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Onchain Wizard

Onchain Wizard

1 year ago

Three Arrows Capital  & Celsius Updates

More on Web3 & Crypto

David Z. Morris

1 year ago

FTX's crash was no accident, it was a crime

Sam Bankman Fried (SDBF) is a legendary con man. But the NYT might not tell you that...

Since SBF's empire was revealed to be a lie, mainstream news organizations and commentators have failed to give readers a straightforward assessment. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have uncovered many key facts about the scandal, but they have also soft-peddled Bankman-Fried's intent and culpability.

It's clear that the FTX crypto exchange and Alameda Research committed fraud to steal money from users and investors. That’s why a recent New York Times interview was widely derided for seeming to frame FTX’s collapse as the result of mismanagement rather than malfeasance. A Wall Street Journal article lamented FTX's loss of charitable donations, bolstering Bankman's philanthropic pose. Matthew Yglesias, court chronicler of the neoliberal status quo, seemed to whitewash his own entanglements by crediting SBF's money with helping Democrats in 2020 – sidestepping the likelihood that the money was embezzled.

Many outlets have called what happened to FTX a "bank run" or a "run on deposits," but Bankman-Fried insists the company was overleveraged and disorganized. Both attempts to frame the fallout obscure the core issue: customer funds misused.

Because banks lend customer funds to generate returns, they can experience "bank runs." If everyone withdraws at once, they can experience a short-term cash crunch but there won't be a long-term problem.

Crypto exchanges like FTX aren't banks. They don't do bank-style lending, so a withdrawal surge shouldn't strain liquidity. FTX promised customers it wouldn't lend or use their crypto.

Alameda's balance sheet blurs SBF's crypto empire.

The funds were sent to Alameda Research, where they were apparently gambled away. This is massive theft. According to a bankruptcy document, up to 1 million customers could be affected.

In less than a month, reporting and the bankruptcy process have uncovered a laundry list of decisions and practices that would constitute financial fraud if FTX had been a U.S.-regulated entity, even without crypto-specific rules. These ploys may be litigated in U.S. courts if they enabled the theft of American property.

The list is very, very long.

The many crimes of Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX

At the heart of SBF's fraud are the deep and (literally) intimate ties between FTX and Alameda Research, a hedge fund he co-founded. An exchange makes money from transaction fees on user assets, but Alameda trades and invests its own funds.

Bankman-Fried called FTX and Alameda "wholly separate" and resigned as Alameda's CEO in 2019. The two operations were closely linked. Bankman-Fried and Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison were romantically linked.

These circumstances enabled SBF's sin.  Within days of FTX's first signs of weakness, it was clear the exchange was funneling customer assets to Alameda for trading, lending, and investing. Reuters reported on Nov. 12 that FTX sent $10 billion to Alameda. As much as $2 billion was believed to have disappeared after being sent to Alameda. Now the losses look worse.

It's unclear why those funds were sent to Alameda or when Bankman-Fried betrayed his depositors. On-chain analysis shows most FTX to Alameda transfers occurred in late 2021, and bankruptcy filings show both lost $3.7 billion in 2021.

SBF's companies lost millions before the 2022 crypto bear market. They may have stolen funds before Terra and Three Arrows Capital, which killed many leveraged crypto players.

FTT loans and prints

CoinDesk's report on Alameda's FTT holdings ignited FTX and Alameda Research. FTX created this instrument, but only a small portion was traded publicly; FTX and Alameda held the rest. These holdings were illiquid, meaning they couldn't be sold at market price. Bankman-Fried valued its stock at the fictitious price.

FTT tokens were reportedly used as collateral for loans, including FTX loans to Alameda. Close ties between FTX and Alameda made the FTT token harder or more expensive to use as collateral, reducing the risk to customer funds.

This use of an internal asset as collateral for loans between clandestinely related entities is similar to Enron's 1990s accounting fraud. These executives served 12 years in prison.

Alameda's margin liquidation exemption

Alameda Research had a "secret exemption" from FTX's liquidation and margin trading rules, according to legal filings by FTX's new CEO.

FTX, like other crypto platforms and some equity or commodity services, offered "margin" or loans for trades. These loans are usually collateralized, meaning borrowers put up other funds or assets. If a margin trade loses enough money, the exchange will sell the user's collateral to pay off the initial loan.

Keeping asset markets solvent requires liquidating bad margin positions. Exempting Alameda would give it huge advantages while exposing other FTX users to hidden risks. Alameda could have kept losing positions open while closing out competitors. Alameda could lose more on FTX than it could pay back, leaving a hole in customer funds.

