The Lean Startup by Eric Ries


Finished today listening to The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries. 

Here are the key lessons from the book.

Lesson 1: Find a solid business model by validating your idea

Lesson 2: Tell value from waste with split-testing (A/B testing)

Lesson 3: Never ever indulge in vanity metrics

The above picture captures what you will learn from the book in a snapshot. I liked it when I read Five Whys for dissecting and revisiting production issues to learn from. We use it at Marqeta for a blameless postmortem of incidents. However, as many of the lessons, I already knew as I have been working on the software industry for two decades, I can’t say I have learned new things. That doesn’t mean I discourage you from reading this book. On the contrary, if you are in this industry, especially in startups, you will find it useful.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown


I finished Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brene Brown yesterday. This book is full of ideas, some counter-intuitive, on the matter of leadership. I felt like it’s not for a wide sect of the audience and only a particular kind of leaders will understand and benefit out of it. My feeling may be based on the fact that it sounded more theoretical to me at times. However, the writing is eloquent. 

The key takeaways from the book are –

  1. Courage and Vulnerability go together: vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength
  2. Have super clear values: some examples of values are courage, freedom, justice, kindness, discipline, family, and honesty.
  3. Use BRAVING to build trust: B = Boundaries, R = Reliability, A = Accountability, V = Vaulting, I = Integrity, N = Non-Judgement, G = Generosity

The Upstarts: Uber, Airbnb, and the Battle for the New Silicon Valley by Brad Stone


Finished listening to The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone. The author talks about how 2 bay area startups Uber and Airbnb emerged into Upstarts disregarding all the traditional rules and hurdles in their respective areas of ride-sharing and accommodations through the crowd. These 2 companies started at the same time disrupting 2 relevant industries taking advantage of the new wave of technological adoptions brought out by the internet, smartphones. Brad focuses a lot on the CEOs, their thought processes, and how they matured over time from being ruthless to well-balanced as their companies grew into new heights.

As I am interested in bay area technology startups, some of this information I found as not new to me. But this may be useful for many other readers. I was expecting a little more tune in the storytelling styles but overall it’s not a bad read.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene


I finished listening to the audiobook The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene yesterday. This is another rare and useful but difficult book to fathom. Robert sythesizes the learnings of MachiavelliSun TzuClausewitz and many others from history and melts those to come up with some guidelines on how we can make those as arsenals in our modern life. This is a very good book on political philosophy and the philosophy of ethics. Just merely being aware of these laws will be of practical benefit to us. However, if you want to apply those rules, you have to be very cautious as the misapplication will backfire on you.

Here are the 48 laws laid out verbatim.

  • Law 1 – Never Outshine the Master
  • Law 2 – Never put too Much Trust in Friends, Learn how to use Enemies
  • Law 3 – Conceal your Intention
  • Law 4 – Always Say Less than Necessary
  • Law 5 – So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life
  • Law 6 – Court Attention at all Cost
  • Law 7 – Get others to do the Work for you, but Always Take the Credit
  • Law 8 – Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary
  • Law 9 – Win through your Actions, Never through Argument
  • Law 10 – Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
  • Law 11 – Learn to Keep People Dependent on You
  • Law 12 – Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm your Victim 
  • Law 13 – When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to their Mercy or Gratitude 
  • Law 14 – Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy
  • Law 15 – Crush your Enemy Totally
  • Law 16 – Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor
  • Law 17 – Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability
  • Law 18 – Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous
  • Law 19 – Know Who You’re Dealing with – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person
  • Law 20 – Do Not Commit to Anyone
  • Law 21 – Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber than your Mark
  • Law 22 – Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness into Power 
  • Law 23 – Concentrate Your Forces 
  • Law 24 – Play the Perfect Courtier 
  • Law 25 – Re-Create Yourself 
  • Law 26 – Keep Your Hands Clean 
  • Law 27 – Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following 
  • Law 28 – Enter Action with Boldness 
  • Law 29 – Plan All the Way to the End 
  • Law 30 – Make your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
  • Law 31 – Control the Options: Get Others to Play with the Cards you Deal 
  • Law 32 – Play to People’s Fantasies 
  • Law 33 – Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew 
  • Law 34 – Be Royal in your Own Fashion: Act like a King to be treated like one 
  • Law 35 – Master the Art of Timing 
  • Law 36 – Disdain Things you cannot have: Ignoring them is the best Revenge 
  • Law 37 – Create Compelling Spectacles 
  • Law 38 – Think as you like but Behave like others 
  • Law 39 – Stir up Waters to Catch Fish 
  • Law 40 – Despise the Free Lunch 
  • Law 41 – Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes 
  • Law 42 – Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep will Scatter
  • Law 43 – Work on the Hearts and Minds of Others 
  • Law 44 – Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect 
  • Law 45 – Preach the Need for Change, but Never Reform too much at Once 
  • Law 46 – Never appear too Perfect 
  • Law 47 – Do not go Past the Mark you Aimed for; In Victory, Learn when to Stop 
  • Law 48 – Assume Formlessness 

