When I was learning about Gaussian distributions my professor admonished us after every example he gave. “Do not use this blindly in the real world. It will turn around and bite you.” Gaussian distributions were useful much of the time, he warned, often enough to lull you into a false sense of security. The real world, he cautioned, looks far more like hydrodynamics, and wave theory. Guided most often by Gaussian distributions, enough so to allow prediction accuracy 99% of the time, until chaotic seas make nonlinear Schrodinger equations more apt and (out of “nowhere”) a rogue wave sinks your 99th percentile hull design as easy as you crack an egg for breakfast. The world was likely overlaid by more than one model, he suggested. One, which rules most of the time, calmly predictable and familiar, and one (or many) that lurked just beneath, waiting to show itself in all its fury when conditions were right. Woe to the practitioner who failed to heed this warning, one he echoed for the nth time, sternly before the final (one of my last). That practitioner is doomed.
‘Death of Cook’, Equity Private
The WhatsApp acquisition is a statement by Zuckerberg that mobile matters more than money. He’s right about that. Without mobile, it doesn’t matter how much money Facebook has. If you’re asking whether Zuckerberg paid too much for WhatsApp, you’re asking the wrong question. Zuckerberg is sending a message, here, that Facebook will never stop in its attempt to dominate mobile — that no amount of money is too much. Zuckerberg has money — and, thanks to the IPO, he can even print money, if he wants, by issuing new Facebook stock. He’s playing large-stack poker, and he’s playing it in textbook manner. I, for one, wouldn’t want to be competing against him.
Felix Salmon on the deal that everyone is talking about
Viewed in isolation, the handful of options that pay out will look like windfalls. JPMorgan certainly isn’t doing $55 million worth of work for Forest Labs, and it’s hard to see how King Digital Entertainment’s private equity owners, who are cashing out for hundreds of millions of dollars, have put anywhere near that much value into the company. Of course, in isolation is exactly not the way to view those things: JPMorgan’s merger fees in successful deals subsidize all its work chasing other deals, and colossally rich IPO exits subsidize investments in companies that don’t pan out.
Now, personally, I find the word “windfall” to be nails-on-chalkboard irritating, because I come from a place that was explicitly in the business of buying out-of-the-money options, and as a moral and aesthetic matter I believe that an option that you priced and paid for is very different from a “windfall.” A windfall is luck; an option paying off is skill, or a skill-like thing, or at least a really classy form of luck. When a rich uncle you’ve never even heard of dies and leaves you an inheritance, that’s a windfall. When a rich uncle whom you’ve assiduously cultivated throughout his long illness dies and leaves you an inheritance, that’s investment banking.
‘Sometimes JPMorgan Gets Paid for Advising on Mergers' by the inimitable Matt Levine
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
President Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech at the Sorbonne in 1910
Hard to believe that one of the world’s most dramatic politic conflicts is playing out about 100m from here. You can see the protester’s tents on the other side of the lake (at สวนลุมพินี (Lumphini Park))
If something isn’t right, you can’t just ignore it and say you’ll fix it later. That’s what other companies do.
Steve Jobs, quoted in Walter Isaacson’s biography of him
[At a Turkish Hamam in Istanbul] I had a real revelation. We were all in robes, and they made some Turkish coffee for us. The professor explained how the coffee was made very different from anywhere else, and I realised, “So fucking what?” Which kids even in Turkey give a shit about Turkish coffee? All day I had looked at young people in Istanbul. They were all drinking what every other kid in the world drinks, and they were wearing clothes that looked like they were bought at the Gap, and they are all using cell phones. They were kids like everywhere else. It hit me that, for young people, this whole world is the same now.
Steve Jobs, quoted in Walter Isaacson’s biography of him. I was sitting in a cafe in Cihangir - the home of Istanbul’s hipster movement two weeks ago - when I read this and I thought “It’s true!” The globalisation of hipsterdom is complete as well. The hipsters in Istanbul look and act exactly like the hipsters in Melbourne or Singapore or London or Brooklyn.
Practically all the software in the world is either broken or very difficult to use. So users dread software. They’ve been trained that whenever they try to install something, or even fill out a form online, it’s not going to work. I [Paul Graham] dread installing stuff, and I have a PHD in computer science.
Paul Graham, quoted in Founders at Work (highly recommended btw)
Love the view from the new STW Kent St offices (at 1 Kent St)
Davos Klosters, Switzerland