravo Sequoia! (link)

International Affairs

  • North Korea faces some significant challenges if Coronavirus takes hold in the country.  If the government collapses, what might happen next? (link)

  • Coronavirus may not just impact travel, it could have a significant impact on pharmaceutical drugs available in the United States. (link)

Science

  • Consuming caffeine may help you solve problems but it won't help you be creative. (link)

  • Washing your hands with soap - regardless of the type: bar or liquid - is the best defense against disease. There is no such thing as a “dirty” bar of soap apparently. Soap is self-cleaning like how Chandler explained it in “Friends”. (link)

Technology

  • Goodyear is working on a tire that you (almost) never have to replace. Better for the environment and your wallet. Unfortunately it's still a long ways off. (link)


Recommendation

I started listening to the band Surfaces a few months ago. I really dig their message and style which is focused on delivering a positive, uplifting message. As of late they have blown up because they were featured in a TikTok dance by popular influencer Charli D’Amelio (you may know the song/dance Renegade which she popularized but did not create). The song in the TikTok, “Sunday Best”, is one of their best (hah!) songs (although the TikTok version has been remixed and not nearly as good as the original IMO) but they’ve got a number of others with a great message. They also dropped a new album and were recently on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Check them out.

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