Weekend Reading – March 17, 2018

1. Smuggling of U.S. Technology Is Outpacing Cold War Levels, Experts Say – NYTimes

Terrifying:

Adversaries have long deployed spies and black market dealers to obtain American technology. But the scale of current efforts is unusual — “worse than anything that occurred during the Cold War. During the Cold War, there was essentially one threat: the former Soviet Union. Now there are numerous threats.” –  Robert S. Litwak, the vice president for scholars and director of international security studies at the Wilson Center in Washington

2. Ahead of Spotify and Dropbox’s expected IPOs, investor Bill Gurley argues in favor of Spotfiy putting growth ahead of profitabilitywhen valuing the company (a compelling argument that I hadn’t necessary fully considered), and the FT argues that the recent growth on vote-less and tiered stock offerings is a new low for corporate governance, as “investors have been trading in their governance rights in the hope of backing another Google and the belief that the founding entrepreneurs are miracle workers.”

3. The New York Times Magazine recounts the insane story of the kidnapping and subsequent $1 billion paid out for the release of the Qatari royal family, who were kidnapped by Shiite militia while on a falconry trip in Iraq.

The story capably explains the fragile state of the Middle East and the longstanding Sunni-Shiite conflict, being carried out across the region (most notably, in Syria) and financed by proxies (Iran and Saudi Arabia.) The article makes the case that the Qatari ransom payment was a useful pretext for the Saudi blockade of Qatar.

4. The Village Capital structure of mentors and partners seems insane and a clear attempt to try and consolidate venture deal flow for entrepreneurs interested in quickly and efficiently bringing their products into the fold. The question, in my mind, is how much does luck and serendipity play into future outsized VC returns, as recently seen in Amazon’s $1B acquisition of Ring  (2nd largest acquisition by AMZN, ever!) and recounted by Fred Wilson.

5. This week’s Lunch with the FT is with the Nigerian Emir of Kano. Over a home-cooked dinner in his palace, the Emir provides a window into a fascinating African culture that balances modernity (as the largest and most dynamic economy in Africa) with tradition (including an anecdote at the end of the piece on the permanent position of chanter / guide of the Emir, originally tasked with sheparding a blind Emir generations ago).

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