More on Entrepreneurship/Creators
5 months ago
Trends from the Winter 2022 Demo Day at Y Combinators
Y Combinators Winter 2022 Demo Day continues the trend of more startups engaging in accelerator Demo Days. Our team evaluated almost 400 projects in Y Combinator's ninth year.
After Winter 2021 Demo Day, we noticed a hurry pushing shorter rounds, inflated valuations, and larger batches.
Despite the batch size, this event's behavior showed a return to normalcy. Our observations show that investors evaluate and fund businesses more carefully. Unlike previous years, more YC businesses gave investors with data rooms and thorough pitch decks in addition to valuation data before Demo Day.
Demo Day pitches were virtual and fast-paced, limiting unplanned meetings. Investors had more time and information to do their due research before meeting founders. Our staff has more time to study diverse areas and engage with interesting entrepreneurs and founders.
This was one of the most regionally diversified YC cohorts to date. This year's Winter Demo Day startups showed some interesting tendencies.
Trends and Industries to Watch Before Demo Day
Demo day events at any accelerator show how investment competition is influencing startups. As startups swiftly become scale-ups and big success stories in fintech, e-commerce, healthcare, and other competitive industries, entrepreneurs and early-stage investors feel pressure to scale quickly and turn a notion into actual innovation.
Too much eagerness can lead founders to focus on market growth and team experience instead of solid concepts, technical expertise, and market validation. Last year, YC Winter Demo Day funding cycles ended too quickly and valuations were unrealistically high.
Scrum Ventures observed a longer funding cycle this year compared to last year's Demo Day. While that seems promising, many factors could be contributing to change, including:
Market patterns are changing and the economy is becoming worse.
the industries that investors are thinking about.
Individual differences between each event batch and the particular businesses and entrepreneurs taking part
The Winter 2022 Batch's Trends
Each year, we also wish to examine trends among early-stage firms and YC event participants. More international startups than ever were anticipated to present at Demo Day.
Less than 50% of demo day startups were from the U.S. For the S21 batch, firms from outside the US were most likely in Latin America or Europe, however this year's batch saw a large surge in startups situated in Asia and Africa.
YC Startup Directory
163 out of 399 startups were B2B software and services companies. Financial, healthcare, and consumer startups were common.
Our team doesn't plan to attend every pitch or speak with every startup's founders or team members. Let's look at cleantech, Web3, and health and wellness startup trends.
Our Opinions Following Conversations with 87 Startups at Demo Day
In the lead-up to Demo Day, we spoke with 87 of the 125 startups going. Compared to B2C enterprises, B2B startups had higher average valuations. A few outliers with high valuations pushed B2B and B2C means above the YC-wide mean and median.
Many of these startups develop business and technology solutions we've previously covered. We've seen API, EdTech, creative platforms, and cybersecurity remain strong and increase each year.
While these persistent tendencies influenced the startups Scrum Ventures looked at and the founders we interacted with on Demo Day, new trends required more research and preparation. Let's examine cleantech, Web3, and health and wellness startups.
Hardware and software that is green
Cleantech enterprises demand varying amounts of funding for hardware and software. Although the same overarching trend is fueling the growth of firms in this category, each subgroup has its own strategy and technique for investigation and identifying successful investments.
Many cleantech startups we spoke to during the YC event are focused on helping industrial operations decrease or recycle carbon emissions.
Carbon Crusher: Creating carbon negative roads
Phase Biolabs: Turning carbon emissions into carbon negative products and carbon neutral e-fuels
Seabound: Capturing carbon dioxide emissions from ships
Fleetzero: Creating electric cargo ships
Impossible Mining: Sustainable seabed mining
Beyond Aero: Creating zero-emission private aircraft
Verdn: Helping businesses automatically embed environmental pledges for product and service offerings, boost customer engagement
AeonCharge: Allowing electric vehicle (EV) drivers to more easily locate and pay for EV charging stations
Phoenix Hydrogen: Offering a hydrogen marketplace and a connected hydrogen hub platform to connect supply and demand for hydrogen fuel and simplify hub planning and partner program expansion
Aklimate: Allowing businesses to measure and reduce their supply chain’s environmental impact
Pina Earth: Certifying and tracking the progress of businesses’ forestry projects
AirMyne: Developing machines that can reverse emissions by removing carbon dioxide from the air
Unravel Carbon: Software for enterprises to track and reduce their carbon emissions
Web3: NFTs, the metaverse, and cryptocurrency
Web3 technologies handle a wide range of business issues. This category includes companies employing blockchain technology to disrupt entertainment, finance, cybersecurity, and software development.
