- Matt Rickard lists all 45 of Akins' Laws of Spacecraft Design. At a glance it may seem niche, but these are really general-purpose rules for managing teams. Or at least teams that are working on problems where some parts can be quantified, some parts are unknown, and mistakes are costly; rockets are obviously an extreme case of this, but that just means there are certain things their designers learn faster and more painfully. Some of them, when generalized, can be quite fun. For example: "If you want to have a maximum effect on the design of a new engineering system, learn to draw. Engineers always wind up designing the vehicle to look like the initial artist's concept." This is a more concrete version of what someone might call "vision," and since it's more specific, it's also easier to see why this is hard to pull off.
- Victor Haghani, Vladimir Ragulin, and James White at Elm Wealth have data on why it makes sense to cut your losses and let your winners run. This, too, is applicable more broadly than just in markets. The first part looks at a historical test, and the second is more of a thought experiment—but it's a thought experiment with very impressive results. (Among other things, it explains why multi-manager funds are so trigger-happy about firing people. If they do that aggressively, and can consistently find new talent, what they're left with is a very impressive set of managers.
- Erik Hoel in The Intrinsic Perspective asks: What the heck happened in 2012? 1971 was, famously, the point at which many macroeconomic statistics suddenly started looking worse—productivity, wages, frequency of financial crises, etc. But the start of the last decade seems to have represented another inflection point in social statistics. Those are, of course, much noisier; it's entirely possible that changes in, say, self-reported happiness are entirely a function of changing definitions of happiness. There's anecdotal evidence that the introduction of addictive new technologies is really bad for a generation or so before we as a society get a handle on them, but it's also hard to know in advance if there's some change in social organization or communications technology that's so powerful that it's ultimately impossible to recover from it.
- John Psmith of Mr. and Mrs. Psmith’s Bookshelf reviews Science in Traditional China, by Joseph Needham. It's partly a thorough response to the urban legend that China invented gunpowder but never discovered its military applications, but where it gets really good is in looking at how cultural differences lead to excellence in different sub-domains of physics, like magnetism and waves. At least in this case, STEM methodology seems to be downstream from cultural assumptions, even if that's invisible to practitioners.
- Russell Gold in Texas Monthly on the thirtysomething co-CEOs of Permian Resources. It's a bit contrarian to go into an industry that's graying and appears to be dying. And sometimes, it's a very bad decision; I'm sure there were some smug buggy-whip founders in the early 1910s who could talk your ear off about how the industry's had ups and downs but we'll always need it. On the other hand, the oil and gas industry really is such an industry, and not just in energy. As one person quoted in the article (presumably trotting out a line they've been saving for just such an occasion) put it: "If you want to throw darts at us, that's fine. But those darts are made out of plastic and steel, and you don’t get that without oil and gas." Via this post from Petro State, linked earlier this week in The Diff.
- And in this week's Capital Gains: it's 13F season, when asset managers file a list of their positions with the SEC. These can be useful but are mostly misused. So this week's post looks at the numerous ways you can misread a 13F, and some of the right ways to look at it instead.
- Founder vs Investor: The Honest Truth About Venture Capital from Startup to IPO(not out just yet, but available for preorder—and recommended!): this book is a dialogue, co-written by a founder and an investor. This makes it incredibly valuable because it tells both sides of a story that you'll nearly always hear from exactly one side with an agenda. The paired advice sometimes feels like a Socratic dialogue inching towards the truth, and sometimes feels like one of those old Onion point/counterpoint articles. Which is great! The book would be pointless if both sides agreed on everything—moreover, either boards of directors or CEOs would be superfluous if investors and founders always reached the same conclusions. As with any other discipline that's complex enough that it can't be done solo, building a company is partly about interacting with impersonal forces like the market and technology, but a lot of the variance comes from the human element.
- Drop in any links or comments of interest to Diff readers.
- Following up on Founder vs Investor: are there any other good Rashomon-style business stories, where we get cogent-but-contradictory arguments from both sides? Those are always fun.
Companies in the Diff network are actively looking for talent. A sampling of current open roles:
- A company building ML-powered tools to accelerate developer productivity is looking for software engineers. (Washington DC area)
- A company that helps investors use alternative data to make better decisions is looking for early-career data scientists and business analysts. (Remote)
- A startup building a new financial market within a multi-trillion dollar asset class is looking for generalists with banking and legal experience. (US, Remote)
- A fintech startup that lets investors trade any theme as if there were an ETF for it is looking for a senior backend engineer. (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.