The Theranos Story

WSJ investigative reporter John Carreyrou shares how he broke Theranos story & reveals its staggering scope of fraud & deception in his new book, "BAD BLOOD: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup"

Stakeholders

I read AVC.com every day. I often stumble upon useful bits of wisdom. Mostly about technology and business. Sometimes about high-level decision making and governance. Here's one about why it's important to do a stakeholder analysis when you make decisions.

Stakeholders have vested interests and they potentially clash.

Consider a neighborhood school. There are students, parents, teachers, administrators, non-teaching staff, taxpayers, the community, homeowners (whose home value is impacted by the quality of the school), and possibly other stakeholders. In theory every one of those stakeholders has a vested interest in the success of the school but in reality there is often conflict between them.

Stakeholders might not agree with you but they still need to be considered.

All complex systems have many stakeholders and while they all want the system to succeed, because they have a stake in it, they rarely view success in the same terms. You never want to surprise or be surprised by your stakeholders. They may not like you, agree with you, or even support you. But they must be understood, respected, and considered in your decision making process.

Interests might be easier to align over a long period of time.

Done properly, a stakeholder analysis attempts to determine what each and every stakeholder desires and the impact to them of an important decision. It is like a scorecard. It is often helpful to look at short term, medium term, and long term impacts. I find that it is often the case that conflicts are the most extreme in the short term and that if you can frame a decision and the impact of it over a very long time horizon, it can be easier to get alignment.

The Investability of Digital Assets

Grayscale was founded in 2013 and is on a mission to invest in digital currencies. The firm just published a research paper on the 'investability' of digital assets. Here's the opening statement of the paper:

It’s not every day, or even every decade, that an entirely new asset class is born. Yet, through a combination of computer science, cryptography, economics, and network theory, digital assets have arrived and are proving that they are an asset class unlike any other. As they transform our global financial infrastructure and challenge modern monetary theory, we believe digital assets are one of the most exciting investment opportunities of the 21st century.
— Grayscale

Here are the takeaways:

  1. In any portfolio, in the long run, diversification matters. Money managers work hard to find diverse assets that will provide optimal return/risk ratio to their clients (me, you, us).
  2. Digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin is ONE of them) represent a brand new investment opportunity that is uncorrelated to other asset classes. The important part is that it's uncorrelated – meaning it provides a return stream that enhances diversification.
  3. Looking at numbers from December 31, 2016 through May 31, 2018, it appears that small allocations to Bitcoin can significantly enhance the returns of traditional portfolios without materially increasing volatility.
  4. Looking at the same time frame, it seams that investment portfolios containing allocations to a mix of digital assets performed even better than those only including Bitcoin.

And here's the graph you need to see:

 

Note: 2016-2018 was a very particular period for digital assets. The whole space was booming. Fast – maybe a bit too fast. And depending on where you stand on the topic, you may want to consider that past performance is never a guarantee of future results.

Value Chain Mapping

Antoine Buteau from The PNR sent me this video. It a criticism of bland business strategy. More precisely, it highlights the importance of figuring out your 'why' and your 'where', two questions are often skipped in strategy documents. To answer these questions, we often say 'well x% of the industry is doing it, so it must be a good idea'. It introduces the idea of value chain mapping. The idea is to use maps to figure out 'where' things are going and 'why' and 'when' you should go there or not.

"Apparently we are living through a time of disruptive innovation, with the creation of new value and the destruction of old norms. Cloud computing, Big Data, the rise of open source and the internet of things are all examples of this -- or so we are told. But whilst we all have inertia to change, disruption implies that the change is unexpected, even unpredictable. However, if you have 20 years to plan for something, can you really call it surprising, random or unexpected?

Alas, it turns out that companies are being disrupted by broadly predictable changes. But how can this be? The problem is poor situational awareness to the point of blindness. In this keynote, I will present the general principles of industry change and describe what can and cannot be predicted. I will then examine how companies can better understand the environment around them and by anticipating the nature of change then manipulate the market in their favor through open techniques."

Digital Ad Fraud

This is a must read for anyone who buy or is involved in buying advertising online. It is not sufficient to read a media agency's ad performance report. Go check out the sites your ads are on. Spend time in the ecosystems you advertise on, wether is social networks, mobile apps or other platforms. Develop analytical reflexes to grasp what ad fraud looks and feels like. Run tests with smaller budgets. Because according to this report, the state of ad fraud is not good.

The psychology of money

This article (link) describes 20 flaws, biases, and causes of bad behavior when people deal with money. It's a great read. Here's my favorite (#5). It illustrates how our personal context can influence our view of the world – in this case being mostly optimist or pessimist about the stock market.

Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. If you were born in 1970 the stock market went up 10-fold adjusted for inflation in your teens and 20s – your young impressionable years when you were learning baseline knowledge about how investing and the economy work. If you were born in 1950, the same market went exactly nowhere in your teens and 20s:

Build your own sous vide cooker

My girlfriend doesn't use YouTube a lot. Last week she asked me why do people really go on YouTube. I answered there was a lot of DIY stuff. People who want to cook, build things, repair stuff, test products, etc. Well here's a great example: you can build your own immersion cooker for around $75 (instead of 2000$) and this guy shows you how to do it, step by step, in this video. 

