Archive

  • Creating Creator

    Creating Creator

    The following is a short case study on “Creator”, a cloud-based content management system I built at Mashgin, where we make visual self-checkout kiosks that use computer vision to see items so you don’t have to scan barcodes. In the years since launch, it has given location managers the ability to customize their menus in … Continue reading Creating Creator

  • Hiring Memo (2017)

    I wrote the following memo 5 years ago (November 2017) immediately after Mashgin raised its Series A. It summarized my thoughts and learnings on hiring at the time. I also added a few updated comments as I read over it 5 years later (all of my 2022 comments are [bracketed] and italicized). Hopefully others find … Continue reading Hiring Memo (2017)

  • Roundup #4: 15th Anniversary Edition

    Roundup #4: 15th Anniversary Edition

    Taking the Iterative Path: How SpaceX innovates by moving fast and blowing things up; the AI art renaissance; energy & nuclear; space updates; Rocket Lab & Perimeter Solutions; and more…

  • Take the Iterative Path

    Take the Iterative Path

    How SpaceX moves fast and blows things up to become an industry leader.

  • Book Notes: How Innovation Works

    Book Notes: How Innovation Works

    These are my notes on the book “How Innovation Works” by Matt Ridley. The notes are a combination of direct quotes and my own paraphrasing. ELI5: Innovation is creating something new that is useful. It is different from invention, which is creating something new that is not necessarily useful. Innovation often happens by accident, and … Continue reading Book Notes: How Innovation Works

  • Roundup June ’22 Edition

    Greetings FutureBlind readers! In this roundup edition: ✈️ To Increase Progress, Change Culture: Why progress needs better marketing. 🎡 We need a new World’s Fair 🔦 Company (Startup) Spotlights: Hadrian, First Resonance, and Mashgin. 🎙 Request for Podcast Series 🔗 Interesting Links: “The man in the arena”, Grid scale energy storage, Kevin Kelly’s advice, the metaverse, jobs-to-be-done for investing, and … Continue reading Roundup June ’22 Edition

  • To Increase Progress, Increase Desire

    The key to faster progress is increased desire for more. That’s my theory, at least. In all the commentary on the “Great Stagnation”, much is written about the lack of progress in tech areas like transportation. Commercial airplane speeds, for example, have decreased on average since the ‘70s: Since 1973, airplane manufacturers have innovated on … Continue reading To Increase Progress, Increase Desire

  • Roundup March ’22 Edition

    Greetings FutureBlind readers! In this roundup edition: ⚡️ Let’s jumpstart the new industrial revolution 🧪 The new wave of science and research models 🔦 Startup spotlights: Terraform, Hypar 🚀 A few space updates 🛰 Investment: Planet Labs

  • Investment: Planet Labs

    Investment: Planet Labs

    Even though FutureBlind started as an investment blog, I almost never write about investments anymore. I’m still an investor of course but writing about it just isn’t as interesting to me anymore. ¯\(ツ)/¯ This is an exception. I first purchased shares of Planet ($PL) in the private markets almost 4 years ago. They went public … Continue reading Investment: Planet Labs

  • The new wave of science and research models

    The new wave of science and research models

    There has been an increasing amount of experimentation in the philanthropic and scientific funding space over the past few years. This is good news — as I mentioned in my last post, we need better ways to fund crazy ideas. Here’s a sampling of some of the recent efforts: The Astera Institute — Pursuing new … Continue reading The new wave of science and research models

  • Let’s jumpstart the new industrial revolution

    Let’s jumpstart the new industrial revolution

    There is as much headroom in physics and engineering for energy as there is in computation; what is stopping us is not lack of technology but lack of will and good sense. — J. Storrs Hall There have been three industrial revolutions. The first two spanned from the late 1700s to the early 1900s and … Continue reading Let’s jumpstart the new industrial revolution

  • Singularities

    The “Singularity” in artificial intelligence is the future moment when generalized AI becomes smarter than humans. In theory this starts a feedback loop of runaway intelligence that radically changes our world in ways that are hard to predict. Similar points exist in other industries as well. These are ultra tipping points that would lead to … Continue reading Singularities

  • Roundup: Space updates, Progress studies, New World’s Fair, Web3, DAOs, and “The First Tycoon”

    Roundup: Space updates, Progress studies, New World’s Fair, Web3, DAOs, and “The First Tycoon”

    Greetings FutureBlind readers! It’s been a while. Although I have 3 or so posts outlined and in various states of completion, life has gotten in the way. My wife and I’s first child is due in a few months (Are we in the thick of a post-Covid baby boom?) and in an act of complete … Continue reading Roundup: Space updates, Progress studies, New World’s Fair, Web3, DAOs, and “The First Tycoon”

  • Passages from “The First Tycoon”

    The following are passages from the book The First Tycoon by T.J. Stiles. The book is a biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built a steamship and railroad empire in the mid-1800s. More than that, it’s a history of the early corporation and the beginning of the era of modern business. This is the subject of the quotes … Continue reading Passages from “The First Tycoon”

  • New Podcast

    Audio! I’ve been wanting to explore doing something in the audio/podcasting area for a while now. There’s plenty of good interview-focused shows out there so I didn’t want to go that route. Taking inspiration from Stratechery, I settled on doing an audio version of selected blog posts. It’s just an experiment at this point but … Continue reading New Podcast

  • The Future of Space, Part II: The Potential

    The Future of Space, Part II: The Potential

    Getting to space is about to get a lot easier. I reviewed the reasons why in Part I. Now for the fun part: what it will lead to. A 10x reduction in cost to orbit has already started to change things. The next 10x reduction will lead to outcomes and use cases much harder to … Continue reading The Future of Space, Part II: The Potential

  • The Future of Space, Part I: The Setup

    The Future of Space, Part I: The Setup

    Expansion of life across our solar system and beyond has been a dream of mine since childhood. Of course, this isn’t uncommon among other sci-fi enthusiasts, or anyone who grew up knowing we’ve sent humans to the Moon but haven’t sent them back in nearly 50 years. Space is fascinating for many reasons. It’s a … Continue reading The Future of Space, Part I: The Setup

  • Tech Stack Trees

    Tech Stack Trees

    Every product is built on and enabled by one or more technologies. Understanding where a product fits on its higher-level tech stack is an important part of any long-term strategy or investment thesis. The following is an exploration of tech stacks: what they are, how to model them, and what roles their components play. I … Continue reading Tech Stack Trees

  • Lay of the Landscape

    Lay of the Landscape

    The more complex the world gets, the more we need models to simplify it. One of the models I return to often is fitness landscapes, which can help solve problems, design better experiences, and explain the world around us. Imagine you and a group of friends are on a team playing a game. The game … Continue reading Lay of the Landscape

  • Managing Modes of Effort

    Managing Modes of Effort

    This is the second essay in the Build Series. The first was Wayfinding Through the Web of Efforts. Making progress — in society, a team, or life — isn’t straightforward most of the time. Knowing where you want to go is generally the first step, but the destination can be very broad. And even if … Continue reading Managing Modes of Effort

  • Wayfinding Through the Web of Efforts

    “An old story tells of a visitor who encounters three stonemasons working on a medieval cathedral and asks each what he is doing. ‘I am cutting this stone to shape,’ says the first, describing his basic actions. ‘I am building a great cathedral,’ says the second, describing his intermediate goal. ‘And I am working for … Continue reading Wayfinding Through the Web of Efforts

  • Build Series: Frameworks for Effort

    Build Series: Frameworks for Effort

    What frameworks can help us build more, better?

  • Book Notes: Whole Earth Discipline

    Book Notes: Whole Earth Discipline

    The following are my notes from 2014 on the book “Whole Earth Discipline” by Stewart Brand. This book was recently recommended by Marc Andreessen along with a handful of other great books related to progress and building the future. Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto Ecological balance is too important for sentiment. It requires science. … Continue reading Book Notes: Whole Earth Discipline

  • Pandemic Memo

    The following are my thoughts taken from a memo to family office investors I sent out today regarding the pandemic. These are unprecedented times in modern history. Not since World War II has there been such a large disruption in daily lives across the world at such a quick pace. The pandemic we’ve entered is … Continue reading Pandemic Memo

  • Book Notes: Why We Get Sick

    Back in December I read the book “Why We Get Sick” (1992) by Randolph Nesse and George Williams. While some of the information was outdated due to its age, overall I loved the book as it took a more wholistic, evolutionary approach to explaining sickness. Given the global pandemic of 2019-nCoV (novel coronavirus) underway and … Continue reading Book Notes: Why We Get Sick

  • Advantage Flywheels

    Advantage Flywheels

    Competitive advantage can be represented visually as 1 or more feedback loops. These create the advantage “flywheel” that maintain and grow a moat over time. Think of a big, heavy wheel that takes some effort to get started but then coasts off its own momentum. Before continuing, check out Eric Jorgenson’s primer on the flywheel … Continue reading Advantage Flywheels

  • Polaroid, Apple’s spiritual successor

    Polaroid, Apple’s spiritual successor

    I just finished 2 books on the history of Polaroid 🌈1. A remarkable tech company with enormous success in consumer and industrial applications for decades. It’s also remarkable just how much Apple was influenced by Polaroid. A brief history As a child Edwin Land found a copy of the 1911 edition of Physical Optics, a … Continue reading Polaroid, Apple’s spiritual successor

  • The Scale of Large Projects

    The Scale of Large Projects

    $100 million + Midsize commercial airplane — $120m ^ Big budget video game — $150m ^ F-22 Raptor jet — $157m ^ iPhone R&D (2007) — $185m ^ Titanic (1912) — $190m ^ Big budget movie — $250m ^ SpaceX Falcon 9 v1 R&D — $350m ^ Empire State Building (1931) — $400m ^ Modern … Continue reading The Scale of Large Projects

  • Tokenized Securities and the Future of Ownership

    Tokenized Securities and the Future of Ownership

    In the coming years, Tokenized Securities are poised to take over existing financial markets and create many where they didn’t exist before. This is only now possible due to the invention of decentralized blockchains along with the recent influx of interest and capital. So what are they? Here are a few good resources to start … Continue reading Tokenized Securities and the Future of Ownership

  • Books: 2017 Reading List

    Competing Against Luck — finally a full writeup on “Jobs Theory”, and required reading for anyone involved in product strategy & UX design (i.e. all startups). The Change Function — good, simple model to think about how valuable a new innovation is (all about UX, or if (perceived crisis > cost of adoption)). Marketing High Technology — best … Continue reading Books: 2017 Reading List

  • Product Study: Falcon 9

    Product Study: Falcon 9

    Last week I was outside of Vandenberg Air Force Base to watch the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. (It was perfect weather and an amazing experience for my first launch!) To commemorate it, this is another one of a handful of product case studies I wrote to help understand successful product launches. Falcon 9 was finished in early … Continue reading Product Study: Falcon 9

  • Product Study: iPhone

    Product Study: iPhone

    One of a handful of product case studies I wrote last year to help understand successful product launches. Apple’s iPhone was announced December 9, 2007 and released June 29, 2007. It was $499 for the 4GB version, $599 for 8GB. After 8 years it had captured 50% of U.S. smartphone market and >66% of sales, with … Continue reading Product Study: iPhone

  • Mashgin: The Future of Computer Vision

    About a year ago I invested in and joined a startup called Mashgin. In this post I want to talk a little about what we’re working on. Mashgin is building a self-checkout kiosk that uses cameras to recognize multiple items at once without needing barcodes. The current version of the kiosk is designed for cafeterias, … Continue reading Mashgin: The Future of Computer Vision

  • Atlastory: Mapping the history of the world

    Atlastory: Mapping the history of the world

    Certain ideas are “inevitable” over time. Paul Graham calls them “[squares] in the periodic table” — if they don’t exist now, they’ll be created shortly. It’s only a matter of when, not if. I believe that Atlastory is one of those ideas. The following is a long post about a project I’ve been passionate about for some time now and am currently … Continue reading Atlastory: Mapping the history of the world

  • Education & Elon Musk’s School Startup

    Education & Elon Musk’s School Startup

    One of my “later in life” goals has always been to start my own school. A “School Startup” rather than a Startup School, if you will. The school would be radically different than traditional education. Charter schools, Montessori education, and AltSchool are steps in the right direction but don’t go far enough. (See my post a year … Continue reading Education & Elon Musk’s School Startup

  • Found Quotes 3

    Let’s start with a test: Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers? If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you’re supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? … Continue reading Found Quotes 3

  • Berkshire’s Best Investments + Poster Now Available

    [This is a cross post from the Explorist Productions blog. Explorist is a media company I founded that publishes content related to business, innovation, and discovery.] The Berkshire Hathaway limited hardcover letters book and “50 Years of Berkshire” wall print are now available for purchase online. Both of these items were available at the meeting a … Continue reading Berkshire’s Best Investments + Poster Now Available

  • A mental model education

    A mental model education

    Based off a previous #tweetstorm. See: So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class . . . by Andrew Ross Sorkin. Some relevant quotes: Christian’s aim was not to offer discrete accounts of each period so much as to integrate them all into vertiginous conceptual narratives, sweeping through billions of years in the span of … Continue reading A mental model education

