Weekend Briefing No. 375

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

2,500—France is offering the owners of old, exhaust-belching cars the opportunity to hand over their vehicles for scrap in return for a 2,500 euro ($2,975) grant to buy an electric bicycle.

55The pandemic has hit mothers harder than fathers when it comes to mental health, as in 55 percent of mothers said the pandemic had harmed their mental health compared to just 38 percent of fathers. Fully 69 percent of women under 30 said the pandemic harmed their mental health.

35—In 2018, the U.S. hit a record high of never-married adults. There are 35 percent of Americans ages 25 to 50 who have never been married, compared to 7 percent in 1970.

Africa and Vaccines

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout remains one of the biggest stories of the year. And it’s revived a long-standing question in global public health: What would it take for Africa to manufacture its own vaccines? Today the continent imports almost 99 percent of its routine vaccines, but homegrown manufacturing could have many benefits. For decades, private companies, investors and public-health leaders have taken a pass on domestic vaccine manufacturing. But a confluence of circumstances may be changing the calculation. (1) The impact of COVID-19 and Africa-specific outbreaks. African and global public-health leaders do not want African countries to be last in line for vital supplies, which has arguably happened recently, as well as during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. (2) Strong demand growth. The public market for vaccines in Africa could rise from $1.3 billion today to between $2.3 billion and $5.4 billion by 2030, depending on the scenario. While Africa’s population is growing faster than that of most other regions, significant immunization coverage gaps remain, and new products, such as vaccines for Lassa fever or malaria, could be introduced and used widely on the continent. (3) Evolving economics driven by new technologies. The fast pace of technology innovation that we have seen in recent years at every step of the vaccine-development and manufacturing value chain may mean that production costs are no longer a showstopper. (4) More supportive environments. The past year has seen a deepening of the political and regulatory support required to manufacture vaccines in Africa. So can Africa now make vaccines for Africa? McKinsey (18 minutes)

Insanely Well-Connected

Chris Fralic is known among his peers in the venture capital sector as insanely well-connected. His thesis: The best way to be highly influential is to be human to everyone you meet. Here are his seven rules for making memorable connections: (1) Convey genuine appreciation. Actively project warmth and high energy. It’s been observed people like you when they feel liked by you. (2) Listen with intent. The focus you bring to asking specific questions about what’s being said in real time makes others feel heard. (3) Use humility markers. What you say and how you say it can put others at ease, and replace nerves with positive energy—even in tough situations. You don’t need to build yourself up any more, or explain why you’re important or going to be helpful. Your focus should be on building bridges between your experience and theirs so there are points of recognition, especially if you can organically work in shared struggles or challenges. (4) Offer unvarnished honesty. You can differentiate yourself by being as honest as you can. Just remember to root your honesty in what will actually have utility for the other party. This will set a good tone for all future conversations. (5) Blue-sky brainstorm. Maybe you can’t provide what someone is looking for. But if you can change the angle or way they’re thinking about something by openly brainstorming with them, you make them feel like they got something special and unexpected. It’s key that you’re brainstorming with them, not for them. (6) End every meeting or conversation with the feeling and optimism you’d like to have at the start of your next conversation with the person. Assume you’re going to run into everyone again. (7) Don’t fake it till you make it. It may be common wisdom for finding confidence, but it has some negative byproducts. Namely, Fralic has seen it used to justify winging it in important meetings. Faking it in this context doesn’t mean bluffing your way through interactions that make you feel insecure or intimidated. That leads to bad decision making. First Round Review (18 minutes)


Jonathan Webb and his growing team at AppHarvest are riding high on what he calls the “third wave” of sustainable development: high-tech agriculture, following the waves of solar energy and electric vehicles. Since launching the concept in 2017, Webb and AppHarvest have built and operate one of the largest indoor farms in the world on more than 60 acres near the Central Appalachian town of Morehead, Kentucky. For Webb, who grew up in the area and has a background in solar energy and other large-scale sustainable projects, AppHarvest is both a homecoming and a high-profile, purpose-driven venture that addresses the need for additional production to feed a growing population and reduce imported produce. In building a business to have a positive impact on workers, community and environment, Webb also created a company that is a natural fit for the B Corporation community made up of businesses that achieve a certification based on how well they incorporate all stakeholders into their policies and practices. “The impact side of this is incredibly important,” he says. “We didn’t chase certifications. We just did the right things: We’re paying a living wage, we’re offering health care. It’s the right way to do business. And as a result, we get a huge ROI on our dollar.” Thanks to its bottom-line success and future promise, AppHarvest has found favor with investors, including Martha Stewart and venture capitalists. It is also part of a growing cohort of businesses with a social purpose that are finding traction in the public markets. The company announced in September that it’s going public through a special purpose acquisition company Novus Capital Corp. (Nasdaq: NOVS). Forbes (8 minutes)

Co-founder Relationships

Much has been written about how to find and select your co-founder—and that’s important—but what’s rarely covered, yet equally important, is how to manage the relationship over time. Founders tend to overweigh finding a co-founder, but that’s only the start. What happens after you choose the right co-founder? Pete Flint has observed—from his experience starting Trulia, advising other founders and investing in hundreds of companies—that co-founder success forms a three-part “pyramid”: (1) Values: Three core tenets for how to cultivate healthy relationships, which apply in work and life. (2) Operating principles: There are five principles for regularly reinforcing your values. (3) Failure modes: There are also five failure patterns that often signal failure in the company as well. Successful co-founder relationships are about the practice of having a co-founder relationship. This essay is the operating manual for founders to continuously manage this relationship that’s at the core of their startup. A strong relationship is an output that has a clear set of inputs; it’s much more than a personal connection. NFX (22 minutes)

Music’s Dirty Tricks

Every song we hear has two streams of royalties: recording and publishing. The artist who records the track gets the recording royalty, and the artist that writes the track gets the publishing royalty. Over the last few years, there has been a growing number of pop stars demanding publishing royalties on songs they did not write. These artists will go on to collect revenue from touring, merchandise, brand partnerships and many other revenue streams, while the songwriters have only their publishing revenue as a means of income. This demand for publishing is often able to happen because the artist and/or their representation abuse leverage, use bully tactics and threats, and prey upon writers who may choose to give up some of their assets rather than lose the opportunity completely. Over time, this practice of artists taking publishing has become normalized; and until now, there has been no real unity within the songwriting community to fight back. Now songwriters are staring to push back and demand what they deserve. Variety (13 minutes)

Glacial Speed

The Muldrow Glacier, on the north side of Denali in Alaska, is undergoing a rare surge. In the past few months, the 39-mile-long river of ice has been moving as much as 90 feet a day, 100 times its usual speed. Surges occur on only about 1% of glaciers worldwide. And on a given glacier, decades may pass between events. Because of that relative rarity, scientists haven’t been able to study them enough to have a complete understanding of why they happen, or to gauge how climate change, which is rapidly melting glaciers in Alaska and elsewhere, may be affecting them. Check out this story and interactive graphics.  New York Times (7 minutes)

Psychology of Human Misjudgment

Man’s—often wrong but generally useful— psychological tendencies are quite numerous and quite different. The natural consequence of this profusion of tendencies is the grand general principle of social psychology: Cognition is ordinarily situation-dependent so that different situations often cause different conclusions, even when the same person is thinking in the same general subject area. In this iconic essay, Charlie Munger also addresses the importance of recognizing patterns to determine how humans behave, both rationally and irrationally. He shares with us his checklist of 25 standard causes of human misjudgment, which contains observations that are ingenious, counterintuitive and important—values Charlie treasures in the work of other great thinkers throughout history. Farnam Street (55 minutes)


The Bitcoin Standard by Saifedean Ammous. While Bitcoin is a new invention of the digital age, the problem it purports to solve is as old as human society itself: transferring value across time and space. Ammous takes the reader on an engaging journey through the history of technologies performing the functions of money, from primitive systems of trading limestones and seashells, to metals, coins, the gold standard, and modern government debt. Exploring what gave these technologies their monetary role, and how most lost it, provides the reader with a good idea of what makes for sound money, and sets the stage for an economic discussion of its consequences for individual and societal future-orientation, capital accumulation, trade, peace, culture, and art. Compellingly, Ammous shows that it is no coincidence that the loftiest achievements of humanity have come in societies enjoying the benefits of sound monetary regimes, nor is it coincidental that monetary collapse has usually accompanied civilizational collapse. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Topics of Interest—Ideas / questions that I think are interesting this month.

The Podcast on Everything—This is one of the most epic podcast episodes I’ve listened to, and I listen to a lot of podcasts. When I say epic, I don’t just mean in time—it runs over three hours—but also in scope. In this interview, Balaji Srinivasan pontificates on everything from Hardy-Ramanujan, drones in Azerbaijan, crypto oracles, the Treaty of Westphalia, Dodd-Frank, centrifuges, Greater Idaho, Win and Help Win, Little House on the Prairie, ripped mice, Zoltan Vs. Zerzan, Soviet jokes, the Russo-Japanese War, and much more.

Effective Psychology—Here are some effective psychological tricks for everyday life.

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 Lukas Ruzicka.

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Weekend Wisdom

In the short term, you are as good as your intensity. In the long term, you are only as good as your consistency.Shane Parrish

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