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Why I left Google to join Grab (medium.com/steve.yegge)
311 points by kungfudoi on Jan 24, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 178 comments



I think that Google has a very well thought long term strategy. The sole aim of Google is AI, strong AI. I would like to say like Terminator, Person of Interest or transhumanism, but each time I lose many karma points. One of their main scope was analyzing web pages. By "accident", this has created a lucrative business (search engine). Google's aim is to keep the money flowing to pay their AI research. For research, Google needs data. That is the aim of gmail or android. The main peril for Google may not be the lack of money, but politicians and reglementations. Google fear to be broken like Microsoft was broken in two because of their monopolistic behavior. Google spends a lot of money to avoid being a monopoly. I think they could make hangout or google+ far better, but this involves the risk of killing the concurrence and disrupting the market. The progress of AI are impressive: in 2016 AlphaGo has reached the level of the best player, at the end of 2017, with alphagozero they compute the time needed (in hours) by a computer to surpass millennia of human knowledge (centuries in chess). Now, computer games are giving handicap stones to world champions at a game that was thought too hard for computers (AI drosophilia).

I think Google's strategy is far deeper than short term profit.


The problem with your theory is there are a TON of evidence it is not in any way reality.

For example, if their primary motivations were Preventing Monopoly status, and feeding their AI Research they would be embracing open standards, Federation of services, and a whole host of other things they have rejected the last decade or so.

They would have never Killed Reader, they would have never taken Hangouts off XMPP, they would have never killed alot of their API's and services web sites were using, they would have never killed the Search Appliance... I could go on and on and one

Google does not have a Grand Master plan playing 5D chess to get to the Singularity.... They are just another Top Heavy Corporation focused on Quarterly earning statements and marred in Internal and External Politics.


A social network is better when almost everyone are on the same network like it was with facebook. Google avoids having a too good social network to avoid becoming dominant.

If Google provided a good stable API, people may never consider going to concurrence. By pissing off some users, Google stimulates competition and avoids becoming a "public service". I think this reasoning explains well Reader, XMPP, their dropped API and explains also why they do not embrace open standards.

I disagree with you on their focus on earnings, but I fully agree with "marred in internal and external politics".


I don't get your reasoning at all. You're saying that Google wants to feed its AI as much data as possible while at the same time not appearing too dominant.

Launching a bunch of terrible and failing copycat projects and closing down actually useful "niche" projects sure helps with not appearing too dominant, but it does nothing to help feed Google's AI.

It also does nothing to prevent Google's competitors from becoming dominant and getting locked out of important data sources like social interactions (Facebook) or product search (Amazon).

I agree with syshum. Supporting federated, open protocols would make much more sense. It would make Google appear benign while at the same time granting them access to a lot of data and help keep competitors at bay.


>>A social network is better when almost everyone are on the same network like it was with facebook.

Disagree completely. A Social Network is better when everyone can communicate seamlessly with each other, that does not require a hierarchy model controlled by a single entity, it is much much harder to do in a decentralized way, and it much less profitable but it is far from impossible or even better as a social network to be centralized. It is better for profitability to be centralized, it is better for censorship, control, etc to be centralized, but for the actual users it can be decentralized, seamless and far better

>Google avoids having a too good social network to avoid becoming dominant.

Google does not have good social network for a variety of reasons, none of which is because they have purposely chosen not to have one.

>If Google provided a good stable API, people may never consider going to concurrence. By pissing off some users, Google stimulates competition and avoids becoming a "public service". I think this reasoning explains well Reader, XMPP, their dropped API and explains also why they do not embrace open standards.

When talking Anti-Trust this is the exact wrong approach. MS got into Anti-Trust trouble because of their non-standard dominance over the web. It was a combination of IE Integration into windows along with other technology like ActiveX that was not open to competitors. Forcing users to use the IE Web Browser.

Had there been a stronger Standard like HTML5 is today, and has MS been a full partner and compliant with it I likely would have avoided all Anti-Trust actions (especially in the US) even with the integration of IE into windows.

Adopting Free and Open Standards can be a defense against Anti-Trust.


Totally agree. It can be summed up with something Larry Page said very early with Google.

He was asked about using AI to make search better and he responded that they are using search to make AI better.

It is the ultimate long game with many steps on getting there that might not make sense in issolation but all go together.


Grab is very popular here in Vietnam but I'm not as enthusiastic about it as Steve is. First of all, taxi service here is great. Taxis are cheap and plentiful and ripoffs are actually quite rare if you use one of the well known companies. Grab is burning VC to undercut the taxi companies and doesn't really deserve a better rep than Uber in that respect.

Grab motorbike service is also very popular but in this case also displacing an existing local market of independent moto taxi drivers. I'm not sure how their prices for rides compare but I don't see any obvious improvement in the quality of life for drivers.

I'm also less excited by the prospect of food delivery replacing restaurants. Not only does it involve a ton of wasteful packaging, but almost all food suffers a lot in transport. There is no comparison, for example, between a pizza fresh out of the oven and one that's been in a steamy pizza box for 15 minutes.


put the oven in the car


Like zumepizza? Relevant panel discussion at last year's startup conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlW3wau3Lis


The view from Shenzhen:

Naomi Wu / @RealSexyCyborg / 10 Dec 2017 / Naomi Wu Retweeted Seruko

If food delivery cost $0.40USD with no "tip" lots of Western countries might be at a similar place. Cheap migrant labor is the backbone of our e-commerce boom. The way they treat those boys is unforgivable.[1]

The gig economy - more cost-effective than slavery.

[1] https://twitter.com/realsexycyborg?lang=en


Actual permalink to the tweet: https://twitter.com/RealSexyCyborg/status/940058014886780928

The previous tweets in the thread seem more relevant here:

https://twitter.com/BeijingPalmer/status/940010649010233344

> I'm generally skeptical of anyone who makes a week-long trip to China and comes back awed by 'how advanced they are in X.' In my experience Chinese academics and firms lie their ass off to visitors.

https://twitter.com/RealSexyCyborg/status/940013406458757120

> Unfortunately...yes. It's economics- photos of "foreigners looking impressed at X" is pretty much a requirement for any sort of fund raising here. Western counterparts have incentive to play along so they can say "the Chinese are beating us at X" and get more funding back home.


Her profile pics are basically NSFW...


Which has no bearing on what she is saying at all.


Is it all the belly buttons? Where do you work, that pictures of belly buttons are a problem?


Here in Sweden the cost in the cities is usually around $3-$10 with most around $4. The government is also considering to impose some regulars since the drivers only get a portion of the profits and the average earnings turns out to be smaller than minimum wage.

Not sure about the other Western countries.


Not sure I follow the logic.

"[Google] stuck in me-too mode and have been for years. They simply don’t have innovation in their DNA any more. And it’s because their eyes are fixed on their competitors, not their customers."

[...]

