Weekend Briefing No. 181

Welcome to the weekend. I’m taking advantage of being on the West Coast by getting out of the city and exploring the wilderness at my favorite national park, Yosemite.

Prime Numbers

100,000 – Driggs Idaho, a town of 1600 people, is preparing for 100,000 visitors on August 21st to view the total solar eclipse.

91 – A Whopping 91% of plastic isn’t recycled.

3 – It pays to be ugly. A study found that the ugliest 3% of the population out-earn the 50% who are sort of ugly or just average-looking.

Germline Engineering

The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon. Although none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days—and there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb—the experiments are a milestone on what may prove to be an inevitable journey toward the birth of the first genetically modified humans. In altering the DNA code of human embryos, the objective of scientists is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia. The process is termed “germline engineering” because any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells—the egg and sperm. Learn more at MIT Technology Review (5 minutes).

Next Gen American Manufacturing

Foxconn announced Wednesday that it intends to invest $10 billion in a new manufacturing plant in Wisconsin. Yet, the 3,000 jobs Foxconn says it will create in Wisconsin aren’t the kind of manufacturing jobs that so many laid off auto and steel workers have been clamoring for. Nor are they a pathway to the American-made iPhones President Trump promised during the 2016 election. They are, instead, part of a new generation of advanced manufacturing jobs, requiring high levels of engineering skills—skills that are still sorely lacking in the American workforce. Though all of that sounds pessimistic, it could be great for American workers, if it’s coupled with appropriate skills training. Learn more in WIRED (5 minutes).


In a report likely to jolt the red-hot market for so-called “Initial Coin Offerings” (ICOs), the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday found that the “coins” in one prominent ICO were in fact securities—meaning the transactions fell afoul of federal investment laws. The report comes at a time when dozens of companies have completed, or are in the midst of, raising hundreds of millions through the ICO process—offerings that are now likely to come under renewed scrutiny. As discussed in the Report, virtual coins or tokens may be securities and subject to the federal securities laws. The federal securities laws provide disclosure requirements and other important protections of which investors should be aware. Learn more at Fortune (5 minutes).

Jack Ma’s New Fund

Alibaba founder and executive chairman Jack Ma announced the creation of a US$10 million African Young Entrepreneurs Fund. “I want that fund supporting African online businesses. “The money is set. This is my money, so I don’t have to get anybody’s approval.”. Mr. Ma said that he would bring 200 budding African businesspeople to his homeland, China, to learn from Alibaba hands on. “I want them to go to China, meeting our people, seeing all the things we have been doing, all the great ideas China has,” he said. Learn more at UNCTAD (4 minutes).

Employee Implants

On Aug. 1, employees at Three Square Market, a technology company in Wisconsin, can choose to have a chip the size of a grain of rice injected between their thumb and index finger. Once that is done, any task involving RFID technology — swiping into the office building, paying for food in the cafeteria — can be accomplished with a wave of the hand. The program is not mandatory, but as of Monday, more than 50 out of 80 employees had volunteered. This raises privacy concerns, but Todd Westby, the chief executive of Three Square, emphasized that the chip’s capabilities were limited. “All it is is an RFID chip reader,” he said. “It’s not a GPS tracking device. Nobody can track you with it, Your cellphone does 100 times more reporting of data than does a RFID chip.” Learn more at the New York Times (6 minutes).

User Manual at Work

What if you wrote a user manual to tell everybody how to work you. Brilliant idea. To do so answer these questions: (1) What are some honest, unfiltered things about you? (2) What drives you nuts? (3) What are your quirks? (4) How can people earn an extra gold star with you? (5) What qualities do you particularly value in people who work with you? (6) What are some things that people might misunderstand about you that you should clarify? (7) How do you coach people to do their best work and develop their talents? (8) What’s the best way to communicate with you? (9) What’s the best way to convince you to do something? (10) How do you like to give feedback? (11) How do you like to get feedback? Learn more at FeldThoughts (4 minutes).

Side Projects

I’ve always got some side projects going. In fact, the Weekend Briefing is a side project that ended up taking off. So, how do you know side project is worth investing time / money into? Julie Zhuo says that the most important thing about side projects is that you’re doing something you truly enjoy. Side projects work best when they live at the interaction of “Things you enjoy” and “Things that help you practice a marketable skill.” Dive deeper at The Looking Glass (4 minutes).

From The Community

Andy Narracott interviews Xavier Helgesen of off-grid electric who talks about the importance of local talent and learning to be a CEO on his podcast Finding Impact.

Eugene Amusin co-authored a case study on results of One Acre Fund’s implementation of mobile payments from smallholder farmers in Kenya.

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.