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Write on business with @workweekinc. Co-host @niapodcast. Building an AI research app:
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Apr 4 4 tweets 2 min read
Steve Cohen’s setup includes renting a 2nd hotel room when he travels so his team can re-build a replica of his 12-monitor work station for him in it. Image From the book Black Edge:

And here are some details from a former SAC employee:……
Apr 3 4 tweets 4 min read
Francis Ford Coppola’s new film “Megalopolis” cost $120m and he self-financed it (including money from selling his winery). 

Coppola is a legend of “going all in” and “putting skin in the game”. 

The GOAT example is “Apocalypse Now”, his classic 1979 war film with arguably the most insane production story ever. 

Let’s rewind to 1975, the year Copolla turned 36: he is on top of Hollywood after directing “The Godfather” (1972) and “The Godfather II” (1974). 

What does Coppola choose to do next? Make a film about the Vietnam War. The script was based on Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”, the 1889 novel about the horrors of colonialism in the Belgian Congo.

The major studios all said “no” to Coppola’s pitch for three major reasons:

1️⃣ He wanted full creative control
2️⃣ He wanted to own all of the film rights
3️⃣ The Fall of Saigon happened in April 1975 and the American audience wasn’t exactly asking for a Vietnam War film (the studios wanted Coppola to make another Mafia flick)

Coppola was undeterred and made a huge bet.

“The Godfather II” cost $14m and the director estimated that “Apocalypse Now” would be the same budget. 

He put up $7m (mostly from those sweet Godfather checks) and raised another $7m from United Artists (which bought domestic distribution rights for ~7 years). 

But the project was a disaster from the start. 

Filming started in The Philippines in March 1976 and was supposed to last 3-4 months…it would take 16 months: 

▫️Harvey Keitel was the initial lead but Coppola fired him after one week.

▫️Martin Sheen (Captain Willard) took the lead role but drank so much on set that he gave himself a stress-induced heart attack and almost died. 

▫️Dennis Hopper was doing 3g of coke and 20+ drinks a day while on set (him and Marlon Brandon also hated each other).

▫️A typhoon destroyed 80% of the set and delayed filming for 2-3 months. 

▫️Actual dead bodies — stolen from a local grave — were used on set and the Filipino government and its strongman leader Ferdinand Marcos threatened to shut down production after finding out. 

▫️Marlon Brando (Col. Kurtz) demanded a huge fee ($3m+ for 3 weeks of work and 10% of the film’s gross). He then showed up late, asked for rewrites, declined to read Conrad’s book and was so overweight that the costumes wouldn’t fit (to obscure his heft, Copolla filmed Brando in the shadows and had him wear oversized dark clothing).

The budget ballooned to over $30m.

To maintain creative control and maintain all the film rights, Coppola mortgaged his home and borrowed money against his ownership in The Godfather. 

After the success of “Star Wars” (1977), Coppola even asked his friend and business partner George Lucas — who was originally tapped to direct Apocalypse — for some funds.

I repeat: Coppola went ALL THE WAY IN and had SKIN IN THE GAME.

His wife Eleanor took recorded video of all the insanity and the footage was turned into a 1991 documentary (“Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse”).

The total cost for the film — including marketing spend — reached $45m.

Against all odds, Coppola finished the project and the film was released in August 1979. It grossed $105m and Coppola would make a fortune on future DVD, Home Video and other ancillary revenue streams (below is a trailer for a re-mastered cut from 2019).

During the Cannes Festival in May 1979, Coppola famously said of the film: “The way we made it was very much like the way the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little, we went insane.” Coppola also said at Cannes that “My movie is not *about* Vietnam. My movie *is* Vietnam”.

It’s def one of the best films ever but that is … a stretch of a comparison.

Anyways, the making of The Godfather was also insane and I wrote about that here:…
Mar 10 20 tweets 9 min read
When Iron Man came out in 2008, Robert Downey Jr. was *not* a marquee star.

He was rebuilding his career and paid a below market rate of $500k.

But the deal terms set him up for one of the great acting comebacks ever (while earnings $450m+ as Tony Stark).

Here’s the story 🧵
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) we know today was a long shot in the early 2000s.

Marvel was a public co. coming off bankruptcy in 1996 and had sold rights to its best IP (Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic 4)

From 2000-07, films based on the IP minted cash but Marvel made little: Image
Mar 4 13 tweets 6 min read
Wendy's pricing snafu is a reminder of how hard these fast food chains try to optimize menu design.

McDonald's — which sells to ~1% of the world every day — did a digital menu redesign a few years ago and it boosted sales.

