Weekend Briefing No. 402

Welcome to the weekend.

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Prime Numbers

50—Covering 50% of the world’s roofs with solar panels would provide enough capacity to meet the world’s annual electricity needs.

79—Rooftop solar panels are now up to 79% cheaper than in 2010.

66,000—This week, bitcoin hit a record high point at over $66,000.

Is Instagram Bad?

Amid the pillorying of Facebook that has dominated the latest news cycle, there is an inconvenient fact that critics have overlooked: No research—by Facebook or anyone else—has demonstrated that exposure to Instagram, a Facebook app, harms teenage girls’ psychological well-being. Facebook conducted surveys and focus groups in which people were asked to report how they thought they had been affected by using the Instagram app. Three in ten adolescent girls reported that Instagram made them feel worse about themselves. On the face of it, this correlation between Instagram use and self-reported psychological distress is concerning. But such a finding should be used as a starting point for research, not as a conclusion. Psychological research has repeatedly shown that we often don’t understand ourselves as well as we think we do. Scientific studies of human behavior seek to go beyond individuals’ own accounts of why they feel what they feel or why they behave as they do. There were other shortcomings to the research too. The Facebook studies, as described in the documents, didn’t include a comparison group of people who didn’t use Instagram, which would be crucial to drawing any inferences about the effects of Instagram use. New York Times (10 minutes)

Medici & Thiel

Peter Thiel has a lot of ideas. One of them, from slightly more than a decade ago, was that entrepreneurship is a viable alternative to college. So he decided to spend around $2 million annually to sponsor 20–30 kids to drop out of college and do something. It’s been a decade, which means around $20 million invested in total, which gives enough room to perhaps draw some conclusions from this experiment. What did he get for spending that money? To start with, he found these CEOs and founders: Vitalik from Ethereum; Austin Russell from Luminar; Kaushik Tiwari from Better Financial; Dylan Field from Figma; Ritesh Agarwal from Oyo; and Alex Rodriguez from Embark. Now these are only a few out of 217 that I found, but it’s a pretty great selection ratio. Just measuring with the regular VC yardstick, that’s an enviable hit ratio even without Vitalik. Once you look at the rest, there’s also Loom, Scale AI, Upstart and a whole lot more. Considering it’s a $100K grant per fellow, that’s remarkable success. I’m not saying that the Renaissance geniuses who came together in great concentration during Medici’s reign are the same as the Thiel Fellows. What I am suggesting is that the idea of patronage seems to not have transmitted all that much through the centuries. What seems to be the simplest trade-off? Paying enormous sums of money to get exposure to smart people, increase social stature and secure posterity by helping them achieve greatness seems to have disappeared. Strange Loop Cannon (12 minutes)

Where To Invest $100K Right Now

Investors face a dilemma. The global pandemic has completely disrupted markets. Inflation is rising, and firms like Goldman and BlackRock project equity returns under 5% until 2035. Now, finding promising investments is harder than ever. So recently, Bloomberg asked financial experts where they’d invest $100K today. The response? They overwhelmingly recommended alternative assets, like art. After all, the ultra-wealthy always place their bets on art. From Rockefeller to Bezos and Gates, they all actively invest in art. Why? Contemporary art appreciated 14% annually on average (‘95–’20) with only a 0.01 correlation to public equities. Also, the global art industry is expected to grow 51% by 2026. Now with fintech unicorn, Masterworks.io, you can invest in multimillion-dollar art just like investing in stocks online. They use data to identify appreciating works by artists like Picasso, Banksy and Basquiat—then securitize and issue shares of those paintings. Want in? Weekend Briefing subscribers get priority access to their current offerings. (Important disclosures apply.) Masterworks (Sponsored)

#clientbrag

We’re excited to announce the advertising-technology company Kargo Global Inc. has acquired our client StitcherAds, an ad-tech firm focused on driving e-commerce sales, for $64 million. Kargo’s technology helps marketers buy ads that target certain types of consumers on the websites of hundreds of publishers, including on mobile and desktop devices. A growth area for the company has been in special ad formats meant to help retailers boost e-commerce, but Kargo’s offering wasn’t available on large social media platforms. StitcherAds brings that capability, delivering paid ads for retailers and other brands across platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok. Wall Street Journal (6 minutes)

What’s Up With Geothermal?