"I just witnessed history in the making. (...) I have not seen a land rush this massive since the early days of the Web, and it just might be even bigger.

So what is Grab? Well, the simple and unsatisfying answer is: They’re the Uber of Southeast Asia."


They aren't really the Uber of Southeast Asia. They are more like "the potential Alipay/Wechat" of south east Asia.

And given those apps have managed to re-arrange e-comm, on demand, banking & payments industries over the course of a few years id say they are pretty innovative. Take a look at what Kudo (a grab acquisition) does for example.

Also agree with the comment below re countries with high un-employment. At least here in Indonesia on-demand services seem to have made a net positive impact on income levels for low income demographics. Hopefully when one emerges as the victor some regulations are put in place to make sure this remains the case.


Only on HN would you be confused whether the down-vote was for defending On-Demand services or talking about regulating them :P


Probably downvoted because your comment is irrelevant to the point you're criticizing.

"uber of southeast asia", "alipay of southeast asia", "wechat of southeast asia" all that doesn't matter in this context. They're all unoriginal. Parent was saying how OP is claiming to have left Google because they are unoriginal and frame themselves against competition. That's exactly what "X of Y" is. Doesn't matter what X, or Y is. That's what that expression is designed to do.


Ok, thats kind of fair.

I should have been more specific. What they are on track to becoming (the we-chat, alipay of SEA), requires a high level of innovation in itself.

As We-chats rise was very different to Alipay's - Grab & co's are to the chinese companies. Its most definitely not cookie-cutter territory.


Are Alipay or Wechat even that innovative? I mean, would they exist if Chinese companies were required to play fair with American competitors?


I have to agree. However you characterize Grab, it seems he's gone there precisely because it isn't doing something unique; but because it's in an big, exciting and rather equal contest. Which is fine, but doesn't fit logically with the long reason for leaving Google. For all we know Grab is a well-funded me-too company. Maybe the real key is adrenaline, not benefits to society. He finds genuine, unique innovation exciting, but he also finds head-on fights exciting - either way he gets his adrenaline, his work seems to matter to somebody and the work can't be "mailed in." Google's "fault" is that it's been allowed to leverage a monopoly (patent, originally) and extend it in ways that used to be illegal, for decades, and now they have a rather massive series of moats. It's never really in emergency mode.


Did you read the full article? It's a long read but the logic is quite well explained. Whether you agree with the logic or not is another thing but it is definitely explained in the article and cannot be summarized by your quote.


:( I loved this authors previous blog posts but man this one has a lot of inaccuracies

- People don't trust apps more than they do banks. Traditional bank accounts are expensive (for bank & users) and its this has been the primary limiter of financial inclusion. Mobile wallets reduce branch costs. Mobile wallets like Grab, where the "bank" has a few hundred thousand employee / customers and millions of potential users to sell to have a great head start.

- People use grab-pay / go-pay instead of cash because you get a big discount on services when you do. They need to this, because cash-in to mobile wallets is such a pain. And no, they don't have much trust in apps. Subsidies can be reduced of course as they cement habit and provide more utility from the app (hence the rush for merchants & new use cases).

- Credit card fraud doesn't stop people from applying for credit cards. Central bank regulations on ownership criteria do. As does financial prudence (& religious reasons here).

- The NO TIPPING signs at Jakarta Airport are to let you know its a free service. Because tipping parking attendants is commonplace. Its not related to bribary.

- "Thieves are everywhere". Not gonna comment on that one. But I will on the "the evil taxi drivers in cahoots with the police" one. If this was commonplace there would obviously not be much demand for the legions of taxi's that operated before online apps came around. Once, I was ripped off by a guy offering a hotel in a train station in Rome. It doesn't mean hotels in Rome are inherently untrustworthy.

The latter part of the article is pretty accurate - Grab & Gojek are have made huge improvements in employment and financial inclusion. They have opened up the door to insanely cool new services and Id struggle to think of tech companies who have made such a huge impact into daily life here (Including FB & the like). Its also extremely likely that one of them will become the Alipay/Wechat of SEA and re-arrange the banking & e-comm landscapes too over the next few years.


> - "Thieves are everywhere". Not gonna comment on that one. But I will on the "the evil taxi drivers in cahoots with the police" one. If this was commonplace there would obviously not be much demand for the legions of taxi's that operated before online apps came around.

Taking taxis in most of SEA (and China), at least as a white foreigner, is a gamble every time. In KL, it takes me about 3 times each time to get a taxi that doesn't try to charge me a fixed fare, which is usually about 3x the normal fare. On my last two visits to Shanghai, i had one ride each time where the driver was "asking" for extra money by yelling and in one case threatening physical violence. In Bangkok it much depends on the location. Worst case you'll have to ask about 5 parked taxis before one agrees to use the meter.

Before Grab/Uber, there were not many alternatives to taxis, but that does not mean that taxis were providing good service.


Also agree with ponyfleisch. Taxis as a foreigner in Thailand were always a gamble. 50/50 chance of a negative experience.


Currently staying in indonesia for vacation, i can verify, a lot of green go-jek jackets, not so many grab ones.

Personally i use go-jek. Got an sms just like whatsapp, and i was setup. Grab wants me to create an account, meh, so i stopped there.

I like the live tracking, so i can see, where the driver is. Helped me a lot to get out and find the driver, as the navigation route is most likely wrong in all these small streets. Hard to give notes, they ignore them anyways.

The Go-Jek apps, for each purpose one, meh. The update mess on each day, whenever i get wifi, i hate it.

And i see signs everywhere: only drop-off, no go-jek, no grab, no uber. They are pretty vocal about it. So yeah, its a war.

Surely it breaks up local schemes of corruption. One can see it, when streets are closed down by types in army clothes, and a caravan of cars enter the streets, with dudes in open jeeps, moustache and laughing. There goes the money.

I do not know. There is a global economy and local businesses. I wish it was not a few companies driving the disrupting changes, that will destroy most likely local businesses, that have developed over decades. Sure, people use it and that is good. Good ideas replace ideas not so good anymore in these times.

Ah, i dont know. I want tools, that allow people to connect directly in an open market. Without a big company controlling the flow and taking a percentage here and there. But maybe thats the prize to pay for now. Everyone can take a camera now and do tv, its not monopolized anymore by a few.

End of rant. I wish that dude good luck. I also have left a well oiled machine to start something else. I do not share his excitement, though. The food delivery business will never be mine except for emergency. That beats crusty, non plastic wrapped 'fresh' together with a few friends. But thats just me. :)


From what I understand Go-Jek is kicking Grab's ass in Indonesia. Go-Jek is presently only in Indonesia, and Grab is probably larger in SEA as a whole , but nothing prevents GoJek from expanding to other countries, so yes major war going on. May the best company win!

I think Steve just wrote a great recruiting piece for Grab and Gojek ;-). Both are incredible companies, so all for the good. $Diety knows we need some great companies outside SF.