The exemption is criminal in multiple ways. FTX was fraudulently marketed overall. Instead of a level playing field, there were many customers.

Above them all, with shotgun poised, was Alameda Research.

Alameda front-running FTX listings

Argus says there's circumstantial evidence that Alameda Research had insider knowledge of FTX's token listing plans. Alameda was able to buy large amounts of tokens before the listing and sell them after the price bump.

If true, these claims would be the most brazenly illegal of Alameda and FTX's alleged shenanigans. Even if the tokens aren't formally classified as securities, insider trading laws may apply.

In a similar case this year, an OpenSea employee was charged with wire fraud for allegedly insider trading. This employee faces 20 years in prison for front-running monkey JPEGs.

Huge loans to executives

Alameda Research reportedly lent FTX executives $4.1 billion, including massive personal loans. Bankman-Fried received $1 billion in personal loans and $2.3 billion for an entity he controlled, Paper Bird. Nishad Singh, director of engineering, was given $543 million, and FTX Digital Markets co-CEO Ryan Salame received $55 million.

FTX has more smoking guns than a Texas shooting range, but this one is the smoking bazooka – a sign of criminal intent. It's unclear how most of the personal loans were used, but liquidators will have to recoup the money.

The loans to Paper Bird were even more worrisome because they created another related third party to shuffle assets. Forbes speculates that some Paper Bird funds went to buy Binance's FTX stake, and Paper Bird committed hundreds of millions to outside investments.

FTX Inner Circle: Who's Who

That included many FTX-backed VC funds. Time will tell if this financial incest was criminal fraud. It fits Bankman-pattern Fried's of using secret flows, leverage, and funny money to inflate asset prices.

FTT or loan 'bailouts'

Also. As the crypto bear market continued in 2022, Bankman-Fried proposed bailouts for bankrupt crypto lenders BlockFi and Voyager Digital. CoinDesk was among those deceived, welcoming SBF as a J.P. Morgan-style sector backstop.

In a now-infamous interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box," Bankman-Fried referred to these decisions as bets that may or may not pay off.

But maybe not. Bloomberg's Matt Levine speculated that FTX backed BlockFi with FTT money. This Monopoly bailout may have been intended to hide FTX and Alameda liabilities that would have been exposed if BlockFi went bankrupt sooner. This ploy has no name, but it echoes other corporate frauds.

Secret bank purchase

Alameda Research invested $11.5 million in the tiny Farmington State Bank, doubling its net worth. As a non-U.S. entity and an investment firm, Alameda should have cleared regulatory hurdles before acquiring a U.S. bank.

In the context of FTX, the bank's stake becomes "ominous." Alameda and FTX could have done more shenanigans with bank control. Compare this to the Bank for Credit and Commerce International's failed attempts to buy U.S. banks. BCCI was even nefarious than FTX and wanted to buy U.S. banks to expand its money-laundering empire.

The mainstream's mistakes

These are complex and nuanced forms of fraud that echo traditional finance models. This obscurity helped Bankman-Fried masquerade as an honest player and likely kept coverage soft after the collapse.

Bankman-Fried had a scruffy, nerdy image, like Mark Zuckerberg and Adam Neumann. In interviews, he spoke nonsense about an industry full of jargon and complicated tech. Strategic donations and insincere ideological statements helped him gain political and social influence.

SBF' s'Effective' Altruism Blew Up FTX

Bankman-Fried has continued to muddy the waters with disingenuous letters, statements, interviews, and tweets since his con collapsed. He's tried to portray himself as a well-intentioned but naive kid who made some mistakes. This is a softer, more pernicious version of what Trump learned from mob lawyer Roy Cohn. Bankman-Fried doesn't "deny, deny, deny" but "confuse, evade, distort."

It's mostly worked. Kevin O'Leary, who plays an investor on "Shark Tank," repeats Bankman-SBF's counterfactuals.  O'Leary called Bankman-Fried a "savant" and "probably one of the most accomplished crypto traders in the world" in a Nov. 27 interview with Business Insider, despite recent data indicating immense trading losses even when times were good.

O'Leary's status as an FTX investor and former paid spokesperson explains his continued affection for Bankman-Fried despite contradictory evidence. He's not the only one promoting Bankman-Fried. The disgraced son of two Stanford law professors will defend himself at Wednesday's DealBook Summit.

