February 8, 2021


Introducing Colossus

"We believe definitive conversations with the world’s best investors and operators paired with the best curated third-party content is the most impactful way to learn in the rapidly evolving landscape of business building and investing."

Going to spend the rest of February digging into Colossus and Invest Like the Best transcripts. Patrick has done such a great job of aggregating the leading thinkers across a range of topics. Yet podcasts are often too long, making the transcripts the perfect place to spend some serious time.

Unlocking Value in Gaming

Interesting chart from Joost van Dreunen, an investor in the gaming world, professor at NYU Stern School of Business, and former CEO and co-founder of Super Data Research.

"Why does it say 50,000 euros in this line item here? that seems like an anomaly." It's like, "Oh no, that is one of our Saudi customers and he ordered a custom sword for his character in his game."

Value is all relative. :) 

"Pioneers are the people with the arrows in their back."

Never two steps early, or one step late ... it's one step early that you aim for.

"As an investor, I always look for moments where that's happening, where the incumbents are just sort of sitting on something but not acting on it ... So I'm always curious to look into businesses that are at the cusp of something that's about to go big in terms of it's a space no apex predators want to move into, but they have a plan that goes a little further than we have a cool game around this."

Sounds like Crypto x Gaming to me!

"The game industry has always been on its back foot. If you look at it culturally, it's starting to change a little bit now, but for as long as I've been in the industry, which is now coming up in 20 years, unlike Hollywood and unlike the music industry, there's not a lot of red carpet events. Just from a personality point of view, the games industry at the top, and I talk to people that have been part of these billion-dollar franchises as much as I do to indies and starting designers through my class at NYU. What they all have in common is that they check their ego at the door. It's such a cliche and something, but from a culture industry, for an industry that's by its very nature, something that's built on people being extroverted and having a story to tell or having an idea to transmit and communicate to other people, they don't really do it for the sake of their own celebration. They don't really want to necessarily recognize and stood out in a crowd. And so, the games industry, culturally and individually, as I experience it, have always been sort of the quiet kid in the back of the room tinkering away. And it has retained a lot of that character.... There's no TMZ for games. So, that absence, I think, of ego in everything that you do, and I say this also as an entrepreneur if you're able to let that go, if you're able to just focus on the problem, if you're able just to focus on building cool experiences, I think long-term, that is far more interesting than your 15 minutes of fame. And I think from a financial standpoint, it's just much more interesting long-term to invest in companies like that."

This was Joost talking about the culture of gaming. I've found this to be very true, particularly for the Finns given their personalities. At the same time, game developers and publishers are a fairly insular crowd, and you're quickly classified into those who either "get it" or those who "don't", as judged by a historical lens. The key is to be somewhere in the middle. Not to be so wedded to the minutiae of the past that you can't see beyond the trees, but do understand enough about how foundations are built to understand the guts of what lies underneath.

stretch read

The Story of Civilization, pp. 101-107

"In one important sense the 'savage' too, is civilized, for he carefully transmits to his children the heritage of his tribe--that complex of economic, political, mental and moral habits and institutions which it has developed in its efforts to maintain and enjoy itself on the earth."

"The moment man begins to take thought of the morrow he passes out of the Garden of Eden into the vale of anxiety; the pale cast of worry settles down upon him, greed is sharpened, property begins, and the good cheer of the "thoughtless" native disappears."

"Nature taught man the art of provision, the virtue of prudence, the concept of time." Civilization began once we learned the art of providing for tomorrow out of the surplus of today.

It's crazy to think how picky we've become when you consider how "nature peoples" ate almost everything, including lice out of each others' hair! (106).

Cannibalism was at one time practically universal! Funerals were practically unknown. In the Upper Congo living men, women and children were bought and sold like articles of food. No shame was felt in preferring human flesh. Blood was universally regarded as a delicacy.


The Book of Life. February 6/8

"The idea, the memory, the conclusion, the experience, the various forms of namable and unnamable intentions, the conscious endeavor to be or not to be, the accumulated memory of the unconscious, the racial, the group, the individual, the clan, and the whole of it all, whether it is projected outwardly in action, or projected spiritually as virtue; the striving after all this is the self."

"Extraordinary are the moments when the self is not there, in which there is no sense of endeavor, of effort, and which happens when there is love." 

"To understand what is is more important than to create and follow ideals because ideals are false, and what is is the real."


February 4, 2021


Apple, Its Control Over the iPhone, The Internet, And The Metaverse

"Today’s heavily conglomerated internet giants remain mindful of the fact that open APIs, common standards, exportable data, etc., all help grow both the internet technology acceptance model and, in most cases, their own bottom lines. But these companies are less concerned with how the overall market grows than their share and control of this growth. Technology companies, almost by definition, prefer that the market build on top of or through them then have new entrants build around or in competition with them. As a result, the same companies that emerged thanks to openness tend to reject these principles where they might undermine their strategic position."

Reminds me of my favorite chart from Chris Dixon:

Image for post

"But what matters is that a growing share of our time will be spent within virtual spaces and with virtual goods — for education, work, health, politics and leisure. Sometimes these spaces and goods will be purely virtual, other times virtual twins of physical ones, and sometimes augmented reality. For related reasons, a growing percentage of our income will be spent on virtual assets, goods, experiences — many of which we’ll be able to sell, trade, share, use or improve. And of course, enormous new industries, marketplaces and resources will emerge to enable these opportunities, with novel types of labor, skills, professions and certifications invented to serve them."

In the debate about "why blockchain?" in games, many still believe blockchain is a solution in search of a problem. This often devolves into a rather stale debate over technology and whether you really need distributed shared state when existing systems largely work fine. The more interesting point is the disconnect between the value players place on their virtual goods and their inability to freely export/import them. So the real question is not "why blockchain", but rather, do you want to let players export/import their value, and what are the consequences of doing so? (i.e., transitioning from a closed to open economy)? It's not that one is better or worse; they are different games entirely. People will increasingly play the games that imbue a slice of themselves in relation to the circles they care about. Once one realizes that community is culture, culture is belief, and belief is money, it becomes very hard to go back to closed loop, pre-designed experiences. For this reason, the metagame designers of tomorrow will need a peculiar mix of skills/experience across gaming, tech, social, finance, economics and law, straddling what today are largely non-overlapping worlds. A rare breed indeed for the brave new world.

stretch read

The Story of Civilization, pp. 97-101

"Civilization is not something inborn or imperishable; it must be acquired anew by every generation, and any serious interruption in its financing or its transmission may bring it to an end."

Durant went to great lengths to chronicle this story of civilization. This passage is the key to understanding why. And now, a few generations later, how many of us have even heard of this work? The decay rate on knowledge is mind-boggling. Think of how much time each new generation spends in search of the wisdom of the day, when the greatest works have already been written.


Krishnamurti: The Book of Life

Can the Crude Mind Become Sensitive?

"Listen to the question, to the meaning behind the words. Can the crude mind become sensitive? If I say my mind is crude and I try to become sensitive, the very effort to become sensitive is crudity. Please see this. Don’t be intrigued, but watch it. Whereas, if I recognize that I am crude without wanting to change, without trying to become sensitive, if I begin to understand what crudeness is, observe it in my life from day to day—the greedy way I eat, the roughness with which I treat people, the pride, the arrogance, the coarseness of my habits and thoughts—then that very observation transforms what is. Similarly, if I am stupid and I say I must become intelligent, the effort to become intelligent is only a greater form of stupidity; because what is important is to understand stupidity. However much I may try to become intelligent, my stupidity will remain. I may acquire the superficial polish of learning, I may be able to quote books, repeat passages from great authors, but basically I shall still be stupid. But if I see and understand stupidity as it expresses itself in my daily life—how I behave toward my servant, how I regard my neighbor, the poor man, the rich man, the clerk—then that very awareness brings about a breaking up of stupidity."

This entry reminds me of this:

With so much knowledge at our fingertips, it's never been easier to set on one new pursuit after another in the name of intelligence and enlightenment. All the while, avoiding one basic truth: that we are, fundamentally, stupid. Consider the range of thoughts we fail to translate into action. Yet somehow we convince ourselves that this mental clutter and intellectualism is somehow leveling ourselves up. How often do we really probe into the guts of our own root directory? It's much more fun to learn new patterns than to debug existing clutter. Yet it's only after identifying the unhealthy patterns and habits that we can rebuild strong roots. And from strong roots, development flows.