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That’s Not A Deal … THAT’S A Deal

(First published on 6/16/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

I don’t buy a lot of public company stocks. It’s just not what I do and so I don’t feel like I have enough information I would need to be good at it. But I have bought a few stocks over the years when their price just didn’t make sense to me for one reason or another.

Those stocks have been: Netflix and Apple in 2004. Facebook in 2012. Twitter and Whole Foods in late 2015. (Though I will also take credit for telling Megan to buy Tesla stock in early 2013.)

There’s obviously one outlier there: the one non-tech company. Which today announced its aim to be acquired by one of the biggest tech companies.

Obviously, all of those stock picks — aside from Twitter, so far — have done very well. But the Whole Foods one was a bit different — and yet not all that different. In WFM, I saw a stock descending towards 5-year lows, but rather than having fear about that, I saw opportunity. Yes, the numbers had been somewhat mixed, and yes, many other grocery chains were catching up in the organic food business. But Whole Foods remained a great brand that offered a great experience. My bet was they could turn things around or that someone else would step in to buy them. I never thought it would be Amazon, of course. But it makes total sense.

Anyway, just a little aside in waking up to that news today. I still could not be more bullish about Amazon (though I don’t own their stock because again, I don’t typically buy public stocks!). And it seems pretty clear that it wasn’t an accident to announce this on a day when Walmart, their chief non-tech rival, also announced a big acquisition of their own.

One could imagine Bezos saying, “that’s not a deal … that’s a deal.”


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Wal-Mart Asks Employees to Deliver Packages on Their Way Home

Speaking of Walmart, here’s Spencer Soper on a new initiative to have in-store employees deliver packages on their way home from work:

Workers can opt in to earn extra money by making deliveries using their own cars. They’re assigned packages based on where they live so the route aligns with their commute home, the company said Thursday in a blog post. Wal-Mart didn’t specify how the employees will be compensated. The test began at three locations in Arkansas and New Jersey.

I think this is a brilliant plan. Take what is perceived to one day be a big potential weakness — all that physical retail space in the age of Amazon — and turn it into a strength against said rival:

About 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Wal-Mart, and the company is using those locations as shipping hubs to compete with Amazon on the last mile of delivery — the most expensive part of getting goods to customers. By using existing workers in their own cars, Wal-Mart could create a vast network with little upfront cost, similar to how Uber Technologies Inc. created a ride-hailing service without owning any cars.

Related: we’ll see what Amazon ends up doing with all those Whole Foods locations


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Instagram CEO on Stories: Don’t Call It a Copycat

Deepa Seetharaman sat down with Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom:

Seetharaman: How does the relationship between Instagram and Facebook work?
Mr. Systrom: I have never had an instance where we’ve had to run anything by [Facebook] to get approval of anyone and that’s the magic. We touch points on a bunch of really important things that I think help us move more quickly, but the product process is super independent. What makes it work is that independence and autonomy and, frankly, the enormous support on resources and coaching that Facebook has given.

Facebook seems very, very good about setting up acquisitions in which they promise autonomy and actually follow-through with it. I both don’t know why and know why this isn’t the norm. But the Instagram results speak for themselves.

Related: Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will apparently continue to run the operation under Amazon…


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Starbucks’ Howard Schultz Has Something Left to Prove

Beth Kowitt:

This is the strange full circle of Starbucks opening in Italy: The company found inspiration in Milan, Americanized it, and is now bringing its Americanized version back to the city. Schultz had “a deep passion for that intimate Italian coffee shop, that authentic experience,” says Christine Day, an early company executive who stayed for two decades, “but the challenge of growth led the company to become known for the innovation of new products, not the Italian coffee shop.” In short, if it were possible to memorialize a person with an eternal cup of coffee on his tombstone, Schultz would no doubt request a macchiato. But history will likely assign him a frappuccino.

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You Don’t Know Tiger Woods

Will Leitch:

The facts do not support this story. Tiger might not have won any more majors after the 2009 incident, but he did win the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award in 2013, the second oldest man ever to receive the honor. Tiger did not collapse once his life became tabloid fodder, and in fact he returned to near his previous greatness. Eventually, his back issues flared up and truly sidelined his career, but you don’t get back issues from living an out of control, partying lifestyle. You get them from playing golf every day for 30 years.

Really enjoyed and appreciated this perspective on the downfall of Woods. Viewed up close, your idols will let you down. Because you never actually knew them. And they are human. Like you.


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Why are The Economist’s writers anonymous?

The Economist answering the age-old question about the paper:

Historically, many publications printed articles without bylines or under pseudonyms — a subject worthy of a forthcoming explainer of its own — to give individual writers the freedom to assume different voices and to enable early newspapers to give the impression that their editorial teams were larger than they really were. The first few issues of The Economist were, in fact, written almost entirely by James Wilson, the founding editor, though he wrote in the first-person plural.

And:

And some articles are heavily edited. Accordingly, articles are often the work of The Economist’s hive mind, rather than of a single author. In the words of Geoffrey Crowther, our editor from 1938 to 1956, anonymity keeps the editor “not the master but the servant of something far greater than himself…it gives to the paper an astonishing momentum of thought and principle.”

Well said, and seemingly antithetical to today’s world and culture…


Quickish Hits

What Happened to J. Crew?

Since we’re on a commerce kick… This is another brand I would hope could be saved.

Packagd is creating a ‘QVC for the mobile generation’

Ryan Lawler takes a look at my latest investment for GV, Packagd, which just launched their first product, Unboxed. Do check it out!

The Warriors have broken basketball. Time for a new super-team

Hard to disagree with any of this high-level overview of the state of the NBA by The Economist.

Focus on the important things with Highlights in Slack

Great new feature for Slack — an early look into what they’re working on with machine learning to help alleviate information overload.

French President Macron: France should be a ‘country of unicorns’

Yes, France — France! — is leading the way in making an environment that is most-welcoming to entrepreneurs from all over the world. The U.S. these days? No so much… Times change.


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Unboxing a Massive Commerce Opportunity with Packagd

More on Packagd/Unboxed in my own words…

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