Weekend Briefing No. 271

Welcome to the weekend.

This week’s book on the bookshelf is a classic – Your Money or Your Life. It’s helping me evolve my relationship with money in order to live more deliberately and meaningfully. I’m looking for other recommendations on personal finance. What is the one book you think everybody should read about money? Just hit reply to this email to let me know.  

Prime Numbers

1.4 B –Last year, old school sweats brand, Champion booked $1.4 billion in sales, and the company hopes to dial those up to $2 billion by 2022. Champion is worn by 9% of upper income boys and 5% of girls.

385 – The world’s biggest airplane took its first test flight. The twin-fuselage Stratolaunch plane has six engines and a 385-foot wingspan is wider than a football field, making it the longest in the world.

54.5 – In 2017, possession of marijuana has dropped to 5.7 percent of all arrests in the United States. Dooley County, Georgia appears to be the single worst place for smokers in America, with 54.5 percent of the 422 arrests in 2016 being for marijuana possession.

Clean Energy Fund

This week Acumen closed an almost $70 million fund to back companies delivering affordable and renewable energy to mostly poor consumers in East Africa. KawiSafi Ventures seeks to bring clean energy to 10 million people with investments in fast-growing companies while also making competitive returns. In Africa, millions of people don’t have electricity and typically resort to dirty sources of power. The Acumen fund will supply early-growth capital to help companies gain scale and reach more consumers with energy from solar panels. Some of the outfits had earlier backing from Acumen’s “patient” capital, which sets long time-horizons for investment returns. Bloomberg Businessweek (6 minutes)

Jumia IPO

Jumia, the largest e-commerce company on the continent with operations 14 countries has just celebrated its landmark initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange. Jumia may or may not represent the greatest of financial boons for a majority of African investors (though South Africa’s MTN is still its largest shareholder—for now). But getting the IPO off the ground represented a coming of age for a sector, which for the biggest capital markets and investors in the world had often been made to seem like a well-intentioned, but fanciful ideal. That was particularly clear for those of us with the perspective of both worlds. The listing is a watershed moment for Africa’s tech ecosystems. Jumia garnered investor interest and enjoyed an impressive first day run. Its stock, which was priced at $14.5, closed up 75%. Quartz (8 minutes)

Robot Farmers

Picking a strawberry properly, and doing it fast enough to earn a living wage, requires speed, dexterity, and stamina. On a typical plant, only some of the berries will be ripe; the pickers must identify them by working their hands through the thick canopy of leaves with little fruit-seeking movements of their fingers, catching the stem of the ripe berries in the webbing of their fingers, and cupping the fruit. Then, with a wristy twist that prevents bruising around the calyx, they pluck the berry from the vine the way you might pop a frosty can of beer from a six-pack. So, can robots do this complicated grunt work that hired laborers are currently doing?  It’s possible that this second wave of A.I.-based mechanization will automate the farmer’s job long before it removes the need for hired labor; the brain work of farming—when to plant, irrigate, fertilize, and harvest—had been automated, but not the grunt work. In the state of agricultural work today, we can see, perhaps, the conditions that other industries will face when their workforces have been automated: the last jobs left will be the tough manual ones. The robots will be too smart to do them. New Yorker (28 minutes)

Opportunity Zones

The government hopes that, through the Opportunity Zones initiative, a lower effective capital-gains tax will lure investor capital to projects in approximately 8,700 economically disadvantaged US census tracts. What we’ve learned from similar programs in the US and UK is that these programs had mixed results. Some zones experienced growth and transformation, while others did not. Their experiences, along with conversations with state and local government stakeholders and investors, suggest that opportunity zones may face challenges. Two of those challenges may be helping investors and other stakeholders understand and navigate the program, and ensuring that the benefits transform communities and help local residents. McKinsey & Co (13 minutes)

