[VIC – 103] Managing losers. You don’t look so good. New affordances. Check out this lamp.

Before we start, it’s impossible to proceed without giving thanks to the late and great Martin Luther King Jr. Dr King said that “we must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” He was talking about non-violent protest, but the sentence is oh so relevant today. I don’t mean to reference physical violence (while there is, of course, plenty of that), but instead, the verbal, emotional, and spiritual violence happening on a daily basis in this country. Intelligent discourse and dialogue are falling by the wayside in favor of identity politics and pejorative verbosity.

Let’s observe a moment of silence together, or perhaps a few moments, to really think about what Dr. King would do today and how he might approach the situation we find ourselves in…

Business & Money

I recently read an essay about achromatopsia (color blindness that results from a brain injury or lesion). The condition was first happened upon by a neurologist around 1888. But scientific thought of the time considered vision to be one continuous and seamless thing. Color, depth, movement, contrast, all were supposedly just parts of one “seeing.” So the research paper published about this new condition were basically disregarded and ignored for 75 years until the anatomy of the visual cortex was revealed in greater detail.
For whatever reason, this essay got me thinking about investing. If you make an investment, being early is basically the same thing as being wrong. In order to make money, you not only need to be right, but you need to be right at the right time. If your right at the wrong time, you either lose money, or wait around long enough to become right. And that waiting can be really hard and painful.
I don’t think most people have the stomach for it.
I’m feeling that right now with Ctrip.com (CTRP). I bought it back in July and it’s now down 20%. But the thing is, I’m still just as confident that I’m right. 20% is often stop-loss territory for me, but I plan to hold it. Perhaps I will be sorry later.
When you’re dealing with a loser, you really have 3 options.
You can sell some/all of the position.
Do nothing.
Or buy more, if you really have a ton of conviction that you’re right.
I choose option 2. For now…

Human Progress

A few weeks ago I celebrated New Years Eve with a bunch of friends. It was great. Leading up to that evening, my best friend was recovering from a long bout with the flu. Selfishly, I hoped that he was feeling well enough to make an appearance, at least for a little bit (in hindsight, probably a terrible idea during an intense flu season). In the end, he came out for a bit and made the night better than it would have otherwise been.

The thing that I wanted to point out though, is that when he showed up, he was visibly under the weather. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly what it was, but you could tell he wasn’t himself. The first thing I might point to was that he seemed to be moving at perhaps 60% of his normal speed. Almost like a movie in slow motion. Secondly, his complexion seemed a bit off. Can’t quite remember if it was more pale or flush than normal, but noticeable none the less. Lastly, I’d say there was less expression/emotion in his interactions. None of these things were a surprise given what he’d told me via phone/text over the preceding few days, but I simply thought they were interesting.

I spent the next few days thinking about how that information might be used in interesting ways. Of course, Google beat me to it. After a bit of digging, turns out that just submitted a patent application last week about using “optical sensors [machine vision] to sense hemodynamics [forces and dynamics of blood flow], such as skin color and skin and other organ displacement [I understand that as inflammation].” In other words, they are hoping to use physical appearance to look for signs of cardiovascular conditions.

Another recent paper I read suggests there are also other signs such as “paler lips and skin, a more swollen face, droopier corners of the mouth, more hanging eyelids, redder eyes, and less glossy and patchy skin, as well as appearing more tired.”

And given that the iPhone X + Face ID will soon bring regular facial scanning to scale, it’s not difficult to imagine a day when you wake up in the morning, glance over at your phone to turn off the alarm, and suddenly get a notification that you may want to head to the doctor or load up on certain vitamins/nutrients.


I was sitting at work one day this week when a colleague asked if I had heard of the “squatty potty.”
“The squatty what,” I replied. Apparently one of these things is now in our bathroom at work.

My first reaction was to laugh at the utter hilarity and ridiculousness of anything called a squatty potty. I don’t have any problems going number 2, and that likely applies to most people (assumption based on no data), so why would that even be a thing.

