Cold Takes

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more about it here.)

So much to write, so little time. For now, just some links that are once again backing up — been on a bit of a reading tear of late. Perhaps the one benefit of a Bay Area that hasn’t broken 60 degrees in a few weeks with record rain. Cold takes, indeed.

5ish Links

“He is down to his last $54 billion.”

Mildly terrifying illustration aside, loved this FT lunch interview with Bill Gates. On the success of Microsoft:

As Gates tells it, the money was almost an accidental byproduct: “Really, if you develop good software, the business isn’t that complicated … The business side is pretty simple; you try and take in more than you spend.”

With regard to the old rivalry with Apple:

I ask about the popular narrative that in the 1990s the ruthlessly efficient Microsoft had “crushed” its rival, Apple, even though Apple fans insisted that its products were better designed. “I don’t remember them being crushed,” snorts Gates. “I don’t remember them ever being crushed. We were writing software for them and in their lowest day, who [was it that] invested in Apple to help them out? Well, that was Microsoft. I see,” he laughs scornfully.

On his work these days out of his comfort zone — quite literally:

Gates talks at length and with great enthusiasm about all the various lines of research being pursued in the search for vaccines for HIV and malaria, but he has no medical training. I ask him whether he ever feels out of his depth, discussing the latest developments. He shoots me a slightly incredulous look and says, “No, because I read whatever it takes and I get to learn whatever I want to learn. And I get to spend time with people who work in the field and they’re very nice about educating me. So I’ve got to learn a lot about immunology, which is a super-interesting field,” he says, grinning with pleasure and taking a bite out of his cheeseburger.

“I read whatever it takes…”

Finally, great kicker:

I drink up my coffee and ask for the bill. As I produce my credit card, Gates looks slightly amused. “You sure you want to pay for this?” he says. “I got money.”

Had he not given away $28 billion of his wealth to his foundation thus far, he’d be rapidly approaching $100 billion in net worth…

Why Japan’s arcades are its game industry’s cutting-edge labs

Fascinating look into the rapidly-evolving arcade industry in Japan by Dean Takahashi. Interesting to see how much of a foothold VR is getting in this world. It makes sense — high-end VR is both the best and also the least accessible, cost-wise. I could see this being a good bridge until the cost (and form factor) of hardware evolves (which will happen quickly).

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Mars

Rolfe Winkler and Andy Pasztori got access to some internal SpaceX documents detailing future plans. I don’t know about you, but this was news to me:

SpaceX projected the satellite-internet business would have over 40 million subscribers and bring in more than $30 billion in revenue by 2025, according to the documents. The internet service is currently in planning stages without a factory or a full-fledged team of engineers, according to industry officials and earlier comments by company President Gwynne Shotwell.


SpaceX plans to eventually launch its own constellation of over 4,000 communications satellites — about 70 times the size of any current communications array — to provide global internet access, forecasting the first phase to go online by 2018, according to the documents.


The company expects revenue from the satellite business to overtake SpaceX’s core launch division by 2020, and by 2025 to generate an operating profit of between $15 billion and $20 billion, according to the documents.

A global internet business in order to finance missions to Mars. Now that’s a big idea.

Why would Apple release a 10.5" iPad?

Dan Provost:

This, to me, is a very compelling device. The resolution of the 12.9" iPad Pro, but the form factor of the 9.7" iPad Pro. Let’s just hope that Apple doesn’t call it the iPad Pro Mini 10.5".

As someone who uses a 9.7" iPad Pro as my main computing machine these days (well, beyond the iPhone, of course), even though I also have a 12.9" iPad Pro, I would very much welcome this evolution.

A Siri for Your Finances? Digit Says Trust Me

Some nice love in Bloomberg for Digit, a GV portfolio company, which has now helped its users save some $350 million over the past couple years. Suzanne Woolley:

The company is now working on what Bloch called “the first artificial intelligence-powered financial goal program.” Users would set a date and amount (and pick an emoji, of course), and Digit’s algorithm would make a series of projections based on balances to determine the optimal amount needed to start saving toward that goal — or point out that the goal is unrealistic.

Been trying this out a bit. Very clever… Bigger picture:

Also on the product horizon is having Digit’s algorithm figure out how to “move every dollar where it should go, at the right time, to minimize fees [on student loans, credit card accounts, etc.] and maximize gain,” Bloch said.

Sometimes it is things which seem small which have the biggest impact…

“We want to make Digit understand more — not as broad as Alexa or Siri, but widen the aperture a little more — related to finances and your money,” he said. “One day, it would be awesome to say, ‘Hey, Digit, am I OK for retirement?’ And all Digit does is send back a thumbs-up emoji.”


500ish Words

Long Medium

Some thoughts on the changes happening at Medium…

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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