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Why founders in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere are leveraging SPACs to take their companies public

Co-authored with Allen Taylor (Endeavor Catalyst)

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

Last month, Grab announced it would go public via SPAC. This is an incredible milestone in the world of SPACs (“Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), a sector that has exploded in the last two years. Grab’s SPAC deal — valuing the company at nearly $40B — is the largest in history globally, more than double the previous record.

While that in of itself is noteworthy, it isn’t the punch line.

Grab is not a traditional Silicon Valley company. Instead, it is the leading super app in South East Asia, with a primarily emerging market user…


No Mercy No Malice

The economic flood gates are about to open wide

A huge ocean wave breaks along the coast.
A huge ocean wave breaks along the coast.
Photo: Luis Ascenso/CC BYY 2.0

Post-crisis periods are among history’s most productive eras. London rebuilt after the Great Fire with grand new architecture, and Europe, after the worst of its plagues, underwent a commercial revolution. The Marshall Plan turned enemies into allies, fomenting peace and prosperity for more than half a century. Leaders also emerge from crises. Ulysses S. Grant was a washed-up soldier without prospects until war broke out, but that war created the opportunity for Grant to save the Union and advance the cause of freedom. This is all to say: In the next 36 months, I believe our economy will birth a…


Money Talks

Welcome to the new tragedy of the commons

Illustration: Julia Moburg/Medium; source: Getty Images

In the 1950s, the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland was, as it had been for centuries, one of the richest fisheries in the world, home to a massive and endlessly replenished population of cod. The fishery provided food for people across North America, and jobs to tens of thousands of fishermen and fish plant workers. But new technology — radar, sonar, electronic navigation systems, and massive drift nets — was allowing trawlers to fish for longer, and to take more fish with every trip. The result was that cod were being pulled from the ocean faster than they…


Number Crunch

Forget ‘Titanic’. ‘Ever Given’ is the maritime blockbuster we need

$400 million per hour: That’s the economic cost caused by a quarter-mile-long container ship that has been stuck in the Suez Canal since Wednesday, blocking passage for other ships on one of the world’s busiest trade routes, based on a rough estimate by Lloyd’s List, as reported by Bloomberg.

Rescue efforts have been ongoing, with the cargo ship Ever Given having been partially refloated but still stuck in the middle of the Suez Canal. The canal accounts for roughly 12% of the world’s seaborne trade, which should give you an idea of how much global trade is at a standstill…


How the ‘Technoking’ imbues assets with value in the same way medieval kings would

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020
Photo: Britta Pedersen/Pool/Getty Images

Where does money come from, and how did it get that way?

Most people assume that it all started with bartering, but the barter theory, popularized by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations — which supposes that human societies traded goods for one another before developing currency — has been widely disproven. No example of a pre-currency barter economy has ever been discovered anywhere on Earth.

Quite the opposite, in fact. The late 19th-century European anthropologists and ethnographers who conducted field studies among what were then perceived to be the “primitive tribes” of Africa, Asia, Australia, and Oceania reported…


Without major platform overhauls, the creator’s gold rush will come to an end

Adult woman preparing a meal and chopping fresh ingredients in front of a video camera on a tripod.
Adult woman preparing a meal and chopping fresh ingredients in front of a video camera on a tripod.
Photo: 10'000 Hours/DigitalVision/Getty Images

In 2020, YouTube’s highest earner, according to Forbes, was nine-year-old Ryan Kaji, who made $29.5 million — up from $26 million in 2019. Gaining fame through unboxing and reviewing toys, Kaji surged to the top of YouTube’s charts after publishing a 2015 video in which he reviews more than 100 toys, and he’s remained there ever since. Drawing inspiration from other YouTubers like EvanTubeHD and Hulyan Maya, who also reviewed toys, Kaji and his mother started the channel when he was three years old. …


NUMBER CRUNCH

The other half of their stimulus will obviously go toward avocado toast

An illustration of the Number Crunch logo next to the text “50%: The share of their stimulus checks that half of American 25–34-year-olds plan to spend on stocks. Source: Deutsche Bank” with an illustration of a check and a positive trending graph below it.
An illustration of the Number Crunch logo next to the text “50%: The share of their stimulus checks that half of American 25–34-year-olds plan to spend on stocks. Source: Deutsche Bank” with an illustration of a check and a positive trending graph below it.

50%: That’s the share of their stimulus checks that half of American 25- to 34-year-olds are planning to spend on stocks, according to survey data cited by Markets Insider. The survey, conducted by Deutsche Bank Research, found that this age group has more aggressive equity plans for any stimulus funds than either older or younger investors — but that significant chunks of every age bracket are eyeing stocks as a place to park at least some of this new cash.

The standout status of that young-adult cohort makes sense, as the survey also found that over the past 12 months…


Money Talks

The latest collectible boom is fueled by speculators, not enthusiasts

An illustration mock-up of a phone with an Ethereum “coin” in a Bubble-Bobble style game design. The coin is pointed at a variety of bubbles that contain different art icons or internet memes.
An illustration mock-up of a phone with an Ethereum “coin” in a Bubble-Bobble style game design. The coin is pointed at a variety of bubbles that contain different art icons or internet memes.
Illustration: Quickhoney for Marker

If every era has its quintessential collectible, something that speaks to the historical moment and becomes a seeming route to riches, ours is clearly the “non-fungible token” (or NFT). Over the past year, NFTs — which include, among other things pieces of digital art, digital cards featuring NBA highlights, and limited-series music albums, all recorded on the blockchain — have become objects of obsession and financial speculation, fueling hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions, the biggest of which happened just a couple of weeks ago, when a 10-second video clip created by digital artist Beeple sold for $6.7 million…


Number Crunch

Women economists get far more scrutiny for their work than their male peers

Number Crunch logo above a generally downward trending line graph next to the text “12%: How many more questions female economists are asked at conferences than male economists. Source: The New York Times”
Number Crunch logo above a generally downward trending line graph next to the text “12%: How many more questions female economists are asked at conferences than male economists. Source: The New York Times”

12%: That’s how many more questions female economists received while presenting at conferences compared to their male counterparts, according to a working paper by a team of economists reported on by the New York Times.

The paper also found that women were more likely to face questions that were patronizing or hostile from conference attendees. …


Image courtesy of the author

That’s designer and technologist John Maeda reflecting on the nature of disruptive innovation and their timescales. Whether it’s technologies with broad, sweeping applications that upend society — like what happened with the shift from steam power to electricity — to more specific inventions like the 1990s hard disk world, he offers up a meditation “when thinking about being disrupted.” In addition to citing the late Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, he unearths the source paper behind a conference talk he attended in the Before Times called, “Dynamo and the Computer: The Productivity Paradox” by Stanford economist Paul David, published…

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