Keeping Up with the Zuckerbergs (Learning About/Staying Up-to-Date on the Tech Industry)

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7xEBITDA - Certified Professional
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Now that I'm in the real world (and working in tech banking), I hear from a lot of students claiming they're interested in working in/around technology, and asking for advice on how to learn more about the industry and keep up with trends. In order to save myself some time and not be forced to repeat the same answers on every networking call, I figure I'll list out some of the resources I use daily, and what I've found helpful in building out my knowledge set in technology.

A subset of the newsletters/blogs I subscribe to (in no particular order):

  • DealBook & Term Sheet (everybody should subscribe to these, even if you have zero interest in technology)
  • StrictlyVC
  • Stratechery (I cannot recommend this newsletter enough - one of the most valuable sources of insight I've ever encountered)
  • The Information (a bit pricey for students, but useful if you're really invested in this)
  • A16Z Weekly & Ben Evans' blog
  • Mattermark Daily
  • Finimize
  • AVC
  • ...likely missing some

As you can likely imagine, I definitely do not read all of the above everyday (or I would spend my whole day reading). I will skim (and selectively read) almost all of them, and when the headlines start looking identical I'll stop doing that as well. If you're low on time and only want to commit to reading three of the resources mentioned above, my top 3 would be Stratechery, StrictlyVC and A16Z Weekly.

The truth, however, is that even if you end up reading all of the above newsletters every single day, you will take a long time to get familiar with a lot of the proprietary terminology and obscure concepts that tech guys like to use. Unlike most other industries (you don't need a PhD to understand the economics of a Coach bag), many of the underlying technologies enabling revolutionary trends today are obscure and technical in nature. Also, there are so many subverticals within the tech space that trying to understand all of them is damn near impossible.

If you're a beginner, I would approach learning about technology like this (most of you will focus on Consumer Internet so I'll just write about that):

1. Know that understanding "the tech industry" is a ridiculous task and that building a specific area of expertise with adjacencies is far more practical and valuable in the long run

2. Figure out the area you want to focus on. For most of you it will be Consumer Internet - to understand it, you should read initiating coverage/primers on Google/Alphabet, Netflix, Facebook and Amazon at the very least. If you don't have access to research, reading investor presentations and annual reports is a recommended replacement, although you should supplement those documents with any free research/insights you can find (Stratechery and A16Z come in handy for this)

3. Read the Kleiner Internet Trends report. Read more than one if you can.

4. Find articles online about concepts like network effects and Metcalfe's Law (especially relevant now), the Hype Cycle, Aggregation theory, Moore's Law, etc.

5. At this point you'll have the ability to interpret news about the industry, and perhaps begin to understand implications of things for yourself (like why Microsoft bought LinkedIn)

A few things about the above recommendations:

- Obviously different sectors take different kinds of steps to learn. For the most part, learning about the incumbents is a good place to start, although for semiconductors/electronics that's a pretty daunting task
- Technical expertise is different for each subvertical. Cybersecurity and electronics tend to be pretty technical, while Consumer Internet does not.
- When you've built a groundwork on understanding domestic Internet trends, you should start learning about China and India

It's important to understand that true tech guys in Silicon Valley are not impressed by suit-wearing Wall Street types. They believe in technology almost to a fanatical, religious extent.

There are many of you out there (and many of my friends) that doubt technology and its value. You look at unicorn valuations and claim "bubble!" You look at how we act with smartphones in our hands and lament the impersonality and superficiality of the new generation. You miss the good ol' days, so to speak.

But just take a minute to think about what you've been given, and what you take for granted. Today, a kid in a dark room with just an Internet connection, a laptop and an iPhone can make a greater impact on the world than George Washington could with his entire army back in the 1700s. We've seen technology start political revolutions. We've seen technology lift entire countries out of poverty and create trillions of dollars of wealth.

Because of technology, we are each now more empowered than we have ever been in history. We can talk to and influence people around the world no matter their socioeconomic class. We can gain expert-level knowledge on nearly every subject imaginable. Governments and corporations are held responsible for their blunders and are being forced to be more transparent. And the power to create has been democratized as well, meaning everyone can make their own dent in the Universe with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work.

The best way to start learning more about tech is to actually be interested in the sector, and to believe in the mission. Then you'll have the motivation and the curiosity to explore the sector to a depth that would impress an interviewer.

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Comments (32)

Jul 7, 2016

Thank you, this is really helpful!

Control your anger. Remember you can measure the size of the person by what makes him/her angry - Dale Carnegie

Best Response
Jul 7, 2016

Great advice, it's like you've been into my RSS reader! Cannot recommend Stratechery enough. Some things to add, for some balance to the evangelical tech type commentary:

  • Matt Levine's "Money Talks" / Articles often has takes on hot tech deals and regularly updates on Unicorns and the like, unique perspective given he's ex-GS M&A / Lawyer which can be sobering amongst some of the noise in tech. Plus, the man goes deep into corp finance issues which is always entertaining.
  • Exchanges at GS (Podcast) has some good technology focused episodes more-so in city language.
  • FTAlphaville's "What Is Fintech?" / "Bitcoinmania" / Blockchain tags are the best way to cleanse away much of the bullshit around the sector. A lot of opportunists jumping on buzzwords and claiming they're thought leaders, this source is the counterweight to this. I'd argue Izabella Kaminska goes too cynical sometimes, but still thought provoking stuff.
  • Clayton Christensen's HBR articles/books. "Disruption" is thrown around all too much by trashy tech press. Read it from source. You'll be able to filter the bad takes out, do it for your sanity.
    • 5
Jul 7, 2016

Commenting and SB for later

Jul 7, 2016

Great post

Jul 11, 2016

Good info, thank you for posting

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Jul 11, 2016

Thank you for sharing!