But as I thought about it more, I realized something important. Animals, including humans, basically think by intuiting things from their environment and the affordances it presents. And new affordances only really show up by luck or chance. For example, for ancient people living near the ocean, the water was basically a barrier that was impossible to cross. You wouldn’t simply think I could build a boat to cross to the other side, because you have no conception of a “boat” or “another side.” Then maybe one day someone saw a log floating in the water and realized that pieces of dead trees can float. Or perhaps they fell in the water one day and were lucky enough to grab on to a piece of wood floating by. Then over time you got rafts, then canoes, then sailboats, then motor boats, then submarines, cruise ships, and the like.

So given I’ve never seen or heard of anything similar to a squatty potty, there’s no reason to conceive of its affordances. But it turns out there’s a sort of natural kink in your colon which keeps things backed up while your standing and sitting, and squatting naturally opens things up for evacuation. I’ll need to poke into the science behind this before coming to any conclusions, but seems logical.

This concept of considering and exploring new ideas is so SO important. I’ll lean on Mr. Oliver Sacks as his words are far more eloquent than mine:

My Latest Discovery

Amazon has oh so quietly snuck computer vision and augmented really into their consumer app without anyone realizing. If you open the Amazon app, click the camera, then click “AR view” you can test new pieces of furniture or decorations in your apartment before buying them. Check out this three-headed lamp!

Thankful 🙏 🙏

Business & Money

I’m thankful for this bull market. We’re currently enjoying one of the longest economic expansions in the post-war era.
I’m thankful for equity markets. As an individual, markets allow you to do your own research and due diligence on massive companies, small companies, companies across industries and geographies. And when you’ve decided where the opportunities are, markets allow you to place whatever sized bet is comfortable for you with a real chance to improve your lot in the world.
I’m thankful for compound interest. Like Einstein said, “compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.”
I’m also thankful for crypto markets. Not because bitcoin is up over 800% for the year or Ethereum up 1000% (not complaining), but because of what the blockchain means for the future of the decentralized internet. It means you won’t have to manage username & password combinations across tons of sites and applications. It means frictionless payments and money transfer will be a real thing. It means we’ll have a store of wealth that lies outside of government controls and geographic restrictions. It means a few large companies won’t control your online identity. It means these things and so many more.
I’m thankful for marketplace business models that have brought lower prices, greater transparency, and more liquidity to so many verticals including transportation, travel, publishing, e-commerce, lending, and so many more.

Human Progress

I’m thankful that technology continues to deliver answers to some of our most vexing questions.
In an era when net neutrality seems in jeopardy, I’m thankful for companies like Tucows (TCX) and Pilot fiber for providing alternatives to the last mile monopolies (disclosure, I hold shares in TCX).
In an era of more frequent super storms, I’m thankful for mesh networks bringing connectivity to Puerto Ricans and others who have lost traditional cellular connectivity.
I’m thankful that genetic testing costs a few hundred to a few thousand dollars and not $1 million.
I’m thankful that genetic disorders like Down Syndrome, Tay-Sachs Disease, and Sickle Cell Anemia will be things of the past due to gene editing techniques.
I’m thankful that plant-based proteins and lab-designed meat might eradicate the wholesale slaughter of animals and factory farming. Similar to the way we think of slavery, genocide, fascism, and torture as demonstrable injustices that we’d rather delete from history, I believe the mass incarceration and destruction of farm animals might take a similar position in the history books for future generations.
I’m thankful for countries like China that are leading the charge to demand a sustainable energy future. Following their lead, renewable energy will continue to grow and displace carbon-based energy sources.
I’m thankful that the Trump white house has failed to enact many of their promises from the campaign trail. They stand no chance, in the long term, against free trade, globalization, and basic respect for other humans (women, immigrants, Muslims, etc).
I’m thankful that cars will soon drive themselves and I will be able to make productive use of time stuck in Thanksgiving traffic.
I’m thankful that there is a new religion on the block: the church of artificial intelligence. (jk, not thankful for this)
I’m thankful that robots can do backflips.


I’m thankful for the phrase “agree to disagree.” In a world of growing polarities, this might be the most important phrase in circulation. It’s an understanding that you can approach an opposing viewpoint without the expectation that you will necessarily change your mind. Simultaneously, however, it is also the expectation that you will approach that conversation with an open mind and a genuine desire to grow your understanding of the other side.
It is a genuine acceptance of your own ignorance to the perspectives of others. It’s admitting that you may not be aware of all of the facts and that your own experience in the world is that of just one individual in a sea of others.
It’s admitting that the more you learn about a subject, the more you realize just how much you don’t know.

My Latest Discovery

Lastly, but certainly not least, I’m thankful for discovering this newsletter as a channel to grow the depth of my relationship with all of you beautiful readers.
Thank you for sending me emails every week to share your thoughts on various topics (though I wish you would use the comments section ;).
Thank you for sending me recommendations and interesting pieces of content as you discover them.
Thank you for forwarding the newsletter to other incredible people and helping to grow the community. VIC would simply be shouting into the void without you.

It’s A Wrap!

Oh wait, I forgot one thing.
I’m thankful that Philly sports are back on the map! Let’s gooooooooo!

[VIC 85] Business trips. International diplomacy. Walking a tight rope. Shake to undo.

Business & Money

I recently went on a business trip to visit a client and discuss ways to expand the relationship.
On the business side, it was about 5 hours in total of meetings wherein we accomplished a lot.
On the relationship side, we enjoyed a boat cruise and a night on the town. It was a blast.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it here anyways. Business is a truly human affair. The human element involves the psychologies of incredibly diverse individuals, all with wide ranging goals (personal & professional), emotional states, and idiosyncratic personalities. What people are willing to share when you’re sitting across from them is vastly different than what they’re willing to share on a conference call. What you learn about some one after having a few drinks or during an Uber ride, is vastly different than what you learn from their LinkedIn profile or their latest blog post.
If you really want to build an enduring partnership (as supposed to a vendor-client relationship) that adds real value for both sides, you have to spend time with people getting to know them.

Human Progress

I’m worried about the progress of international diplomacy. As a (perhaps THE) global superpower, we’re used to making calculated and strategic decisions on how we interact with other nations. Regardless of your political persuasion, I believe it’s fair to say that we’ve always had generally competent people in the oval office, surrounded by other generally smart and competent people in other top positions. And generally, decisions have been made by consulting the top people in their relevant domain (e.g. generals for defense related issues, the fed for financial issues, etc).
All of this is in contrast to where we sit today. The guy in the top spot has an itchy Twitter finger and consultants no one before saying he’ll rain “fire and fury” on another country. Are you kidding me? The entire point of democracy and the apparatus of government is to make decisions by committee and force lots of smart people to collaborate with our collective benefit as their chief aim.


What happens at the intersection of logic/reason and emotion?
Too much emotion, and logic/reason never has a chance.
But too much logic/reason, you’re emotionally blind to other people’s perspectives.
Basically, you’re left walking a tight rope with incredibly powerful and unrelenting crosswinds.
I tend to err on the side of logic/reason, but as you’d imagine, I’m tipping to one side. I need to work on my balance.

My Latest Discovery

Ok, this is an older discovery, but it truly changed my life. Did you know that you can shake your iPhone to undo/redo typing? Like literally shake it. Game changer.

[VIC – 71] Monopoly vs Monopsony. Metadata. He’s just hungry. Shower thoughts.

Business & Money

The monopolies of yesteryear were scary behemoths. They gained their power by putting a stranglehold on one or many points in the value chain. They controlled infrastructure (a la AT&T with phone wires), supply (a la Carnegie with US Steel), and retail/distribution (a la Luxottica with glasses).
Within a business environment as such, it’s fairly easy to calculate the costs incurred by society. These companies are famous for price gauging, limiting supply and other nefarious means to pad their coffers.
Today’s internet monopolies though are very different for a couple key reasons.
First, these are largely monopolies by self-selection. By that I mean that consumers actually have a choice of multiple options, but the choose the monopolist due to a superior experience. You could choose to strictly use SnapChat, but if Facebook offer the same features and all of your Friends are already on Facebook, why make the switch? No reason to build a brand new social graph. You could choose to use a search engine other than Google, but Google is better. They have far more data from more searches, which allows them to better optimize the experience. Thus, people choose Google.
Second, these monopolies happen to offer free products. So it’s much harder to calculate and implicit cost to society of their monopolistic position.
So, due to free products and self-selection, antitrust legislation has a tougher time sinking its teeth into today’s internet giants.
All that said, what might make sense here is to think about monopsony vs monopoly power. If you think about Facebook and Google as Monopsonies in relation to content producers, here things are clearly out of whack. Musicians, publishers, blogger, video producers, writers… all of these parties have one game in town if they want distribution. Thus their profitability can be seriously constrained when they have no choice but to distribute via these massive digital platforms.
I think regulators may need to spend more time focusing upstream towards suppliers instead of downstream toward consumers to get a clear picture of what’s happening.

