The Month of May 2015

After much time away, I am returning to my blog. When I was last writing, in 2011 and 2012, I was thinking about business model design, mostly. That’s always on my mind, so it will be a thread again—filtered through the lens of the industries and subjects that I find fun: finance and financial markets, media and technology, fashion, food and pro sports.

I’m setting the bar low, to start. I’ll write a post on the final Friday of each month, highlighting people, stories and events that captured my interest and attention during the month. And—perhaps—a longer article or two in between.

I’ll see how it feels to flex my writing muscles and will take it from there. I hope you enjoy—and that you find the material I reference and the perspectives I share valuable and stimulating in your own work.

Reed Hastings at re:publica

Earlier this month, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings spoke at the re:publica conference in Berlin.

It's a two-pronged talk: he outlines his thoughts on entrepreneurial leadership, as told through the lens of his own professional journey (the first 18:00 minutes) and his vision for broadcast media and entertainment over the next twenty years (starting at 18:30). 

He’s at once humble and supremely confident, and, as a Netflix fan, I can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve. The application of new technologies, which he addresses in his talk and in the Q + A, sounds revolutionary.

Don't have time to watch? Here's Quartz’s very good crib sheet.  

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report

Mary Meeker released her annual Internet Trends report this week. It’s a treasure trove of data on worldwide internet and mobile usage. But I must say, this year’s report felt like she was just dialing it in. I’ve been reading the report since she first started publishing it, when she was Wall Street’s top-ranked tech analyst. And not much has changed since then—except that it’s longer.

Today, as a Partner at Kleiner Perkins, she could do so many fun interactive things with it—Vine! Instagram! Snapchat! Periscope! Reddit!!—and she has an outstanding Design Partner—John Maeda—to work with. She could also tackle more forward-looking topics: Digital Currency and the Blockchain, Internet of Things and Privacy Issues, to name a few. I hope next year’s report gets a good edit, scrub and reboot.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for basic stats on internet and mobile usage, it’s a great, go-to reliable source.

Bitcoin and the Blockchain

I am pages away from finishing Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance. It tells the story of the mis-steps of the United States, England, Germany and France’s central bankers between 1919 and 1933, setting the stage for World War II. The book is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a good read. And it reinforces my sense that Bitcoin's adoption may be stymied by an inherently limiting feature: its fixed supply.

Just as gold’s usefulness as a currency benchmark ran its course, given its fixed supply, it seems to me Bitcoin will—or should—face similar challenges. Can someone come up with a smart, decentralized digital currency that self-calibrates to contract and expand in line with the global economy? That seems like a winning formula to me—and a meaningful design challenge. 

While Bitcoin's adoption may face limitations, the Blockchain promises to touch our lives in so many ways, both light-hearted—transforming the sports fan experience, for example—and serious—providing a solution to longstanding property ownership issues in emerging markets. The creative energy crackles—it feels like the early days of internet discovery, with new ideas and applications launching daily. 

Bill Gross on the Markets

Legendary, cranky, yoga-practicing bond-fund guru Bill Gross published a particularly grumpy, gloomy letter in May.

He just turned 70, is focused on death and has concluded that the party is over, the best days in the markets are behind us. We’re flatlining from here. And, he says, his peers—Stanley Druckenmiller, Ray Dalio, George Soros, Jeremy Grantham—agree. All of them happen to be gloomy 65 to 85 year old, white men.

I have a hard time sharing his point of view. He needs to hang out with a younger, more diverse crowd. He’d perk right up.  

Women’s Pro Cycling 

If you follow pro cycling, as I do on and off, you can’t help but notice that women’s races are getting more and more coverage. It’s exciting. 

And this month, Bonnie Ford wrote a long article on Barry Bonds’ involvement in California-based Team Twenty16. Given his history—and cycling’s—with doping, his role is not without controversy.

I have a pretty black-and-white perspective on doping. I like the idea of lifetime bans, hate Nike’s recent decision to sponsor sprinter Justin Gatlin—but I also believe in redemption, and I have a hard time finding anything wrong with Bonds’ support of this team. 

One woman I find particularly fun to follow on Twitter: former Aussie pro and now Wiggle Honda team owner and manager, Rochelle Gilmore. She’s a badass: funny and strong, sassy and self-effacing. Big love from me. 

Soylent + Crème Brûlée 

The New York Times published an article over this past weekend on Soylent. It garnered lots of strong responses on Twitter.

I first heard about Soylent last year, around the time The New Yorker featured a predictably apocalyptic story about it. And I think it sounds disgusting—and, potentially, not so healthy, despite all protestations to the contrary.

That said, I am not the target customer, and there are lots of less healthy things you can do with your life. So to those guys who want to hack their meals, I say go for it. Though I highly recommend stepping away from the screen to take a long walk in nature occasionally. Or at least a yoga class.

Meantime, two weeks ago, I checked another item off my long To Master bucket list in the kitchen: crème brûlée. It’s easy, as it turns out: eggs, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla. Can’t go wrong. It's the opposite of Soylent—and so good.

Drop the Bomb

Finally, scientific evidence: Soylent may or may not be good for your health, but swearing is. That’s good news for me: there is a text bubble over my head that perpetually registers, "WTF?" or "Holy Sh*t!" More than occasionally, one of them escapes the text bubble and makes it out into the world. Now, I have hard proof that I am sexy and confident when they do. 😎

Looking Ahead to June

Entourage: The Movie. Coming June 3rd. So excited. Love these guys.