Weekend Briefing No. 366

Welcome to the weekend.

Last week, Chris Paik’s doc about Frameworks and Aphorisms was a very popular link. So, we’re going to have a Zoom Happy Hour with Chris discussing the doc today at 5 p.m. ET. Pour yourself a drink and bring your curiosity. This is going to be a fun conversation. Click here to sign up.

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Prime Numbers

$50 billion—Rivian, an EV pickup truck maker with no revenue, is eying an IPO with a $50 billion valuation (maybe more). Ford is worth $47 billion.

96.4 millionThe 2021 Super Bowl attracted only 96.4 million viewers, making it the least watched Super Bowl since 2007.

48—Pinterest’s sales soared 48 percent in 2020 as we mood-boarded our blues away. It grew to 459 million monthly users.

TurboVax

I love civic-minded software engineers like Huge Ma! He’s a 31-year-old software engineer for Airbnb who was stunned when he tried to make a coronavirus vaccine appointment for his mother in early January and saw that there were dozens of websites to check, each with its own sign-up protocol. The city and state appointment systems were completely distinct. “There has to be a better way,” he said he remembered thinking. So, he developed one. In less than two weeks, he launched TurboVax, a free website that compiles availability from the three main city and state New York vaccine systems and sends the information in real time to Twitter. It cost Mr. Ma less than $50 to build, yet it offers an easier way to spot appointments than the city’s and state’s official systems do. “It’s sort of become a challenge to myself, to prove what one person with time and a little motivation can do,” he said last week. “This wasn’t a priority for governments, which was unfortunate. But everyone has a role to play in the pandemic, and I’m just doing the very little that I can to make it a little bit easier.” New York Times (9 minutes)

Zipline

Zipline operates the world’s largest drone delivery network. It’s familiar with airdropping sensitive medical items, like blood and medication, at scale. In the past year, Zipline has delivered 1 million non-COVID-19 vaccines in Africa. Zipline is getting ready to deliver the vaccine we’re all thinking about. Last week, the seven-year-old startup said it’s developing end-to-end cold chain capabilities with an unnamed COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer. By April, the infrastructure should be all-systems-go in the countries where Zipline is active: Rwanda, Ghana, and soon, Nigeria. Oh, and Zipline is also flying in North Carolina. Any item that Zipline delivers must first go through a node: the distribution center. Zipline is adding ultracold capacity to these hubs, which serve a wide geographical web of clinics. The distribution center is conveniently collocated with a drone airport, which runs on-demand flights. This “Uber for healthcare, in the air” design reduces the probability of a vaccine expiring or spoiling. Zipline’s drones have a 100-mile, round-trip range. Centers can service 8,000 square miles, give or take. And deliveries are completed in 30–45 minutes. The three new distribution centers in Nigeria will each have 30 drones, run 24/7 and serve roughly 1,000 health clinics across more than 37,000 square miles. Morning Brew (5 minutes)

PBC SPAC

My latest Forbes piece is about the first public benefit corporation SPAC. At its initial public offering on February 5, Sustainable Development Acquisition I Corp. (SDAC) became the first public benefit corporation Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). SDAC is formed to acquire or merge businesses in the water, food, agriculture and renewable energy sectors that are addressing the global challenges identified by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Though there are a number of publicly traded public benefit corporations, this is the first time the novel legal structure will be used for a SPAC. Check out my article in Forbes on this. Forbes (5 minutes)

Mars, So Hot Right Now

Three countries are due to reach Mars in the next two weeks. (1) First up is United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s Hope orbiter. After launching seven months ago on a Japanese H-IIA rocket, the car-sized Hope probe will arrive in Mars’ orbit on February 9. It will spend nearly two years surveying the planet’s atmosphere to study daily changes in Martian weather. It puts the UAE on track to be the first Arab nation to deploy an interplanetary probe and join a small group of spacefaring countries that have done the same. (2) Trailing behind the UAE’s Hope probe is China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, which will reach Mars a day later on February 10. The five-ton spacecraft will hang out in Martian orbit to survey the Utopia Planitia region, where a large deposit of water ice lies beneath the planet’s surface. Three months later, in May, Tianwen-1 will deploy a lander and rover bundled together for a landing at Utopia Planitia—a daring attempt to become the second country to land and operate a rover on the Martian surface. (3) Last but not least, NASA’s Perseverance rover, nicknamed “Percy,” will touch down on February 18 at the Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient river delta believed to bear traces of past life. Its touchdown location is some 1,600 miles away from China’s rover. If all goes well, the compact car-sized Perseverance will use its six wheels to spend at least two years traversing the Jezero Crater using seven instruments to probe for traces of past or present lifeforms. Those tools include a UV laser to scan for organic compounds, an X-ray spectrometer to analyze the chemical composition of Mars rocks, and two microphones to monitor the rover’s health and record the windy ambiance of Mars. The rover will also gather cigar-sized samples of Martian soil for a future sample return mission in the works between NASA and the European Space Agency. The Verge (10 minutes)