Due Disclosure: (I have no real interest in the ride sharing space but) Some of my friends are driving the tech at GoJek, and they are incredibly sharp people, with great vision and the tech chops to match. If Yegge wanted to be in a war with formidable opponents, he's got it in spades!


If you can tell your friends, that customers also like to be tracked/found, temporarily (if needed) Phoning is not really helpful, i dont understand them, they dont understand me. SMS the driver also does not work, as i usually do not buy SMS budget. And the notes are ignored by drivers! Maybe even a little doodle to show them how to drive best to the location on the last mile, could be useful. :)


Good point. I work on the Data Science team, but I will pass along your comment and suggestion to the relevant product team.


Do i see results of Data Science in the App? Never been on the driver side. Like, do you distribute drivers to busy places and things like that? Do you also block drivers in certain areas? What are driver's common problems? OOh, so many questions. Dont you want to write a blog post as well? :-)


Best bet to learn about our ML systems is at (and after) talks we do in Singapore.


Bangkok: FoodPanda, Uber, and LINE MAN seem to have much more mindshare in the circles I move in than Grab.


Yeah, I think Grab is generally larger in SEA compared to Go-Jek which is only in Indonesia.

Here in Malaysia the government already ban motorcycle ride-hailing service as it's considered unsafe for passengers. I assume it's the same thing as well in Singapore.


> "Today I just want to tell you about my new gig, because I think you’re going to be amazed. In fact I think I can safely predict that no matter who you are, something in this post is going to amaze you."

I'm getting super excited!

... a little bit later...

> "So what is Grab? Well, the simple and unsatisfying answer is: They’re the Uber of Southeast Asia."

Lost me at this point!


So much of this post reeks of venture-capital colonialism:

>"Aside from Singapore, the traffic infrastructure ranges from bad to terrible to near-nonexistent. (I mean, c’mon, Indonesia alone is 17,000 islands.) The credit-card industry is near-nonexistent."

>"And it is growing more rapidly in Southeast Asia, because — as any Asian person will happily tell you — they love their food more than you do."

>"I’m getting myself involved in a land war in Asia."

>"Asians use smartphones possibly more than anyone else in the world."

>"Not so in SEA. Everyone stares happily into their smart phones all the time."

It's not the 1300s anymore, many of us "Westerners" have spent time in South East Asia. And one of the great experiences there is going out to dine at night markets, hawker centers and food stalls. Getting food delivered ... not so interesting.

I get it that you came back from a company offsite and were eager to show management your enthusiasm but oh how cringeworthy this piece is.

Also talking crap about your previous employer as a means of getting publicity for your new one is incredibly tacky. More especially so considering you spent 13 years with them.


The only way to stop labor practices that involve abusing workers, not paying a living wage or for healthcare, is to say (as a customer and voter) that you will not tolerate this type of business existing.

In other words, if company X can only deliver your low price pizza and Diet Coke via abuse of its workers, then that business should not exist. It's a hard leap to make for many people, but a necessary one.


The burden to track company behaviour shouldn't be on customers. The normal way to counter this is via unions.


It sounds like unions are the new Rust on Hacker News.


I've got many friends in unions (e.g. pipefitters/welders) and based on the stories they tell me, unions need a 21st century reboot. They need a simple platform to organize/communicate digitally. Do you know of anything that exists like that?


I feel there's a clear difference how people see unions in the US vs. in Europe. I don't have much insight in to the differences, but it would be nice to hear why that is so.

I'm a proponent of strong unions with generally binding collective agreements (= collective agreements defining legally binding minimum terms for the whole industry), but I suppose the model won't work everywhere for one reason or another.


If only there was an industry that was good at building new communications platforms + revamping 20th century institutions.


in both cases, it's unsurprising that when the status quo so obviously sucks as badly as it does that people go looking for alternatives.


Fun story... Major supermarkets in my country announced they're phasing out caged chicken eggs. Vast majority of feedback I saw so far is people pissed off cheapest eggs will be gone. Looks like there's agreement this is conspiracy to rip off customers.

So yeah.. I doubt people could gang up on unsustainable businesses as long as they personally pay less.


"We are pledging we are in the process of thinking about moving towards streamlining possible future transition to making 10% of <turn really lagre fonts on> EGGS CAGE FREE."

Ok, not a direct quote from mayo bottle but you get the gist of it.

Now the funny part, my better half has a hotel and restaurant. She has trouble working with good ingredients because people demand crap ones they are used to.


> Now the funny part, my better half has a hotel and restaurant. She has trouble working with good ingredients because people demand crap ones they are used to.

That was my exact experience first time I bought high quality peanut butter. The oil had separated and stayed at the top. I thought something went wrong and I was ripped off. Took me some googling to realise that's what happens if the maker don't take away natural nuts oil and don't replace it with palm oil. Took me some time to adjust to natural no-unnecessary-additives jams too.

Now cheap knockoffs taste like shit though. The overexposed taste is just too lame and lacks depth.


I always thought it was ridiculous that natural peanut butter has the disclaimer "oil will separate." I guess now I know why :)

But nothing, NOTHING comes close to freshly blended peanut butter warm from those little blending machines at natural grocery stores or Whole foods.


And for the workers for whom that "abuse" is better than the other options? If I have a choice between dying in the street of starvation, or working in a hot kitchen for $2.00 /hour, no healthcare, no breaks, etc., would you deny me that chance to make $2.00 / hour? If so, all I can say is "who the hell do you think you are?"


As a society we shouldn't make people choose between the two. That's why we have things like a social safety net and minimum wage.


This is a coordination problem, i.e. of the same general class as how to maintain a cartel or avoid a race to the bottom to the cost of producers and benefit of consumers in an oligopolistic market. To summarise; it can’t be done unless the cartel can make and enforce legal contracts divining the market or with more than three market participants. Same reason the bidders for Amazon HQ2 can’t collude; cooperation is really, really hard. You need an enforcement mechanism.


Steve Yegge's writing, whether on technology or business (or both), is always delightful to read.

If he can start to write more now that he's no longer at Google, then I'm happy not just for him and his new job, but also for the rest of us, who can (hopefully) hear his voice much more often.


Delightful? More like excruciatingly long and boring.


The man needs an editor. Granted, he's enthusiastic and conversational, but he writes like a person who simply transcribed a long, spoken rant.


My hope, as well. I don't care what he writes about. It's all fun and I will carve out the time it takes to read. The longer the better.


So he complained about Google just copying, and then boasts this new company is going to be "the Uber of South East Asia"? This is in all seriousness the 5th startup I've heard of that is doing this exact thing. And like everyone else here pointed out: the demand doesn't exist.

The only explanation is that if they really worked at Google for 13 years, they must have made so much money that they don't care about making good financial decisions anymore.


"The only explanation is that if they really worked at Google for 13 years"

Just FYI, he's a pretty famous blogger. He also accidentally posted a supposed-to-be-private rant about Google a few years ago, which became pretty famous too.