Human Progress

I have no idea how many pictures are posted to social media sites every day, but I know it’s a lot. When many people may NOT know, however, is how much metadata you’re uploading along with the picture. You probably know some of the basics: location (GPS coordinates), date, and time. Not so scary right? But how about these: phone make, phone model, wireless carrier. Ok, slightly more creepy, but still not too worrisome. What really starts to freak me out is thinking about each photo in the context of every other photo. For example, if you compare GPS coordinates of all of the phones within a city, you start to develop a sense of which phones are going to which places, and thus placing people in groups. You’re much more likely to be Chinese if you are always in Chinatown. Now this data becomes valuable for advertising purposes. What about how fast your location is changing relative to other people. With speed, acceleration, and deceleration, perhaps this could have implications for your insurance premiums. What if you are a homosexual in a Muslim majority country. If you are frequenting a location known to be a gay bar, this might impact your employment status or social standing.
Next time you go to post, keep in mind that you’re uploading a lot more than just a photo.


A few weeks ago my fiance was on a short vacation to visit a friend that just had a baby. While we were catching up one night via FaceTime, she switched the camera angle to show be the baby. While adorable, he was in the middle of a temper tantrum.
“I think he’s tired,” I heard from his mom in the background. She swooped in to take him off to rest.
Why is it that babies always get the benefit of the doubt? Whenever they act up, we immediately assume they’re tired, hungry, or need a diaper change (which is usually the case). But at some point, while they mature, we stop giving them the benefit of the doubt and just assume they have ulterior motives. I guess growing up removes the innocence.
Once we become adults, all bets are off. You’re simply a rude/mean/(insert adjective here) if you are nasty to other people. And with good reason. As an adult, you’re expected to be able to be respectful regardless of your internal state.
But the funny thing is, not much changes in adulthood. Fatigue and hunger still cause people to act in ways that they otherwise wouldn’t.
So the next time you get bumped in the subway or someone cuts you off on the road and yells some obscene phrase, just remember, they’re probably tired or hungry. Try giving them the benefit of the doubt.

My Latest Discovery

If you own an Amazon Alexa enabled device (Dot, Echo), then you probably know about “Shower Thoughts”. It’s an Alexa skill that offers of witty bite-sized morsels that one might ponder while taking a shower. On Saturday I was at a friends place when he decided to test it out.
“Alexa, play random shower thoughts!”
“In the age of Google, knowing the right questions to ask become far more important than knowing the answers.”
I thought that was rather profound.

[VIC – 70] Disagree and commit. Visit to the doctor. Sugar coating. Sea salt caramel.

Business & Money

I’m working on a big deal at work. The kind of deal that, if it closes, could knock out 50-75% of your annual revenue target in one fell swoop. Us sales people call this type of deal a “whale.” Whenever whales present themselves, my best practice is to loop in my leadership team so it becomes a team effort. As such, I sent an email to our executives asking for thoughts and feedback about my approach. To my dismay, the response I got was that the deal was unlikely to close and the prospective customer likely wasn’t serious about wanting to work with us. At the same time, they offered any support and/or resources I needed to try to close the business. They basically said “we’re doubtful that this will close, but we we’ll support you in any and every way.”
For a while I was a little disheartened by the seemingly cold response. After thinking about it more though, I think there’s a huge leadership lesson hidden below the surface. It didn’t make itself truly apparent to me until I read Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to shareholders yesterday. Here’s an excerpt:

“Disagree and commit.” It’s so powerful! In a simple three word phrase, he is acknowledging his disagreement, but simultaneously letting his team know that they have his full confidence and support.
It’s the same thing I got from my leadership team. They weren’t quite as excited as I was about the opportunity at hand, but also have enough trust and confidence in my ability to give me freedom and support for whatever deals I choose to pursue.

