Weekend Briefing No. 187

Welcome to the weekend. Big news… U2 just released a new single. You can check it out and other fresh tracks on my September playlist.

Prime Numbers

305,000,000 – John Deere bet big on robot farmers. They are buying robotics company Blue River Technology for $305 million. The startup uses AI to distinguish weeds from crops, and precision-spray them with herbicides.

49,000,000 – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon spent $49m on Washington lobbying last year.

150 – Nissan unveiled a longer-range Leaf. The updated electric vehicle will be able to run 150 miles on one charge, compared to 220 miles for Tesla’s Model 3, and 238 miles for the Chevrolet Bolt. The car will go on sale in Japan early next month for about $29,000, and in the US and Europe in January.

Deal Room

There is a severe lack of seed funding in the social enterprise sector. I know this from my day-to-day work with social entrepreneurs and it’s confirmed every annual report by the GIIN – 3% of all impact investment goes to seed stage companies. Rather than bemoan the “lack of dealflow” as most impact investors do, ADAP Capital is doing something about it. Based on their “4-hour due diligence” process, they are going to invest $75,000 in a couple social enterprises at the SOCAP conference this year. Here’s the deal: 5-10 companies will present to the team on Tuesday October 10th and by Friday October 13th ADAP will be cutting $75K checks to the winning social entrepreneurs. If you’re an early stage social enterprise (pre- Series A) that has some traction, you definitely should apply. In addition to the $75K investment, I’ll be contributing a year of legal services to the winner. I’ll also be a part of the selection team. Click here to fill out a short application. Let me know if you have any questions.

$20 Billion (That’s Billion… With a B)

As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk in a WeWork. I love it. But, is a real estate company that doesn’t own actual real estate worth $20 Billion (that’s billion… with a B)? Who knows? Softbank just made an investment at that valuation banking on the fact that everything in our lives is being personalized and optimized (even our office space), thanks to the emergence of artificial intelligence. Predictive technology ensures the ads we see in our Facebook stream are directed exactly to us. It means our calendars will notify us to buy flowers on our spouse’s birthdays. Is it that much of a stretch to believe that soon, our workspace will be tailored exactly to us as well? This is WeWork’s master plan. Through a combination of culture and technology, it will, over time, create the perfect platform for reducing offices to the least square footage possible while at the same time energizing the people who roam through those offices to embrace its brand with the fervor of early iPhone diehards. The company aims to position itself to be the “Intel Inside” of office space—the de facto provider of desks, and by extension, the services that go with them. Wired (13 minutes).

Rising Inequality

Gail Evans and Marta Ramos have one thing in common: They have each cleaned offices for some of the most innovative, profitable and all-around successful companies in the United States. Ms. Evans did so at Kodak in the 80’s, and Ms. Ramos, cleans Apple’s new headquarters today. Their pay is about equivalent, but Ms. Evans was a full-time employee with benefits and vacation, whereas Ms. Ramos is a contractor and hasn’t taken a vacation in years. Major companies have chosen to bifurcate their work force, contracting out much of the labor that goes into their products to other companies, which compete by lowering costs. In the 35 years between their jobs as janitors, corporations across America have flocked to a new management theory: Focus on core competence and outsource the rest. The approach has made companies nimbler and more productive, and delivered huge profits for shareholders. It has also fueled inequality and helps explain why many working-class Americans are struggling even in an ostensibly healthy economy. Upshot (11 minutes)

Dr. Watson

Breathlessly promoting its signature brand — Watson — IBM sought to capture the world’s imagination, and it quickly zeroed in on a high-profile target: cancer.But three years after IBM began selling Watson to recommend the best cancer treatments to doctors around the world, a STAT investigation has found that the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it. It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer. Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM’s goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market. And at foreign hospitals, physicians complained its advice is biased toward American patients and methods of care. Stat (22 minutes)

Blockchain on the Open Seas

Insurance transactions are tedious, time-consuming, and costly. Marine insurance is one of the oldest and least efficient categories of insurance says Shaun Crawford, who leads consulting firm Ernst & Young’s insurance business. The $30 billion industry presents, in Crawford’s view, just the kind of use case that blockchains, or distributed ledger technology might disrupt. Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, recently completed a 20-week blockchain proof of concept trial for marine insurance. The blockchain platform was designed to make auditing aspects of a shipping supply chain easier, to improve tamper-resistance and real-time data sharing, as well as to enable many different parties to settle upon the terms of premiums in a timelier fashion. Fortune (5 minutes)


Starting this month, Domino’s and Ford will deliver pizzas to randomly selected customers in the Ann Arbor area in a Ford Fusion Hybrid equipped with self-driving technology. Initially, the delivery vehicles will be piloted by human drivers. Customers will be able to track the delivery process via GPS and will receive text messages on how to retrieve their pizzas once the delivery vehicle has arrived. The Ford-Domino’s test vehicle will not attempt to resolve that conundrum. It will stop outside the customer’s house, it will not provide true door-to-door delivery service “We’re still focused on the last 50 feet,” said Domino’s spokeswoman Jenny Fouracre. “That’s a big challenge – getting (the pizza) from the curb to the door.” Reuters (4 minutes)

1% Better

Small improvements can be the key that unlocks significant success. If you are able to improve 1% every day for a year, you’d be 37x better then you were on day 1. This is the concept called aggregation of marginal gains. Everybody wants their life to change in the blink of an eye, but real change is incremental and built on habits. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Good habits make time your ally, bad habits make time your enemy. Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity. They think that if they just felt like doing the habit they would do it. They wake up asking the question, “I wonder if I’ll feel like doing my habit today?” Instead you need to carve out a specific time / place for the habit. Give your goals a time and a place to live in the world. Watch James Clear’s keynote on this. JamesClear.com (25 minutes)

From the Community

Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, my dear friend, founder of BUILD and my co-lecturer at Harvard Law School, had a profile written about her in Forbes. Check it out.

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.