Solar and wind can capture 100 times the current demand for global energy 

Bill McKibben of The New Yorker this week offered a thoughtful assessment of Carbon Tracker’s latest energy report, “The Sky’s the Limit.” There are so many fascinating data points Kingsmill Bond and his team at Carbon Tracker uncovered in this report, but one that I found particularly sticky was the observation that the land required for solar panels alone to provide all global energy is less than the land currently required for the extraction of fossil fuels today. The report notes: “To put the size of the renewable resource in context, consider the world’s largest oilfield of Ghawar in Saudi Arabia. Put up solar panels on the same space as Ghawar (280 km by 30 km), and most countries with that space would be able to generate as much energy in terms of electricity as Ghawar.”

“…scientists have long noted that the sun directs more energy to the Earth in an hour than humans use in a year. But, until very recently, it was too expensive to capture that power. That’s what has shifted—and so quickly and so dramatically that most of the world’s politicians are now living on a different planet than the one we actually inhabit. On the actual Earth, circa 2021, the report reads, “with current technology and in a subset of available locations we can capture at least 6,700 PWh p.a. [petawatt-hours per year] from solar and wind, which is more than 100 times global energy demand.”


Amazon’s Jeff Wilke: Focus on the inputs, not the outputs

It is not an understatement to say that Amazon is, operationally speaking, one of the most incredible businesses ever built. To be growing top-line sales at 44% YoY at a scale of $108 billion/quarter is an operational triumph. With that in mind, I enjoyed this recent conversation with Jeff Wilke, former head of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer Business, and James Currier, a General Partner at NFX, a seed-stage VC firm headquartered in San Francisco. Jeff and James go deep on AMZN’s core philosophy, operational excellence, and ultimately how Bezos, Wilke, and several other senior Amazon leaders built one of the most operationally efficient and creative companies in business history.

“Most people think product innovation and growth are what drive $Trillion+ outcomes. In practice, operational excellence is the key driver to executing consistently for the long term. This is how you harness creativity that compounds value over time.”


A deep-dive on Tesla’s structural battery pack advantages

One of the lesser-discussed areas of Tesla’s core innovation to electric vehicles is the company’s novel and independent approach to its battery pack, which has increased efficiency and lowered the overall costs of manufacturing EVs. In this video —The Engineering of Tesla’s Structural Battery Pack — analyst Jordan Giesige explores the design improvements to Tesla’s battery pack—everything from the polar moment of inertia (which helps creates a tighter driving experience) to the general layout and honeycomb structure of the pack, which improves the energy efficiency and range of the vehicle.

“In the simplest terms, the structural battery pack is where the battery cells are bonded to each other and bonded to an upper and lower face sheet in what’s called a honeycomb structure. This provides enormous strength and torsional rigidity along every axis… With a honeycomb and face sheets, you have a contiguous structure along the length and width that evenly distributes stress across the entire length and width of the pack.”

The $100 million deli owned by institutional investors

Being a New Jersey native, I will always be directionally bullish on delis, but I have to admit the valuation of the publicly-traded New Jersey deli that booked $14k in 2020 sales and trades at a $100 million market cap seems a bit… lofty. While this story has been in the news for the last month or so, this week’s revelation by the Financial Timestook the story in a strange turn, particularly if you are an institutional investor: After some digging around, the FT found that, “Duke and Vanderbilt universities, two of the most prestigious seats of learning in the US, are among [the delis] biggest shareholders.

“Unlike GameStop and other “meme stocks” that have ridden a wave of interest from housebound day traders, Hometown’s valuation was propelled not by amateur speculators but institutional investors… Through a review of securities filings and public records, and interviews with key insiders, the Financial Times has pieced together this account of one of the strangest episodes in an extraordinary period for US capital markets — one that has appalled some experts. “[This] is a self-parody of a Spac,” said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia University’s law school who has written about hostile takeovers.”


A few more links I enjoyed: 

“In 2018, Megan Letter (then known by her maiden name, Leeds) was making about $400 a month posting videos of herself playing the life simulation game The Sims on YouTube. It wasn’t enough to support herself, and she was thinking of getting an internship as a wedding florist. Then she switched her focus to Roblox, the platform for user-created games that’s recently become a sensation with the preteen set. “I immediately saw a turnaround,” says Letter, who began earning thousands of dollars monthly within a few months. “I could actually pay bills.” Letter is known by her online moniker, MeganPlays, the pink-purple-haired bubbly personality she takes on while playing role-playing games inside Roblox. She now earns millions of dollars annually from posting YouTube videos for her 3.6 million subscribers.”
“The famed university endowment investment model is “backward looking, outdated and worn out,” says Hunter Lewis, the co-founder of Cambridge Associates, a Wall Street gatekeeper advising on half a trillion dollars worth of institutional assets. He should know — he was one of its architects.”
“Then there’s a special breed: The optimist who views everyone’s future as bleak only because a few things, or a few people, stand in the way. They’re single-issue pessimists who would otherwise be optimistic about themselves and almost all other people. They’re miserable, because a perfect world seems so close yet so far away.”
“And, now that Spotify has fixed the openness problem, I see upside in their approach; it will actually be easier to have a mix of free and paid feeds than it is with custom private RSS feeds, which means a new customer acquisition channel, while the Spotify Audience Network might be the first podcast advertising product that is easily accessible for smaller podcasts. Facebook and Twitter would do well to reconsider their subscription plans to accommodate independent creators like Spotify has, instead of trying to capture them (and Apple too, but I’m not holding out hope).”

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