Weekend Briefing No. 197

Welcome to the weekend.

Prime Numbers

90 – On Alibaba’s Singles Day, 11/11, they did $25.3B in sales (4x total Black Friday sales). It took 2 minutes to hit $1B in sales and 66 minutes to hit $10B. 90% of the transactions were done on mobile.

45 – In a recent Globescan survey, Unilever is seen as the global leader on sustainability, receiving 45% of the vote. Patagonia is second (23%), Interface comes in third (11%), IKEA is ranked fourth (8%), and Marks & Spencer, Natura, and Tesla are  all tied for the fifth position (all at 7%).

25 – More than 25% of the $88 trillion assets under management globally are now invested according to environmental, social and governance principles known as ESG, a McKinsey & Co. study found. Big number… again, I’d love to understand the criteria here.

Negative Emissions

Carbon-dioxide removal is, potentially, a trillion-dollar enterprise because it offers a way not just to slow the rise in CO2, but to reverse it. The process is sometimes referred to as “negative emissions”: instead of adding carbon to the air, it subtracts it. Carbon-removal plants could be built anywhere, or everywhere. Construct enough of them and, in theory at least, CO2 emissions could continue unabated and still we could avert calamity. Depending on how you look at things, the technology represents either the ultimate insurance policy or the ultimate moral hazard. As a technology of last resort, carbon removal is, almost by its nature, paradoxical. It has become vital without necessarily being viable. It may be impossible to manage and it may also be impossible to manage without.  New Yorker (21 minutes)

Death of the Firm

Most people think of Bitcoin as a digital asset, but it can be thought of as something more general than that: a decentralized organization. Years from now, Satoshi’s creation may be looked at as a catalyst for the slow death of the firm. There is no firm behind Bitcoin; there’s simply code (rules for organization) and incentives (the BTC token) that bring together many different participants who are incentivized to contribute their time and resources to maintain the service. Bitcoin is the first example of an organizational structure that has the beneficial characteristics of the firm (minimizing transaction costs, aggregating capital and mindshare, and providing job security for contributors) combined with some new characteristics such as: 1) Ownership isn’t controlled by an exclusive group of founders, employees, and investors, 2) Data isn’t controlled by any one entity, 3) Decision making power is not controlled by one person or group and there are checks and balances from a broad variety of market participants. The Control (6 minutes)


Japan’s Shinkansen doesn’t look like your typical train. With its long and pointed nose, it can reach speeds up to 150-200 miles per hour. Earlier models had a broad rounded nose, which created the phenomenon of “tunnel boom,” where deafening compressed air would rush out of a tunnel after a train rushed in disturbing people that lived in proximity.  But in a moment of inspiration from an engineer, who also happened to be a birdwatcher, Eiji Nakatsu led the system to be redesigned based on the aerodynamics of three species of birds. Nature has amassed 3.8 billion years of R&D on how to engineer and design things and systems. So, when designers are looking at how to solve problems, they should pay closer attention to how the evolutionary process dealt with similar situations. This practice is known as biomimicry. Check out this cool video by one of my favorite podcasts 99% Invisible. Kottke (7 minutes)

Activism & Hospitality

The newly announced Eaton Workshop hotel and co-working space in D.C. intends to be the brick-and-mortar hospitality brand of social good. The 209-room establishment, planted in Downtown Washington DC, will feature events, speakers, as well as bars and restaurants. It’s all meant to draw and support activists–or the activist-minded traveler. Eaton Workshop is geared toward this new world where younger generations are especially focused on values and experiences, rather than traditional luxury benchmarks. This new nomadic class of freelance workers is becoming more socially conscious and want to work for businesses that share their values, additionally they want to stay at places that reflect them too. I personally identify with this generation and proud that our law firm – Westaway – is representing the next generation of leaders in hospitality. Skift (12 minutes)

Stich Fix IPO

Stitch Fix is a data-driven, personal styling service that is transforming the retail experience. They have performed very well in a sector that’s falling apart. What can entrepreneurs learn from Stitch Fix’s path to IPO? Data + human judgement = awesome. Stitch Fix employs over 3,400 stylists and over 75 data scientists. They have perfected the combination of data and contextual human judgment. The average Stitch Fix client directly provides over 85 meaningful data points through her style profile. This data combined with personal stylists enables Stitch Fix to provide highly personalized customer experiences. The company had repeat purchase rates of 83% and 86%, respectively, in 2016 and 2017,  70% of clients returned for a second “fix” within 90 days and 39% spend over half of their apparel wallet share with the service. Additionally, Stitch Fix used this massive data set to launch their Exclusive Brands, a higher margin private label that accounted for 20% of revenue in 2017. Goodwater Thesis (11 minutes)

The Brothers Bezos

I’ve been a part of the Summit Series community for a number of years, so I was excited to see that for the first time they are releasing some of their amazing content like a conversation between Mark and Jeff Bezos. At one point Jeff describes how he decided to quit his job and start Amazon. He says: “For me, the best way to think about it was to project myself forward to age 80 and say, ‘Look, when I’m 80 years old, I want to have minimized the number of regrets that I have.’ I don’t want to be 80 years old and in a quiet moment of reflection, thinking back over my life, and cataloguing a bunch of major regrets. In most cases our biggest regrets turn out to be acts of omission. It’s paths not taken and they haunt us. We wonder what would have happened. I loved that person and I never told them, and then they married somebody else. I didn’t do this, and so that’s the frame of mind that I put myself in and once I did that, and thought about it that way, it was immediately obvious to me. I knew that when I’m 80, I would never regret trying this thing that I was super excited about and it failing. If it failed, fine. I would be very proud of the fact when I’m 80 that I tried. And I also knew that it would always haunt me if I didn’t try. And so that would be a regret, it would be 100% chance of regret if I didn’t try and basically a 0% chance of regret if I tried and failed. So, I think that’s a useful metric for any important life decision.” Summit (55 minutes)

First Principles

Old conventions and previous forms are often accepted without question. Once accepted, they set a boundary around creativity and innovation. First principles thinking helps to break us out of those limitations by boiling a process down to the fundamental parts that you know are true and building up from there. A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle defined a first principle as “the first basis from which a thing is known.” It is a cycle of breaking a situation down into the core pieces and then putting them all back together in a more effective way. Deconstruct then reconstruct. James Clear (8 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.