Climate Chaos

Climate Chaos is coming and the Pinkertons are ready. Even if the most conservative predictions about our climate future prove overstated, a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in temperature during the next century will almost certainly provoke chaos, in what experts call climate change “threat multiplier”: Displacement begets desperation begets disorder. As they see it, global warming stands to make corporate security as high-stakes in the 21st century as it was in the 19th. Now over 150 years old, having long outlived its reputation as Andrew Carnegie’s personal militia, the agency has evolved into a modern security firm. Over the last decade or so, Pinkerton began noticing a growing set of anxieties among its corporate clients about distinctly contemporary plagues — active shooters, political unrest, climate disasters — and in response began offering data-driven risk analysis, in addition to what they’re more traditionally known for. New York Times (11 minutes)

Olympian to Homeless

“Once you’ve done something that feels like you’re born to do it, it’s hard to find anything that’s that good of a fit,” said Rebecca Twigg. The Seattle-raised athlete went on to become one of the most famous American cyclists in the ’80s and ’90s, winning six world championships and medaling in two Olympics. She appeared on cycling magazine covers, in sponsor ads and in features in Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair. She is now homeless. Twigg, 56, agreed to share her story to convince the public that not all homeless people are addicted to drugs or alcohol; that there are many like her, who have struggled with employment and are “confused,” as she said she is, about what to do next with their lives. Seattle Times (10 minutes)

3 Stages of Failure

This framework helps clarify things by breaking down challenges into three stages of failure: Stage 1 is a Failure of Tactics. These are HOW mistakes. They occur when you fail to build robust systems, forget to measure carefully, and get lazy with the details. A Failure of Tactics is a failure to execute on a good plan and a clear vision. Stage 2 is a Failure of Strategy. These are WHAT mistakes. They occur when you follow a strategy that fails to deliver the results you want. You can know why you do the things you do and you can know how to do the work, but still choose the wrong what to make it happen. Stage 3 is a Failure of Vision. These are WHY mistakes. They occur when you don’t set a clear direction for yourself, follow a vision that doesn’t fulfill you, or otherwise fail to understand why you do the things you do. James Clear (11 minutes)

Bookshelf

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin. For more than twenty-five years, Your Money or Your Life has been considered the go-to book for taking back your life by changing your relationship with money. Hundreds of thousands of people have followed this nine-step program, learning to live more deliberately and meaningfully with Vicki Robin’s guidance. This fully revised and updated edition with a foreword by “the Frugal Guru”, (New Yorker) Mr. Money Mustache is the ultimate makeover of this bestselling classic, ensuring that its time-tested wisdom applies to people of all ages and covers modern topics. This book will show you how to: 1) Get out of debt and develop savings. 2) Save money through mindfulness and good habits, rather than strict budgeting. 3) Declutter your life and live well for less. 4) Invest your savings and begin creating wealth. 5) Save This is the seminal guide to the new morality of personal money management. Amazon

From the Community

My good friends and client Praxis just launched a podcast called the Redemptive Edge about how entrepreneurs are responding creatively and faithfully to the world’s pressing issues.

Feedback Loop

A response to last week’s report from Echoing Green on bias in funding:

Dear Kyle,

I like the idea of challenging communities on their motivations about community. Yet one of the difficulties in this area of pay is that those conversations and statistics come from multivariable analyses and you cannot boil it down to only a few points of intersectionality (ethnicity and gender).

For example, does a male Caucasian homosexual make less than a male Caucasian heterosexual? What if the male Caucasian heterosexual was abandoned by his father? Does he deserve more help (or will receive less pay based on his maybe poorer negotiation skills due to probable less confidence)? What about the black male heterosexual? What about the black male heterosexual who was raised in a great neighborhood with married parents? Does he have an advantage over the black male heterosexual who is raising a poor neighborhood and also broke his back and was paralyzed as a teenager? Every additional variable that you put into the analysis adds another point of intersectionality. When you run those points of intersectionality out to an infinite degree (because we were all uniquely experienced, backgrounded, gifted and created), you arrive at the point of the individual. That is why the individual is the most important in the analysis (and why our individual salvation is so great!) because you can never safely construct enough variables to get a good heuristic for comparison. Such comparisons overlook and/or sacrifice the unique individual at the expense of myopic tribalism along arbitrary and highly selective/subjective categories in my opinion.

Thank you as always for the interesting, thoughtful, and challenging articles! – Stephen Casey

About the Weekend Briefing

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

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Weekend Wisdom

“Money is something we choose to trade our life energy for.”Vicki Robin