Weekend Briefing No. 134

Welcome To The Weekend

This week Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been officially ousted in an impeachment vote. Google is moving onto Uber’s turf with a ride-sharing service to help San Francisco commuters join carpools. Post-electoral protests in Gabon turned violent. Opposition supporters clashed with the police and set the parliament building on fire after incumbent president Ali Bongo won re-election. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a Cape Canaveral launch pad.

My first long form piece for Westaway Review is about charity: water’s founding story (below), but if you’re interested in other founding stories from companies like Warby Parker and Method, you can download a free chapter of my book on that topic entitled Discover Through Curiosity.

Welcome in the new month with my September playlist, featuring a new track from one of my favorite bands Johnnyswim.

Founding Story

This week charity: water celebrated its 10-year anniversary. In that time they have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, which has funded 21,118 water projects; providing clean water to 6,400,000 people in 25 countries. Did you ever wonder how an organization that has such a big impact got started? This is the surprising story of how social entrepreneur Scott Harrison went from a club promoter to running a global social enterprise at Westaway Review (29 minutes).

It’s Lonely At The Top

The standard wisdom is that successful startups need co-founders. Probably solid advice, but data from thousands of startups in CrunchBase shows a different side of the story. Surprisingly, being a solo founder leads to greater success. Out of the companies that have raised more than $10 million each – 45% were 1-founder companies, 32% were 2-founder companies and 15% had 3 founders. For companies that had some sort of exit – 52% were 1-founder companies, 30% were 2-founder companies and 13% had three founders. Learn more at TechCrunch (5 minutes).


Oliver Stone wanted a hit — and the chance to put America’s most iconic dissident onscreen. The subject wanted veto power. The Russian lawyer wanted someone to option the novel he’d written. The American lawyer just wanted the whole insane project to go away. Somehow a film got made. Learn the story of how Snowden’s story ended up on the silver screen in the New York Times Magazine (43 minutes).

Society In The Loop

Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have formed a sort of industry group to ensure that A.I. research is focused on benefiting people, not hurting them. The specifics of what the industry group will do or say — even its name — have yet to be hashed out. But there seems to be a shared ethos around “society in the loop.” The phrase means designing computer and robotic systems that still require interaction with humans. For example, the Pentagon has recently begun articulating a military strategy that calls for using A.I. in which humans continue to control killing decisions, rather than delegating that responsibility to machines. Learn more at the New York Times (3 minutes).

5-Hour Work Day

Tower Paddle Boards started implementing an 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. work day and simultaneously instituted a 5% profit-sharing. The CEO thought that attracting better people and making them happy, would be good for the company long-term. He suspected revenue would go down a bit, but the net effect would be worth it. But surprisingly their annual revenues for 2015 were up over 40%. It seems “scarcity” (having less time for work) actually forces employees to be more efficient, creating periods of heightened productivity called “focus dividends.” Learn more at Fast Company (4 minutes).


… is Altamonte Springs, Florida – the first town to incorporate Uber into its public transit options. For the Uber, it’s an appealing new way to establish themselves as vital infrastructure, especially in low-density communities like Altamonte where running traditional mass transit can be expensive. Critics worry that if these programs succeed, they could pluck the affluent commuters who wield real political influence off trains and busses, leading to a crisis of declining ridership and decreasing clout for traditional public transportation and a less options for citizens who lack smartphones and credit cards required. Learn more at The Verge (15 minutes).

Stepping Off The Podium

Thomas Hall had quit canoe racing because it was time. Though he never expected it, he missed the simplicity it brought his life. He never had to search for a goal; it was always clear. He had to be better, to win the next competition. It had been eight years since Thomas Hall had stood on the Olympic podium and four since his last race, and he had hated what he’d become. He had gone from an Olympian—confident, gifted, and fit—to an overweight insomniac with no direction. Outwardly, he was still functional, but increasingly these moments were undermined by waves of anxiety and jealousy at others’ seemingly complete lives. Learn more about his story at Walrus (9 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. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend.