Weekend Briefing No. 175

Welcome to the weekend. Hello from my home state of Tennessee. I’m on the road this weekend for 2 reasons. (1) My 20th high school reunion in Knoxville…. Yes, I am getting old. (2) To speak about the future of work and purpose in business at a hip design and development firm in Chattanooga called Whiteboard. It was a pleasure hanging out with the team. By the way – shameless plug – if you’re interested in having me speak to your company, shoot me an email.

And now… on to the briefing.

Prime Numbers

$9,000,000,000Slack is allegedly in acquisition talks with Amazon. The proposed deal would value Slack at $9 billion according to people familiar with the terms. An agreement isn’t assured and discussions may not go further. I hope they do. I use and depend on both of these companies on a daily basis.

$300,000,000Google is betting on the potential of European biotech companies to deliver life-changing drugs by investing alongside Swiss company Novartis in a new $300 million fund run by leading life sciences investment firm Medicxi.

40% – Chicago taxi revenues have fallen 40% in the last 3 years and 42% of the taxi fleet was idle in March. The taxi union is asking the city for regulatory relief to better compete against Uber, Lyft and Via.


Renewables prices are falling far faster than anticipated. Washington’s effort to bring coal back faces a huge barrier: the unstoppable decline of clean energy costs. Now, analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, combining knowledge of planned energy projects with economic forecasting, shows that they’re falling faster than ever. By 2040, prices will fall 66 percent for solar, 47 percent for onshore wind, and 71 percent for offshore wind. BNEF says that means 72 percent of the $10 trillion invested into energy by 2040 will be directed into renewables. Obama might be right: the clean energy shift may be irreversible. Learn more at MIT Technology Review (4 minutes).

National Geographic

National Geographic Society has committed $50 million to impact investing. The science and research nonprofit is the latest to jump into mission-driven investing. The commitment represents 5% of National Geographic’s $1.2 billion endowment, which got a boost in 2015 through a joint venture with 21st Century Fox. The organization is expected to focus on research, education and “exploration,” says Jean Case, chair of the National Geographic Society Board of Trustees and a champion of impact investing as CEO of the Case Foundation. Learn more at Impact Alpha (2 minutes).

Genetic Targeting

FDA approves first cancer treatment for any solid tumor with a specific genetic feature. This is a big deal for two reasons. (1) It’s the first time that the FDA has approved a cancer drug for treatment of any solid tumor with a specific genetic signature, without being specific to any organ or location in the body. In other words, rather than being approved for lung cancer or colorectal cancer, this drug is approved for targeting any tumor that features a particular gene expression pattern – wherever it might be located. (2) The second reason is that the drug’s mechanism of action works through the body’s immune system – by blocking a certain cellular signaling pathway. This technique – known as immunotherapy – has long been a goal of the oncology community:  the ability to fight cancer, a complex adaptive disease, by recruiting the body’s own complex adaptive defense, the immune system. Learn more at the FDA (5 minutes).

Bottom Up

A good share of the information used to explain African economies has been top-down macroeconomic data from major institutions like the World Bank, IMF, and others. Such an approach has been lacking, say a new crop of consumer research startups, including Kasi Insight, mSurvey in Kenya, and Opolox in Nigeria. They’re targeting an African consumer market estimated to top $1.2 trillion by 2020. Increased availability of data should help build trust and attract more investment capital. This data will also give a more complete picture of how a country’s economy is developing and early warning signs when things start to go wrong. This is particularly important given how much African countries rely on their informal economies. Top-line numbers miss out on plenty of vital insight. Learn more at Quartz Africa (6 minutes).

Paternalistic Aid

A new study reveals something fundamental about how humans help. Helpers’ beliefs about how recipients will use aid derive from their perceptions of the recipients’ mind—how rational and reasonable the recipients are, and how much self-control the recipients have. When a recipient seems less rational, like stereotypically a homeless person might, the helper is more concerned that the recipient will misuse the aid. Why is this? People tend to believe that they have greater mental fortitude—are more sophisticated, agentic, and rational—than an average person. We call this robust cognitive bias the “lesser minds problem.” Because of this pervasive belief, people think they will use aid wisely and can allot it more appropriately. In contrast, people tend to think that other recipients, with their seemingly weaker mental capacities, would choose less wisely and would be better served by paternalistic aid. Learn more at Behavioral Scientist (8 minutes).

Love Map

In his extensive research, Dr. John Gottman has found that emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s worlds. He calls this having a richly detailed Love Map – his term for that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life. Another way of saying this is that these couples have made plenty of cognitive room in their minds for their relationship. From knowledge springs not only love, but the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s world are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict. Partners who are already in the habit of keeping up to date and are intently aware of what each other are feeling and thinking aren’t as thrown off course by changes and stress in each other’s lives. But if you don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for your relationship to lose its way when your lives shift with the challenges and stressors that come to you over time. Learn more and check out the love map exercise with your partner at Gottman (7 minutes).

If you do the exercise, drop me a line to let me know what you learned about your partner or your relationship.

Light Up the Sky

Undulatus asperatus clouds are a rare phenomenon and actually the newest named cloud type in over 60 years. Photographer Mike Olbinski was recently taking photos of a storm in North Dakota close to sunset when asperitas clouds (aka undulatus asperatus clouds) appeared. He says, “Watching them was amazing already, but then the sun slowly appeared from behind some clouds to the west and lit up our storm like nothing we’ve ever seen before. We were like kids in a candy store.” Nature is awesome! Check out this time lapse at Kottke (2 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.