Buying Time and the Road Kills

Three of my favorite daily reads/thought leaders each have fantastic pieces today.

First off – the three fave daily reads of mine in no particular order:

Bob Lefsetz
Tadas Viskanta
Ben Thompson

Bob and Tadas are free and Ben is crazy inexepensive to subscribe.

I have not met Bob, but I love his rants.

When I created Wallstrip we did a show on Toyota dedicated to a piece he did (holy smokes it is already 10 years ago).

Today, his email was about how the road kills. One of the great riffs:

The road killed Kurt Cobain.

And it killed Chris Cornell too.

Cobain was in pain, his team should have said no go. But never mess with the power of money.

And do you really think that Cornell wanted to go on the road and play theatres? After playing arenas? No, he was doing it for the bucks.

I’m not saying there isn’t a high, just that the other 22 hours of the day are long and tiring and you never get enough sleep and…

My most creative time is around midnight. Do you think I can fall asleep after writing? Absolutely not, I’m trashed today. But I run on inspiration and you’ve got to follow it. Which is why music is not a 9 to 5 job, why the musicians work late at night and wake up at noon. They live in an alternative universe, different from the hoi polloi, I love when it gets dark and the e-mail stops, when the traffic is gone and the world is my own. You’ve got to throw off convention to upset the apple cart. What I mean is art, when done right, not only reflects society, it questions and changes it. Which is why people want to go to the show anyway. To experience that high, to get close to the other, to get away from their mundane, humdrum lives.

A working stiff gives it their all and comes home at 6 or maybe even 7 or 8. And sure, in this connected world they might get disturbed thereafter via electronic communications. But an artist? They’re firing all the time, from peak to peak, weekends are no different from weekdays, and when they show up to perform, they’ve got to be in top form. There are no off days when you’re a performer, string them together and your career is trashed.

So, artists cope with dope.

Amen to that Bob!

I am no artist or musician, but I do spend almost half my time on the road. The road is why Ambien is my friend and foe. I love the road and I hate the road.

Next…

Tadas killed it today with ‘Buy Time, They are Not Making Any More of It‘. This part rang so true:

According to a study published Monday in the journal PNAS, people who buy time by paying someone to complete household tasks are more satisfied with life. And it’s not just wealthy people. Across a range of incomes, careers and countries, timesaving purchases were correlated with less time-related stress and more positive feelings. Yet the researchers’ surveys showed that very few individuals think to spend money in this way.

Part of the problem is that time, and our appreciation of it, is not concrete. In the above study individuals were far more likely to spend an amount of cash on something concrete as opposed to something that saved time. Once again showing that us humans are at best, imperfect happiness maximizers. From the Washington Post:

“People are notoriously bad at making decisions that will make them happier,” Whillans [Ashley] said. She suspects the abstract nature of time may be to blame. “We always think we’re going to have more time tomorrow than we do right now,” she said, so we’re hesitant to trade money, which is concrete and measurable, for time, which is much more uncertain.

As I have gotten older this is all that matters to me. Every chat with the kids…all the travel and Netflix and chills I now do with Ellen…every walk with the dogs on Coronado – I try to appreciate just a little bit more.

Next…

Ben is back from vacation and today he shared his thoughts on all the big ride sharing announcements of late. Re the Uber deal with Russia’s Yandex:

Uber is losing in more and more markets, just like they lost in China, representing another blow to the Uber bull case. Watch out below!

The problem with this narrative should be obvious to long-time Stratechery readers. I was relentlessly critical of Uber’s foray into China in particular, viewing it as a massive cash sinkhole with basically zero prospect for success. And, indeed, Uber failed to build a standalone Uber business in China. That, though, does not mean the initiative was a failure: rather, Uber now owns 17.7% of Didi, a stake that, on paper, is worth nearly $9 billion.

Moreover, that stake requires zero ongoing investment from Uber; in fact, over the year since the deal was consummated Uber’s stake has increased by 4x while its expenditures in China have gone from over $1 billion a year to zero. As I noted at the time, this deal is Uber’s Yahoo-Alibaba trump card: Uber’s business could go to zero and investors could still make money for all of the reasons I noted at the time (putting aside liquidation preferences and whatever other monstrosities likely exist on Uber’s cap table).

And this point of view as Softbank and Didi Invest $2 Billion in Grab and the Southeast Asia market:

This is a fascinating — dare I say brilliant — move by Softbank and Didi. What is so interesting is not the fact that the companies invested in Grab — this is Softbank’s fourth investment in the company and Didi’s second — but rather the scale. It’s hard not to read that massive $2 billion figure as the strongest possible signal to Uber: join up on our terms or die a long slow death in an area of the world that has tremendous long-term promise (thanks to low car ownership) but zero chance of near-term profitability (thanks to competition from Grab and much lower income levels).

Softbank and China are playing global digital chess and it’s all easy to follow in the private and public markets.

The peloton of knowledge at our fingertips is wonderful.


Also published on Medium.