Birth of the Frankenfirm

I think the Frankenfirms trend will not affect the Big Tech (FAMGA) that are already too big to have UE or US (perhaps only China can…) impose anything major that will cause a real dent in their market positions.

It’s easier to attack TikToks or impose things to companies like ARM in a M&A scenario, than to split Amazon or impose change to Google or Facebook.

We are going perhaps to see an economic cold war between China and US but these Big Tech are meta-state companies. It’s going to affect a lot more the rest of the pack… I believe.

Great article from The Economist:

Will TikTok survive?

The contortions at TikTok and Arm are an unfortunate sign of things to come

On august 6th, when the White House told TikTok that it had 45 days to shut down or find an American buyer, there was a risk that the Chinese-owned video app would disappear from America, infuriating its 100m users there and destroying billions of dollars of investors’ wealth. Now a last-minute fudge seems to have been found. TikTok has said it will enter a complex partnership with Oracle, an American tech giant, that is designed to show it is more under American sway. The day before Nvidia, an American semiconductor company, bid $40bn for Arm Holdings, a British-based chip-design firm, triggering a storm in Britain about how to stop its tech champion from being dragged into America’s trade war. Far from being oddities, the two episodes offer a preview of how the new age of nationalism will change the way multinational firms are run—for the worse.

Both companies straddle geopolitical divides and are at the heart of the digital economy (see article). TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese tech star. The White House says it fears that users’ data are being sent to China, where Big Brother can spy on them, and that the algorithm which selects videos is vulnerable to Chinese manipulation. Arm’s designs are used worldwide, not least in America and China, its two largest markets. Britain’s government worries that a takeover will see key activity shifted abroad (in 2016 Arm was bought by SoftBank, a Japanese firm, which promised to keep the firm’s base in Britain until 2021). A further concern is that, under American ownership, Arm will no longer be a “neutral” supplier, instead becoming an instrument of Uncle Sam’s expanding sanctions regime.

Throughout history companies have adapted to geopolitics. In the freewheeling era of globalisation that began in the 1980s, the idea took hold around the world that all firms should be treated equally, regardless of their nationality. That made it efficient to operate as a global firm with a unitary management, capital structure and system of production. By contrast the 1930s and 1940s were plagued by wars and protectionism. Businesses such as General Motors responded by allowing their foreign operations to become semi-autonomous. Rather than merge, many firms co-operated across borders through alliances and cartels.

The proposed TikTok deal shows how business is heading in a 1930s direction. Although the details are not yet public, the firm’s ownership will probably change, with American shareholders, including Oracle, and possibly Walmart, holding a large minority stake, perhaps with rights to veto some decisions. The location of key assets will shift, with the headquarters moving to America and Oracle managing the data-storage there (and monitoring the algorithm). Arm, meanwhile, has already contorted its structure once to deal with geopolitics: in 2018 it sold a 51% stake in its China operation to mainly Chinese investors, including state-backed funds. Now it may face a new metamorphosis. The British government, for example, may demand further legal guarantees that it is run autonomously in Britain. That would be part of a push to bolster the country’s industrial base, which has triggered a row with the European Union (see article).

Continue reading “Birth of the Frankenfirm”

chained

In the last few years, multiple transformations in the service and product industries linked to information technologies have taken place – all at a frantic pace as the web 3.0 evolved, matured, and found its place in the market. However, when considering the one that has the potential to be the most disruptive, blockchain is definitely in the spotlight. Nevertheless, since its announcement, there’s been ups and downs and it hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype.

Many factors make the world question if blockchain will effectively be part of our daily lives. Yet, at the same time, there’s already enough proof that the technology is more than Bitcoin and it can actually have a positive impact across different sectors. But don’t let us preach to you about it, let us show you what’s coming next.


Way beyond Bitcoin…

The popularization of blockchain happened mainly due to the use case of digital assets, commonly known as cryptocurrencies. In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, Bitcoin was created in a totally decentralized approach without requiring governance from any formal entity. In an almost utopian yet controversial way, it poses as a mechanism for transferring and saving “value” in a fully digital and distributed format. Nonetheless, there’s a myriad of other applications aiming at changing the world:

