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P.S. You Should Know... | Issue #192

November 29 · Issue #192 · 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 🚀
🦃 I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I am endlessly grateful that you allow me into your inbox each week and spend your valuable time reading this newsletter. Delivering a supply of interesting links and insights weekly is an undertaking, and with any luck I’ll be able to keep at it for years to come! I greatly appreciate your readership and support of P.S. You Should Know.
🕸 Last week I wrote that, “I still don’t know anyone who uses” Square’s Cash App. I was wrong! It’s now clear, thanks to your responses, that I know at least 4 users. Cash App seems like Venmo and Zelle, but better. Users get the same ease of peer-to-peer payments, banking features like direct deposit and a debit card, as well as built-in support for trading stocks and buying cryptocurrency. If that felt like a run-on sentence it’s because the app does a lot of things. The app has a strong “single-player mode” that creates value without a network and this Cash App user acquisition strategy pairs well with it. I’m a Venmo user, and now I know there’s something better out there. However, I’m going to continue using Venmo because in my world it is broadly adopted. I consider this insight a first-hand lesson on the power of network effects. However, network effects do tend to expire. Is it just a matter of time until Venmo and its network go the way of AOL Instant Messenger and Google Talk?
someone else's words 💬
fun facts 🙌
Time’s 100 best inventions of 2020. Some of my highlights: vodka made from thin air, a biodegradable grill, a handsfree toothbrush and microbial biofertilizer. Another fun fact: I recently read Time’s creators originally wanted to call it Facts but they concluded the definition of facts was too hard to pin down. | learn more
The huge telescope from Goldeneye is being dismantled. “The iconic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico is to be dismantled, officials announce.” | learn more
All about QR codes. Born in a Toyota laboratory in 1994, these fancy barcodes are now officially everywhere. In 2013 I told a manufacturer that their idea of putting QR codes on their products was dumb because almost nobody had readers. I reversed course in 2017 when the iPhone camera app included native support. Today the QR code is my ubiquitous reminder that I can’t predict the future. | learn more
oh, chicago 🏆
A tax on all your boxes. “With the pandemic bringing a host of financial problems Chicago’s way, 11th Ward Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson proposed a ground delivery tax.” The city’s never-ending search for ways into residents’ pockets goes on. Not content with taxing the contents of the boxes via the nation’s highest sales tax, one alderman creatively suggests taxing per box as well. | learn more
tech, startups, internet ⚡
The supercharger boosting Startupland fundraising & exits. “Despite the economic backdrop, startups continue to plow ahead. One of the biggest changes in the last year in the US is the Fed’s stated low interest rate policy for the next three years. What impact are we seeing in the market?” | learn more
better doing 🎯
Jeff Bezos: Here’s how I make Amazon’s highest-stakes decisions. One interesting highlight is the difference in the decision-making pace between top executives and their direct reports. The more senior, the slower pace, and Bezos points out the risk of junior execs modeling the slower speed. “In an excerpt from a new collection of his writings, Amazon’s CEO says that his secret is making fewer, better decisions—and thinking three years out.” | learn more
Learnings from 30 years investing. He had me at “buy high, sell higher.” The author recently died, and the original website is gone, but this piece lives on via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. “Ask me a question back then and I would have answered assuredly and quickly. Today I’d be more likely to say ‘I don’t know’ with just as much confidence.” | learn more
retail therapy 💸
All those used delivery boxes are a hot commodity. Recycling plants can’t get their hands on enough post-consumer cardboard. Now they want that cheese-crusted pizza box! “A surge in food and package deliveries during the pandemic is recharging the U.S. market for recycled paper and cardboard, two years after it collapsed when China tightened its import standards on waste paper.”| learn more
under the microscope 🔬
Rapid test can ID unknown causes of infections throughout the body. “The advance here is that we can detect any infection from any body fluid, without special handling or processing for each distinct body fluid.” Amazing! | learn more
Can patients’ gut microbes help fight cancer? “Only 30%-40% of cancer patients respond to immune checkpoint inhibitor (CPI) therapies.” This article features several groups who, “are betting that microbiome-based therapies can help more patients respond to immunotherapies and become one of the biggest breakthroughs in cancer treatment in decades.” | learn more
More research on the link between vitamin D and Covid-19. A 154-patient study published in Nature had some stark outcomes. The authors conclude by recommending, “mass administration of vitamin D supplements to population at risk for COVID-19.” | learn more
thoughts of food 🍔
HelloFresh acquires Factor75. Factor was my first ever angel investment in 2016. I’ve been reminding people (and myself) since then that I don’t know if I’m any good at investing, but to check in with me in 2026. I still don’t know, but I’ll take good luck and a great management team when they’re on my side! Congratulations Nick, Mike and everyone else involved in this huge success. | learn more
A withdrawal from the remote Arctic seed bank in Svalbard. Staff who abandoned their agricultural research facility in Syria amidst the civil war, “became the first—and remain the only—depositors to make a withdrawal from Svalbard, combing the stacks for tens of thousands of samples and shipping them to new ancillary operations in Morocco and Lebanon.” | learn more
big ideas 📚
The big lessons from history. “The second kind of history to learn from are the broad behaviors that show up again and again, in multiple fields and different eras. They are the 30,000-foot takeaways from events that hide layers below the main story, often going ignored.” | learn more
Markets work because of dumb luck and inefficiency. “But this efficiency obsession [among economists] also leads conservatives to defend free market capitalism on fallacious grounds. In truth free markets are not really efficient at all. Admiring capitalism for its efficiency is like admiring Bob Dylan for his mellifluous singing voice: it is to hold a healthy opinion for an entirely ridiculous reason.” A short article by Rory Sutherland, who is a current favorite of mine. | learn more
on the blockchain ⛓
Nine Bitcoin charts already at all-time highs. “Bitcoin is nearing its prior all-time high (ATH), set in December 2017. It’s entirely plausible that we could regain the heady $20,000 level within the next few weeks or months. This time, it’s happening without much fanfare, and without the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) phenomenon which intensified the price action (investors bought BTC in order to participate in ICOs, driving the price up).” | learn more
calls to action 👇
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