So yes, he really did work at Google for 13 years.


That wasn't intended to be a comment of doubt, it was a logical implication, if P then Q. So in that case, I double down on saying he must just have no financial sense to think this idea is going to compete with every other copy cat.


I understand. It read like a statement of doubt, and since you also referred to him as "they", it sounded like you didn't know of him. Just wanted to point out that he's a pretty well known blogger, and in my opinion one of the best software developer bloggers, I highly recommend looking at this past work.

Which is not saying I disagree with you about this particular case, it sounds a bit overblown to me too.


I relied on Grab in MY and SG, both app and drivers were excellent, but if we needed a distilled example of how out of touch and tone-deaf tech can be then we need look no further than this article.


>> This is not hyperbole. This morning I saw a spy photo of an Indonesian mafia-run operation: a big seedy-looking room full of guys with stacks of phones doing fake ride bookings.

WTF? Why would the mafia do fake ride bookings? Who is paying them? Sounds like a certain company is trying to pump up their numbers artificially.

The whole ride-sharing thing is a massive bubble and OP's blind enthusiasm only confirms this. When I went to Thailand, taxi was so cheap, I felt compelled to give the driver a 100% tip.

Halfway through, the article started to sound like satire. I was expecting to get to the end of the article and see "Just kidding! seriously people; stick to Google..."


Where in Thailand were you? In Phuket and Bangkok drivers frequently tried to scam me or negoiate very high fixed prices for rides. Grab was perfect for avoiding that. Even when I couldn't get a ride through Grab, it told me what this ride should cost. Basically a cheat code for haggling. :)


>> WTF? Why would the mafia do fake ride bookings? Who is paying them? Sounds like a certain company is trying to pump up their numbers artificially.

I've heard this is common in markets where startups (/multi-sided platforms) dump a ton of VC money in the form of incentives and offers, in the absence strict ID verification. Even if the customer only pays $x, the driver gets paid $(x+d), and you can make the extra $d per transaction if you played both customer and supplier.


It's a delightful read. I am no fan of Google but people do realize that once a company becomes big innovation has huge costs involved, more people means lesser room for growth and hence the politics, as well as some arrogance of being a large company.

That said I kind of disagree with this: Restaurants and food trucks are both about to be obliterated by Peach and Uber Eats.

The biggest cost to a restaurant was their location and hence, the rents. Sure using food delivery apps helps them a lot. It also lowers the barrier of running a restaurant. So people might be all in for these apps. But that is one side of the equation.

The real question is - How is this a viable business for the food delivery apps? Is the market large enough to make real profits? As an example, most of the food delivery apps in India are not doing great:

https://www.vccircle.com/swiggy-lost-rs-1-5-for-every-re-1-i...

Swiggy has been the "Uber" of food delivery apps here in India and they have revised their prices upwards quite frequently.


Right now, what we have are the first generation of delivery restaurants which is basically "restaurants, only it's delivery". We won't start seeing the real revolution until we start seeing formats built natively around the assumptions of delivery. The second generation of "delivery, only it happens to be restaurants" format is going to look radically different from what we have today.

For example, right now, restaurants are naturally incentivized to disperse around the city to take advantage of foot traffic. But this turns logistics into a N x M challenge which is expensive. Delivery restaurants are instead incentivized to cluster together because 1 x M logistics is so much more efficient.

Once they cluster, further efficiencies can be unlocked. For example, right now, if there are 10 Asian restaurants in a block, each of them offers steamed rice and each of them owns a rice cooker. If you exist in a cluster and all your orders come from delivery, it no longer makes sense for you to be a "jack of all trades" restaurant, you can just have one restaurant make the 3 - 4 types of rice required for all Asian cuisines and it gets added on as a side for your order. Similar with like, mashed potatoes for Western restaurants, just have one restaurant focus on making the best damn mashed potatoes possible with all sorts of customized mixins and all the other restaurants don't have to deal with mashed potatoes. Prior to delivery restaurants, a "rice and mashed potatoes restaurant" would be totally non-viable. But with the disaggregating effects of delivery, it's now a possibility.

Probably the closest analogy I can think of is the Singaporean Hawker centers. Each stall is only responsible for making 2 - 3 things and they make the best damn version of that thing possible. America, for whatever reason, has never managed to produce truly decent food courts so it's a totally different paradigm.

On top of that, clustered delivery allows for the sharing of a lot of common infrastructure (HVAC, refrigeration, suppliers, dishwashing services, cleaning services, etc.) in a way that makes the entire enterprise more plug and play. Think AWS instead of dedicated servers. Rather than each kitchen having to hire a cleaning crew or worrying about what happens if the walk in is on the fritz, dedicated teams who specialize in each respective task can deploy it as a service scalably across the entire set of restaurants. Instead of incurring $X00,000 in startup costs, you can instead just lease at $X,000 a month and scale up your spend as you scale up your revenue.

All of this requires delivery as a format to get over certain scale humps so that efficiencies can start to be unlocked. But once they do (as they're currently reaching in Asia), we're going to start seeing much more interesting, innovative business models that take delivery as a premise and innovate from there.


For me the important thing with food is not efficiency, it's quality and hygiene (in preparation, i.e. a clean kitchen).

What you describe is a food assembly line optimised for efficiency, but I think if you look around you'll see that the kind of food that comes out of such assembly lines is generally considered second rate and unhealthy.

The idea of having one place preparing one type of ingredient is especially troubling. What happens when that enterprise grows successful enough that it just doesn't care about the quality of its product anymore? It's just a monopoly problem, at local level, waiting to happen. In any case, eating the same mashed potatoes all the time, even if they're the best damn mashed potatoes possible (which is impossible, really, because if you ask ten different people what kind of mashed potatoes they like, you'll get ten different answers) you'll get bored of them pretty damn quickly and long for something new.

You mention street food; that's the antithesis of what you propose. The whole point of street food is variation. I've never been to Singapore but I literally can't imagine street food prepared centrally. It would be ... bland.


Distributed food production has long been a reality of the catering trade since the invention of the freezer. It's just that freezing food marginally reduces its quality. The question is, how much quality loss is there from making something in place A and then hot-delivering it to place B?


What you describe already exists. They're called shared kitchens, and they've been in major US cities like NY, LA, and Chicago for decades, even before computers.

It really helps to know something about an industry before you claim that some random app is going to completely revolutionize said industry.


I completely agree on how it will lead to innovations on the restaurant side. Sharing infrastructure and bringing down costs.

The question really is on the app side - today they might be in making say $X from 3-4 places serving steamed rice. But tomorrow as you pointed out this might reduce down to $x/3 because all 3-4 can band together to pay for the same delivery. It will affect the food delivery app's bottom line.

So, the question remains is - how do food delivery apps deliver long term profits from this?


By turning from a service to a platform. Traditionally, companies that have a direct relationship with the customer are able to derive revenue by auctioning off that access to the highest bidder.