Here are 6 design psychology choices it made: Image Background: In the mid-2010s, McDonald's sales were lagging. The brand turned it around with help of a multi-year menu & store redesign that:

◻️emphasized simplicity (sped up avg. drive thru time from 400 secs to 350 secs)
◻️highlights signature items (pricier = higher margins) Image
Feb 13 4 tweets 3 min read
Masayoshi Son does the craziest investment swings:

▫️In mid-90s: invested $1.7B into 100+ internet firms (including a ~30% stake in Yahoo! for $100m)
▫️In 2000: was worth $78B at peak Dotcom and was the richest person in the world for 3 days (ahead of Gates)
▫️The bubble burst and he lost 99% of wealth
▫️In 2000, puts $20m into Alibaba for a 34% stake (sold out almost entirely by 2023 and made ~$72B)
▫️Lost $14B on WeWork
▫️Once owned ~5% of Nvidia but sold it all for $3.6B in 2019 (that stake would now be worth $90B)
▫️In 2016, Softbank bought Arm Holdings for $32B (still owns 90% and the stake is $114B, a gain of $82B)

Based on his ownership in Softbank and other investment vehicles, his personal wealth is currently ~$15B.Image Masa in the 90s:

Masa $72B Alibaba:

Masa Arm:

Masa wild daily investing routine during COVID:…………
Feb 9 4 tweets 3 min read
Nearly 100% of intercontinental internet traffic goes through submarine cables. 

It is a robust system with many redundancies. 

There are 500+ subsea cables and a fleet of 60 repair shops on stand-by but Big Tech isn’t taking chances:

▫️GOOGLE invested in 25 cables (and owns 12 outright). Per The Economist, the search giant started its sea cable program in 2008.
◽META invested in 15 cables (owns 1 outright).
◽MICROSOFT partly owns 4 cable.

One of the 500+ cable gets cut every 3 days (most common reasons are shark bites, anchor drops and deep-sea fish trawlers).

Remote areas are still very at risk.

Example: In 2022, a volcano erupted near Tonga and a mudslide took out the only cable nearby. Starlink provided some free internet coverage while it took 5 weeks for the cable to be fixed (5 weeks!!).Image Full Economist read here:

Here is a cool excerpt of the deep-sea repair process…it’s no joke:…

Jan 26 6 tweets 3 min read
Dyson created the first bagless vacuum and used the cyclone tech for related products: air purifier, hand dryer, fans and hair dryer.

It took a big swing on EVs and missed ($500m+ on R&D). There was also a washing machine flop.

But the most random product line? A strawberry farm that grows off-season so the UK can have local access to the fruit year round.

Dyson Farming was established in 2012 and — with 36,000 acres — is one of the largest farms in the country.

The semi-automated strawberry farm has 700,000 plants and will produce 750 tonnes of strawberry a year. My wife made me buy 4 of the aforementioned Dyson products. You can probably guess which ones.

They all have cyclone technology, which James Dyson borrowed from the sawmill industry…and it is my favourite cross-industry innovation:…
Jan 24 6 tweets 4 min read
The Palworld story is wild.

Dubbed “Pokémon With Guns”, the game has sold 6m+ copies in past 4 days (making its developer Pocket Pair over $100m on a ~$7m budget).

Some details on the game development process:

◻️ CEO Takuro Mizobe worked at JPMorgan Securities before launching a crypto exhange in 2014.
◻️He made some dough in crypto and used funds to launch indie game developer Pocket Pair in 2015.
◻️The original Palworld team was 4 people and started with $10,000.
◻️The main model developer is a high-schooler who the team met because he worked part-time at a convenience store they frequented.
◻️They added guns because to be a global success, it had to do well in America and the CEO said “Americans like to shoot things”.
◻️Asked about Nintendo, the CEO says they make innovative games whereas he is fine to chase trends (“I don’t [have a creative vision]. I just want to make a game people like.”)
◻️ There was no version control. The team saved files in a “bucket of USBs” and merged them to the main build when done.
◻️Switched from Unity to Unreal Engine late into the development process.
◻️ There are rumours that the game assets were mostly created by AI (but they deny it and there is little evidence).

Palworld’s early success is astounding when you consider triple AAA game titles easily break 9-figure development costs (eg. Cyberpunk 2077 has run $400m+)

Earlier today, Palworld peaked at 1.8m concurrent players. That’s the 2nd highest ever for Steam’s platform (ahead of CounterStrike 2 and behind only PUBG).

The next stat to watch: Nintendo released “Pokémon Scarlet and Violet” in 2022 and it has sold 23m+ copies.

Could Palworld top it? More from Gene Park / WP:

Dev details from screenshots below:

These details seem to be from CEO TV interview and his post here (in Japanese):……

Dec 20, 2023 4 tweets 2 min read
TIL: AWS has 60,000 sales & marketing employees (~1/2 all AWS employees) Image From The Information:

AWS is at ~$90B annual revenue but still only 20% of Fortune 1000 spends at least $10m on its cloud (Amazon aiming to get that to 80% of Fortune 1000s in next few years)…
Dec 16, 2023 5 tweets 4 min read
Gordon Ramsay tries a real Texas BBQ platter for the first time (Snow’s BBQ in Lexington).

He is shook by the portion size and pays respect to the pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz.

Ms. Tootsie is now 88-years old and has been BBQ-ing since 1960s.

Her routine: Snow’s is only open on Saturdays and — on those days — Ms. Tootsie gets up at 1am to prep the pork and brisket.

People start buying at 8am and Snow’s serves until the food is gone, usually by noon (~200lbs of meat sold).

During the week, Ms. Tootsie keeps busy by working as a janitor at a local high school.

Everyone knows her as the “Queen of BBQ”, though (she was featured in Netflix’s “Chef’s Table” and once shortlisted for James Beard Award).

She’s an absolute legend. From Gordon, Gino and Fred’s road trip show:

Goldbelly has a good 2.5 minute short on her cooking:

And this platter looks insane (if you’ve been, Im very jealous):
Dec 13, 2023 5 tweets 3 min read
The Microsoft Excel Championship wrapped in Las Vegas last weekend.

Andrew “The Annihilator” Ngai won his 3rd straight title.

The Australian actuary beat 14 opponents in various 30-minute case study challenges.

Funniest part: this clip of live-stream announcers losing their minds over pivot tables and data labeling.

What did Ngai get for winning? A $15k cash prize and a glorious Wrestling Championship Belt 😂 WSJ has a really funny article including this line “to watch Excel athletes sit before computers onstage and “spreadsheet” like there’s no tomorrow.”

And here is the entire 3-hr livestream:……
Dec 1, 2023 5 tweets 3 min read
The iPhone camera uses computational photography, applying software to every snap.

This wild photo is an eery example: the subject tries on a wedding dress and each mirror shows her in a different pose.

Why? Apple insider says it’s a “mistake” in the computational photography pipeline:

➡️ “The iPhone camera doesn’t realize it was taking a photo of a mirror, so it treated the three versions of [UK actress Tessa Coates] as different people. Coates was moving when the photo was taken, so when the shutter was pressed, many differing images were captured in that instant. Apple's algorithm stitches the photos together, choosing the best versions for saturation, contrast, detail, and lack of blur.” ⬅️
Image More from Apple Insider:

Here’s original post. Coates asked audience if they could see the problem and the first reply is hilarious:……
Nov 21, 2023 4 tweets 2 min read
This is officially the wildest Linkedin work history in the history of work histories Image Will have to update my Linkedin is Cringe article…

After interviewing this individual to figure out how became the Forrest Gump of corporate…
Nov 9, 2023 4 tweets 3 min read
The iconic Windows 95 startup sound was created by composer Brian Eno, who worked with U2 and David Bowie.

Microsoft’s brief to Eno was kind of absurd:

“A piece of music that is inspiring, universal, futuristic, sentimental, emotional…and only 3.25 seconds long.”

Eno made 84 versions of the sound.

He told SF Gate that it was “like making a tiny little jewel.”

Microsoft paid him $35k for the sound, which has probably been heard by hundreds of millions of people.

But the real benefit to Eno was that the Windows 95 sound unlocked a creative block he had with his main music projects.

“I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music,” Eno said. “I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I'd finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.”
SF Gate interview:

History of Microsoft startup sounds:

And here is my favourite composer-tech company sound ever - Hans Zimmer making a movie theatre length version of Netflix’s ta-dum intro (must have got paid for this one!):…

Nov 8, 2023 7 tweets 5 min read
The first scene for 2010’s “The Social Network" is ~6 minutes.

It shows Mark Zuckerberg getting dumped in a Harvard bar (and with some creative licenses, how that leads to Facebook).

Director David Fincher did 99 takes of the scene (yes, 99).

For some, that's Fincher being a perfectionist.

For others, it's Fincher wasting people's time.

Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay and has a fascinating recollection of the scene:

➡️ "An average screenplay is about 120 pages long. My screenplays have higher page counts because there’s more dialogue and less action. By the rules of screenplay format, dialogue takes up more room on the page and less time on the screen than action (which takes up less room on the page and more time on the screen).

"The Social Network" was 178 pages. And the studio said, “OK, the first thing you’ve got to do is figure out a way to cut 30 pages from this.”

And David said, “I don’t think so.” […]

He came over to my house with his iPhone set on stopwatch mode, and he said, “I want you to read the entire script out loud for me, at the pace you heard it in your head when you were writing it, and I’m going to write down the timing of each scene.”

So that opening scene...with Jesse Eisenberg (Zuck) and Rooney Mara. I read it and it was 7 minutes and 22 seconds.

In rehearsal, Jesse and Rooney would rehearse the scene, David would say great, and he would give them a couple of notes and always end with, “But this scene is 7 minutes and 22 seconds long, and you’re doing it at 7 minutes and 40 seconds. So I don’t care how, but you’re going to have to talk faster somewhere, because I promise you, this scene plays best at 7 minutes and 22 seconds.” ⬅️

With that context, the 99 takes is very understandable. It’s a combo of perfectionism and managing the shooting budget.

The final cut was shorter than 7 minutes and 22 seconds. But one thing stayed consistent throughout the shoot: Fincher told dozens of extras in the bar scene to keep the volume of their chatter high, as they would on any night out.

This forced Eisenberg and Mara not only to speak faster. But also louder, increasing the scene’s intensity.

It worked. I love a good first scene and have written about how Ted Lasso’s pilot nailed his 157-second intro:

Here is Sorkin’s full explanation on Social Network:……
Nov 6, 2023 4 tweets 3 min read
This is the International Fixed Calendar (IFC).

It splits the year into 13 months (each with 28 days). And the world was very close to adopting it in the 1930s.

Compared to the 12-month Gregorian calendar, IFC is much simpler:

▫️ Calendar is same every year
▫️ Each month has exactly 4 weeks
▫️ Every month starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday
▫️ Every date of every month is the same day (“16th” is a Monday)

The 13th month was called “Sol”, as the extra month fell between June and July, around summer solstice.

You’re probably thinking “28x13 = 364” (and “I’m learning way more about calendars than I expected today”).

To address this — and to get to 365 days — the IFC added a one-day world holiday (“Year Day”) between the last Saturday and Sunday of the year.

Kodak founder George Eastman was a fan of IFC and used the calendar for Kodak reporting. Eastman even convinced 100+ other companies to do the same.

Kodak kept the IFC from 1928 until 1989.

Why? Every month had the same number of days (and weekends), making it easier to compare income statements across months and years.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the IFC was the brainchild of an accountant (a British dude named Moses Cotsworth).

The IFC was ultimately scrapped.

Religious bodies couldn’t agree on standardizing certain dates (e.g. the one-day world holiday would change which day the Sabbath fell on every year; there was no agreement on Easter).

The business community also realized that existing bonds and contracts — using the Gregorian calendar — would be a pain to update.

Days and years follow the logic of the solar system. Months are way more flexible, and that’s how we almost had the IFC.
Image More here

Washington Post:


Here is a Kodak IFC Calendar found at the company’s museum:……
Nov 2, 2023 6 tweets 3 min read
How hard is it to learn a new language?

The US State Department places languages into four tiers based on how long it is takes to learn: from 24 to 88 weeks.

Per The Economist, difficulty for English-first speakers is determined by:

▫️Different writing system: the hardest languages don’t use Latin alphabet (eg Mandarin, Japanese)
▫️Sounds that don’t exist in English (“clicks” in African languages; rising/falling tones in Asian languages)
▫️Grammar: Words that have different endings based on their use in a sentence (many Arabic words have different pre-fix and suffix, or vowels and consonants based on sentence placement)

Based on the fact that I’ve stopped and started Vietnamese on Duolingo over 1000x over the past 7 years, that’s the hardest language for me (State Dept. says it should only be 44 weeks).
Image More details in Economist article:

And here is an even larger graphic categorizing the difficulty of all the languages.…
Oct 31, 2023 4 tweets 2 min read
US consumers will spend $3.6B on candy this Halloween.

It is the biggest day for most candy makers. And privately-held Mars Inc. owns three of top 5 selling brands (**):

▫️Reese’s Cup
▫️Kit Kat

Mars — which does $40B+ of sales a year — plans for each Halloween two years in advance, per CNBC.

The prep begins right after one Halloween is done. Mars meets with retailers to talk trends and packaging.

