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I’m Ben, and this is where I put things I write! If you’re a new visitor, check out the best-of list, and if you like it, subscribe. Or read some recent posts:

Where, why and how I donated in 2017

altruism

This year, I met my goal of donating 50% of my income. The donation was split 20% to GiveWell and 80% to a donor advised fund (effectively deferring a decision until later). Here’s why.

People seem very confused about 401(k) loans

misc

While deciding how much to contribute to my 401(k) this year, I discovered that the Internet is full of urban legends about 401(k) loans causing double taxation.

The product

misc

95% of the feed is crap, because 95% of everything is crap. But sometimes there are good things in the feed. You want to see the good things in the feed. You can’t miss out on the good things.

The Globalization Paradox and the perils of simple models

misc

Some thoughts after reading The Globalization Paradox. Dani Rodrik makes the case that economists have been over-interpreting simple economic models in favor of free trade and its effects on economic development. Thinking about the implications of this for other simplified economic models.

How bad are bad fundraising terms?

tech

Suppose you took a job at Square in November 2014. A stock option package you valued at $500k then would have become worthless a year later, when they IPOed at less than half their previous valuation. Yet it seems like Square did quite well in 2015. What’s going on? I go over the startling findings of a new research paper that explains this and lots of other venture capital mysteries.

Startup options are much better than they look

misc

People often make several complaints about how employment works at startups:

  1. They don’t pay well. They claim to make up the difference with stock options, but the options are worthless and you can earn more by working for a big stable company.

  2. They prey on starry-eyed, young, naive people …

Surviving lots of travel

misc

I travel a lot for work. Wave is a distributed company, and we have week-long company retreats once every two months, often in Africa. On top of that, I’ve spent a lot of time working on the ground in Ethiopia. I actually flew enough last year to qualify for …

Stock options are really complicated

tech

Most employees at startups get some of their pay in stock options. This is often framed to the employee as “you get x percentage of equity in the company.” Unfortunately, stock options are a lot more complex than true equity.

Don’t run code at import time

tech

In many dynamic programming languages, there’s no distinction between loading a module and executing a script. I argue that this has more unfortunate consequences than people realize.

Reading lately

misc

More books I’ve been reading recently.

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