What we've seen across a range of creative industries is a transformation of incentives from those who are able to run the best business into those who are able to make the best product.

Take Youtube for example. Prior to Youtube, creatives had to figure out how to create compelling videos, where to market them to attract the most eyeballs and then how to monetize the ensuing attention. Those are three disparate skillsets that are rarely found in the same person.

Now with YouTube, while possessing the skills to market and monetize are beneficial, they're no longer essential. Instead, what you can do is purely focus on producing the best damn videos possible (where "best" is defined by whatever Youtube algorithm of the week is optimizing for) and Youtube will put your videos in front of the right eyeballs, grow your audience for you and monetize that audience (in exchange for taking a hefty cut and locking you into the platform).

We're seeing the same thing happen with Medium in blogging, AirBNB in accommodation, Facebook with news etc.

Right now, most restaurants fail, not because the food is bad, but because restauranteurs rarely make good businesspeople.

There's a compelling value add to chefs to offering them a platform where all they need to focus on is making the best possible dish for a given price point and customers naturally are delivered to them. At the same time, there's a compelling value to consumers where an app can look at my past purchase history, use machine learning, and add a free sample sized portion of a dish it think I will like to any delivery I order in order to expose me to new restaurants.

Any app that manages to insert itself into the middle of that transaction is going to redefine the food industry. That's why everyone is so hot for delivery right now. Even though the short term game has horrible unit economics, delivery is a natural choke point by which you can own the customer relationship.

In reality, in the US, this is really Yelp's game to lose. Yelp's stranglehold on reviews gives it a natural leverage point to pivot into this space. It's only Yelp's horrible executional ability that has opened up the space to so many well funded competitors.


Any app that manages to insert itself into the middle of that transaction is going to redefine the food industry. That's why everyone is so hot for delivery right now. Even though the short term game has horrible unit economics, delivery is a natural choke point by which you can own the customer relationship.

Which is precisely why no restaurant worth its salt limits itself to a single delivery app...Delivery is an add-on value for restaurants. People who assume it's just about the food fundamentally misunderstand why people go to restaurants in the first place.


This is hilarious to me sitting here in Southeast Asia. I see Grab make a mess of their technology every single day. Grab drivers almost always have to call before they make their way over. Software they use to detect fraudulent accounts is laughable. Several people I know have gotten kicked off the app because they traveled for holiday and were forced to start a new account. Sure whatever. Then Grab turns around kicks them off the app for being "fraudulent".


>> Grab is the biggest startup in the history of Southeast Asia. Grab is fighting the most important battle in the world today, on the biggest stage. I am typing this on a plane coming back from Jakarta, where I just witnessed history in the making.

Sounds like this is OP's first startup.


"’s not uncommon for people in Southeast Asia to get jobs as drivers and make 3 to 5 times their previous income."

Not unlike how Uber drivers did.

At first.


Did he try talking to Uber or Lyft? What he described is fairly similar to the other ride sharing companies' realities.

As for Didi vs Uber, I think there were some 'government' realities that made it a bit more skewed compared to the rest of the world, much like many other non-chinese companies in China.


No horse in the race, but in South-East Asia, Grab does seem to be kicking Uber's ass. In terms of visibility and mindshare. Mainly has to do with the amount of money Softbank and the various government-linked investment companies are pouring into it.


In the beginning of this piece I couldn’t figure out who the author was referring to as Google “customers”: Google users or advertisers? If users, this Google employee didn’t know who the customer was!

Then when the author revealed the innovative business they were most excited about, it was pretty difficult to process. Really? This is the exciting innovation you want in life? Take out delivery?

Every day I have to remind myself everyone is different.


So, working for an Uber clone that underpays its workers and exists to further enrich its billionaire shareholders is the most exciting thing this guy could find to do with his life? After already making millions off of his past career?

This is why people hate tech workers.


I'm sure you must be speaking from a country where everyone is employed. The ground reality is how businesses like these create tons of indirect employment feeding their hunger. This is often overseen as we can't imagine in someone else's shoes.


I actually think getting a job delivering food can be a local maxima - you make a few extra bucks, but it ties up all your time and leaves you less open to opportunities and training.


> After already making millions off of his past career

Having a popular blog is that much appreciated nowadays that he'd have significantly more income than his peers (without blogs)?


He mentions that Uber is losing so much money. But how much money is Grab losing? He says drivers make 3 to 5 times their prior wages. How can grab afford to pay that?


I was just talking to my UBer driver in Manila. He made $550 per month working as a registered nurse in one of the largest hospitals here. Driving for Uber he makes $1700 to $2100 per month. I'm assuming Grab pays similarly.

I don't think he's really done the math to figure out maintenance and fuel costs, but presumably he's coming out ahead in any case. This is a major issue in developing countries where institutional wage increases have not kept pace with the "gig" economy. So a skilled and educated professional can make 3x to 5x the local wage by working as a virtual assistant or an Uber Driver.

This pulls educated professionals out of the labor pool for things like medical and drags down the quality of care. Medical facilities in the Philippines can be really nice, but many doctors and nurses are recent grads and quite frankly completely clueless about anything but the most basic issues.


What I am afraid of is that these people payments are being subsidised by VC money, when that money runs out and they have to compete truly based on market self-regulated prices I fear the workers will be getting paid less and less to make up for the costs, it's good for a while but people are becoming dependent on something that is still very unstable.


Strictly speaking though, the rides aren't what is being subsidised by VC money, that is, the company aren't losing more money with each additional booking. The rates are pretty competitive with existing taxi business, and their entrance to a market hasn't exactly brought down ride prices.

I think most of the VC money are used on the "war" to gain dominance. Tech, marketing, lobbying, and such.


> people are becoming dependent on something that is still very unstable.

What industries would you consider stable today...?


They have higher income as the number of jobs available through apps is orders of magnitude higher than was available before they came along. Parcel Delivery, Shopping, Food delivery - all in addition to the increase in regular commuters due to the superior service.

They are all burning through cash of course, as each attempts to increase market share of drivers and reduce prices for users.


They might say higher efficiency (less downtime), but I doubt the claim.


I felt like his rant was all over the place this time. I would like to understand his definition of innovation and by that definition, who is innovating and who is not innovating. Google+ example is an ancient one, and the current Google is very different from that. Does he have a problem with Sundar's vision of making Google into a machine learning first company? Does he see the distinction of Alphabet and Google, and the notion of separating the big ideas into Google X? Does he think innovation is easy without failing 100 times?


It often is. we should just ignore it but given that it's Steve Yegge that's not gonna happen.


Innovation these days happens around the edges, not necessarily in big step-function creation of new product categories. We remember those, they suck up all the oxygen and inspire a year of me-too funding of fast followers. You hardly notice it the daily innovcation, when it's happening in small steps. Just look at photo/image search, or improvements in low light photography or portraits, in translation, or voice.

