Remains of the Day

Photo by Column

Special projects and a new funding announcement

Our producer Chris Gates and I have been working on a couple of special projects the past few weeks. We’ll get to reveal those in time, but unfortunately, this week’s column didn’t quite come together before publication.

That said, I want to briefly talk about Lux’s latest investment, which we announced this week. Founder and CEO Jake Seaton started Column to fix one of the last remaining durable revenue sources for local media: legally required public notices. All kinds of legal filings demand public notice, such as the formation of an LLC, and these notices are generally required to be published in prominent local newspapers. Getting the text precisely correct and actually in the paper edition can be a grueling task, one that is often entirely manual.

Enter Column. The company transforms what is often a challenging experience for both public notice issuers and publishers into a much more delightful and easy process. The goal is two-fold: to make required public notices much less of a complex burden for users, while also saving local media companies significant operational costs — money that could be used to buttress their journalism.

That’s only step one though. Long term, the company is building an API that would allow for quick searches and analysis of public notices, in the process building the first comprehensive corpus of these notices in the country. Column is improving local media economics while also creating more democratic transparency in these precarious times — at least to me, a quite exciting fusion.

Lux led a $30 million Series A round for the company, and we were joined by a panoply of prominent news executives and other investors deeply familiar with this critical line of revenue. Our partner Shahin Farshchi sits on the board. Read more on the funding from Axios’s Sara Fischer in her exclusive, and more on public notice economics from Bloomberg’s Sarah McBride, who covered Column’s approach earlier this year.

Lux Recommends

  • I’m always a fan of Five Books, and their latest interview on The Psychology of Killing I found absolutely fascinating. Cal Fly interviews forensic psychiatrist Gwen Adshead about perpetrators, victims, and misconceptions of killing:
The first thing to say about homicide is that it is not all the same. I think that’s one of the things I didn’t understand when I started out. Like anybody else, I thought that all killers must be really odd or mad. That if you killed once, you must be permanently in a homicidal state of mind. But once I began to spend time with people who had killed, I learned that killing is often highly contextual and arises from a specific set factors that are present at that time; which may never occur again.
  • One of the most important industrial policy initiatives of the Chinese government is indigenizing chip fabrication and design. After more than a decade of ample funding, however, progress has been slower than many CCP leaders would like to see. Now, as Bloomberg News reports, the consequences are coming down, with multiple senior leaders looking at lengthy jail sentences over corruption.
  • While we are on the subject of chips, there was a somewhat quiet announcement this week around a key Google initiative. The company, which has been pushing for more open-source approaches to chip design and fabrication, announced that it is joining with GlobalFoundries to offer an open-source Process Design Kit and will have large runs of chips available in about five years. That means more people can experiment with new chip designs at a fraction of traditional costs — empowering tinkerers, hackers, and chip design creatives to try their hand at new concepts. Liam Tung at ZDNet has a good writeup.
  • Our scientist-in-residence Sam Arbesman recommends our “Securities” friend Eliot Peper’s opinion piece in the Boston Globe entitled “The beauty of playing the long game.” Eliot, who joined us on the podcast a few months ago, writes:
Cathedrals took centuries to build. Heliocentricity, evolution, and relativity took decades to earn widespread acceptance. Passing the Civil Rights Act took years and years and years of activism and political organizing in the face of state-sanctioned violence and seemingly insurmountable adversity. Important things take time.
  • Finally, one of those niche areas I have always found interesting is back in the spotlight. Reinsurance is a critical aspect of the global financial system, but reinsurers are facing incredible financial strain due to the global macro chaos that has enveloped the world in 2022. As Ian Smith in the Financial Times reports, reinsurers are increasing prices at their fastest rates in years — and sometimes foregoing coverage entirely. “Reinsurers reducing capacity can create what is called a ‘hard market’, where demand substantially outstrips supply and prices surge.” A portent of things to come.

That’s it, folks. Have questions, comments, or ideas? This newsletter is sent from my email, so you can just click reply.