It's a week for retrospectives.
I write to you from the Pacific northwest, where I'm both disconnected (my daughter is almost two, and interacting with her - both as a parent and as an observer - is just *such* a treat) and, if I'm being honest, a bit preoccupied. As usual I've got too much on my plate; if I owe you something, I apologize for my tardiness.
I want to start this week by recommending a few things I read this year that I find myself referencing again and again:
- "A Kingdom From Dust," the excellent profile of the The Wonderful Company (of pomegranate, almond, and mandarin orange fame) and their really unsavory approach to securing access to water.
- The International Fixed Calendar, which is kind of like the DVORAK keyboard of calendars. I love the idea, with the caveat that it would be a little unfortunate to have your birthday fall on the same day of the week year after year.
- "Trashed," Kiera Feldman's investigation into NYC's private garbage collection industry.
- "See No Evil," Miriam Posner's piece on how containerization, commoditization, and the broader infrastructure of supply chain management result in a systemic lack of supply chain transparency.
- Mine Safety Disclosures' analysis of Costco's business model.
- "Turbulence, the oldest unsolved problem in physics," which played nicely into my own Long Bet on the future of computational fluid dynamics.
- Dan Nosowitz's piece on J Crew, Madewell, and the nature of branding and authenticity.
On my own output: Managing this newsletter took up more and more of my time this year, and much of the energy that I would otherwise have put into writing (which I did a little bit of - I wrote proper pieces on my personal blog eight times) went instead into streamlining The Prepared's operations (more on this next week, I hope) and managing its original content initiatives (which got a lot of love last week, thanks in part to Tyler Cowen, Patrick Collison, Alexis Madrigal, and many others). I also spent a considerable amount of time this year meeting *you.* Through the "coffee's on me" link at the bottom of the email I met or talked to 99 new people - almost two per week.
There are any number of things that didn't happen this year: Deadlines that were passed, targets missed, meetings that no-showed. Many of my own efforts have been inadequate; presumably I'll have chances to redeem myself.
Happy New Year, everyone!
The most clicked link in last week's issue (~7% of opens) was an update on HondaJet's tentative success.
Planning & Strategy.
- A VP at Segway-Ninebot (the leading supplier of e-scooters) gives some real talk on micromobility businesses. "'If you combine this with a larger network, it makes more financial sense,' he said. 'For early adopters like Bird and Lime, the financials, the gross margins are not that appealing.'…'In this whole scooter war, we might be the only company making money at this point,' Mr Ho said, adding that the group had generated a positive cash flow for multiple years. 'We would like to be the arms dealer, rather than fighting the war ourselves.'" As a proponent of micromobility myself, my question is: What kinds of "larger networks" make sense to be combined with a scooter-share network? Does that just mean other mobility services, i.e. Lyft and Uber? Or automakers, like Ford (which bought Spin)? Others? Related, an update on Ofo's complete financial instability.
- India blocked Amazon and Walmart from selling products made by affiliated companies, a move that would effectively end their use of in-house brands.
Making & Manufacturing.
- A detailed, almost frame-by-frame analysis of a recently released Tesla Model 3 assembly line video.
- A taste test of (and some background on) test tube meat.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- Shellfish filter feed, removing toxins from the water and concentrating them in their shells. If you take those shells and abrade/grind/work with them, you can ingest some pretty nasty stuff.
Distribution & Logistics.
- UPS rolled out an update to ORION, their driver route planning software.
- Buyers of bulk live crickets beware: Unboxing them can be disastrous.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- A pretty obvious Achilles heel for anyone trying to use drones for consumer package delivery: Drones (even the ones that big companies like Google are making) are loud.
- My running twitter thread of tooling auctions that I love.
- Harvard's endowment fund is getting into the "doing shady things with California's water rights" game.