Weekend Briefing No. 173

Welcome to the Weekend. Enjoy my June Playlist.

Prime Numbers

$4,800,000 – Five years ago, Campbell Simpson threw away a worn out and utterly generic 250GB portable hard drive. It had a data file containing 1400 Bitcoin on it. No big deal, at the time. Today, those few kilobytes are worth more than $4.8M…. ouch!

$115,000 – The cost to climb Everest crept higher this year. The permits for a medium size team of four or more climbers increased from $7,000/climber to $9,950/climber or 34%. The price range for a standard supported climb ranges from $28,000 to $85,000. A fully custom climb will run over $115,000 and those extreme risk takers can skimp by for well under $20,000.

$1,000 – Amazon’s stock price just hit $1,000. It increased its sales by 23% in its latest quarter (versus a year ago), dramatically more than the 8% sales growth exhibited by US stocks overall.

American Dream

Ever think about the factors that have contributed to or held you back from success in life? Inequality affects our ability to achieve the fabled American Dream: the idea that if you work hard and play by the rules then you should be able to get ahead. The Ford Foundation came up with a survey that will give you your American Dream Score. The tool aims to help us examine the many experiences, systems, and institutions that have helped—or hindered—our path to where we are today, and to jump-start honest discussions about the role of inequality and opportunity in our lives. My score was 63/100. Some factors that helped me move up are my parents, good health and a strong network of friends. Some factors that I had to overcome were entering the job market in a weak economy and that I grew up in an area that didn’t value bettering opportunities for oneself. You can get your American Dream Score at The Ford Foundation (6 minutes). If you do, please drop me a line and let me know what you learned, I’ll share the results in next week’s briefing.

Internet Trends 2017

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker delivered her annual rapid-fire internet trends report this week. It’s the most highly anticipated slide deck in Silicon Valley. Here are some highlights: 1) Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. 20% of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016. Accuracy is now about 95 percent. 2) In 10 years, Netflix went from 0 to more than 30 percent of home entertainment revenue in the U.S. This is happening while TV viewership continues to decline. 3) While internet growth is slowing globally, that’s not the case in India, the fastest growing large economy. The number of internet users in India grew more than 28% in 2016. Mobile internet usage is growing as the cost of bandwidth declines. 4) In the U.S. in 2016, 60% of the most highly valued tech companies were founded by first- or second-generation Americans and are responsible for 1.5 million employees. Those companies include tech titans Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook. Learn more at recode (36 minutes).

We’ll Live to 100. Can We Afford it?

Babies born today in 2017 can expect to live to over 100, or in other words, they will live to see the year 2117. While increased longevity is a positive step for individual and societal health and productivity, this change has a profound impact on the traditional make-up of our societies and the social protection systems that are designed to support us in our old age. Absent any change to retirement ages, or expected birth rates, the global dependency ratio (the ratio of those in the workforce to those in retirement) will plummet from 8:1 today to 4:1 by 2050. The global economy simply can’t bear this burden. Inevitably retirement ages will rise, but by how much and how quickly demands urgent consideration from policymakers. What is the impact of a population that will spend 20%-25% more time in retirement than they did in the workforce? Learn more at the World Economic Forum (12 minutes).

ExxonMobil & Climate Change

ExxonMobil shareholders voted Wednesday to require the world’s largest oil and gas company to report on the impacts of climate change to its business—defying management, and marking a milestone in a 28-year effort by activist investors. 62% percent (up from 38% last year) of shareholders voted for Exxon to begin producing an annual report that explains how the company will be affected by global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement. The analysis should address the financial risks the company faces as nations slash fossil fuel use in an effort to prevent worldwide temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. The vote at Exxon shows the rapid erosion of support for the company’s defiant stance on climate disclosure, and it caps a shareholder meeting season that saw unprecedented support for greater corporate disclosure on climate change. Learn more at Inside Climate News (4 minutes).

A Gig with Benefits

Sen. Mark Warner introduced a bill this week that would set aside $20 million to try to figure out how to get benefits for gig workers and other nontraditional employees. The goal of the bill is to evaluate portable benefits programs for independent contractors. The idea behind portable benefits is that contract-based workers should, along with the company or companies where they work, pay jointly into a fund that can be used to cover health care costs and lost pay in case of injury, or even fund retirements. They’re called portable benefits because rather than being tied to a single worker with a single job, the fund can travel with workers from gig to gig, platform to platform, part-time job to full-time work, and back again. Learn more at Buzzfeed (4 minutes).


Here’s the deal with sleep: 1) Nobody knows why we need it, but it’s important. 2) Most adults function best after 7-9 hours of sleep a night. 3) Going to sleep and waking up at consistent times each day is valuable too. 4) When sleep persistently falls below six hours per 24, we are impaired and at an increased risk of health problems. In one study published in the journal Sleep (which is an actual journal published by Oxford Press. I looked it up.), allowed people only six hours of sleep each night. After a few days, they watched the subjects’ performance on cognitive tests plummet. The crucial finding was that throughout their time in the study, the sixers thought they were functioning perfectly well…. But they actually sucked. As with drunkenness, one of the first things we lose in sleep deprivation is self-awareness. So, the moral of the story is: Sleep people! Learn more at The Atlantic (12 minutes).

Epictetus’ Promise

If you want to be happier, focus on what’s in your control. This is the basic advice of Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who says, “We are responsible for some things, while there are others for which we cannot be held responsible. The former include our judgment, our impulse, our desire, aversion and our mental faculties in general; the latter include the body, material possessions, our reputation, status – in a word, anything not in our power to control. … [I]f you have the right idea about what really belongs to you and what does not, you will never be subject to force or hindrance, you will never blame or criticise anyone, and everything you do will be done willingly. You won’t have a single rival, no one to hurt you, because you will be proof against harm of any kind.” Learn more at Aeon (5 minutes).

About the Weekend Briefing

The best articles on innovation, impact, and growth distilled into one email every Saturday morning by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway.

Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing a part of your Saturday morning routine. Feel free to shoot me an email with any feedback, insights, tips or suggestions. If you like what you’re reading, I’d be honored if you share it with your friends. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend.