Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

Last week, Starbucks ($SBUX) bought me a sandwich on my birthday.

Technically, Starbucks emailed me a code, which I redeemed on its app.

But the end result was the same: for no reason other than this planet’s revolution around the Sun, I got free food.

On the topic of Starbucks, Foundry Group founding partner Brad Feld blogged an interesting prediction at the start of this year:

Why doesn’t Amazon acquire Starbucks?

Starbucks has one thing Amazon doesn’t have — over 30,000 physical locations. Sure, Amazon owns Whole Foods, which has about 350 physical locations, but they are large food distribution facilities (e.g., grocery stores) rather than community meeting spaces (e.g., coffee shops).

Amazon’s market cap is $930b. Starbucks’ market cap is $104b. That’s roughly a 90% / 10% merger assuming no premium for Starbucks. Even with a huge premium, it’s still less than an 85% / 15% split.

Oh, and they are both headquartered in Seattle.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the primary retail point of presence in the US suddenly became Amabucks?

Typically, I hate this type of prediction.

Like, a lot.

A talking head on TV is always asking, “Why doesn’t Apple ($AAPL) just buy Netflix ($NFLX) and/or Disney ($DIS) and/or Tesla ($TSLA)?” or some other equally annoying variation.

But to be honest, I like the rationale behind Brad’s thinking, even if his specific prophecy is improbable.

One of the books I got through reading so far in 2020 is Michael Lewis’s Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game:

I loved the 2011 film adaptation, co-written by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, which deserved more love from the Academy.

One quote from the book’s intro is from Cyril Connolly’s Enemies of Promise:

Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first call promising.

David Perell, one of my favorite new follows from 2019, expanded on the premise of this statement with the following critique:

Risk-averse parents and educators push children down conventional paths. Parents enroll their kids in the same schools and the same extracurriculars to help them get into the same colleges, so they can work for the same corporations. In 2007, more than half of Harvard graduates went to work in investment banking or management consulting. At Elon University, my alma mater, career advisors pushed us towards secure, but complacent careers at large corporations like three-letter media companies and the big-four accounting firms.

Too many of our top people aren’t putting their differentiated skill-sets to work. They graduate from the best schools in the world only to burn their attention on standardized checklists and the high school cafeteria game theory of corporate politics. Of course, this doesn’t apply to every person I know at big companies. But there are too many talented people who sleepwalk through their workday.

Entrepreneurship is one solution. Employment and independent research are two others. Unfortunately, the national rate of company formation in America has fallen, just as academia has become politicized and overly bureaucratized.

The co-founder and CEO of Open AI, Sam Altman, tweeted this partial thread to start the year:

Getting caught up in the parts of a job that don’t matter is a dangerous trap and for some reason one that a lot of people fall into. Let other people play political games and avoid them as much as you can.

[An] authentic, high-conviction vision is rare and valuable. Double down when you find it or find people who have it.

It’s really helpful to get someone to take a bet on you (hire you, promote you, invest in your company, whatever) early in your career. The best way to do this is to first do whatever you can to help them.

The most value comes from doing something no one else can do, or no one else has thought of, in a way that is hard for other people to copy. If you try to be just like everyone else and do just what they’re doing, you will maybe do okay but certainly not great.

Follow your own curiosity, and start looking internally instead of externally for the answers. Be honest with yourself about the intersection of your skills, your passions, and what the world values.

The best way to have valuable ideas is to understand the entire landscape of a field and figure out what can emerge now that couldn’t before.

If you want to get rich, remember that the way to do it is via equity, not salary.

Compounding, in all ways, is a very powerful force. Long-term outlooks and long-term commitments are the easiest way to outperform other people.

Even with the stock market up these past two weeks, I am, as always, remaining cautiously optimistic:

On any given day in the stock market, your odds of a positive return are just 53%, little better than a coin flip. Increase your holding period to a year, and your odds of success jump to 74%. At a 20-year holding period, there has never been a negative return for U.S. equity investors.

The big money is made in the big move. The most important lesson from perhaps the most famous trading book of all-time (Reminiscences of a Stock Operator) had nothing to do with trading…

It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It always was my sitting.

It is, of course, more fun to be an optimist than a pessimist, even if I know I will not live long enough to see the year 2100:

If you were born in the 1980s like me, a kid today who’s the age you were in 1990 is a full 30-year generation younger than you. They’ll remember Obama’s presidency the way you remember Reagan’s. 9/11 to them is the moon landing for you. The 90s seem as ancient to them as the 60s seem to you. To you, the 70s are just a little before your time — that’s how they think of the 2000s. They see the 70s how you see the 40s. And the hippy 60s seems as old to them as the Great Depression seems to you.

But the weirdest thing about kids today: most of them will live to see the 2100s.

See you tomorrow!