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P.S. You Should Know... | Issue #185

👋 Welcome back to P.S. You Should Know… probably the best newsletter published on Sundays between 6-7
October 11 · Issue #185 · View online
P.S. You Should Know...
👋 Welcome back to P.S. You Should Know… probably the best newsletter published on Sundays between 6-7am CST, and definitely the best one published by me. Now in its fourth year!

my story 🚀
🛶 Exploring Austin by water!
🛶 Exploring Austin by water!
☯️ Feature or bug? In software, we tend to label unwanted or unexpected behavior as bugs. Funny programmers will, however, proclaim their bugs are actually “undocumented features.” Sometimes the line between feature and bug is blurry. I read of an old video game that would crash unexpectedly when the player pressed the exit button. Instead of preventing the crash, the developer changed the error message to “Thank you for playing.”
What if we take the concept of feature vs bug outside of programming? I recently spoke with a music startup founder who shared his story of an unexpected musical influence: the slowing playback speed of a Walkman running low on battery. Bug? Maybe. But for him it was a feature that drove a deeper appreciation for music’s component parts.
In investing, liquidity is traditionally a feature. In fact, there’s typically a discount factored in for securities that aren’t liquid. Talk to financial advisors, though, and you’ll hear stories of panicky client calls (😱 SELL SELL SELL!) during market turbulence. One of the ways an advisor creates value is by adding a bit of friction to prevent rash decisions. After all, I learned in school that investors tend to sell low and buy high. I invested a startup that almost immediately had cofounder turmoil. If I could’ve sold right then, I probably would have. The business has grown almost 20x and is getting stronger by the day. For me, the illiquidity of startup investing has been a feature.
Binding oneself to a course of action and removing optionality seems negative on first pass. However, it may be exactly what’s needed to stay a difficult course.
📕 Takeaways: Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
Describing the world as probabilistic and full of unavoidable uncertainty, Duke provides practical advice for making better decisions. Despite providing remedial lessons on behavioral economics and decision theory and belaboring many examples, Thinking in Bets is useful for those who want to make better decisions more often.
someone else's words 💬
fun facts 🙌
India’s ancient root bridges. Click thru for the interesting photos. “In the Indian state of Meghalaya, one of the wettest places on Earth, villagers are separated by rivers and valleys. To stay connected, they coax tree roots to grow together into living bridges.” | learn more
Internet scams: fake airpods. Having spent too much time on Facebook’s marketplace this week, I’ve come across a few ‘too good to be true’ deals for Apple Airpods Pro. I chatted with a couple sellers before opting out. This author was less fortunate, and the details of the fakery are impressive. | learn more
Deep dive into recyclability of Amazon’s Prime Now freezer bags. I’ve learned much about recycling and composting in the past week. Since Austin offers a more nuanced system for waste management than Chicago, I’ve trying harder to sort our household trash. Frozen foods from Prime Now arrive in insulated bags. Are they recyclable? “Amazon says its insulated bags are recyclable. A recycling expert says that’s absurd.” | learn more
oh, chicago 🏆
FT highlights the plight of startups fundraising in Chicago. Check it out for entertaining quotes from some of the most popular tech names in Chicago. But also remember that to the Financial Times, Chicago and Wichita are basically the same place: “The article has been amended since publication to remove a mistaken reference to the billionaire Koch family. The Kochs are not, as was wrongly stated, local to Chicago.” | learn more
Surprise: 20% of blood samples have coronavirus antibodies. This is from over 1,000 samples across Chicagoland: “Nearly 1 in 5 Chicago residents who sent blood-spot samples to Northwestern researchers tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.” This is higher than they expected and might be due to the high sensitivity of their test. | learn more
tech, startups, internet ⚡
16 open problems in engineering biology. From team a16z bio: “As our engineering toolkit in bio expands to be more powerful than ever before, and the infrastructure to deliver, produce, and scale these solutions comes increasingly online, a whole new world of problems in biology begin to feel approachable. Here are the 16 biggest and potentially most rewarding challenges we see coming in the world of bio.” | learn more
The bull case for Opendoor. I’ve been casually following Opendoor since they were just a tiny startup buying and selling houses in Arizona. Now they’re about to go public via a SPAC at a $4.8 billion valuation. Here’s the bull case for “the Amazon of Housing.” | learn more
Spotify’s flywheel: business model leverage. “Spotify, the audio market, and the negative churn Consumer SaaS company.” | learn more
better doing 🎯
The second mountain & secular formation. I never grasped what “community” really meant nor its importance until recently. Maybe I still underestimate it. “[T]hree core elements that make an organization “church-y,” even if it doesn’t look like a traditional religious institution: contemplation, community, and contribution.” | learn more
Iatrogrenics: why intervention often leads to worse outcomes. The term was popularized by Nassim Taleb and in this post Farnam Street explains the concept well. “Iatrogenics is when we cause more harm by intervention than we do good.” | learn more
to your health ⚕
How to join a psychedelic clinical trial. “You could be eligible to participate in a psychedelic research trial. Studies of psychedelics are at various stages, enrolling both healthy volunteers and individuals with specific mental health conditions. We’ve compiled a list here of all the current or planned clinical trials on MDMA, psilocybin, LSD, ibogaine, and more.” | learn more
retail therapy 💸
How CEO Gary Friedman built Restoration Hardware into RH. What an incredible story! “Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Cartier, Tiffany and the rest of the finest luxury brands in the world were all born on the top of the luxury mountain,” wrote Friedman in this year’s shareholders letter. “Never has a brand started near the base and made the climb to the peak. We believe RH can be the first to make the climb.” [Paywalled but I somehow read it anyway via Pocket. Email me for a pdf if you can’t access.] | learn more
under the microscope 🔬
The most common pain relief drug in the world induces risky behavior. “Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol and sold widely under the brand names Tylenol and Panadol, also increases risk-taking, according to a new study that measured changes in people’s behaviour when under the influence of the common over-the-counter medication.” | learn more
teaching the kids 👩‍🏫
The new digital high school. USV just invested in Sora, and I have a hunch that’ll look really smart once the program gains accreditation. “Sora puts high school students in the drivers’ seats of their own development with a remote-first, network-based model. Through a combination of small social pods, self-directed projects, and student-run organizations, high schoolers shape their academic and extracurricular experience, as well as the governance of the school.” | learn more
big ideas 📚
On battery recycling and the future. JB Straubel, the Tesla co-founder and former CTO, is deep in the battery recycling game. Historically recycling compliance for batteries has been low, but that must change as the volume keeps increasing. “Why Amazon and Panasonic are betting on this battery recycling startup.” | learn more
calls to action 👇
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