Weekend Briefing No. 153

Welcome to the weekend. I just wanted to say thanks for the hundreds of community members that filled out our annual survey. This has helped us learn more about you. It turns out that our ever-growing community is split evenly on gender, is well-educated (93% of our audience have a Bachelor's degree or higher. 55% have a Master's degree or higher) and affluent (57% of our audience earn $100,000 or more annually and 25% earn $200,00 or more). The most common industries represented are tech, non-profit management, education and consulting. 46% of us have founded a company at some point. So, pat yourself on the back… you’re pretty amazing!

Given your input, we’re going to test out a new section called Feedback Loop. Every week I get a bunch of intelligent responses from the community, but unfortunately, I’m the only one that gets to read them. The goal of Feedback Loop is to bring the entire community into that conversation. Let me know what you think.

This Week By The Numbers

$41.6 B – The U.S. venture industry raised $41.6 billion last year, the highest since 2001, according to a report from research firm PitchBook Data and the National Venture Capital Association, a trade group.

$233,610 – The cost for a middle-income family to raise a child born in 2015 to age 18 is $233,610, a 3 percent increase from the previous year, the Department of Agriculture said Monday.

52 – The New York Times just released its list of 52 places to travel in 2017. I’m heading to Botswana which is on the list and, apparently, Greeneville, SC is the new Charleston.

Obama’s Tech Legacy

What will @POTUS’s tech legacy be? He succeeded in some important ways, such as supporting net neutrality and joining global action on climate change. But there were failures, too—remember healthcare.gov?—and even some of the successes are now in question as a new administration comes into power. His key initiatives included: upgrading government use of technology, net neutrality, stimulus spending on technology, electronic medical record ,and advanced manufacturing. Learn more at MIT Technology Review (10 minutes).

Automation & Work

McKinsey Global Institute just released a report on the future of automation. The report states that given currently demonstrated technologies, very few occupations—less than 5 percent—are candidates for full automation. However, almost every occupation has partial automation potential, as a significant percentage of its activities could be automated. They estimate that about half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated. While much of the current debate about automation has focused on the potential for mass unemployment, predicated on a surplus of human labor, the world’s economy will actually need every erg of human labor working, in addition to the robots, to overcome demographic aging trends in both developed and developing economies. Read the report at McKinsey (7 minutes).

Alexa, Did You Witness Murder?

Police in Bentonville Arkansas issued a warrant for Amazon to hand over any audio or records from an Echo belonging to James Andrew Bates. Bates is set to go to trial for first-degree murder. Amazon declined to give police any of the information that the Echo logged on its servers, but it did hand over Bates' account details and purchases. Police say they were able to pull data off of the speaker, but it's unclear what info they were able to access. Due to the so-called always on nature of the connected device, the authorities are after any audio the speaker may have picked up that night. Sure, the Echo is activated by certain words, but it's not uncommon for the IoT gadget to be alerted to listen by accident. Umm… creepy. Learn more at Engadget (6 minutes).

Peep Squad

In other tech / law enforcement related news, if you send your laptop to be repaired, its contents may come under closer scrutiny than you expect. A court case in California has revealed that technicians from the Best Buy repair shop called Geek Squad have served as paid informants for the FBI, identifying incriminating evidence such as child pornography on customer computers. In sending a device to be repaired, customers surely acknowledge that it may be probed by the company—but they likely don't expect to forfeit their Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches. Learn more at the Washington Post (4 minutes).

From Niche to Mainstream

Was 2016 the year impact investing tipped into the mainstream? In the past two years BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, launched a new division called “Impact”; Goldman Sachs, acquired an impact-investment firm, Imprint Capital; and two American private-equity firms, Bain Capital and TPG, launched impact funds. The main driver of all this activity is investor demand. Deborah Winshel, boss of BlackRock Impact, points to the transfer of wealth to women and the young, whose investment goals, she says, transcend mere financial returns. Cynics may still dismiss impact investing as faddish window-dressing as the amount of impact investments are a tiny sliver of these institutions total AUM. Learn more in The Economist (4 minutes).

Toyota Goes Open Source

Announcing last week it would expand its gasoline hybrid technology development, Toyota said it would consider selling complete powertrain modules – engines, transmissions and other drive components – to its competitors. The move would rapidly increase the pace of other manufacturers adoption of hybrid, then, I presume electric technology. The prospect of giving rivals access to "one-size-fits-all" powertrains comes as cars are increasingly dependent on computerized components, making it easier to design similar parts across model ranges. The industry has moved on from competing largely on mechanical engineering. Learn more at Automotive News (4 minutes).

Stand Out

In an increasingly noisy and frenetic world, how can you ensure your expertise is recognized. There are three foundational elements to getting your ideas understood and appreciated. These are: 1) Social Proof. In a busy world, people judge you based on your affiliations with brands they already trust. 2) Content Creation. You can’t become recognized for your ideas if you don’t share them. 3) Network. Building a broad, diverse network will make it more likely for your ideas to spread. Learn more at Harvard Business Review (5 minutes).

Feedback Loop

Interesting piece by Rafe – a perspective that is pervasive and that I’ve read many times. I continue to be skeptical of this position as it assumes that the old standards for “success” are inherent and immoveable. I understand his position but people like Jed Emerson continue to provide more forward thinking positions, focused on creating a new reality as opposed to holding fast to and squeezing into old constraints. Thanks for the briefing! Great work, Kyle. – Hannah Pechan, Director @ Nashville Social Enterprise Alliance.