291: From Amazon to Flexport, Nvidia's Jensen on the Most Valuable Software Ever, Spotify, Twitter & Musk, Crowdstrike, Microsoft, and SpaceX's Shotwell
"Thank you for coming to my TED Talk"
A conviction is a belief that insults can’t talk you out of.
🛀 🏦 📊 I wonder how tight the infosec is on the 'big reports' like inflation numbers. I'm sure they do their best, but even the NSA had their tools leaked. 🔓
Like, could the market have fallen in a straight line yesterday afternoon because of a leak? Not that we'd ever know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
🎛 🚥 📟 This is my message to makers of electronic devices everywhere:
If there are any LED lights or screens on your things, there needs to be a way to turn them off. Ideally in a ‘smart’ way — not always on or always off, but on when in use, and turning off automatically after X minutes of idle time. I shouldn’t have to put electrical tape over your carefully designed piece of equipment (and even if it’s ugly in the first place, the tape isn’t helping it any!).
Get a teenager in a quiet room with your product and have them listen from up close. Can they hear annoying high-pitched noises coming out of the power supply? If your thing has a fan, is it very loud and could that be improved by spending an extra dollar on a better fan? Or if you have the space, by using a bigger one that spins more slowly?
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. 🙌
🏥 In edition #290, I wrote about getting my first MRI scan, and wondered-out-loud about what happens if someone has metal in their body that they don’t know about, and how frequent these types of accidents are.
Reader Potato (🥔) posted a great detailed reply that I want to highlight:
It happens from time to time, but very rarely that one of the screening questions doesn't trigger a memory. If you just ask "do you have any metal in you?" you might miss a lot, but when you go through the various ways people can get metal in them and ask "have you ever had a stent put in? Have you ever been in a war zone or had a shrapnel injury? Do you have an artificial joint?" you tend to pick up on the risks.
There are ~150 adverse events/year in the US for MRIs, but the vast majority of those are thermal, with some external projectiles. Metal doesn't typically get pulled out of peoples' bodies even in the accidents — most metal that's magnetic enough to do that isn't biocompatible in the first place, and in the very rare case where someone passes the screening question with unknown metal and goes in, they might feel it try to move as they get close and back off. Aneurysm clips and vascular stents are the biggest concern from what I recall (tiny movements or heating can have very bad outcomes), but medical device manufacturers have been making most of them (all?) MRI-compatible for the last 20+ years.
Most implanted bits of metal are not a safety risk, but screw up the images. Dental work, for instance, leaves the area around the jaw just a black void. Or they are conductive but not magnetic, so they don't get moved around but can heat up (those thermal AEs). The most common source of unknown metal/conductive material is bad tattoos.
Every now and then a company tries to pitch a metal detector for MRI suites, but they don't work well enough to bother with. The questionnaire and the metal macarena are the security systems.
‘Metal macarena’, what a great term! 🕺
I love the inside-baseball argot that people in various fields come up with. That’s one thing I loved so much about David Simon’s Generation Kill mini-series — the recon marines lingo is great.
🏃♂️ 👟 🦶Running update. In the past 3 weeks, I’ve done 6 runs.
After doing a bunch of research into it, and refreshing myself on research I had done a couple of years ago, I decided to buy these things:
If you’re curious, they’re the Xero HFS.
If you want to learn more about the biomechanical theory behind minimalist/zero drop/barefoot shoes, I recommend this podcast (it’s really good):
Time will tell if this works for what I’m doing, but I’m pretty convinced that it’s the best way to go for me at the moment.
Some advantages I may have over experienced runners are:
I’m starting from zero. I’m not used to running in regular shoes, don’t have to change my running gait or reshape existing muscles/tendons that may be out of balance, because I don’t have running habits. Everything will get built up at the same time.
I’ve been working from home for 15+ years and spending all day in socks or barefoot, so my feet haven’t been spending 8-10 hours in “braces” daily. Hopefully, this has helped me retain some muscle/flexibility that may otherwise have been lost.
I almost went with this model (below) that I kind of thought looked better, but I chickened out at the last moment because I figured the black ones can probably be used for more occasions (I tend to wear the same shoes all the time and not change for one occasion to the next).
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😲 After leaving Amazon, Dave Clark will be Flexport CEO, Ryan Petersen to become Exec Chairman 🚚 📦 ✈️⚓️
Petersen explained what is going on in a thread on Twitter. Some highlights:
I'm thrilled to announce that Dave Clark will be Flexport’s next CEO.
