Weekend Briefing No. 407

Welcome to the weekend and Happy Thanksgiving.

In the spirit of gratitude and abundance, I want us to try a charitable experiment together. As you may know, November 30 is Giving Tuesday, a worldwide celebration of generosity. This year, I’ve partnered with The Adventure Project to support an amazing female entrepreneur in Kenya named Charlot. (More on her below.)

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Click here to sign up for a Zoom conversation + Q&A between me and The Adventure Project founder Becky Straw.
  • Click here to join the Weekend Briefing community as we aim to raise $5,000 between now and Giving Tuesday.

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

Prime Numbers

86—South Korean battery maker SK Innovation and Ford will spend $11.4 billion to build battery plants for electric vehicles (EVs). These battery plants are slated to release online in 2025, adding 86 gigawatt hours (GWh) of production capacity in Kentucky and 43 GWh in Tennessee, according to SK’s third-quarter earnings call. That’s enough to power more than one million EVs per year.

86%—During Thanksgiving weekend, 86% of Americans will shop (including Cyber Monday); consumers expect to spend less than $500 on average, driving more than $100 billion in sales.

86—The Chevrolet Suburban is the longest-running production vehicle. It’s been manufactured for 86 years.

Supporting Charlot

Growing up in Kenya during school, Charlot learned about the health hazards caused by cooking over fires. Then it dawned on her why she and her daughter suffered so many respiratory tract infections. Every day, while she prepared meals in their one-room home with their mattress on the floor, they were breathing in toxic smoke. This indoor air pollution is one of the leading causes of death of women and children around the world: killing four million people every year. Charlot thought about all the waste discarded around her slum and all the women who longed for work. She thought she could try collecting the metal trash and recycle it into safe, yet affordable clean-burning stoves. She named her business Mukuru, after the slum where she was raised. What started as an idea has become a booming business. Charlot now employs 238 people as sales agents and 25 people who work in her production factory. They have sold 42.5K stoves in the last 12 months. Our donations between now and Giving Tuesday will fund Charlot’s dream of opening up a second factory in Kenya in 2022. I’d love for the Weekend Briefing community to come together and raise $5K. (Since all donations will be matched, our impact will be $10K.) The Adventure Project (7 minutes)

  • Click here to sign up for a Zoom conversation + Q&A between me and The Adventure Project founder Becky Straw.
  • Click here to join the Weekend Briefing community as we aim to raise $5,000 between now and Giving Tuesday.

ESG MBA

As the number of jobs focused on environmental, social and governance issues grows, MBA programs are updating their courses to meet demand from students and recruiters. The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business now offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate courses related to social impact. The Duke University Fuqua School of Business recently added a course to its core curriculum called “Business and Common Purpose.” At Harvard Business School, 600 students took second-year elective courses related to social enterprise last year, compared with 251 in 2012. Demand for workers who understand E.S.G. will likely continue to grow, said Bethany Patten, the senior associate director of the sustainability center at M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. In particular, she said, businesses will need to hire people to finance renewable energy projects and to disclose the risks they face from climate change, while investment firms will need analysts to evaluate exposure to climate change and make recommendations on sustainable investments. New York Times (10 minutes)

Dream Hacking

The night before Super Bowl LV, the beverage company Molson Coors ran what they called the “World’s Largest Dream Study.” They explicitly aimed to place images of Coors beer, along with positive imagery (of refreshing alpine rivers, for instance), into dreamers’ minds. This isn’t an isolated case. Multiple marketing studies are openly testing new ways to alter and drive purchasing behavior through sleep and dream hacking. The American Marketing Association New York’s 2021 Future of Marketing study found that, of more than 400 marketers from firms across the United States, 77% of them aim to deploy dream-tech for advertising in the next three years. The commercial, for-profit use of dream incubation—the presentation of stimuli before or during sleep to affect dream content—is rapidly becoming a reality. Aeon (22 minutes)

Space Junk

Space is increasingly full of junk. In May, NASA estimated that there are more than 23K pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the planet and more than 100 million pieces of space debris larger than a millimeter. The reason debris has piled up in space is twofold: 1) There’s not a lot of enforceable legal responsibility for entities to clean up after themselves in space, and 2) Like all things, when it comes to space, it’s expensive and hard to do. As cosmic elbow room becomes more rare, some companies see a business opportunity in becoming interstellar garbage collectors. ClearSpace is using a drone-like satellite and a net to capture space junk. Astroscale uses a robotic arm, which connects to docking plates preinstalled on satellites, allowing the robotic arm to bring the decommissioned satellites low enough into Earth’s atmosphere that they burn up upon re-entry. Morpheus Space uses onboard rockets to accelerate a satellite’s orbital decay, a process that naturally can take anywhere from a few days to thousands of years. Morning Brew (9 minutes)

Innovation

TIME magazine just released “The Best Innovations of 2021” list. There are a lot of cool products to browse here. I particularly liked this one: Rangers across Africa’s national parks and wildlife reserves are in a constant battle to protect endangered species from poachers. But those rangers are at a disadvantage: Their loud gasoline-powered motorbikes alert poachers to their presence. Swedish electric-bike company CAKE worked with the Southern African Wildlife College to adapt their Kalk bike, giving it a super-quiet electric motor and a portable solar-panel charger. For $25K, consumers can buy their own solar-powered bike, which will also pay for another to be sent to the anti-poaching fight. TIME (11 minutes)

Medium and Message

The most meta interview you’ll ever read—because it’s an interview about instant messenger—takes place on instant messenger. The best part of the interview centered around writing as a technology for thinking, as opposed to speech. In some sense, writing heightens consciousness. It makes us more aware of its nature and possibilities than the exchange of evanescent sounds. We can’t quite lose ourselves in conversation the way we might in person because writing forces us to not only speak but also think about speaking. Compared with a spoken conversation, exchanging instant messages can push us toward a greater degree of polish and completion with each response. In person, there’d be a more natural give and take. The Browser (16 minutes)

Grief and Art

I liked this interview with Andrew Garfield on The Late Show. Stephen Colbert asked him how performing and art helps him deal with grief. The relevant bit of the video starts at around the 4:05 mark and continues for three minutes. Give it a watch. YouTube (7 minutes)

Bookshelf

Grant by Ron Chernow. Ulysses S. Grant’s life has typically been misunderstood. All too often, he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman or as the triumphant-but-brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don’t come close to capturing him, as Chernow reveals in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency. Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures ended dismally. Despite distinguished service in the Mexican War, he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in war, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant’s military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members. More importantly, he sought freedom and justice for African-Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race from all the malign, reactionary, social, and political elements that would whelm them in destruction.” After his presidency, he was again brought low by a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

Deep Sleep—Dr. Keith Sigel and drummer/composer Mason Ingram are Slowave. They’ve been friends and bandmates for more than a decade, playing every indie dive bar in New York. Once Kieth had a kid (and experienced the subsequent loss of sleep), he turned his research toward the effects of music on the quality of sleep. After sharing his findings with Mason, the two decided to use the data to create a sonic landscape that leads to deep peaceful sleep.

The Ultimate Ski Run—The Ultimate Run is a video of the best ski run ever.

Nature & Mental Health—More evidence suggests that nature does something essential for our mental health.

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 Yash Shah.

Should We Work Together?

This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm for startups. Most entrepreneurs want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a fixed-monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. 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

Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other path, no other way, no day but today. Jonathan Larson

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