156: Swanson's Law, Intel + GlobalFoundries (˜$30bn), Tether?, Roku Deep Dive, Nvidia on Die Sizes, Super Mario 64, Bezos' Space Ride, Twitter's Fleeting Fleets, and Mothy

"makes Theranos look like Johnson & Johnson"

Man thinks he knows the minds of others when he hardly knows his own.

Stoic Emperor

🐦 Twitter announced it’s killing the Fleets feature (basically, Snapchat-like ephemeral + Instagram stories). They explained that this “bet” didn’t get enough traction, wasn’t generating enough engagement, etc, so bye-bye.

Maybe it’s a good decision, maybe not.

While I appreciate decisiveness and focus, it feels like they could’ve iterated/innovated on it a bit more before pulling on the ejection lever (I’m *not* saying “just leave it as is, it was perfect”).

They’re not a tiny startup with a high-burn rate and limited funds, needing to put all its eggs in the same basket and cut bait if there’s no immediate product-market-fit.

They can afford to be craftspeople…

It didn’t feel like Fleets had ever become quite native to Twitter, it was always more of a cut & paste from another world, and the organ wasn’t quite being rejected yet, but they still needed to take the immunosuppressive transplant drugs a bit longer to see which way it went (ok, wtf with these metaphors today).

I mean, what if they had integrated Fleets into people’s timelines, but with some visual marker that it’s ephemeral (a purple border around it? A tiny timer counting down in a corner?), and so more people could’ve seen and interacted with Fleets without having to learn a new interface/habit, but they would’ve still auto-disappeared?

Maybe that was the big unlock.

To me that model feels a lot more native to twitter. And there’s probably other things to try that may be even better.

But I guess we’ll never know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

There’s plenty of things I liked to post in Fleets (short video of a nice day in the forest) that probably don’t fit in my timeline, so I may just not post those anymore.

P.S. Yes, I get the argument where everybody goes: “That’s the right decision! If you don’t get traction, you kill it! Gotta make hard choices, focus on things with more impact! Etc!”

It sounds very good to say that stuff when this happens.

But it doesn’t mean that we know it is a good decision, even if the probabilities are good that it is (I repeat: I’m not saying I know either way, I’m saying I wish they had tried a few more things for a little longer to find out more.)

🛀 The creators/performers of the ‘Paw Patrol’ theme song who get royalties every time it plays must be sooooooo rich.

👋😎 Took this photo of a moth through the kitchen window with my iPhone.

He looks like he’s chilling and waving “hi!” while wearing sunglasses…

💚🥃 I couldn’t resist…

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Investing & Business

You should be familiar with Swanson's Law

Everybody’s impressed by Moore’s Law, and they should be. One of humanity’s greatest accomplishments, and even more impressive than most people understand because we have terrible intuition for exponential math.

But Swanson's Law is also extremely impressive, and will reshape the world at an accelerating pace in the coming years and decades.

Swanson's law is the observation that the price of solar photovoltaic modules tends to drop 20 percent for every doubling of cumulative shipped volume. At present rates, costs go down 75% about every 10 years

Check this out:

This is a FREAKING LOG CHART.

From above $100 per watt to as low as 16 CENTS per watt during 2020.

In less than ONE LIFETIME.

Just in the 10 years between 2010 and 2020 the average cost of a solar panel dropped by 90%.

This is the kind of magnitude they talk about when they say that during one life we went from the Wright brothers to the Concorde to landing on the Moon, except it’s not quite as romantic as heavier-than-air flight. But it’s still a big deal.

I like non-log charts, because they show better the absolute MELTING that went on. Unfortunately, this one only goes to 2013, so it missed another more than halving, but it still gives an idea:

Anyway, this is the type of stuff I find really cool.

Maybe not the best cocktail party material, but whatever.

If you want more, here’s a piece about some of the ways the industry is using to keep reducing prices even further.

‘Intel Is in Talks to Buy GlobalFoundries for About $30 Billion’

My initial reaction:

A deal could value GlobalFoundries at around $30 billion, the people said. It isn’t guaranteed one will come together, and GlobalFoundries could proceed with a planned initial public offering. GlobalFoundries is owned by Mubadala Investment Co., an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government, but based in the U.S. [...]

[GF] was created when Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in 2008 decided to spin off its chip-production operations. AMD remains a big customer for GlobalFoundries—agreeing to a multiyear, roughly $1.6 billion chip-component supply deal this year—and that could complicate a takeover by Intel. (Source)

Tether: “We’re possibly looking at the biggest ponzi scheme ever”

I’ve followed the controversy surrounding the Tether stablecoin for probably around 3-4 years. Not very closely, but I could never fully look away because I’ve rarely seen something with so many red flags.

Every time my eyes accidentally looked in that direction it’s all:

🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

Anyway, a few good podcasts came out recently with a kind of “state of the investigation” on Tether, and if you want your mind blown, listen to at least this first one:

There’s also this one:

(just gotta skip the first part and get to the interview with the anonymous Bitfinex’ed guy)

The amount of shadiness here makes Theranos look like Johnson & Johnson.

A lot of people seem to have been making excuses for it for a long time. To me it sounds like a case of “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” (replace the word “salary” with “crypto riches”)

Most of these people would never excuse similar practices at any other company they think of doing business or investing with…

Meanwhile, Dogecoin’s co-creator Jackson Palmer doesn’t seem very happy with the state of crypto, calling it too centralized, manipulated, and a tool for tax-avoidance.