SBF's fraud and theft rival those of Bernie Madoff and Jho Low. Whether intentionally or through malign ineptitude, the fraud echoes Worldcom and Enron.

The Perverse Impacts of Anti-Money-Laundering

The principals in all of those scandals wound up either sentenced to prison or on the run from the law. Sam Bankman-Fried clearly deserves to share their fate.

Read the full article here.

Farhan Ali Khan

Farhan Ali Khan

1 year ago

Introduction to Zero-Knowledge Proofs: The Art of Proving Without Revealing

Zero-Knowledge Proofs for Beginners

Published here originally.

Introduction

I Spy—did you play as a kid? One person chose a room object, and the other had to guess it by answering yes or no questions. I Spy was entertaining, but did you know it could teach you cryptography?

Zero Knowledge Proofs let you show your pal you know what they picked without exposing how. Math replaces electronics in this secret spy mission. Zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) are sophisticated cryptographic tools that allow one party to prove they have particular knowledge without revealing it. This proves identification and ownership, secures financial transactions, and more. This article explains zero-knowledge proofs and provides examples to help you comprehend this powerful technology.

What is a Proof of Zero Knowledge?

Zero-knowledge proofs prove a proposition is true without revealing any other information. This lets the prover show the verifier that they know a fact without revealing it. So, a zero-knowledge proof is like a magician's trick: the prover proves they know something without revealing how or what. Complex mathematical procedures create a proof the verifier can verify.

Want to find an easy way to test it out? Try out with tis awesome example! ZK Crush

Describe it as if I'm 5

Alex and Jack found a cave with a center entrance that only opens when someone knows the secret. Alex knows how to open the cave door and wants to show Jack without telling him.

Alex and Jack name both pathways (let’s call them paths A and B).

  1. In the first phase, Alex is already inside the cave and is free to select either path, in this case A or B.

  2. As Alex made his decision, Jack entered the cave and asked him to exit from the B path.

  3. Jack can confirm that Alex really does know the key to open the door because he came out for the B path and used it.

To conclude, Alex and Jack repeat:

  1. Alex walks into the cave.

  2. Alex follows a random route.

  3. Jack walks into the cave.

  4. Alex is asked to follow a random route by Jack.

  5. Alex follows Jack's advice and heads back that way.

What is a Zero Knowledge Proof?

At a high level, the aim is to construct a secure and confidential conversation between the prover and the verifier, where the prover convinces the verifier that they have the requisite information without disclosing it. The prover and verifier exchange messages and calculate in each round of the dialogue.

The prover uses their knowledge to prove they have the information the verifier wants during these rounds. The verifier can verify the prover's truthfulness without learning more by checking the proof's mathematical statement or computation.

Zero knowledge proofs use advanced mathematical procedures and cryptography methods to secure communication. These methods ensure the evidence is authentic while preventing the prover from creating a phony proof or the verifier from extracting unnecessary information.

ZK proofs require examples to grasp. Before the examples, there are some preconditions.

Criteria for Proofs of Zero Knowledge

  1. Completeness: If the proposition being proved is true, then an honest prover will persuade an honest verifier that it is true.

  2. Soundness: If the proposition being proved is untrue, no dishonest prover can persuade a sincere verifier that it is true.

  3. Zero-knowledge: The verifier only realizes that the proposition being proved is true. In other words, the proof only establishes the veracity of the proposition being supported and nothing more.

The zero-knowledge condition is crucial. Zero-knowledge proofs show only the secret's veracity. The verifier shouldn't know the secret's value or other details.

Example after example after example

To illustrate, take a zero-knowledge proof with several examples:

Initial Password Verification Example

You want to confirm you know a password or secret phrase without revealing it.

Use a zero-knowledge proof:

  1. You and the verifier settle on a mathematical conundrum or issue, such as figuring out a big number's components.

  2. The puzzle or problem is then solved using the hidden knowledge that you have learned. You may, for instance, utilize your understanding of the password to determine the components of a particular number.

  3. You provide your answer to the verifier, who can assess its accuracy without knowing anything about your private data.

  4. You go through this process several times with various riddles or issues to persuade the verifier that you actually are aware of the secret knowledge.

You solved the mathematical puzzles or problems, proving to the verifier that you know the hidden information. The proof is zero-knowledge since the verifier only sees puzzle solutions, not the secret information.

In this scenario, the mathematical challenge or problem represents the secret, and solving it proves you know it. The evidence does not expose the secret, and the verifier just learns that you know it.