Human Progress

I went to the doctor’s office this week for the first time in a long time. When I arrived they asked for my insurance card. I had previously taken a picture and uploaded it to ZocDoc, which then aided me in finding a doctor and booking the appointment. My assumption was that my insurance information would then be shared with the doctor’s office. Wrong! Luckily I have the picture saved on my phone so it wasn’t an issue. Why is that, in the era of the internet and instant digital information sharing, insurance info can’t be sent quickly and securely between relevant parties?
Once I made it to the examination room, I was asked the same 1000 questions that we’re always asked at doctors offices. Any allergies to medications? Family history? Bla bla bla. Can’t the answers to all of these rote questions be stored in some central repository on AWS that’s easily accessible by certified medical professionals?
When I was leaving, I asked how I would receive my results? “The doctor will call you in about a week.” Send be an email for Pete’s sake! If the companies in this space won’t centralize all of my data (or perhaps can’t, due to regulatory red tape), at least give it to me in a digital format so I can do it myself!
You all know that I’m a techno-optimist, but sometimes I wonder whether the healthcare industry will ever catch up to every other vertical.


A few weeks ago I had a slice of pie from the local grocery store. It was incredible. The crust was baked to the perfect crispiness and it had sugar sprinkled on top.
This got my thinking about sugar coating in more general terms. In most cases that I can think of, sugar coating is a great thing. Take a delicious food item, sprinkle some sugar on top, and it generally gets better. There is, of course, one downside. Whatever you’re eating automatically becomes worse for you due to the added sugar. Moreover, if you think about most of the food items that have sugar sprinkled on top, most already offer exorbitant amounts of sugar in the first place. So it’s really just insult to injury.
I think this idea also applies to sugar coating in the less literal sense. That is, using indirect or gentle language to deliver a difficult or stern message. Sugar coating the message will make it easier to swallow for the recipient, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. There are times, when dealing with children or overly sensitive people for example, when it’s necessary to soften the blow. But in general, I’m a fan of being direct and blunt. It might sting a bit in the moment, but I find that people come to appreciate honest and forthright feedback. You actually build more trust and value into your relationships.
Best to leave the sugar coating for yummy snacks and desserts.

My Latest Discovery

This stuff is incredible!!! Go try it immediately!

Hasta la vista baby!


[VIC – Issue 65] The product + marketing symbiosis. No need to fear the machines. We’re failing our women. Raising brave girls. Know any eye people?

Business & Money

When I was in college, I completed a brand management internship at Johnson & Johnson. I worked within the baby products group. This was the first time that I became exposed to the fact that product development and marketing were integrated functions. It was astonishing how much research and planning went into the color of the box, the size of the text on packaging and how an open/closing system worked. Testing these things through focus groups and customer surveys was huge, then translating the findings into messaging and marketing activities.

With digital transformation, this becomes even more true. The lines between product and marketing continue to blur. One example I love is Dropbox. When you open a free account, you are encouraged to invite your friends. And this isn’t some random ploy to get users. Both the inviter and the invitee get free storage space within Dropbox, a clear mutual benefit. Here we have core feature of the user experience serving as an incredible marketing and growth tactic.

Facebook is another phenomenal example. Throughout the company’s lifetime, they’ve done very little paid user acquisition. The very use of the product constitutes all the marketing they’ll ever need.

As companies grow, it becomes harder and harder to maintain an effective interplay between product and marketing as functions become increasingly siloed. However, it serves those well that hold dear this symbiotic relationship.

