Weekend Briefing No. 286

Welcome to the weekend.

Prime Numbers

12.67 B Beyond Meat’s market capitalization just surpassed Campbells Soup. Campbell Soup: Founded in 1869 / 23,000 Employees / $10.5 billion in Revenue. Beyond Meat: Founded in 2009 / 383 Employees / $95 million in Revenue.

60 – Projections from AT Kearney suggest 60% of meat eaten in 2040 will actually be alternatives to meat that don’t originate from dead animals, and with alternatives to meat going mainstream — 95 percent of people buying alt burgers are meat eaters.

12 – The British Sleep Council reported that the number of British couples who sleep separately every night is on the rise, increasing from 8 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2017.

The (Eventual) Recession

The economy is hot. Interest rates just went even lower. There is speculation that the Fed is concerned about a slowdown, potentially a recession. Nobody can predict these things, but here are some economic indicators of a coming recession. (1) Unemployment Rate. Look for rapid increases. (2) The Yield Curve. Look for Interest rates on 10-year Treasury bonds falling below those on three-month bonds. (3) The ISM Manufacturing Index. The index falling below about 45 for an extended period. (4) Consumer Sentiment. Look for declines of over 15% in a year. New York Times (9 minutes)

Quantum Internet

The internet is vulnerable to the kind of hacking revealed by Edward Snowden because data still travels over cables in the form of classical bits—a stream of electrical or optical pulses representing 1s and 0s. A hacker who manages to tap into the cables can read and copy those bits in transit. The laws of quantum physics, on the other hand, allow a particle—for example, an atom, an electron, or (for transmitting along optical cables) a photon of light—to occupy a quantum state that represents a combination of 1 and 0 simultaneously. Such a particle is called a quantum bit, or qubit. When you try to observe a qubit, its state “collapses” to either 1 or 0. This means that if a hacker taps into a stream of qubits, the intruder both destroys the quantum information in that stream and leaves a clear signal that it’s been tampered with. Researchers are now studying how to create a quantum internet that’s unhackable. MIT Technology Review (13 minutes)

$1B Towards AGI

Microsoft just donated $1 billion to Open AI to progress Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) research and application. Each year since 2012, the world has seen a new step function advance in AI capabilities. But still, AI system building today involves a lot of manual engineering for each well-defined task. In contrast, an AGI will be a system capable of mastering a field of study to the world-expert level, and mastering more fields than any one human — like a tool which combines the skills of Curie, Turing, and Bach. An AGI working on a problem would be able to see connections across disciplines that no human could. The goal is to put AGI to work with people to solve currently intractable multi-disciplinary problems, including global challenges such as climate change, affordable and high-quality healthcare, and personalized education. Open AI (5 minutes)

No B.S. Guide to Stock Options

To determine how many options to grant an employee, Skillshare uses a slightly modified version of the methodology laid out by Fred Wilson and Union Square Ventures in a blog post by Fred back in 2010 (and subsequently updated in 2018). The summary is that there are two basic components to determine the number of options to grant: 1) the targeted dollar value of the option grant and 2) the value per option. To determine the target value of the grant, there is a multiplier applied to the salary for every role/level in the company. Here are the multipliers that they use at Skillshare as of today: Exec team/C-level: 2.45; VP: 1.86; Director: 0.54; Specialist/key contributor IC: 0.43; Sr. Engineer: 0.40; Engineer: 0.26; Individual contributor/most staff: 0.23. These multipliers are based on USV’s portfolio company research and, from their experience, they are competitive in NYC tech startups. You then take the new hire compensation and factor in the multiplier above. For example, the target grant value for an individual contributor making $80,000 a year would be ($80,000 x 0.23) = $18,400. Medium (8 minutes)

Forget Coding

Your technical chops may not give you the edge when you’re new to the workforce, but your network might. In order to move up, over, side to side, and double back when you need to, all while making your way upward, the trait you need most is adaptability, not this or that tech skill. And there’s no way to adapt if you don’t have a great network you can tap from the get-go. Your skills matter, but they’ll only get you so far. In the modern workforce, networked knowledge and experience–when a team’s collective expertise exceeds than the sum of its parts–are becoming as important as individual skills. If you’re less than a decade into your career, it’s probably time to prioritize building your network the same way the generation ahead of you was told to develop their skills. Fast Company (6 minutes)

Gang Sh*t

Marlon Craft, an NYC rapper, just had his album launch party at the Halal Guys food cart… how can you not love that. His food cart game is strong, his flow is fire.  Contrary to what the phrase could allude to in hip-hop, Craft takes his new track Gang Sh*t to present listeners with three different perspectives, opening up with the gang mentality associated with the fraternity of police officers and lawbreaking of organizations such as the KKK, while presenting the dilemma as to why such a mentality doesn’t hold the same consequences faced by those who fall within the stereotypical scope of a gangbanger–black men. Appropriately, this track is paired with simple but powerful visuals. It’s my favorite music video thus far in 2019. YouTube (4 minutes)

Children’s Books Every Adult Should Read

(1) The Paddington Bear Books. There’s a vivid and obvious lesson in Paddington, about refuge. Paddington turns up at our door, with nothing to commend himself but his existence and his excellent hat, and we must take him in. We must cherish him, because he lives – and Michael Bond is telling us, like William Blake before him, that everything that lives is holy. (2) His Dark Materials Trilogy. Lyra, Pullman’s ferocious heroine, one of the greatest ever written, a girl with quick wit and tooth-and-claw loyalty and a loose hand with the truth, voyages to the underworld. (3) One Dog and His Boy. The book tells us, you must find something alive to love, be it beast or man, and hold on with both hands. Keep close, because the world will be cold, and frenetic and plastic, and only with each other will we make it. The Guardian (8 minutes)


Making of Asian America by Erika Lee. The Making of Asian America shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life, from sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500 to the Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Over the past fifty years, a new Asian America has emerged out of community activism and the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. No longer a “despised minority,” Asian Americans are now held up as America’s “model minorities” in ways that reveal the complicated role that race still plays in the United States. Published fifty years after the passage of the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, these powerful Asian American stories…are inspiring, and Lee herself does them justice in a book that is long overdue. But more than that, The Making of Asian America is an epic and eye-opening new way of understanding America itself, it’s complicated histories of race and immigration, and its place in the world today. Amazon

Feedback Loop

In response to last week’s story about 45% of Fortune 500 companies being started by immigrants or children of immigrants. Sameet Mehta says: “Nobody digs into the immigrant numbers. Most are bullshit virtue signaling. The article doesn’t differentiate how many are started by ILLEGAL immigrants, the focus of Trump’s proposals.  Conflating border crossers with legal immigrants has been the unthinking mainstream media narrative. Furthermore, I’d like to see how many of those companies were started not by legal immigrants but those from third world countries. A small minority I suspect.” 

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 Evan Link.

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Weekend Wisdom

Trade your expectation for appreciation. Tony Robbins