I think Yegge suffers from the same affliction that actually afflicts Google: a reward structure for new launches, not for perfecting what already exists. Google's problem is often not innovating, it's trying to hard to do something innovative, rather than the boring stuff that actually matters to a lot of customers. I think Google Photos is a perfect example of innovation focused on solving the boring stuff. You can say it's an iPhoto clone, but photo storage and backup is a commodity, it's organization and maintenance that's the real consumer pain in that regard.

And as many noted, the irony of the complaint about copying competitors and lack of innovation, and then a feverish, almost religious pitch for yet another O2O gig-economy clone, like the numerous that already exist in China.


Steve makes a good point that the largest technology companies have stopped (boldly) innovating. Obviously, all the engineers at the companies still go to work and write code. But with 10x the resources they seem to be outputting 1/10th the innovation.

What are the bold innovations to come out of Facebook, Google, Microsoft over the past decade or so that haven't been acquisitions? With Facebook, you have a bunch of work on better targeting ads. Oculus and Instagram are both acquisitions.

Amazon is the exception. With Amazon, you have AWS, Alexa, Fresh/Prime Now, while also breaking into new geographies and verticals etc.


I actually, because of the app I was reading this on, failed to realize this was a Yegge post until the end. No wonder it was such a good read.

Welcome back to the real world, man, hoping we see more blogs from you in the future!


My first thought upon reading the title was "who cares why somebody left Google, unless it's somebody like Steve Yegge."


Would like to see the gig economy move off of human labor. Do any of these companies like Grab or Go-Jek have much of an autonomy story or any real competitive differentiators?

If not, this whole space is otherwise a race to the bottom and a question of who can raise the most money. The fact that money from Softbank and Alphabet is allocated to competitors illustrates that it is very unclear how these companies differ from one another.


https://youtu.be/eaCHH5D74Fs?t=21

Steve, I can't think of a better way to satirize the gestalt at Google. Genius! Or maybe sandwich genius, where crowds can critique whether cheese goes over or under the meat.


Google landed their ivestment in Go-Jek, and Go-Jek is Google Cloud heavy user. And this guy made a blogpost why he jump to Grab after Google while mentioned Grab is AWS heavy user.

Purely advertorial for me :)


Man, I have missed Steve Yegge's posts and style so much. Can't believe that it's been 13 years that he's been locked up in Google.

I always kinda assumed that Google were paying him to write his essays for internal consumption only — not just making him stop blogging completely. Hopefully this means that we'll be hearing more from him in the future.

I'm still thankful for him getting me (and thousands of others) pumped up for the Common Lisp renascence of the mid-2000s, and I keep on hoping the world will cotton to its advantages (or — even better — develop something better yet). No dice so far, though.


Ah the innocence of youth...

Or in this case, someone's first startup job.


Not related to the story but it's depressing that I can no longer follow Steve in my rss reader. Unless there is a non obvious way to get Medium posts in rss.


Your comment prompted me to look for it. Apparently you can by appending /feed/ before the author's name. so for steve, it would be https://medium.com/feed/@steve.yegge/

Source: https://help.medium.com/hc/en-us/articles/214874118-RSS-feed...


afaik, riders' time wasted on resto's queue are not paid

also, riders don't get compensation for parking fee

so most riders avoid crowded resto and [tall] buildings (have to park and take elevator -- more unpaid time)

also, money spent on internet and phone calls are not compensated so u get random whatsapp messages from grab/gojek riders ... and sometimes sms (still costs little money tho), but rarely a phone call


Just wanted to point out how happy I am that Steve is blogging again. I've missed that a LOT. Welcome back!


> When this idea inevitably takes off, people are going to be able to order take-out from their neighbors, from anyone in the city who wants to cook their family recipe. It will change cuisine forever.

I had to stop myself from laughing out loud. As if such things as hygiene regulations didn't exist and you can just open a restaurant by hanging a sign out and telling someone to deliver whatever you just produced in your kitchen.

Well, probably in some part of the world you can. In some part of the world people die of food poisoning all the time, in other parts we learned the hard way that sometimes you need this thing which bothers startups to no end called regulation.


I made a similar argument to a friend while eating at a small street food vendor in Bangkok a couple of months ago. I was turned off by the flies and the fact I was a couple of feet from a dirty alley. My friend, who likely grew up eating in similar shops in Nigeria, pointed out I was looking at it from a very Western pov.

He argued that these kind of establishments were safe to eat at because their entire livelihood is dependent on their reputation among locals. Looking around at all the competition along the street we just walked down, it kind of made sense.

In my north american city if a shop fails inspection they are closed down for 48 hours, after which they can open back up and operate until next inspection. In Bangkok if a vendor makes some one sick the news spreads via word of mouth and their business is DONE.

I was able to enjoy an amazing meal after calming down.


That only goes so far. One only has to look into "gutter oil"(1) to see that reputation is not always paramount in vendors' minds.

(1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutter_oil

Also, the GI tracts of people in developed nations are more susceptible to some pathogens than people who have been exposed to those pathogens from an early age and have survived those pathogens in their foodsource.


I'm not following your logic. You're trying to say that the existence of regulation somehow prevents the spread of information via word of mouth? Besides, in Bangkok with its 8 million people, does the word of mouth even make any difference? You don't have to rely on return customers in the city with millions of people.


Does the word-of-mouth reputation system still work if you're using a phone app to order food from someone who isn't necessarily local? Now, everyone's competing against everyone in a much larger geographical area. Sure, you can go by reviews, but now you've got a negative-comment war.


Reputation seemed to largely work for The Silk Road. I mean, there might have been isolated incidents, but I don't seem to recall a broad trend of people dying from buying bad drugs.

At the end of the day, I think it always remains the case that "killing your customers is bad for business".


Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #10: "A dead customer can't buy as much as a live one."


Or maybe if you ruin your street vendor reputation, you just move two blocks over, repaint your cart, and start over?


You talk as if word of mouth doesn't exist in the US.


There isn't a singular reason.

But one of them is that SF doesn't have the storage and refrigeration that a fixed establishment does. The other is throughput. Combined, food doesn't stick around long enough to go bad. I have gotten sick in Vietnam, and it was at the fanciest restaurant on the entire trip. Most likely it was something kept under bad refrigeration for way too long.


I agree with you.

But I remember when I laughed similarly at AirBnB and Uber, because regulations, safety etc.

I remember when Uber riders, drivers, AirbnB hosts got screwed because the other party turned up to be a criminal (remember #uberdelhirape ?)

But, sharing economy is the new buzzword and regulations have been too much of a pain, so people are willing to take a risk.


Although I agree with you, there is possibly a grain of truth to what he says. There are some states that have regulations for running a (semi) professional kitchen out of a home. It won't be just anyone who can open up a food business and start running it, but it is possible that some people not otherwise able to make it on their own could use this as a marketing vehicle for part time work.


What's to stop the WeWork of commercial kitchens from developing? I truly believe that it could, emphasize could result in a boom of small family restaurants.

