- Tyler Cowen interviews Paul Graham. Partly delightful because the interviewer and interviewee have such different styles. Take this exchange, and guess which participant is well-known for spending far more time editing than writing, and which is known for publishing a new post every day since 2003: "Were the Medici good venture capitalists, or do you give greater credit to the Florentine guilds?" "I have no idea." There are good thoughts on founder ages, on YC consciously emulating Harvard, where the arbitrage opportunities are in art, and whether or not to be optimistic about the UK's economy. And, as a bonus, some trivia: it turns out that when Paul Graham wrote "I was talking to a young startup founder" in this essay, the founder was Mark Zuckerberg. Small world.
- Gary Hoover lists the US's largest companies in 1917 and 1929. Partly a nostalgia trip—remember when companies were named after things that they did, like "National Biscuit" instead of "Mondelez"? It also shows the Westward shift of US GDP and (especially) market cap. It also says something about which kinds of companies could scale at the time; services companies were more fragmented, while manufacturers had no choice but to be huge. And it's a reminder that big companies can innovate: the 1929 list includes SS Kresge, which, despite being one of the biggest discount retailers in the US, was able to launch the even-deeper-discount Kmart brand a generation later (it peaked a generation after that).
- In the FT, Misha Glenny tells some of the backstory of Russia's hacking industry ($, FT), including "one of the most remarkable if little-known events in post-cold war history: the first and, to my knowledge, the last publicly organised conference of avowed criminals." The Diff has written before ($, Diff) about hacking as a kind of power projection: Russia gets plausible deniability, but still has access to offensive cyber capabilities when necessary. But it's hard to have stable, mutually-beneficial relationships between economic actors who are united by their willingness to flout the rules.
- Anton Howes has a story about cows, specifically about selective breeding for larger choice cuts in 18th century England. A good reminder that people are often applying theories before those theories have a name and a coherent explanation.
- Paul Mozur and John Liu profile TSMC founder Morris Chang in the NYT. History is full of contingencies: decades before TSMC, Chang went to work for Sylvania, an electronics company, instead of Ford, because Sylvania offered him $1 more a month and Ford refused to negotiate. Another case of contingent history: Chang had retired from TSMC before the financial crisis, but rejoined as CEO after the company did its first layoffs, and then he immediately hired back the laid-off employees while increasing capital spending. This worked out marvelously, but was both a technological/organization bet and a macro one, and the macro piece didn't have to turn out the way it did.
- In this week's Capital Gains, we look at how hard it is to apply the concept of diversification to spending time rather than money, and what you can do about it.
- In the 1960s and 1970s, economists started formalizing the idea of principal/agent problems (see here or here). It was also around this time that we started collecting enough data to measure the different risk levels of investing in developed markets compared to emerging ones. Joseph Conrad got to both about a decade earlier with Nostromo, a story about a revolution in a lightly-fictionalized South American country, and about the mounting chaos as different people try to advance or at least protect their interests. A running theme in the novel is mutual incomprehension. This happens both at the personal level, as some characters completely misunderstand one another. And it also happens at the level of institutions: the colonial rulers airdrop in the parts of capitalism that are convenient for them, the capitalists, so there's a culture clash both between them and the country they're in and within the colonialist characters.
- Drop in any links or comments of interest to Diff readers.
- An occasional check-in: what are some stories happening now that are under-covered or whose impact is underestimated? August is usually slow, but it's been a newsy few weeks.
Certainly the stork was beneficial to commercial developers at the time, but probably equally important factors at the time were the the rise of the auto/suburbanization (Manhattan's residential population has fallen by a third over the last century, while the US population has more than tripled), air conditioning (which made the Sunbelt more habitable), the rapid growth of white collar employment (which created the demand for new office buildings specifically), and the rapid rise in productivity (which allowed people to consume much more real estate per capita).
Companies in the Diff network are actively looking for talent. A sampling of current open roles:
- The leading provider of advanced options analytics — “the ASML of options trading” — is growing rapidly, very profitable, and looking for a generalist who can excel in chief of staff and business development functions. A trading, quant, or similarly technical background is a big plus. (Connecticut, NYC)
- An early-stage startup aiming to reduce labor costs by over 80% in a $100bn+ industry is looking for a part-time technical advisor with robotics experience; this has the potential to evolve into a full-time role. (NYC)
- A vertically integrated PE-backed company applying a rigorous investment/operations approach to a high-growth industry is looking for an analyst who has banking experience. (Little Rock, AR—no remote, but relocation assistance is possible)
- A company reinventing the way Americans build wealth for the long-run by enabling them to access "Universal Basic Capital" is looking for a GTM / growth lead. (NYC)
- A well funded seed stage startup founded by former SpaceX engineers is building software tools for hardware engineering. They're looking for a full stack engineer interested in developing highly scalable mission-critical tools for satellites, rockets, and other complex machines. (Los Angeles)
Even if you don't see an exact match for your skills and interests right now, we're happy to talk early so we can let you know if a good opportunity comes up.
If you’re at a company that's looking for talent, we should talk! Diff Jobs works with companies across fintech, hard tech, consumer software, enterprise software, and other areas—any company where finding unusually effective people is a top priority.