My simple example meets the zero-knowledge proof conditions:

  1. Completeness: If you actually know the hidden information, you will be able to solve the mathematical puzzles or problems, hence the proof is conclusive.

  2. Soundness: The proof is sound because the verifier can use a publicly known algorithm to confirm that your answer to the mathematical conundrum or difficulty is accurate.

  3. Zero-knowledge: The proof is zero-knowledge because all the verifier learns is that you are aware of the confidential information. Beyond the fact that you are aware of it, the verifier does not learn anything about the secret information itself, such as the password or the factors of the number. As a result, the proof does not provide any new insights into the secret.

Explanation #2: Toss a coin.

One coin is biased to come up heads more often than tails, while the other is fair (i.e., comes up heads and tails with equal probability). You know which coin is which, but you want to show a friend you can tell them apart without telling them.

Use a zero-knowledge proof:

  1. One of the two coins is chosen at random, and you secretly flip it more than once.

  2. You show your pal the following series of coin flips without revealing which coin you actually flipped.

  3. Next, as one of the two coins is flipped in front of you, your friend asks you to tell which one it is.

  4. Then, without revealing which coin is which, you can use your understanding of the secret order of coin flips to determine which coin your friend flipped.

  5. To persuade your friend that you can actually differentiate between the coins, you repeat this process multiple times using various secret coin-flipping sequences.

In this example, the series of coin flips represents the knowledge of biased and fair coins. You can prove you know which coin is which without revealing which is biased or fair by employing a different secret sequence of coin flips for each round.

The evidence is zero-knowledge since your friend does not learn anything about which coin is biased and which is fair other than that you can tell them differently. The proof does not indicate which coin you flipped or how many times you flipped it.

The coin-flipping example meets zero-knowledge proof requirements:

  1. Completeness: If you actually know which coin is biased and which is fair, you should be able to distinguish between them based on the order of coin flips, and your friend should be persuaded that you can.

  2. Soundness: Your friend may confirm that you are correctly recognizing the coins by flipping one of them in front of you and validating your answer, thus the proof is sound in that regard. Because of this, your acquaintance can be sure that you are not just speculating or picking a coin at random.

  3. Zero-knowledge: The argument is that your friend has no idea which coin is biased and which is fair beyond your ability to distinguish between them. Your friend is not made aware of the coin you used to make your decision or the order in which you flipped the coins. Consequently, except from letting you know which coin is biased and which is fair, the proof does not give any additional information about the coins themselves.

Figure out the prime number in Example #3.

You want to prove to a friend that you know their product n=pq without revealing p and q. Zero-knowledge proof?

Use a variant of the RSA algorithm. Method:

  1. You determine a new number s = r2 mod n by computing a random number r.

  2. You email your friend s and a declaration that you are aware of the values of p and q necessary for n to equal pq.

  3. A random number (either 0 or 1) is selected by your friend and sent to you.

  4. You send your friend r as evidence that you are aware of the values of p and q if e=0. You calculate and communicate your friend's s/r if e=1.

  5. Without knowing the values of p and q, your friend can confirm that you know p and q (in the case where e=0) or that s/r is a legitimate square root of s mod n (in the situation where e=1).

This is a zero-knowledge proof since your friend learns nothing about p and q other than their product is n and your ability to verify it without exposing any other information. You can prove that you know p and q by sending r or by computing s/r and sending that instead (if e=1), and your friend can verify that you know p and q or that s/r is a valid square root of s mod n without learning anything else about their values. This meets the conditions of completeness, soundness, and zero-knowledge.

Zero-knowledge proofs satisfy the following:

  1. Completeness: The prover can demonstrate this to the verifier by computing q = n/p and sending both p and q to the verifier. The prover also knows a prime number p and a factorization of n as p*q.

  2. Soundness: Since it is impossible to identify any pair of numbers that correctly factorize n without being aware of its prime factors, the prover is unable to demonstrate knowledge of any p and q that do not do so.

  3. Zero knowledge: The prover only admits that they are aware of a prime number p and its associated factor q, which is already known to the verifier. This is the extent of their knowledge of the prime factors of n. As a result, the prover does not provide any new details regarding n's prime factors.

Types of Proofs of Zero Knowledge

Each zero-knowledge proof has pros and cons. Most zero-knowledge proofs are:

  1. Interactive Zero Knowledge Proofs: The prover and the verifier work together to establish the proof in this sort of zero-knowledge proof. The verifier disputes the prover's assertions after receiving a sequence of messages from the prover. When the evidence has been established, the prover will employ these new problems to generate additional responses.

