Weekend Briefing No. 104

Weekend Briefing No. 104 | Warren Buffet v. Elon Musk, Questions For Investors, CSR & Taxes, Moms @ Google, Goldman Sachs Questions Capitalism


Welcome to the weekend. Today we celebrate the 104th issue of the weekend briefing. That’s two years!  For those of you that were with me from the beginning, thanks! For those that have subscribed more recently, we’re glad you’re here. I’m sincerely grateful for this community. I love the ideas, comments, and feedback I get from you every week. I look forward to an amazing third year… we’ve got some exciting stuff planned!


To celebrate 2 years, jam out to my February playlist.


This week Myanmar opened its first freely elected parliament in 50 years. Hundreds of members were sworn in to a parliament dominated by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. In Iowa, Ted Cruz trounced Donald Trump, taking 28% of the votes and putting the billionaire New Yorker in second at 24%. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are tied at 50% of the vote each. Mark Zuckerberg became the world’s fourth-richest man. The Facebook founder is now worth $50 billion thanks to a share price that is defying global pessimism.




Warren Buffett & Elon Musk have a showdown in Nevada. SolarCity’s success is partly because the government provides subsidies and enables an arrangement called net metering, which allows homeowners with panels to sell back to the grid any solar energy they don’t use. This helps offset their cost of power when the sun’s not shining. Like more than 40 other U.S. states, Nevada forces utilities to buy the excess energy at rates set by regulators—usually the same rate utilities charge (hence, the net in net metering). In Nevada, it’s worked well. So well, in fact, that NV Energy, the state’s largest utility, is fighting it with everything it’s got. It seems, at least in this round, Buffett won. Learn more and see a mini documentary in Bloomberg Businessweek.

4 key questions to ask potential investors. To avoid miscommunication, entrepreneurs and investors need to openly ask questions and share concerns. Here are four fundamental questions entrepreneurs should always ask potential investors. 1) What are the short-term and long-term goals for your investments? How does this investment fit into your overall portfolio goals? 2) What is your social versus financial return expectation? Is 7% or 17% a successful financial return, for example? 3) What is your exit strategy for this investment? 4) What attracts you most to our company? What gets you excited? Learn more at Unreasonable.

CSR & Taxes. A paper in the January issue of the Accounting Review found that the companies which do the most CSR also make the most strenuous efforts to avoid paying tax—and that those with a high CSR score also spend more lobbying on tax. Isn’t a corporation’s most basic obligation to society to pay the taxes that support the poor and vulnerable? If so, why this hypocrisy? Perhaps companies intentionally embrace CSR for exactly the same reason they try to reduce their taxes—to maximize their profits. There is some evidence that companies with large CSR programs find it easier to attract talented workers (particularly among the millennial generation) and to generate a buzz around their products. Read other explanations in the Economist.

Moms at Google. When Google increased paid maternity leave, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped by 50%. According to a 2008 Harvard Business Review report, 52% of women in science, engineering, and technology jobs ultimately depart from their respective fields. Yet as Google demonstrates, a little bit of generosity can go a long way toward retaining female talent—while also ultimately improving a company’s bottom line. According to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who has five kids of her own, by increasing paid maternity leave in 2007 to 18 weeks from 12 weeks, parent company Google (now Alphabet) halved the rate at which new mothers quit. Learn more at Quartz.

Goldman Sachs says it may fundamentally have to question how capitalism is working. Profit margins have expanded, thanks to four key trends: strong commodity prices, emerging market cost arbitrage (companies making things more cheaply in emerging markets), demand growth from emerging markets, and improved corporate efficiency driven by the use of new technology. The question of whether corporate profit margins can maintain their elevated level, or whether they will inevitably be eroded by new competitors. If high margins manage to endure for the next few years (particularly when global demand growth is below trend), “there are broader questions to be asked about the efficacy of capitalism.” Read more in Bloomberg Businessweek.



Droneboarding is 2016’s newest winter sport. It uses a quad copter to drag someone through the snow on a snowboard over level ground. Think about it as winter kiteboarding.



Better questions. How many times have you been at a cocktail party and been asked, “So, what do you do?” Boring right? My buddy Andrew Horn shows us four better questions to get conversation flowing and show your interest in people.

Six degrees of separation?  How connected is the world? Playwrights, poets and scientists have proposed that everyone on the planet is connected to everyone else by six other people. In honor of Friends Day, Facebook crunched the Facebook friend graph and determined that the number is 3.57. However, Mark Zuckerberg is 3.17, Sheryl Sandberg is 2.92 and it turns out that I’m 2.76.



The Weekend Briefing is a selection of this week’s top stories on innovation and society, curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway.


Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing to be a part of your weekend routine. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend.