Before New England

"They live a long life," he wrote, "and rarely fall sick."

Happy Friday!

I hope everyone’s week has been well. It has been a busy travel week on my end — and I am looking forward to getting back home today!

Thanks!

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On My Mind

Thanks to my day job, I get to meet a lot of exceptional people. Every once in a while, an individual will stand out even more so than their peers. I’ve gotten to know someone like that over the last month or so.

He grew up bouncing back and forth between Europe and the US. While in Europe, he was noticed by a soccer (or football… since he was in Europe…) scout and ended up playing in professional “junior leagues” while attending high school.

While he enjoyed the sport, he decided it wasn’t the right long-term career path given his intellectual interests. Instead, he pivoted to computer science and college. After graduation, he landed a job at a large defense company and fell in love with cybersecurity.

He then joined a cybersecurity startup as employee # <100 — and that company ended up being valued at >$10bn. In his final role there, he managed a team of over 100 engineers.

After a brief stint at another large company — he wanted to get additional management experience — he went back to get a Masters in cybersecurity engineering from one of the top schools in the United States.

He leveraged that Masters into working at one of the top cybersecurity labs in the United States government for a summer, before joining one of the more respected cybersecurity automation companies after graduation.

For his birthday — he just turned 30 — he ran a marathon… because, at this point, why not. His hair is, as would be expected, also impeccable.

Given all the above, he feels he is finally ready to build his own company. And he is. He just needs the right idea to build — and he wanted to get my thoughts on his idea.

As arrogant as it sounds, I think he’s going to have a terribly difficult time.

In short, he is thinking about attacking a problem 20+ others are already tackling — including large incumbents that already have relatively good tools to handle the same use case. His pitch is that he can build a better solution.

And, for sake of discussion, let’s say that there is a 100% chance he can. I still think he shouldn’t. He will be trying to build an incrementally better product. For the kind of success he is looking for, I think that is not a great approach.

Building a minimally viable product will take him a good amount of time. He needs that first product to start getting real market feedback on if he has, in fact, built something better. But what will his pitch to potential customers be at that point in time?

“I know you buy 10+ products from Incumbent #1, but I want you to take time out of your day to try my new solution… which is only one of those products… because it is better.”

That is a hard pitch. In the customers’ eyes, they have already solved the problem you want to solve for them. You have to convince them that they haven’t. And then you have to show them something that is so much better that they will increase their day-to-day complexity by buying another tool.

Even though he is an exceptional individual, I think he would do better attacking a problem that others have not already solved. He doesn’t have to choose to fight such a hard battle. He is smart enough to build something others haven’t already tackled, and there would be less competition there, and his chance of success — if the idea is good — would increase materially.

And that pulls me back to thinking about my own work. Am I choosing to fight harder battles than I need to? Am I competing with other investors by trying to just be incrementally better? I can make one more phone call than them… read one more book … take one more trip to meet people… send one more email…

Everyone else is doing all the above. Competition is intense. There has to be a way to tackle things in a way others haven’t — I just haven’t an idea yet on what that might be.

Quote of the Week

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.

It is the first lesson that ought to be learned and however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.

— Thomas Henry Huxley, Technical Education (1877)

Poll of the Week

Has your lifestyle been impacted by inflation?

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Last Week

Question: Would you trust an autonomous car to drive you down a busy street for 10 minutes?

Results: 60% did not trust the autonomous car — and I would have to agree with the majority here.

Comment: “My Tesla does drives longer than that with no interventions all the time. It is getting closer than you think.”

Things to Read

Before New England | From Manitou and Providence by Neal Salisbury, 1984

I joke with friends that while I am an investor, I am constantly trying to find the courage to become a history professor. I can sit down and read a well-written history book while the day passes me by. I feel every minute of effort while slogging through a book on business, however.

I have always wanted to spend more time digging into a specific period of the Americas — 100 years before, and 100-200 years after, 1492 — when the Spanish first landed in the Americas. Consequently, I have about 7 books or so on the subject sitting — yet unread due to the wonderfully consuming impact of babies — on my bookshelf.

Given six flights this week, I decided to pull the shortest off my bookshelf — the title above — and made a dent into 120 or so pages. I’ll look to make a more detailed review of the book, but for now, a few quotes from the first half of the book or so:

The Region had a Healthy Status Quo

Though Verrazzano did not make the connection, such large families apparently resulted not only from a high fertility rate, but from the low mortality rate he noted. "They live a long life," he wrote, "and rarely fall sick; if they are wounded, they cure themselves with fire without medicine, their end comes with old age."

Later accounts confirmed that the Indians were strikingly healthy when they avoided European-induced epidemics, while other reports commented on the mildness of warfare before the introduction of guns and shrinking of resources due to colonization.

As Trade Began with Europeans, the Status Quo was Disrupted

They probably benefited [ in the battle between two Indian groups ] from their possession of a few iron axes and knives.

Here was where the contributions of European technology became critical for Indians. The possession of such weapons constituted an advantage which, when the fur trade drove bands beyond their customary territories and into competition with one another, eventually obliged all Indians in the vicinity to participate as a matter of survival.

After Being Disrupted, the Status Quo Become Trade

After a couple of generations, the old skills were forgotten. No longer able to supply themselves with these items, the Indians had become economically dependent on the French trade. Full-time hunting also deprived them of their subsistence autonomy. Concentrating exclusively on the hunt, they abandoned other food-producing activities of the winter months while over-killing the formerly adequate supply of fur-bearing animals.

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, they were leading a precarious existence every winter, relying on the French and other outside sources of food for survival.

Visuals

Inflation Remains Stubbornly High

Biden’s Proposes Higher Tariffs on Imports

If you found today’s issue interesting, more than anything, I would appreciate you forwarding it to someone that might also enjoy it. It is a big deal to me whenever someone reads my work, so I appreciate your support.

Have a great weekend,

EJ

Twitter / X: @HistoryEJ

Disclosure: Nothing in this article constitutes investment advice. More detailed disclosure here.

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