Weekend Briefing No. 268

Welcome to the weekend. Thanks for all the kind notes of support last week.

Up for a once-in-a-lifetime experience? Join me on a custom trip to explore and be inspired by South Africa in February 2020. We will explore Apartheid and learn how a wide range of cultural and business leaders address the seemingly intractable issues South Africa still faces today. We’ll be meeting with veterans of the anti-Apartheid movement, young entrepreneurs, key social and political leaders of all background. All, who are committed to building a just society today. We’ll engage with South African change agents in thought-provoking settings. We’ll enjoy unique access to historic sites in Johannesburg and Cape Town (one of my favorite cities in the world), off the beaten-path locations, world-class cuisine, wine and rich culture.

Sound interesting? Find out more details and apply here. Applications are open until April 1st, so if you’re interested, apply now.

Also, I’m testing out a new section called Bookshelf (explained below) this week. Let me know whether you find it interesting or not. Any advice / suggestions welcome.

Lastly, here are some good tunes for April. This is my favorite playlist in a while. Very chill, great for Spring and smiles.

Prime Numbers

24.3 B Lyft was valued at $24.3 billion in the first initial public offering (IPO) of a ride-hailing startup on Thursday. Lyft’s IPO sets the stage for the stock market debut of larger rival Uber Technologies Inc, which Reuters has reported will kick off in April. Uber has been told by its investment bankers that it could be valued at as much as $120 billion.

250 MM – Fortnite, the wildly popular video game, has 250 million players. I just got my first Fortnite tutorial two weeks ago… thanks Jack!

3 – This week, Matternet and UPS made the first successful revenue-generating drone delivery on the campus of WakeMed medical facility in North Carolina. Drone deliveries serve a critical need at large medical centers. Sensitive medical deliveries (such as life-saving organs or blood) often take 30 minutes due to traffic, but drones cut delivery time down to 3 minutes.

Post-traumatic Growth

Tommy Caldwell is a big-wall free climber. Over 19 days in early 2015,  he completed the first-ever free climb of the Dawn Wall at El Capitan (considered the hardest climb of its type in the world). In his TED Talk, Tommy raises an interesting question: why do some people experience post-traumatic growth?  Tommy credits his father who understood the idea of raising kids with grit long before it became a parenting buzzword; believing you must prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child. In his early twenties, Caldwell was held hostage by militants in a harrowing ordeal in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Upon returning home, he lost his index finger in a home remodeling accident. Caldwell emerged with a renewed grit and ability to suffer, further cultivating his legendary determination. His subsequent free climbing accomplishments on El Capitan – the Mecca of the pursuit – remain unmatched, and most of his peers consider Caldwell the best all-around rock climber in the world. TED (18 minutes)

Stoics at the Gate

The Stoics continue to be the dominant thought leaders from Google to Apple. Why is Stoic philosophy so popular amongst the Silicon Valley crowd? Stoicism is a wonderful therapy against grief and the blinders of the rat race. It is about achieving interior tranquility. Stoics believed that everything in the universe is already perfect and that things that seem bad or unjust are secretly good underneath. The philosophy is handy if you already believe that the rich are meant to be rich and the poor meant to be poor. The new popularity of Stoicism among the tech crowd is strikingly similar to Stoicism’s popularity among the powerful elites of ancient Rome. As Rome took over, it surged in popularity because it was the one system of ethics that worked well for the rich and powerful. New York Times (11 minutes)

Women in VC

In 2016, only 6% of decision-makers at VC firms were women. Now in 2019, it’s still not that much better, with women representing only about 10% of decision-makers among U.S. VCs. As a woman in VC today, there’s still only a 1 in 10 chance that you’ll be seated at a table with a fellow woman decision-maker. A recent report gives us a closer look at women in venture capital. Not surprising, women VCs in San Francisco are the most likely to be at the Partner level. 36% of female Partners live in the Bay Area, followed by New York which has 20% of women at Partner level. Interestingly, New York is the top market for more junior VC talent, with 32% of non-partner level women living in NYC, compared to 25% in SF. With almost half of all women in VC holding roles below the partner level, there appears to be a growing pipeline of junior talent in VC firms that would benefit from being nurtured for partner-tracking roles or other opportunities. Debunking any myths that women in VC only invest in consumer and commerce companies, women VCs have equal interest in healthcare, enterprise, and fintech tied for first. Women-VC (7 minutes)

