Discover more from Liberty’s Highlights
265: Stripe 2021 Financials (vs Adyen), Shopify Comp, Crowdstrike, Food Prices, Pulling Over Self-Driving Cars, Google's PaLM AI, Fortnite, and Nathaniel Rateliff
"Does this mean that 'funding is secured?'"
Studies and data make sense only when we figure out where they fit: they are pieces of a puzzle that make sense when we find their correct place.
Facts are Pieces of a Puzzle, not the Puzzle Itself.
🚨🎧 My new podcast with Rob Kofman, the CEO and co-founder of Koyfin, is going out to paid supporters today (with a full human-edited transcript!), as a way to say “thank you for the support!”. It’ll be released to everyone else later this week.
Update: Here it is:
🐦 🦅 Musk won’t join Twitter’s board after all, which was probably a way for the company to try to contain him (“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”).
Does this mean that “funding is secured” and he’s decided to make a bolder move? 🤔
🎶 🛀 🎸🎷 🪕 🎹 🎻 I was thinking about how ‘books are made of books’, and ‘albums are made of albums’… In the same way that writers read a lot, musicians tend to be voracious music listeners.
I wonder if the internet, starting with Napster up to today’s streaming, is making the current generation of musicians more eclectic and diverse in their influences.
It used to be a lot harder to find underground albums, or to even know what exists out there. But now, young creators have tens of millions of albums at their fingertips and can grow up ingesting these influences in ways that was impossible for someone a few decades earlier.
🗣🗣🗣 Many of you sent good feedback on the idea of creating a kind of little community space where readers who want to do so could find each other and have conversations.
I haven’t decided anything yet, but one of the dilemmas is Slack vs Discord.
Discord seems to have better community tools.
But more readers are probably already on Slack, so that's probably lower friction (and friction matters!).
...but many people are on Slack for work, and many probably don't want to associate a work tool with non-work 🤔
But Slack is simpler than Discord, and probably more accessible (is that why Acquired picked it as a platform?) 🤔
Tough choice! Like economists, I’m running out of hands…
Here’s a non-binding poll to take the temperature of the room (if it’s split about 50/50, my decision will be on different criteria than if 95% of you prefer one of the choices).
Please only vote if there’s at least a 25% chance you’d consider joining such a group:
☠️ Why lies can be more “believable” than the truth:
Propagandists aren’t trying to fool the 5% of people who are most tuned-in on a topic, the experts and geeks.
They’re aiming for the 80% of people who have no idea and haven’t been paying attention to that thing — they just don’t know, but if you give them something they can understand that sounds believable, then that’s probably what they’ll believe. Even better if it’s something counter-intuitive that triggers the satisfying “ah-ha!” feeling and makes them feel like they know better than “experts” and sheeple.
The truth is usually messy and takes a while to ascertain. But lies can be made up quickly, iterated on and re-calibrated often, and tailor-made to be viral and mimetic.
That’s why to many, it’s the lies that often sound more believable, and it’s almost impossible to kill widespread incorrect beliefs that have shown to be extremely memorable and transmissible because corrections are rarely as striking and viral.
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Investing & Business
💳 Stripe 2021 Financials 💵
Collectively, businesses on Stripe processed more than $640 billion in payments in 2021, up 60% from the prior year. (Since a lot of this came from one-time behavioral adjustments caused by the pandemic, 2022 won’t match the same level of growth.)
🍌 Banana for scale: This compares to $561.10bn in processed volume by Adyen in 2021, up +70% year-on-year (which they did with a fraction of the employees and capital raised — quite efficient).
Online spending was only 12% of global spend in 2021. There’s a long way yet to go [...]
the majority of new businesses joining Stripe last year came from outside the United States
They even give me a shout-out — well, kind of:
We’re bullish on the creator economy for two big reasons. First, because of the broadly participatory cultural dynamism that it is enabling. Production decisions shouldn’t just be made in centralized fashion by corporate managers; the growth of everything from Substack to Teachables shows that there are important topics, niches, and other forms of cultural creation that have been left under-addressed.
Shopify to make employee comp flexible (ratio of cash & stock)
Shopify made the changes because a one-size-fits-all strategy no longer served the company, the source said, adding that employees will walk away with an overall higher salary across most roles and locations as a result of the new compensation framework.
Previously, employees were provided restricted stock units in addition to base salaries at an allocation set by management. Now, there will no longer be a fixed amount, so employees will receive a single total compensation number and have the choice to determine how much is cash versus stock.
In theory, this means staffers may choose to allocate all of their earnings to cash only without any equity, or vice-versa, the source said. Employees can go back and change that allocation as their personal circumstances change. For example, if an employee is buying a house, and needs more liquidity, they can allocate more of their total compensation toward salary versus equity. (Source)
Stock-based-comp is great for startups that are short-on-cash but high-on-future-potential.
Having employees finance your early growth and attracting talent with a currency that you can print is a powerful tool to have in the toolbox, but it can start to work a little less well when the stock stops going up all the time and corrects severely (Shopify was recently down ˜70% from its peak).
I guess this is the solution they’ve found to that problem, which makes a lot of sense now that they have the cash.
🇺🇸 🦅 Crowdstrike gets ‘Impact Level 4’ Authorization to Protect Critical U.S. Department of Defense Assets
[Crowdstrike] has been granted a Provisional Authorization to Operate (P-ATO) at Impact Level 4 (IL-4). This important authorization will enable CrowdStrike to now deploy CrowdStrike’s Falcon® cybersecurity platform to a broad range of Department of Defense (DoD) and Defense Industrial Base (DIB) customers to protect their Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).
Having just announced that, they’re already working on the next level:
With IL-4 P-ATO now in hand, CrowdStrike is proud to share that it has been working with DISA and our DoD sponsor towards a DoD Impact Level 5 (IL-5) P-ATO, and is committed to helping secure National Security Systems (NSS). (Source)
This should help them get more federal contracts, and is probably a nice calling card/marketing help with other levels of government or in other countries and industries.
‘Growth Internet valuations are close to historical troughs seen in 1Q’20 and 2016-17’
h/t Ram Parameswaran
Food Prices 📈🌋
Science & Technology
🚔👮🏻♂️🚗🤷♀️ What happens when cops pull over a driverless car with no one inside?
h/t John Gruber (🍎)
🤖 ‘Pathways Language Model (PaLM), a 540-billion parameter, dense decoder-only Transformer model trained with the Pathways system’ 🤯
DALL·E 2 isn’t the only cool new AI model that has been revealed lately. Google’s PaLM is also incredibly impressive:
PaLM shows breakthrough capabilities on numerous very difficult tasks. We highlight a few examples for language understanding and generation, reasoning, and code-related tasks below.
We evaluated PaLM on 29 widely-used English natural language processing (NLP) tasks. PaLM 540B surpassed few-shot performance of prior large models, such as GLaM, GPT-3, Megatron-Turing NLG, Gopher, Chinchilla, and LaMDA, on 28 of 29 of tasks [...]
Remarkably, PaLM can even generate explicit explanations for scenarios that require a complex combination of multi-step logical inference, world knowledge, and deep language understanding. For example, it can provide high quality explanations for novel jokes not found on the web.
The model was trained on 6,144 TPU v4 chips. Check out some of what came out of it:
They even had it generate computer code from natural language prompts, or find errors in and fix broken code.
What interests me most — as a long-time AI observer, but by no means an expert — is the fact that we keep getting meaningful progress by scaling deep learning models (more parameters, more compute).
Years ago, one could be skeptical and expect to hit a steep diminishing returns curve at some point, to keep getting less and less out of more and more. But it seems to me like we’re still getting really good benefits from scale. There are also all kinds of other algo improvements, but scale still seems to work too.
That has huge implication, when you extrapolate forward a bit.
If you want to dig deeper, the paper by Google is here.
‘Fortnite raised $144 million for Ukraine relief’ 🎮
In two weeks, Fortnite has raised a total of $144 million for Ukraine relief efforts. Ahead of its most recent season, developer Epic Games said that it would be donating all of its proceeds from the game, along with those from Microsoft, to humanitarian efforts following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for a period of two weeks.
The funds are being put towards several aid groups, including Direct Relief, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Food Programme. (Source)
Once you start vertically integrating, where do you stop?
The Arts & History
Nathaniel Rateliff deconstructs ‘And It’s Still Alright” (Song Exploder Podcast)
Ever since I stumbled on his stuff around 5 years ago, Nathaniel has been one of my favorite artists. Both his more sparse solo stuff (check out the song “Still Trying”) and his more groovy band albums hit the spot for me.
This podcast is incredible. It made me quite emotional — the candor and rawness is real (warning: there’s some heavy stuff in there about alcoholism, a friend dying, suicidal ideas, etc).
I wish I had a “director’s commentary” like this for every song that I like...