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Issue 346 – 09/13/19

This week’s highlights: Dapper Dan, The Merchant Class, and Volcanoes

woman wearing black red and green tracksuit

Photo by Godisable Jacob on

Issue 346

by David Wells – Nashville TN

Happy Friday Everyone,

A quick update – I recently founded a strategy consulting firm focused on working with family offices and family owned companies called Family Capital Strategy. I published our first thought piece this week.  See below:

What I’m Reading Now:
  • How to Build a Car by Adrian Newey  “The world’s foremost designer in Formula One, Adrian Newey OBE is arguably one of Britain’s greatest engineers and this is his fascinating, powerful memoir. How to Build a Car explores the story of Adrian’s unrivaled 35-year career in Formula One through the prism of the cars he has designed, the drivers he has worked alongside and the races in which he’s been involved.”



Food for Thought:

Top Read of the Week:  a16Z – Making Culture, Making Influence

Why It Matters:   This podcast was absolutely fantastic.  Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear decades ago, until he was met with the legal resistance from Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.  Now years later, he has released an autobiography about his time in fashion and much more.  I was blown away by his depth of insight on building businesses and understanding how culture works.  He now is in business with Gucci, and with the appointment of Virgil Abloh (known for his streetwear style) at Louis Vuitton, Dapper Dan’s fashion vision has become mainstream.

Consider as well:

  1. Atlantic – I Won’t Buy My Teenagers Smartphones.  Denying a teen a smartphone in 2019 is a tough decision, and one that requires an organized and impenetrable defense.
  2. NewYorker – The Perils of Semi-Legal Poker.  By exploiting a legal loophole, two friends tried to build gambling businesses in Texas. They were dealt very different hands.
  3. NYT – What College Admissions Offices Really Want  The presupposition in all this is that college’s are unable to do anything to bend the cost curve of their operations – something Mitch Daniels at Purdue has proven not to be the case. “Elite schools say they’re looking for academic excellence and diversity.  But their thirst for tuition revenue means that wealth trumps all.”
  4. WashPo – Inside the drug industry’s plan to defeat the DEA.  Faced with pressure to curtail suspicious opioid shipments, an alliance fought back with every weapon at its disposal


Top Read of the Week:  Economist – Shopify and the return of the merchant class

Why It Matters:  A Canadian tearaway is doing to sellers what Amazon has done to buyers

Consider as well:

  1. II – The Faulty Metric at the Center of Private Equity’s Value Proposition.  IRR is an easy metric to point to, but is easily manipulated.
  2. CNBC – Spreadsheet jockeys are geeking out over this new Microsoft Excel feature This will only matter to a few readers, but for those who care, it’s a big deal.  “The new XLOOKUP feature gives Excel users an easier, more flexible way to display information in their spreadsheets.”
  3. NYT – One in Four of New York’s New Luxury Apartments Are Unsold  A quarter of the new condos built since 2013 in New York City have not yet found buyers, according to a new analysis of closed sales.
  4. NYP – Carl Icahn moving hedge fund to Miami, whether his workers like it or not


Top Read of the Week:  NYT – We’re Barely Listening to the U.S.’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes

Why It Matters:   A thicket of red tape and regulations have made it difficult for volcanologists to build monitoring stations along Mount Hood and other active volcanoes.

Consider as well:

  1. WashPo – How to make a martini your guests will love — or at least love to argue about
  2. Verge – The High Hopes of the Low-Tech Phone
  3. Slate – The Enduring, Goofy Legacy of American Gladiators  It’s been 30 years since the games in star-spangled spandex became a national phenomenon, changed sports entertainment, and augured a new age of TV.
  4. SvN – Status Meetings are the Scourge

Issue 345 – 09/06/19

This week’s highlights: Next Day Delivery, Thinking Backwards, and Commutes

aerial photo of railway lines

Photo by Leon Macapagal on

Issue 345

by David Wells – Nashville TN
Happy Friday Everyone,



Food for Thought:

Top Read of the Week:  BuzzFeedNews – The Cost of Next-Day Delivery.

Why It Matters:   Last week, we picked on Amazon’s problem with counterfeit and dangerous goods.  This week is another deep-dive on the company’s growing pains, specifically around last-mile delivery.  To lower prices further and increase convenience, Amazon has pushed last mile distribution to micro-enterprises with ill effect.

Consider as well:

  1. NYT – A Nobel-Winning Economist Goes to Burning Man  Is this bacchanal a model of urban planning?
  2. Vulture – Renée Zellweger’s Lost Decade.  After Bridget Jones, after the Harvey-at-Miramax years, after a break from acting, now she’s ready to play Judy Garland.
  3. TheAtlantic – 17 Questions Every College Should Be Asking  Ben Sasse on higher ed.  “We need a serious conversation about the future of America’s universities.”
  4. QZ – Kids Need Structure More Than Warmth From Their Parents, According to a Top Child Psychologist


Top Read of the Week:  Morningstar – Want to Test Your Managers’ Mettle? Ask Them to Work Backward

Why It Matters:  Charlie Munger has repeatedly outlined the importance of inverting ones thinking as a way of testing its robustness.  “Don’t settle for reassurances. Ask active fund managers to explain how they’ll deliver the value they purport to add after fees.”

Consider as well:

  1. Stratechery – What is a Tech Company?
  2. ZH – Michael Burry on Index Funds  “The dirty secret of passive index funds – whether open- end, closed-end, or ETF – is the distribution of daily dollar value traded among the securities within the indexes they mimic. In the Russell 2000 Index, for instance, the vast majority of stocks are lower volume, lower value-traded stocks.
  3. NYT – Founders of Successful Tech Companies Are Mostly Middle-Aged
  4. AdWeek – Generic Brands Are Getting Some Serious Upgrades


Top Read of the Week:  CityLab – The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History.

Why It Matters:   “From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.”

Consider as well:

  1. TheAtlantic – The Meaning of Silence in Conversations About Death.  Could AI teach doctors when to stop talking?
  2. Jalopnik – Car Talk’s Long Goodbye
  3. NYT – Welcome to San Diego. Don’t Mind the Scooters. A year ago, electric rental scooters were hailed as the next big thing in transportation. But their troubles in San Diego show how the services have now hit growing pains.
  4. JS – 29 LinkedIn Photo Mistakes to Avoid
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