In JC’s Newsletter, I share the articles, documentaries and books that I enjoyed the most in the last week, with some comments on how we relate to them at Alan. I do not endorse all the articles I share, they are up for debate.
I’m doing it because a) I love reading, it is the way that I get most of my ideas, b) I’m already sharing those ideas with my team, and c) I would love to get your perspective on those.
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👉Tiktok network effects, how to try new things and to build primitives (Eugenewei)
But TikTok has a strong form of this type of network effect. They explicitly lower the barrier to the literal remixing of everyone else's content. In their app, they have a wealth of features that make it dead simple to grab any element from another TikTok and incorporate it into a new TikTok.
TikTok is an extreme experiment in not only making creative network effects endogenous to its app but to the medium of video. Like some video Minecraft, almost everything in the app is a replicable chunk of bits that you can combine into a larger configuration of bits, and the resulting creation becomes, itself, a chunk that anyone can take and splice or mutate or combine however they want.
I love this idea of making it easy to edit. People follow the way of less friction.
The Duet feature is designed simply to allow you to record a video that will play back alongside another video. It can be used for reaction videos, sure, but also to just provide a running commentary on other videos, and there are entire accounts built around both concepts.
I think we should have more of a voice as Alan.
Most of the best ideas in tech first appeared in science fiction books in the 1960s, and many of those are still waiting for their time to come. This is why rejecting companies that are trying something that's been tried before is so dangerous. It's lazy pattern- matching.
It is not because it failed in the past that it will fail today. It is not because other companies failed we won’t succeed. We need to understand why they failed and what has changed.
If a flywheel requires three or four or even more things to connect in your app, it takes more work to ship all of them at once, and that feels like a riskier expenditure of your team's time. But, I'd counter: 1) often, testing a flywheel by definition means you have to build multiple features that work together, 2) the returns of achieving a flywheel are often so high as to be worth the risk, and 3) if you don't achieve any flywheels you are, as investor updates are so fond of saying, default dead.
Take the risk of building the Flywheels. That is what we are doing now.
🏯 Building a company
👉As US tech companies get bigger, they get slower. As Chinese tech companies get bigger, they get faster (blogpost by Rui Ma on a16z Future)
There’s one key, strategic difference among large Chinese companies: a willingness to aggressively experiment with their core products.
It stems from the belief that innovation isn’t simply about problem-solving for the visible inefficiencies currently in the market, but about taking a much more strategic and proactive role. Chinese companies actively sculpt supply and demand in the pursuit of innovation.
Live e-commerce example
Live e-commerce had a weak and uncertain start. But Alibaba, the industry leader, predicted that content-based commerce would provide its next stage of growth.
They therefore made aggressive moves, gave prime real estate on the app - the middle of the front page - and relentlessly invested in boosting both sides of the equation, even when it was well under 1% of its revenues:
the supply (actively recruit and train streamers),
the demand (make live commerce a key highlight of Singles’ Day, the world’s largest shopping festival, the first year of its launch) sides of the equation.
Without these aggressive moves, it is hard to imagine that the industry would have grown even half as quickly as it has in China.
Very relevant to keep in mind that we need to take risks and actively shape the future to drive the transition from health insurance experience to health partner app, and that we must do so quickly.
👉How Etsy Grew their Number of Female Engineers by Almost 500% in One Year (review first round)
Women tend to be conservative about switching jobs, especially if they’ve had a negative experience in the past with an employer. You need to demonstrate why your company is a great place to work, and a great place in particular for a woman to work.
Lowering standards is counter-productive — the idea that “it’s hard to hire women engineers therefore we won’t hold them to such a high standard” is noxious. It reinforces the impression that women aren’t good at engineering, which is obviously a downward spiral.
Mark Hedlund, Etsy’s VP of Engineering, launched "Etsy Hacker Grants" to provide need-based scholarships to talented women engineers enrolling in Hacker School (a three-month hands-on course designed to teach people how to become better engineers).
Etsy ran this program in the Summer and Fall of 2012 and watched the number of applications skyrocket each time.
