Weekend Briefing No. 56

Welcome to the weekend. This week China cut interest rates again, Russians mourned assassinated politician Boris Nemtsov, Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the US Congress, Airbnb is seeking a $20 billion valuation and NASA visits a new planet.


On a more personal note, I had a little Q&A profile in The Venture, where I weighed in on good advice, my pet peeves, how I start my day and how I would do things differently if I had to start over. Check out the interview here. Additionally, there are a few tickets left for our 3/9 conversation on entrepreneurship and philanthropy with the Center for City Renewal, get your tickets here.


And, of course, it’s the beginning of the month, which means that I’ve created another playlist (rdio & spotify) for you. I hope these tunes can take you into Spring with a spring in your step.








Etsy is going public. Etsy, a B Corp certified online marketplace for handcrafted goods based in my neighborhood DUMBO, just filed for its IPO. It will be listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ETSY. After reading through its S-1, there were a couple of key takeaways. First of all, Etsy is big (in size and dollars). In 2014, there were 54.0 million connected members, including 1.4 million active sellers and 19.8 million active buyers, in nearly every country in the world. In 2014, $1.93 billion was transacted on their platform, generating $195.6 million in revenue, up 56.4% over 2013. But what was more interesting is how prominent their values featured in the SEC filing. “We are a mindful, transparent and humane business.  We believe that business interests and social and environmental responsibility are interwoven and aligned and that the power of business should be used to strengthen communities and empower people. We plan and build for the long term.  We want to build a company that lasts, and we plan to measure our success in years and decades.” Learn more about how Etsy’s went from a concept in Brooklyn apartment to an IPO in my book Profit & Purpose.



Best practices of kidnapping in Nigeria. Someone is kidnapped every day in Nigeria. It’s big business, with potentially big rewards in ransom money. And like any business, kidnapping has a particular set of principles and best practices. One management consultant analyzed the kidnapping industry, in order to understand how it works, find its weak points and better protect the people he loved. It turns out that accepting the first ransom offer is never a good idea. Found out more tricks of the trade and how you should react if your loved one is kidnapped in this Planet Money podcast.



Why would Amazon ship your goods if it could 3D print them? Amazon has been experimenting with new shipping methods lately, but one day soon it might not have to worry about sending items at all. Instead, it may 3D print them on the curbs outside customers’ homes instead. The e-commerce giant has filed several patent applications for a system that could print goods on-demand in “mobile manufacturing hubs” — trucks outfitted with 3D printers that could rapidly produce and deliver items on their travels. Learn more in this The Verge article.



The plot to free North Korea with smuggled episodes of Friends. Kang Chol-hwan believes that the Kim dynasty’s three-generation stranglehold on the North Korean people will ultimately be broken not by drone strikes or caravans of Humvees but by a gradual, guerrilla invasion of thumb drives filled with bootleg episodes of Friends and Judd Apatow comedies. Kang likens the USB sticks to the red pill from The Matrix: a mind-altering treatment that has the power to shatter a world of illusions. It cancels out everything they’ve been told. And when that happens, it starts a revolution in their mind. Could this wildly ambitious plan work? Read this Wired article to find out.



What is the long-term impact of microfinance? This policy brief on microfinance is a summary of seven randomized control trials on four continents, from the research organization Innovations for Poverty Action and the Poverty Action Lab. Some key findings are: (1) Only about one in four or five households wanted a small loan. (2) Some of them used the money to grow their very small businesses, but this rarely led to higher profits. (3) None of the seven studies found a significant impact on household income. (4) And there’s no evidence it empowered women or led more children to go to school. But the loans give a little freedom. People make the same money as before, but in different activities that they chose. Learn more in this Washington Post article.





The Smithsonian bans selfie sticks. Visitors now have to take selfies the old-fashioned way.



If you’ve lost something in Switzerland, this guy has it. Roland Widmer buys in bulk the lost items from buses, trains, and airports.



“Buy-and-hold” investing really works. A fund that hasn’t changed its stock picks since 1935 is outperforming its peers.



One-night stands lead to better marriages. Surprisingly, Casual hookups are often a gateway to long-term, committed partnerships according to the stats.






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.


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.




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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