Many of these startups overlap with YC's FinTech trend. Despite this, B2C and B2B enterprises were evenly represented in Web3. We examined:
Stablegains: Offering consistent interest on cash balance from the decentralized finance (DeFi) market
LiquiFi: Simplifying token management with automated vesting contracts, tax reporting, and scheduling. For companies, investors, and finance & accounting
NFTScoring: An NFT trading platform
CypherD Wallet: A multichain wallet for crypto and NFTs with a non-custodial crypto debit card that instantly converts coins to USD
Remi Labs: Allowing businesses to more easily create NFT collections that serve as access to products, memberships, events, and more
Cashmere: A crypto wallet for Web3 startups to collaboratively manage funds
Chaingrep: An API that makes blockchain data human-readable and tokens searchable
Courtyard: A platform for securely storing physical assets and creating 3D representations as NFTs
Arda: “Banking as a Service for DeFi,” an API that FinTech companies can use to embed DeFi products into their platforms
earnJARVIS: A premium cryptocurrency management platform, allowing users to create long-term portfolios
Mysterious: Creating community-specific experiences for Web3 Discords
Winter: An embeddable widget that allows businesses to sell NFTs to users purchasing with a credit card or bank transaction
SimpleHash: An API for NFT data that provides compatibility across blockchains, standardized metadata, accurate transaction info, and simple integration
Lifecast: Tools that address motion sickness issues for 3D VR video
Gym Class: Virtual reality (VR) multiplayer basketball video game
WorldQL: An asset API that allows NFT creators to specify multiple in-game interpretations of their assets, increasing their value
Bonsai Desk: A software development kit (SDK) for 3D analytics
Campfire: Supporting virtual social experiences for remote teams
Unai: A virtual headset and Visual World experience
Vimmerse: Allowing creators to more easily create immersive 3D experiences
Fitness and health
Scrum Ventures encountered fewer health and wellness startup founders than Web3 and Cleantech. The types of challenges these organizations solve are still diverse. Several of these companies are part of a push toward customization in healthcare, an area of biotech set for growth for companies with strong portfolios and experienced leadership.
Here are several startups we considered:
Syrona Health: Personalized healthcare for women in the workplace
Anja Health: Personalized umbilical cord blood banking and stem cell preservation
Alfie: A weight loss program focused on men’s health that coordinates medical care, coaching, and “community-based competition” to help users lose an average of 15% body weight
Ankr Health: An artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled telehealth platform that provides personalized side effect education for cancer patients and data collection for their care teams
Koko — A personalized sleep program to improve at-home sleep analysis and training
Condition-specific telehealth platforms and programs:
Reviving Mind: Chronic care management covered by insurance and supporting holistic, community-oriented health care
Equipt Health: At-home delivery of prescription medical equipment to help manage chronic conditions like obstructive sleep apnea
LunaJoy: Holistic women’s healthcare management for mental health therapy, counseling, and medication
12 Startups from YC's Winter 2022 Demo Day to Watch
Bobidi: 10x faster AI model improvement
Artificial intelligence (AI) models have become a significant tool for firms to improve how well and rapidly they process data. Bobidi helps AI-reliant firms evaluate their models, boosting data insights in less time and reducing data analysis expenditures. The business has created a gamified community that offers a bug bounty for AI, incentivizing community members to test and find weaknesses in clients' AI models.
Magna: DeFi investment management and token vesting
Magna delivers rapid, secure token vesting so consumers may turn DeFi investments into primitives. Carta for Web3 allows enterprises to effortlessly distribute tokens to staff or investors. The Magna team hopes to allow corporations use locked tokens as collateral for loans, facilitate secondary liquidity so investors can sell shares on a public exchange, and power additional DeFi applications.
Perl Street: Funding for infrastructure
This Fintech firm intends to help hardware entrepreneurs get financing by [democratizing] structured finance, unleashing billions for sustainable infrastructure and next-generation hardware solutions. This network has helped hardware entrepreneurs achieve more than $140 million in finance, helping companies working on energy storage devices, EVs, and creating power infrastructure.
CypherD: Multichain cryptocurrency wallet
CypherD seeks to provide a multichain crypto wallet so general customers can explore Web3 products without knowledge hurdles. The startup's beta app lets consumers access crypto from EVM blockchains. The founders have crypto, financial, and startup experience.
Unravel Carbon: Enterprise carbon tracking and offsetting
Unravel Carbon's AI-powered decarbonization technology tracks companies' carbon emissions. Singapore-based startup focuses on Asia. The software can use any company's financial data to trace the supply chain and calculate carbon tracking, which is used to make regulatory disclosures and suggest carbon offsets.
LunaJoy: Precision mental health for women
LunaJoy helped women obtain mental health support throughout life. The platform combines data science to create a tailored experience, allowing women to access psychotherapy, medication management, genetic testing, and health coaching.
Posh: Automated EV battery recycling
Posh attempts to solve one of the EV industry's largest logistical difficulties. Millions of EV batteries will need to be decommissioned in the next decade, and their precious metals and residual capacity will go unused for some time. Posh offers automated, scalable lithium battery disassembly, making EV battery recycling more viable.
Unai: VR headset with 5x higher resolution
Unai stands apart from metaverse companies. Its VR headgear has five times the resolution of existing options and emphasizes human expression and interaction in a remote world. Maxim Perumal's method of latency reduction powers current VR headsets.
Palitronica: Physical infrastructure cybersecurity
Palitronica blends cutting-edge hardware and software to produce networked electronic systems that support crucial physical and supply chain infrastructure. The startup's objective is to build solutions that defend national security and key infrastructure from cybersecurity threats.
Reality Defender: Deepfake detection
Reality Defender alerts firms to bogus users and changed audio, video, and image files. Reality Deference's API and web app score material in real time to prevent fraud, improve content moderation, and detect deception.
Micro Meat: Infrastructure for the manufacture of cell-cultured meat
MicroMeat promotes sustainable meat production. The company has created technologies to scale up bioreactor-grown meat muscle tissue from animal cells. Their goal is to scale up cultured meat manufacturing so cultivated meat products can be brought to market feasibly and swiftly, boosting worldwide meat consumption.
Fleetzero: Electric cargo ships
This startup's battery technology will make cargo ships more sustainable and profitable. Fleetzero's electric cargo ships have five times larger profit margins than fossil fuel ships. Fleetzeros' founder has marine engineering, ship operations, and enterprise sales and business experience.
8 months ago
Ads Coming to Medium?
Could this happen?
Medium isn't like other social media giants. It wasn't a dot-com startup that became a multi-trillion-dollar social media firm. It launched in 2012 but didn't gain popularity until later. Now, it's one of the largest sites by web traffic, but it's still little compared to most. Most of Medium's traffic is external, but they don't run advertisements, so it's all about memberships.
Medium isn't profitable, but they don't disclose how terrible the problem is. Most of the $163 million they raised has been spent or used for acquisitions. If the money turns off, Medium can't stop paying its writers since the site dies. Writers must be paid, but they can't substantially slash payment without hurting the platform. The existing model needs scale to be viable and has a low ceiling. Facebook and other free social media platforms are struggling to retain users. Here, you must pay to appreciate it, and it's bad for writers AND readers. If I had the same Medium stats on YouTube, I'd make thousands of dollars a month.
Then what? Medium has tried to monetize by offering writers a cut of new members, but that's unsustainable. People-based growth is limited. Imagine recruiting non-Facebook users and getting them to pay to join. Some may, but I'd rather write.
Tiered subscriptions ($5, $10, $25, etc.)
and these may be short-term fixes, but they're not as profitable as allowing ads. Advertisements can pay several dollars per click and cents every view. If you get 40,000 views a month like me, that's several thousand instead of a few hundred. Also, Medium would have enough money to split ad revenue with writers, who would make more. I'm among the top 6% of Medium writers. Only 6% of Medium writers make more than $100, and I made $500 with 35,000 views last month. Compared to YouTube, the top 1% of Medium authors make a lot. Mr. Beast and PewDiePie make MILLIONS a month, yet top Medium writers make tens of thousands. Sure, paying 3 or 4 people a few grand, or perhaps tens of thousands, will keep them around. What if great authors leveraged their following to go huge on YouTube and abandoned Medium? If people use Medium to get successful on other platforms, Medium will be continuously cycling through authors and paying them to stay.
Ads might make writing on Medium more profitable than making videos on YouTube because they could preserve the present freemium model and pay users based on internal views. The $5 might be ad-free.
Consider: Would you accept Medium ads? A $5 ad-free version + pay-as-you-go, etc. What are your thoughts on this?
Original post available here
5 months ago
My 3 biggest errors as a co-founder and CEO
Reflections on the closed company Hola! Dating app
I'll discuss my fuckups as an entrepreneur and CEO. All of them refer to the dating app Hola!, which I co-founded and starred in.
Spring 2021 was when we started. Two techies and two non-techies created a dating app. Pokemon Go and Tinder were combined.
Online dating is a business, and it takes two weeks from a like to a date. We questioned online dating app users if they met anyone offline last year.
75% replied yes, 50% sometimes, 25% usually.
Offline dating is popular, yet people have concerns.
Men are reluctant to make mistakes in front of others.
Women are curious about the background of everyone who approaches them.
We designed unique mechanics that let people date after a match. No endless chitchat. Women would be safe while men felt like cowboys.
I wish to emphasize three faults that lead to founders' estrangement.
This detachment ultimately led to us shutting down the company.
The wrong technology stack
Instead of generating a faster MVP and designing an app in a universal stack for iOS and Android, I argued we should pilot the app separately for iOS and Android. Technical founders' expertise made this possible.
Mistaken strategy. We lost time and resources developing two apps at once. We chose iOS since it's more profitable. Apple took us out after the release, citing Guideline 4.3 Spam. After 4 months, we had nothing. We had a long way to go to get the app on Android and the Store.
I suggested creating a uniform platform for the company's growth. This makes parallel product development easier. The strategist's lack of experience and knowledge made it a piece of crap.
What would I have changed if I could?
We should have designed an Android universal stack. I expected Apple to have issues with a dating app.
Our approach should have been to launch something and subsequently improve it, but prejudice won.
Discuss the IT stack with your CTO. It saves time and money. Choose the easiest MVP method.
2. A tardy search for investments
Though the universe and other founders encouraged me to locate investors first, I started pitching when we almost had an app.
When angels arrived, it was time to close. The app was banned, war broke out, I left the country, and the other co-founders stayed. We had no savings.
I loved interviewing users. I'm proud of having done 1,000 interviews. I wanted to understand people's pain points and improve the product.
Interview results no longer affected the product. I was terrified to start pitching. I filled out accelerator applications and redid my presentation. You must go through that so you won't be terrified later.
What would I have changed if I could?
Get an external or internal mentor to help me with my first pitch as soon as possible. I'd be supported if criticized. He'd cheer with me if there was enthusiasm.
In 99% of cases, I'm comfortable jumping into the unknown, but there are exceptions. The mentor's encouragement would have prompted me to act sooner.
Begin fundraising immediately. Months may pass. Show investors your pre-MVP project. Draw inferences from feedback.
3. Role ambiguity
My technical co-founders were also part-time lead developers, which produced communication issues. As co-founders, we communicated well and recognized the problems. Stakes, vesting, target markets, and approach were agreed upon.
We were behind schedule. Technical debt and strategic gap grew.
Bi-daily and weekly reviews didn't help. Each time, there were explanations. Inside, I was freaking out.
I am a fairly easy person to talk to. I always try to stick to agreements; otherwise, my head gets stuffed with unnecessary information, interpretations, and emotions.
Sit down -> talk -> decide -> do -> evaluate the results. Repeat it.
If I don't get detailed comments, I start ruining everyone's mood. If there's a systematic violation of agreements without a good justification, I won't join the project or I'll end the collaboration.
What would I have done otherwise?
This is where it’s scariest to draw conclusions. Probably the most logical thing would have been not to start the project as we started it. But that was already a completely different project. So I would not have done anything differently and would have failed again.
But I drew conclusions for the future.
First-time founders should find an adviser or team coach for a strategic session. It helps split the roles and responsibilities.
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1 month ago
Why Do Websites Have the Same Design?
My kids redesigned the internet because it lacks inventiveness.
Internet today is bland. Everything is generic: fonts, layouts, pages, and visual language. Microtypography is messy.
Web design today seems dictated by technical and ideological constraints rather than creativity and ideas. Text and graphics are in containers on every page. All design is assumed.
Ironically, web technologies can design a lot. We can execute most designs. We make shocking, evocative websites. Experimental typography, generating graphics, and interactive experiences are possible.
Even designer websites use containers in containers. Dribbble and Behance, the two most popular creative websites, are boring. Lead image.
How did this happen?
Several reasons. WordPress and other blogging platforms use templates. These frameworks build web pages by combining graphics, headlines, body content, and videos. Not designs, templates. These rules combine related data types. These platforms don't let users customize pages beyond the template. You filled the template.
Templates are content-neutral. Thus, the issue.
Form should reflect and shape content, which is a design principle. Separating them produces content containers. Templates have no design value.
One of the fundamental principles of design is a deep and meaningful connection between form and content.
Designers may also be lazy. Mobile-first, generic, framework-driven development tends to ignore web page visual and contextual integrity.
How can we overcome this? How might expressive and avant-garde websites look today?
Rediscovering the past helps design the future.
'90s-era web design
At the University of the Arts Bremen's research and development group, I created my first website 23 years ago. Web design was trendy. Young web. Pages inspired me.
We struggled with HTML in the mid-1990s. Arial, Times, and Verdana were the only web-safe fonts. Anything exciting required table layouts, monospaced fonts, or GIFs. HTML was originally content-driven, thus we had to work against it to create a page.
Experimental typography was booming. Designers challenged the established quo from Jan Tschichold's Die Neue Typographie in the twenties to April Greiman's computer-driven layouts in the eighties. By the mid-1990s, an uncommon confluence of technological and cultural breakthroughs enabled radical graphic design. Irma Boom, David Carson, Paula Scher, Neville Brody, and others showed it.
Early web pages were dull compared to graphic design's aesthetic explosion. The Web Design Museum shows this.
Nobody knew how to conduct browser-based graphic design. Web page design was undefined. No standards. No CMS (nearly), CSS, JS, video, animation.
Now is as good a time as any to challenge the internet’s visual conformity.
Our imagination, not technology, restricts web design. We're too conformist to aesthetics, economics, and expectations.
Crisis generates opportunity. Challenge online visual conformity now. I'm too old and bourgeois to develop a radical, experimental, and cutting-edge website. I can ask my students.
I taught web design at the Potsdam Interface Design Programme in 2017. Each team has to redesign a website. Create expressive, inventive visual experiences on the browser. Create with contemporary web technologies. Avoid usability, readability, and flexibility concerns. Act. Ignore Erwartungskonformität.
The class outcome pleased me. This overview page shows all results. Four diverse projects address the challenge.
1. ZKM by Frederic Haase and Jonas Köpfer
Frederic and Jonas began their experiments on the ZKM website. The ZKM is Germany's leading media art exhibition location, but its website remains conventional. It's useful but not avant-garde like the shows' art.
Frederic and Jonas designed the ZKM site's concept, aesthetic language, and technical configuration to reflect the museum's progressive approach. A generative design engine generates new layouts for each page load.
2. Streem by Daria Thies, Bela Kurek, and Lucas Vogel
Street art magazine Streem. It promotes new artists and societal topics. Streem includes artwork, painting, photography, design, writing, and journalism. Daria, Bela, and Lucas used these influences to develop a conceptual metropolis. They designed four neighborhoods to reflect magazine sections for their prototype. For a legible city, they use powerful illustrative styles and spatial typography.
3. Medium by Amelie Kirchmeyer and Fabian Schultz
Amelie and Fabian structured. Instead of developing a form for a tale, they dissolved a web page into semantic, syntactical, and statistical aspects. HTML's flexibility was their goal. They broke Medium posts into experimental typographic space.
4. Hacker News by Fabian Dinklage and Florian Zia
Florian and Fabian made Hacker News interactive. The social networking site aggregates computer science and IT news. Its voting and debate features are extensive despite its simple style. Fabian and Florian transformed the structure into a typographic timeline and network area. News and comments sequence and connect the visuals. To read Hacker News, they connected their design to the API. Hacker News makeover.
Communication is not legibility, said Carson. Apply this to web design today. Modern websites must be legible, usable, responsive, and accessible. They shouldn't limit its visual palette. Visual and human-centered design are not stereotypes.
I want radical, generative, evocative, insightful, adequate, content-specific, and intelligent site design. I want to rediscover web design experimentation. More surprises please. I hope the web will appear different in 23 years.
Update: this essay has sparked a lively discussion! I wrote a brief response to the debate's most common points: Creativity vs. Usability
4 months ago
(The author's opinions should not be used to make investment decisions or as a recommendation to invest.)
The pandemic and social media pseudoscience have made us all epidemiologists, for better or worse. Flattening the curve, social distancing, lockdowns—remember? Some of you may remember R0 (R naught), the number of healthy humans the average COVID-infected person infects. Thankfully, the world has moved on from Greater China's nightmare. Politicians have refocused their talent for misdirection on getting their constituents invested in the war for Russian Reunification or Russian Aggression, depending on your side of the iron curtain.
Humanity battles two fronts. A war against an invisible virus (I know your Commander in Chief might have told you COVID is over, but viruses don't follow election cycles and their economic impacts linger long after the last rapid-test clinic has closed); and an undeclared World War between US/NATO and Eurasia/Russia/China. The fiscal and monetary authorities' current policies aim to mitigate these two conflicts' economic effects.
Since all politicians are short-sighted, they usually print money to solve most problems. Printing money is the easiest and fastest way to solve most problems because it can be done immediately without much discussion. The alternative—long-term restructuring of our global economy—would hurt stakeholders and require an honest discussion about our civilization's state. Both of those requirements are non-starters for our short-sighted political friends, so whether your government practices capitalism, communism, socialism, or fascism, they all turn to printing money-ism to solve all problems.
Free money stimulates demand, so people buy crap. Overbuying shit raises prices. Inflation. Every nation has food, energy, or goods inflation. The once-docile plebes demand action when the latter two subsets of inflation rise rapidly. They will be heard at the polls or in the streets. What would you do to feed your crying hungry child?
Global central banks During the pandemic, the Fed, PBOC, BOJ, ECB, and BOE printed money to aid their governments. They worried about inflation and promised to remove fiat liquidity and tighten monetary conditions.
Imagine Nate Diaz's round-house kick to the face. The financial markets probably felt that way when the US and a few others withdrew fiat wampum. Sovereign debt markets suffered a near-record bond market rout.
The undeclared WW3 is intensifying, with recent gas pipeline attacks. The global economy is already struggling, and credit withdrawal will worsen the situation. The next pandemic, the Yield Curve Control (YCC) virus, is spreading as major central banks backtrack on inflation promises. All central banks eventually fail.
Here's a scorecard.
In order to save its financial system, BOE recently reverted to Quantitative Easing (QE).
BOJ Continuing YCC to save their banking system and enable affordable government borrowing.
ECB printing money to buy weak EU member bonds, but will soon start Quantitative Tightening (QT).
PBOC Restarting the money printer to give banks liquidity to support the falling residential property market.
Fed raising rates and QT-shrinking balance sheet.
80% of the world's biggest central banks are printing money again. Only the Fed has remained steadfast in the face of a financial market bloodbath, determined to end the inflation for which it is at least partially responsible—the culmination of decades of bad economic policies and a world war.
YCC printing is the worst for fiat currency and society. Because it necessitates central banks fixing a multi-trillion-dollar bond market. YCC central banks promise to infinitely expand their balance sheets to keep a certain interest rate metric below an unnatural ceiling. The market always wins, crushing humanity with inflation.
BOJ's YCC policy is longest-standing. The BOE joined them, and my essay this week argues that the ECB will follow. The ECB joining YCC would make 60% of major central banks follow this terrible policy. Since the PBOC is part of the Chinese financial system, the number could be 80%. The Chinese will lend any amount to meet their economic activity goals.
The BOE committed to a 13-week, GBP 65bn bond price-fixing operation. However, BOEs YCC may return. If you lose to the market, you're stuck. Since the BOE has announced that it will buy your Gilt at inflated prices, why would you not sell them all? Market participants taking advantage of this policy will only push the bank further into the hole it dug itself, so I expect the BOE to re-up this program and count them as YCC.
In a few trading days, the BOE went from a bank determined to slay inflation by raising interest rates and QT to buying an unlimited amount of UK Gilts. I expect the ECB to be dragged kicking and screaming into a similar policy. Spoiler alert: big daddy Fed will eventually die from the YCC virus.
Threadneedle St, London EC2R 8AH, UK
Before we discuss the BOE's recent missteps, a chatroom member called the British royal family the Kardashians with Crowns, which made me laugh. I'm sad about royal attention. If the public was as interested in energy and economic policies as they are in how the late Queen treated Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, UK politicians might not have been able to get away with energy and economic fairy tales.
The BOE printed money to recover from COVID, as all good central banks do. For historical context, this chart shows the BOE's total assets as a percentage of GDP since its founding in the 18th century.
The UK has had a rough three centuries. Pandemics, empire wars, civil wars, world wars. Even so, the BOE's recent money printing was its most aggressive ever!
BOE Total Assets as % of GDP (white) vs. UK CPI
Now, inflation responded slowly to the bank's most aggressive monetary loosening. King Charles wishes the gold line above showed his popularity, but it shows his subjects' suffering.
The BOE recognized early that its money printing caused runaway inflation. In its August 2022 report, the bank predicted that inflation would reach 13% by year end before aggressively tapering in 2023 and 2024.
Aug 2022 BOE Monetary Policy Report
The BOE was the first major central bank to reduce its balance sheet and raise its policy rate to help.
