Longreads + Open Thread

Dennett, Datacenters, Killer Apps, Anthropic, Reading, Thermostats, M&A, Rollups



How to Make a Few Billion Dollars: there are some fairly generic terms for people who have made, or are trying to make, a lot of money—"entrepreneur" and "investor" are labels that get applied to lots of people. We've shied away from some more old-fashioned descriptors like "industrialist" or "businessman," but those seem more applicable to Brad Jacobs, author of How to Make a Few Billion Dollars and an avid practitioner of the art described in that title.

Jacobs co-founded some oil trading firms early in his career, but his later success comes from three big rollups: United Waste Systems, United Rentals, and XPO Logistics. These companies all did non-glamorous things—hauling trash and operating landfills, renting industrial equipment, and freight brokerage. They had a few things in common: fragmented industries with long-term tailwinds, in businesses with a compounding data advantage.

If Jacobs had been born a generation later, he might have looked at the same industries and decided to build a software product that these companies would buy; a company like Shopify isn't monopolizing e-commerce, but it is maximizing its market share in the highest-margin, least capital-intensive part of the stack. But when that business isn't available, or the cost of selling the software is prohibitive, the best option can be a rollup strategy of buying small companies, running them better, and taking advantage of scale effects to get better returns beyond that. Each of the companies Jacobs built could create upside from higher utilization of the same physical assets. It's an early case of software and PE competing to eat the world.

Open Thread

Diff Jobs

Companies in the Diff network are actively looking for talent. See a sampling of current open roles below:

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.