Weekend Briefing No. 262

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

6B – Trinity Church holds a real estate portfolio worth $6 billion including some of the most desirable land in Manhattan.

36.6 – Among all crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter, 36.6% succeed in meeting their goal. But these rates vary widely by category. Theater projects for instance getfunded 60% of the time and tech projects get funded 20% of the time.

$0.30 Reddit is the least valuable social network. It has the lowest annual revenue per user at $0.30, and users overjoyed. Twitter is $9.48, Facebook is $7.37, Pinterest is: $2.80, and Snap is $2.09.

Gates Annual Letter

This year Bill & Melinda wrote about 9 surprises. 1) Africa is the youngest continent. 2) At-home DNA tests can find serial killers—and could also help prevent premature birth. 3) We will build an entire New York City every month…… for 40 years! 4) Data can be sexist. 5) You can learn a lot about processing your anger from teenage boys. 6) There’s a nationalist case for globalism. 7) Toilets haven’t changed in a century. 8) Textbooks are becoming obsolete. 9) Mobile phones are most powerful in the hands of the poorest women. Gates Notes (21 minutes)

Capitalist Critique

Capitalism has, despite all its flaws, lifted billions of people out of poverty. This is the favorite argument of optimists like Steven Pinker and Bill Gates. But what if it’s not true? Jason Hickel has posted an interesting critique of that worldview. He makes five arguments: 1) Pinker’s data overstates improvement since 1982 because the dataset shifts from measuring income to consumption; 2) revealed preference of people in poor countries suggests they preferred subsidence lives to colonial industrialization; 3) using $1.90/day as a definition of poverty is absurdly low and the picture is less rosy when you look at more realistic levels; 4) almost all the gains are in China/East Asia, which didn’t follow “neoliberal” prescriptions; and 5) poverty has fallen much more slowly than our capacity to end it. Jason Hickel (16 minutes)

Fixing Capitalism

Both the left and right seem to agree on something, the current version of capitalism isn’t working. Here are some ideas for fixing American capitalism: 1) Antitrust Pivot. The Brandeis School of thought emphasizes the need to restrain big companies and the concentration of economic power even when they’ve lowered some prices for consumers. 2) Supply-Side Economics. The supply-side pitch is that reducing taxes on companies and top-earning individuals, curtailing spending on welfare programs,and slashing regulation spurs business investment. This leads to faster economic growth that benefits all Americans. 3) German Model. The German system, known as co-determination, allows employees to have a say in working conditions, such as contractual terms and pay. It also gives them a voice in how profits are deployed. 4) Modern Monetary Theory. Governments borrowing in their own currency have more room to spend than they think. The U.S., for example, can run deficits without having to worry about going bust, because it creates the dollars in the first place. 5) Tech to the Rescue. Innovation can solve just about every problem humanity faces. 6) Tariff Truthers. Tariffs preserve jobs and help unleash investment. 7) Libertarianism. Free-market purists aren’t giving up the fight. They seek to abolish the Federal Reserve and its cheap money,limit zoning and patent monopolies. Bloomberg Businessweek (15 minutes)

A Terrible Goal

Sahil Lavingia was on top of the world. He was just 19, a solo founder, with over $8M in top tier VC money in the bank for his company Gumroad. The world was starting to take note. Being venture-funded is like playing a game of double-or-nothing. It’s euphoric when things are going your way — and suffocating when they’re not. And they weren’t doubling our user base fast enough to raise the $15M+ Series B. To keep the product alive, he laid off 75 percent of my company and decided to become profitable at any cost. He was running a “measly” lifestyle business. It doesn’t matter how amazing your product is, or how fast you ship features. The market you’re in will determine most of your growth. For better or worse, Gumroad grew at roughly the same rate almost every month because that’s how quickly the market determined we would grow. Now instead of pretending to be some sort of product visionary, trying to build a billion-dollar company, he’s just focused on making Gumroad better and better for their existing creators. They’ve been the ones to keep them alive. For years, his only metric of success was building a billion-dollar company. Now, he realizes that was a terrible goal. Medium (13 minutes)

Logo Design

Paul Rand was an American art director and graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs,including the logos for IBM, UPS, Enron, Morningstar, Inc., Westinghouse, ABC,and Steve Jobs’ NeXT. You should consider his 7 questions when deciding on a logo. 1) Is it distinctive? 2) Is it visible? 3) Is it adaptable? 4) Is it memorable? 5) Is it universal? 6) Is it timeless? 7) Then, when you have said “yes” to everything above, ask this final question: is it simple? Entrepreneur’s Handbook (8 minutes)

Scientist

When a scientist runs an experiment,there are all sorts of results that could happen. Some results are positive and some are negative, but all of them are data points. Each result is a piece of data that can ultimately lead to an answer. And that’s exactly how a scientist treats failure: as another data point. If you’re focused on building a new habit or learning a new skill or mastering a craft of any type, then you’re basically experimenting in one way or another. And if you run enough experiments, then sometimes you’re going to get a negative result. It happens to every scientist and it will happen to you and me as well. To paraphrase Seth Godin: Failure is simply a cost you have to pay on the way to being right. Treat failure like a scientist. Your failures are not you. Your successes are not you. They are simply data points that help guide the next experiment. James Clear (5 minutes)

Powers of Ten

Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous 1977 film from Charles and Ray Eames transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only as a speck of light among many others.Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell. YouTube (9 minutes)

Weekend Wisdom

‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.Friedrich Hayek

About the Weekend Briefing

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