There was a startup in Britain that was killing it with mom cooking and Dad doing the deliveries. But health authorities cracked down and the company cratered.

The customers loved the service but even with the help of an executive chef doing inspections the government wasn't satisfied.


They already exist. They are called shared kitchen commisaries. Most places that use these are catering companies. The other majority is companies that need a HACCP approved kitchen for meeting safety standard, you'll also find companies that sell pre-made goods like baking cookies in bulk, or places that only make sauces.

Just think of a food truck business minus the food truck / cooking on sight, you deliver to parties and receptions instead with a-la-carte cooking ahead of time


Personally, I always find it funny when those who cut their teeth in a software industry ( which based on profit margins is a toddler ) think that their skills translate into well established industries such as restaurants.


We live in an era where every company is a software company.


Having founded a daily deals company a few years back, I can say this mindset can easily be a trap. Software plays a larger role in many companies and can be part of your offering, but I strongly disagree you should run every company like a software company.


A taco truck is a software company?

A bodega on a corner is a software company?

A shoe shine guy is a software company?


Computers and telecommunications had quite the impact, but they warped the world much less than the perspectives of some people in it.


What do you mean by

> ..a software industry ( which based on profit margins is a toddler )

I thought software has higher margins than most industries.


High profit margins imply very immature industry. As industries mature the profit margins drop.


Not always. High profits largely depends on the kind of competitive advantage (trade secrets, patents, market share etc) that can be deployed in one's sector, it is independent of industry.

A few counter-examples that illustrates my point:

1. Having a trade secret that allows only you to manufacture a good exclusively with high margins. The best known example is Coca Cola. They enjoy average gross margins of 60%.

https://ycharts.com/companies/KO/gross_profit_margin

2. Intel enjoys a near-monopoly in the hardware industry selling server CPUs. They enjoy 63% margins on ~$16b in quarterly revenue.

3. Professional services. I believe this one is self-evident because you can mostly get away with charging value-based prices instead of cost-based prices that is predominant in industries like manufacturing.

IBM Global Services contributes more than 60% of IBM's revenue which allows them to enjoy about 50% gross margins even though IBM GS has only been around since 1991. If industry maturity were truly a dominant factor, 26 years is more than enough time for their industry to "mature".


1. If by trade secret you mean Coke's branding, marketing and historical dominance.


1. No, I meant Coke's recipe is a secret known only to a handful of anonymous employees.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola_formula#Current_ingr...


I wonder if there are fewer regulations on food processing? Ie maybe a restaurant producing a meal needs to be regulated. But what if someone sells chopped onions and other prep work?


In the U.S., it's extensively regulated by both Federal and State laws, though the amount of regulation varies from state to state, and even county. The regulations don't just cover how the food is processed, but also where the food is stored and the vehicles the food is transported in.

Very few foods can be processed outside of a licensed cannery. Usually only items that don't require refrigeration to stay fresh, for example dried foods or preserves that don't have large pieces of low-acid fruit.


That’s probably for the better. But it’s a shame as well. Food preparation takes a lot of time and would employ many people. Then people could whip up the actual recipes at home. It seems like an avenue that could employ many people who otherwise wouldn’t be employed.


Despite the regulations, I’ve been food poisoned by restaurants around half a dozen times in my life.

And despite regulations to the contrary, for the entire 7 years I lived in Chicago, not a single cab driver ever accepted a credit card (this was a ways back).

Not to say that regulations are bad or that I’m against regulations. Just that they are not magic. Further, due to the centralized enforcement mechanism, most regulations are difficult and expensive to enforce. This can often result in being seldomly enforced.

If the uber-ization of food preparation comes with an uber like rating system, my guess is that the efficacy of that distributed rating system will rival or surpass centralized regulations in preventing food poisoning.


> Despite the regulations, I’ve been food poisoned by restaurants around half a dozen times in my life.

Did you wash your hands before you ate?


For the downvoters, the #1 cause for food bourne illness is people not washing their hands before they eat.

Usually if a restaurant is to blamed, there are multiple cases of illness outbreaks.


I didn't downvote but I guess your question was a bit condescending since the narrator is likely not some helpless 10-year old still learning personal hygiene.


Over 20 years my dad investigated claims of restaurant food poisoning, and there was a never an outbreak due to negligence; it was always deemed isolated incident attributed to not washing hands.


Although I agree to a certain extent, I hope there would be certain licenses that allows third-party to distribute meals (Like how Uber licenses their drivers through the company)


>>As if such things as hygiene regulations didn't exist and you can just open a restaurant by hanging a sign out and telling someone to deliver whatever you just produced in your kitchen.

personally I find that to be a sad commentary on the state of "Free" societies when we are regulated to the point where you can not even cook for other people with out government permission.

Really highlights how much freedom has been lost and that most people view that as a good thing. Falsely putting their faith in government health inspections often which only occur once every several years and are often highly corrupt, as the reason eating in restaurants are "safe"


personally I find that to be a sad commentary on the state of "Free" societies when we are regulated to the point where you can not even cook for other people with out government permission.

Preach it, brother, preach it! Can I get an "Amen" here???

We keep telling ourselves, and each other, that we are "Free" when we are so far from "free" that it's laughable.

To get a better idea of what the proper role for government should be limited to, I suggest everyone read "The Law"[1] by Bastiat.

As Bastiat says:

And what is this liberty, whose very name makes the heart beat faster and shakes the world? Is it not the union of all liberties — liberty of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of travel, of labor, of trade? In short, is not liberty the freedom of every person to make full use of his faculties, so long as he does not harm other persons while doing so? Is not liberty the destruction of all despotism — including, of course, legal despotism? Finally, is not liberty the restricting of the law only to its rational sphere of organizing the right of the individual to lawful self-defense; of punishing injustice?

[1]: http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html


You must have never visited a kitchen of a small restaurant if you honestly think hygiene regulations are something real and enforceable


Hygiene regulations don't require visible cleanliness (i.e., clean dishes and sparkling floors), they require hygienic practices and workplaces. The big things are storing and cooking food properly, making sure that employees clean themselves and the kitchen in a proper manner, and controlling pests like rats and roaches (which is 90% accomplished by the first two). Everything beyond that is negotiable.

LA County, for example, is very strict with enforcing these rules for kitchens, and publishes monthly lists of restaurants that have been shut down for violations.


what about cutting meat and occasionally some salad on the same board? that never happens in a busy kitchen, right? totally enforceable too


Wow, that's an impressive recruitment material (apart from being an interesting read, of course)! That works so much better than a bland "We're hiring" page, having the picture painted that way makes it much easier to imagine yourself taking a side in that "war". Is that a new trend?

Good luck to Steve!


People leave companies because they get into problems within a company and do not get along, or are under paid, or otherwise their life is limited.

This guy's report is biased, he is simply apostate from Google.


