Weekend Briefing No. 139

This Week By The Numbers


340 – The number of employees Theranos will fire. The medical technology company was slapped with regulatory sanctions after significant issues with their blood testing technology. It will slash its workforce and close its blood testing facility.

50% – A poll of Chinese citizens found that 50 percent were willing to trade a better economy for cleaner air, saying that air pollution should be reduced at the expense of economic growth, compared to 24 percent who said pollution was simply the price for growth.

$4.57 – Average cost of an out-of-network ATM fee in the U.S., making this the tenth consecutive year of increases. The surcharge from the ATMs themselves accounts for $2.90 of that total, while the charge from the customer’s own bank for using an out-of-network ATM accounts for $1.67.

The Un-Silicon Valley Startup


Surprising fact: it’s possible to create a huge tech company without taking venture capital. The standard Silicon Valley model – raise round after round of venture capital, rapidly grow user base, then figure out how to monetize later – in many cases is actually harmful to the business. When you have a bunch of money in the bank, you get good at spending money. But if you’re forced to generate revenue out of the gate, you get really good at making money. Don’t believe me? Just check out Mailchimp’s story at the New York Times (5 minutes).

Patagonia’s Thirst For Good


This simple phrase, “follow your passion,” turns out to be surprisingly pernicious. The early stages of a fantastic career might not feel fantastic at all, a reality that clashes with the fantasy world implied by the advice to “follow your passion” — an alternate universe where there’s a perfect job waiting for you, one that you’ll love right away once you discover it. The author of this piece notes “We currently lack, for example, a good phrase for describing those tough first years on a job where you grind away at building up skills.” I think we do. It’s called paying your dues… or simply learning. Read more at Patagonia Provisions (4 minutes).

Don’t Follow Your Passion


This simple phrase, “follow your passion,” turns out to be surprisingly pernicious. The early stages of a fantastic career might not feel fantastic at all, a reality that clashes with the fantasy world implied by the advice to “follow your passion” — an alternate universe where there’s a perfect job waiting for you, one that you’ll love right away once you discover it. The author of this piece notes “We currently lack, for example, a good phrase for describing those tough first years on a job where you grind away at building up skills.” I think we do. It’s called paying your dues… or simply learning. Read more at Harvard Business Review (4 minutes).

Mistakes Were Made


At Etsy, employees are encouraged to make their mistakes public. People will send out an email to the entire company or a list of people saying I made this mistake, here’s how I made that mistake, don’t you make this mistake. It’s called a blameless post mortem. At Etsy mistakes aren’t seen as an opportunity to blame, but to gather data about what doesn’t work. The company also gives out an annual award—a real three-armed sweater— to an employee who’s made an error. The sweater goes to whomever who made the most surprising error, not the worst one, as a reminder to examine the gap between how things are expected to happen and how they actually do. I actually confirmed this story when I ran into an Etsy engineer at lunch this week. Learn more and see an example email at Quartz (6 minutes).

Micromachines


The Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to 2 scientists working on nanotechnology — the creation of structures on the scale of a nanometer, or a billionth of a meter. The machines conceived by the laureates are one-thousandth the width of a strand of human hair. Crazy right?! Think about tiny robots that the doctor in the future will inject in your blood veins, use to search for cancer cells or deliver drugs. Learn more at BBC (4 minutes).

Big Food


Our industrialized food system nourishes more people, at lower cost, than any comparable system in history. It also exerts a terrifyingly massive influence on our health and our environment. Photographer George Steinmetz spent nearly a year traveling the country to capture that system, in all its scope, grandeur and dizzying scale. His photographs are all the more remarkable for the fact that so few large food producers are willing to open themselves to this sort of public view. Check out this epic photo essay at the New York Times Magazine (6 minutes).

Venmo & Emojis


If you use Venmo to pay friends, you know it’s really all about the emojis. A recent study shows that the most common emoji is pizza. Alcohol-related emojis, such as champagne, wine, and beer, swept four of the top 10 spots for emojis used. Surprisingly, two of the top 30 most frequently used emojis were related to rent, another to utilities, and three to various car expenses. Learn more at Bloomberg (2 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.

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