The BOE first raised rates in December 2021. Back then, JayPow wasn't even considering raising rates.
UK policymakers, like most developed nations, believe in energy fairy tales. Namely, that the developed world, which grew in lockstep with hydrocarbon use, could switch to wind and solar by 2050. The UK's energy import bill has grown while coal, North Sea oil, and possibly stranded shale oil have been ignored.
WW3 is an economic war that is balkanizing energy markets, which will continue to inflate. A nation that imports energy and has printed the most money in its history cannot avoid inflation.
The chart above shows that energy inflation is a major cause of plebe pain.
The UK is hit by a double whammy: the BOE must remove credit to reduce demand, and energy prices must rise due to WW3 inflation. That's not economic growth.
Boris Johnson was knocked out by his country's poor economic performance, not his lockdown at 10 Downing St. Prime Minister Truss and her merry band of fools arrived with the tried-and-true government remedy: goodies for everyone.
She released a budget full of economic stimulants. She cut corporate and individual taxes for the rich. She plans to give poor people vouchers for higher energy bills. Woohoo! Margret Thatcher's new pants suit.
My buddy Jim Bianco said Truss budget's problem is that it works. It will boost activity at a time when inflation is over 10%. Truss' budget didn't include austerity measures like tax increases or spending cuts, which the bond market wanted. The bond market protested.
30-year Gilt yield chart. Yields spiked the most ever after Truss announced her budget, as shown. The Gilt market is the longest-running bond market in the world.
The Gilt market showed the pole who's boss with Cardi B.
Before this, the BOE was super-committed to fighting inflation. To their credit, they raised short-term rates and shrank their balance sheet. However, rapid yield rises threatened to destroy the entire highly leveraged UK financial system overnight, forcing them to change course.
Accounting gimmicks allowed by regulators for pension funds posed a systemic threat to the UK banking system. UK pension funds could use interest rate market levered derivatives to match liabilities. When rates rise, short rate derivatives require more margin. The pension funds spent all their money trying to pick stonks and whatever else their sell side banker could stuff them with, so the historic rate spike would have bankrupted them overnight. The FT describes BOE-supervised chicanery well.
To avoid a financial apocalypse, the BOE in one morning abandoned all their hard work and started buying unlimited long-dated Gilts to drive prices down.
Another reminder to never fight a central bank. The 30-year Gilt is shown above. After the BOE restarted the money printer on September 28, this bond rose 30%. Thirty-fucking-percent! Developed market sovereign bonds rarely move daily. You're invested in His Majesty's government obligations, not a Chinese property developer's offshore USD bond.
The political need to give people goodies to help them fight the terrible economy ran into a financial reality. The central bank protected the UK financial system from asset-price deflation because, like all modern economies, it is debt-based and highly levered. As bad as it is, inflation is not their top priority. The BOE example demonstrated that. To save the financial system, they abandoned almost a year of prudent monetary policy in a few hours. They also started the endgame.
Let's play Central Bankers Say the Darndest Things before we go to the continent (and sorry if you live on a continent other than Europe, but you're not culturally relevant).
Pre-meltdown BOE output:
FT, October 17, 2021 On Sunday, the Bank of England governor warned that it must act to curb inflationary pressure, ignoring financial market moves that have priced in the first interest rate increase before the end of the year.
On July 19, 2022, Gov. Andrew Bailey spoke. Our 2% inflation target is unwavering. We'll do our job.
August 4th 2022 MPC monetary policy announcement According to its mandate, the MPC will sustainably return inflation to 2% in the medium term.
Catherine Mann, MPC member, September 5, 2022 speech. Fast and forceful monetary tightening, possibly followed by a hold or reversal, is better than gradualism because it promotes inflation expectations' role in bringing inflation back to 2% over the medium term.
When their financial system nearly collapsed in one trading session, they said:
The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee warned on 28 September that gilt market dysfunction threatened UK financial stability. It advised action and supported the Bank's urgent gilt market purchases for financial stability.
It works when the price goes up but not down. Is my crypto portfolio dysfunctional enough to get a BOE bailout?
Next, the EU and ECB. The ECB is also fighting inflation, but it will also succumb to the YCC virus for the same reasons as the BOE.
Frankfurt am Main, ECB Tower, Sonnemannstraße 20, 60314
Only France and Germany matter economically in the EU. Modern European history has focused on keeping Germany and Russia apart. German manufacturing and cheap Russian goods could change geopolitics.
France created the EU to keep Germany down, and the Germans only cooperated because of WWII guilt. France's interests are shared by the US, which lurks in the shadows to prevent a Germany-Russia alliance. A weak EU benefits US politics. Avoid unification of Eurasia. (I paraphrased daddy Felix because I thought quoting a large part of his most recent missive would get me spanked.)
As with everything, understanding Germany's energy policy is the best way to understand why the German economy is fundamentally fucked and why that spells doom for the EU. Germany, the EU's main economic engine, is being crippled by high energy prices, threatening a depression. This economic downturn threatens the union. The ECB may have to abandon plans to shrink its balance sheet and switch to YCC to save the EU's unholy political union.
France did the smart thing and went all in on nuclear energy, which is rare in geopolitics. 70% of electricity is nuclear-powered. Their manufacturing base can survive Russian gas cuts. Germany cannot.
My boy Zoltan made this great graphic showing how screwed Germany is as cheap Russian gas leaves the industrial economy.
$27 billion of Russian gas powers almost $2 trillion of German economic output, a 75x energy leverage. The German public was duped into believing the same energy fairy tales as their politicians, and they overwhelmingly allowed the Green party to dismantle any efforts to build a nuclear energy ecosystem over the past several decades. Germany, unlike France, must import expensive American and Qatari LNG via supertankers due to Nordstream I and II pipeline sabotage.
American gas exports to Europe are touted by the media. Gas is cheap because America isn't the Western world's swing producer. If gas prices rise domestically in America, the plebes would demand the end of imports to avoid paying more to heat their homes.
German goods would cost much more in this scenario. German producer prices rose 46% YoY in August. The German current account is rapidly approaching zero and will soon be negative.
German PPI Change YoY
German Current Account
The reason this matters is a curious construction called TARGET2. Let’s hear from the horse’s mouth what exactly this beat is:
TARGET2 is the real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system owned and operated by the Eurosystem. Central banks and commercial banks can submit payment orders in euro to TARGET2, where they are processed and settled in central bank money, i.e. money held in an account with a central bank.
Let me explain this in plain English for those unfamiliar with economic dogma.
This chart shows intra-EU credits and debits. TARGET2. Germany, Europe's powerhouse, is owed money. IOU-buying Greeks buy G-wagons. The G-wagon pickup truck is badass.
If all EU countries had fiat currencies, the Deutsche Mark would be stronger than the Italian Lira, according to the chart above. If Europe had to buy goods from non-EU countries, the Euro would be much weaker. Credits and debits between smaller political units smooth out imbalances in other federal-provincial-state political systems. Financial and fiscal unions allow this. The EU is financial, so the centre cannot force the periphery to settle their imbalances.
Greece has never had to buy Fords or Kias instead of BMWs, but what if Germany had to shut down its auto manufacturing plants due to energy shortages?
Italians have done well buying ammonia from Germany rather than China, but what if BASF had to close its Ludwigshafen facility due to a lack of affordable natural gas?
I think you're seeing the issue.
Instead of Germany, EU countries would owe foreign producers like America, China, South Korea, Japan, etc. Since these countries aren't tied into an uneconomic union for politics, they'll demand hard fiat currency like USD instead of Euros, which have become toilet paper (or toilet plastic).
Keynesian economists have a simple solution for politicians who can't afford market prices. Government debt can maintain production. The debt covers the difference between what a business can afford and the international energy market price.
Germans are monetary policy conservative because of the Weimar Republic's hyperinflation. The Bundesbank is the only thing preventing ECB profligacy. Germany must print its way out without cheap energy. Like other nations, they will issue more bonds for fiscal transfers.
More Bunds mean lower prices. Without German monetary discipline, the Euro would have become a trash currency like any other emerging market that imports energy and food and has uncompetitive labor.
Bunds price all EU country bonds. The ECB's money printing is designed to keep the spread of weak EU member bonds vs. Bunds low. Everyone falls with Bunds.
Like the UK, German politicians seeking re-election will likely cause a Bunds selloff. Bond investors will understandably reject their promises of goodies for industry and individuals to offset the lack of cheap Russian gas. Long-dated Bunds will be smoked like UK Gilts. The ECB will face a wave of ultra-levered financial players who will go bankrupt if they mark to market their fixed income derivatives books at higher Bund yields.
Some treats People: Germany will spend 200B to help consumers and businesses cope with energy prices, including promoting renewable energy.
That, ladies and germs, is why the ECB will immediately abandon QT, move to a stop-gap QE program to normalize the Bund and every other EU bond market, and eventually graduate to YCC as the market vomits bonds of all stripes into Christine Lagarde's loving hands. She probably has soft hands.
The 30-year Bund market has noticed Germany's economic collapse. 2021 yields skyrocketed.
30-year Bund Yield
ECB Says the Darndest Things:
Because inflation is too high and likely to stay above our target for a long time, we took today's decision and expect to raise interest rates further.- Christine Lagarde, ECB Press Conference, Sept 8.
The Governing Council will adjust all of its instruments to stabilize inflation at 2% over the medium term. July 21 ECB Monetary Decision
Everyone struggles with high inflation. The Governing Council will ensure medium-term inflation returns to two percent. June 9th ECB Press Conference
I'm excited to read the after. Like the BOE, the ECB may abandon their plans to shrink their balance sheet and resume QE due to debt market dysfunction.
I like YCC like dark chocolate over 80%. ;).
Can 80% of the world's major central banks' QE and/or YCC overcome Sir Powell's toughness on fungible risky asset prices?
Gold and crypto are fungible global risky assets. Satoshis and gold bars are the same in New York, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Shanghai.
As more Euros, Yen, Renminbi, and Pounds are printed, people will move their savings into Dollars or other stores of value. As the Fed raises rates and reduces its balance sheet, the USD will strengthen. Gold/EUR and BTC/JPY may also attract buyers.
Gold and crypto markets are much smaller than the trillions in fiat money that will be printed, so they will appreciate in non-USD currencies. These flows only matter in one instance because we trade the global or USD price. Arbitrage occurs when BTC/EUR rises faster than EUR/USD. Here is how it works:
An investor based in the USD notices that BTC is expensive in EUR terms.
Instead of buying BTC, this investor borrows USD and then sells it.
After that, they sell BTC and buy EUR.
