Weekend Briefing No. 409

Welcome to the weekend.

You did it! Thanks to the generous support of the Weekend Briefing community, we blew past our $5,000 fundraising goal last week for The Adventure Project. Since that $5,000 was matched, we raised $10,000 to support the expansion of Charlot’s clean cookstove company in Kenya. Great work! Thanks again.

On a separate note, my family and friends know I love Christmas music. Over the last five years, I’ve created The Ultimate Christmas Playlist. It’s currently on repeat at my house. I hope it puts you in the holiday spirit.

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Prime Numbers

4,300,000 —Republic Realm, a firm that develops real estate in the metaverse, said it paid $4.3 million for land in the world Sandbox, the biggest virtual real estate sale publicized to date.

78—A Pew report estimated that women with a bachelor’s degree have a 78% chance of their marriage lasting 20 years or longer; for women with some college, the number drops to 48%, and 40% for women who’ve completed high school or less.

45—Professional contractors account for just 5% of Home Depot shoppers; they’re responsible for 45% of the $132 billion of the hardware store’s annual sales.

How To Be Successful

Sam Altman has observed thousands of founders from his time at Y Combinator. He has 13 thoughts on being successful. Here are five of my favorites: (1) Compound yourself. Most people get bogged down in linear opportunities. Be willing to let small opportunities go to focus on potential step changes. (2) Get good at sales. All great careers, to some degree, become sales jobs. You have to evangelize your plans to customers, prospective employees, the press, investors, etc. This requires an inspiring vision, strong communication skills, some degree of charisma and evidence of execution ability. (3) Make it easy to take risks. Look for small bets you can make where you lose one time if you’re wrong but make 100 times more if it works. Then make a bigger bet in that direction. (4) Focus. Focus is a force multiplier on work. It is much more important to work on the right thing than it is to work many hours. (5) Work hard. As in most cases, momentum compounds and success begets success. And it’s often really fun. One of the great joys in life is finding your purpose, excelling at it and discovering that your impact matters to something larger than yourself. Sam Altman (14 minutes)

Ladder of Proof

Venture Capitalists have a mental framework that lets them judge a startup based on a core group of predictors for risk and success that we call the “Ladder of Proof.” Here’s how a Ladder of Proof works: Each rung represents a predictor of risk or success. The further up the ladder a startup climbs, the more signals it’s sending to investors that it’s a sizable opportunity and a worthwhile investment. Some rungs—like rapid growth, a great team or paying customers—are more powerful than others. And hitting on those rungs (marked in red) can level a startup to a place where I’m willing to overlook some of the lower rungs (for now). Your job as a Founder is to know where you are on the Ladder of Proof, where you need to get next and how to clearly communicate that. How much have you de-risked your company so it’s more attractive to an investor? How much have you proven you’ve identified an exceptional opportunity? And can you grab that opportunity? NFX (11 minutes)

Pricing and Psychology

Pricing is one of the most powerful yet under-appreciated levers in business. Good pricing has the power to increase Customer Lifetime Value, make unprofitable businesses thrive and completely change Brand perception. Done poorly, it can doom quality products to failure, tarnish reputations and really piss off customers. Customers are sensitive to even tiny changes in price, and the consequences impact a company’s survival. What a fun topic! This article looks at Pricing in the following ways: (1) Strategic Prices—How Pricing Tactics fit into your Strategy. (2) Psychology of Pricing—Tactics and Tricks that Companies use. (3) Case Studies of Successful Pricing—What works and who’s winning. Eric Jorgenson (25 minutes)

Career Skeptics

The modern understanding of a career in most knowledge work fields involves a non-trivial amount of sacrifice. You are expected to pay your dues, work your way up and ride out the rough patches. Endurance is key. If you stick it out long enough, there’s something great on the other side—primarily security. Even in jobs where management is less cynical and exploitative, the focus is always on the long term: It might suck now, but you’re building toward something. And that something—the resume at the end of your life—is a genuine measure of a person’s worth. What the career skeptics are asking is a simple question: What if all that reasoning and endurance language is bullshit? What if, instead of working toward something for decades and barely tolerating the day-to-day process, we created a different value system around labor? What if we built our working lives around a concept other than endurance and submission? What if work didn’t make you feel awful? What would life be like if we didn’t live to work? What do workers and employers actually owe each other? What if we structured our work lives around a different idea of success? It’s not a full-scale rejection of capitalism (though it can be that) or a call to burn down the system altogether. Those questioning their careers are simply daring to imagine what a better, more equitable future of work might look like. Galaxy Brain (11 minutes)

Robots Reproduce

The US scientists who created the first living robots say the life forms, known as xenobots, can now reproduce—and in a way not seen in plants and animals. Formed from the stem cells of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from which it takes its name, xenobots are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide. The tiny blobs were first unveiled in 2020 after experiments showed that they could move, work together in groups and self-heal. Now the scientists that developed them at the University of Vermont, Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering said they have discovered an entirely new form of biological reproduction different from any animal or plant known to science. CNN (6 minutes)

52 Things

Tom Whitwell wrote a cool post covering 52 things he’s learned this year. Here are a few of my favorites: (1) Every day, one million people upload pictures of their coffee grinds to the Turkish app Faladdin and get a personalized fortune reading back in 15 minutes. (2) Women’s relative earnings increase 4% when their manager becomes the father of a daughter, rather than a son. This daughter effect was found in 25 years of Danish small-business data. (3) The notion of a personal “Carbon Footprint” was invented by Ogilvy & Mather for BP in the early 2000s. (4) Your memory resets when you walk through a door, even when that door is on a screen. Flux (6 minutes)

The Sun

Enjoy this mesmerizing video from NASA of the Sun in 4K. YouTube (30 minutes)

Bookshelf

The Warburgs by Ron Chernow. Bankers, philanthropists, scholars, socialites, artists and politicians, the Warburgs stood at the pinnacle of German (and, later, German American) Jewry. They forged economic dynasties, built mansions and estates, assembled libraries, endowed charities, and advised a German kaiser and two American presidents. But their very success made the Warburgs lightning rods for anti-Semitism, and their sense of patriotism became increasingly dangerous in Germany after it declared Jews as the enemy. Ron Chernow’s hugely fascinating history is a group portrait of a clan whose members were renowned for their brilliance, culture and personal energy yet tragically vulnerable to the dark and irrational currents of the 20th century. Buy Now

Most Read Last Week

Charlot’s Story—This is the story of an amazing woman founder in Kenya.

Normie’s Guide to Crypto—This is one of the best introduction articles to crypto I’ve ever seen.

Bitcoin City—El Salvador’s president recently announced plans to build a new Bitcoin City at the base of the Conchagua volcano in El Salvador’s southeastern La Unión region. 

About the Weekend Briefing

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

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

Progress in thinking is progress toward simplicity.Siegmund Warburg

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