  • Insurtech has stepped up the game and is using blockchain to reduce fraudulent claims and ease a process that typically takes up a lot of time and energy (checking evidence and making reinsurance more efficient). Lemonade is the reference startup (which has become the best IPO in 2020), but several other startups are disrupting the space with P2P Insurance (such as Teambrella or, once again, Lemonade) and Claim Management & Risk Assessment (Tierion is improving claims processes while Cropt is supporting insurers with satellite data to confirm the actual damage presented by farmers, and machine learning algorithms to predict the yield of crops and the risk associated).
  • Supply chains have been drawing a lot of attention with blockchain solutions being deployed to keep track of the goods’ route and also optimize logistics. We don’t have to go far for this one. Both Auchan and Lidl Portugal announced they’ll be tracing the origins of all food with blockchain as a quality control measure to meet the growing demands of today’s consumers. As for some of the hottest startups, it’s worth highlighting:Everledger, Provenance and  TE-Food.
  • In the civic domain, a lot is going on. Startups like WalliD, which is turning to blockchain to privately store users’ ID documents in a digital wallet and design a global protocol for digital ID transactions, and Civic, which has the same principles but applies them to the management of digital currencies, are exclusively focused on identity. Plus, if we take a collective standpoint, there are many other compelling initiatives such as Follow My Vote, which is fighting to bring more transparency to polls and put an end to election fraud, or, speaking of transparent voting, TAIKAI, born in our MVP program as a blockchain-based platform for hackathons, which is fostering open innovation by connecting tech enthusiasts to companies that have challenges and are desperate to solve them.
  • Regarding security, decentralized storage platforms are picking up steam. Nowadays, data is seen by many as more valuable than money, so hackers are sort of modern pirates. To avoid being looted, or in other words, to prevent breaches and better safeguard data, decentralized storage platforms such as the ones that are being built by SIA, Storj or FileCoin (based on IPFS) look like a good option because, instead of having all files stored at the same place, they’re broken apart and scattered across multiple nodes on a network, making it impossible to read the entire content from one fraction.

Blockchain can be set up to operate for a variety of purposes, and its community is committed to expanding the technology’s level of influence. Judging by its success and increased use, I would say it seems that blockchain is poised to rule the digital world soon.

Continue reading “chained”

learn how to sleep

Sleep is the most powerful learning tool!

Sleeping 7-8 hours per night has an enormous impact on your ability to learn. Cutting sleep, even for as little as one night, can have irreversible impacts on what you learn both before and after, in your fatigued state.

Pulling all-nighters should be banned from your life as a valid tool to cram information. The costs are simply too high.

Even if you’re not staying up for days on end trying to learn, few of us get the sleep we need to learn at our best.

What You’re Doing When Sleeping

Sleep is not a passive activity. Although it seems like you’re doing nothing but resting, the mind is highly active during your moments of slumber.

Sleep is broken into different discrete phases, mostly falling into two catagories of REM (rapid eye-movement, aka dreaming) and NREM (non-REM, which includes deep sleep).

While your head is on the pillow, your brain is engaging in very important work. This includes:

One of the first studies to demonstrate the importance of sleep to memory was the 1924 study by John Jenkins and Karl Dallenbach. In it, they compared rates of forgetting over the same time period when subjects were awake and asleep. The results are quite dramatic:

NREM sleep plays a particularly important role, with sleep researcher Matthew Walker explains:

“Indeed, if you were a participant in such a study [on sleep and memory], and the only information I had was the amount of deep NREM sleep you had obtained that night, I could predict with high accuracy how much you would remember in the upcoming memory test upon awakening, even before you took it.”

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When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

new edition of the Bright Pixel Newsletter

Weird times… with positive and negative impacts in our individual and collective lives. Personally, I have learned a lot in these last months… to value simple things, to better grasp that sometimes we tend to waste time in matters that simply do not matter, to learn more about the virtues of patience and keeping calm. I lost a bit of weight, I am also increasingly fitter and healthier, and I got closer to friends and family, oddly enough, because of the imposed social distance.

Professionally, we have proven that working together remotely works quite well – we can be highly productive and efficient, working actually more due to a better management of time… but, all of this has a toll after a long period of time. We start to miss personal interactions and the intense back to back routine of endless calls starts to sink in. To maintain company culture and build on top of the long last relationships that we want to explore with our stakeholders, we will need to mix remote with physical contact.

Weird times… indeed. Full of personal and professional challenges to overcome and opportunities to explore to our benefit.


Tech will save us all

Covid-19 sent everyone home and, three months later, not everyone has returned. In the US, before the pandemic, already 4.7 million or 3,4% of the population worked from home, and the number is increasing – according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce, and half of all “information workers”, are able to work from home.

Now that everyone is experimenting with the benefits of working remotely, the will to return to the offices is vanishing, with 98% of people saying they would like to have the option to work remotely for the rest of their careers. The same respondents praise the flexible schedule (32%), the possibility to work from anywhere (26%) and not having to commute (21%).