  • The dawn of immersive storytelling

    The dawn of immersive storytelling

    From a previous #tweetstorm: Immersive storytelling will be a big industry in the near future: movies viewed on Oculus Rift, dome-like cinemas, or interactive games. We have co’s like Jaunt, Condition One & Giroptic (consumer) making 360 cameras that will be used for filming. A new visual “grammar” will have to be discovered by filmmakers through trial and … Continue reading The dawn of immersive storytelling

  • 1976 Buffett Letter About Geico

    July 22nd, 1976 Mr. George D. Young, National Indemnity Company, 3024 Harney Street, Omaha, Nebraska. 68131. Dear George: Thanks very much for your memo of July 19th regarding GEICO which I believe summarizes well the problems attendant to the specific property treaty we are discussing, as well as the general problems associated with reinsurance of … Continue reading 1976 Buffett Letter About Geico

  • Book Notes: Benjamin Graham

    As with my other book notes, some passages are direct quotes and others are my own paraphrasing/summaries. Any footnotes or [brackets] are my personal comments. The Intelligent Investor (1973) + Security Analysis (1934), by Benjamin Graham To invest intelligently in securities one should be forearmed with an adequate knowledge of how the various types of bonds … Continue reading Book Notes: Benjamin Graham

  • Book Notes: Innovation and Entrepreneurship

    As with my other book notes, some passages are direct quotes and others are my own paraphrasing/summaries. Any footnotes or [brackets] are my personal comments. Innovation & Entrepreneurship (1985), by Peter Drucker “The entrepreneur,” said the French economist J. B. Say around 1800, “shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an … Continue reading Book Notes: Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • Warren Buffett on Pensions (1975)

    This is the full text letter from Warren Buffett to Katherine Graham discussing pensions, as released by Fortune. I find this easier to read on things like Instapaper than the PDF version. PENSIONS There are two aspects of the pension cost problem upon which management can have a significant impact: (1) maintaining rational control over … Continue reading Warren Buffett on Pensions (1975)

  • Why Buffett Didn’t Buy the Post

    There have been many speculations about why Warren Buffett — a long time shareholder, admirer, and one-time delivery boy of the Washington Post — opted not to purchase the company. Berkshire Hathaway has over $35 billion in cash and they’ve been purchasing local papers recently, so passing on the Post is curious at first glance. … Continue reading Why Buffett Didn’t Buy the Post

  • Dear Mrs. Graham

    Dear Mrs. Graham

    In 1973, the Washington Post Company couldn’t have been a more widely revered media company. The Watergate scandal, which Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein begun reporting on in mid-1972, came to a spectacular end with President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974. But the reverence of the publication didn’t match the company’s popularity on Wall Street. … Continue reading Dear Mrs. Graham

  • Mental Model: Fitness Landscapes

    UPDATE (September 2020): I wrote a more in-depth, detailed explanation of fitness landscapes and how they can be applied across disciplines. The original (shorter) version is still below but I’d recommend the latest one for a better understanding of the model. Fitness Landscapes are used to visualize the relationship between genetic makeup (genotype) and evolutionary … Continue reading Mental Model: Fitness Landscapes

  • Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders

    I’m excited to announce the release of a book I’ve been working on for about 6 months now, and first started in 2010. It’s a compilation of every letter Warren Buffett wrote to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. I first created it a few years ago for myself and friends. Last year I got Buffett’s … Continue reading Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders

  • Steve Jobs on learning to code

    From Robert X. Cringley’s “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview”: When we were designing our blue box, we wrote a lot of custom programs to help us design it, you know, and to do a lot of the dog work for us in terms of calculating master frequencies with subdivisors to get other frequencies and things … Continue reading Steve Jobs on learning to code

  • Steve Jobs on learning to run a company

    From Robert X. Cringley’s “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview”: You know, throughout the years in business I found something, which was I’d always ask why you do things. And the answers you invariably get are “Oh, that’s just the way it’s done.” Nobody knows why they do what they do. Nobody thinks about things very … Continue reading Steve Jobs on learning to run a company

  • Google Glass and the Segway Paradox

    The customer rearely buys what the company thinks it is selling him. — Peter Drucker Google Glass was finally announced to the public yesterday. Glass is a solution looking for problems. It’s too hard to say what jobs-to-be-done Glass will be hired to do at this stage, or how widely used it will be. We’ll only … Continue reading Google Glass and the Segway Paradox