Weekend Briefing No. 95

Welcome to the weekend. This week, the Paris climate conference kicks off. The COP21 summit, involving nearly 200 nations, is intended to produce a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions and limit temperature change. We spent more than $3 billion on Cyber Monday, and 26% of that was spent via a mobile device. Americans used to go shopping. Now, we shop on the go. China pledged $60 billion for African development. President Xi Jinping presented a 10-point development plan for the countries involved with the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, hosted in Johannesburg.


Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. You may have heard this week that Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan are giving away 99% of their Facebook stock, currently valued at $45 billion, which is larger than the Gates Foundation, valued at $41 billion. But Zuckerberg’s going about it differently: rather than setting up a foundation, he’s setting up an LLC to invest in initiatives that will have an impact from education to internet access. Some in the press have criticized him for this move, but I think it shows his commitment to impact, not tax breaks. As a lawyer for social entrepreneurs, this gets me excited because this is what I would have advised him to do. The LLC gives you so much more flexibility to deploy capital however you think can create the most impact, from investing to lobbying without the restrictions of a foundation. Learn more at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

#GivingTuesday. Giving Tuesday, the first Tuesday of December that is focused on giving to charity, is only in its 4th year, but is growing rapidly. Calculations, so far, by The NonProfit Times put overall giving at $117 million at least, up from $47 million last year and $32 million in 2013. And businesses are getting into the game too. My friends at Proper Assembly are giving 100% of their profits for the entire month of December to The Adventure Project. And my friends at Leesa, who have already given 322 mattresses to The Bowery Mission, have partnered with iheartradio to raise $150,000 for them this month.

Giving & God. Amid all the highly publicized billion-dollar gifts and one-day giving campaigns, one thing remains pretty constant: The middle classes continue to give relatively more money to charity than do the uber-rich, and many of them give at churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. We’d be remiss to ignore the mechanics of everyday people’s giving. And as far as that goes, there may be no vehicle more useful than religious ones. Learn more at OZY.

Smartphone apps assess creditworthiness at the bottom of the pyramid. By installing apps on their smartphones, users in the developing world grant access to any information that may help assess their creditworthiness—from the content of their texts and emails, to the duration and volume of their calls. My friend Shivani Siroya’s company, InVenture, for instance, found that users who wait until after 10 p.m. to make calls—when rates are lower—are lower-risk borrowers. Somewhat counterintuitively, another company, Branch, found that users who are known gamblers—something the app would find out by scanning messages or payments to a gambling company—are more likely to repay a loan than nongamblers. Learn more in The Wall Street Journal. Thanks to Todd Riffey for sharing this with me.

2015 State of Startups. First Round Review surveyed over 500 founders of venture-backed companies. Here are three insights: 1.) It won’t get easier to raise funding. 95% of Series Seed founders, 97% of Series A founders, and a whopping 99% of late-stage founders say it’s going to remain the same or get harder to raise capital. 2.) Hiring the right people and revenue growth top the list of founder concerns. Also fascinating: Building the right culture to keep this talent happy and effective is a bigger concern than raising money or losing customers. 3.) Bitcoin is overhyped while autonomous vehicles are underhyped. It appears that founders think that almost everything is overhyped today — with wearables and Bitcoin topping the list. The only underhyped technologies are mobile and autonomous vehicles. It’s surprising that smartphones have been around for over 8 years, yet founders still see them as the most underhyped opportunity. See the other 7 insights from the survey at First Round Review.


The Cold War. One sunny day in the summer of 2009, a minivan plastered with ice cream stickers rolled up on a three-wheeled truckster topped with a large plastic vanilla ice cream cone. That moment launched a turf war, a stand-off between childhood dreams and free market principles. Listen at Radiolab.


Parents: your absurdly high expectations are harming your children. Studies have shown that high parental expectations are associated with high academic achievement, but setting expectations too high is counterproductive, new research shows.

Bill Murray, the secular saint. His spontaneous way of moving through the world has given him an air of authenticity and independence, and a Garbo-like mystique. From reading poetry to construction workers, to joining random kickball games. He has achieved saint-like status.


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.