Weekend Briefing No. 55

Welcome to the weekend. This week Apple announced that it’s opening 2 data centers in Europe (both powered by 100% renewable energy), US dockworkers ended a 9-month long dispute, opening the free flow of goods from West Coast ports, Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline, news broke of a “black site” for Chicago PD interrogation and #thatdress took social media by storm (It’s white and gold by the way).

Also, if you happen to be in the New York area, you may be interested in an upcoming event I’m hosting on March 9th at 7:00 PM –  Renewing Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy. It’ll be an open discussion amongst peers  social innovation. We will also explore faith in the context of our entrepreneurship, and how the church can support the efforts of individuals working toward the common good on a large scale. Click here for tickets.





A job or a higher calling? Can a job be just a job anymore or do we need to find our higher purpose in our work? Firms from motorcycle manufacturers to accounting firms are touting how they “change the world”. The words “mission,” “higher purpose,” “change the world” or “changing the world” were mentioned on earnings calls, in investor meetings and industry conferences 3,243 times in 2014, up from 2,318 five years ago. The question is, how does the lofty rhetoric align with day-to-day activities? Only about one-third of individuals feel their work is a calling. Those who can connect their work to a higher purpose—whether they are a janitor or a banker—tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, put in longer hours and rack up fewer absences. But for the two-thirds who view their job as a paycheck or a necessary rung on the corporate ladder, campaigns around meaning can highlight the fact that those workers don’t derive deep meaning from work. Learn more in this Wall Street Journal article. Thanks to Brooke Hames for sending this my way.


Y-Combinator-backed company is bringing solar to Mexico.  “The third world pays the most for electricity. Mexico has the most potential to be disrupted because it’s really sunny there,” according to Jonah Greenberger, the 28-year-old founder of Y Combinator-backed solar power startup Bright, who left his job at Chevron to work on lowering exorbitant energy costs for the people of Mexico. The electric system in Mexico is both expensive and complicated. Fees can get up to over $4,000 USD in the hot month of August. Solar energy could lower power bills by 20 to 50 percent per household. It works by installing the panels for free and then providing a subscription service similar to what we do here for cable television. Private investors purchase the solar panels and front the installation costs. The investors then lease the use of the panels to the homeowner. The investor makes their money back on the power generated from the panels. Learn more in this TechCrunch article.


Buying sustainable at Wal-Mart. It may surprise you to know that Wal-Mart is taking a lead in ensuring that mainstream consumers have access to sustainable products. I saw this myself when I attended their Sustainability Expo last year. This week the world’s largest retailer took a major and important step toward helping all of us shop more smartly. Walmart’s e-commerce site is now labeling 3,000 products, made by more than 100 companies, with a badge that reads “Made by a Sustainability Leader.” For the first time, a major retailer is giving prominent shelf space — albeit virtual — to companies operating in a better way. Learn more about this badge in this Harvard Business Review article.


Vertical farming in Wyoming. Vertical Harvest, Jackson Hole start-up, recently broke ground on a new three-story stack of greenhouses that will be the world’s first vertical farm. Inside, the plants move throughout each greenhouse floor on a conveyor belt that the founders compare to a moving rack at a dry cleaner. As they rotate, each plant gets an equal amount of time in natural light on the south side of the building; saving energy in artificial lighting. In a year, the greenhouse should be able to crank out over 37,000 pounds of greens, 4,400 pounds of herbs, and 44,000 pounds of tomatoes. The startup plans to employ workers with developmental disabilities who have few local options for a job. Dig deeper (or should I say higher) in this Fast Company article.


The state of global access to the internet. Internet.org released a report this week on the state of connectivity around the world. 3 billion people are online globally, but 40% of people on earth have never connected to the internet. Unsurprisingly, the unconnected are disproportionately located in developing countries — 78% of the population in the developed world is online compared to just 32% in emerging economies. Moreover, adoption of the internet is slowing, at present rates of decelerating growth, it won’t reach 4 billion people until 2019. In order for the entire world to connect to the internet, we will have to address the three barriers to access: Infrastructure, Affordability, and Relevance. Read the report: The State of Global Connectivity.




Reddit tricked Google. Users got Google’s algorithm to show a picture of a potato when people searched for “gaming console.”


The Vatican wants priests to go to B-school. Pope Francis is trying to close a budget shortfall and clean up the church’s finances.


A love letter to a sewage plant. Anne Quito went on a Valentine’s Day tour of a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility in Brooklyn, New York and fell in love with it. What’s not to adore? It has award-winning design, offers great views, doesn’t smell all that bad, and is part of an exciting new environmental initiative.





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 of innovation – 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.


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.



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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