Morning Tea #9: newfangled macbooks, rollups unraveling

Newfangled Macbooks

From 2012 to 2019 I had my first macbook pro. It weighed nearly 2kg, was built like a house brick and the battery lasted 30 minutes. Its fans quivered with fear every time I hovered over the Chrome icon. It was perfect. It had a real keyboard, a symmetrical screen bezel and was the only thing I owned that played DVDs. I extended its life by 3 years with the self-installation (!) of an internal SSD. I owe it two degrees and my life.

My new macbook pro is razor-thin and barely weighs anything. Weedy. Pathetic. Within weeks the touch bar (a hateful and useless invention) stopped working, taking with it my escape key. After waiting several lifetimes to bring my mac into an empty glass shop to see an Apple person, they took it away to fix it, leaving me computerless for 2 whole days. It finally returned, useless touch bar revived.

Plain sailing for a while. I was lulled into a false sense of security — the keyboard thing won’t happen to me. It did. My full stop now feels like there is a small wet towel under the key, absorbing any sense of feedback and my life force every time I hit it. I do not want to go back to the big empty glass shop, I do not want to be computerless again.

Now my hard drive is filling up with image heavy pitch decks and Python. Since the 512GB model was approximately 2 billion pounds, I foolishly went for 256GB, which is just enough to store three-word documents and an mp3. The solid-state memory is soldered onto the motherboard so, whilst it means the laptop is a bit thin, it also means that I need a new one.

Rollups Unraveling

At some point, I wrote about ‘roll-up’ companies that buy amazon sellers. I mentioned Thrasio, one of the big players in the reinvention of private equity for Millenial drop shippers. Shortly thereafter, their CEO resigned. More recently their CFO was dumped and their SPAC was binned (an impressive feat given the desperation of SPACs to de-SPAC, destroy value, and make a couple of people rich).

Turns out it’s quite hard to find high-value synergies (eugh) between middlemen in the deep tissue massage gun industry and the mini car vacuum cleaner industry. Low-margin importers have no meaningful business functions to combine — a weighted blanket geographic arbitrage operation running out of a garage does not have an HR function, for example.

This is against a black swan backdrop of decreasing revenue (supply chain? never heard of her) and increasing costs (hello inflation my old friend) combined with an Amazon policy of memory-holing FBA sellers without any inventory. Better start digging around the back of the sofa to make those payments on that enormous amount of venture debt.




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Simon Spurrier

Simon Spurrier

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