Welcome to my March newsletter: a list of blogs, videos and business tips that I’ve found interesting or useful this month. If you enjoy this content, please sign up to my newsletter to get it delivered directly to your inbox.

BLOGS & NEWS

Tobias van Schneider shares 10 takeaways about life and success from Tim Ferris’ book, The Tool of Titans.

In China, once poverty-stricken villages have found a lifeline making trinkets for the internet.

Movies, net style: how digital disrupters are closing in on the Oscars (if you don’t have a FT subscription, Google “Disrupting Hollywood: Amazon goes to the Oscars” and follow the link to read it.)

Amazon finds the cause of its AWS outage: how a typo lost them $100m and highlighted the dangers of the cloud

Uber hires veteran NASA engineer to develop flying cars: the man who inspired Google’s co-founder will join the ride-hailing company’s new project.

Read this excellent FT piece on the alleged Russian hacking group, ATP 28. Again, if you don’t have an FT subscription, you can Google “Russia mobilises an elite band of cyber warriors” to read this article).

10 effortless ways to cut calories from your diet without missing them at all

Tired of “just checking in” or “circling back”? Take a look at these killer follow-up email templates for every situation.

BUSINESS & INVESTING

First, ten: Seth Godin explains “the secret of new marketing”.

Product market fit. Do you feel it? Here are 12 things you need to know.

The latest Berkshire Annual Report by Buffett has been published. There’s a great bit on choosing an investment manager, and why most people actually shouldn’t have one at all. This is covered in pages 21-25 – “The Bet” (or how your money finds its way to Wall Street).

Whitney Tilson reports in his email newsletter about his trip to Tesla:

“I think Elon Musk is the real deal. […] Given his penchant for self-promotion, wild dreams, and consistent overpromising, I initially thought he was little more than a shyster who got lucky with PayPal, but over time my view on him has changed: I now think he’s cut from the same cloth as Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos […] I like how he thinks. For example, last Wed. he said they built their factories and cars pretty much from scratch (95% original), rather than buying off-the-shelf components, which (if they do it well) can yield enormous competitive advantages. Later, he noted that the fastest auto manufacturing lines move at 0.2 meters/second, whereas a human walks 1 meter/second (5x faster), and said he saw no reason it couldn’t be 2-3 meters/second. If one company (Tesla) can speed up its output by 5x, whereas another has to build five factories, who’s going to win, he asked?

[…]

Tesla is operating in enormous markets: there are ~75 million passenger cars sold worldwide in 2016, plus battery storage is big and likely to get much, much bigger.

The growth of electric cars will likely provide a huge tailwind: I don’t doubt Musk when he said on Wed. that “all transport with the exception of rockets – how ironic – will be electric – it’s just a question of how long it takes.” Only ~1% of cars sold last year were electric – and I think that number will be MUCH larger pretty soon – I’d guess 20-30% of all passenger cars will be 100% electric within 10 years.

I’m well aware that pretty much every major auto manufacturer in the world is rolling out/will soon roll out electric cars, many of which look very promising in terms of styling, price, features (especially range), etc., which could severely impact Tesla. That said, for well over a decade, everyone predicted that Wal-Mart and others would crush Amazon, and Blockbuster, Amazon, Verizon, Hulu, etc. would crush Netflix. In terms of CEOs and ability to attract talent, Tesla reminds me of Amazon and Netflix…

I think Musk and Tesla have enough of a following among very-deep-pocketed institutional investors that they’ll be able to continue raising as much capital as they need on very attractive terms – if so, this removes one of the best catalysts for shorting cash-burning, hope-and-a-dream companies.

I much prefer to short companies that are bad for the world and/or hurt people: Herbalife, World Acceptance, etc. In contrast, I think Tesla has been very good for the world, forcing a sclerotic industry to invest heavily in EV. Every major auto company is now investing billions in this area – and I doubt even a fraction of this would be happening if Tesla hadn’t come along. Skeptics may be right that this tsunami of competition from companies with vastly more resources may crush Tesla – but irrespective of my view on the stock, I’m rooting for the company.

Kindly published with permission of Whitney Wilson of Tilson Funds 

Then, there’s this 30-minute Q&A session with Musk and Straubel.

ECONOMICS & POLITICS

Germany has the strongest budget surplus since 1990: its budget surplus hit a post-reunification high of nearly 24bn euros (£20bn) in 2016, boosted by a higher tax take and increased employment.

The extent of the shutdown on US banks since the financial crisis is demonstrated by the number of banks. There were 8,534 banks reporting to the FDIC at the end of 2007; by the third quarter last year the total was 5,980.

LEADERSHIP

“Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgement and good instincts.  They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.”

Read the rest of Amazon’s leadership principles.

What I’m watching

Buffett and Gates at Columbia 

Charlie Munger at the Daily Journal AGM, transcript here

LEARNING

Why can’t we sit on the fence rather than having to take a side? It seems crazy…here’s an extract from Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise.

“[M]any features of national public life are also better suited to adolescence than to adulthood. We don’t do things adults learn to do, like calm ourselves, and become less narcissistic. Much of politics and media sends us in the opposite, infantilizing direction. We reduce great questions of meaning and morality to “issues” and simplify them to two sides, allowing pundits and partisans to frame them in irreconcilable extremes. But most of us don’t see the world this way, and it’s not the way the world actually works. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as the cultural “center,” or that it’s very interesting if it exists. But left of center and right of center, in the expansive middle and heart of our life together, most of us have some questions left alongside our answers, some curiosity alongside our convictions.”

Tim O'Shea
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Tim O'Shea

Fund Manager with 15 years' experience as a successful business owner-manager. Passionate about helping people benefit from the power of long-term investing.
Tim O'Shea
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Tim's Newsletter May 2017
Tim's Newsletter December 2016