I’m just a tourist here, but as much as I like to check in on what Vitalik has to say lately, I also keep an ear to the ground for the unsavory side of all this. Gotta be able to look at both sides in superposition — Schrödinger-style — because they’re both real.

Always gotta differentiate between a technology, and the people and institutions that surround it (if there’s a way to make lots of money and there’s little oversight/transparency, it’ll attract all kinds of sociopaths ready to do anything).

📺 Roku Deep-Diiiiiiiive 🤿

If you want to learn about Roku — and I did because I knew fairly little about the company — I recommend friend-of-the-show and supporter (💎 🐕) MBI’s recent deep dive:

It’s a great piece, well-structured and taking you logically from total Roku-dumbass to well-informed-Rokist in six steps.

I like the focus on strategic matters and not just the lower-level stuff.

I liked this 🔥:

A common retort from bears about [The Roku Channel] is “I don’t know anyone who watches TRC” which I find quite a suspect argument as it reminds me of the common rhetoric of “nobody uses Facebook”. The super majority of investors are wealthy people and frankly speaking, they (and their friends) lead too interesting lives to watch second-tier free content on TRC, but they may not be representative of the broader population.

It's the old "I don't know anyone who shops at Walmart" thing I sometimes heard in the past (meanwhile, my fridge was full of Great Value™️ condiments)…

Smart point:

SVODs are less susceptible to small changes in engagement since as long as Netflix can produce “Stranger Things” or HBO can produce “Game of Thrones” every few months, I am not going to unsubscribe. SVODs really get paid for superior content, not for streaming hours. However, for an AVOD, they need to convince us every day, in fact every minute, that we should spend our time watching their content.

(Glossary: SVOD = Subscription Video on Demand, AVOD = Advertising-supported Video on Demand)

Tech Talent Markets

Boris Wertz (h/t locked account):

Great analysis by CBRE on how tech talent markets have developed between 2015-2020: - SF still highest concentration (except for Ottawa > Shopify effect!)

- 🇨🇦 on fire (Toronto & Vancouver 2 fastest growing markets) - Seattle fastest growing US market (& 3rd overall)

Well, it looks like my little Omaha-of-the-North is pretty tech-savvy.


Science & Technology

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang on Silicon Die Sizes Over Time & Building His Own Fabs

As Moore’s Law keeps shrinking the size of transistors, its benefits can either be reinvested in more transistors at the same die size, a smaller die size for the same number of transistors, or in growth on two levels, with bigger die sizes that *also* pack more transistors per square-mm.

Here’s Nvidia’s CEO on where he thinks the trend will go:

Since the beginning of time, transistor time, die sizes have grown and grown. There’s no question die sizes are increasing. Because technology cycles are increasing in pace, new products are being introduced every year. There’s no time to cost reduce into smaller die sizes. If you look at the trend, it’s unquestionably to the upper right. If you look at the application space that we see, talking very specifically about us, if you look at our die sizes, there are always reticle limits now. The reticle limits are pretty spectacular. We can’t fit another transistor. That’s why we have to use multi-chip packing, of course. We created NVLink to put a bunch of them together. There’s all kinds of strategies to increase the effective die size.

One of the important things is that cloud datacenters — so much of the computing experience you have on your phone is because of computers in the cloud. The cloud is a much bigger place. The datacenters are larger. The electricity is more abundant. The cooling system is better. The die size can be very large. Die size is going to continue to grow, even as transistors continue to shrink.

I also liked this answer about why doesn’t Nvidia build its own chip manufacturing capacity:

Q: It’s expensive to spin up fabs, but in light of the prolonged silicon crunch, is that on the horizon for Nvidia to consider, spinning up a fab for yourself?

Huang: No. Boy, that’s the shortest answer I’ve had all night. It’s the only answer I know, completely. The reason for that, you know there’s a difference between a kitchen and a restaurant. There’s a difference between a fab and a foundry. I can spin up a fab, no doubt, just like I can spin up a kitchen, but it won’t be a good restaurant. You can spin up a fab, but it won’t be a good foundry.

A foundry is a service-oriented business that combines service, agility, technology, capacity, courage, intuition about the future. It’s a lot of stuff. The business is not easy. What TSMC does for a living is not easy. It’s not going to get any easier. It’s getting harder. There are so many people who are so good at what they do. There’s no reason for us to go repeating that. We should encourage them to develop the necessary capacity for our platform’s benefit. (Source)

→ ⃝

Circle of competence.

🚀 Bezos will share his space ride with a 18yo son-of-private-equity CEO

I hope he won't be looking at Snaps and Tiktoks on his phone the whole ride... 🚀

‘U.S. Had Most Drug Overdose Deaths on Record in 2020, CDC Says’

U.S. drug overdose deaths soared almost 30% to a record 93,331 in the pandemic year of 2020 [...]

Deaths increased by more than 21,000 from 2019, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics said in data published Wednesday [...]

Opioids -- including prescription pain medicine -- caused about three-quarters of overdose deaths last year (Source)

Tragic, no other word.

Here’s the CDC data.


The Arts & History

Sealed copy of ‘Super Mario 64’ Sold for $1.56 Million

Is this spillover from NFT mania?

This follows the sale of a “a boxed copy of [1987's The Legend of Zelda] first printing on the American NES sold on Friday via Heritage Auctions at a staggering $870,000”.

Some other notable sales:

  • Super Mario World, SNES: $360,000

  • Super Mario Bros., NES ("No Rev-A"): $228,000

  • Final Fantasy, NES: $204,000

  • Mario Bros., NES: $156,000

Source.