[He] officially starts on Sep 1, 2022 to become the CEO of Flexport and a member of our board. We will be Co-CEOs for six months after he joins. I'll then step into an Executive Chairman role and Dave will continue to be Flexport’s CEO.
Dave’s most recent role was CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon. But he isn’t just any executive – he is a builder and an entrepreneur at heart. […]
Flexport is on its way to becoming one of the world’s most important technology platforms for supply chain and logistics. Given the scale of the opportunity ahead of us, Flexport doesn't need another executive. We need another entrepreneur. [...]
We grew our revenue from $2M in 2014 to $3.3B in 2021. Our forecast for this year is close to $5B in revenue. That’s ~2500X growth in 8 years!
And unlike most venture-backed companies, we're profitable! While we've raised more than $2.3B in venture capital, we still have most of it in the bank even as we continue to invest more than $100M per year in building the best supply chain technology.
That’s a nice mic drop in this period when the market cares a lot about profitability. 🎤
So why am I transitioning to Executive Chairman when things are going so well? It's simple: The more we learn about our markets--and learning about the world economy is the best part of working at Flexport--the more we realize the opportunity in front of us is enormous.
I'm now to the point where the only fear I have left for Flexport is that we're not living up to our potential. [...]
Dave is better [at] the things we need to win at the next stage. My partnership with him means that we now have the full skillset and experience necessary to achieve this mission and we are committed to working together to make Flexport the best supply chain company in the world.
The fact there are so many problems left to solve in global trade and international supply chains means you can be sure I'm not going anywhere. I love Flexport and plan to work here the rest of my life.
Forbes reported that Clark and Petersen originally connected while Flexport was looking for a COO. Seems like Clark was impressive enough to be offered the top job instead…
Flexport is a company that I’ll keep following — what’s more interesting than global logistics, eh?
🐦 🦅 Twitter to give Elon Musk access to “firehose” of Twitter data
Twitter’s board plans to comply with Elon Musk’s demands for internal data by offering access to its full “firehose,” the massive stream of data comprising more than 500 million tweets posted each day [...]
Musk’s legal team contends the data stream is essential for understanding the amount of spam and bot activity on its platform, a figure that could influence the company’s ad revenue
This reminds me of the famous Cardinal de Richelieu quote:
If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.
With this much raw data, Musk and his team can probably find something to justify whatever they want to do.
The question is, are they just trying to renegotiate the deal at a lower price (because the whole tech sector crashed after a price was agreed on), or are they trying to find something to justify not going through with the purchase?
Maybe the next thing won’t be “bots”, but something else they dig up in the firehose…
🦅 Crowdstrike CEO on how they sell more modules to existing customers
I wrote in edition #289 about just how good Crowdstrike is at cross-selling more and more modules to existing customers (modules comin’ out of your ears!). This is an excellent example:
Log4j happened, and we've taken an approach where we've consumerized the enterprise experience. Somebody has an iPhone, iPad, Android, whatever. People want stuff. They click it works and it just happens. And in that particular case with Log4j, customers logged in, and we knew if they were a Spotlight customer or not. [...]
CFO: So basically, you're a customer, you're enjoying whatever modules you have. There's a big red button over here to try something else and it uses the same data [...]
We have that visibility. And then we presented them with the fact that, "Hey, we know Log4j is a real problem right now. We understand you're not a Spotlight customer. Would you like a free 15-day trial?" And the only thing they needed to do is click Okay. We already had all of their data.
It's already provisioned, ready to go. And obviously, that leads to a very efficient sales model where we converted them, which gets to some of the metrics when we talk about magic numbers of 1.4. It's the platform helping sell itself.
🔥 Spotify’s Churn 🔥
Ek mentioned "churn declined 30% over the last four years"
From their investor day presentation, using data from Antenna (who knows how accurate it is, though ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).
h/t my friend MBI (💎🐕)
🎮 No console needed: Microsoft is bringing game streaming directly to smart TVs 📺
In edition #285, I wrote about Microsoft’s development of the ‘Keystone’ device, a tiny box that plugs into TVs and allows you to stream games using Game Pass.
Well, that may not even be necessary:
Microsoft is releasing an Xbox app for smart TVs, enabling consumers to stream Xbox video games even if they don’t own consoles.
Microsoft said Thursday that it will first bring the app to Samsung’s 2022 smart TVs and then expand distribution to other manufacturers. (Source)
If they can get it to run well despite not having full control of the hardware stack, it’ll be quite a coup and expansion to the non-mobile gaming market.
Jensen Huang of Nvidia on ‘the most valuable piece of software the world's ever discovered’ 🤖💰
Almost everything that all of you do every day, whether it's doing search or shopping or video or playing, TikTok or whatever it is, short videos, long videos, whatever it is, everything has a recommender system behind it. It's the single-most important economic engine in the world today is unquestionably the most valuable piece of software the world's ever discovered. It's worth trillions of dollars, as all of you know.
He also talks about why Nvidia’s now selling/licensing software (historically it has mostly given it away and monetized through hardware, a bit like Apple):
We want to put AI in everybody's hands.
The only way to do that is to take software that we otherwise open source or put into GitHub or provide a source to CSPs to package that up into a licensable product.
Because most companies don't have the ability to go and cobble all of that complexity together from the algorithm level to the system software level to the networking and storage level. It's just too much. And it needs to be multi-tenant, it needs to scale out, and it needs to be secure. And so it's just too much software to do.
And so we package all that up into NVIDIA AI. We package all that up into NVIDIA Omniverse. And we have an enterprise license. The enterprise license is $1,000 per node. And for us, there are 25,000 enterprises around the world that's already using NVIDIA's technology for AI.
We now can offer them an enterprise software license that they could get direct support from us, access to our expertise to learn how to use it and get maintenance and support. And so that licensable products is a new product of ours. It's off to a great start. I think it's going to be probably one of the largest -- my estimation, one of the largest enterprise software products in the world. It has the opportunity, though, to ride NVIDIA's go-to-market.
So we have the opportunity not to have to build up a large enterprise sales force because we will go to market on the computing platforms that we already sell.
Wafer Fab Equipment Manufacturers
h/t friend-of-the-show and OG supporter Nick Ellis (💚 🥃 🎩)
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
🚀 Interview with Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO 📡 🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰
Good interview with Shotwell, going over many SpaceX milestones, and giving us a view into the mind of someone who’s been essential at making SpaceX the success that it is.
I found her candor great when asked about sending astronauts in space for the first time.
She said something like: “I hate crew launch days, they’re nerve-wracking… It’s one thing to lose a satellite that may be worth a billion dollars, but you can’t put a price on the lives of the 2 or 4 people sitting up there, hurtling through the atmosphere.”
She also points out that with the Starship program, a big part of their focus is on building the production system that makes Spaceships, rather than just the rocket technology itself.
“What we want to do is be able to produce one rocket per day” (🤯)
To make an analogy with Tesla, this sounds a bit like they’re working on their Model 3/Gigafactory moment.
🔌 Electricity Generation in the US by Source ⚡️🇺🇸
The thing is, it’s going to be hard enough to clean up electricity generation in the coming decades, but electricity is only a fraction of energy use. Transportation is a big one, heating buildings, agriculture… All that is massively difficult to transition to cleaner sources.
That pink line that has been stuck at 20% forever, what if that had been slowly rising to 30%, and then 40%, and so on, over time..? Combine that with the green line that is also climbing, and we’d really be getting somewhere.
I know, I’m a broken record ☢️
But if only we could count on solid baseload electricity generation moving in the right direction quickly, it would be easier to be confident that electrifying other sectors — like transportation — would be smoother.
Battery production capacity should go almost entirely to transportation, not the grid if we can avoid it. It’s a better use — every EV or PHEV directly reduces oil consumption.
But even if we’re going to put lots of storage on the grid, that storage is more valuable when combined with nuclear than with solar/wind.
Why? Because ideally you want to run your power plants flat out as much as possible because of high fixed costs, but demand isn’t even throughout the day cycle (it falls at night, and rises during day and evenings), so if you have batteries that charge up from nuclear power plants at night, they can contribute during peak and so time-shift this power while allowing higher utilization (right now this isn’t a problem because nuclear share is low enough that they can run them as baseload through the night, but if the share was ever to go up really high, then storage would help optimize utilization).
🎨 🎭 Liberty Studio 👩🎨 🎥
🪄🦄 Visiting Adam Savage’s toy room? Yes please! 🎥 🎬
This is just good, wholesome fun.