Then they choose to sell EUR and buy USD.
The investor receives their profit after repaying the USD loan.
This triangular FX arbitrage will align the global/USD BTC price with the elevated EUR, JPY, CNY, and GBP prices.
Even if the Fed continues QT, which I doubt they can do past early 2023, small stores of value like gold and Bitcoin may rise as non-Fed central banks get serious about printing money.
“Arthur, this is just more copium,” you might retort.
Patience. This takes time. Economic and political forcing functions take time. The BOE example shows that bond markets will reject politicians' policies to appease voters. Decades of bad energy policy have no immediate fix. Money printing is the only politically viable option. Bond yields will rise as bond markets see more stimulative budgets, and the over-leveraged fiat debt-based financial system will collapse quickly, followed by a monetary bailout.
America has enough food, fuel, and people. China, Europe, Japan, and the UK suffer. America can be autonomous. Thus, the Fed can prioritize domestic political inflation concerns over supplying the world (and most of its allies) with dollars. A steady flow of dollars allows other nations to print their currencies and buy energy in USD. If the strongest player wins, everyone else loses.
I'm making a GDP-weighted index of these five central banks' money printing. When ready, I'll share its rate of change. This will show when the 80%'s money printing exceeds the Fed's tightening.
2 months ago
Small Pieces of Code That Revolutionized the World
Few sentences can have global significance.
Ethan Zuckerman invented the pop-up commercial in 1997.
He was working for Tripod.com, an online service that let people make little web pages for free. Tripod offered advertising to make money. Advertisers didn't enjoy seeing their advertising next to filthy content, like a user's anal sex website.
Zuckerman's boss wanted a solution. Wasn't there a way to move the ads away from user-generated content?
When you visited a Tripod page, a pop-up ad page appeared. So, the ad isn't officially tied to any user page. It'd float onscreen.
window.open('http://tripod.com/navbar.html' "width=200, height=400, toolbar=no, scrollbars=no, resizable=no, target=_top");
Simple yet harmful! Soon, commercial websites mimicked Zuckerman's concept, infesting the Internet with pop-up advertising. In the early 2000s, a coder for a download site told me that most of their revenue came from porn pop-up ads.
Pop-up advertising are everywhere. You despise them. Hopefully, your browser blocks them.
Zuckerman wrote a single line of code that made the world worse.
I read Zuckerman's story in How 26 Lines of Code Changed the World. Torie Bosch compiled a humorous anthology of short writings about code that tipped the world.
Most of these samples are quite short. Pop-cultural preconceptions about coding say that important code is vast and expansive. Hollywood depicts programmers as blurs spouting out Niagaras of code. Google's success was formerly attributed to its 2 billion lines of code.
It's usually not true. Google's original breakthrough, the piece of code that propelled Google above its search-engine counterparts, was its PageRank algorithm, which determined a web page's value based on how many other pages connected to it and the quality of those connecting pages. People have written their own Python versions; it's only a few dozen lines.
Google's operations, like any large tech company's, comprise thousands of procedures. So their code base grows. The most impactful code can be brief.
The examples are fascinating and wide-ranging, so read the whole book (or give it to nerds as a present). Charlton McIlwain wrote a chapter on the police beat algorithm developed in the late 1960s to anticipate crime hotspots so law enforcement could dispatch more officers there. It created a racial feedback loop. Since poor Black neighborhoods were already overpoliced compared to white ones, the algorithm directed more policing there, resulting in more arrests, which convinced it to send more police; rinse and repeat.
Kelly Chudler's You Are Not Expected To Understand This depicts the police-beat algorithm.
Even shorter code changed the world: the tracking pixel.
Lily Hay Newman's chapter on monitoring pixels says you probably interact with this code every day. It's a snippet of HTML that embeds a single tiny pixel in an email. Getting an email with a tracking code spies on me. As follows: My browser requests the single-pixel image as soon as I open the mail. My email sender checks to see if Clives browser has requested that pixel. My email sender can tell when I open it.
Adding a tracking pixel to an email is easy:
<img src="URL LINKING TO THE PIXEL ONLINE" width="0" height="0">
An older example: Ellen R. Stofan and Nick Partridge wrote a chapter on Apollo 11's lunar module bailout code. This bailout code operated on the lunar module's tiny on-board computer and was designed to prioritize: If the computer grew overloaded, it would discard all but the most vital work.
When the lunar module approached the moon, the computer became overloaded. The bailout code shut down anything non-essential to landing the module. It shut down certain lunar module display systems, scaring the astronauts. Module landed safely.
POODOO INHINT CA Q TS ALMCADR TC BANKCALL CADR VAC5STOR # STORE ERASABLES FOR DEBUGGING PURPOSES. INDEX ALMCADR CAF 0 ABORT2 TC BORTENT OCT77770 OCT 77770 # DONT MOVE CA V37FLBIT # IS AVERAGE G ON MASK FLAGWRD7 CCS A TC WHIMPER -1 # YES. DONT DO POODOO. DO BAILOUT. TC DOWNFLAG ADRES STATEFLG TC DOWNFLAG ADRES REINTFLG TC DOWNFLAG ADRES NODOFLAG TC BANKCALL CADR MR.KLEAN TC WHIMPER
This fun book is worth reading.
I'm a contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Wired, and Mother Jones. I've also written Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World and Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds. Twitter and Instagram: @pomeranian99; Mastodon: @email@example.com.