311: Big Tech Hiring, Shopify Layoffs, Facebook VR, Amazon, Intel + MediaTek, TSMC & Samsung Cheating?, US Power Grid, and Tony Hawk
"longevity is quantitative until it becomes qualitative"
If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past.
⏳ Matjaž Leonardis wrote:
Nothing can beat doing something consistently every day. It’s interesting this isn’t more obvious given how true it is.
It’s not a new idea, but this is a good way to phrase it.
What results from this is that longevity is quantitative until it becomes qualitative.
For a while, you’re just trying to outlast others doing similar things. Many are trying their best, but let’s see who can keep going! Right?
But if you keep going on long enough — if you keep compounding improvements and learnings, tweaking your methods and iterating on your outputs — at some point you become a whole other animal, with fewer peers. Those starting out look at what you’re doing and feel like they’ll never get there because it seems like you’re playing a different game. and the bridge from zero to there is very foggy.
🛀 When it’s the last time you’re doing something, you don’t usually know it.
I was thinking about how as a teen, I had some online friends that I wrote to basically every day (on ICQ and AIM at the time, I’m old). One was a Norwegian friend, we talked about obscure music and science-fiction books… Another was in Australia and he was into different kinds of music, and we talked about life in general, that transition period in your late teens when you don’t know where you’ll end up...
I felt these people were very close friends, despite the geographical distance. They occupied a lot of my mindshare at the time.
But I just realized that I hadn’t thought about them in a long time. It made me wonder, what happened? How did we lose touch? What was the last instant message that we sent each other? How did their lives turn out?
I don’t even have chat logs to have a look because that was a few computers ago and it didn’t seem that important to keep that stuff at the time. After moving from Windows to Linux and back to Windows and then to Mac, a lot of stuff got lost to the sands of time.
There was the last time that I changed a diaper for my youngest son. Didn’t know it at the time… The last time I spoke to my favorite uncle who died from brain cancer.
What else? What else?
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👉 META reports today: Year-on-year revenue growth is expected to be close to zero in Q2 2022, with a return to double-digit growth within a few quarters.
The company trades at roughly a 20% discount to the S&P 500 on a NTM P/E basis: should it? 🤔
Compare META’s sales growth expectations to their social media peers TWTR SNAP PINS at the interactive version of this chart from Sentieo.
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Big Tech # of employees over the past 10 years
I’d love to see the breakdown at Apple of how many employees work in the retail stores and customer support, and how many work on the products (software, hardware, design, figuring out manufacturing processes, etc).
I keep hearing that Apple has relatively small teams vs other big tech, and I suspect that it would become a lot more obvious if we looked at each company ex-retail/customer support employees.
GOOG META AAPL MSFT
🛒 Shopify lays off 10% of employees, admits bet on pandemic ‘leap ahead’ didn’t pay off 📦
If we needed one more example that even the smartest, most connected, most informed people still don’t know what’s going on and can’t forecast the future much better than most people, here’s evidence #451,345.
Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke writes:
Shopify has to go through a reduction in workforce that will see about 10% leave by the end of the day. Most of the impacted roles are in recruiting, support, and sales, and across the company we’re also eliminating over-specialized and duplicate roles, as well as some groups that were convenient to have but too far removed from building products.
As I’m writing this, the stock is down 82% from its peak, which was just 9 months ago (though it may seem subjectively longer to shareholders).
Before the pandemic, ecommerce growth had been steady and predictable. Was this surge to be a temporary effect or a new normal? And so, given what we saw, we placed another bet: We bet that the channel mix - the share of dollars that travel through ecommerce rather than physical retail - would permanently leap ahead by 5 or even 10 years. We couldn’t know for sure at the time, but we knew that if there was a chance that this was true, we would have to expand the company to match.
It’s now clear that bet didn’t pay off. What we see now is the mix reverting to roughly where pre-Covid data would have suggested it should be at this point. Still growing steadily, but it wasn’t a meaningful 5-year leap ahead.
I guess this means the whole “we’re going to invest billions in logistics to narrow the gap with Amazon” is probably going to be narrowed even more in scope, but time will reveal what they do on that front. SHOP
Now *that* is a clever 100-year stock market chart 📈📉📊
The lost art of data visualization.
The description is in the text of the image. You can click it to see a bigger version.
Facebook increases Oculus Quest price 🥽
VR isn’t exempt from inflation:
Starting in August, Meta Quest 2 will cost $ USD and $ USD for the 128GB and 256GB versions respectively.
This is up from 300 and 400 for the same models.
(I hate that 399.99 crap, so I rewrote the prices by adding back the penny)
They’re basically blaming rising costs:
the costs to make and ship our products have been on the rise. By adjusting the price of Quest 2, we can continue to grow our investment in groundbreaking research and new product development that pushes the VR industry to new heights.
But there’s no doubt market pressure to show lower losses on the metaverse division. I’ll be curious to see how much the higher prices will lower sales…
🤝 ‘Intel and MediaTek Form Foundry Partnership’
Intel and MediaTek today announced a strategic partnership to manufacture chips using Intel Foundry Services’ (IFS) advanced process technologies [...]
