Weekend Briefing No. 68

Welcome to the weekend.  This week Ireland voted to legalize gay marriage,
becoming the first nation to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, the CEO of Axact (the company running a diploma mill I featured last week) was arrested on charged with fraud, forgery and illegal electronic money transfers, The Chinese army is shifting its focus to “open seas protection,” citing a growing number of neighboring countries with an “illegal presence” on China’s reefs and islands, Swiss authorities arrested several FIFA officials at a five-star hotel in Zurich as part of an investigation into alleged widespread corruption, and Google’s annual I/O conference kicks off in San Francisco.
 

WEEKEND BRIEFING

 

Internet & tech trends. Mary Meeker is the oracle of the internet, and once a year she gives us an incredibly valuable data dump on what’s happening in the internet and tech. Here are some key insights: Internet and smartphone use continues to grow, but at a slowing pace. In 2014, there were 2.8B internet users, +8%, in 2013 +10%, in 2012 +11%. In 2014, there were 2.1B smartphone subscribers, +23%, in 2013 +27%, in 2012 +65%. We like to talk to each other. 8 out of the top 10 apps used globally are messaging apps. Reputation matters as the sharing economy grows. In the last 12 months, there have been 14MM new reviews on airbnb. Not surprisingly, Millennials love their smartphones. 87% say their smartphone never leaves their side, for 80% the first thing they do when they wake up is check their smartphone, 76% post pictures / videos to social media at least once a day. Drones are just lifting off, as they are starting to be used in agriculture, infrastructure, mining and disaster relief. 1.5MM units shipped in 2014, and that’s expected to exponentially increase by 167% to 4.3MM units in 2015. See the full (197 slide) report at the Kleiner Perkins site.

Awe is the ultimate “collective” emotion, for it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good. Through many activities that give us goose bumps — collective rituals, celebration, music and dance, religious gatherings and worship — awe might help shift our focus from our narrow self-interest to the interests of the group to which we belong. Awe seems to imbues people with a different sense of themselves, one that is smaller, more humble and part of something larger – even brief experiences of awe, such as being amid beautiful tall trees, lead people to feel less narcissistic or entitled and more attuned to the common humanity people share with one another. Read more in this New York Times article.

Leslie’s Law, simply stated is: when small meets large, small almost always wins. When a sleek, small player enters the market, it does so by creating a low-friction, high-fit and a finished product that is sold at a low price to a large market. These new products are sold to a portion of the market that cannot access the larger products due to the cost of entry (in dollars and complexity) and the cost of ownership. The larger company may not even notice that they have entered the market since there are no mano-A-mano customer confrontations. Inevitably, by the time the threat becomes compelling, it’s too late. The small company has taken root, developing the advantages of a lower-cost structure with a simpler, lower-friction product. As a startup then, your objective should be to build something truly great for the low end of the marketplace, solving an important problem with a simple, low-friction product in a segment of the market that’s underserved by the incumbents. Read this First Round Review article for more insights.

Basic income movement. If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for life. What if you build a robot to fish, do all men starve, or do all men eat? One scenario is that we are currently at peak employment and that future is a world where everything is created efficiently and cheaply by robots, resulting in an 80% unemployment rate. Allegedly this will bring the cost of goods / services to near zero, so the cost of living will dramatically drop. But we’ll still need some money to survive. So how do we get that? One radical solution is the basic income movement, which promotes the distribution of an income to all citizens that they can live on – say $1,000 / month. Learn more about it in this Atlantic article.

Patagonia’s growth paradox. Ironically, when Patagonia launched it’s now famous advertisement “Don’t Buy This Jacket” on Black Friday 2011, it sold out of the jacket. Patagonia sees unabated growth, driven by indiscriminate consumption as the greatest threat to the environment. They are explicitly instructing their consumers buy less but better products, hold on to them for a long time and repair or recycle them as needed. Since those are the kinds of products Patagonia is striving to make, and the kinds of relationships to products that Patagonia is trying to foster, then is their impressive expansion of market share a good thing or a bad thing? Is it a reflection of an increase in conscious consumption, or just more yuppies buying stuff they don’t need? It’s quite possible that Patagonia’s philosophy has attracted many shoppers to the brand without deeply affecting their buying habits, as suggested by the way that “Don’t Buy This Jacket” translated, for many, into “Buy This Jacket”. Read more in this New Yorker article.

 

THINGS I LIKE

 
Apple’s chief designer, Jony Ive, has 5,000 patents to his name. That’s more than twice as many as Thomas Edison.

What happens when a woman loses her hair due to chemotherapy? For the nine smart, spirited, and deeply stylish women in this Vogue.com portfolio, hair loss arrived as the result of an unexpected health diagnosis. As their worlds began to change, they started experimenting. Thanks to Kenton Jacobsen for sharing this powerful piece.

 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

 
Dreams are the touchstones of our character. – Henry David Thoreau

 

ABOUT THE WEEKEND BRIEFING

 
The Weekend Briefing is a selection of this week’s top stories on innovation and society, curated by Kyle Westaway – author of Profit & Purpose and Managing Partner of Westaway Law. I consider it a privilege to be a part of your weekend routine. Thanks.

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