Weekend Briefing No. 309

Welcome to the Weekend. Hello from Cambridge, Massachusetts. For the last 7 years I’ve started my year by co-teaching a class on Social Entrepreneurship with my good friend Suzanne Mckechnie Klahr at Harvard Law. I love working with her and love our students. What a great way to start the decade.

Prime Numbers

89 B – Tesla gained nearly 5% on Wednesday, bringing its market capitalization to roughly $89 billion at the end of trading. That’s about $2 billion higher than the combined market values of Ford and General Motors at the same time. Earlier this week, Tesla officially became the highest-valued automaker of all time, surpassing Ford’s $80.8 billion market value in 1999.

530 A conservation group raised $15.65 million to purchase 530 acres of the Alder Creek Grove of giant sequoias, purchasing the largest private holding of the trees in one fell swoop.

69 – Apparently, the Superbowl of online dating sites is the first Sunday in January. Match saw a 69 percent jump in new users last year on the first Sunday of 2019 and expected an 80 percent increase this past Sunday. (Happily… this is no longer relevant for me.)

Mission-Oriented Innovation Policy

As governments worry about secular stagnation, instability and inequality the old approaches to economic policy-making seem inadequate to the task. Professor Maria Mazzucato suggests that the State needs to become more entrepreneurial. Her framework is called Mission-Oriented Innovation. Rather than focusing on particular sectors – as in traditional industrial policy – mission-oriented policy focuses on problem-specific societal challenges, which many different sectors interact to solve. The focus on problems, and new types of collaborations between public and private actors to solve them, creates the potential for greater spillovers than a sectoral approach. The new framework seeks to better envision, justify, measure and assess public investments, working within an eco-system of public, private and third sector actors across the innovation chain. It focuses on the role of the state as shaping and creating markets, not only fixing them – and enables the development of economic policy to be informed by a broader theoretical underpinning. It addresses four key questions which we define as the essential pillars: (1) How to ‘tilt’ the playing field toward transformative change in many sectors. (2) How to build public sector institutions that welcome uncertainty and risk-taking. (3) How to develop new tools to measure and assess the dynamic impact of different types of public policies that aim to create markets not only fix them. (4) How to develop mechanisms so that the public and private sectors share the risks and also the rewards. Mariana Mazzucato

CEO Mindset

Which mindsets and practices are proven to make CEOs most effective? According to an extensive study by McKinsey effective CEO’s (1) Do only what they can do. (2) Center on the long-term “Why?” (3) Help the board of directors help the business. (4) Put dynamics ahead of mechanics. (5) Manage performance and health. (6) Focus on beating the odds. McKinsey (23 minutes)

Woven City

Toyota president Akio Toyoda announced the company’s intent to build Woven City at CES, the annual consumer tech conference, this week. The city, which will initially house 2,000 people, is being designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and his team at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). This “prototype town” which will allow scientists and researchers to test an array of new technologies, including artificial intelligence, human mobility, robotics, materials science, sustainable energy, and autonomy in one controlled environment. Its employees (and the generally tech-curious) have been invited to move into this “living laboratory” as full-time test subjects, with an end-goal to determine the future of the auto industry, urban planning, and community. Fast Company (7 minutes)

Farm in a Box

Planty Cube, a smart hydroponic indoor farm made by a Seoul, South Korea-based IoT company called n.thing. The grow system is modular enough to work in a number of different settings, from an apartment to a cafeteria, and automated enough that pretty much anyone can operate it. Like other vertical farms out there, the Planty Cube environment contains rows and shelves of planters stacked inside a shipping container. Plants rely not on soil and human hands cultivating them, but instead on a computerized system that delivers the right “recipe” of nutrients, water, and light from LEDs to help photosynthesis. Humans have little involvement with the actual plants during the grow process. Most of the work on the farm, such as adjusting the LEDs, controlling temperature and humidity, and monitoring plant health, is done by the Planty Cube system, which uses sensors to collect data on the plants and can be controlled remotely by a smartphone. The Spoon (7 minutes)

Graduate$

A new study by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests that might be the case. College still boosts graduates’ earnings, but it does little for their wealth. The wealth premium for college graduates has collapsed precipitously over the past 50 years. White graduates born in the ’30s were worth 247 percent more than their non-college-educated peers; white graduates born in the ’80s were worth just 42 percent more. Among black graduates, the wealth premium sat at more than 500 percent for those born in the ’30s and fell to zero—yes, zero—for those born in the ’70s and ’80s. The Atlantic (8 minutes)

How to Do Email

Here are some guidelines on how to make email work more efficiently. (1) Cut the greeting / sign off. Greetings and closings are relics of the handwritten missive that persist only as matters of, ostensibly, formality. Foregoing them can seem curt or impolite. But it’s the opposite. Long, formal emails are impolite. (2) Brevity signals respect. An email is an imposition on a person’s time. Writing to someone is saying I know you have a finite amount of time and attention today, and in life, and I’m going to take some of it. Rarely does an email require more than three sentences. If it does, consider calling or getting together in person. The Atlantic (5 minutes)

Unbelievable, But True 

Sometimes you come across a Twitter thread that’s so good, you can’t not share it. @adribbleofink posted this tweet on Jan 3: Tell me a story about yourself the sounds like a lie but is absolutely true. The responses were endlessly entertaining and some blew my mind. Enjoy going down the rabbit hole. Twitter (30 minutes)

Bookshelf

A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton. This engaging book introduces the great thinkers in Western philosophy and explores their most compelling ideas about the world and how best to live in it. In forty brief chapters, Nigel Warburton guides us on a chronological tour of the major ideas in the history of philosophy. He provides interesting and often quirky stories of the lives and deaths of thought-provoking philosophers from Socrates, who chose to die by hemlock poisoning rather than live on without the freedom to think for himself, to Peter Singer, who asks the disquieting philosophical and ethical questions that haunt our own times. Warburton not only makes philosophy accessible, he offers inspiration to think, argue, reason, and ask in the tradition of Socrates. A Little History of Philosophy presents the grand sweep of humanity’s search for philosophical understanding and invites all to join in the discussion. Amazon

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 Huper.

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. I hope it helps you gain deeper insight and equips you to create meaningful impact in the world. Many readers have asked about how we can work together. I run a law firm for startups. We try to keep it simple by structuring our engagements in two ways: (1) On-Demand Counsel – Flat fee, per project engagements. No billable hour means no surprise legal bills. (2) General Counsel – A simple monthly fee for all your day-to-day legal needs. It’s like getting a subscription to your own general counsel. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.   

Weekend Wisdom

I often use the iPhone as an example of how governments shape markets, because what makes the iPhone ‘smart’ and not stupid is what you can do with it. And yes, everything you can do with an iPhone was government-funded. From the Internet that allows you to surf the Web, to GPS that lets you use Google Maps, to touch screen display and even the SIRI voice activated system – all of these things were funded by Uncle Sam through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA, the Navy, and even the CIA!Mariana Mazzucato

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