Weekend Briefing No. 244

Welcome to the weekend. I’m flying out this weekend to attend the Opportunity Collaboration, then a stopping over in Mexico City and finally onto SF for SOCAP. If you are going to be at any of those places, or know anybody I should meet while I’m there, drop me a line. Love to meet you face to face.

Prime Numbers

560 MM – Americans are obsessed with La Croix. US retail sales for La Croix hit $560 MM up from $80 MM in 2012.

41.6 – Large venture capital funds are further becoming the new normal. Of the 214 funds closed this year, 41.6% are larger than $100 million (compared to 33.5% in 2015). Volume of funds is also trending positively in 2018, with the potential to break 300 funds closed in a year for the first time since 2016.

.91 – Which of the two parties became more ideologically extreme since the 1970s? If we look at the parties as a whole, the answer is a virtual tie: Republican’s became 0.66 points (on a 1-7 scale) more conservative, and Democrats 0.66 more liberal. However… If we limit the analysis to Whites, the answer is Democrats, whose liberalism increased 0.91 points as compared to +0.68 conservatism for White Republicans.


A startup the size of a country. That’s how Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS as his friends call him) is dubbing his ambitious plan to construct a $500B mega-city called NEOM by 2025. The proposed 10,230-mile city would span 3 countries (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan), run entirely on renewable energy sources, and serve as a “hub of cutting edge research and technology.” Described on its website as “the world’s most ambitious project,” NEOM was designed to attract foreign investment and reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on its primary export, oil. To finance the project, MBS is selling off a 5% stake in state-owned Saudi Aramco (which is worth as much as $2T). A dozen high-profile American tech executives, including Marc Andreessen, Sam Altman, and Travis Kalanick, joined the advisory board for NEOM. Watch the video on the site and let me know whether you think it’s inspiring or a pipe dream. NEOM (12 minutes)


A new UN report concludes “Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.” The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that to stay within 1.5ºC (the ambitious goal from Paris Climate Agreement), human-caused CO2 emissions must decline by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, and reach “net zero” by roughly mid-century. “Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5 °C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems,” it states. Right now, the global energy system is nowhere near on track for those kinds of cuts, even as deployment of renewable power, efficiency technologies and electric vehicles grows. Keeping global warming in check will likely require deployment of carbon-trapping technologies and aggressively moving away from fossil fuels, a major new United Nations report concludes — far more quickly than current forecasts envision. Axios (5 minutes)

Future of Work

If automation continues at its current pace, 400 million workers around the globe will be displaced by 2030. In spite of the vast economic effects these changes will bring, will we seize the opportunity to reconceive the very meaning of work? If mass automation is inevitable, what will our careers look like in the future? Four thinkers weigh in with their thoughts:  1) Automation will force us to realize that we are not defined by what we do. 2) The US can survive automation if it reimagines meritocracy. 3) Automation will take our jobs, but our personal data will save our paycheck. 4) Companies should help you retrain when you’re automated out of a job. Quartz (32 minutes)

Create Masterpieces

Today an artist can’t just be an artist — they also have to know how to build a brand. But the unintended consequence of, what one might call, total brand and business control, is that it diverts attention away from the most essential part of any creative profession. You know, making great stuff. It’s hard to do that under ideal circumstances; harder still when you’re tweeting or visualizing your next Instagram story or flying to some industry conference. What goes for artists, also holds for entrepreneurs. A line from Phil Libin, the founder of Evernote, is “people who are thinking about things other than making the best product, never make the best product.” It’s our job is to create masterpieces. Period. Everything else is secondary. I need to remind myself of this truth frequently. Medium (6 minutes)

Code of Ethics

Across the technology industry, rank-and-file employees are demanding greater insight into how their companies are deploying the technology that they built. At Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce, as well as at tech start-ups, engineers and technologists are increasingly asking whether the products they are working on are being used for surveillance in places like China or for military projects in the United States or elsewhere. That’s a change from the past, when Silicon Valley workers typically developed products with little questioning about the social costs. It is also a sign of how some tech companies, which grew by serving consumers and businesses, are expanding more into government work. And the shift coincides with concerns in Silicon Valley about the Trump administration’s policies and the larger role of technology in government. The shift has rippled beyond tech companies. In June, more than 100 students at Stanford, M.I.T. and other top colleges signed a pledge saying they would turn down job interviews with Google unless the company dropped its Project Maven contract. Google decided to not renew the contract once it expired. New York Times (9 minutes)

Paul Romer

An apostle and scholar of innovation, Paul Romer, shares this year’s Nobel Prize for economics. It’s an exciting moment for Silicon Valley, whose doers should stop for a moment to reflect on the theories Romer advanced that explain their success. Researchers long had a hunch that innovation led to growth. Romer documented, quantified, and confirmed the assumption. But he did more. He showed that government policies have a salubrious effect on innovation. In other words, the right laws and regulations are the lubricant for turning great ideas into economy-sustaining growth. In Mr. Romer’s models of growth, the market generates new ideas. But the pace at which they are generated, and the way in which they are translated into growth, depend on other factors—such as state support for research and development or intellectual-property protections. Paul Romer’s research is a welcome reminder that an innovative culture requires brilliant / hard-working entrepreneurs and smart government. Fortune (3 minutes)

Mr. Durable

Most of the world’s top marathon runners are full-time athletes who race two marathons a year, one in the spring, another in the fall. Yuki Kawauchi, winner of 2018 Boston Marathon, who has a full-time job as a school administrator has finished his ninth marathon of 2018. As August faded into September, he ran two in eight days. He has also run two ultramarathons. Kawauchi, 31, works 40 hours a week in the administrative office of Kuki High School in his hometown, just north of Tokyo. Kawauchi cannot match the best with speed. His fastest time is nearly seven minutes slower than the world record of 2 hours 1 minute 39 seconds, set recently by Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. What distinguishes Kawauchi is the stunning breadth and resilience of his talent. He has run 26 marathons under 2:12 and an astonishing 81 marathons under 2:20, both records. In a six-week stretch early in 2013, he ran the two fastest races of his career — 2:08:14 and 2:08:15. In fact, in the two months after his surprise and defining victory in Boston, he ran six half marathons (13.1 miles apiece), one standard marathon (26.2) miles and two ultramarathons, one 44 miles, the other 31 — a race schedule no other elite marathoners would dare attempt. They are left in wonder at Kawauchi’s durability. New York Times (11 minutes)

From the Community

Congrats to my friend Scott Harrison for hitting the New York Times Bestsellers list for his book Thirst.

Weekend Wisdom

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.Newt Gingrich 

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose.