Weekend Briefing No. 215

Welcome to the weekend.

Prime Numbers

11,000,000,000 – At its opening price of $29, Dropbox’s market capitalization would be about $11 billion. Check out their initial seed deck.

40 – Spotify accounts for 40% of streaming music subscribers in a market dominated by large technology companies like Apple (19%) and Amazon (12%).

0 – The number of Elon Musk’s companies that now have a facebook page. Mr. Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX and Tesla, deleted the Facebook pages of both of his companies on Friday, joining the #deletefacebook movement. He also admitted that the Tesla Facebook page “looks lame anyway.

Women COO

In Silicon Valley, there’s an upsurge of women COO’s. The rise of these operations masterminds comes at a pivotal time, given the sector’s abysmal dearth of female leaders and the recent revelations of the pervasiveness of “bro” culture. Typically, the CEO has the vision; and the unglamorous work of running everything else falls to the COO. Taken to extremes, this dynamic can put the female COO in a role akin to chief of staff or, at worst, babysitter. Will the current wave of women COOs in tech give rise to a new, more robust pipeline of female chief-executive candidates, teed up to take top spots of their own? Or does the COO role risk becoming a glass ceiling in itself—a position from which accomplished women leaders stoke the industry’s growth, in a perpetual supporting role, without breaking into the CEO boys’ club? Fortune (16 minutes)

Retail Apocalypse

The much-hyped impending retail apocalypse isn’t being harkened in because Amazon.com is taking market share or Millennials are spending more on experiences not things. The root cause is that many of these long-standing chains are overloaded with debt—often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. There are billions in borrowings on the balance sheets of troubled retailers, and sustaining that load is only going to become harder—even for healthy chains. The amount of retail debt considered risky is also rising. Over the past year, high-yield bonds outstanding gained 20 percent, to $35 billion, and the industry’s leveraged loans are up 15 percent, to $152 billion, according to Bloomberg data. The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary. Bloomberg (8 minutes) 

SEED Conference

Early-stage investors who move quickly and decisively will be able to produce better financial returns and create greater impact over time. That’s the belief of my friends at ADAP Capital. So, they developed and refined their “Four-Hour Due Diligence”, and they will be leading a session at the SEED conference on how to perform thorough, but quick due diligence at the seed stage. This is just one of the interesting sessions at the conference. The overall agenda is shaping up nicely. Get 30% off your tickets to the SEED conference here. (Sponsored)

Autonomous Vehicle Kills Human

The inevitable finally happened last Sunday, an Uber autonomy test/development car hit and killed a pedestrian, while in autonomous mode (i.e. a human was in the driving seat but not controlling it). The car, which had a safety driver behind the wheel at the time, did not slow down. A pedestrian death raises concerns about how the vehicles should be deployed. Regulators will, no doubt, take a closer look at the technology after this latest setback. This week both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said they have launched probes. It’s easy and obvious to say that AVs will be safer (road accidents killed 35k people just in the USA last year and almost all of that was human error), but that doesn’t mean this isn’t terrible, nor that nothing will ever go wrong. The Tempe police released a video of the moments leading up to the crash (but not the actual impact) that is haunting check it out at Wall Street Journal (1 minute)

Wheat in Heat

Following four years of trials, which saw thousands of wheat varieties tested in the unforgiving sub-Saharan heat, scientists have successfully turned what was first thought of as a “crazy idea” into a vital new food crop – wheat. The strain of wheat can withstand constant 40C temperatures, and has been developed by the International Centre for Research in the Dry Areas (Icarda). The so-called drylands cover more than 40% of the world’s land surface and, despite the challenges, remain huge centers of agriculture, supporting half the world’s livestock. With more than 1 million smallholders living along the Senegal River basin, which also runs through Mali and Mauritania, it was an important strategic area to trial the wheat. The Guardian (8 minutes)

Care of Souls

Over the past four years a team of Harvard Divinity School Innovation Fellows have traveled the country and conducted research on Millennials and spirituality. They learned to see the impacts of our crisis of disconnection at four levels – personal, social, environmental and religious. The solution, they say, is that America needs to care for its soul. In order to do that, they list 7 different archetypes that need to apply their wisdom and skills to this new generation. 1) The Gatherer forms communities of meaning and depth. 2) The Seer helps us approach the sacred 3) The Healer breaks cycles care of violence. 4) The Steward creates the infrastructure for spiritual life 5) The Elder grounds our gifts in history and community 6) The Venturer invests in creative ways to support human flourishing. 7) The Maker reminds us how to be human. Harvard Divinity School (15 minutes)

Personality & Organization

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality assessment divides everyone into 16 distinct types based on how you perceive and judge the world, and it can be a useful tool for not only understanding your own strengths and weakness, but for understanding others as well. Your Myers-Briggs Type can also help you identify important strengths and consider how your weaknesses could interfere with your effort to achieve your goals. Working with your MBTI type instead of against it may be the key to helping you organize your life. For Instance, I’m an ENTJ. The article was on point when it said that ENTJs like things orderly AF. This one was on point for me. My desktop is always clutter free and my closet is color coded. Bustle (7 minutes)

From the Community

My friends at Andela announced a partnership with Google to provide 15,000 “single-course” scholarships and 500 nanodegree scholarships to aspiring developers in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

Weekend Wisdom

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” – Warren Buffet

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose.

Photo by Melissa Askew