Weekend Briefing No. 318

Welcome to the weekend.

What a week it has been. This pandemic has everyone on edge. We’re in a moment of great anxiety. It’s important to be vigilant to protect each other and minimize the health impact of the virus. But remember to take care of yourselves (and your community’s) mental and spiritual health. As you’ll see in the last story, pandemics have a tendency to bring out the worst in humanity. Let’s commit to going out of our way to ensure that our better angels prevail this time around. Take care of each other this week.

Shoot me an email this week when you spot somebody going out of their way to care for somebody in this moment of crisis. This could even be an action that you took to make a difference. I’ll share my favorite stories next week. I want my inbox filled this week people.    

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Prime Numbers

200,000 – It’s estimated that we have about 45,000 intensive care unit beds in the United States. In a moderate outbreak, about 200,000 Americans would need one.

200 – In China alone, the economic slowdown has kept 200 megatons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, according to one analysis from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, a stunning 25 percent reduction in the country’s emissions.

8 – The Cleveland Clinic announced a new onsite COVID-19 test that will deliver results within 8 hours, instead of the 2 to 7 days it currently takes for off-campus labs to process the tests.

Flattening the Curve

It’s difficult to process all the information flying at us on COVID-19. This article has 9 charts that may help you process and put the news in context. (1) The virus is spreading rapidly. (2) Know the symptoms. Fever, dry cough and fatigue top the list. (3) Death rates in China have declined over time. Even the first and hardest-hit province, Hubei, saw its death rate tumble as public health measures were strengthened and clinicians got better at identifying and treating people with the disease. (4) Older people are at the greatest risk. (5) This is much more severe than an ordinary flu. (6) … and more contagious (7) Spending on airlines, hotels, and cruises is collapsing. (8) The US is not testing enough people. (9) Why cancelling events is so important. It’s all about flattening the curve.  Vox (7 minutes)

RIP Good Times

It will take considerable time — perhaps several quarters — before we can be confident that the virus has been contained. It will take even longer for the global economy to recover its footing. Sequoia Capital suggests entrepreneurs question every assumption about your business, including: (1) Cash runway. Could you withstand a few poor quarters if the economy sputters? (2) Fundraising. Private financings could soften significantly, as happened in 2001 and 2009. Airbnb, Square, and Stripe were founded in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis. Constraints focus the mind and provide fertile ground for creativity. (3) Sales forecasts. Even if you don’t see any direct or immediate exposure for your company, anticipate that your customers may revise their spending habits. (4) Marketing. With softening sales, you might find that your customer lifetime values have declined, in turn suggesting the need to rein in customer acquisition spending to maintain consistent returns on marketing spending. Sequoia (5 minutes)

LedgerX: V.I.P. treatment for everyone

Despite heightened market volatility across asset classes as of late, sophisticated hedge funds and family offices have stepped-up their bitcoin derivatives trading. Not surprisingly, some of the exchanges catering to these investors have been eager to provide them with V.I.P. treatment. But for individuals, the barriers to trading on some regulated exchanges are simply too high. That’s why LedgerX is a good name to know. As the only US exchange to offer Minis, traders can buy and sell option contracts that are denominated in just 0.01 BTC. Plus, the application takes just 5 minutes to complete and there are no account minimums. Last but not least: all US residents are welcome really. To learn more, check out LedgerX. (Sponsored)

 Moral Disease

Frank Snowden, the Yale historian who wrote “Epidemics and Society,” argues that pandemics hold up a mirror to society and force us to ask basic questions: What is possible imminent death trying to tell us? Where is God in all this? What’s our responsibility to one another? This explains one of the puzzling features of the 1918 pandemic. When it was over, people didn’t talk about it. There were very few books or plays written about it. Roughly 675,000 Americans lost their lives to the flu, compared with 53,000 in battle in World War I, and yet it left almost no conscious cultural mark. Perhaps it’s because people didn’t like who they had become. It was a shameful memory and therefore suppressed. In her 1976 dissertation, “A Cruel Wind,” Dorothy Ann Pettit argues that the 1918 flu pandemic contributed to a kind of spiritual torpor afterward. People emerged from it physically and spiritually fatigued. The flu, Pettit writes, had a sobering and disillusioning effect on the national spirit. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to take steps to fight the moral disease that accompanies the physical one. New York Times (8 minutes)


With coronavirus, there’s little way to be of use except to disappear inside your home, so that you can’t infect anyone. Indeed, even the places we gather for solace are increasingly off limits. Churches, mosques and synagogues are suspending services and/or moving to remote “gatherings”.  All of this is wise, of course: the evidence that cutting down on crowds can slow the spread and flatten the curve of eventual infection is clear, dating back to the Spanish flu of 1918. But isolation comes at a real cost. However, it creates more loneliness. Loneliness turns out to be a huge factor in diminishing human lives. Everything we can measure, from immune response to the onset of dementia to coronary-artery disease is worsened, often dramatically, in people with fewer friends. After this scare has passed, if we pay attention, we may even take action to engage with those who are lonely in our communities. It will be a relief, above all, when we’re allowed to get back to caring for one another, which is what humans do best. New Yorker (6 minutes) 

Managing a Remote Team

Few practical resources exist on how to exactly manage a remote team well. I liked this one from Know Your Team. If you’re a first-time manager of a remote team, or a manager who’s transitioning to work from home, this free guide – with 60+ pages based on a survey of 297 remote managers and employees research – may be worth checking out. Claire Lew wrote 11 chapters on best practices for managing remote teams. Based on their research we cover these topics… (1) Process and Tools:  How to collaborate effectively when your team is remote (2) How to build social connection in a remote team (3) Performance management in a remote team (4) Setting employees up for success. May be a good thing to read before you start those Zoom calls on Monday. Know Your Team (45 minutes) 

 WFH Bingo

Just because we’re on lock-down, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have a little fun. Here’s a little something that should spice up – Working From Home During a Global Pandemic BINGO. McSweeny’s (3 minutes)


Remote by Jason Fried. The founders of Basecamp explore the “work from home” phenomenon and show precisely how a remote work setup can be accomplished. The Industrial Revolution’s “under one roof” model of conducting work is steadily declining as technology creates virtual workspaces that allow employees to provide their vital contribution without physically clustering together. Today, the new paradigm is “move work to the workers, rather than workers to the workplace.” Remote work increases the talent pool, reduces turnover, lessens the real estate footprint, and improves the ability to conduct business across multiple time zones, to name just a few advantages. As Fried and Hansson explain the challenges and unexpected benefits of this phenomenon, they show why—with a few controversial exceptions such as Yahoo–more businesses will want to promote this model of getting things done. Amazon

Last Weekend’s Most Popular Articles

WeWork’s Yoko Ono – Exploring Rebekah’s impact on the rise and fall of WeWork.

$70K – What happened when a CEO paid everybody in his company at least $70K?

Big Week in Legal Tech – As 2 venture backed companies in the legal tech space fail, our General Counsel service is going stronger than ever.

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 Reza Aulia.

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Weekend Wisdom

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Fred Rogers

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