A weekly(-ish) newsletter on commerce, media, science, tech, investing, & internet culture by Alex Taussig of Lightspeed.

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A weekly(-ish) newsletter on commerce, media, science, tech, investing, & internet culture by Alex Taussig. I am a partner at Lightspeed in Silicon Valley.

Follow along with Alex:

Drinking from the Firehose #110


I spent my weekend working on some personal projects, so unfortunately I don't have a "big thought" for you this week.

If you've missed my emails from past weeks, go check out some recent thought pieces I wrote on Facebook's strategic push into VR, how broken products can succeed despite themselves, and Spotify's push into podcasts.

Also, for those of you who read my disclaimer (!), I've updated my stock holdings below after purchasing some $SPOT and $FTCH. The former is finally showing a path away from its dependence on the big music labels, while the latter has come down significantly from its very rich IPO price. I am bullish on both.



Playing ketchup.

After years of cost cutting, Kraft Heinz is in a pickle.

The company elected to mark down its goodwill by $15.4 billion, sending its stock down 20% after hours. Quotes the WSJ: "The stream of developments comes at a pivotal moment for the company, which has been struggling to keep up with consumer shifts toward simpler ingredients and healthier food. Many of the company’s brands, like Jell-O desserts and Kool-Aid drink mix, clash with current trends. Like other food makers, Kraft Heinz is trying to innovate while also maintaining its industry-leading profitability—a balancing act that fell apart in the latest quarter."

Brands at the heart of big CPG companies like Kraft Heinz have survived not because of consumer love, or product innovation, but due to sheer market power in the retail channel. Now that e-commerce has finally come to food, a reckoning is coming to product portfolios throughout the industry.

Put differently: if Velveeta is still a $1B+ brand in 10 years, I might actually eat some.


Torts illustrated.

Emoji's are causing a problem in the nation's legal system. SMS evidence often features these now commonplace symbols, and their interpretation can be a cause for disagreement. Part of the challenge is that emoji's have different meanings in different communities. Emoji's also show up differently cross platform and do not necessarily land with the meaning the sender intended. That's enough to cause "reasonable doubt" out of the box.


New tech city.

Amazon or no Amazon, NYC is becoming a tech town. Out of the ashes of the financial collapse, a new generation of entrepreneurs have found their way from Wall Street into more entrepreneurial endeavors. NYT traced more than 20 years of startup development in the Big Apple, featuring a number of essential companies and individuals, including Kevin Ryan and Shan-Lyn Ma of Zola*.


Gattaca IRL.

A Chinese scientist was the first to edit human embryos with CRISPR last year. The stated goal at the time was to make them immune to HIV by deleting a gene called CCR5. New research into the function of that gene, however, implies that the gene deletion may have introduced some other significant side effects, including increased cognitive function. 

The dual effects illustrate how difficult it is in practicality to treat disease states with CRISPR without yielding unintended genetic consequences.


Who's an EGOT?

The Ringer wrote an oral history of the now classic episode of 30 Rock when Tracy Jordan decides that his life's work is to achieve the rare combo of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. The cultural legacy of the EGOT episodes was to turn a fictitious achievement into one that celebrities now proactively seek!

Disclaimer: * indicates a Lightspeed portfolio company, or other company in which I have economic interest. I also own stock directly in AAPL, ADBE, AMZN, CRM, FB, FTCH, GOOG/GOOGL, NFLX, SPOT, SQ, TSLA, and TWLO.

Lightspeed Venture Partners, 2200 Sand Hill Rd, Ste 100, Menlo Park, CA 94025 USA Sent to — Unsubscribe