Weekend Briefing No. 349

Welcome to the weekend.

Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.

Prime Numbers

184 M – The campaign fighting Prop 22, upholding the unemployment law as it stands, has been funded with $10 million, while rideshare and delivery startups have contributed $184 million to pushing the proposition’s passage.

79 M – Overall, in Q3 computer manufacturers sold 79 million personal computers, up 13 percent year-over-year.

790 – In terms of fuel, an electric battery will save $790 over 15,000 miles compared to an internal combustion engine car.

Female Workers

According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace survey, the highly challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a particularly negative impact on females. Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security. The pandemic has intensified challenges that women already faced. Working mothers have always worked a “double shift”—a full day of work, followed by hours spent caring for children and doing household labor. Now the supports that made this possible—including school and childcare—have been upended. Meanwhile, Black women already faced more barriers to advancement than most other employees. Today they’re also coping with the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black community. And the emotional toll of repeated instances of racial violence falls heavily on their shoulders. As a result of these dynamics, more than one in four women are contemplating what many would have considered unthinkable just six months ago: downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely. Companies risk losing women in leadership, and future women leaders, unwinding years of painstaking progress toward gender diversity. The crisis also represents an opportunity. If companies make significant investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace—and there are signs that this is starting to happen—they can retain the employees most affected by today’s crises and nurture a culture in which women have equal opportunity to achieve their potential over the long term. McKinsey (22 minutes)

Female Funding

While overall US venture capital investments in 2020 are on par with previous years, those funds haven’t necessarily reached female business owners, dealing them a disproportionate blow. Investments in women-led companies this year are on pace to be the worst since 2017. (redundant with surrounding sentences?) Firms invested a total of $434 million female-founded companies in Q3—the lowest figure since the second quarter of 2017, according to PitchBook data. The third quarter total also amounts to a 48% drop in funding from Q2, when female founders received $841 million across 132 deals. Pitchbook (6 minutes)

Female Founders

Inc. Magazine just released its Female Founders 100 list, which celebrates excellent woman founders across various industries. It was so cool to see our client Kellan Hays on the list in the Food Innovators section. Good Nature Agro has been a particularly long journey for Kellan, who co-founded the company with Carl Jensen and Sunday Silungwe in 2014. The three originally met working on a class project at UC Davis. “I knew right away they had this vision, and I knew right away I had a piece of the puzzle to help them,” says Hays. The team won some business plan competitions that first year, which enabled Jensen and Silungwe to set up shop Zambia. There, they began the company’s work of helping farmers transition to higher-value crops (generally that’s meant legumes, instead of maize), and connecting the farmers with buyers. Hayes remained based in the U.S., working at various tech jobs to help subsidize the startup and working on the strategy and governance behind Good Nature as a very intense side hustle. This year she was able to quit her day job and focus on Good Nature Agro full time, and has been instrumental in leading the company’s growth and recent fundraise during the global economic downturn. Kellan is amazing! This recognition is well deserved. Inc. (4 minutes)

Stripe & Paystack

Stripe has acquired Paystack, a Nigerian payment platform for over $200 million.  Today, more than 60,000 businesses in Nigeria and Ghana use Paystack to securely collect online and offline payments, launch new business models, and deepen customer relationships. Incredibly, Paystack already processes more than half of all online transactions in Nigeria. “There is enormous opportunity,” said Patrick Collison, Stripe’s co-founder and CEO, in an interview with TechCrunch. “In absolute numbers, Africa may be smaller right now than other regions, but online commerce will grow about 30% every year. And even with wider global declines, online shoppers are growing twice as fast. Stripe thinks on a longer time horizon than others because we are an infrastructure company. We are thinking of what the world will look like in 2040-2050.” TechCrunch (6 minutes)

