Recommended “Reads” of 2021 by Aumni’s Director of Research, Adam Putz

Dec 20


Like you, I read. A LOT. Perhaps one day I’ll tally up a rough approximation of my total word count across the books, articles, research notes, shareholder letters, S-1s, Howard Marks memos, press releases, etc. etc. that I consume in a given year. But that sounds like a lot of work. And all purely for a vanity metric. Not worth it.

It also leaves off the tremendous insights encountered by listening to the growing number of podcasts devoted to covering the many corners of emerging tech and the private capital markets.

As 2021 rapidly recedes into the rearview mirror, let me share a few “recommended reads” from 2021 that stuck with me long after I’d scrolled to the bottom, as it were. In no particular order—and not a piece of institutional research in sight—please enjoy my “Recommended ‘Reads’ of 2021.”

The End of Venture Capital as We Know It {The Information}

I don’t know that I returned to a single piece more often than Slow Venture’s Sam Lessin’s mid-year take on the state of play in venture capital. Change is here and investors, large and small, in the private capital markets now have a choice: go big or go weird.

All signs seem to indicate that by 2022, for the first time, nontraditional tech investors—including hedge funds, mutual funds and the like—will invest more in private tech companies than traditional Silicon Valley–style venture capitalists will. 

The bright new age of venture capital {The Economist}

Until 2020, venture funding had yet to top $100 billion in aggregate across a single quarter. In 2021, it’s done that QoQ. Like Lessin, The Economist chronicles the changes that have reshaped VC over the past year while offering a rounded take on what investors and founders alike should expect going forward.

The business of funding disruptive businesses is booming—and is itself being disrupted.

How we came to depend on the week despite its artificiality {Aeon}

I tend towards the contemplative when selectiing something to read if chance (i.e., existing research demands) allows. If like, well, everyone I know, wondered at least once since March 2020 exactly what day it was, then this piece on the social construct known as “the week” is right for you. 

The week is the most artificial and recent of our time counts yet it’s impossible to imagine our shared lives without it.

Geopolitics for the End Time: From the Pandemic to the Climate Crisis

My only book selection for this list. If you’d like others, there’s no shortage of year-end lists like that out there. It didn’t take long into the COVID-19 pandemic for the raft of books positioning it as a fumbling first pass at a global effort to take collective action to address a shared problem like climate change. This one’s just the best of them, in my opinion.

A sharp vision of our changing world order as COVID-19 and climate breakdown usher in a new 'survival of the fittest'. How well have different cultures and societies responded, and could this become a turning point in the flow of history?

Climate tech startups {MIT Energy Initiative}

No time for a book? Still interested in climate change and how tech can play a positive role? This podcast from MIT is for you.

“​​One of the things that was, I think, really important for me was thinking hard about, what was it that energized me every day? What day during my research, my graduate work, was a day where I came home and was like, ‘That was an awesome day.’ And those were the days that I could connect what I was doing to the impact. And so, for me, maybe the path to starting a company was not obvious, but the path from the fundamental research that I was doing was. 

The dark art of valuing a company {Utah Business}

The venture ecosystem yields more investment data by the day, but as Kickstart Fund’s Curt Roberts points out, valuations remain much more of an art than a science. As succinct a statement on the venture investment journey as a learning process that I encountered all year.

How much do the founders own? What may the future hold for additional rounds of financing?

The Economic Impact of Venture Capital: Evidence from Public Companies {SSRN}

First published in 2015 and updated in 2021, this meaty academic study provides perhaps the most comprehensive account available of VC’s net-positive impact on the innovation fueling economic growth. And Gornall’s and Strebulaev’s findings are categorical.

Among public companies founded within the last fifty years, VC-backed companies account for half in number, three quarters by value, and more than 92% of R&D spending and patent value.

Does Tech Need a New Narrative? {The New Yorker}

I’ve really appreciated the way in which publishing giants have increased their coverage of the private capital markets. These interventions appear, by and large, to come from a place of sincere curiosity and respect for just how potent an economic engine venture investment can be. And as you should expect from The New Yorker, Anna Wiener’s research base is as deep as her writing is rich.

In Silicon Valley, ‘disruption’ is giving way to ‘building.’ What will be built?

The Complete History & Strategy of Berkshire Hathaway {Acquired}

Can a podcast offer the authoritative account of a subject? If not, this podcast, the first in a three-part series on Buffett and Munger’s legendary investment track record, comes about as close as it gets. Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal detail in, well, extreme detail, the full history of Berkshire Hathaway.

How did a folksy, middle-class kid from Omaha become the single greatest capitalist of all-time? Why, like Jordan, did he retire (twice!) at the top of his game, only to reinvent himself and come back stronger than ever?

Indexing the Earth {Invest like the Best}

This interview was, forgive the pun, out of this world.

Will Marshall is the co-founder and CEO of Planet. We [Marshall and host Patrick O’Shaughnessy] cover the untold space story, how space is going through an internet moment where cost reductions and performance enhancements have led to a seismic shift in what’s possible above our atmosphere, and how that can drastically improve life on Earth through unique datasets like the one Planet is piecing together.

Scenius {Not Boring}

If I have a spirit animal, it’s Packy McCormick. There are precious few substacks worth following. But Packy’s is one of them. And here’s a great example of why. Packy blends a deep dive into why certain places or “scenes,” say, Renaissance Florence, produce so many geniuses seemingly at once. In short, is there such a thing as “scenius” and does the emergence of web3 represent the latest one?

Throughout history, a handful of time-place combinations have punched so far above their weight in terms of contribution to human progress that their existence befuddled academics.

Tolkien estate vanquishes Lord of the Rings themed cryptocurrency {Financial Times}

Some semblance of sanity from the maelstrom of media coverage of cryptocurrencies during a year when interest in Bitcoin, NFTs, and web3 went mainstream. No, you cannot launch “JRR Token” and hope that suggesting the JRR bit stands for “a journey through risk to reward” passes muster with World Intellectual Property Organization. You. Shall. Not. Pass.

Estate of late author wins ruling from World Intellectual Property Organization over JRR Token project.