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Weekend Briefing No. 303
Welcome to the weekend. Hello from New Zealand. I got married in October, so my wife and I are taking a month-long adventure in New Zealand. Each week, I’ll be sending out a dispatch in the Weekend Briefing. If you want to see beautiful photos of the New Zealand wilderness, feel free to follow me on Instagram. We’re so psyched for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!
113 B– $113bn of capital has been invested in European startups(an increase of 234%) in the last 5 years.
100MM – The number of $100m+ exits in Europe has doubled in the last 5 years.
99– In five years the number of $1bn+ unicorns in Europe has leapt from 22 to 99.
As shopping takes off for the holiday season, so do phony reviews—and pressure is mounting on major retailers to fight back. More than a third of online reviews on major websites, including those on Amazon, Walmart and Sephora, are fake, meaning they are generated by robots or people paid to write them. The problem has become so pervasive that the Federal Trade Commission has started cracking down on violators, and lawmakers are pressing Amazon to do a better job of policing reviews on its website. This month Apple Inc. pulled all product reviews and ratings from its online store without explanation.Wall Street Journal (8 minutes)
As evidence grows that eating less meat can help curb the effects of climate change, more and more Americans are preparing meat-free holiday meals for the first time. According to a Nielsen poll taken in December 2018, 61% of Americans are willing to reduce meat consumption to help offset livestock’s environmental impacts. Sales of plant-based meat replacements in the U.S. have grown 31% over the past two years, according to a report by the data-technology company, Spins, commissioned by plant-based-food interest organizations. TIME (6 minutes)
Although some African countries have made tremendous progress driving toward gender parity, in some areas, gender inequality remains high across the continent. Women account for more than 50 percent of Africa’s combined population, but in 2018 generated only 33 percent of the continent’s collective GDP. This reinforces and fuels inequality and compromises Africa’s long-term economic health. Overall, progress toward gender equality has stalled over the past four years. At the current rate of progress, it would take Africa more than 140 years to reach gender parity. McKinsey (18 minutes)
A US House of Representatives bill introduced last week would bar federal agencies from buying Chinese-made drones and drones with certain Chinese components. There's a companion bill in the Senate.The bills are driven by a worry that Beijing could harvest valuable data from drones flying sensitive missions for the U.S., their sponsors say. Last month the Department of the Interior grounded its 800+ drones — all made in China or with Chinese parts — pending review of their data security."Under Chinese espionage and national security laws, companies like DJI are required to turn over data to the Chinese government," Sen. Rick Scott (R–Fla.), who sponsored the Senate bill. "Why take the risk? There are American drone companies that we should be purchasing from."Axios (4 minutes)
The Manukai – a commercial vessel was navigating a waterway near Shanghai. On its screens, another ship was steaming up the same channel at about seven knots (eight miles per hour). Suddenly, the other ship disappeared from her display. A few minutes later, the screen showed the other ship back at the dock. Then it was in the channel and moving again, then back at the dock, then gone once more.Eventually, mystified, the captain picked up his binoculars and scanned the dockside. The other ship had been stationary at the dock the entire time. Her GPS was being spoofed. Nobody knows who is behind this spoofing, or what its ultimate purpose might be. These ships could be unwilling test subjects for a sophisticated electronic warfare system, or collateral damage in a conflict between environmental criminals and the Chinese state that has already claimed dozens of ships and lives. But one thing is for certain: there is an invisible electronic war over the future of navigation in Shanghai, and GPS is losing.MIT Technology Review (11 minutes)
Ambition in Marriage
Gloria Steinem famously quipped that some women “are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” Forty years later, Sheryl Sandberg argued that the most important decision a woman makes about her career is whom to marry. But neither Sandberg nor Steinem have said much about what men’s careers look like in this scenario. One recent study focused on ambition in a marriage. They found that couples often behave as though there is a set limit on the amount of ambition that can be contained within one union. Sometimes this limit is clearly articulated; sometimes it is unspoken, and the ambition can be distributed in different ways. Some couples consist of a high-achieving woman married to a man who has chosen to stay at home with the children, and sometimes it’s the reverse. Sometimes both members of the couple have careers that they’ve decided to scale back in order to be more available to children, or to pursue other passions like volunteering or hiking. It seems either consciously chose or happened into marriages that supported what feels like a finite cap on career ambition. The Atlantic (9 minutes)
A personal brand is a set of expectations around your skills, your behavior, your values and your worldview. It’s important to remember that consistency is the key component of a strong brand, not excellence. A strong business brand is one that delivers a consistent set of outcomes for the customer. A good business brand is one that allows the business to exercise pricing power. In the context of a career, a strong personal brand is a repetitively consistent portrayal of your personality, your conduct, your skills, and your worldview. A good personal brand translates to jobs and opportunities that you might not otherwise have access to. It is easier to build a personal brand by being impressive. This may take a long while, as is the case with most things in one's career. But reputation flows downhill from impressiveness. And brand building is relatively easy when compared to the grind of becoming impressive in the first place. Commonplace (11 minutes)
The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist. Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution -- the nation's original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America's later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in the prizewinning The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy.Told through intimate slave narratives, plantation records, newspapers, and the words of politicians, entrepreneurs, and escaped slaves, The Half Has Never Been Told offers a radical new interpretation of American history. Amazon
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Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.– Abraham Lincoln
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