Just on a side-note, not having to commute has a very positive impact on the environment too: Xerox estimated that it saved 92 million miles of driving by allowing its remote workers to avoid commuting, thereby reducing carbon emissions by almost 41,000 metric tons.

This opens up new opportunities for collaboration tools companies, as we have seen in past newsletters – is now the time when virtual reality and augmented reality will enter our daily lives? The expectations are high. Also, it gives companies new chances to re-evaluate their cost structure. Yeah, you read well.

Remote working allows companies to avoid some basic costs such as internet, work computer/phone, or food allowance. In an inquiry done with US workers that worked remotely, 80% of the respondents said the company did not pay for home internet; 72% did not get their phones paid; 87% didn’t receive for costs related to drinks/foods in coffee shops. This is something very small – you already pay for the internet and for your phone –, but there isn’t a good principle behind it.

So why should they keep their high cost offices in Silicon Valley if their workers prefer to work from home? And if they can work from home, then why can’t they be anywhere in the world? Twitter closed its offices until September and Facebook is planning not to open them in the long-term. If companies don’t have a physical space, they can hire people from anywhere in the world and we all know that some countries/locations offer higher wages than others.


Events without sales and networking

Tech events are a big opportunity to generate new leads, which is now more relevant than ever, considering that startups’ survival depends on their sales – 50% of them said they had 6 months or less of runway and 72% saw their revenue drop since the beginning of the crisis with the average startup experiencing a decline of 32%. When all these events are being canceled, postponed or done virtually, how can entrepreneurs do business? Experts say: organize your own event, bet on content marketing, be popular on social media and work on your marketplace.


Going back to the offices

But there is also another way of thinking – the Bank of America and IBM (in the US) believe that innovation and collaboration are essential and can only be done right in person, so they are doing all efforts to bring people back to the offices

Gigging up!

While companies can send everyone home and expect to reduce their fixed costs by cutting real estate expenses and offer lower wages, some believe that it will have a negative impact on the organizational culture and the emotional connection to the company will be lost, meaning there are no reasons for people not to switch to something new that makes them feel more accomplished. There’s an opportunity for the gig economy to be filled with knowledge people.


If new companies are the new cornerstones of the economy, let’s help them!

New companies, tech companies, can save the economies from a complete breakdown, so shouldn’t all governments take some time to think about how to help them? As Startup Genome recently posted in its annual report, continuing to invest in local ecosystems will reinsure its growth and, consequently, will produce more value.

And since this is all about innovation, BCG shared its annual list of the world’s most innovative companies – led by the three A’s: Apple, Alphabet and Amazon – and Sifted shared some lessons about what we can learn from them.

Although none of these companies are European-based, the old continent is becoming more competitive when it comes to innovation – on the one hand, the EU continues to have a better performance than the United States, China, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, and India; and on the other, Europe has more ecosystems in the Emerging Entrepreneurial Ecosystems list than the other continents. And there are people who strongly believe that Europe is better positioned than ever before to lead the way from now on.


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true meaning of risk

What risk is all about… in a sad life and death story

Tolerance to risk is a tough issue to tackle in my line of work… and it is curious to see that each person has different tolerance levels due to their past experiences and the way they see the world… this article is a story that highlights well that… there are three distinct sides of risk:

The odds you will get hit.

The average consequences of getting hit.

The tail-end consequences of getting hit.

The first two are easy to grasp. It’s the third that’s hardest to learn, and can often only be learned through experience.

In early stage investing, most invest without never having a full grasp of the tail-end consequences of getting hit, or some might know what that means but don’t care (aka a lot of money to spare or a less than advisable care with the money of others)… but, I believe that the best early stage investors factor in their approach a big chunk of probability of suffering of tail-end consequences of getting hit in their investments. They have a clear idea of the risks involved and that it is a part of the game, no matter how cautious you are in every step of the way. Informed data driven risk takers are better than gun swinging ones…

a great article from Morgan Housel

the changing value of money

Interesting read that took me back to my economics degree.

In a nutshell, if you do not have the time to read this…

Long on Gold

Be careful with holding USD – it’s reserve currency attribute might be now even more at risk.

Most people don’t pay enough attention to their currency risks.  Most worry about whether their assets are going up or down in value; they rarely worry about whether their currency is going up or down.  Think about it.  Right now how worried are you about your currency declining relative to how worried you are about how your stocks or your other assets are doing?  If you are like most people, you are not nearly as aware of your currency risk and you need to be.

So let’s explore that currency risk.

All Currencies Have Been Devalued or Died

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