A Call from the FBI

On My Mind | 2024.03.29

Happy Friday!

Apologies for the absence of the promised Jack London-themed email on Tuesday. You will also notice that today’s note is a bit shorter than normal. While I haven’t been sick, I have been almost sick for the last week.

I seem to have fended off actual illness with extra sleep, which required me to trade in writing / reading time for health. I think I am finally “on the mend” and should have that deep dive email out early next week.

If you enjoy today’s note, please take a moment to let me know what you liked most — either through a comment or by simply replying to this email. Doing so will help me improve things over time!

Quote of the Week

20 years from now you’d give anything to be:

This exact age, exactly this healthy, in this exact moment.

Take a second to enjoy it.

— Rich Webster

Special thanks to a reader for sending this one along earlier this week!

Poll of the Week

Have you gotten sick so far this year?

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Last Week

Question: Have you read anything by Jack London?

Results: About 67% responded “yes”. In middle school, I think it was, I read White Fang and Call of the Wild. These may or may not have been abridged versions.

Things to Read

More than Growth | From The Affluent Society After Ten Years by John Galbraith, 1969

Few economists would now argue that a sufficiently expanding economy will sweep away other social problems… The affluent society increases its wants and therewith its consumption pari passu with its production…

And the explanation for poverty in the well-to-do society must be sought in the general and not the particular aspects of the case — not in the nature of the society of the poor, but in the nature of a society of the rich which allows or requires some to stay so poor…

Might there not one day be discontent with a society in which there is single-minded concentration on the goal of economic success?

Galbraith published The Affluent Society in 1958 to explore how economic growth might necessitate significant investment in public goods as a means of economic security. At the time, Keynesian views of, to simplify, economic growth solving all social ills had found a enthusiastic base of believers in the post-war booming United States.

I’ve always struggled with those Austrian economics-based theories as 1) making sense on paper, 2) feeling logically beautiful, but 3) being idealistic as humans are not just rationale, economic automatons.

Ten years later, he reflected in The Atlantic on which of his ideas have stood the test of time and which now seem to have a less certain foundation.

Work-From-Office | From 8 Google Employees Invented Modern AI, 2024

Eight names are listed as authors on “Attention Is All You Need,” a scientific paper written in the spring of 2017. They were all Google researchers…

It’s always a delicate balancing act to figure out how to list names — who gets the coveted lead position, who’s shunted to the rear. Especially in a case like this one, where each participant left a distinct mark in a true group effort. As the researchers hurried to finish their paper, they ultimately decided to “sabotage” the convention of ranking contributors.

They added an asterisk to each name and a footnote: “Equal contributor,” it read. “Listing order is random.”

The writers sent the paper off to a prestigious artificial intelligence conference just before the deadline — and kicked off a revolution.

In 2017, a group of eight Google AI employees published a paper called “Attention is All You Need" at an artificial intelligence conference. The paper introduced what was at the time a novel concept for requiring less AI training data to achieve state-of-the-art performance — the approach used what they called Transformers.

Unlike previous approaches, a Transformer can process entire sentences of data at once, allowing for a more accurate and efficient interpretation of complex language patterns. This breakthrough has led to significant improvements in natural language processing, machine translation, and other AI applications.

I don’t understand the ins-and-outs of the technical details, but the impact of this paper has been significant. The Transformer has become the standard architecture for many AI-training tasks by enabling more efficient and accurate models.

To steal from Byrne Hobart’s comments on the article, “Second, this piece is the strongest indirect endorsement of return-to-office that I've ever read — it's full of references to accidentally-overheard conversations, chats in the hallway, and the like.”

Uncommon Honesty | From Neil Strauss Once Got a Call from the FBI, 2024

4. Write with uncommon honesty. Edit with uncommon brutality…

11. The first draft is for you. Be uninhibited and let your ideas flow like lava.

12. The second draft is for the reader. Make what matters to you matter to the reader. Ask questions like: "Where are they bored? Where are they confused?"

13. The third draft is for the haters. Clean up your prose. Get the facts straight. Take the bullets out of the gun. Then... ship.

Neil Strauss has written 10 New York Times best-selling books, and regularly writes at Rolling Stone and The New York Times (I wonder if that helps with the NYT best-selling titles?). He was recently on a podcast / YouTube with David Perell — who interviews writers — and Perell shared a list of 15 key takeaways.

I found Strauss’ writing process interesting. He mentions that the first draft has to be written for the author themselves. John Galbraith has said similar. And both suggest a brutal editing process is needed after that first draft — but that first honest draft is always the starting point because creativity and curiosity build the best stories. Fear of what others might think ultimately keeps pen from paper by stunting the process.

In my day job, sometimes I get caught up too early in “what is our Investment Committee going to want to see.” Instead, step one should generally be “what do I want to see,” and then you can refine from there.

If you start by already filtering what you are diligencing / building through a lens someone else gave you, you might not end up uncovering the things that would naturally be most valuable to learn.


Sheldon Bishop writes about founders and deep dives into new startups every week— for example, he did Canva this week. He looks at everything from how things got started, to pricing, growth, operations, vision, and more.

I don’t receive any compensation here — I just thought I should give Sheldon a shoutout given the work he puts in!

The Zero to OneEach week I research and reverse engineer a high-growth startup. You get the insights to replicate their growth - and save 25+ hours of research. 🚀


If you made it all the way down here, please take a moment to forward this email to someone that might find it interesting — I appreciate your support!

Have a great weekend,


Twitter / X: @HistoryEJ

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

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