No column today – plenty to chew on from last week and the first article below. I promise I’ll back off on the Amazon stories as soon as they stop being so good.

Amazon Strategy Teardown
As a follow-up from Bezos’ shareholder letter last week, I wanted to share this “Amazon Strategy Teardown” from CB Insights. It is an incredibly in-depth look at what Amazon is building, but not necessarily talking about, curated from a mosaic of activities related to patents (logistics, cloud computing, cybersecurity), corporate venture (building Alexa ecosystem), R&D lab Lab126 (created the Kindle and the Echo), job postings, M&A (surprisingly conservative) and its core businesses. Very long for a full read, but a great resource to help challenge your thinking. Amazon’s results are certainly an outlier, but the clarity of vision combined with its values, strategy, and tactics may provide some helpful thought exercises as you build and inspire your team.

Santander (Accidentally) Helps A Competitor
Santander found itself in a bit of a kerfuffle earlier this month when some internal documents regarding its international money transfer business were leaked. According to the presentation, Santander charges 6x more than Transferwise does to send “£10,000 from UK to Europe.” However, the customer may not see the true cost as more than 70% of the cost of the transfer is built into FX pricing. Aside from the massive difference in costs, the memo was also notable in specifically naming Transferwise, which has captured 8% of the UK international money transfer market. Transferwise also wasted no time in sharing its response.

“Set It and Forget It” Investing
Looking for an investment idea at 2am? Ronco has a deal for you – you can participate in the mini-IPO of the household goods and infomercial company known for the Chop-O-Matic, Veg-O-Matic, Ronco Pocket Fisherman, and my favorite, the Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ. But wait, there’s more! Invest over $5,000 and you get 20% off of Ronco products and a free rotisserie! (Seriously.)

Banks plan to buy fintech companies
According to a PwC report released earlier this month, nearly half of global financial firms plan to acquire a fintech startup within the next three to five years, while 80% plan on partnering in some form with them. While there have been some notable exits of tech companies via IPO this year (Okta, Mulesoft, Cloudera) and some recent large acquisitions in the CPG/retail space (Dollar Shave Club,,, the fintech space has not seen either IPOs or large acquisition exits. In 2016, fintech companies only saw liquidity events worth $1.1 billion, which is far less than most of the individual deals listed above.

Renauld’s Rapid Return
I reported back in November that Renauld Laplanche had started another online lending company named Credify less than a month after separating from LendingClub amid accusations of impropriety. The company, now named Upgrade, has announced that it has raised $60MM ($48MM in equity, $12MM of convertible notes) from the likes of Union Square Ventures (which also backed LendingClub), FirstMark, Ribbit Capital, Silicon Valley Bank, and others at a pre-money valuation of $120MM. Jeffries, who was on the receiving end of altered LendingClub loan documents last year, will be buying some the loans, which will be issued by WebBank. Like LendingClub, Upgrade will offer unsecured consumer loans, primarily for debt refinancing, though it will also include a financial education component a la Credit Karma.