For those who won’t have time to read the whole book but want to quickly get a gyst of how Robert is laying out these rules, watch the below summary video for a taste.

JUGBD Talk on Role of Issuer Processors in Payments Ecosystem


Ashik’s Talk on Issuer Processors

Yesterday I gave a presentation in Bengali at JUGBD Virtual Conference. The first 53 minutes is my talk on The Role of Issuer Processors in Payments Ecosystem. The rest is the panel discussion along with Mojahedul Haque Abul Hasanat, ANM Bazlur Rahman, Mozammel Haque, Sazzadur Rahman and Oronno Abdullah Al Mamun.

My presentation deck may be found here.

The Role of Issuer Processors in the Payments Ecosystem


My Session Details
Duration: 45 minutes
Date: 20th June
Start Time: 7 AM (Pacific Time),
8 PM (BD Time)
Conversion Language: Bengali and English (Mixed)
𝐆𝐨𝐨𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐂𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐄𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐭: https://bit.ly/3hFTqMm

Abstract

Do you know what happens when during the time you charge your credit or debit card and your payments transaction get approved or declined? Who are the parties involved in this whole process? Have you heard of an evergrowing and relatively new sector f modern card issuing in the fintech space? Please join us to listen to Ashik Uzzaman, Engineering Manager at Marqeta, who will run us through a brief talk on this exciting world of issuer processors and their part in the payments ecosystem.

Track: FinTech

Speaker: Ashik Uzzaman

Engineering Leader | Distributed Systems ArchitectMarqeta, IncOakland, California

Ashik Uzzaman is a Java developer with a focus on large scale enterprise solutions development and integration. He has about 20 years of working experience in the field of Software development primarily with Java/JEE technologies, Foce.com / Apex, OOP & design patterns, XML, open-source projects, Agile software development approach.

That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph


Earlier this week, I finished listening to audible That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph, the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix. Marc painted a turbulent story of his life starting from the plot of the inception of Netflix to its eventual IPO in 2002 and his retiring from the company in 2004. When it comes to Netflix we all think of legendary Reed Hastings, the other co-founder and current CEO of Netflix. But as Reed will probably never write a book, Marc has filled the gap for us by telling the Netflix story in detail.

Some of the things that are highlighted in this book –

  • How a single idea doesn’t come out all on a sudden but shapes over a long period of time
  • How a good idea is indistinguishable from a useless idea in its raw form
  • How mutual respect between co-founders (and friends) can build a great culture in a company
  • How different the landscape of startups in the bay area was two decades ago
  • What thin a line separates success and failure for a startup
  • How you need to constantly re-invent yourself to sustain your business
  • The value of forward-thinking or preparing ahead of time. for example, get ready with DVDs even when very few households had DVD players. 
  • How the VCs work in the bay area
  • Some examples of David and Goliath in tech
  • How large companies like Blockbuster, Sony, Toshiba, Amazon either underestimated or took advantage of early small-sized Netflix
  • The value of culture in the success of a company
  • How painful it is to go for a layoff
  • A short but horrible picture of Dot com bubble
  • What it means to go IPO successfully
  • How it is wise to leave your place before you become redundant
  • The first name of a company better be not that good so it can be easily changed later
  • Some Silicon Valley acronyms and memes – OPM, Nobody knows anything
  • You have to learn to love the problem, not the solution