MediaTek plans to use Intel process technologies to manufacture multiple chips for a range of smart edge devices.
MediaTek was the 4th largest fabless chip designer in 2021, larger than AMD, but smaller than Broadcom, Nvidia, and Qualcomm.
It will be interesting to see what kind of volumes they send through Intel — a trickle or a flood? INTC
Amazon increases Prime prices in Europe 💶
Following the price increase in the US:
Shoppers in Germany, Amazon's second-biggest market after the United States, will see fees for an annual Prime membership rise 30% to 89.90 euros ($91.88). The retailer's No. 3 market, the United Kingdom, will have a 20% increase to 95 pounds ($114.47) per year, while Amazon sites covering Spain, Italy and France will charge Prime members between 39% and 43% more yearly. (Source)
This becomes effective September 15. It’ll be interesting to see if this is just catching up and using some pricing power they had left on the table by keeping the service underpriced, or if they’ll get meaningful churn from this. AMZN
🧪🔬 Liberty Labs 🧬 🔭
🔌 Texas Power Grid Dashboard
It’s a neat use of Datadog. It’s making me wish that similar dashboards were available for not only all other power grids, but for everything where there’s publicly available real-time data.
⚡️ 🇺🇸 U.S. Power Generation Stack over 120 years ⚡️
Speaking of power grids, here’s a really high-level look at the power generation stack of the U.S. as a whole over the past century+:
It may take a moment to decipher what it all means, but I find this *fascinating*.
The U.S. power generation stack includes 1,192 GW of operating coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, wind and battery capacity as of April 2022
You can see the black coal wave in the 1950s-1980s, the pink nuclear wave in the 70s and 80s, then the huge gas spike, and now the solar and wind wave in more recent years (with a sprinkle of batteries on top).
More graphs here (they unpack the stack per power source, which makes it easier to see what’s going on, and show the retirement of power plants by age cohorts).
Are TSMC and Samsung ‘faking’ node shrinks? 🙊
both of the leading foundries allowed customers to claim they were using a 4nm process when, in fact, they were using the same old 5nm process. [...]
The problem started when Samsung, in a perennial race to beat TSMC to the next node, announced it would deliver production 4nm chips in late 2021, a year after it reached 5nm. To avoid giving Samsung bragging rights, TSMC decided to “pull in” its N4 node by two quarters. But when TechInsights analyzed the first chip, it found the critical process dimensions were exactly the same as in TSMC’s earlier N5 products. The foundry’s claim of 4nm production was a sham, as was MediaTek’s claim of having a 4nm processor.
In the meantime, Qualcomm launched the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 as a 4nm part on Samsung’s 4LPX process. After analyzing the Snapdragon chip, TechInsights found that 4LPX is no different than 5LPE.
I can’t verify that this is true, but if so: 😬
I mean, the NM numbers are already kind of marketing and aren’t comparable between processes, but at least when the number goes down, you should expect things to get smaller… TSM
🌍 The True Size of Africa
I’ve seen many variants of this, but I particularly like this one because it doesn’t try to cram too many things in the same overlay.
It’s also a good reminder that having a globe is the best way to teach kids about geography because the maps that we’ve all imprinted on so much really distort things a lot.
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🛹 Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off 🎬🍿
The cold open shows a 50yo+ Tony trying to do a difficult trick on a very high ramp, and he falls over and over and over and over again.
It’s a perfect encapsulation of his super-power: He doesn’t give up, he pushes things further than most of the competition, and ends up being able to do things that others can’t do because they haven’t put in the reps and/or don’t want it as much as he does and will give up earlier than he does (back to the longevity thing in the intro).
The 1999 footage of the first time he ever did the 900° trick that was considered impossible by many live in front of a huge crowd gave me chills. The sport was loose enough that there was no clock, and they just allowed him to try again and again, getting a hair closer each time…
His commentary on the attempt: “They were either going to carry me out in a stretcher or I was going to do it.”
As someone who knew very little about Tony Hawk (my friends as a teen were into skate culture so I got some of it second-hand), some of the things that surprised me most were:
1) How cyclical skateboarding is. Hawk and his contemporaries were literally rock stars touring the world for a few years, and then all of a sudden the spigot turns off, and a couple of years later he can’t afford to pay his water bill. But even during the tough times when nobody cared, he kept practicing and never gave up!
2) It’s the video games that made him truly never-level wealth. He licensed his name and helped them design it, but the rewards were vastly outsized vs what the #2 or #3 best skateboarding who didn’t have a game with his name had. Power laws everywhere!
3) I was surprised to learn just how badly received his skating style was in the first few years. Because he was so skinny and weak, he had to innovate different, more technical ways to do things than the bigger, stronger, and cooler kids. At first, this wasn’t received well at all, and he had to power through and not give up until the whole sport caught up to him.
4) It’s incredible that almost the whole crew he grew up with is still skateboarding well into their 50s, despite all the injuries and screwed-up bodies. They are addicted to the challenge and mastery, but also it’s a form of expression for them.
Anyway, it’s a good film, well worth watching even if like me you don’t know much about skateboarding. It’s really about grit and human nature.