Fun fact: The molten core of the Earth, about 4K miles down, is roughly as hot as the surface of the sun—over 6,000°C, or 10,800°F. It’s the sun beneath our feet. So, how do we harness that energy? Enter geothermal. After many years of failure to launch, new companies and technologies have brought geothermal out of its doldrums to the point that it may finally be ready to scale up and become a major player in clean energy. In fact, if its more enthusiastic backers are correct, geothermal may hold the key to making 100% clean electricity available to everyone in the world. And, as a bonus, it’s an opportunity for the struggling oil and gas industry to put its capital and skills to work on something that won’t degrade the planet. This article covers technologies meant to mine heat deep from the Earth, which can then be used as direct heat for communities, to generate electricity, or to do both through “cogeneration” of heat and electricity. Vox (21 minutes)

Biodiversity

As 20K government leaders, journalists, activists and celebrities from around the world prepare to descend on Glasgow for a crucial climate summit starting late this month, another high-level international environmental meeting got started this week. The problem it seeks to tackle: A rapid collapse of species and systems that collectively sustain life on earth. The stakes at the two meetings are equally high, many leading scientists say, but the biodiversity crisis has received far less attention. If the global community continues to see it as a side event and they continue thinking that climate change is now the thing to really listen to, by the time they wake up on biodiversity it might be too late. Apart from any moral reasons for humans to care about the other species on Earth, there are practical ones. At the most basic level, people rely on nature for their survival. A broad diversity of plants and animals ensures that we have oxygen in the air and that we have fertile soils. Lose too many players in an ecosystem, and it will stop working. An estimated million species are vulnerable to extinction. New York Times (8 minutes)

Did the 3-pointer Break the NBA?

The NBA introduced the 3-point line in 1979, and not much changed right away. Players weren’t used to shooting from far out, so for the first few years, they mostly didn’t. It wasn’t until the 1986–1987 season that the league as a whole scored over a hundred 3s in one season. In 2014, statistic-obsessed sports executive Daryl Morey led what many people call the 3-point revolution. He used the D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers as a testing ground to see if volume shooting from the 3-point line netted better results than shooting 2s—and it worked. The math states that scoring one-third of your shots from behind the 3-point line is as good as scoring half your shots from inside the line. In other words, shooting as many 3s as possible will likely lead to a higher score. The league took notice, and teams and players followed suit. Nowadays, 3s have become so prevalent that fans are criticizing the league for being oversaturated with them. Critics worry that the game is on the verge of becoming boring because everyone is trying to do the same thing. And that’s led some to wonder if the NBA should move the 3-point line back. Check out this video breaking it down. Vox (7 minutes)

Bookshelf

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing and profitable brands. In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his father and created a company with a simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost athletic shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the trunk of his lime green Plymouth Valiant, Knight grossed $8K his first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. In an age of start-ups, Nike is the ne plus ultra of all start-ups, and the swoosh has become a revolutionary, globe-spanning icon, one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable symbols in the world today. But Knight, the man behind the swoosh, has always remained a mystery. Now, for the first time, in a memoir that is candid, humble, gutsy and wry, he tells his story, beginning with his crossroads moment. At 24, after backpacking around the world, he decided to take the unconventional path to start his own business—a business that would be dynamic and different. Knight details the many risks and daunting setbacks that stood between him and his dream, along with his early triumphs. Above all, he recalls the formative relationships with his first partners and employees, a ragtag group of misfits and seekers who became a tight-knit band of brothers. Together, harnessing the transcendent power of a shared mission and a deep belief in the spirit of sport, they built a brand that changed everything. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

How to Win the Future—Andreesen Horowitz just released a policy agenda for the third generation of the internet.

Cheetah Cub Cam—Cheetah Rosalie gave birth to five cubs on Tuesday at the National Zoo. There is a live webcam. It’s cute. Enjoy.

What Is a DAO?—Let’s use an example: Imagine that you want to work for a hot tech start-up. Instead of applying for a job, you can just join this start-up’s Slack with one click.[SV1] 

About the Weekend Briefing

This is a Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway—Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by Martin Sanchez.

Should We Work Together?

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Weekend Wisdom

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.John Wooden

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