Too Complex

Lawmakers this week proposed breaking up Big Tech by reviving aggressive, turn-of-the-last-century-style antitrust laws and enforcement measures. Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, they argued, all have developed monopoly power that they use to stamp out competition and stifle innovation. For those who favor curbs on these companies, one question looms. These four companies already possess unprecedented market values and dominant positions in industries ranging from digital advertising and app distribution to online retail and mobile computing. If they are already so complex that it is prohibitively difficult to untangle them, what happens if they continue to grow unchecked for another decade? Collectively, these companies plan to expand into health care, cryptocurrency, brain computing, space-based telecommunications and countless other areas. In the 2008-09 financial crisis, some argued that any bank too big to fail is, by extension, too big to be allowed to exist. As the tech giants become ever broader in the businesses they enter, and deeper in their vertical integration, many economists and activists are coming to a similar conclusion: “Too complex to break up” is, like “too big to fail,” an argument in favor of doing precisely what these companies want to avoid. Wall Street Journal (6 minutes)

Undaunted

Check out this new podcast called Undaunted: Conversations with Radical Peacemakers. The podcast is an invitation. To heal. Inspire. Unite. And pledge to co-create a better world together. Hosted by my friend David Gungor, arenowned musician and producer, Undaunted connects us with  real-life stories of the world’s most daring peacemakers. From denouncing the right to revenge after the killing of a loved one in Israel/Palestine, to upending unjust legal systems across East Africa, the stories of Undaunted peacemakers will convict you to live your values more deeply, and inspire you to take up the dangerous, joyous, and courageous life of peacemaking yourself. This first episode on Undaunted, is an interview with Robi Damelin, an Israeli mother who lost her son to a Palestinian sniper. The moment she heard the news, she responded with a line that has since rung out across the world: “You may not kill anyone in the name of my son.”  Since, Robi has dedicated her life to the work of nonviolence and reconciliation: she has spoken all over the world, starred in a feature-length documentary, and worked closely with the joint Israeli-Palestinian organization, the Parents Circle – Families Forum, a group of over 600 bereaved families in Israel/Palestine who advocate for reconciliation and an end to the conflict. Listen and subscribe to Undaunted (29 minutes)

First Principles

A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced from any other assumption. In Mathematics, these are called axioms. First principles are the Lego building blocks for thinking. These Lego blocks, once carefully assembled with forethought, are reusable. With the right set of first-principles, you can start mixing them in ways you couldn’t before, allowing you to think better and faster. Choosing the right set of Lego blocks for your thinking is the key, and it’s harder than it may seem. This in-depth guide is a great resource to learn first principles thinking. The Ultimate First Principles Guide (5 hours)

Bookshelf

The Known World by Edward P. Jones. Henry Townsend, a farmer, boot maker, and former slave, through the surprising twists and unforeseen turns of life in antebellum Virginia, becomes proprietor of his own plantation―as well his own slaves. When he dies, his widow Caldonia succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love under the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend household, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave “speculators” sell free black people into slavery, and rumors of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years. An ambitious, courageous, luminously written masterwork, The Known World seamlessly weaves the lives of the freed and the enslaved―and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery. The Known World not only marks the return of an extraordinarily gifted writer, it heralds the publication of a remarkable contribution to the canon of American classic literature. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

CEO of No – Andrew Wilkinson is a partner at Tiny, where he starts, buys and invests in internet businesses. Over the last few years, he’s built it into a thriving collection of companies—more than 30 with about 600 employees collectively.

Rocket Launch – This is a stunning video of what a rocket launch looks like from space. Just cause.

Data Driven – Legions of fans are taking their cues from Emily Oster, a data-obsessed, best-selling Brown University professor who’s teaching them how to make better decisions.

About the Weekend Briefing

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

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. I hope it helps you gain deeper insight and equips you to create meaningful impact in the world. Many readers have asked about how we can work together. In case you’re interested, I run a law firm for startups. We try to keep things simple by offering transparent flat fees. We structure our engagements in two ways: (1) Per-project flat fee engagements—No billable hour means no surprise legal bills. (2) General Counsel—A simple monthly fee for all your day-to-day legal needs. It’s like getting a subscription to your own general counsel. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.

Weekend Wisdom

You can disagree without being disagreeable.Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Did your brilliant friend forward this to you? Subscribe here.