Internet Trends 2018

The Internet Trends 2018 deck is out. You can clip some slides for your pitch next week. Yes, social media influences purchases. You are all good.

 

I would sum up the 294 slides deck in one word - pressure. "Internet" is coming of age. The law of diminishing returns applies. Pressure on advertisers, CPMs go up, ROI goes down. Pressure on the United States / Canada, China is growing faster. Pressure on retailers, e-commerce forces prices down online and in stores. Pressure on manufacturers, mobile phone sales growth slows down. Pressure on employers, because freelance is facilitated. Pressure on large platforms, privacy is an issue. And pressure on people, because we sincerely wonder if we are in control.

My twitter commentary + top 10 slides below, follow the thread!

Disrupting management consulting

Here's a provoking article by CBinsights that explores how management consulting came to be, what are its main functions, and the changes that are coming. The article, titled Killing Strategy, argues why the practice is in danger. The key image is this one:

Management consulting's vulnerability to disruption isn't often discussed, but it is very real. It's a primarily human-driven industry — which doesn't bode well for its ability to defend itself against technology. (CBinsights

A Reminder To Read

I read a lot when I'm on vacation. That's the first thing I want to do when I wake up. I want to brew coffee, find a quiet spot and read. I literally go through books when on vacation.

When I come back home, in my routine, the craving is not as strong. I work all day, come back home and have little concentration to read. I feel it should not be that hard to go through books at home too.

Is it being far away from home? Is it that there's less noise and distractions? Is it because we're less tired on vacations? Is it because reading feels too passive of an activity to do at home?

No matter what it is, there's a special feeling on vacation that you're «free» to read.

So this is reminder to read. Everyday of the year.

Stephen Wiltshire

British Artist Stephen Wiltshire can draw a huge landscape completely from memory. Wiltshire, who recently drew a detailed sketch of New York after a 45-minute helicopter ride over the city, has a photographic memory and autism, which he was diagnosed with when he was 3.

Josh Wolfe at FirstMark

Pretty mind-blowing talk with Josh Wolfe from Lux Capital about ideas, opportunities, ventures, founding teams and Tesla. The topics discussed go beyond what I can understand or apply in my day-to-day but there's certainly a thing or two to learn from a person who invests in emerging science and technology fields such satellites; neurostimulation; nuclear energy; 3D audio, printing and scanning; metamaterials; synthetic biology; self-driving cars; etc.

Strategy Ressources

Julian Cole is a quite famous advertising strategist (BBDO) and he recently shared a nice list of free resources for planners/strategists. The kind of stuff you want to bookmark and want to save for a rainy (non-productive) day.

1. 50 Free Data Tools For Planners - https://lnkd.in/dmM2B2n

2. 150+ Innovative Advertising Examples - https://lnkd.in/gy5B8dF

3. 10 Best Strategy Papers - https://lnkd.in/gEa-Ycb

4. Day 1 Advice for New Planners - https://lnkd.in/ga2JWpa

5. Strategy Mate - https://lnkd.in/g59rJus

Say thanks to Julian here.

Listening

Listening is THE ultimate underrated skill. I will always remember what my manager at l'Oréal told us when asked about strengths and weaknesses of millennials at work. He said something like: « you have everything you need to succeed in the workplace but you lose all your credibility when people talk to you and they realize you're not listening – you're just thinking about what you'll reply with. » It stuck with me since. Here's a great tweet about this:

Certainty

I work in a field (marketing/tech) where everyone is 100% sure of their opinion. THIS is the strategy to take. THIS is a good idea. THIS is a how to execute it. But not everything is black and white. And it would help a lot of discussions to add a bit of color to these opinions.

It's a stark contrast with finance and investing (and even things like poker for cards players out there) where all moves are weighted for their probability of success. THIS strategy has a 35% chance of working but the upside is X. THIS idea is a good one, under these 3 assumptions. THIS is how it's being executed, 50% of the times it works.

Here's a great thought by Shane Parrish about certainty and how to express it to foster better conversations:

The Entrepreneurial Strategy Compass

I like frameworks. They're usually not good to solve problems. But they're good to help you think differently about problems. In this article by HBR (Do Entrepreneurs Need A Strategy?), the authors offer a quite simple quadrant to help you think about you strategic orientation as a new company. Basically, the questions are: 1) do you collaborate or compete? and 2) do you build a moat or storm a hill?

Strategic opportunities for new ventures can be categorized along two dimensions: attitude toward incumbents (collaborate or compete?) and attitude toward the innovation (build a moat or storm a hill?). This produces four distinct strategies that will guide a venture’s decisions regarding customers, technologies, identity, and competitive space. The emergency-services provider RapidSOS used the compass to explore its strategic options.
R1803B_SPOT_STRATEGYCOMPASS-850x646.png