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w/e 21 October 2018

An unusually sociable week, with some good friends staying with us, and catching up with friends we had barely, or never, seen over the past ten years.

All very pleasant, marred only by my inability to answer the question, “What are you up to these days?” in an enthusiastic manner. “Still making websites,” is exactly what I’d have said ten years ago. Otherwise though, it was lovely to relax and to sit and chat with friends.

I think it was via Rod that I first heard about Matt Levine’s Money Stuff newsletter at Bloomberg (oddly, that page only shows articles from at least five months ago). I enjoy it enormously.

I’m usually a couple of weeks behind but I caught up this week during one sleep-short night. Here’s the start of a recent piece about Uber:

If you are an investment banker and you want to win a mergers-and-acquisitions mandate, you do the usual things. You gain favor with the company by lending it money and giving it free advice, and you butter up its senior executives by taking them out to dinner, playing golf with them, and recommending their kids for internships. You pitch the deal with a detailed deck containing an insightful analysis of the company’s situation, a careful valuation of the target, clever strategies for structuring the deal, and credentials showing off your M&A experience. The goal is to get the company to believe that you are an M&A expert and that you will do their deal right.

If you are a technology investment banker and you want to win an initial public offering mandate, though, you tend to focus on method acting. The goal is not to demonstrate that you are an expert—all the big banks are perfectly competent to do an IPO—but to assure the company’s executives that you are one of them, that you share their vision and obsession. They probably don’t even play golf: They live and breathe their companies, and you’d better do the same. So if you are pitching a Lululemon IPO, you show up wearing yoga pants. If you are pitching a Blue Apron IPO, you have yourself delivered to their headquarters in a box and jump out and start cooking. If you are pitching a Snap IPO, you have plastic surgery to give yourself a dog’s nose, tongue and ears. If you are pitching a SpaceX IPO, you do it in a conference room on Mars.

Levine then recounts how Michael Grimes, “Morgan Stanley’s top technology banker” moonlights as an Uber driver, which might help Morgan Stanley win the business of handling Uber’s IPO.

Honestly I thought Uber drivers hate Uber? Really this story would be much better in reverse: Wouldn’t it be more interesting if a full-time Uber driver decided to moonlight as an investment banker and managed to win the IPO mandate? In the gig economy of the future, that will totally be a thing.

What I like about Money Stuff is that there’s a lot of “look, this is just how things work,” which is interesting, and explained clearly (the first paragraph above). And then there’s a lot of entertaining eye-rolling about the craziness that happens in tech companies, around cryptocurrencies, in dysfunctional boardrooms, around weird deals, in bungled attempts at criminal activity, and over most things Elon Musk says.

While there are occasional finance-related stories that aren’t up my street or that I don’t understand, it’s all written in a lovely conversational manner. And there’s so much of it! I wish there was something as good that covered the UK and, well, covered all kinds of news, not just finance.

I sort of feel obliged to say that enjoying Money Stuff also requires you to put aside any feelings you might have about the deficiencies of capitalism as a system. I mean, you have to treat it as commentary about how things are, rather than how some of us, perhaps, think it should be.

Anyway, this is another recent edition I enjoyed all of. You can subscribe to the emails here, several a week.

I am very much enjoying more people I know blogging again, sometimes as weeknotes, or sort-of-weeknotes, other times not. They’re so much nicer, calmer and more interesting to read than fragments of angry thoughts on social media.

e.g. Alice, Chris, Giles, and Matt. Ben and Russell never stopped of course. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone, sorry. More please. My feed reader is hungry.

That’s all. I haven’t finished any notable media this week, which isn’t a bad thing. Be sure to sit and chat with friends.

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