Jul 11, 2016

Sorry to be a d**k but typical banker crap, no imagination all imported.

Jul 11, 2016

Can't recommend stratechery enough. I had an interview at a unicorn last week and a lot of what contributed to getting the job was both me and my interviewer were ben thmpson fans. Also listen to the podcast.

Jul 11, 2016

Interesting sources. Thank you for the links!

For all of my tech news, I read Y Combinator's Hacker News. It's geared much more to the technical audience but if you're a business person on the outside looking in, the comments are a real treat. The majority love to get into arguments and put down others for incorrect information but conversely, it's a very intelligent demographic and the content is voted up Reddit style so you're never reading slop.

I split my time 30% HN, 30% WSO, 20% ZH, 20% MISC.

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Jul 11, 2016

I do Tech PE so I'll add my thoughts.

The OPs list is really solid and a great place to start, a few random things I'll add. Some of these are really just tech and not that focused on finance

Many of the Paul Graham Essays
20 min VC podcast
TechCrunch
Product Hunt
Hacker News
Recode

For those looking to stay in Tech Banking or do Tech PE, finance skills are probably the more relevant skill over tech knowledge.

For those looking to enter the VC world (especially from a Finance background) things are much more focused on Product, Product-Market Fit, and the Entrepreneurs/Management team in question. I've found that the best way to position yourself for this is to develop strong opinions on various startups and founders and to look at things through a more product/user oriented view. Some of the aforementioned sources will help to develop that opinion.

    • 1
Jul 15, 2016

Good additions to the list - the Paul Graham essays are amazing and I constantly go back to them. Greatly appreciate your insight on positioning for Tech banking vs VC - something I've been giving some thought to as I look to move away from consulting.

Jul 12, 2016

MIT Tech Review is also a great place to just read about research and the industry.

Jul 12, 2016

A+ resources. SB'd.

A big thing I recommend is getting Feedly (a mobile app) which allows you to pull stories from so many different resources (blogs, RSS feeds, websites, newspapers) and really helps you get a continous feed to read through. I think most of those are on it or able to be uploaded into your feed.

You also get to have certain 'feed' categories so if you want to differentiate between Tech News and Venture Capital news and Founder News you can do that.

A couple more resources I would suggest:
VentureBeat
TechCrunch
Quora.com

"It is better to have a friendship based on business, than a business based on friendship." - Rockefeller.

"Live fast, die hard. Leave a good looking body." - Navy SEAL

Jul 12, 2016
UTDFinanceGuy:

A+ resources. SB'd.

A big thing I recommend is getting Feedly (a mobile app) which allows you to pull stories from so many different resources (blogs, RSS feeds, websites, newspapers) and really helps you get a continous feed to read through. I think most of those are on it or able to be uploaded into your feed.

You also get to have certain 'feed' categories so if you want to differentiate between Tech News and Venture Capital news and Founder News you can do that.

A couple more resources I would suggest:VentureBeatTechCrunchQuora.com

For FWIW, my friend from high school was one of the founders who started Quora, it's quite a small world these days, isn't it?

Jul 12, 2016

Excellent post, technology adds a lot of value to today's society. Having worked back and forth in finance and technology, once you are associated with technology...it'll be a part of you forever. Friends, associates, and acquaintances around you will only think of you in that fashion regardless if you become an Investment Banker.

Bonus points too because they think you're awesome but really all you do is press the "Test" button after troubleshooting some code error and get paid handsomely for it.

Jul 13, 2016

CBInsights (VC/Deals)
The Macro (Startups)
BetaList (Product)
Growth Hackers (Product)
First Round Review (Startups)
Benedict's Mobile Newsletter (Startups)
Founders Grid (Startups)

A list of all the top personal VC blogs;
- https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/venture-capital-bl...

    • 1
Jul 16, 2016

Very nice article! and interesting points in the second half of the post, most bankers don't have your visions and depth of thoughts

Array
Jul 17, 2016

Netflix?

Jul 17, 2016

Thank you @7xEBITDA ... and also, agree w/ @SFtoMarin , like you, I was going to recommend CBInsights

Jul 18, 2016

SB'd all of them. Thanks!

Jul 19, 2016

Would also suggest:
-American Banker (has a great Tech Banking subsector)
-WallStreet & Technology
-CIO Journal

Aug 3, 2016

Great stuff shared!! Really helpful!!

Sep 29, 2016

If you want to learn about both ibanking and tech then I'd check out "The Ultimate Guide to Wall Street & Silicon Valley Careers" ----- ambitiousgrads [dot] com

--- Seq

Sep 29, 2016
Sep 29, 2016

Tech Crunch

Sep 29, 2016

techcrunch.com is probably your best bet for startups - engadget and gizmodo don't really follow companies

Sep 29, 2016

venturebeat, gigaom

Sep 29, 2016

Two magazines that I like that are not on your list that I like are:

Business Insider - www.businessinsider.com
Wired - www.wired.com

You should also subscribe to peHUBs daily email. It recaps a lot of the VC funding news. You can subscribe here:

http://msg1svc.net/static/thomson/html/pehub_wire_...
You can go directly to their VC section here - http://www.pehub.com/a/vc-deals-channel/
Hope this helps.

Sep 29, 2016
Sep 29, 2016