European Straits
European Straits
Playing Video Games w/ Rachel Kowert. Consumption. Delivery. Profitability.

Playing Video Games w/ Rachel Kowert. Consumption. Delivery. Profitability.

Today: Rachel Kowert on the “Building Bridges” podcast. Essays from the past week.

The Agenda 👇

Our children spend too much time staring at screens—at least, so “they” say. The debates around screens have only intensified in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and school closures have contributed to increasing screen time at all ages, adding fuel to parents’ worries as well as to the debates among researchers.

  • My first reaction, nonetheless, is skepticism. The debate around screens certainly didn’t wait for the pandemic to come to the forefront. We’ve always wondered whether our children aren’t passing too much time in front of the TV, too much time in front of the computer, too much time on their phones, too much time playing video games.

The same fears even existed prior to the invention of screens. As my wife Laetitia Vitaud notes in her conversation with American research psychologist Rachel Kowert on the Building Bridges podcast, at one point we were saying that some children (and here we can include Laetitia’s own mother’s experience) were spending too much time reading books, instead of being outside playing with the other kids!

Where do these debates come from? These days, they’re nourished by various articles suggesting a link between time spent playing video games and rising violence in our societies. Another factor are best-sellers by authors such as Nicholas Carr, who ask whether the internet isn’t working to make us all a bit stupider. And then, a few years ago people were debating the ways in which some Silicon Valley personalities raise their children. Even if these people owe their fortunes to the time that we all spend looking at the screens they’ve dreamed up and using the apps they’ve developed, it would seem that some forbid their own children from using screens!

  • But once again, this kind of “revelation” left me skeptical. To me, the journalists writing about the subject tended to pass into generalities quite quickly thanks to the anecdotes found in a few particular cases. Before turning the decisions a few billionaires make in banning (so they say) screens for their children into an example to follow, shouldn’t we wait to see what happens to those children once they’ve become adults? (And, at any rate, can we really extract many lessons in terms of childhood education when starting from a sample that is in no way representative of the rest of society?)

The reality is that there doesn’t seem to be any causal link between screens or a lack thereof during childhood and later experiences as an adult. I myself was largely deprived of television when I was a child; we did have a TV set in the house, but besides the fact that it was in black-and-white (the 1980s!), it was shut up in a cupboard, only making an appearance for a few very specific shows.

When I later met my wife, she explained to me how she had passed a great deal of time during her childhood and adolescence in front of the TV set. And if we look at her success in terms of schooling and professional life, it would be difficult to draw the conclusion that time spent watching television will be a problem later on! And if I look back on my own experience, I’d be hard pressed to say that I somehow did better than Laetitia, and certainly not because I was kept far from the TV during my childhood.

Beyond that, one essential lesson I’ve seen with my own experience as a parent is that there’s nothing that makes young children happier than imitating their parents (with the means at their disposal, of course). If the parents spend most of their time in front of a screen, which is the case for both Laetitia and me, then you can easily predict that the children will do the same.

Children’s mimeticism goes much further, though. A screen doesn’t have one single use: we can use it to learn new things, to discover new information, to watch films and TV shows, to talk with friends, to try to gain social clout. This is why it’s important to never underestimate kids: if they see their parents spending lots of time in front of a screen, they’ll want to do the same; but they’ll also imitate their parents and try to spend that time in more or less the same ways. 

It’s always a good idea for parents to learn to ignore splashy, alarmist headlines and instead take a clear look at what they themselves are doing: what example are they setting for their kids? And on this specific subject, it’s right to not worry. The serious research on the subject shows that there’s no link between screen time (for example, playing video games) and individual fulfillment. That’s exactly what Rachel Kowert explained in detail with Laetitia in the interview of this episode of Building Bridges.

👉 Listen to Laetitia and Rachel’s conversation using the player above 👆 or on Apple Podcasts or Spotify 🎧

💐 The Future of Consumption

My Thursday deep dive last week looked at a topic that is a central part of many discussions taking place these days: on the environment and climate change, social justice, the relationship between work and personal lives, and simply the arrival of the new paradigm brought on by the Entrepreneurial Age. Just as production patterns are changing, our consumption patterns, in terms of both goods and services, are also changing quite dramatically.

  • Using my “11 Notes” format, I looked at various aspects of what exactly is changing. This includes blurred lines between production and consumption, the shift in power as consumers become part of the multitude, new definitions of quality, and the impact of data that lets consumers better understand their own behavior.

The key takeaway for startup founders is that we’re still directly in the middle of a shift that is remaking the entire economy. Changing consumption patterns create a feedback loop that is only becoming more and more powerful, reaching into every corner of our everyday lives. This is also a cautionary tale for any legacy businesses and institutions, who are running out of time to apply the old adage of “Adapt or die”. 

👉 Read the details in The Future of Consumption

🚴‍♀️ All About Delivery 

On Friday, I curated an edition focused on one of the industries that has clearly accelerated during the pandemic: delivery. Restaurants, groceries, e-commerce… they’re all predicated on the very detail-oriented and labor-intensive (for the moment) world of delivery.

  • My own writings on the subject date back to 2015, and it’ll come as no surprise that a large part of that was looking at the development of Amazon. But that really was just the beginning, and not just for new players. While several major retailers have been unable to make the transition to the Entrepreneurial Age, there are also quite a few others, including Target and Best Buy, that are far from giving up in the battle for consumers’ hearts and dollars.

One interesting thing to note is that delivery is one of the few areas where a European champion has acquired a major US-based player, with Just Eat Takeaway’s purchase of Grubhub last summer. Having a business grown in Europe win out over one developed in the US is a happy moment indeed, and one that can serve as encouragement for the current and coming generations of European entrepreneurs.

👉 Discover the implications in last week’s ‘Friday’s Digest’: All About Delivery.

📈 Funding Profitable Businesses

It was a sad day in the venture capital world recently when a bold yet obvious experiment in finding different ways to fund businesses,, announced it was closing down. Part of Tim O’Reilly’s AlphaTech Ventures, was dedicated to funding businesses that arrived at profitability much earlier than traditional VC-funded companies—an example that I often cited of how the venture industry was diffracting and experimenting with new ways of investing capital.

  • Unfortunately, the example seems to be (for the moment) an example of how innovation can run up against obstacles coming from many different directions. In their case, it wasn’t a problem relating to returns, per se, but rather reluctance on the part of’s own limited partners to have exposure to those kinds of businesses rather than more traditional VC-compatible companies. Put simply, institutional LPs weren’t enthusiastic about steady smaller profits when compared to the possibility of exponential returns.

I do wonder, however, if this isn’t more of a pause for (or other efforts following a similar path) rather than a complete cancellation. After all, the wildly hot markets, both public and private, that investors are currently enjoying when it comes to tech companies will, at some point, cool off. And at that point the lessons learned by Tim, Bryce and the rest of the team at could prove quite attractive indeed.

👉 Get more details on how it all happened in Funding Profitable Businesses

Sounds interesting? Subscribe to European Straits and let me know what you think!

🕹 Want to dig deeper into video games? Read my wife Laetitia Vitaud’s latest edition of Laetitia@Work, published last Thursday: Video Games: my new frontier?

Also have a look at my colleague Younès Rharbaoui’s excellent edition of Chasing Paper on the topic: 10 Thoughts on the Gaming Industry 🎮 (June 2020) 

🇫🇷 You’d rather listen to our (=Laetitia and I) conversations in French? Give the latest editions of Nouveau Départ dedicated to Tout comprendre sur la crise au Texas 🤠 Notre nouveau projet : "La Flamme et le vent" 🔥 Vaccins : pourquoi les États-Unis vont-ils si vite ? 💉a try.

🚀 My latest contribution to my firm The Family’s newsletter is about the impossibility of knowing if your business will be scalable or not at the early stage. Have a look: The quest for scale.

🦊🦁🦢 Finally, don’t miss the latest installments of The Family’s newsletter:

All recent editions:

European Straits is a 5-email-a-week product, and all essays are subscriber-only (with rare exceptions). Join us!

From Munich, Germany 🇩🇪