Weekend Briefing No. 323

Welcome to the weekend.

Thanks to everybody who shared their experiences accessing the federal stimulus funding last week. There have been a few success stories, but most people are encountering challenges.

I’m trying to do something rather ambitious, and I need your help to pull it off. I want to create a database documenting at least 200 entrepreneurs’ experiences applying for paycheck protection program (PPP) or economic injury disaster loan (EIDL) in the next 24 hours. There are 26,000+ people on this list. I know we can make this happen!

The goal of this project is twofold: (1) To gather enough data that we can start to see some insights that may help small businesses and nonprofits navigate the system better. (2) To allow you to compare your experiences with your peers.

I’m trying to make this as easy as possible for you. It should take you about 3 minutes to share your experience.

Click here to share your PPP application experience.

Click here to share your EIDL application experience.

Everybody that shares their experience will get early access to the database.

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Prime Numbers

24,670—Since March 11, 250 startups have laid off 24,670 employees. If you are looking for talent, here’s an amazing spreadsheet of available talent.

63 — 4.3 million video games were sold between March 16 and March 22, which is a jump of 63 percent over the week prior.

62—The MSCI World stock index fell by 14.5 percent in March, but 62 percent of global environmental, social and governance (ESG)-focused large-cap equity funds outperformed their peers.

PPP Tapped

Funding for the PPP, an initiative created by the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted last month, could be exhausted as early as Wednesday night, meaning that the Small Business Administration would have to stop approving applications. As of Wednesday evening, more than 1.4 million loans had been approved at a value of more than $315 billion, according to the Small Business Administration.But congressional leaders and the White House have failed to reach agreement on adding hundreds of billions of dollars to replenish the program, hamstrung by a dispute over whether to carry out sweeping changes to how it allocates loans to businesses across the country. New York Times (11 minutes)

COVID-19 Impact on SMEs

COVID-19 is the most serious health crisis the world has experienced in a century, and it could also be one of the biggest destroyers of jobs in human history. Special focus will also be needed on small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), which account for the majority of jobs in most economies, and many of whose viability is more likely to be put at risk by the crisis. McKinsey’s analysis in Australia, for example, has found that SMEs account for 68 percent of all jobs at risk across the economy — and nearly 80 percent of jobs in accommodation and food services, one of the hardest hit sectors. And a recent McKinsey survey of SMEs in the United States found that 50 percent had already laid off or furloughed employees; within that group, 78 percent had less than $20 million in annual revenues. Those who are self-employed or part of the gig economy are also seeing precipitous drops in their incomes. This is an even greater consideration in developing economies. In Africa, for example, SMEs account for 80 percent of employment, compared with 50 percent in the European Union and 60 percent in the United States. Compounding this, many small businesses in emerging markets operate in the informal sector, making it critical that economic-revitalization efforts extend to informal parts of the economy. McKinsey (14 minutes)

Plan B

If the big corporations want taxpayer assistance during the short term, we should bind them with a “B” and require them to provide a real and enduring return to society by becoming benefit corporations. There’s another potential “benefit”: Research is showing increasing evidence that companies with public benefit at their core deliver better financial performance over time. Plan A and its unadulterated focus on maximizing short-term profits for stockholders hasn’t served society very well for a while now, and this is being brought into stark relief by the coronavirus crisis (and the looming shadow of a climate catastrophe that, for a brief moment, has retreated backstage to peer out from behind the curtains). For me, for you, it’s time we seek more from our taxpayer investments in large, public companies. It’s time we pivot to Plan B. B The Change (4 minutes)