Human Progress

With so much technological progress its easy to fall into the trap of thinking about problems far removed. Artificial intelligence is clear example that comes to mind. At the summit of the hype cycle, there’s a lot conversation about how machines might take over the world and how afraid we should be. The “paperclip maximizer” thought experiment is a great example of this. In this fictional scenario, a super intelligent machine is tasked with maximizing the number of paperclips in existence. While a seemingly harmless goal, the logic purports that, as the AI system continues to improve at an exponential rate, there would be an intelligence explosion of sorts wherein the system begins to self improve and constantly expand its paperclip acquisition capabilities. Over time, this system might get away from its human overlords and use all of the resources on planet earth towards solving its own narrow paperclip maximizing goals.

I find this kind of thinking to be stupid and quite frankly a waste of time. Clearly AI will have far-reaching implications in many areas of our lives, but we’re not anywhere close to artificial super intelligence. Just ask Siri a few questions and you’ll have an idea to where things stand at the present moment. Narrow AI systems are incredibly proficient within their areas of competence (think Facebook’s news feed, Netflix movie recommendations, IBM Watson’s Jeopardy performance, Google’s Alpha Go, etc), but we have a long way to go with more general systems.

What’s more, in the last 6 months, we have much more serious problems to deal with regarding technology and software. Forget about AI, what about human bad actors using software and technology for nefarious purposes. I’ll provide a few examples in case you missed them.

The most recent example is Uber with its “Greyball” software. Here the company used software to figure out who might be an undercover cop in cities where it was operating illegally. Whenever an undercover tried to summon a car, they would instead see fake cars on the map and be unable to secure a ride. As a result, the company could scale to new markets without interference from regulators and law enforcement.

Then we have Zenefits. This insurance tech startup wrote code that allowed employees to skirt the normal certification process for insurance brokers. Thus, the company could hire sales people rapidly who could, in turn, start peddling insurance products much faster than would otherwise be possible.

We can’t forget about Volkswagen. They used software to dance around emissions inspections. During testing, their diesel engines would automatically switch to “energy efficient mode” giving the impression that they were far more energy efficient than was actually the case. In this instance, there’s a real cost to society in terms of pollution and people that may suffer health complications as a byproduct.

With examples like these, it becomes clear that we need to focus more on the human beings operating in the realm of technology than the technology itself. Technology is a tool. How we choose to bear responsibility in the usage of these tools needs serious consideration.


I’ve largely been very lucky in my life. Despite being black, the number of times I’ve had to deal with overt discrimination have been fairly limited. Of course, the systemic problems and unconscious bias are always present, but those are par for the course.

I’m very sad to say that it is painfully obvious that this is not the case for women in the workplace. Following National Women’s Day this week, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Why is it that, in 2017, gender discrimination is still so pervasive? Susan Fowler’s experience at Uber is just one recent example in what seems like a constant deluge.

To our female community members, I’d love to hear from you on this. What has been your experience? If (more likely when) you’ve been a victim, how did you respond? Did you say something? How did your leaders respond? Perhaps most importantly, how did you stay motivated to show up and perform at a high level? From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like a catch 22. Say nothing and deal with it, or speak up and suffer retaliation, marginalization or worse yet have your words fall on deaf ears.

We’re failing our women and it’s disgraceful. While I’ve never been a preparator (not intentionally or to my knowledge at least), I feel ashamed to function as a part of a society where this is ok.

My Latest Discovery

Following on the thread above, I stumbled upon an incredible TED talk this week called “To raise brave girls, encourage adventure.” In case you can’t spare the 12.5 minutes, here’s the conclusion:

“Finally, when your girl is, let’s say, on her bike on the top of the steep hill that she insists she’s too scared to go down, guide her to access her bravery. Ultimately, maybe that hill really is too steep, but she’ll come to that conclusion through courage, not fear. Because this is not about the steep hill in front of her. This is about the life ahead of her and that she has the tools to handle and assess all the dangers that we cannot protect her from, all the challenges that we won’t be there to guide her through, everything that our girls here and around the world face in their future.”

Shouts to Tim Ferris for sharing this one in his “5 Bullet Fridays” email newsletter.

Question Of The Week

Huge favor to ask this week. Within your networks, are you close with any optometrists or ophthalmologists? Hoping to connect with professionals in this space and would be very appreciative for any introductions you can provide.

It’s A Wrap! Have a wonderful week everyone! ❤️️ ❤️️