Auto Jobs

1.5 million jobs in the UK are at “high risk” of being automated. The country’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) analyzed 20 million people’s jobs in 2017 and found that 7.4% of them were at high risk of being replaced by technology. Routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function. The most “at risk” groups were women, part-time workers, and young people. Its research found the most likely jobs to be automated were wait staff, then shelf stackers and the most junior sales roles. The least likely roles were doctors and teachers. The ONS has developed a chatbot so you can discuss the findings (the irony wasn’t lost on me, either). MIT Technology Review


Earlier this month, Omidyar Network, the global impact investment firm, announced its latest move: Turning its financial inclusion initiative into Flourish, a venture firm aimed at backing entrepreneurs forming impact-oriented financial services enterprises. While new fintech ventures have allowed more than one billion people around the world to enter the conventional financial world, in many emerging markets more than half of working age adults still live and work in the informal economy, according to Flourish. To address these issues, Flourish’s investments will target pretty much the same areas as before: alternative credit, insurance tech, new banks and digital infrastructure. Its portfolio includes some 40 fintech ventures targeting financial inclusion in emerging markets, as well as the U.S. Forbes (6 minutes)

Explorer’s Club

For generations, exploration meant going to faraway lands and bringing back significant artifacts. The Explorer’s Club in NYC is filled with items from these journeys: tusks from a rare elephant species and flags that flew on the moon. A giant taxidermy polar bear hovers over the second floor. But it is clear that the newer members are different kinds of pioneers. Many of them are using technology, in addition to safari gear and compasses, to uncover the world’s greatest secrets. For the older folks, maybe they were the first person somewhere because the world hadn’t been explored that much, and they had that opportunity. The next generation has to look at exploring differently – using new tools to take a closer look at the environments that have already been found. (On a personal note, I’m really interested in the Explorer’s Club. I’d love to learn more. If you’re a member, I’d love to connect.) New York Times (7 minutes)

Hard Conversations

Tips on hard conversations: 1) Observations v. Evaluations. Our brains are hardwired to take raw information and instantly make up a simple story — good or bad, right or wrong, hero or villain. These stories are evaluations and they are very hard to separate from observations. 2) Emotions v. Thoughts. When you say “I feel…” make sure you finish that with an emotion (i.e. scared, frustrated, angry, helpless, etc) not a thought. If you can substitute ‘I feel’ with ‘I think’ and the phrase still works, it’s a thought, not an emotion. 3) Universal Needs v. Strategies. All human beings share the same universal needs and that behind every negative emotion lies an unmet universal need. For example, if a certain comment in a meeting left you feeling embarrassed, you might realize that you felt embarrassed because your need for consideration wasn’t being met. The Founder Coach (9 minutes)


I got the following note last week…

Quick question: I’ve seen your “2018 Books” (read about a dozen of them since I saw that post and add’l dozen by those authors)… do you have a list that shows what you are either currently reading or want to read? Would love to see it if so. -Joel

I’ve been meaning to do something like this for a while, so thanks for the nudge Joel. I’m going to experiment with incorporating a regular section called Bookshelf into the briefing that will summarize the book I’m currently reading. Let me know if you like or hate this idea. So… here’s the first book:

The Master Plan: My Journey from Life in Prison to a Life of Purpose by Chris Wilson. The inspiring, instructive, and ultimately triumphant memoir of a man who used hard work and a Master Plan to turn a life sentence into a second chance. Growing up in a tough Washington, D.C., neighborhood, Chris Wilson was so afraid for his life he wouldn’t leave the house without a gun. One night, defending himself, he killed a man. At eighteen, he was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole. But what should have been the end of his story became the beginning. Deciding to make something of his life, Chris embarked on a journey of self-improvement–reading, working out, learning languages, and even starting a business. He wrote his Master Plan: a list of all he expected to accomplish or acquire. He worked his plan every day for years, and in his mid-thirties he did the impossible: he convinced a judge to reduce his sentence and became a free man. Today Chris is a successful social entrepreneur who employs returning citizens; a mentor; and a public speaker. He is the embodiment of second chances, and this is his unforgettable story. The Master Plan

About the Weekend Briefing

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

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Weekend Wisdom

Best predictor of success:  Innate ability to allocate time properly.Keith Rabois