Weekend Briefing No. 171

Welcome to the weekend! This morning I’m running the Brooklyn Half Marathon, you can follow along by checking out my Instagram. The opportunity to run came up last minute, so I’m doing the race without training… which means these grams could be reeeally interesting.

Prime Numbers

49,000,000 – General Motors said it will commit to buying sustainable natural rubber for the 49 million tires it buys annually, an initiative aimed at helping small rubber farmers while protecting company profits by ensuring the material’s long-term availability.

36,000 – Innisfil is a rural town on the southwestern shore of Ontario’s Lake Simcoe has no public transportation. This week, the town inaugurated a pilot program for what Uber says is its first full ridesharing-transit partnership, providing subsidized transportation for the town’s 36,000 people.

45% – Over the last three years, the average price of a smartphone in Uganda has decreased by almost 45 per cent, from $178 (Shs 623,000) in 2014 to $99 (Shs 346,500), according to the report.

Tools Not Toys

Drones are currently seen as toys, but they are rapidly becoming tools. The market for people who want flying selfie cameras may be limited, but the market for data about the physical world is massive. Drones are starting to fill the “missing middle” between satellites and street level, digitizing the planet in high resolution and near–real time at a tiny fraction of the cost of alternatives. Drones primary commercial use will likely not be delivering amazon packages, but as data-collection vehicles. As drones become more ubiquitous, the market for drone apps will explode, resulting in applications for construction, agriculture, policing, surveying and many other fields. Then, drones will gain even greater cost advantages when they remove the need for a pilot entirely. The true breakthrough will come with autonomy. Take humans out of the loop, and suddenly aircraft look more like the birds that inspired them: autonomous, small, and countless; born for the air and able to navigate it tirelessly and effortlessly. Learn more at Harvard Business Review (17 minutes).

The Economic Outlook

Ray Dalio, CIO of Bridgewater Associates has an interesting perspective on the big picture of global economics. He says, the near term looks good and the longer term looks scary. That is because: (1) The economy is now at or near its best, and we see no major economic risks on the horizon for the next year or two. (2) There are significant long-term problems (e.g., high debt and non-debt obligations, limited abilities by central banks to stimulate, etc.) that are likely to create a squeeze. (3) Social and political conflicts are near their worst for the last number of decades, and (4) Conflicts get worse when economies worsen. So, while we have no near-term economic worries for the economy as a whole, we worry about what these conflicts will become like when the economy has its next downtur. Learn more at LinkedIn (9 minutes).

Social Entrepreneur Scholarship

In 2009, I was first getting into the social impact space and really wanted to attend SOCAP, the leading impact investing conference. I was an early stage social entrepreneur with great ideas, but no cash. I couldn’t afford the price of admission, but I entered a contest online and won a free ticket. The experience took me out of my little bubble and exposed me to the broad array of people and ideas in the social enterprise and impact investing space. Now, it’s your turn. Do you have an idea for a venture that will improve your community—or the world? Are you working toward a business model that will make a profit and make a positive impact Are you running a startup that you want to take to its full potential? Enter to win the ultimate SOCAP experience including a ticket, accommodations, mentorship and a bunch of other cool stuff at SOCAP (sponsored briefing).

Juicero & Silicon Valley

It seems that every journalist in the last couple weeks wanted to bash ‘Silicon Valley’ (whatever that is) for investing and buying a juicer called Juicero that turned out to be lame. Yes. Silicon Valley, is pumping out some pointless shit to optimize or occupy the life of an upper-middle class Americans. But it’s also helping people in developing countries get access to financial institutions, accelerating genomics, applying AI to radiology, creating an artificial pancreas for diabetics, creating cars that drive themselves… and even cars that fly, oh yeah, and shooting a fifteen-story rocket a hundred miles into the air at 4,100 mph, then landing it gently on a 300-foot platform in the middle of the ocean. Silicon Valley is not homogeneous its heterogeneous. It’s a space where innovation is lauded, but each individual member of the community can choose what problems are worth solving. Read more on this at Slate Star Codex (7 minutes).

LSD vs AI

Microdosing LSD is one of the hallmarks of the so-called "Psychedelic Renaissance." It's a regimen that involves regularly taking doses of acid that are so low they don't impart any of the drug's psychedelic effects. Microdosers claim the practice results in heightened creativity, lowered depression, and even relief from chronic somatic pain. Jane Fielding is conducting the first scientific trial to investigate the effects of microdosing, Fielding's study will consist of 20 participants who will be given low doses—10, 20 and 50 micrograms of LSD—or a placebo on four different occasions. After taking the acid, the brains of these subjects will be imaged using MRI and MEG while they engage in a variety of cognitive tasks, such as the neuropsychology staples the Wisconsin Card Sorting test and the Tower of London test. Importantly, the participants will also be playing Go against an AI, which will assess the players' performance during the match. Learn more at Motherboard (6 minutes).

VC Gender Bias

A recent study on VC decision-making behavior showed that the language used to describe male and female entrepreneurs was radically different. And these differences have very real consequences for those seeking funding — and for society in general.Men were characterized as having entrepreneurial potential, while the entrepreneurial potential for women was diminished. Many of the young men and women were described as being young, though youth for men was viewed as promising, while young women were considered inexperienced. Men were praised for being viewed as aggressive or arrogant, while women’s experience and excitement were tempered by discussions of their emotional shortcomings. Unsurprisingly, these stereotypes seem to have played a role in who got funding and who didn’t. Women entrepreneurs got 25% of what they were asking for, whereas men received 52% of what they asked for. Women were also denied financing to a greater extent than men, with close to 53% of women having their applications dismissed, compared with 38% of men. Learn more at Harvard Business Review (7 minutes).

White Space

In design, “white space” is negative space. It’s not blank space because it has a purpose. It is balancing the rest of the design by throwing what is on the page (or the screen) into relief. The white space helps focus your visual attention. We need white space in our daily lives just as much as we need it in our designs because the concept carries over: If our lives are over-cluttered and over-booked, we can’t focus properly on anything. What’s more, this way of working actually shrinks our ability to think creatively. “Time scarcity” — the state of being constantly over scheduled — diminishes our imaginative powers; it makes us less insightful, less forward-thinking, less controlled. Learn more from Jocelyn K. Glei (5 minutes).

About the Weekend Briefing

The best articles on innovation, impact, and growth distilled into one email every Saturday morning by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway.

Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing a part of your Saturday morning routine. I love putting it together every week and love hearing your thoughtful insights. Feel free to shoot me an email with any feedback or suggestions. If you like what you’re reading, I’d be honored if you share it with your friends. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend.