Tales From the Eclipse

Then came the weather reports. Austin was going to be cloudy.

Happy Friday!

Open rates / engagement rates have improved materially over the last few weeks — so thank you everyone for all the support! When I swapped domains earlier this year, there was a bit of a downtick in email delivery success rates.

If you would like to help me a bit more, quickly hit reply to this email and tell me what time it is where you are. By replying, you tell all the email clients out there that these emails are legitimate — which in turn helps ensure these emails get to your (and others’) inboxes.

I will reply to every email I get with my own local time. If just 10% of you reply, I will have to write over 200 emails. Let’s make it happen.

Thank you!

On My Mind

I’m not a big fan of conferences.

As an investor in early stage businesses, however, you are expected to show up to one every now and again. Thus, I jumped on a plane, got off it, jumped on another plane, got off it, sat in an Uber, and then meandered around inside a fancy hotel for a few days earlier this week.

Fortunately, the conference was not a networking event for investors or a place where startups show-off their companies. Instead, it was an industry forum where certain kinds of decisions makers at large companies came together to collaborate on shared challenges.

I’m not one of those industry decision makers, but I communicate with a number of them regularly and thus was able to sneak in.

The event reminded me of the fragility of networking when juxtaposed against the strength of collaboration.

Everyone at this event was working on similar problems, willing to trade notes on approaches (despite being competitors in the market), happy to be shown their approaches aren’t working anymore, and open to follow-up conversations. Intentional conversations took the place of mindless business card trading, and people were eager to follow-up on very specific ideas.

True networking isn’t a sterile list of names to “go get” and endless back-to-back superficial discussions of how you might be able to add value. Instead, it is about adding value upfront and seeing what happens next.

If you focus on counting the email addresses you have collected, I think you are missing the value of a significantly better approach to growing your network. If you can improve the lives of those you interact with — even in just a small way, such as by providing perspectives on challenges at this conference — value finds a way back to you eventually.

One of the founders of Beehiiv, the newsletter platform I am using here, writes about “startup insights, stories, and vibes” every Tuesday. He was the second employee at Morning Brew before it was bought by Business Insider.

He shares witty advice for anyone looking to build something — whether it is a company, community, or yourself. You can check him out here — and if you end up subscribing, you will also be supporting my work here! Thank you!

Quote of the Week

The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.

— Rollo May

Rollo May was a psychologist and contemporary of Viktor Frankl, the famous Holocaust survivor who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning based on his experience in Nazi Germany’s concentration camps.

A common theme throughout their work is that doing nothing to stop something you know is wrong is more-or-less actively supporting that which is wrong.

Poll of the Week

Did you personally watch the eclipse on April 8th?

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Last Week

Question: Did you get tricked by an April Fool's joke this year?

Results: 43% were not tricked!


  • “I was totally tricked by an article saying Nvidia purchased the Xbox business from Microsoft….it made sense to me. Oh well, maybe I’m gullible.”

Things to Read

400 / 400 = 1 | From Tales From the Eclipse by WaitButWhy, 2024

Earthlings are very lucky, eclipse-wise. Most planets don’t have a big enough moon to create a total solar eclipse. Not only is our moon big enough, it’s about exactly the size of the sun in our night sky because, by sheer coincidence, the sun is about 400 times farther from us than the moon and also about 400 times bigger than the moon in diameter—making our eclipses especially breathtaking…

As fortune would have it, the 2024 eclipse’s path of magical totality would be passing right over my new hometown of Austin, Texas. It was perfect.

Then came the weather reports. Austin was going to be cloudy on eclipse day… Nope. Not okay. It wasn’t an option to not see this eclipse…

We decided on Sunday night that Monday morning we’d get on a flight to somewhere in the eclipse’s path that was forecast to have clear skies. We settled on Arkansas

Tim Urban shares a short, funny story on the total solar eclipse he missed in 2017 — and the regret he felt after realizing he missed something that might not show up again for many decades.

Fortunately, he had one more shot before 2044 to see a total solar eclipse. This time, he wasn’t going to miss it.

Sustainable Business Models | From Popping the Publishing Bubble by Ben Thompson, 2015

It is easy to feel sorry for publishers: before the Internet most were swimming in money, and for the first few years online it looked like online publications with lower costs of production would be profitable as well.

The problem, though, was the assumption that advertising money would always be there, resulting in a “build it and they will come” mentality that focused almost exclusively on content production and far too little on sustainable business models.

Back in 2015, Ben Thompson of Stratechery discussed the publishing industry. He argued the then-current model, which relies heavily on ad networks, is fundamentally flawed as it incentivizes quantity over quality. This leads to clickbait content and a poor experience for readers.

Thompson proposed two alternative models for the future of publishing. The first is a niche approach, where publications focus on niche topics and charge subscriptions. This model ensures a more direct and effective connection between the content and a reader’s interest. The second model involves integrating ads seamlessly into the content, making them more engaging and relevant to the reader.

Eight years on, it seems like most social networks have adopted a combination of these two methods. Using data, they essentially segment their users into niche readers, and then sell ads that look more-or-less exactly like other users’ social media posts.

It’s a good reminder to those of us using social media — the sites feel free to us, but we actually pay them by giving them data. We trade data for a product. The company trades a product for the data. The company then sells that data.

That means we, the users, are the company’s true product.

Market dynamics like these can't be avoided. They're better to understand and accept than ignore or deny.

Cybersecurity has unique characteristics, but so does every interesting industry. Taking a contrarian stance against widely proven market forces happening in cybersecurity is an option, but probabilities are working against you.

If you're daring, you can take the bet — but do it with a clear understanding so you know which rules to bend and why.

The cybersecurity market has been experiencing the effects of a winner-take-all setup, where a few dominant players capture most of the market while smaller competitors struggle to compete effectively as they grow. This is not unique to cybersecurity companies or their competitive landscape.

Cole Grolmus takes a look at the dynamics that are driving this consolidation, including historical context from other industries both in and outside of the tech industry.

As an investor, you don’t need charisma or social skills. You need to have a decent conversation with management.

On the other hand, when you are in management, you have to convince people in the company when it comes to initiating change and you have to be good at explaining why change is necessary. As a manager, if you are good at communicating, you can mobilize people to change the operations…

Whereas as an investor, you see businesses fail left and right, you have the experience, so theoretically, you should be able to come in and tell people to change. But it doesn’t work like that.

At the 2022 Graham & Dodd Annual Breakfast, Todd Combs, who manages a portion of Berkshire’s investments and runs GEICO as CEO, joined Michael Mauboussin to discuss investing.

Combs dove into many investment topics including having an adequate margin of safety in investments (emphasizing that the future is inherently uncertain), the importance of unit economics (which involves considering the true costs of production and delivery of goods or services), the influence of interest rates on returns, how trying to time the market can be a fool’s errand, and the importance of understanding not only accounting, but the accounting approaches being applied to the statements at which you are looking.

Beyond investing, Combs touched on management challenges, such as the difficulty of implementing necessary changes even when the benefits are clear, the importance of being a good communicator, and the necessity of ensuring transparency and accountability in business operations.


Inflation is starting to pick back up…

…with higher prices driven by housing

If you found today’s issue interesting, more than anything, I would appreciate it if you forwarded this email to someone that might find it meaningful. It is a big deal to me whenever someone reads my work, and 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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