Longreads + Open Thread
Automated Trading, Airdrops, Sequoia, Flexport, Starlink, Gaming
Front Month has a good interview on automated trading across many different asset classes. Worth reading because market plumbing always matters eventually, and it's common to realize you should understand it better at the worst possible time. But also worth reading because it's a look at how technological solutions run into institutional limitations: just about everyone agrees that bond trading could be better, but no one wants to give up the benefits they get from the way it currently works.
Elizabeth Lopatto of The Verge on the practice of airdropping NFTs to celebrities in order to market them. Social norms around marketing-related gifts are weirdly regressive: the richer you are, the more likely you are to do a lot of Michelin-Star dining paid for by somebody trying to sell you something, for example. In NFTs, there's obviously value in getting a celebrity endorsement, and there's a sort of recursive reciprocity: an NFT collection might only be valuable because Justin Bieber owns one, but if so it's still a way to give Bieber a colossal amount of money for a product endorsement.
Biz Carson of Protocol profiles Roelof Botha. You would not be completely wrong to read *The Power Law as partly the implausible story of how Sequoia remained a top VC firm for decades (being a top VC firm at some point is, as the book makes clear, a lot harder than keeping that position after partner turnover and a shift in important technology paradigms).
Alex Konrad at Forbes on Flexport. This piece is especially useful for getting views on the company from other logistics businesses rather than from other tech companies—at least some of its competitors argue that the company is offering services that the rest of the industry already has, and getting better PR. Which could be true; taking an obscure industry and saying "We're going to digitize it" without noting that it's been digitized for years can sometimes get companies funding. On the other hand, it's possible that this is a "blub paradox" problem: the services that look superfluous to companies that don't offer them may be critical to the companies that do.
Andrew Walker of Yet Another Value Blog on the bear case for Starlink (earlier on The Diff: three bull cases for Starlink). One of the key points: Starlink is fast now, but how fast will it be when the network has heavier usage? Another concern is intermittent access, though it's of a different kind that people are used to. Starlink users can temporarily lose access when their line-of-sight is obstructed, but the tradeoff is that those outages are shorter and uncorrelated.
Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: A loving look at the video game industry, mostly from the perspective of game developers. It ranges from solo creators (like Eric Barone, who spent four years creating Stardew Valley) to AAA titles like Uncharted 4 and Diablo 3. It's informative to see the industry converging on some of the same norms as movies: there are small teams that scrimp to lovingly create something they like, and big-budget sequels; the infrastructure for creation and distribution supports both models.
Drop in any links or thoughts that would be of interest to Diff readers.
Based on the feedback from last week’s gaming series, and earlier ones like conglomerates, I'll be doing more industry dives with looks at several companies and trends. Any that stand out as interesting and under-covered?
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