Higher Ed Consolidation

We’ll see a culling among universities. Just as retail closures are accelerating from 9,500 stores in 2019 to more than 15,000 in 2020, we’re going to see dozens, maybe hundreds, of universities not reopen. In academia, we have been preying on the hopes and prayers of the middle class, offering parents the chance to check an instinctive box, and giving their kids a better life by sending them to college. No more. Tech firms will partner with a world class university to offer 80 percent of a traditional four-year degree for 50 percent of the price. MIT/Google could offer a two-year degree in STEM. The myth/magic of campuses and geography is no longer a constraining factor — most programs will be hybrid soon, dramatically increasing enrollment among the best brands. No Mercy / No Malice (6 minutes)

How Not to Do Layoffs

There’s no way around this: If you have to do a layoff, it’s going to be one of the worst days of your career. But it’s not as bad as it will be for your impacted employees. Here is some advice on what not to do when you are conducting layoffs: (1) Do not make this about you. Do not, at any time, tell them how hard it is for you to give them this news, or how agonizing it was to make this plan. You still have a job, they do not. (2) Do not make jokes or be lighthearted. This is not a lighthearted thing. Even if you’re nervous and trying to diffuse the tension. Even if it’s an awkward silence. Just be quiet and listen. Leave room for the person to process the news. (3) Do not tell them they will be fine. (4) Do not blame others. Do not blame the virus. Do not blame the market. Do not blame your board or investors. Just own it. (5) Do not ask them “Are you okay?” because that phrasing is about making you feel better for delivering terrible news and has nothing to do with you supporting the employee. You can definitely ask if there’s something they need. (6) Do not fail to have legal or HR review those impacted prior to notification to make sure you aren’t disproportionately impacting specific protected groups (race, gender, etc.). (7) Do not go in without a plan.Lay out your day and have a prepared communications plan (built and reviewed with HR and Comms) such that throughout the day you are largely going through a pre-planned, scripted and practiced set of motions. Without that, you will screw it up. a16z (16 minutes)

Preparing for Business Post-Pandemic

The following questions can guide you as you work to bounce back from the crisis. (1) What position can you attain during and after the pandemic?You should take steps now to map your probable position when the pandemic eases. (2) What is your plan for bouncing back? It should explicate what you need to do today to achieve your objectives tomorrow. (3) How will your culture and identity change? Will the ongoing situation bring your employees together or drive them apart? Will they see the organization differently when this is over? (4) What new projects do you need to launch, run and coordinate? Beware of starting numerous projects that all depend on the same critical resources. (5) How prepared are you to execute your plans and projects? Harvard Business Review (6 minutes)

Optimizing Your TV Watching

Time is a scarce resource, and there are too many TV shows to watch. So, apply the pareto principle when you watch them. Eighty percent of the enjoyment will come from 20 percent of the episodes. Here are the rules: (1) Watch the first episode, for intro to characters, and setting. (2) Rank the shows’ episodes on IMDB (use advanced search if need), and find the score equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the show’s best episodes. For West Wing for instance, 8.8. (3) Watch the show chronologically, but ONLY watch episodes at the cutoff or above. If really enjoying it, lower the cutoff by 0.1. (4) Watch the finale no matter what to get completion. Reddit (4 minutes)

Smart Responses to the Pandemic

Everybody has been sending me cool initiatives they’ve seen in response to the pandemic. Here’s some of that selection.

Apolis is creating customizable masks. Every face mask purchased will provide one day of diapers for an American family impacted by COVID-19 thanks to the non-profit Baby2Baby!

face2face is a new buy-one, give-one mask company. For every mask you buy, another is given to frontline medical workers.

Veterans United is pledging $1 million to purchase medical supplies for those on the frontlines of the coronavirus and to provide emergency relief to organizations and individuals affected by the pandemic.

Aeris is launching a copper anti-microbial phone case.

Most Read Last Week

Still I Rise – A poem by Maya Angelou.

PPP WTF? – The glitchy rollout of the Payroll Protection Program.

Next Normal – The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping the global economy. Asia, the first region affected by the crisis, is leading the way out of it.

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 Pawel Nolbert.

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 things simple by offering transparent flat fees. We structure our engagements in two ways: (1) Per-Project flat fee 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

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

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