Why Square is the next big thing

Farhad Manjoo:

I believe the tech industry’s next great company is Square. If you’ve heard of Jack Dorsey’s three-year-old firm, you likely think of it as a payments startup. Square is famous for its white plastic card reader, a device that lets small businesses use phones and tablets to accept credit cards. But calling Square a mere payments company minimizes its potential, and it misses Dorsey’s world-changing mission.

Square is currently processing 8 billion on a yearly basis. So, they’re already big. But Manjoo sees Square grow even further:

Dorsey is bent on creating frictionless commerce. His long-term goal is to make accepting payments a breeze for businesses, and he wants to make paying for stuff invisible—for everyone, across the entire economy, for all types of goods and services. If Square succeeds in that mission, it will become a persistent, ever-present part of our daily lives. You’ll use it every time you engage with businesses—which might mean you’ll interact with Square more often than Google, Facebook, Amazon, or even Apple.

If someone can make this, it has to be Jack Dorsey. 

Paul Graham on the importance of growth

To grow rapidly, you need to make something you can sell to a big market. That’s the difference between Google and a barbershop. A barbershop doesn’t scale.

For a company to grow really big, it must (a) make something lots of people want, and (b) reach and serve all those people. Barbershops are doing fine in the (a) department. Almost everyone needs their hair cut. The problem for a barbershop, as for any retail establishment, is (b). A barbershop serves customers in person, and few will travel far for a haircut. And even if they did the barbershop couldn’t accomodate them.

Writing software is a great way to solve (b), but you can still end up constrained in (a). If you write software to teach Tibetan to Hungarian speakers, you’ll be able to reach most of the people who want it, but there won’t be many of them. If you make software to teach English to Chinese speakers, however, you’re in startup territory.

Most businesses are tightly constrained in (a) or (b). The distinctive feature of successful startups is that they’re not.

Long and thorough post, worth your time if you want to start a startup. 

Cooling gloves “better than steroids” for athletic performance improvement

Researchers at Stanford have developed a thermal exchange glove that is able to cool a person’s core temperature very quickly — in a matter of minutes. 

The glove’s effects on athletic performance didn’t become apparent until the researchers began using the glove to cool a member of the lab – the confessed “gym rat” and frequent coauthor Vinh Cao – between sets of pull-ups. The glove seemed to nearly erase his muscle fatigue; after multiple rounds, cooling allowed him to do just as many pull-ups as he did the first time around. So the researchers started cooling him after every other set of pull-ups.

“Then in the next six weeks he went from doing 180 pull-ups total to over 620,” said Heller. “That was a rate of physical performance improvement that was just unprecedented.”

Kottke concludes:

I expect this will be either everywhere in pro sports in a couple of years or banned.

When did addiction become a good thing?

When did addiction become a good thing?

When did addiction become a good thing?


Jason Hreha, UX designer at Dopamine (!) is wondering: why is addiction considered as a good thing? He means addiction as the little red notifications that make us love Facebook or the presence of the word in the description of some iPhone games. A nice quote:

I believe that the purpose of technology is to take over the grating, tedious tasks that we have had to put up with for so long, so that we can live fuller, more interesting lives. In short, technology allows us to be even more human by becoming less mechanistic.

Apple’s favorite blogger: John Gruber

Gruber celebrated Daring Fireball’s 10-year anniversary last month. He quit his day job at software startup Joyent in 2006 when revenue from T-shirt sales and ad sponsorships on the site picked up. During that time, the Philly native had to dip into his savings to support his wife and then-2-year-old son. These days his one-man operation brings in more than $500,000 a year, according to a person familiar with his financials who is not authorized to speak on the matter. Gruber would not confirm the figure.

An interesting piece on John Gruber, Apple’s favorite blogger. Like most tech and Apple enthusiasts, I read Daring Fireball on a daily basis. But knowing that he makes more than 40k per month by doing this makes me wonder. 

Spotify is preparing a browser-based version

It’s unclear if the browser version will replace its downloadable desktop software or just augment it but either way, it will make Spotify much more accessible. Users will be able to access a massive catalogue of music plus their playlists from any computer they log in to. Removing the download from the onboarding process could also help it sign up more users. One challenge will be making sure it the web version feels just as snappy.

Nice scoop by TechCrunch. But the challenge is bigger than this. If Apple decides to enter the music streaming world, would they rather build something from scratch (well, starting with iTunes) or would they just buy Spotify? 

The next generation at Goldman

It wasn’t long ago that Goldman Sachs was painted as an outsize villain of the financial crisis, and its future seemed hazy. Today, however, Goldman Sachs has retained its clients and its dominance. And recent missteps by its competitors are putting the investment bank in pole position to profit when a recovery comes.

Change is under way at the very top. The NYT’s Dealbook has more