264: Lithium-Ion Learning Curve, Boeing Multi-Clouding, JD, Rory Sutherland, Pro-Entropic Investing, DALL·E 2, MS Azure + ARM, and Lin-Manuel Miranda
"Resources are like carbs. Resourcefulness is like muscle"
Resourcefulness > Resources
In the startup world, resources are like carbs. Resourcefulness is like muscle. When you develop it, it actually stays with you and impacts everything you do going forward.
Resourcefulness also makes you more creative. Any good designer will tell you that creative constraints help the idea generation process. With fewer resources and options you become more creative with what you have.
It’ll go out first to paid supporters as a ‘thank you!’ (💚 🥃), and a few days later it will be released to everyone.
💬 📃 Speaking of podcasts, I’m going to have full human-edited transcripts of the podcast on Constellation Software and the upcoming one with Rob of Koyfin. I know some of you prefer to read or may want to refer back to something later, and it’s easier to CMD-F that way.
🧗♂️ My wife and I were looking for some physical activity for our 8yo to do this Spring. We ended up signing him up for an ‘intro to parkour’ class.
He hasn’t started yet, but I used the occasion to teach him something: You can do some “reconnaissance homework” (🕵️♂️) before you learn something new.
I showed him a 20-min video on Youtube of ‘parkour for beginners’. He now knows what to expect, learned a bunch of concepts, and has been practicing the shoulder roll a bit…
But most importantly, when he gets there, he won’t be overwhelmed because he has to learn too many things at the same time.
He’ll better be able to focus on what the instructor is showing him and will probably have more fun and remember things better because these ‘grooves’ have already been traced a bit in his brain, and now he just has to strengthen them.
I told him this can apply to almost anything: Do some research before your first guitar or basketball or robotics or XYZ class. This works for school stuff too (ie. we’ve been slowly learning the times’ tables on flashcards even though he won’t see those in school this year).
🪡 Life pro-tip: If you ever have tiny shards of fiberglass painfully embedded into your fingers, as happened to me recently, but they’re too small and/or deep to easily see and extract with tweezers, you may want to try using tape — the stronger the better, so duct tape or whatever you have available — to help remove the fiberglass slivers.
It may not work, but it’s worth a shot. Tweezers and magnifying glass and a flashlight are probably your next best bet.
Whatever you do, make sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap afterwards. You don’t want to get an infection on top of this…
📝 It’s been a while since I gave you an update on my use of Obsidian, my note-taking app of choice:
The graph view (above) isn’t all that useful while using the app day-to-day…
But once in a while, it’s fun to stand back and see how the network of bi-directionally connected notes is growing.
When you zoom in, you can see the titles of every note, and when you hover your mouse pointer over the nodes you can see what they link to. It’s easy to go down rabbit holes following connections — a bit like when you explore Wikipedia, except that this is your own private Wikipedia.
💚 🥃 Right now, 95% of subs read for free, and 5% are paid supporters.
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Investing & Business
Lithium-Ion Batteries: ‘relationship between prices and cumulative installed capacity’
Note that both axes are logarithmic (that’s important!).
In 1991 the market size of lithium-ion cells was tiny: there was just 0.13 megawatts (MWh) installed. That’s just 130 kWh – less than two 75 kWh battery packs that you’d find in a Tesla car. Since then deployed capacity has increased rapidly. By 2016, this had grown to 78,000 MWh. That’s six orders of magnitude higher.
Six orders of magnitude since about when The Simpsons came on TV!
The relationship between price and cumulative installed capacity is called the ‘learning curve’. This is a concept that is often used to understand cost improvements in scaling technologies. The learning rate tells us, on average, how much the price of something falls for every doubling of cumulative capacity. We find that for lithium-ion cells, this learning rate was 20.1%. This means prices fell an average of 18.9% every time the installed capacity doubled. As it happens, this is similar to the learning rate of solar modules; with every doubling of installed solar capacity, the price of solar modules dropped by an average of 20.2%.
But it’s not just about price. Energy density is getting significantly better too:
The improvements we’ve seen in battery technologies are not limited to lower costs. As Ziegler and Trancik show, the energy density of cells has also been increasing. Energy density measures the amount of electrical energy you can store in a liter (or unit) of battery. In 1991 you could only get 200 watt-hours (Wh) of capacity per liter of battery. You can now get over 700 Wh. That’s a 3.4-fold increase. (Source)
🛩 Boeing goes Multi-Cloud 🌩☁️☁️
Boeing is hiring the three biggest U.S. cloud-computing companies — [AWS, Azure & GCP] — to help with a digital makeover aimed at giving its airplane designers and software developers more tools.
The multiyear agreements are intended to upgrade the company’s current system […] Boeing plans to shift hundreds of applications to the cloud
The manufacturing titan is rebooting its technology to help address quality lapses and production gremlins that drive up costs of developing new aircraft. The planemaker is investing in tools such as digital twins — virtual replicas of actual hardware — to model both the performance of its new aircraft concepts and the assembly lines that would build them. (Source)
That cloud with the lightning bolt in the headline is AWS, if that wasn’t clear… They have the most to lose from the multi-cloud trend.
🚚 📦📦 Richard Liu Out as CEO of JD.com 🇨🇳
JD.com’s billionaire founder Richard Liu has stepped down as chief executive of the Chinese e-commerce giant, joining a slew of high-profile tech bosses who have relinquished their roles at the companies they started.