Leadership and Philosophy


Do you need to understand philosophy to be a great leader? Do you need to have a leadership philosophy of your own? How will you build one if you are not knowledgable on philosophy in the first place?

A leadership philosophy is a structured approach to leading others. Leaders often write philosophies as a guiding statement for reference while leading a team. Generally, leadership philosophies include the following components:

  • Theory
  • Attitude
  • Guiding Principles
  • Behavior

The structure of a leadership philosophy can vary greatly depending on the goals and needs of the leader. Some statements are as short as a sentence while others are a page or more in length. As they are highly personalized documents, any length or structure is fine for a leadership philosophy.

I have been thinking of learning Philosophy without going to a college or enrolling in Philosophy courses for some time now. Philosophy is such a vast topic that the biggest trouble for me was to figure out where to start, what are the major areas of Philosophy that I should focus on, and how to go about it within the limited time I have. Apart from my spiritual quest, I was very intrigued by Jordan B Peterson‘s mentions of Friedrich Nietzsche in one of the best books I have ever read 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

Some of my early attempts were watching the Philosophy Crash Course in YouTube (and planning to do these 47 videos another go in the next few weeks), reading 50 Philosophy Ideas you really need to know by Ben Dupre, listening in audible 50 Philosophy Classics: Thinking, Being, Acting, Seeing: Profound Insights and Powerful Thinking from Fifty Key Books by Tom Butler-Bowdon, and reading The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. It still didn’t give me enough courage to undertake a long journey of diving deep into various branches of Philosophy. But finally I couldn’t resist myself and woke up 5 AM in the morning today to google for four hours all the world of internet, and come up with the below outline for myself to proceed on what might turn out to be (if Almighty permits) decades journey into learning Philosophy myself. 

First I went for identifying major branches of Philosophy to explore. Those are – 

  1. Metaphysics – ultimate nature of reality
  2. Epistemology – what we know and how we come to know it
  3. Axiology – study of principles and values which is further divided into two major kinds
    • Ethics – the study of morality
    • Aesthetics – inquiry about art and beauty
  4. Logic – the structure of arguments

In addition to these, I have also seen the below few to be included as major branches.

  • Ontology – knowing the reality
  • Political Philosophy – deals with government, justice, and so on

I also see attempts to refer to Eastern Philosophy as spiritual and Western Philosophy as logical although most people don’t even agree on these two broad definitions. For example, where to put Confucianism in this classification?

When it comes to where to start reading, I have seen popular arguments to begin with the history of Philosophy. For that, I am planning to read the paperback reprint A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (895 pages) and listen to the audiobook The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant (19 hours).

I plan to proceed then next with The Great Ideas of Philosophy, 2nd Edition by Daniel N. Robinson (30 hours), and then The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant. After that, I hope to figure out which of the following books and in which order I will read next.

When stuck with any concept, I plan to use Stanford Encyclopedia of PhilosophyReddit to unblock myself.

The Anatomy of the Swipe: Making Money Move by Ahmed Siddiqui


Last month a medium article on payments ecosystem through a LinkedIn connection Ahmed Siddiqui caught my eye. It’s part of a series of articles on how debit and credit cards work end to end. I found the article very informative and the author an ex-marqetan. When I reached out over slack, he told me about the new book he just published The Anatomy of the Swipe: Making Money Move. I bought the kindle version right away and started reading.

I found Ahmed left Marqeta just a few months before I joined. He drew heavily upon his experience at Marqeta in this book. Anyone new into the FinTech or want to know how payment systems work in US, will find it a great read. He explained with great illustrations, easy to understand language and covers both the theoretical and practical parts about all the relevant parties/entities involved like cards, merchants, acquirers, acquirer processors, acquirers banks, payment networks, issuers, issuer processors, issuer banks, card types, payments rails etc. Many of the references in this book are people that I have worked with or still continue to work in a daily basis including our CEO Jason Gardner.

Ahmed starts the book in a storytelling mode of how he unexpectedly ends up joining Oakland based startup Marqeta as a product manager at 2014 pursued by his old school mate Dave Matter despite not knowing much about the payments ecosystem and how it works. There he started learning from his colleagues and moved to Dubai as Marqeta signed a deal with a large mall operator. To explain the reader easily he brought an analogy of a donut shop and a coffee shop at San Francisco throughout the book. Here are the some of things you will know as you read through it.

  • BIN – bank identification number
  • KYC – know your customer
  • Payment authorization – transaction that happens once a card is swiped, dipped or tapped in a payment terminal or via web site or mobile
  • Single-message vs Dual-message transactions – dual message transactions put a hold on the transaction amount instead of deducting the money right away from the card holder
  • ISO 8583 message – a compact layer 3 protocol based message that travels fast through payment terminal, acquirer processor, payment network and issuer processor
  • Clearing and Settlement
  • Acquirer fee vs Interchange fee vs Network Assessment fee
  • Money movement from bank to bank via Fedwire
  • Chargeback – when cardholders return a product or denies that a particular transaction was made by them
  • Dispute – when a merchant is not ready to accept the chargeback as valid and shows evidence of the original transaction via receipts
  • Zero liability policy
  • 3D Secure (3DS) – additional layer of security to the cardholders for fraudulent charges during payments via websites
  • Payment Networks – how open payment networks like VISA and MasterCard, and closed payment networks like American Express and Discover are different
  • Payment Facilitator (PayFac) – Square or Toast
  • Merchant Acquirer – the company that enables merchants to accept the card transactions via payment terminals and forward those acquired transactions to payment networks for further processing
  • Card network rails – credit networks, signature purchase, pin debit networks, ATM networks
  • Traditional Banks vs Neo-Banks
  • Founder stories – Zach Perret of Plaid, Jason Gardner of Marqeta, Rick Song of Persona, Rodney Robinson of Tabapay
  • Payment Service Provider (PSP) – aggregator of payment methods for debit cards, mobile wallets, and financial schemes
  • Card Program
  • Program Manager – company that manages day-to-day operations of the card program including settlement, fraud management, and maintaining relationship with the issuing bank, card manufacturer, payment network and card holder
  • Card Issuer – company of bank that issues a debit or credit card
  • Issuer Processor – company that approves or declines the transactions for the cards that were issued by them or the issuing bank
  • Co-Brand Partner – businesses can create their own debit or credit cards as Co-Brand Partner using APIs provided by Issuer Processor
  • Just-in-Time (JIT) Funding
  • Difference between debit and credit cards
  • Card types – debit, credit and prepaid cards
  • Consume debit cards have lower interchange fee, but Commercial debit cards have higher interchange fee
  • Track 3 Data – itemized breakdown in receipts
  • Private level cards vs Co-Brand cards
  • Moving money between accounts or banks without the payment networks – ACH (Automated Clearing House), Direct Deposit, Peer-to-Peer, Zelle, Wire Transfers, Real-Time Payments (RTP)
  • Push-to-Card technology
  • Virtual Cards
  • Real-time spend controls

One thing I found missing in this book is the coverage of tokenization of physical or virtual cards via applepay, androidpay and samsungpay, as well as how in-app provisioning works for tokenization. Token-based transactions were very low volume in the past but has been increasing at a faster rate than regular card based transactions since last year. It has become pretty evident now in this time of COVID-19 when card holders are preferring contactless payment options across USA. In Europe, the adoption of token based transactions were already very high and shows signs of continued increase.