How depressing. Our living planet is collapsing at a dizzying and increasing pace, and not only do our 'best and brightest' (if that's what they are) work largely on trivia designed to accelerate the collapsing trend, they advertise their superficiality with this crude purported messianic zeal. Froth and bubble atop the dank turbid waters.


For the record, I slightly regret my tone here. I stand by an extremely negative opinion of hypergrowth ideology (and the role played in it by tech). But this needs to be seriously argued for (which can’t be done in a comment para or two), and personal attacks are only irrelevant and unpleasant noise. Not that Mr Yegge will know or have any reason to care, but it does pollute the atmosphere on HN.


No need to regret. As you said, the living planet is irreplaceable and infinitely more precious than artefacts of technology which can be built again and again, yet our thoughtless species largely pursues trivialities and in the process squanders what cannot be regained. But comments like these are not well received so I seldom say them out loud.


Sure, I don't resile from the basic point at all. Ecosystems are collapsing, and will take the dependent virtual worlds of business and tech with them if we don't change course. But the case isn't made any stronger by bagging individuals. I'm all for speaking up against mainstream myths, but it's usually worth taking a pause before being pointlessly combative.


I found this essay a little shocking, because his last message I saw was the OSCON 2011 talk "What Would You Do With Your Own Google" [1]

Something like - Let's all spend 5 years studying hard sciences and then go to work on important, world changing problems.

The war metaphors and the Uber problems space caught me off guard.

[1] https://conferences.oreilly.com/oscon/oscon2011/public/sched...


> The war metaphors and the Uber problems space caught me off guard

Quite, me too. It may be deserving of a serious & respectful critique, but not having time or inclination for it, a few sentences of ad hominem dismissal can be tempting. Best resisted.


You made it sound way more depressing. Who says they are the best? Maybe you are - so change the world the way you want to.


> Who says they are the best? Maybe you are

Maturity comes with losses and gains: amongst the latter is understanding (and becoming content with) one's limitations.


Further maturity is to accept the best people will work on what they want to, not what us commoners want them to.


Which project should he work on instead?


I could hardly know, from reading a few blog posts, enough about the man to say. I can claim that, given his history, the world is pretty much Yegge's oyster, so he's in a position to do a huge variety of worthwhile things. That he doesn't is obviously entirely his business, right up to the point that he makes public declamations combining world-blindness, triviality and self-important puffery in such an appalling way.


Linux on the desktop


This is the year, I just know it


Username checks out


I wish more people would work on ideas that would impact the poorer half of the human race.


I imagine that getting better food options to millions of people and enabling tens of thousands to start businesses does impact the poorer half of mankind positively.

We've seen for decades that the typical Western approach of throwing money at the elites of a poor country really doesn't help improve life for the impoverished; it's when we create opportunities for them that their lives become measurably better.

Contra the racists, there's no inherent reason for an African, Indian or Chinese peasant to be worse off than a German. They're not genetically inferior: they just had the bad luck to be born in a developing country. But if we can give those countries the same uptick in prosperity that Europe had from about 1812 to 1914, then approximately a billion people will be raised from poverty to something approximating a decent standard of living.

That'd be amazingly impactful.


>"I imagine that getting better food options to millions of people and enabling tens of thousands to start businesses does impact the poorer half of mankind positively."

Better food options? Is there a better food option than something locally grown with sustainable agriculture?

How exactly does VC-funded motorcycle and car taxis burning fossil fuels "impact poorer half of mankind positively"?

>"We've seen for decades that the typical Western approach of throwing money at the elites of a poor country really doesn't help improve life for the impoverished;"

Which has given rise to alternatives in the form of NGOs, PVOs and micro-finance initiatives. Do you really believe that some VC firms on Sand Hill Road is going to help lift the world out of poverty?


It will be extremely difficult to replicate European prosperity without replicating the colonial system that made it possible and is largely responsible for the state of the developing world today.


If true, just as well. Given we're already so far beyond the living planet's carrying capacity (nearly every ecosystem is already in rapid decline) replicating European 'prosperity' (actually future-theft) would be cataclysmic. Extend-and-pretend 'economics' (ie. 18thC superstition) just pushes all the decisions out to a future that never arrives.


You can't earn money by making things for people that have no money. We need to solve that first.


Yes you can, by pricing according to their needs and not according to your costs.

It's easy to forget that poor people are still people -- they have base needs like the rest of us: they need food, drink, clothes and of course shelter regardless of their financial situation. Some are currently able to meet those basic needs by holding multiple jobs, taking out loans or putting up with someone else (relative, friend) that is economically well-off. Regardless of how they do it, these basic needs translate into economic activities for whoever is able to fulfil them at a price they can afford.

Of course to break even, your business model needs to factor in the fact that it will take longer than the average to see any return on invested capital.


https://gems.org/ might disagree with that statement. It's a project that I have high hopes for. And they even make a good argument why they have decided to go the blockchain route, while others in the space have by and large failed to make their case.


Not everyone is in a position to make the world a better place through their work, but it would be nice if they didn't actively make it worse.


I would reframe that as "Not everyone is in a position to make the world a better place through their work, so it would be nice if didn't pretend they were"


I think it's a little unfair to just decide what "worse" is. Every older generation loves to say they like the old ways better. Seems hypocritical as they watch tv while playing on their iPad.


I'd say we desperately need new ways to self-organize to work on things that matter. Working for business, especially when governments are weak and regulation is pretty much non-existent, is a road to hell for the humanity


"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."


Except this piece is nothing but conviction.


It's "passionate intensity", actually.


Except by your standards, Grab is a vast improvement over Google, an advertising company.


Calm before the storm?


Does Grab use REST or gRPC?


Another note to all the people screaming "muh regulationz. What about t3h food poisioningz???"

Anybody... and I mean anybody can already cook for other people in their own kitchen, and serve food to others with absolutely no special legal regulation whatsoever. It's called "invite a bunch of people over for dinner". Or "take a dish to the company pot-luck". Or "take a dish to game night at the local hackerspace". Etc.

This is nothing but an extension to what people can already do. And while accidents can always happen, the bottom line is that anybody tempted to take advantage of the

"When this idea inevitably takes off, people are going to be able to order take-out from their neighbors, from anyone in the city who wants to cook their family recipe. It will change cuisine forever."

bit is almost certainly not interested in killing their customers.


I agree with you, mostly, but the profit motive does incentivize riskier behavior here.

Example: If I am having people over for dinner and accidentally leave out shellfish for too long, I can toss the expensive ingredient and just order pizza or anything else. If I depended on that shellfish to make a living, I would almost certainly risk using it.


Fair enough, but there's still a limit to how far you're going to push that line, no? Because a. deep down you're a human being and you don't really want to kill anybody and b. pragmatically you know if you get a reputation for killing customers (or making them sick) your customers will go elsewhere.


Well, Typhoid Mary was an actually woman who didn't care.

But yes, most of the time most people care enough.




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