That comes as Beijing continues to tighten regulation on its domestic technology sector and scrutinize the business practices of companies.
Xu Lei, the president of JD.com, will take over as CEO and join the company’s board of directors, with immediate effect.
Seems like soon there won’t be any founders left in charge at China’s big tech companies…
This comes a few months after strategic partner Tencent distributed most of its JD shares to shareholders:
Tencent said [in december 2021] it will distribute HK$127.69 billion ($16.37 billion) worth of its JD.com stake to shareholders, slashing its holding in China’s second-biggest e-commerce company to 2.3% from around 17% now and losing its spot as JD.com’s biggest shareholder to Walmart.
I hear they still have the strategic deal to be featured in WeChat until Spring 2022, but who knows if that’ll be renewed.
Interview: Rory Sutherland, “I’m not mono-theoristic, I’m poly-theoristic”
You can always count on Rory for some original thinking, and this one delivers (originally released in Decembe 2020, but it’s evergreen).
A large portion of the interview by Sean DeLaney (🎤) covers how to improve work & productivity/creativity, the problems of the old ‘in-between’ model and the benefits of the Zoom/remote work era.
These are topics that have been discussed to death in the past two years, but Rory’s insights stand out:
Interview: Antonio Gracias on Pro-Entropic Investing
Stimulating pod by Patrick O’Shaughnessy (☘️):
Valor Equity Partners is an early investor in SpaceX and Tesla (after getting to know Elon in the PayPal days — David Sacks was Antonio’s law school classmate). Gracias has an unusual lens through which it seems investing and its role helping companies on the operational side.
Here’s a highlight that explains what he means by “pro-entropic”:
Antonio: Pro-entropic, as you think about a company, if a company's resilient, it means that it recovers quickly when something happens. There's a crisis, management's good, they figure out a pivot, they figure out what to do. For us, pro-entropic, it really is a company that is good at chaos. [...]
you think about all the probabilities that might occur to a company - pandemic, wars, recession, whatever might happen, how will that company respond if nothing changes? So it's strategy itself. That's how we differentiate from resilient. If something's resilient, resilience is great too, we invest in resilient companies as well. But every once in a while, we'll find something that we think is really pro-entropic. And that for us is the holy grail of investing; a company that gets better no matter what, just by virtue of what it's actually doing.
Payment buttons coming out of my ears… 😬
Jerry Capital: “Serious people actually convinced themselves that a button had a moat”
Do you like to drive? 🚚 🚚 🚚 🚚 🚚
Walmart to Pay In-House Truckers Up to $110,000 in Tight U.S. Job Market
Walmart Inc. is ramping up pay for its truckers as it seeks to shore up staffing amid a nationwide rush to hire drivers.
In-house truck drivers will now be able to earn between $95,000 and $110,000 in their first year at the company, a Walmart spokeswoman said Thursday. At the high end, that’s 26% higher than the previous average pay for newly hired drivers. [...]
The U.S. has a shortage of 80,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations. Walmart, which employs about 12,000 truck drivers, had to hire 7,000 over the last two years, including a record 4,500 in 2021
They make more than a 1st year newsletter writer, that’s for sure ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Science & Technology
DALL·E 2: AI system that creates images from text descriptions
This is amazing. It may be the most impressive AI thing I’ve ever seen.
(you may have to click on the image to zoom in and see the Tweets that generated those images)
If you want to dig deeper, here’s OpenAI’s paper on DALL·E 2.
This “robot hand drawing” was generated by DALL·E 2 (a bit literal, but 🤯).
Think of the orders and orders of magnitude increase in iteration speed for artists playing with concepts, for special effects in films and TV (once that can be done in video), for… all kinds of things! (including some dangerous ones)
I’m on the waiting list, but have no idea if/when I’ll have access…
Microsoft Azure now has ARM virtual machines on Ampere Altra CPUs
Microsoft is announcing the preview of Azure Virtual Machines series featuring the Ampere Altra Arm-based processor. […] The new VM series include general-purpose Dpsv5 and memory-optimized Epsv5 VMs, which can deliver up to 50 percent better price-performance than comparable x86-based VMs. […]
The Dpsv5 and Epsv5 Azure VM-series feature the Ampere Altra Arm-based processor operating at up to 3.0GHz. The new VMs provide up to 64 vCPUs and include VM sizes with 2GiB, 4GiB, and 8GiB per vCPU memory configurations, up to 40 Gbps networking, and optional high-performance local SSD storage.
The VMs currently in preview support Canonical Ubuntu Linux, CentOS, and Windows 11 Professional and Enterprise Edition on Arm
I’m surprised it took that long, to be honest.
I’ll be curious to see how long it takes for Microsoft to come out with its own ARM designs (like AWS’ Graviton)…
The Arts & History
Lin-Manuel Miranda on ‘Wait for It’ (Song Exploder, Netflix)
There’s a moment about 19 minutes in when Lin and his collaborator are listening to the third act of the song and feeling it. You can see it in their faces and in their gestures just *how much* they are enjoying it. To me, this moment is what music and making it is all about.
This was a fun episode of TV. If you enjoyed ‘Hamilton’, I recommend it.