Weekend Briefing No. 174

Welcome to the Weekend. I had an overwhelming response to the American Dream Score story last week. Thank you to everybody who shared their score about what contributed to or held them back from success in life. I’ve included many of those stories below in the Feedback Loop section at the bottom.

I enjoyed hearing your stories so much, that I’m going to throw a question somewhere in the Weekend Briefing for the next few weeks. Hint: Look for the italicized sentence. I’ll share the responses in the following week’s briefing.

Prime Numbers

$1.42 Trillion – The Top 10 global companies in 2017 (9 of which are tech or tech-related) are worth almost as much as the entire Top 100 in 2006 ($1.42 trillion vs $1.44 trillion). Only one of them, Tencent (which owns Chinese mega social platform WeChat), isn't American.

3.5 Million – Americans consumed less alcohol in 2016 than the prior year, with volume slipping by 3.5 million cases last year to 3.39 billion cases. It was the first annual decline since 2011 and only the third year the category posted a drop over the past decade.

33% – According to OK Cupid’s data, June is the most popular month to love ‘em and leave ‘em, with 33% more people looking for a one night stand compared to the other eleven months of the year. Yup—you’re in peak season. Right now.

Echoing Green Fellows 2017

This year Echoing Green turns 30! Every year, Echoing Green provides leadership development and seed funding of up to $90,000 to early-stage social entrepreneurs. This year’s Fellows come from across the globe and include visionaries who are transforming economies, racial and gender equity and environmental sustainability. With the addition of this new class, Echoing Green will have invested more than $42.5 million in seed-stage funding and strategic assistance to leaders driving positive social change in 86 countries. I’ve been hanging out with them this week, and they are an impressive bunch. The fellows include people that are using drone data to mitigate the damage of climate change in Malawi, building a network of blue collar worker-owned businesses in Ohio and helping people of color transition from the underground to the newly burgeoning legal cannabis industry in California. Learn more at Echoing Green (12 minutes).

Climate Change & Inequality

Extreme heat, it turns out, is very bad for the economy. Crops fail. People work less and are less productive when they do work. The average global income is predicted to be 23% less by the end of the century than it would be without climate change. But the effects of a hotter world will be shared very unevenly, with a number of northern countries, including Russia and much of Europe, benefiting from the rising temperatures and poorer countries, including those in much of South America and Africa (which already tend to be far hotter) being damaged by the rising temperatures. By 2100, the average income for the world’s poorest 60% of people will be 70% below what it would have been without climate change. Thus, climate change will result in a huge redistribution of wealth from the global poor to the wealthy. Learn more and check out some charts at MIT Technology Review (6 minutes).

AI & Inequality

In the world’s wealthiest neighborhoods, artificial intelligence (AI) systems are starting to steer self-driving cars down the streets, and homeowners are giving orders to their smart voice-controlled speakers. But the AI revolution has yet to offer much help to the 3 billion people globally who live in poverty. A United Nations meeting this week hopes to focus artificial intelligence on achieving sustainable development goals and uplifting those in poverty. Some early examples include using AI and satellite remote-sensing data to predict crop yields months ahead of harvest, hoping to anticipate food shortages. The UN children’s charity UNICEF is investing in work to test whether deep learning can diagnose malnutrition from photographs and videos of children. This is currently done using mid-upper-arm circumference and is slow and not always super-accurate. Will AI just make rich people’s lives easier or be a tool for greater global equity? Learn more at Nature (6 minutes).

Rocket Man

The world has a new largest plane, and it looks like nothing you’ve ever seen at the airport. The twin-hull behemoth with 28 wheels, 6 engines and 385-foot wingspan (triple that of a Boeing 737) isn’t for carrying passengers. It’s for hoisting satellites into outer space. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen joined his billionaire friends Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in the pursuit of low cost rocket launches. The catamaran-like aircraft will carry ‘air launch vehicles’ between its two fuselages and hoist them into the upper atmosphere. From there, the little launchers will fire their own rockets and shoot the rest of the way into low earth orbit. Traditional rockets expend an enormous amount of energy flying straight up through the dense, lower bits of the atmosphere. So launching higher, theoretically, may be more cost efficient and flexible. Learn more and see photos at WIRED (5 minutes).

