Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: The ultimate disrupter

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: The ultimate disrupter – Fortune Management.

Jeff Bezos named Fortune’s businessperson of the year.

Interesting notes:

Quiet time / 6 page memo readings: at the start of meetings

High praise from someone whose lunch you’re eating:

Jeff is a manic competitor, a delightful human being and a trusted supplier.

From Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Good tombstone summary as a product leader.

Customer centric culture & product strategy: Rapidly iterating on market feedback even real-time in meetings.

Even in Dicken’s day, he would take notice of the criticism of the prior installments and use it to his advantage…We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. When (competitors) are in the shower in the morning, they’re thinking about how they’re going to get ahead of one of their top competitors. Here in the shower, we’re thinking about how we are going to invent something on behalf of a customer.

Cost cutting in operations: salaries and perks are lower relative to expectations set by the Silicon Valley smart set. Second highest salary is $165K, Bezos himself getting $82K (of course $19 billion in founder’s shares makes that bearable). Carrots are in restricted stock rather than incentive pay and being part of a team building Big Things.

vs. Steve Jobs: Similarities drawn on competitiveness, changing the subject / reality distortion, disdain for Wall Street and rules like tax laws, intolerance for incompetence. Differs obviously in product strategy – “Your margin is my opportunity.”

Sci-Fi Fan: because of course he is. Wonder if he’s read Cory Doctorow’s “Makers” – some of the themes in it are the inevitable race to the bottom in margins / competition and how 3D printing could eliminate barriers to reproducing physical products.


Joe Queenan: My 6,128 Favorite Books –

Lovely bit of writing on reading from Joe Queenan that hits home:

A case can be made that people who read a preposterous number of books are not playing with a full deck. I prefer to think of us as dissatisfied customers. If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it’s probably because at some level you find “reality” a bit of a disappointment.

I’ve never squandered an opportunity to read. There are only 24 hours in the day, seven of which are spent sleeping, and in my view at least four of the remaining 17 must be devoted to reading. A friend once told me that the real message Bram Stoker sought to convey in “Dracula” is that a human being needs to live hundreds and hundreds of years to get all his reading done; that Count Dracula, basically nothing more than a misunderstood bookworm, was draining blood from the necks of 10,000 hapless virgins not because he was the apotheosis of pure evil but because it was the only way he could live long enough to polish off his extensive reading list.

via Joe Queenan: My 6,128 Favorite Books –

Financiers Still Aren’t Rocket Scientists

Provocative post from Chad Orzel over at Science Blogs – on a similar wavelength to the perception of authority and analytic rigor in popular science:

You would think that the 2008 economic meltdown, in which the financial industry broke the entire world when they were blindsided by the fact that housing prices can go down as well as up, might have cut into the idea of Wall Street bankers as geniuses, but evidently not. The weird idea that the titans of investment banking are the smartest people on the planet continues to persist, even among people who ought to know better– another thing that bugged me about Chris Hayes’s Twilight of the Elites was the way he uncritically accepted the line that Wall Street was the very peak of the meritocracy. It’s not hard to see where it originates– Wall Street types can’t go twenty minutes without telling everybody how smart they are– but it’s hard to see why so many people accept such blatant propaganda without question.

Look, Romney was an investment banker and corporate raider at Bain Capital. This is admittedly vastly more quantitative work than, say, being a journalist, but it doesn’t make him a “numbers guy.” The work that they do relies almost as much on luck and personal connections as it does on math– they’re closer to being professional gamblers than mathematical scientists. This is especially true of Bain and Romney, as was documented earlier this year– Bain made some bad bets before Romney got there, and was deep in the hole, and he got them out in large part by exploiting government connections and a sort of hostage-taking brinksmanship, creating a situation in which their well-deserved bankruptcy would’ve created a nightmare for the people they owed money, which bought them enough time for some other bets to pay off.

Romney has no shortage of nerve, and while he creeps me out, he has the sort of faux charm that works well in the finance community. But he’s not a “numbers guy” in any sense that looks meaningful from over here in the land of science. He can do the math needed to add up his personal fortune, but the game that he made his money playing isn’t a rigorously mathematical one– people get rich in finance as much by playing hunches and cutting sharp deals as by crunching numbers. There are people who make their way in that business by taking a rigorously data-driven approach to investing– one of the many things I need to write up for the blog at some point is a review of a forthcoming book called The Physics of Wall Street– but they’re nowhere near a majority of the industry, and Romney’s not one of them.

Financiers Still Aren’t Rocket Scientists – Uncertain Principles.

KERS Hybrid for High-Performance Scion FR-S in Development

KERS Hybrid for High-Performance Scion FR-S in Development – WOT on Motor Trend.

I love this. The Porsche 918 Spyder is a design / engineering marvel and I think the future of performance vehicles – producing numbers you’d expect from something that burns dead dinosaurs by the superfreighter but with a neat-o hybrid powerplant that does 70+ MPG. The FR-S / BRZ is already a great design executed as a punch-above-its-weight-class driver’s car – so an iteration that builds upon that with more muscle and efficiency pushes my product geek / car guy buttons. I would love to buy the engineers behind it a beer for nailing such a great design.


Mary Meeker: Mid-Year Internet Trends Report

Pretty fascinating:

  • As of Q1 2012, Android is powering more internet enabled devices than Windows. Post PC indeed.
  • There will be 5 billion mobile phone users by the end of 2012, but 4 billion of that will cheap feature phones / 1 billion smartphones. 
Somewhat less interesting:
  • Android adoption is 6x faster than iPhone, up from 4x in May.
  • iPad adoption is 5x faster than iPhone, up from 3x in May.

Mary Meeker Gives Mid-Year Internet Trends Report: Android Adoption Ramping Up 6X Faster Than iPhone | TechCrunch.

MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 2012

Innovators Under 35 2012 – MIT Technology Review.

Common themes:

  • Having the brains to get into elite academic / commercial organizations (recall Paul Kedrosky observing some years back the pattern of PhD drop outs as a good indicator of founder success)
  • Having the ability to actually make what they have in mind (Pinterest guy by proxy)
  • Having a bigger vision around an unmet market need driving efforts
  • Not waiting to ask for permission to do the above and make a dent in the universe


Growth Hackers: new beast or old news with new tools?

This term/role has been catching buzz lately. There was a recent conference and many tweets / posts around the concept that Sean Ellis first wrote about back in 2010.

I’m not yet decided if it’s a new specialization / next level product management or just a rose by any other name. Initial reaction to it somewhat similar to that of “social media expert” – new tools and approaches applied to an established function/need. Like being an “email expert” would have been in 1993. At first an uncommon and loosely understood niche to differentiate on, but then becoming as familiar as any other technological change.

Data driven marketing + engineering growth on metrics is not a new idea. It may be a function more relevant/necessary if the team is otherwise code-centric and heads down on building product, as opposed to thinking about an innovative and scalable business model around that product or how it succeeds in market. In other words, what a complete product leader does.


You know what, after giving it more thought – if the growth hacker concept means combining engineering resources with a focus on market growth, whether in a specific role or how the organization is structured, then more power to the idea. A lot of product problems can be eliminated by making sure the two are integrated in resources. Would help to eliminate the disconnect between what’s built and what effects are observed in the marketplace, or the political exercise of trying to lead without authority on market driven changes instead of actually having authority over the necessary technical resources.