Silver Bulletin #4

January 15th 2021

THE SILVER BULLETIN

A weekly(-ish) newsletter on tech, investing and living better by Hitesh Suresh.


Dear Hitesh Suresh

I apologise for not writing in a long while. I fell off the bandwagon and just didn’t feel motivated to write. But then this tweet appearing on my feed inspired me into action.

#INSPIRATION
By legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi.

“It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

Read the full speech here.

#TECH
The internet is already 30 years old. But on this podcast, Ram Parameswaran argues that this is just the beginning of the S-Curve. It’s only now that we’re entering the hyper growth phase.

Here’s why he thinks so:

  • 🚀 Internet speeds are now ubiquitously fast. In 2020, Streaming 4K video is normal. Additionally, telcos like Jio in India are bringing even more internet users online with high-speed data.
  • ☁️ Cloud Infrastructure and tools are in place to allow any business to hop onto the internet. Think AWS, Stripe, Shopify – these companies have made it incredibly easy to go digital.
  • 👔 Talent is global. But opportunity isn’t. With ubiquitous high-speed internet and cloud tools, companies can now hire from all over the world, getting access to more talent than ever before. This is going to cause an explosion in the speed of digitalisation.

The above is more of a qualitative argument. Taking a quantitative bottoms-up approach, Ram’s thesis makes sense as well:

  • 💻 Internet companies earnings, as a percentage of total earnings globally, is between 5% – 7%
  • 🌎  Market capitalisation of tech companies, vs total global market capitalisation, is only 10%
  • 👶 Despite the internet being the centre of our lives, these numbers are still incredibly low.
  • 📈 It’s obvious that this 10% penetration rate will rise to 60+% over time. That’s 6x from where we are today.

Every company is eventually going to be a tech company. Entire economies are going to be injected with internet level efficiency. There’s still so much growth ahead of us.

As Jeff Bezos often says, it’s still Day 1. I’m so excited for whats to come.

#VACCINE
It typically takes 10 years for a vaccine to arrive on the market. The fastest vaccine mankind has ever developed, the mumps vaccine, took 4 years.

And yet, here we are, 12 months into the pandemic with not one, not two, but three (!) highly promising Covid-19 vaccines. What sorcery is this?!

I did a bit more digging into how the Moderna vaccine was created. Here’s the timeline:

  • Day 0: The SARS-CoV-2 genome was published. (Jan 10)
  • Day 3: Moderna finalized the sequence for mRNA-1273, its mRNA vaccine candidate (Jan 3)
  • Day 28: The first vaccine batch was manufactured (Feb 7)
  • Day 45: Moderna shipped the first batch of mRNA-1273 to the NIH for Phase 1 clinical study. (Feb 24)
  • Day 311: After 266 days of clinical trials, Moderna received NIH approval with a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%. (Nov 16)

It’s an unbelievable timeline. Just insane. I’m a massive optimist but not even in my wildest dreams did I expect a vaccine to come online so quickly.

When the time called for it, the world’s brightest minds came together and delivered.

Covid isn’t going to be the last global disaster. But as we did here, and many times before, mankind prevailed. And I’ve got no doubt that we will continue to prevail over any challenge.

It’s easy to be cynical and dystopian about the future. But if you zoom out at the arc of mankind’s history, and see the incredible odds we’ve overcome, you can’t help but feel optimistic.

Never bet against mankind. Our best days are still ahead of us.
#WEALTH
I’ve long held the belief that earning lots of money is a fruitless endeavour. Beyond a threshold of net worth (~5m), happiness and satisfaction in life plateaus

In fact, beyond that threshold, I often find the contrary to be true. That mo’ money leads to mo’ problems. It’s very rare to see a self-made rich person who had their family and personal relationships not plagued by the burden of creating a fortune.

Recently though, I’m rethinking my stance. I think the net worth threshold should be closer to ~20m. Not for the status it brings, but for the freedom to buy one out of trouble. Especially health trouble.

I’ve had the misfortune of seeing several medical emergencies around me lately. A few of which were unfortunately fatal. If each of these late friends could afford the best doctors in the country, I’m certain they could have had a few more precious years with their loved ones.

It’s tricky, this pursuit of wealth. It’s easy to get sidetracked playing status games and overachieve what we really need.

We must constantly remind ourselves that the goal of life is to live. Not to waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want.

The more aware we are of our true goals, the more likely we are to achieve them.

#HAPPINESS
Do you have a handful of people, who aren’t your family, who completely believe in you?

I recently shared some insecurities about my wealth targets with a friend. I’ve long felt ~5m to be achievable but ~20m feels like a stretch. I’m currently unsure how my portfolio can grow to achieve that size in a reasonable time frame.

This friend, upon hearing my insecurity, replied with absolute conviction: “You definitely can hit it. I’m sure you will”

That small statement meant so much to me. We’re often our own worst enemies. It’s helpful every now and then to have friends who remind us of what we’re might be capable of, if only we believed in ourselves a little more.

Tyler Cowen mentioned something similar on his blog some years ago:

At critical moments in time, you can raise the aspirations of other people significantly simply by suggesting they do something better or more ambitious than what they might have in mind. It costs you relatively little to do this, but the benefit to them may be enormous.

This is in fact one of the most valuable things you can do with your time and with your life.

This weekend, I hope you share a kind word for a friend close to you. It might just be the spark they need to do something amazing 🙂

Hope you have a lovely weekend, my friends 🙂