  2. Non-Interactive Zero Knowledge Proofs: For this kind of zero-knowledge proof, the prover and verifier just need to exchange a single message. Without further interaction between the two parties, the proof is established.

  3. A statistical zero-knowledge proof is one in which the conclusion is reached with a high degree of probability but not with certainty. This indicates that there is a remote possibility that the proof is false, but that this possibility is so remote as to be unimportant.

  4. Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge (SNARKs): SNARKs are an extremely effective and scalable form of zero-knowledge proof. They are utilized in many different applications, such as machine learning, blockchain technology, and more. Similar to other zero-knowledge proof techniques, SNARKs enable one party—the prover—to demonstrate to another—the verifier—that they are aware of a specific piece of information without disclosing any more information about that information.

  5. The main characteristic of SNARKs is their succinctness, which refers to the fact that the size of the proof is substantially smaller than the amount of the original data being proved. Because to its high efficiency and scalability, SNARKs can be used in a wide range of applications, such as machine learning, blockchain technology, and more.

Uses for Zero Knowledge Proofs

ZKP applications include:

  1. Verifying Identity ZKPs can be used to verify your identity without disclosing any personal information. This has uses in access control, digital signatures, and online authentication.

  2. Proof of Ownership ZKPs can be used to demonstrate ownership of a certain asset without divulging any details about the asset itself. This has uses for protecting intellectual property, managing supply chains, and owning digital assets.

  3. Financial Exchanges Without disclosing any details about the transaction itself, ZKPs can be used to validate financial transactions. Cryptocurrency, internet payments, and other digital financial transactions can all use this.

  4. By enabling parties to make calculations on the data without disclosing the data itself, Data Privacy ZKPs can be used to preserve the privacy of sensitive data. Applications for this can be found in the financial, healthcare, and other sectors that handle sensitive data.

  5. By enabling voters to confirm that their vote was counted without disclosing how they voted, elections ZKPs can be used to ensure the integrity of elections. This is applicable to electronic voting, including internet voting.

  6. Cryptography Modern cryptography's ZKPs are a potent instrument that enable secure communication and authentication. This can be used for encrypted messaging and other purposes in the business sector as well as for military and intelligence operations.

Proofs of Zero Knowledge and Compliance

Kubernetes and regulatory compliance use ZKPs in many ways. Examples:

  1. Security for Kubernetes ZKPs offer a mechanism to authenticate nodes without disclosing any sensitive information, enhancing the security of Kubernetes clusters. ZKPs, for instance, can be used to verify, without disclosing the specifics of the program, that the nodes in a Kubernetes cluster are running permitted software.

  2. Compliance Inspection Without disclosing any sensitive information, ZKPs can be used to demonstrate compliance with rules like the GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. ZKPs, for instance, can be used to demonstrate that data has been encrypted and stored securely without divulging the specifics of the mechanism employed for either encryption or storage.

  3. Access Management Without disclosing any private data, ZKPs can be used to offer safe access control to Kubernetes resources. ZKPs can be used, for instance, to demonstrate that a user has the necessary permissions to access a particular Kubernetes resource without disclosing the details of those permissions.

  4. Safe Data Exchange Without disclosing any sensitive information, ZKPs can be used to securely transmit data between Kubernetes clusters or between several businesses. ZKPs, for instance, can be used to demonstrate the sharing of a specific piece of data between two parties without disclosing the details of the data itself.

  5. Kubernetes deployments audited Without disclosing the specifics of the deployment or the data being processed, ZKPs can be used to demonstrate that Kubernetes deployments are working as planned. This can be helpful for auditing purposes and for ensuring that Kubernetes deployments are operating as planned.

ZKPs preserve data and maintain regulatory compliance by letting parties prove things without revealing sensitive information. ZKPs will be used more in Kubernetes as it grows.

CyberPunkMetalHead

CyberPunkMetalHead

1 year ago

It's all about the ego with Terra 2.0.

UST depegs and LUNA crashes 99.999% in a fraction of the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth.

Fat Man, a Terra whistle-blower, promises to expose Do Kwon's dirty secrets and shady deals.

The Terra community has voted to relaunch Terra LUNA on a new blockchain. The Terra 2.0 Pheonix-1 blockchain went live on May 28, 2022, and people were airdropped the new LUNA, now called LUNA, while the old LUNA became LUNA Classic.