All the planning mostly leads to the last week of October, when 1/2 of all the Halloween candy is purchased.

Anyways, here’s a video of how Snickers is made. I’ve also written on Spirit Halloween’s $650m costume empire:

CNBC on Mars:

Snickers video:……
Oct 29, 2023 4 tweets 3 min read
Watched "The Black Book" on Netflix last night.

The Nollywood film is called Nigeria's version of "John Wick".

It's been viewed >70m times and topping charts eveywhere (peaked at #3 for English globally and top 10 in 69 countries).

The best part: it cost only $1m to make.

While that budget is significant for Nollywood films — which are typically made for less than $50,000 — it's a drop in the bucket for Hollywood blockbusters.

Here is a random ratio list for the "first 28-day watches" vs. budget for major Netflix original films:

◻️ "The Gray Man" (139m watch / $200m budget = 0.7x)
◻️ "Red Notice" (230m / $200m budget = 1.2x)
◻️ "Don't Look Up" (171m / $75m = 2.3x)
◻️ "Glass Onion" (136m / $40m = 3.4x)
◻️ "Bird Box" (156m / $20m = 7.8x)

"The Black Book" is huge bang for the buck at 70x watches-to-budget.

The film was written and directed by former tech and marketing exec Editi Effiong. To get funding for the film — and make Hollywood-calibre action scenes — Effiong tapped entrepreneurs from Nigeria's tech ecosystem.

Legendary Nollywood actor Richard Mofe-Damijo plays the revenge-seeking protagonist.

Nollywood is currently the world's second largest film industry by volume, making >2,000 a year (this is ~2x the US market and trails only India's Bollywood).

Piracy is rampant in Nollywood, so big budgets for in-country distribution doesn’t make sense (rather, quality over quantity wins the day).

But the success of "The Black Book" on streaming can clear the path for more global Nollywood hits

My suggestion for another Keanu-themed Nollywood banger: “Speed”.
Read more on it.


The Africa Report:


Most watched Netflix via Collider:…………
Oct 26, 2023 5 tweets 4 min read
Country star Luke Combs says his first favourite song was Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”.

He covered it earlier this year and the song hit #1 on country charts in July.

Chapman owns the song’s composition rights and became the first black female to top Country chart as a sole writer.

What did she think of the cover?

Chapman told Billboard: “I never expected to find myself on the country charts, but I’m honored to be there. I’m happy for Luke….and grateful that new fans have found and embraced ‘Fast Car.’”

Combs honored the original version, which he first listened to when his dad popped a cassette in the car.

“You want to just be mega respectful of the original song,” says the 33-year old country singer, per CMT. “That’s why in [my cover], it’s, ‘work in the market as a checkout girl.’ I didn’t change that…I really wanted to just do the original version of the song.”

I had Chapman’s CD and “Fast Car” was an absolute road-trip staple.

Here is a clip of the artists each performing the song live — 35 years apart:
More from Country Music TV:



And here is Tracy again performing it — by herself in front of 60,000 people — at Wembley in 1988 (unreal):…

Oct 12, 2023 5 tweets 3 min read
Costco sold $9B of clothing in 2022.

It was only 4% of the retailer’s total sales ($223B) but still more than:

▫️Lululemon ($8B)
▫️Ralph Lauren ($6B)
▫️Levi Strauss & Co ($6B)

And Costco is hitting these revenue numbers on ridiculously low sticker prices for its Kirkland brand: $14 for jeans, $19 sweaters/joggers, $25 for dress shirts and $100 suits.

Costco is mum about its clothes business, but most know that it maintains slim margins across all products (14% max) because it makes profits from the annual membership (~70% of its $6B net profit is from membership fees).

Typical fashion has a 55-70% mark-up and — per the WSJ — the white-label manufacturer for Kirkland clothes is one of these well-known fashion firms: Levis Strauss & Co (obviously, Costco gets a discount on volume).

The deal on all clothes at Costco — I own an embarrassing amount of Puma gym shirts — is the source of another legendary quote from Costco founder Jim Sinegal.

While speaking with MIT students, Sinegal explained how Costco negotiated a big discount on Calvin Klein jeans and why the retailer didn’t keep the extra margin.

“We pass the savings on to the customer, every time,” Sinegal said. “Do you know how tempting it is to make another $7 on a pair? But once you do it, it’s like taking heroin. You can’t stop.”
Image WSJ with more details on Costco clothing:

Sinegal’s convo with MIT:

And this legendary bit from Sheng Wang (who was interviewed for the WSJ article):……