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Breaking Bad, Microsoft, and Ecosystems (daltoncaldwell.com)
60 points by jwallaceparker 1608 days ago | hide | past | web | 11 comments | favorite



I recommend Breaking Bad, there's some startup lessons there.

On S03E10, entire episode is Walter and Jesse trying to catching a fly. One small fly inside huge lab. Jesse wants to give up and continue cooking, but for Walter, this is absolutely critical issue. I thought this episode was quite boring, but then Walter explains himself and it finally hit me: It was like assertion code failure, something that should not ever happen under your assumptions. You don't just ignore assertion failures. Code could still work and you can still ship it, but that code is not what you think it is anymore. This small fly in lab is going to ruin your entire product. Drop everything and catch that fly first.

Another interesting thing is, you can understand what it means to "know your metrics". They have pureness metric to scientifically measure their product quality. Pureness is what makes their product best in the market and they never compromise on it. It is interesting that how they keep an eye on it and why it matters.


And the funny thing is how much he changes to the later seasons when a dirty place is "perfect".


"Fly" was a brilliant episode, but I didn't take it to be about things that "should never" happen (assertion failure) so much as about Walter's mental decay. The reality is that 100.00% purity is physically impossible to achieve and there are always "contaminants" and people have to balance impurity and risk against the upside of what they're doing (if you're making meth, a fly is not a big deal). In part, I think he was driven by his memory of previous work and a bit of nostalgia. Since he remembers a pristine working environment when he was an esteemed chemist, he's trying to get back to that. In reality, there were imperfections, but he doesn't see them.

In part, it was like Lady MacBeth's "out, damn spot" monologue: a guilty conscience leading to obsessive mysophobia. But it also was the first sign that, even though Walter was at a point where he could just follow orders, coast, and make a lot of money, he wouldn't. Something would piss him off and stop work or worse. His guilty conscience, at first, was about the fly but, later, it was projected onto Jesse, explaining why he took extreme measures (endangering his own life) to protect him.


Bill Gates was in the empire business.


Bill Gates was in the BASIC interpreter business.


And they did a couple very good ones. I loved Applesoft BASIC.


Why isn't Albuquerque a tech capital when it has everything else going for it? It's not a cool place to be. Young whippersnappers taking on the world want to be around like-minded (read: young and educated) people, who congregate in big, cool cities like Boston, NYC, Seattle. Not Albuquerque.


Right, but young and educated people only like New York, Boston, and Seattle because other young and educated people live there. There are multiple equilibria. Major investment could break that cycle.

There's actually one very easy exploit: young, educated people hate forking over a third or half of their earnings in rent. The problem is that there's no location (that I know of) where: (a) it's easy to start a product-focused business, which requires funding, and (b) rents are reasonable. You have to choose (a) or (b). Most young people are willing to bleed on the altar of real estate because they believe it will help their career in the long run (and that's probably true).

New York is going to be the world's capital for, at least, the next 50 years. Boston has some of the top universities. So these will always be important locations. There's no reason, though, that another one couldn't be created. It would just take a lot of concerted investment. If I were going to pick a place, I'd probably choose Minneapolis: it has a lot of smart people and undervalued talent (engineer salaries are about 60% of what they are in NYC) but the cost of living is low and the only negative is the winter cold, which is not nearly as bad as it's made out to be. (If the 3 worst things about a place are December, January, and February, that's a good location.)

If there was an easy way to get funding in Albuquerque or Minneapolis, you'd see a lot of sharp, young people moving there. If you make a decent salary, aren't getting robbed on rent, and have a reasonable (4+ weeks) vacation allotment, you're pretty much location-agnostic as long as the place has smart people and decent hangouts. With 4 weeks vacation and money for hotels and flights, you can make more use of New York's amenities than most New Yorkers do, and more cheaply than it costs to pay the city's exorbitant rent.


I wouldn't bet on Minneapolis. The local tax laws are pretty harsh, the weather has some extremes, rent and housing are higher than they should be, and it is not a young person friendly area. Plus, the UoM isn't really a tech school and the tech scene isn't going to recover from out sourcing and Medtronics / Fingerhut's problems.

I believe one of the states in the upper plains could become a tech capital if they worked at it, but MN is problematic and everyone else sees oil coming.


There is always one place where A and B are near ideal. Usually as A gets better B gets worse. Currently this place is Berlin.


I've wondered the same things as Dalton, why isn't there a city in New Mexico or an area that is as densely high tech as the Bay Area? My guess is it is the lack of ready access to capital, the New Mexico tech seems way more "R" than "D" (in the R&D spectrum) and research consumes more money than it produces.




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