Does LUNA deserve another chance? To answer this, or at least start a conversation about the Terra 2.0 chain's advantages and limitations, we must assess its fundamentals, ideology, and long-term vision.

Whatever the result, our analysis must be thorough and ruthless. A failure of this magnitude cannot happen again, so we must magnify every potential breaking point by 10.

Will UST and LUNA holders be compensated in full?

The obvious. First, and arguably most important, is to restore previous UST and LUNA holders' bags.

Terra 2.0 has 1,000,000,000,000 tokens to distribute.

  • 25% of a community pool

  • Holders of pre-attack LUNA: 35%

  • 10% of aUST holders prior to attack

  • Holders of LUNA after an attack: 10%

  • UST holders as of the attack: 20%

Every LUNA and UST holder has been compensated according to the above proposal.

According to self-reported data, the new chain has 210.000.000 tokens and a $1.3bn marketcap. LUNC and UST alone lost $40bn. The new token must fill this gap. Since launch:

LUNA holders collectively own $1b worth of LUNA if we subtract the 25% community pool airdrop from the current market cap and assume airdropped LUNA was never sold.

At the current supply, the chain must grow 40 times to compensate holders. At the current supply, LUNA must reach $240.

LUNA needs a full-on Bull Market to make LUNC and UST holders whole.

Who knows if you'll be whole? From the time you bought to the amount and price, there are too many variables to determine if Terra can cover individual losses.

The above distribution doesn't consider individual cases. Terra didn't solve individual cases. It would have been huge.

What does LUNA offer in terms of value?

UST's marketcap peaked at $18bn, while LUNC's was $41bn. LUNC and UST drove the Terra chain's value.

After it was confirmed (again) that algorithmic stablecoins are bad, Terra 2.0 will no longer support them.

Algorithmic stablecoins contributed greatly to Terra's growth and value proposition. Terra 2.0 has no product without algorithmic stablecoins.

Terra 2.0 has an identity crisis because it has no actual product. It's like Volkswagen faking carbon emission results and then stopping car production.

A project that has already lost the trust of its users and nearly all of its value cannot survive without a clear and in-demand use case.

Do Kwon, how about him?

Oh, the Twitter-caller-poor? Who challenges crypto billionaires to break his LUNA chain? Who dissolved Terra Labs South Korea before depeg? Arrogant guy?

That's not a good image for LUNA, especially when making amends. I think he should step down and let a nicer person be Terra 2.0's frontman.

The verdict

Terra has a terrific community with an arrogant, unlikeable leader. The new LUNA chain must grow 40 times before it can start making up its losses, and even then, not everyone's losses will be covered.

I won't invest in Terra 2.0 or other algorithmic stablecoins in the near future. I won't be near any Do Kwon-related project within 100 miles. My opinion.

Can Terra 2.0 be saved? Comment below.

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Kaitlin Fritz

Kaitlin Fritz

1 year ago

The Entrepreneurial Chicken and Egg

University entrepreneurship is like a Willy Wonka Factory of ideas. Classes, roommates, discussions, and the cafeteria all inspire new ideas. I've seen people establish a business without knowing its roots.

Chicken or egg? On my mind: I've asked university founders around the world whether the problem or solution came first.

The Problem

One African team I met started with the “instant noodles” problem in their academic ecosystem. Many of us have had money issues in college, which may have led to poor nutritional choices.

Many university students in a war-torn country ate quick noodles or pasta for dinner.

Noodles required heat, water, and preparation in the boarding house. Unreliable power from one hot plate per blue moon. What's healthier, easier, and tastier than sodium-filled instant pots?

BOOM. They were fixing that. East African kids need affordable, nutritious food.

This is a real difficulty the founders faced every day with hundreds of comrades.

This sparked their serendipitous entrepreneurial journey and became their business's cornerstone.

The Solution

I asked a UK team about their company idea. They said the solution fascinated them.

The crew was fiddling with social media algorithms. Why are some people more popular? They were studying platforms and social networks, which offered a way for them.

Solving a problem? Yes. Long nights of university research lead them to it. Is this like world hunger? Social media influencers confront this difficulty regularly.

It made me ponder something. Is there a correct response?

In my heart, yes, but in my head…maybe?

I believe you should lead with empathy and embrace the problem, not the solution. Big or small, businesses should solve problems. This should be your focus. This is especially true when building a social company with an audience in mind.

Philosophically, invention and innovation are occasionally accidental. Also not penalized. Think about bugs and the creation of Velcro, or the inception of Teflon. They tackle difficulties we overlook. The route to the problem may look different, but there is a path there.

There's no golden ticket to the Chicken-Egg debate, but I'll keep looking this summer.

Andy Walker

Andy Walker

1 year ago

Why personal ambition and poor leadership caused Google layoffs

Google announced 6% layoffs recently (or 12,000 people). This aligns it with most tech companies. A publicly contrite CEO explained that they had overhired during the COVID-19 pandemic boom and had to address it, but they were sorry and took full responsibility. I thought this was "bullshit" too. Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, and others must feel similarly. I spent 10 years at Google, and these things don't reflect well on the company's leaders.

All publicly listed companies have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their shareholders. Dodge vs. Ford Motor Company established this (1919). Henry Ford wanted to reduce shareholder payments to offer cheaper cars and better wages. Ford stated.

My ambition is to employ still more men, to spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and their homes. To do this we are putting the greatest share of our profits back in the business.

The Dodge brothers, who owned 10% of Ford, opposed this and sued Ford for the payments to start their own company. They won, preventing Ford from raising prices or salaries. If you have a vocal group of shareholders with the resources to sue you, you must prove you are acting in their best interests. Companies prioritize shareholders. Giving activist investors a stick to threaten you almost enshrines short-term profit over long-term thinking.

This underpins Google's current issues. Institutional investors who can sue Google see it as a wasteful company they can exploit. That doesn't mean you have to maximize profits (thanks to those who pointed out my ignorance of US corporate law in the comments and on HN), but it allows pressure. I feel for those navigating this. This is about unrestrained capitalism.

When Google went public, Larry Page and Sergey Brin knew the risks and worked hard to keep control. In their Founders' Letter to investors, they tried to set expectations for the company's operations.

Our long-term focus as a private company has paid off. Public companies do the same. We believe outside pressures lead companies to sacrifice long-term opportunities to meet quarterly market expectations.

The company has transformed since that letter. The company has nearly 200,000 full-time employees and a trillion-dollar market cap. Large investors have bought company stock because it has been a good long-term bet. Why are they restless now?

Other big tech companies emerged and fought for top talent. This has caused rising compensation packages. Google has also grown rapidly (roughly 22,000 people hired to the end of 2022). At $300,000 median compensation, those 22,000 people added $6.6 billion in salary overheads in 2022. Exorbitant. If the company still makes $16 billion every quarter, maybe not. Investors wonder if this value has returned.

Investors are right. Google uses people wastefully. However, by bluntly reducing headcount, they're not addressing the root causes and hurting themselves. No studies show that downsizing this way boosts productivity. There is plenty of evidence that they'll lose out because people will be risk-averse and distrust their leadership.

The company's approach also stinks. Finding out that you no longer have a job because you can’t log in anymore (sometimes in cases where someone is on call for protecting your production systems) is no way to fire anyone. Being with a narcissistic sociopath is like being abused. First, you receive praise and fancy perks for making the cut. You're fired by text and ghosted. You're told to appreciate the generous severance package. This firing will devastate managers and teams. This type of firing will take years to recover self-esteem. Senior management contributed to this. They chose the expedient answer, possibly by convincing themselves they were managing risk and taking the Macbeth approach of “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly”.

Recap. Google's leadership did a stupid thing—mass firing—in a stupid way. How do we get rid of enough people to make investors happier? and "have 6% less people." Empathetic leaders should not emulate Elon Musk. There is no humane way to fire 12,000 people, but there are better ways. Why is Google so wasteful?

Ambition answers this. There aren't enough VP positions for a group of highly motivated, ambitious, and (increasingly) ruthless people. I’ve loitered around the edges of this world and a large part of my value was to insulate my teams from ever having to experience it. It’s like Game of Thrones played out through email and calendar and over video call.

Your company must look a certain way to be promoted to director or higher. You need the right people at the right levels under you. Long-term, growing your people will naturally happen if you're working on important things. This takes time, and you're never more than 6–18 months from a reorg that could start you over. Ambitious people also tend to be impatient. So, what do you do?

Hiring and vanity projects. To shape your company, you hire at the right levels. You value vanity metrics like active users over product utility. Your promo candidates get through by subverting the promotion process. In your quest for growth, you avoid performance managing people out. You avoid confronting toxic peers because you need their support for promotion. Your cargo cult gets you there.

Its ease makes Google wasteful. Since they don't face market forces, the employees don't see it as a business. Why would you do when the ads business is so profitable? Complacency causes senior leaders to prioritize their own interests. Empires collapse. Personal ambition often trumped doing the right thing for users, the business, or employees. Leadership's ambition over business is the root cause. Vanity metrics, mass hiring, and vague promises have promoted people to VP. Google goes above and beyond to protect senior leaders.

The decision-makers and beneficiaries are not the layoffees. Stock price increase beneficiaries. The people who will post on LinkedIn how it is about misjudging the market and how they’re so sorry and take full responsibility. While accumulating wealth, the dark room dwellers decide who stays and who goes. The billionaire investors. Google should start by addressing its bloated senior management, but — as they say — turkeys don't vote for Christmas. It should examine its wastefulness and make tough choices to fix it. A 6% cut is a blunt tool that admits you're not running your business properly. why aren’t the people running the business the ones shortly to be entering the job market?

This won't fix Google's wastefulness. The executives may never regain trust after their approach. Suppressed creativity. Business won't improve. Google will have lost its founding vision and us all. Large investors know they can force Google's CEO to yield. The rich will get richer and rationalize leaving 12,000 people behind. Cycles repeat.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In 2013, Nintendo's CEO said he wouldn't fire anyone for shareholders. Switch debuted in 2017. Nintendo's stock has increased by nearly five times, or 19% a year (including the drop most of the stock market experienced last year). Google wasted 12,000 talented people. To please rich people.

Glorin Santhosh

Glorin Santhosh

1 year ago

Start organizing your ideas by using The Second Brain.

Image by author

Building A Second Brain helps us remember connections, ideas, inspirations, and insights. Using contemporary technologies and networks increases our intelligence.

This approach makes and preserves concepts. It's a straightforward, practical way to construct a second brain—a remote, centralized digital store for your knowledge and its sources.

How to build ‘The Second Brain’

Have you forgotten any brilliant ideas? What insights have you ignored?

We're pressured to read, listen, and watch informative content. Where did the data go? What happened?

Our brains can store few thoughts at once. Our brains aren't idea banks.

Building a Second Brain helps us remember thoughts, connections, and insights. Using digital technologies and networks expands our minds.

Ten Rules for Creating a Second Brain

1. Creative Stealing

Instead of starting from scratch, integrate other people's ideas with your own.

This way, you won't waste hours starting from scratch and can focus on achieving your goals.

Users of Notion can utilize and customize each other's templates.

2. The Habit of Capture

We must record every idea, concept, or piece of information that catches our attention since our minds are fragile.

When reading a book, listening to a podcast, or engaging in any other topic-related activity, save and use anything that resonates with you.

3. Recycle Your Ideas

Reusing our own ideas across projects might be advantageous since it helps us tie new information to what we already know and avoids us from starting a project with no ideas.

4. Projects Outside of Category

Instead of saving an idea in a folder, group it with documents for a project or activity.

If you want to be more productive, gather suggestions.

5. Burns Slowly

Even if you could finish a job, work, or activity if you focused on it, you shouldn't.

You'll get tired and can't advance many projects. It's easier to divide your routine into daily tasks.

Few hours of daily study is more productive and healthier than entire nights.

6. Begin with a surplus

Instead of starting with a blank sheet when tackling a new subject, utilise previous articles and research.

You may have read or saved related material.

7. Intermediate Packets

A bunch of essay facts.

You can utilize it as a document's section or paragraph for different tasks.

Memorize useful information so you can use it later.

8. You only know what you make

We can see, hear, and read about anything.

What matters is what we do with the information, whether that's summarizing it or writing about it.

9. Make it simpler for yourself in the future.

Create documents or files that your future self can easily understand. Use your own words, mind maps, or explanations.

10. Keep your thoughts flowing.

If you don't employ the knowledge in your second brain, it's useless.

Few people exercise despite knowing its benefits.

Conclusion:

  • You may continually move your activities and goals closer to completion by organizing and applying your information in a way that is results-focused.

  • Profit from the information economy's explosive growth by turning your specialized knowledge into cash.

  • Make up original patterns and linkages between topics.

  • You may reduce stress and information overload by appropriately curating and managing your personal information stream.

  • Learn how to apply your significant experience and specific knowledge to a new job, business, or profession.

  • Without having to adhere to tight, time-consuming constraints, accumulate a body of relevant knowledge and concepts over time.

  • Take advantage of all the learning materials that are at your disposal, including podcasts, online courses, webinars, books, and articles.