No. 247 – Tuesday Reads

Know Your Price: Black Property Devaluation In A Nation Built With Our Hands And On Our Backs – I recently shared with a friend why I believed diversity and inclusion efforts at corporations were bullshit. I already belong here. I’m not interested in incremental efforts to try and make me more comfortable. I want to be CEO. I want to build a massive company that competes with yours and keeps you up at night. I want to fund the ventures of entrepreneurs I believe will build a better future than the entrepreneurs you fund are capable of. Black folks getting a better position in this society is a power game, a big reason why I’m excited about reading Andre Perry’s first book. Based on the work he’s published over the past several years, I look forward to learning more about the policies black folks have had to navigate in areas like housing and education. Further, I look forward to getting more clarity on how to navigate the path forward.

On the Frontlines of Retail There Are No Heroes, Only Victims – I don’t have much to say about this piece except that the economic system we’ve nurtured over the years sucks the life out of a bunch of people. There’s got to be another way of structuring this thing.

The Pandemic Isn’t a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System – I had to unfollow Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Twitter a few years back because the man is saltier than the saltiest person you know. His favorite exercise is deadlifting, something we share, and I would love to grab a drink with him, but I’m almost positive we’d end up arguing. I tend to assume things will go well, something that has hurt me a good few times over my life. Taleb, on the other hand, is ardent about doing all you can to prepare for the events that are extremely unlikely to happen, but could turn everything upside down, if they do. This piece does a nice job shedding light on his world view and his frustration with global leaders who weren’t willing to do the work to mitigate a situation that several had predicted.

In the Coronavirus Era, the Force is Still with Jack Dorsey – I don’t understand why Twitter doesn’t have a paid feature. I’d pay without question. Thanks to that platform, complete strangers have become longtime friends and mentors. I’m able to expand and contract my exposure to different types of people – investors, historians, journalists, and more. These emails I write typically start from pieces I’ve stumbled across on the platform. Yet, Twitter hasn’t tapped into all the value it creates. The product feels stagnant, which is pretty frustrating to see. I can understand why Elliott Management would swoop in to try and shake things up. This next year will be quite interesting to see how Dorsey fares.

Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. III Announces Pricing of Upsized $720 Million Initial Public Offering – The last vehicle Chamath Palihapitiya raised money for, he used the funds to merge with Virgin Galactic and take the company public. I’m very curious what companies he has his eye on. For the past several years, healthcare has been a focus of his. Considering the environment we’re in, I could see healthcare technology firms being prime targets.

No. 108: 3 Thursday AM Reads – VW Scandal | New African Development Bank Chief of Staff | Zero to One

  1. You’ve probably seen the news of Martin Winterkorn’s resignation from his CEO post at the Volkswagen Group. Rough year for this guy. Earlier in the year, VW Group supervisory board chair Ferdinand Piech publicly stated that there was distance between him and Winterkorn. I wonder if anything related to this discovery of VW vehicles emitting pollutants up to 40 times the legal amount contributed to that distance. Look for Andrew Ross Sorkin to analyze Winterkorn’s apology (or lack thereof), and Harvard Business School to put out some case studies on leadership, the impact of government regulation on commerce, family-controlled businesses, and trust.

  2. New African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina announced yesterday that Dr. Sipho Moyo would be his Chief of Staff. My Howard University alum friends will like this, considering that she did quite a bit of graduate work there. Add Dr. Moyo to the list of women I’ll be pointing my daughter to. (As an aside, the little one has been killing it at school. She turns three in a couple weeks and is the youngest in her class that has students who will turn six during the school year. The feedback has been shock that she is so young, yet so vocal. That’s my girl!)

  3. I just finished up Zero to One by Peter Thiel. It’s provides helpful insight into how one of the most successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs/investors thinks. In unpacking his perspective on the ingredients to building a company as meaningful as Facebook, PayPal, Palantir, and Netscape, he traces the evolution of the technology industry before and after the dot com bubble and addresses how our society tracks individuals to not put together the building blocks necessary to do big things. At a more granular level, he gives his perspective on building technology, marketing, creating a team of people who know each other really well, and the list goes on. I will probably give this one another read. Some of the thinking in the technology world is pretty fascinating. Some of it is a bit scary. The concept of singularity, for example, is something I need to chew on. Basically, it is that concept of humans transcending our limitations exponentially thanks to technology. Here’s Singularity evangelist Ray Kurzweil discussing the idea. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile – the book I mentioned in my last post, says not nice things about Kurzweil in the book. Essentially, Taleb is all about stripping away things that he thinks make us die sooner – technology, GMOs, etc. Kurzweil is all about building tools that he thinks will make us immortal – technology, GMOs, etc.

No. 107: 3 AM Reads – Okonjo-Iweala Joins Lazard | Bob Diamond Facing Criticism | Book on Antifragility

  1. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance landed a senior advisory role with the asset management firm, Lazard, in their sovereign advisory practice. Dr. Okonjo-Iweala faced a good bit of criticism the last few years of her tenure, with the perception that she was quiet on corruption issues, unlike former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Lamido Sanusi Lamido. So, her landing a nice paying role to advise countries in the background on all things finance should be a nice break. She has consistently countered criticism with the argument that she was focused on building institutions that countered corruption. We’ll have to see how much of those systems fare now that President Muhamad Buhari has focused his energy on rooting out corruption throughout the government, even if that means not having a cabinet several months into his administration.

  2. Investors are challenging Bob Diamond to show, not tell, them about his bullishness in the growth prospects of Atlas Mara, the bank holding company he founded with Ashish Thakkar. Bob Diamond is facing criticism from investors for not putting more skin in the game by buying back shares of the company and limiting executive pay at the firm, especially with the firm’s share price halving in the nearly two years Atlas Mara has been public. Jason Calacanis’ dressing down of technology entrepreneurs who don’t have what it takes came to mind while reading the admonishment Leon Cooperman gave Diamond during their most recent conference call. It’s really interesting following people like Diamond, Eike Batista, and Halsey Minor. They take these pretty enormous stumbles, and keep coming back. The desire to win is a powerful thing.

  3. I’m finishing up Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s a strongly opinionated read on how things can get stronger through adversity. Taleb approaches the material from a risk management perspective, and has a great voice. He holds nothing back in lobbing insults at people who exhibit behavior that makes things fragile, in his opinion. The content is a little dense at times, but mostly accessible. Give it a read.