Lessons from Failed Startups

After pouring through 100+ failed startups, Anastasia Mudrova found 7 common themes. Here are 2 of my favorites: (1) There is no market for your product.“I’ll assert that market is the most important factor in a startup’s success or failure,” said Marc Andreessen. Her research proves he is right. The one main reason for failure with both B2B (44%) and B2C (50%) startups was a lack of market. Even the best team with the best product will fail if the market is nonexistent. (2) Your company is a vitamin not a pain pill. Even if you do customer research and people indicate an interest in your product, test customer behavior not sentiment. If the problem isn’t pressing enough to cause palpable pain, people will live with it, and avoid the pain of spending money to fix it. Ask your potential customers what they are doing to minimize their problem. If they are doing nothing, it’s not a problem waiting for a solution. Learn more at Think Growth (8 minutes).

Trickle Down Workaholism in Startups

There’s an ingrained mythology around startups that not only celebrates burn-out efforts, but well… requires it. People wear lack of sleep like a badge of honor. It’s the logical outcome of trying to compress a lifetime’s worth of work into the abbreviated timeline of a venture fund. Of course VC’s are going to desire fairytale sacrifices. There’s little to no consequence to them if the many fall by the wayside, spent to completion trying to hit that home run. Make me rich or die tryin’. But more importantly the workaholism trickles downhill. In fact, it’s likely to amplify as it rolls down the hill, like a snowball gathering mass. Not only are these sacrifices statistically overwhelmingly likely to be in vain, they’re also completely disproportionate. The programmer or designer or writer or even manager that gives up their life for a 80+ hour moonshot will comparably-speaking be compensated in bananas, even if their lottery coupon should line up. The lion’s share will go to the VC’s and some to the founders. Learn more at Signal v. Noise (8 minutes).

The Moon Landing of Rock Climbing

Renowned rock climber Alex Honnold on Saturday became the first person to free solo (climbing with no ropes) the iconic nearly 3,000-foot granite wall known as El Capitan in Yosemite, completing what may be the greatest feat of pure rock climbing in the history of the sport. This is the moon landing of rock climbing. He ascended the peak in 3 hours, 56 minutes. It’s hard to overstate the physical and mental difficulties of a free solo ascent of the peak, which is considered by many to be the epicenter of the rock climbing world. It is a vertical expanse stretching more than a half mile up—higher than the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The route Honnold chose to reach the top of El Capitan, known as Freerider, is one of the most prized big wall climbs in Yosemite. The route has 30 sections—or pitches—and is so difficult that even in the last few years, it was newsworthy when a climber was able to summit using ropes for safety. Learn more, see a map of the route and video at National Geographic (11 minutes).

Alex took a tremendous risk to achieve his goal. What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life? Was it worth it? Shoot me a note and let me know. I’ll share the results in next week’s briefing.

Feedback Loop

Below are a few reactions to the American Dream Score. I’ll include each person’s score next to their name.

Eric (49) – I think in general we all overestimate the challenges we overcame and under estimate what had been given to us, especially those of us who have successful.

Ji Son (60) – It seemed that my gender had an overwhelming impact on the challenges I faced. It was never conscious, but I do feel like my being a woman (especially an Asian one) limited some career opportunities, despite (or maybe due to) working in media and tech.

Dorothy (63) – The test was generally accurate, but it did not include the role of church as a stabilizing force, or the importance of pets, grandparents, or exposure to nature in forming stability in my childhood. I was surprised it did not include home ownership as a criteria.

Leila (63) – I've been incredibly fortunate to have a lot of help from a lot of people, for which I'm very grateful. The one thing about the test that was not accurate was that my parents were never in a position to help me. I think the test is making that assumption that because they both graduated college and stayed married they would be able to help. There is no doubt that having educated parents makes a huge difference in those very early / formative years while developing language, etc. But there are countless additional variables beyond that, which when factored in, might negate that assessment.

Kristian (67) – I've been incredibly fortunate to have a lot of help from a lot of people, for which I'm very grateful. The one thing about the test that was not accurate was that my parents were never in a position to help me. I think the test is making that assumption that because they both graduated college and stayed married they would be able to help. There is no doubt that having educated parents makes a huge difference in those very early / formative years while developing language, etc. But there are countless additional variables beyond that, which when factored in, might negate that assessment.

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. Feel free to shoot me an email with any feedback, insights, tips 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.