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Weekend Briefing No. 106
Weekend Briefing No. 106 | African Resilience, Silicon Valley & Wealth Inequality, Moonshots, Funding Environment, EdTech Investment
Welcome to the weekend.
This week Apple refused a court order to hack an iPhone. A judge ordered the phone maker to assist the FBI in unlocking the handset belonging to the terrorist who killed 14 people in a San Bernadino, California last year. Apple said building a back door is both “dangerous” and represents government “overreach.”
Venezuela took drastic measures to support its economy. The oil-producing nation increased the price of fuel by over 6,000%, and devalued its currency to 10 bolivars to the dollar, from 6.3 bolivars previously. Almost all of Venezuela’s foreign income comes from oil sales.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s most and least resilient economies. Resilience is tied to a country’s ability to maintain economic and political stability despite external shocks due to stronger fundamentals, internal buffers, and self-sufficiency. Relatively mature democracies including Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa rank highly as a result of their comparatively sound political environments and strong human capital. Surprisingly, even though oil prices are low, Nigeria emerges as resilient because its economy is far more diversified than commonly assumed. See the full list in Harvard Business Review.
Silicon Valley & wealth inequality. For the most part, the Valley simultaneously propels us into the future with wildly innovative products, while keeping financial flows and economic structures locked in the Gilded Age. It is a place of visions where imaginations let loose. Surely, the ultimate and most creative challenge for any driven and intellectually curious person alive today is to improve life not just for themselves, or the people they rely on for their success, but for everyone. Tackle this, and you can still ride the wave of exploding ROI while helping transcend the old economy with all its inequities and inequalities. Read more at Fast Company.
The secret to moonshots? Kill projects. “What happens if I fail?” Will people laugh at me? Will I get fired? The only way to get people to tackle audacious ideas AND get them to run at the hardest parts of the problem first is if doing that is the path of least resistance. At Google X, they killed over 100 investigations last year alone. Teams kill their ideas as soon as the evidence is on the table because they’re rewarded for it. They get applause from their peers. Hugs and high fives from their manager. They get promoted because of it. Learn more at Backchannel.
The current funding environment. When prices are dropping on a VCs existing companies in market, there is a substantial reduction in FOMO (fear of missing out) for new deals. This means that investors take their time in making investment decisions. So… 1) If you raised money in the past 2 years and have grown it is possible that your next round valuation might be flat. 2) The smartest companies in the market that I know are working aggressively to lower burn rates through pragmatic cost cutting knowing that the next fund-raising cycle may be unpleasant. This prudence is smart and welcomed. Learn more from Mark Suster.
Advice for edtech investors. There’s a good deal of capital flowing into edtech ($1.86 B last year), but is it actually creating an impact with students? Bridgespan has some advice: 1) Determine whether impact is a priority for the company and whether there’s credible evidence. 2) Look for systems of feedback that inform ongoing improvement. 3) Understand where educator insight and expertise informs the product. 4) Ask how the product is integrated into the classroom and school. Learn more at EdSurge.
THINGS I LIKE
37% is the magic number. To have the highest chance of picking the very best suitor, you should date and reject the first 37 percent of your total group of lifetime suitors. Then you follow a simple rule: You pick the next person who is better than anyone you’ve ever dated before.
The road to the top of the world. A remote town in the Arctic Circle known for caribou, northern lights, and frigid winters feels like Canada’s last frontier. A highway being built there could change all that.
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