296: Constellation Software, SONY, the AWS of Advanced Manufacturing, LEGO, China vs Starlink, Solar System Vortex, Blender, and Fantastic Mr. Fox
"This story involves blood."
Growth comes at the point of resistance.
–Josh Waitzkin (paraphrased by Derek Sivers)
🤕🩸🐶 This story involves blood.
On Monday morning, I took run #10 around the neighborhood. Normally I wouldn’t go out a second time the same day, but after the run I received my Xero HFS minimalist shoes, and I wanted to give them a try.
I figured I should get used to them walking before trying to run.
So I took a walk around the neighborhood.
After walking ˜30 minutes, I saw a woman, maybe 65-70 years old, laying on the ground in the grass by the side of the path, with her bulldog by her side. From a distance, I thought she was looking for something, but her posture was strange… I quickly went to her.
When I got closer, I saw that she was bleeding from her left hand and her head was pretty banged up, with a cut above her nose and left eye. She told me she fell on the asphalt and hit her head, and couldn’t get back up. Her knee was hurt too.
She was trying to call her husband and son with her Apple Watch ⌚️ (automatic fall detection had been triggered, so that worked! But unfortunately it can’t guarantee that your emergency contacts will pick up…).
I ended up reaching her son using my phone. I wanted to call an ambulance, but she said her son’s a nurse and lives just a couple of streets over, so she wanted to decide with him what to do.
Many people walked by and didn’t want anything to do with the situation, but at least 3 other people ended up helping us. I’m always happy to see people spontaneously help strangers — I’m sure we’d all want help if the situation was reversed.
Last I saw her and her son, they were driving off to the hospital.
I hope she’ll be ok. I still have the phone numbers in my phone — good thing she’s of the generation that memorizes phone numbers! — so I’m considering calling in a few days to ask if she’s ok.
🏃♂️👟 🧠 On the Xero HFS shoes: When I took them off after my first long walk, my brain was so used to shoes where the heel is higher than the toes that for a few steps, it felt like my heels were going through the floor by maybe half-an-inch. A really strange feeling.
It was a good reminder of just how much our brains are prediction machines, and when reality violates the prediction, we get a surprising result (that’s literally what the feeling of surprise is).
🤔 📚 It's incredible how often the same few lessons come up when you read biographies, showing how robust this advice is for a wide variety of pursuits and types of people.
💚 🥃 You almost always know what to do.
Life’s trick is *doing it*.
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Business & Investing
✨ Constellation Software ✨ acquisitions: First half of 2022
Nicoper has put together this graph. It shows the companies acquired by Constellation in the first 6 months of the year (Topicus is included, though most of it has been spun out).
The color-coding represents the operating group, and the size of the circles is based on the estimate of the revenue for each acquisition (yes, that one is Allscripts):
First half of the 2022 is almost over and I updated my tracker of Constellation acquisitions this year. As of today, I counted the total of 54 disclosed acquisitions with total combined revenue of acquired companies of USD 1,351.56 million. For companies that are not publicly listed I used estimates from https://rocketreach.co/ which I backtested on a few companies where I have alternative data.
Chart bellow show the current status. One should have in mind that Constellation owns only about 40% of Topicus and that Adapt IT was not fully acquired. If corrected for the ownership share, acquired revenues amount to USD 1,236.58 million.
SONY! 🇯🇵 📺 💿 🎮
What a superb episode on a very important and influential company that I didn’t know nearly enough about!
Big thanks to friends-of-the-show Ben and David (💚 🥃) for this top-quality content. It’s clear just how much love and care they put into these, and how many hours and hours of research gets distilled into these:
The parallels and influence on Jobs and Apple are particularly interesting.
I love the very beginning of the company, where it was basically just “let’s create a great place for engineers to do what they do, we’ll figure out a product or business model later”. Don’t focus directly on money. Focus on being *useful*, on being the best at something, and money will be a byproduct.
🇩🇰 LEGO Comes to America 🇺🇸
Lego is planning to spend more than $1 billion to build a factory in the United States.
The company announced Wednesday plans for a 1.7-million square foot plant in Virginia, which will employ roughly 1,800 people once its completed in 2025. It will be the Danish company's seventh global factory and second in North America — the other is located in Monterrey, Mexico.
Can you imagine the scale of this thing? A $1 billion plastic block factory!
This isn’t the first time that LEGO has had a plant in the US, though:
Lego previously had a US factory in Connecticut, but that facility closed in 2006 because the company said kids prefer playing with electronics.
But business is booming now:
Its sales jumped 27% last year driven by new store openings in China and customers flocking back to its reopened shops. The family-owned company said it had outpaced the toy industry in all major markets during the year, when sales of its plastic bricks totaled more than $8 billion. (Source)
What we really need is a LEGO central bank to help fight LEGO block inflation, because that is out of control!
Maybe countries could create LEGO strategic reserves..? Release some blocks from the stockpiles when prices get too high. 🤔
Interview: Josh Wolfe & Chris Power, trying to create the AWS of advanced manufacturing..?! 🛠⚙️🔩🗜
You know me — well, you know some stuff about me — I’d love to see more neurons devoted to hard problems in the world of atoms.
