Weekend Briefing No. 373
Welcome to the weekend. Welcome to April and Happy Easter! Check out my April playlist to get some spring vibes. This is one of my favorite playlists in a long time. I think / hope that it captures both the soul and glimmer of optimism that many are feeling as we are approaching the end of the pandemic.
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407 billion—In 2020, U.S. producers of cardboard boxes produced approximately 407 billion square feet of corrugated cardboard, up 3.4 percent year-over-year, and adding the equivalent of 477 square miles of cardboard to the supply chain.
1.7 billion—Lululemon’s online sales nearly doubled last quarter from 2019, and it made $1.7 billion in profit as the legging life stretched on. (I contributed to this. My pant of choice is now the Lululemon ABC Pant.)
90—A “real-world” study of 3,950 people in six states found that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines cut the risk of infection by 90 percent. The findings are broadly in line with the 95% and 94% efficacy that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed, respectively, in their clinical trials.
Paypal announced US customers can now pay with crypto with its “Checkout with Crypto” feature, which is rolling out today. After rolling out the ability for U.S. users to buy and sell cryptocurrency directly from their accounts last November, PayPal’s new “Checkout with Crypto” allows users to instantly convert their bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin or bitcoin cash to U.S. dollars (with no additional transaction fees) that PayPal then uses to complete the transaction. If a merchant doesn’t take U.S. dollars, PayPal also converts those dollars into local currency at standard conversion rates set by PayPal. PayPal is not the first payment app to offer support for cryptocurrency. In 2018, its competitor, Square, launched support for bitcoin on Cash App. But the launch of cryptocurrency as a form of payment makes PayPal both a major digital wallet and a cryptocurrency exchange, which could streamline the use of cryptocurrency as a more common payment method. This announcement, along with Visa’s announcement that they will use the ethereum blockchain and USD coin to settle transactions, may be another step closer to crypto becoming mainstream. The Verge (7 minutes)
The ONE Campaign, the Bono co-founded global health and anti-poverty organization, has debuted an animated series titled Pandemica that aims to raise awareness of the importance of vaccines in ending the COVID-19 pandemic. The story unfolds as a pandemic purgatory that finds its characters unsure how long they will be stuck there. Pandemica features the voice talents of Patrick Adams, Samuel Arnold, Bono, Connie Britton, Penélope Cruz, Meg Donnelly, Danai Gurira, Nick Kroll, Laura Marano, Kumail Nanjiani, David Oyelowo, Phoebe Robinson, Michael Sheen, Wanda Sykes and Calum Worthy. Rich countries have been hoarding vaccines, in some cases purchasing or reserving more than enough doses to immunize entire populations and then some. While the United States continues to expand vaccine distribution across all age groups, some countries are still struggling to get doses to older and more vulnerable populations.”Pandemica’s animated world animates a simple truth — that where you live shouldn’t determine whether you get these life-saving shots,” said U2 frontman Bono, co-founder of ONE and (RED). “Even while many of us still wait our turn, we need to commit to making sure that billions of people around the world aren’t left at the back of the line. It’s the right thing to do, obviously, but it’s also the only way out of this pandemic for all of us. If the vaccine isn’t everywhere, this pandemic isn’t going anywhere.” YouTube (5 minutes)
The Wrong Question
All our lives, we’ve been taught that one of the best questions you can ask in researching a charity is, “How much do they pay their CEO?” If the number’s low, that means they respect your donation. If the number’s high, it means they don’t and there’s something fishy going on. What if we’ve got it all wrong? “How much do you pay your CEO?” is the wrong question to ask. The correct question to ask is, “Is your CEO worth the money you pay them, and how do you know?” Just because a person earns a low salary doesn’t mean they are of good value. “People who want to make a lot of money don’t belong in charity.” If you think about it, that’s a little bit like biting off your nose to spite your face. Let’s say you’re a Red Sox fan and you say, “Pitchers who want to make a lot of money don’t belong in Boston,” so the pitcher goes to play for the New York Yankees. The Yankees go on to win the World Series and the Red Sox finish last. Who’s the victim of your standards? You or the pitcher? In the case of a charity, it’s worse because when we say, “People who want to make money don’t belong in charity,” those people go elsewhere, probably into the for-profit sector, where their talents are appreciated and rewarded. In this case, it’s not only you as a donor that loses their talents; it’s the hungry children they could have helped. That’s a very expensive standard for hungry children. Charity Navigator (7 minutes)
At the early stages of a company, the most supportive investors are often customers, angel investors and other operators. Despite having dozens of value-add investors eager to participate in a financing round, founders often have to turn away smaller checks because of legal costs and increased cap table complexity. AngelList has a solution to the problem. With Roll Up Vehicles (RUVs), founders get a private special purpose vehicle through which up to 250 accredited angels and operators can invest. AngelList will handle the RUV formation, collection of capital, accreditation, KYC and signatures. The RUV will help founders: (1) Close investors with a single link. With RUVs, founders get a single link that allows investors to commit and send funds online. Once the RUV closes, AngelList sends one single wire to the company. (2) Streamlining cap tables. Adding dozens of small-check investors makes a company’s cap table harder to manage over time. A larger cap table increases the complexity of future financings, corporate actions and exits. RUVs allow founders to raise from the angel investors they want with just one new cap table entry. (3) Cost savings. Each additional investor in a round results in increased costs for the company. For a round with 40 individual checks, managing those investors’ direct administrative costs over the company’s lifetime could be as high as $95,000. However, RUVs cost $8,000 as a onetime fee and include all filings, tax documents and distributions management during the vehicle’s lifetime. I’m so excited about this! As somebody who is working with founders to close these small investments then manage the cap table after, this will save so much time and money. If you’re a founder and interested in using the RUV, let me know. I’d love to work with you. I’m eager to see this approach become the norm. AngelList (7 minutes)
My good friend Blair Miller is proposing an “America at work” program focused on two key aspects: transition vouchers and guaranteed jobs. The U.S. spends about 0.1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on retraining programs, which is one-fifth of the average expenditure for countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is imperative we keep our workers growing and learning throughout their careers. Transition vouchers can help. But transition vouchers are not enough. Any program participant who receives this funding should be guaranteed a job at the end of the program, either through employer partners at the training organization or through public sector and federal jobs. This effort would be the largest public private partnership our country has ever seen. The public and private sectors must work together to consolidate current and future employment data, and develop innovative technology-enabled job matching platforms. Such efforts are already underway with partnerships like Ascend in Indiana and Colorado’s Skillful program. Guaranteed jobs, while seemingly a moonshot for many policy thinkers, are increasingly becoming something economists are willing to consider, writes Eduardo Porter in his recent New York Times article on the topic. Most importantly, he notes, “In November, the Carnegie Corporation commissioned a Gallup survey on attitudes about government intervention to provide work opportunities to people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. It found that 93 percent of respondents thought this was a good idea, including 87 percent of Republicans.” Americans are asking for what they need. The Hill (10 minutes)
Dasia Taylor has juiced about three dozen beets in the last 18 months. The root vegetables, she’s found, provide the perfect dye for her invention: suture thread that changes color, from bright red to dark purple, when a surgical wound becomes infected. The 17-year-old student at Iowa City West High School in Iowa City, Iowa, began working on the project in October 2019, after her chemistry teacher shared information about state-wide science fairs with the class. As she developed her sutures, she nabbed awards at several regional science fairs before advancing to the national stage. This January, Taylor was named one of 40 finalists in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the country’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors. This simple low-cost solution can help doctors and patients understand if a wound is infected and intervene to solve the issue before it becomes fatal. Smithsonian (7 minutes)
After getting his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Berkshire Community College, Yo-Yo Ma got out his cello and performed a 15-minute impromptu concert for the other folks at the clinic. When Ma had first visited the clinic for his first shot, he did so quietly while taking in the surroundings, staff said. But he brought his cello when he returned for the second shot. Staff described how a hush fell across the clinic as Ma began to play. “It was so weird how peaceful the whole building became, just having a little bit of music in the background,” said Leslie Drager, the lead clinical manager for the vaccination site. Check out the video of his performance. Kottke (2 minutes)
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin. In this third and final book in the Broken Earth trilogy, the Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women. Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe. For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed. Amazon
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Beer v. Coffee—Creatives have two ways of working: beer mode and coffee mode. Beer mode is a state of unfocused play where you discover new ideas. In contrast, coffee mode is a state of focus where you work toward a specific outcome.
Making v. Commenting—Creatives have two ways of working: beer mode and coffee mode. Beer mode is a state of unfocused play where you discover new ideas. In contrast, coffee mode is a state of focus where you work toward a specific outcome.
Leadership—A powerful way to learn about leadership is to ask the question, “”Why would somebody follow me?” Here are some ideas to help you answer that question from “Touchy Feely,” the nickname of Stanford GSB’s most popular class on interpersonal dynamics, led by Professor Carole Robin.
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Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. – Pope John Paul II
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