Subsidies for markets that scale

A common theme I've heard about Uber is that prices are artificially low due to venture capital subsidies. The thinking is, at some point these subsidies must end and prices must go up. The fear is that, by that time, no competitors will exist and consumers will lose out due to high prices.

But what if the cost of providing a ride will decrease in the future? How could it? The most obvious answer is self-driving cars. Other options include:

  • Add cars that seat more people, and share the cost of the driver
  • Enable drivers already headed to a destination, like work, to pick up passengers
  • Allow businesses to directly subsidize rides to their location. This already happens with happy hours and validated parking
  • Allow businesses to buy ads for people who haven't yet made up their mind

Each of these could reduce the cost per trip by 10% or more. From this point of view, offering cheap rides now is just a preview of low prices in the future. Put another way, it's kind of like taking out a loan to start a business where the first product you make is expensive, and each additional product gets cheaper and cheaper. If you can, best to start with the final price rather than get the reputation for overly expensive stuff.

Recover with a new skill

Traumatic life events happen. A breakup, or layoff, or worse.

One response is to commit to a new skill. Learn to paint, or sing, or program. Become a certified yoga instructor. It's a great way to create a new routine and use the time that previously went to the job or person. 

Two rules for efficient decisions

A Google product manager once told me that he has two rules for the endless stream of decisions that must be made a project moves forward:

  1. Never let a decision go undecided for more than 24 hours

  2. Never take more than 60 minutes of focused time to make a decision

These ensure that both the hard and the easy decisions get made, not just the easy ones.

An example of someone who embodied these rules, Robert Moses, who built almost every bridge, highway and park in NYC, famously worked from a table rather than a desk. This was so letters couldn't be forgotten in drawers. Instead, he would start the day by making decisions for each letter.

When do you work best?

I'm a morning person. All other things equal, I do my best work in the first three hours after I wake up. If I try to get the same work done later in the day it either takes twice as long or simply isn't possible.

Yet somehow I can always attend a meeting or respond to an email. So I try to cluster these activities together, and tackle them later in the day when it's harder for me to do individual work.

Not everyone is a morning person. I have friends who work their magic in the afternoon, or after everyone else has gone to sleep. It's worth figuring out when you're at your best. Once you know, use it to do your best work.