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Dec 21, 2023

Our Top 10 Articles of 2023

AI innovators, chip giants, investing outliers, and more: these were your favorite Generalist articles from the past year.

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It’s been a busy year at The Generalist. Over the last twelve months, we’ve published dozens of pieces and written hundreds of thousands of words exploring the frontier of innovation and investing. We’ve analyzed impossible technologies, charted the path of market leaders, interviewed exceptional Silicon Valley practitioners, and studied the strategies of the world’s best venture capitalists.

Across all of these topics and many more, the 10 below were your favorites in 2023. If you’re discovering some of these for the first time, we hope they make exciting reading for your holiday break.

Finally, if you have a friend who would enjoy The Generalist’s work, this is a great introduction! We’d be grateful if you’d forward it their way so they can join us for all the stories and strategies we discover together in 2024.

1. The Best Venture Firm You’ve Never Heard Of

Despite being published just three weeks ago, this chronicle of Hummingbird Ventures takes our top spot. Its fast rise is a testament to the firm’s unorthodox approach and exceptional returns (multiple +10x funds!). Central to Hummingbird’s success is its maniacal dedication to finding and selecting outlier founders.

Read this if you’re interested in differentiated investing strategies, founder psychology, and genetically engineered bumblebees.

2. Who Becomes an Entrepreneur?

Founding a company is an act of insanity. It requires ferocious determination, relentless ingenuity, and a healthy dose of delusion. Why does anyone do it? To try and understand what makes an entrepreneur, we dove into the literature, distilling findings from the most interesting research papers. The result is a look at the personal and environmental factors that create the world’s innovators.

Read this to understand the connection between childhood adversity and entrepreneurship, the influence of mental illness, and why you should start a company if you feel undervalued by the market.

3. Where Do Great Ideas Come From?

Some corners of the tech world argue that “ideas are cheap” and that “execution is all that matters.” Should we really believe that? Though an original idea does not guarantee success, it is far from worthless. By definition, every great innovation depends on a great idea. So, how can we increase our odds of finding one? This piece summarizes the most compelling literature on the subject, charting innovation’s supply chain.

Read this if you want to start a company of your own someday and want to maximize your serendipity. (Or: you’re a sucker for an “incentives gone haywire” story involving venomous snakes.)

4. Plaid: Finance’s Next Great Network

Plaid isn’t the company you think it is. Though well-known for its financial data API, today, Plaid is a true multi-product company spanning identity verification, payments, credit, and beyond. It looks well-placed to become one of the most important financial networks of the coming decades.

Read this if you want to hear how Plaid handled the collapse of its acquisition by Visa to hit new heights. (And why CEO Zach Perret spends months personally onboarding senior hires.)

5. A24: The Rise of a Cultural Conglomerate

You’ve seen the films. You get the vibe. But what explains indie obsession A24’s success? How did a tiny studio come to dominate on the red carpet and the box office? The answer: social media savvy, impeccable taste, and the tactical use of custom glass bongs.

Read this if you love Moonlight, Springbreakers, and the Scandi-chaos of Midsommar – and want to know what comes next.

6. What to Watch in AI (July 2023)

The fact that ChatGPT no longer seems particularly exciting is a testament to how quickly humans adjust to new technology. It is also the result of a dizzying 18 months that has seen AI innovation hit hyper-drive. We asked investors from Sequoia, USV, Kleiner Perkins, and more to share the startups in the sector they think are especially promising.

Read this if you want to stay on top of all the ways AI is already changing our lives.

7. ASML: A Monopoly on Magic

The single biggest bottleneck in global technology may be a company located in Verdhoven, in the Netherlands. ASML, a $300 billion behemoth, is the world’s only maker of machines to manufacture powerful microchips. It may be the most important company you’ve never heard of.

Read this to understand the crazy chip supply chain and why it’s a bargain that ASML’s machines cost just $200 million each.

8. Brex’s Second Act

In June 2022, Brex made one of the hardest decisions of its life, offboarding its SMB customers. That decision caused an uproar in some tech circles, but it proved to be the right choice. In the year since, Brex has refocused its efforts to serve venture-backed startups and expanded its product suite.

Read this to discover how Brex stepped up during SVB’s collapse and why they were the billboard kings of San Francisco.

9. What to Watch in India

The last bull run saw a wave of venture capital wash across India’s tech ecosystem. While some might take the tide’s retreat as a cautionary signal, others will view it as an opportunity. We asked eight of the country’s leading venture capitalists to share the startups they think the rest of the world should keep an eye on.

Read this if you like to be greedy while others are fearful and want to know where to start.

10. AI and The Burden of Knowledge

Just as humans acquire information differently from animals, AI learns differently from humans. For one thing, AIs don’t die, meaning that there’s no lag between one generation and the next. The absence of this “burden of knowledge” could be profound, allowing AI to accelerate past us. We may be in the beginning stages of a new era governed by a superior species.

Read this to grasp the seriousness of the AI revolution and learn why reindeer’s eyes change color throughout the year.

It is our privilege to build The Generalist with you all, and we are so grateful you choose to spend your time with us each week. Wishing everyone a fantastic end of 2023. We can’t wait to see what 2024 brings.

Until next time,


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The Generalist’s work is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, business, investment, or tax advice. You should always do your own research and consult advisors on these subjects. Our work may feature entities in which Generalist Capital, LLC or the author has invested.