Hello Interconnected Readers:
Lei Jun, the founder and CEO of Xiaomi, has one of the most viral pieces of startup advice: “if you stand where the wind blows, even a pig can fly.” I have never quite appreciated both how profound and how misleading this advice is until the last few weeks, when I tried to learn surfing for the first time in my life.
[If you’d like to skip ahead to the six news stories and commentaries – three from English language sources, three from Chinese language sources -- here are this issue’s items:
- “Trump administration adds China's Comac, Xiaomi to Chinese military blacklist” (English Source: Reuters)
- “Apple Plans Podcasting Subscription Service in Threat to Spotify” (English Source: The Information)
- “In IPO Pop, Affirm Doubles In Value To $24 Billion” (English Source: Forbes)
- “China-US tech war: after hitting Huawei, why is Xiaomi suffering now?” (Chinese Source: CSDN)
- “Pinduoduo pulls out of Lunar New Year red packet partnership” (Chinese Source: InfoQ)
- “Lu Qi Speech: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Opportunities in a New World Landscape” (Chinese Source: Miracle Plus)]
Any experienced surfer will tell you, surfing is actually 90% swimming on the surfboard, while waiting, searching, and getting yourself prepared for when a wave shows up. As a super beginner surfer, I don’t even know what I’m searching for 90% of the time. Oftentimes, I would see something that looks like a wave, start swimming, and by the time the wave gets to me, it has lost its energy -- I started too early. Other times, I couldn’t tell if what I was looking at was a wave until it rose up like a statue. I start swimming, tumble over, and get swallowed by it -- I started too late. On the rare occasion that I started swimming at about the right moment, caught the wave, and felt that adrenaline rush of the push, my board would usually not line up in the right direction as the wave and I ended up tumbling into the water anyway -- I wasn’t prepared. After these things happen, I would pull myself back on to the board, swim against subsequent waves to get back to where I was before, and start waiting, searching, and preparing again.
Lei Jun was right. Swimming against a wave is exhausting; riding it to success is much better. However, knowing what a wave looks like is anything but obvious. What Lei Jun’s advice glosses over is even when you do see a real wave, getting prepared to ride it -- swimming hard to gain some initial speed, aligning your board in the right direction, pushing yourself to stand up at the right moment, stay balanced and alert -- is arguably harder. I haven’t even mentioned the other surfers -- if there’s a wave, you would never be the only one trying to surf it. Timing and preparedness is everything. Too early? There’s nothing to ride. Not prepared? You will waste the wave. Too late? You get swallowed.
The “too late” scenario is one I didn’t appreciate enough until my surfing adventures. It’s the worst one in my opinion, because being swallowed then trying to get back up is the most difficult and exhausting. If we fully extend the surfing metaphor to startups, I would choose “too early” or “not prepared” over “too late”. “Too early” yields some good lessons, because you saw what a full wave looked like, so you can strengthen your mental model to search for the next one. “Not prepared” means you at least got the wave’s timing right but just didn’t have the skills to ride it well -- skills are easier to hone than timing. “Too late” could very well mean getting swallowed and destroyed.
I think Lei Jun understands all this. His career shows it. Even though he often gets ridiculed for silly things like awkward English and mimicking Steve Jobs’s wardrobe, he was prepared and rode more than one wave successfully. Xiaomi is the example everyone knows, but he was very early in the enterprise software company, Kingsoft, part of which has morphed until Kingsoft Cloud (IPO’ed on the NASDAQ in May 2020), a cloud SaaS company long before cloud SaaS was sexy.
Unlike the gentle waters of Waikiki, real life waves are harsher and can come in the opposite direction. As you will read below, Xiaomi is facing one right now as the newest addition to the Pentagon’s blacklist.
As we all search for the next big wave in life -- in entrepreneurship, investing, relationship -- it’s important to keep learning and stay prepared, not just keep looking for the next wave to ride. To ride even the biggest, most obvious wave, a pig still needs to know how to swim.
Before you read on, please check out last week's deep dive post: "Google, Alibaba, Global Antitrust Standard"
“Trump administration adds China's Comac, Xiaomi to Chinese military blacklist” (English Source: Reuters)
My Thoughts: The “Lame Duck Delisting” that I discussed in-depth just a couple of weeks ago continues to accelerate. Adding Comac, a commercial aircraft manufacturer to the “Communist Chinese military companies” list is not that surprising. Xiaomi’s addition is. It’s difficult to tell if Xiaomi is being added to actually protect US national security or simply to influence the competitive landscape of the smartphone industry to benefit Apple (Xiaomi sold more phones than Apple in Q3 2020, making it the world’s 3rd largest). It would be useful for investors and the market to have a clear definition of what constitutes “military ties''. Lastly, it’s worth remembering that the Pentagon is compiling this blacklist to comply with a 1999 law -- something the agency has never bothered doing until this year.
“Apple Plans Podcasting Subscription Service in Threat to Spotify” (English Source: The Information)
My Thoughts: Not only do I write the Interconnected newsletter and actively invest in startups with global potential, I also make a podcast on the Asian American political experience (the Model Majority Podcast) that now has close to 200 episodes. Thus, as a podcast creator, Apple’s intention to roll out a podcast subscription service caught my attention. Most podcasts are still distributed via RSS, a content description and distribution format that’s one of the few remaining open protocols on the Internet that does not have any corporate influence. Because of this openness, most podcasts are free to listen to and ad-supported. Spotify has aggressively tried to bring podcasts inside its paid subscription product. Apple looks to do the same. This trend eerily resembles the streaming entertainment landscape -- Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, YouTube Red, and more. The total amount of a family’s streaming subscription bill is already piling up, just like cable TV bills in the past. Will people be willing to have bills for podcasts too?
“In IPO Pop, Affirm Doubles In Value To $24 Billion” (English Source: Forbes)
My Thoughts: The first-day IPO pop continues to happen in the US stock market with two last week -- Affirm and Poshmark. Affirm’s almost 100% pop is especially notable, because the fintech company delayed its planned IPO last December, and one of the rumored reasons was to avoid the large pop that Airbnb and Doordash experienced on their respective first day. Affirm raised its IPO price since, but that clearly didn’t not avoid the pop. In fact, the price-raising may have only stoked more demand and FOMO in a zero-interest environment.
“China-US tech war: after hitting Huawei, why is Xiaomi suffering now?” (Chinese Source: CSDN)
My thoughts: As the latest victim in the US-China tech war, how Xiaomi’s business operations and supply chain will be impacted and impacting other companies will be important to analyze. There’s some important contrasts to draw with Huawei. As this article noted, almost all of Xiaomi’s mobile chips come from Qualcomm; it does not develop its own chips like Huawei. Xiaomi’s software and IoT ecosystem, much of it based off of Android, is also quite advanced. The company is aggressively expanding into Europe, LATAM, India, the Middle East, and Africa -- basically everywhere. Will hurting Xiaomi hurt Qualcomm? Will hurting Xiaomi reduce its market share, dampen its 5G ambition where marketshare is key, and benefit Apple or Samsung?
“Pinduoduo pulls out of Lunar New Year red packet partnership” (Chinese Source: InfoQ)
My thoughts: I was quite interested in observing how Pinduoduo’s payment product, Duoduo Wallet, will get launched at this year’s Lunar New Year gala. Looks like I’ll have to wait for at least another year, as the launch was canceled and Douyin is now the official red packet partner. This cancellation may be related to China’s fluid fintech regulatory environment after Ant’s suspended IPO, as a payment product in China is usually a gateway to other financial services.
“Lu Qi Speech: Entrepreneurship and Innovation Opportunities in a New World Landscape” (Chinese Source: Miracle Plus)
My thoughts: Lu Qi is a legendary figure in the US-China tech ecosystem, so his thoughts and outlooks are worth paying attention to. This speech was made in December 2020; the link I’m sharing here contains the full text. Apparently the speech lasted close to two hours, so I’m not even going to try to summarize it all here. I’d like to highlight two points Lu Qi made: 1. Open source is recognized as the best technology development model -- a point of view I’ve been writing about profusely on Interconnected, so it’s good to see the Miracle Plus team also seeing the same thing; 2. The global center of gravity for economic development and innovation will shift from the West to Asia.