Digital’s great, but if everybody goes to the same side of the boat, you rapidly reach diminishing returns and leave low-hanging fruits on the sidewalk in other very important industries (to mix metaphors a bit).
That’s why this Hadrian startup seems so vital.
It’s trying to address the loss of manufacturing expertise in the U.S. *and* the coming wave of retirements at all these small private machine shops that were created decades ago.
It’s a good interview by Patrick O’Shaughnessy (☘️):
I like the ambitious mission, and I hope they succeed at it:
Being the planet’s most efficient factory means nothing unless we can scale up to billions in revenue capacity, fast enough to replace the aging high precision machining supply chain in the US. If we don't, our most important Space & Defense companies will be caught flat footed in what might be the most critical decade in the US’ history. By enabling all US advanced manufacturers in Space, Defense, Semiconductor, Energy and Medical Devices to make their products 10x faster and 50% cheaper, Hadrian will empower US aligned actors to win Space Race II, and maintain peace through strength on Earth, in Orbit and in cislunar space.
I also hope lots of other companies and startups are attempting similar things in parallel.
Germany and Austria firing up more coal plants as Russia tightens gas supplies 🇩🇪🇦🇹
Germany has said the deteriorating gas market situation means Europe’s largest economy must limit the use of natural gas for electricity production and burn more coal for a “transitional period.”
Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Sunday warned that the situation is going to be “really tight in winter” without precautionary measures to prevent a supply shortage. (Source)
That really sucks.
Too bad Germany doesn’t have 12 operational nuclear power plants right now (I try hard to avoid snarky newsletter syndrome, but sometimes, whatcha gonna do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).
What about neighboring Austria:
State-controlled Verbund AG, Austria’s biggest utility and most valuable company, was ordered late Sunday to prepare its mothballed Mellach coal-fired station for operation. The plant, 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Vienna, was shut two years ago as Austria became only the second European country to eliminate coal entirely from its electricity grid.
Austria joins other European nations, including France, Germany and the U.K., in extending the the life of coal-fired power following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Source)
I mean, it’s the thing to do now, because they have their backs against the wall. The real solution was not to become dependent on the mafia-state next door in the first place — I hope this lesson won’t soon be forgotten in Europe and elsewhere.
🇨🇦 We’re number one! (Telecoms Edition)
“This image shows Rewheel’s list of costs of 4G & 5G smartphone plans with at least 1,000 mins and 10 Mbit/s peak speed.”
Source. h/t Nick (🔐)
Science & Technology
☀️ Our solar system is a vortex 🪐🌍 ☄️
I bet that the vast majority of people picture something like the image at the top when they think of the solar system.
What we tend to forget is that the sun is moving too, so the actual solar system looks more like the image at the bottom. Yes, you’re riding on one of these giant rocks hurtling through space in a giant vortex.
How fast is the sun moving, along with everything else that is in its gravity well?
There are various estimates, but it’s around 448,000 mph (720,000 km/h).
Yes, we’re all taking quite a ride. Cool, uh?
China’s government is afraid of Starlink 🇨🇳 📡 🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰🛰
In edition #290 I wrote about how SpaceX’s Starlink was an extremely effective tool in Ukraine during the war, both for military and civilian purposes.
It looks like China has noticed too:
“significant alarm in China” had been caused because SpaceX and Starlink were considered critical parts of the “US space military industrial complex”. [...]
Beijing’s military planners fear a scenario in which thousands of Musk’s satellites are deployed to conduct surveillance of China or, more sensitively, support Taiwan, a democratic country over which Beijing claims sovereignty.
Drew Thompson, a former US defence official, said Musk’s Starlink donation in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had increased China’s “awareness of the utility and efficacy” of low-earth orbit satellites to help bolster communication systems during war.
The rhetoric is getting more aggressive:
PLA research group, the Beijing Institute of Tracking and Telecommunications, went further. In April, the institute’s analysts said defence planners in Beijing should prepare “soft and hard kill methods” to take down Starlink satellites and destroy its operating system.
What’s the scale of investment in Starlink?
Musk has estimated that SpaceX, which is valued at a reported $100bn, will spend as much as $30bn on expanding Starlink. (Source)
✈️ Bye-bye aluminium (yes, I spell it the 🇨🇦 way)
The Arts & History
‘I Learned Blender in 24 hours (i'm tired)’
If you’re curious about the tools used by 3D artists to make the shows, films, and games that you love, this video gives an idea of how one of them works, and how it’s possible to learn it from free online resources.
For more context, I wrote about Blender in edition #292.
🦊 Oh, right! Fantastic Mr. Fox is a kids’ movie
As a Wes Anderson fan, I had seen this film years ago and loved it, but it somehow wasn’t filed as a kids’ film in my brain, so I had never even thought of showing it to my kids until recently.
I’m glad I did, because they loved it and even watched it again a few weeks after the first viewing.
I guess all this to say that I suggest you do the same if you have kids. I think it has a level of depth that most other animated films don’t have, so it’s a good addition to the repertoire.