The experiment proved that it’s almost impossible to hire senior women engineers to join the organization, so Etsy is hiring junior engineers
🗞In the news
👉Cloudflare on the Edge (Stratechery)
Durable Objects, currently in limited beta, already make it easy for customers to manage state on Cloudflare Workers without worrying about provisioning infrastructure. Today, we’re announcing Jurisdictional Restrictions for Durable Objects, which ensure that a Durable Object only stores and processes data in a given geographical region. Jurisdictional Restrictions make it easy for developers to build serverless, stateful applications that not only comply with today’s regulations, but can handle new and updated policies as new regulations are added.
By setting restrictions at a per-object level, it becomes easy to ensure compliance without sacrificing developer productivity. Applications running on Durable Objects just need to identify the jurisdictional rules a given Object should follow and set the corresponding rule at creation time. Gone is the need to run multiple clusters of infrastructure across cloud provider regions to stay compliant — Durable Objects are both globally accessible and capable of partitioning state with no infrastructure overhead.
Durable Objects are not, in-and-of-themselves, going to kill the public clouds; what they represent, though, is an entirely new way of building infrastructure — from the edge in, as opposed to the data center out — that is perfectly suited to a world where politics matters more than economics.
👉Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping the World (Collaborativefund)
The share of retired people -- or those in retirement age -- is surging.
That is something we will need to address at some point.
👉Benedict's Newsletter (Ben Evans)
Roblox invests in its ecosystem
Following the standard textbook for platform ecosystems, Roblox now has a fund to invest in people making games and apps for its platform. No word on total size but they will write >$500k cheques. Link
Theoretically, the UK's National Health Service has a huge number of very useful data sets that could, especially with machine learning, be unlocked to find new insights and treatments. Of course, that also comes with lots of concerns, from valid questions about security and commercial exploitation on one hand to paranoia and conspiracy theories on the other. Now, it has a single unified dashboard to show exactly which organisations have been granted access to which data. Link
👉National surveys reveal disconnect between employees and employers around mental health need (McKinsey&Company)
Mental health will continue to be a key priority as employers plan for a return to the workplace.
About half of employer respondents indicate that mental health is a top organizational/CEO priority for them.
A majority of employers (about 70 percent) report they plan to invest in mental health resources by starting, continuing, or expanding benefits in 2021. The most common reasons reported for expanding support are to promote employee productivity, increase satisfaction, and attract/compete for talent. The most common reasons reported for reducing or stopping support (reported by about 10 to 15 percent of employers) are cost, complexity to manage resources, and low employee utilization of resources.
Gen Z. Providing mental health support for Gen Z is critical for employers from a workforce recruitment and retention perspective, as 60 percent of Gen Z employees surveyed report that mental health resources are important in selecting an employer, and 57 percent say they are important when deciding to stay at an employer.
Potential measurable effects of enhanced mental health supports include fewer missed work days and increased return to work rates.
Among employees surveyed, those with anxiety or depression report missing, on average, roughly 6 times more work days per year than individuals without a mental health condition.
For example, depression management as part of primary care has been demonstrated to reduce missed work days by 30 percent.
👉Oscar launches new functionality for transgender, non-binary members (FierceHealthCare)
Through the "MyIdentity" functionality, Oscar members can use the insurer's app to input their names, pronouns and gender identities into the system.
👉Digital Health Ginger's digital mental health services are coming to members' teenage dependents (FierceHealthCare)
A new offering designed for users aged 13 to 17.
Educational content will include new topic areas that are often relevant to adolescents, including mood management, identity and sexuality, the company said. Coaches and clinicians who are matched through the service will also have experience working with teens.
Parents who have enrolled their teens in the program will then receive additional support tailored around supporting their child. They’ll also receive a breakdown of their child’s care team and the cadence of their care.
👉Working from anywhere at Alan: The experience of a remote engineer (Medium)
This week, Alexis Fouilhé tells us about his experience as an engineer working remotely from his home in the French Alps.
In this great article, read about how the Alan culture empowers remote working, notably thanks to transparency and asynchronous communication.
Discover Alexis’ great tips for finding a good balance and enjoying company life when working remotely.
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