Psychology of Virality

Why do people share content? The psychology of virality is based on eight triggers. Here are a few I thought were particularly interesting: (1) We are driven by curiosity. However, we fall on a spectrum of being driven by seeking novelty and curiosity to being cautious and preferring familiarity. The sweet spot is in the middle. We are attracted by things that are new enough to not be stale, but not too new to be strange. (2) Order. People who are trying to organize their world because of their personality are highly motivated to share tools that help them to optimize and organize. This is one of the big drivers between the rapid growth of a cult-like following behind note-taking apps like Roam Research and Notion, which have been virally growing for the past few years. (3) Validation. A lot of what we share online has to do with the fact that we want to get a boost, believe we are good, believe we are smart or believe we are worthy. We want to feel positive about ourselves and our place in the world. NFX (14 minutes)

On Silence

At age 45, Beethoven went deaf. He created his best work after that. It seems a mystery that Beethoven became more original and brilliant as a composer in inverse proportion to his ability to hear. But maybe it isn’t so surprising. Beethoven’s diminished hearing limited the influence of prevailing compositional fashions. Whereas his earlier work was reminiscent of his instructor, Josef Haydn, his later work was spectacularly innovative. Deafness freed Beethoven as a composer because he no longer had society’s soundtrack in his ears. Silence paradoxically allowed Beethoven to hear something new. In our current techno-cultural moment, we’re constantly connected to a humming online hive mind of takes and urgency and quantified influence. Deep work comes from periods of relative disconnection. Cal Newport (6 minutes)

10 Simple Questions

Thanks to Khe Hy for pointing me to this Twitter thread by Greg Isenberg, which lays out 10 questions that changed his life. Here are a few that I liked: (1) Can you really control that? Smart people know what they can and cannot control. If you’re living in the past, you’re nostalgic. If you’re living in the future, you’re anxious. If you’re living in the present, you’re at peace. (2) Why do you take things so personally? When you’re 20, you care what everyone thinks. When you’re 40, you stop caring what everyone thinks. When you’re 60, you realize no one was thinking about you in the first place. (3) Why don’t you get straight to the point? People are busy. When you want something from someone, just say it. Beating around the bush is a sin. (4) Are you earning trust? Don’t focus on building success, focus on earning trust. Trust is the rarest commodity on earth. If you can earn trust, you can build anything. @gregisenberg (7 minutes)

Bookshelf

The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg. Two renowned investment advisors and authors of the bestseller The Great Reckoning bring to light both currents of disaster, and the potential for prosperity and renewal in the face of radical changes in human history as we move into the next century. The Sovereign Individual details strategies necessary for adapting financially to the next phase of Western civilization. Few observers of the late 20th century have their fingers so presciently on the pulse of the global political and economic realignment ushering in the new millennium as do James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg. Their bold prediction of disaster on Wall Street in Blood in the Streets was borne out by Black Tuesday. In their ensuing bestseller, The Great Reckoning, published just weeks before the coup attempt against Gorbachev, they analyzed the pending collapse of the Soviet Union and foretold the civil war in Yugoslavia and other events that have proved to be among the most searing developments of the past few years. In The Sovereign Individual, Davidson and Rees-Mogg explore the greatest economic and political transition in centuries—the shift from an industrial to an information-based society. This transition, which they have termed “the fourth stage of human society,” will liberate individuals as never before, irrevocably altering the power of government. This outstanding book will replace false hopes and fictions with new understanding and clarified values. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

AphorismsChris Paik, a Venture Capitalist at Pace Capital, recently published some frameworks. At the end, he listed some aphorisms. Here are some I found interesting.

Misdirection—Hailed as the greatest pickpocket in the world, Apollo Robbins studies the quirks of human behavior as he steals your watch.

Personal Monopoly—The Internet rewards unique people. Find your unique combination of skills, interests and personality traits—your “Personal Monopoly.”

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 Duncan Kidd.

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Weekend Wisdom

I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact. Elon Musk

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