11 Notes on Company X

European Straits #187

Hi, it’s Nicolas from The Family. Today I’m sharing the list of all my past writings on interesting companies following the “11 Notes” format.

In case you were wondering: Yes, the idea of “11 Notes” was inspired by the Rob Reiner movie This Is Spinal Tap—in which one of the main characters famously insists that “these go up to eleven”.

🚀 11 Notes on Amazon (May 2016)

This was the very first in what then became a series. It came about in quite simple circumstances: I wanted to write about Amazon, which to this day is still my favorite tech company. But then I had so much to share that I decided to split it into independent notes and to compile them into a longer essay. Needless to say, it covers quite a lot—from corporate strategy to marketing to corporate finance to software architecture to history to considerations on retail in general.

Go further 👉 Amazon: Top of the Game (May 2020)


💰 11 Notes on Berkshire Hathaway (July 2016)

Shortly thereafter, my cofounder Oussama Ammar asked me to help him write an in-depth essay on Berkshire Hathaway, value investing, and the legendary duo of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. I decided to use the “11 Notes” format again to explore the many sides of what makes Berkshire Hathaway such a unique company. It’s part profile of the company itself, part discussion of what value investing is about, and part sharing The Family’s “Secret Master Plan” (don’t tell anyone).

Go further 👉 The New Strategic Deal in Value Investing (March 2019) 


🏦 11 Notes on Goldman Sachs (May 2017)

The next installment was on Goldman Sachs, another big player in the financial services industry. I find Goldman Sachs a compelling example of a large organization that has had to reinvent itself several times over the course of more than a century, always maintaining a culture of both excellence and innovation. In addition, my view is that today’s tech companies have a lot to learn from Goldman Sachs’s past, especially when it comes to international expansion.

Go further 👉 Investment Banking Rifts (July 2020)


🚂 11 Notes on Lego (February 2020)

This one was already featured last week, so let me repeat myself (sorry, but it’s August 😉): “I like to read about the places I visit, and so when I brought my son Ferdinand to the birthplace of Lego, a small Danish town named Billund, in (...), I read everything I could about the company and its singular history. This is the strategy note that I wrote immediately afterwards: it discusses the many lessons we can learn from Lego when it comes to a company flourishing over the long term.”

Go further 👉14 Rules & Practices for Corporate Strategists (May 2020)


🤓 11 Notes on Y Combinator (April 2020)

You can’t miss Y Combinator if, like us at The Family, you’re active in the early stage investment space. Many people have a vague idea of what it is about, but I find that its backstory is not that well known. So earlier this year, I decided to exhume an old memo I had written about Y Combinator three years ago and turn it into an essay. It’s all the more interesting to write about Y Combinator these days because it’s going through so many changes due to the pandemic! 

Go further 👉 The Future of Silicon Valley (February 2020)


💼 11 Notes on McKinsey (May 2020) 

Another one that was already featured last week (actually, my most-read issue ever!). “This is part of my “11 Notes” series focused on companies, their historical background, and current strategic positioning. This one is about McKinsey, a company we’ve all encountered or read about at various points, but which remains a mystery from many perspectives. In this essay I share a few insights, including from my experience working with McKinsey consultants.”

Go further 👉 The Future of Consulting (Round 1) (May 2020)


🎸 11 Notes on Warner Music (July 2020)

Almost everything I know about the shift to the Entrepreneurial Age, I learned by studying the music industry back in 2009-2010. Because I know a lot about the whole industry, it was interesting for me to observe Warner Music having its IPO earlier this year and reminiscing on everything I’d read about the company along the way. I decided to sum it all up in this edition of the “11 Notes” series, with personal anecdotes and a few colorful characters.

Go further 👉 Can Legacy Industries Survive? The Case of Music (July 2020)


Several articles linked above in the “Go further” sections are for paying subscribers only! Subscribe to European Straits if you want the full experience—it’s £15/month or £150/year!

From Thoughts on Value Chains, and Why You Really Need To Get a 'Grip' (June 2020):

All in all, any business that wants to do capitalism successfully needs to focus on increasing returns; yet the obsession with pursuing those shouldn’t come at the expense of getting a ‘grip’ over the rest of the value chain. At some point you need to integrate that business line even it’s not as scalable (Apple Stores, Netflix’s original content, Airbnb’s building their own hotels) if it can help you tighten that grip over the value chain.

And in case you missed it:


From Normandy, France 🇫🇷

Nicolas