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- “特朗普政府将科麦、小米列入中国军方有关的黑名单”（英文来源: 路透社）
- “苹果计划推出播客订阅服务，对Spotify构成威胁”（英文来源: The Information）
- “IPO暴涨，Affirm的市值翻了一番，达到240亿美元”（英文来源: 福布斯)
- “中美科技战：打了华为，为何小米再遭殃？” (中文来源: CSDN）
- “拼多多退出春晚红包合作” (中文来源: InfoQ）
- “陆奇演讲：世界新格局下的创业创新机会” (中文来源: 奇绩创坛）】
任何一位冲浪老将都会说，冲浪其实90%都是在冲浪板上游泳，等待寻找浪头的出现，同时让自己做好准备。作为一个非常初级的冲浪者，我90%的时间都不知道自己在找什么。很多时候，我会看到一些看起来像浪的动态，开始游动，当浪到我身边的时候，它已经失去了能量 -- 我启动的太早了。其他时候，我无法判断看到的是否是浪，直到它像雕像一样升起。我开始游泳，结果被浪完全吞没 -- 我启动的太晚了。在极少数的情况下，我抓住了时机开始游泳，冲上了浪，感受到了被浪推动的high，但是冲浪板的方向摆的有点歪，结果最后还是翻滚到了水里 -- 我没有准备好。载到水里后，我要把自己拉回到冲浪板上，逆着后续的浪花游回之前的位置，再次开始等待、寻找、准备。
雷军说的没错。逆水行舟很累，乘风破浪的往前走才是正确的方式。然而，能知道浪长什么样就已经很不容易了。雷云的建议所一笔带过的是，即使你能看出来真正的浪，能做好“冲”它的准备 -- 努力游动来获得点启动速度，把冲浪板对准正确的方向，在正确的时刻推自己站起来，保持平衡和警觉 -- 能做到这所有一切其实更难。我还没提到其他冲浪者呢；如果有浪，你绝不会是唯一一个想“冲”它的人。时机和准备就是一切。太早了？没什么可冲的。准备不足？把好浪浪费了。太晚了？你会被吞噬。
"太晚了 " 这个情况是我在开始学冲浪之前没有充分体会到的。在我看来，这是最糟糕的一种情况，因为被吞后再想爬起来是最困难、最累人的。如果我们把冲浪的比喻完全延伸到创业领域，我会选择 "太早 "或 "准备不足 "，而不是 "太晚"。 "太早 "起码会给予一些好的教训，因为你看到了一个完整的浪长什么样子，可以用来充实你的思维模型来更好的寻找下一波浪。"准备不足 "意味着你至少抓住了冲浪的正确时机，只是没有掌握把它“冲好”的技巧 -- 技巧比抓时机要更容易练。"太晚了" 很可能意味着被完全吞噬，摧毁。
当我们每个人都在寻找人生的下一波大浪时 -- 无论是创业、投资，还是个人生活 -- 不能仅仅去找下个可冲的浪，更重要的是要不断学习，做好准备。即使是要冲最大、最明显的浪，猪也要学会怎么游泳。
我的想法: 我几周前刚刚讨论过的《跛脚鸭退市》正在继续加速。把中国商飞加到在美国防部的 "中共军工企业" 名单中，倒也不算奇怪。但把小米加进去有点令人惊讶。很难判断小米被加入是真的为了保护美国国家安全，还是为了影响手机行业的竞争格局，让苹果受益（2020年第三季度小米的手机销量超过苹果，成为全球第三）。对于投资者和市场来说，到底什么是 "军事关系''，如果能有个明确定义，还是很有必要的。最后值得一提的是，五角大楼开始这份黑名单是为了遵守早在1999年就有的一条法律。今年之前，国防部从未费心去做这件事。
“苹果计划推出播客订阅服务，对Spotify构成威胁”（英文来源: The Information）
我的想法: 我不仅写《互联》，投资有全球潜力的创业公司，业余时间还作了一个关于亚裔在美国的政治体验的播客，叫Model Majority Podcast，现在已有近200集。因此，作为一名播客创作者，苹果打算推出播客订阅服务的消息引起了我的注意。大多数播客还是通过RSS来传播，RSS是一种内容传播格式，是互联网上仅存的几个不受大公司影响的开放协议之一。由于这种开放性，大多数播客都是免费的，由广告支撑。Spotify已经非常强势的开始将播客内容带入其付费订阅产品里面，苹果看似也想做同样的事情。这趋势与流媒体娱乐行业极为相似 -- Netflix、Disney Plus、Amazon Prime、HBO Max、Hulu、YouTube Red等。一个家庭的流媒体订阅账单总额已经变得很高，就像过去的有线电视账单一样，大家会不会也愿意付听播客的账单呢？
“中美科技战：打了华为，为何小米再遭殃？” (中文来源: CSDN）
我的想法: 作为中美科技战的最新受害者，小米的业务运营和供应链将如何受影响，又如何会冲击其他公司，将是需要细致分析的，而且与华为有些不同的地方。正如本文所指出的，小米几乎所有的芯片都来自于高通，并不像华为开发自己的芯片。小米的软件和IoT生态，大部分都基于Android，也相当先进。公司正积极的在欧洲、拉美、印度、中东和非洲扩张 -- 基本上无处不在。伤害小米会伤害高通吗？伤害小米会降低其市场份额，抑制它在5G的野心，让苹果或三星受益吗？
“拼多多退出春晚红包合作” (中文来源: InfoQ）
“陆奇演讲：世界新格局下的创业创新机会” (中文来源: 奇绩创坛）
我的想法: 陆奇博士是中美科技生态圈的传奇人物，所以他的想法和展望值得关注。这篇演讲是在2020年12月发表的，我在这里分享的链接包含全文。演讲显然持续了近两个小时，所以我不打算在这里尝试总结所有内容。我只想强调陆奇博士讲的两点：1. 开源被认为是最好的技术开发模式 -- 这个观点我在《互联》上已经写了很多内容，所以很高兴看到奇迹创坛团队在这一点达到共识；2. 全球经济发展和创新的重心从西方转移到亚洲。