Weekend Briefing No. 54

Welcome to the weekend. Today I’m writing you from beautiful Montreal. Do you ever long to get some space to create – a solid block of time to think and be creative? I needed that this weekend, and I love the idea of writing on a train. So, on a whim I decided to take a long train ride to Montreal. The trip is part creative retreat, part solo urban exploration, and I’m loving it. You should definitely find the opportunity to find your own creative retreat this winter if you can.


For the last two weeks, I opened up a survey in an effort to try to get to know you better. Thank you so much to those who participated, the response was overwhelming. Many of you requested that I share the results, here are some of the highlights.


As a group, you are really smart (89% with a Bachelor’s degree or higher, and 53% with a Master’s degree or higher). Most of you are between the ages of 25 and 44 (76%). The most popular topics you are interested in are (in order of popularity): developing markets, disruptive technology, funding, books, culture, management, nonprofits and social impact. Personally, the coolest finding for me is that you seem to like the content enough to share it with your friends (78% are highly likely to recommend the Weekend Briefing to a friend and 85% found out about it from a friend), which is a huge honor…. So thanks for sharing.




10 breakthrough technologies of 2015. The editors of MIT Technology Review put together a list of this year’s most impactful advances in technology from fast DNA sequencing to internet in balloons to 3D imagery. Take a deep dive into the entire list here.


50 most important technologies for sustainable development. After years of research, the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies created a comprehensive (648 page) report on one of the most essential technologies for the developing world. The report focuses on a number of categories including: global health, food security, human rights, education, water, digital inclusion, gender equality and other key areas. Some of the technologies highlighted are electronic textbooks that adapt to user’s skills and language ability as well as cheap, fast mini-grids that could provide energy to rural areas. One technology that made both the MIT Technology Review list and this list was a low cost, fuel-free way to desalinate water. Learn more about these technologies at NPR.


Tesla’s solar battery might kill local utilities. One of the biggest technical challenge of home and commercial solar adoption is the ability to store power and use it when you need it, which may not always align with the sun. So, when Elon Musk made an offhand comment that they are producing a home battery in Tesla’s Gigafactory, that was big news. In a typical home, the battery packs can power homes for about two days. Apparently their partner SolarCity has already begun installing Tesla batteries on commercial buildings like Wal-Mart stores, shaving 20-30 percent off their energy bills. If these results are able to scale, we may have a future where the utility monopolies are in competition with their customers as they become grid-independent, prompting what the industry calls “the utility death spiral.” Learn more in this Verge article. Thanks to my dad Barry Westaway for sending this my way.


White House Names Nation’s First Chief Data Scientist. Big data, meet the federal government. Federal government, meet big data. This week the White House appointed Dr. DJ Patil, an engineer and entrepreneur who helped create Silicon Valley’s first data science team at LinkedIn in the mid-2000s. In his new role he will be assigned to discover lucrative insights for increasingly large volumes of data in the federal government. One can only hope this will lead to smarter policies. Learn more in this WSJ article. Thanks to my sister Karoline Westaway for sending this my way.


Getting your passion project off the ground without quitting your day job. You’ve finally figured out what you want to do with your life — start a company, launch a website, design an app, or found a nonprofit. The only problem is that you can’t afford to quit your job (and lose your benefits) in order to pursue it full time. So, where should you start? What’s the best way to get your passion project moving? And how can you tell when you’re ready to strike out on your own? Read this Harvard Business Review article to learn what the experts say.




Story Corp interview with Chapel Hill shooting victim is absolutely gutting. Listen here.


Driverless cars could own themselves. After a “birth loan” they could eventually become financially autonomous.


Japan loves flip-phones. Smartphone sales are falling and outmoded “dumbphones” are making a comeback.


Save the bros. This is the most brilliant / hilarious ad campaigns I’ve seen in a while encouraging us all to act now to prevent bro colony collapse. Save the bros here.




Most clear picture ever taken of space. NASA has released its largest, most detailed image of space ever. Taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, it captures the Andromeda Galaxy, one of our nearest galactic neighbors at a mere 2.5 million light years away.


Impact investing. Impact investing – investing with the expectation of creating both profit and purpose – is starting to take root in the mainstream. One only needs to open up David Brooks’ New York Times column on Tuesday to see evidence of this. I’d highly recommend this piece if you are trying to understand what the buzz is all about. He delivers a balanced view of the asset class.


Is Silicon Valley focused on trivial problems? Silicon Valley used to think big—the integrated circuit, personal computers, the Internet. Are we really leveraging all that intellectual power and creativity to invent Instagram and dating apps? Is this truly going to change the world? Could the next generation ofinnovation – internet of things, autonomous vehicles & drones – have a greater positive impact on the world? Maybe. Maybe not. According to Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, those challenges don’t mesh with Valley VCs’ expectations that companies start quickly, with low capital costs, and have the potential to scale up tremendously. “There’s a lot of things that we aren’t good at here.” Learn more in this MIT Technology Review article.


Most innovative companies of 2015. Fast Company just released the Most Innovative Companies of 2015. For the second year in a row, a client and friend of mine was on the cover; a big congrats to Neil Blumenthal and Warby Parker. I love to see companies that are blending profit & purpose continue to succeed. Once, the B Corporation certification was viewed by hard-core business­people as a laudable (or laugh­able) designation. Not anymore. Now, high-growth, socially conscious companies such as InVenture (No. 13), Revolution Foods (No. 39), and Kickstarter prove that B Corporations can be A-list. You may also be interested in the Most Innovative Companies in Africa or 20 lessons of innovation for 2015.




The Weekend Briefing is a selection of the best stories from around the web about innovation and society curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway & Co.

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