Thinks 752

The Generalist: “TSMC’s origin story violates contemporary rules of startup success. It wasn’t founded by a precocious college dropout but a 56-year-old emerging from professional disappointment. It wasn’t funded by venture capitalists but the Taiwanese government (and a series of local angels firmly “encouraged” to participate). And it wasn’t an asset-light internet product – a SaaS platform or social network – but an expensive, complex industrial project…How has [Morris] Chang built a company that keeps compounding from a massive base – and is essential to the global economy? His playbook involves a mix of geographical arbitrage, a sharp business model, savvy R&D investing, and relentless execution.”

Rajeev Mantri: “The next decade presents an unprecedented opportunity for business building and wealth creation, unlike any that India has ever experienced. Looking back in 2032 at India’s aggregate market capitalization evolution, the share of technology-driven companies would have grown substantially and likely be sizable because the productivity-driven economic transformation underway in India will require incumbents to become more innovative or yield space to new enterprises…[As] the economy grows and per capita incomes increase, Indian companies will be far more global and acquisitive in the coming years. Given the open nature of India’s society, its democratic government, good diplomatic relations with practically all the world’s major economies, and the preponderance of English as the working language, Indian companies are likely to be accepted, even welcomed, across the world.”

David Perell: “Until education becomes profitable (and solutions aren’t limited by student to teacher ratios), we will be stuck with rising costs, falling outcomes, and government-employed teachers who select for sinecure. We can do better. Education should have as many options as the rest of the free market. There are fifty cereal brands in a supermarket, but when it comes to educational approaches, you only get a few options. Most schools are the same: curriculums are fragmented by subject, and classrooms are lecture-based and strongly teacher dependent. Profitable business models will attract high-quality talent and incentivize entrepreneurs to innovate.”

Benedict Evans: “The conceptual shift of machine learning, it seems to me, was to take a group of problems that are ‘easy for people to do, but hard for people to describe’ and turn them from logic problems into statistics problems. Instead of trying to write a series of logical tests to tell a photo of a cat from a photo of a dog, which sounded easy but never really worked, we give the computer a million samples of each and let it do the work to infer patterns in each set. Instead of people trying to write rules for the machine to apply to data, we give the data and the answers to the machine and it calculates the rules. This works tremendously well, and generalises far beyond images, but comes with the inherent limitation that such systems have no structural understanding of the question – they don’t necessarily have any concept of eyes or legs, let alone ‘cats’. To simplify hugely, generative networks run this in reverse – once you’ve identified a pattern, you can make something new that seems to fit that pattern. So you can make more picture of ‘cats’ or ‘dogs’, and you can also combine them – ‘cats in space suits’ or ‘a country song about venture capitalists rejecting founders’. To begin with, the results tended to be pretty garbled, but as the models have got it better the outputs can be very convincing.”

Bloomberg: “Just over two years ago, [American Express] faced an existential crisis. It already had been losing customers to the likes of JPMorgan Chase & Co., but when the pandemic hit and just about everyone curtailed traveling and dining out, the 172-year-old credit card giant was pushed to the brink. What AmEx did next may be the marketing coup of the century. It revamped one of its most lucrative products, the Platinum card, by dangling hundreds of thousands of points before existing customers. It added a slew of nontravel benefits, from credits for Walmart Inc.’s Walmart+ subscription service to partnerships with luxury gyms. It sent thousands of flyers with the scratch-and-sniff panel to well-off millennial and Gen Z households, betting its signature scent would help lure younger customers. And then it had the nerve to raise its annual Platinum card fee in the middle of a pandemic. Today, business is booming. More spending happens with AmEx credit cards than with those of any other bank on the planet.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.

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