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Weekend Briefing No. 172
Welcome to Memorial Day Weekend! I hope you’re getting outside this weekend and doing something fun.
$93 Billion – The Japanese telecom giant revealed that its VisionFund has closed an initial commitment of $93 billion from a bevy of high profile backers. They include Apple, Qualcomm, UAE-based Mubadala Investment Company, Saudi Arabia’s PID public fund, Foxconn, and Foxconn-owned Sharp. The plan is for the fund to reach its $100 billion target within the next six months through commitments from other investors.
64g – The world’s lightest satellite weighing only 64 grams will be launched into space on a NASA shuttle in June. It was created by an 18 year old Indian student.
50% – This week CDC published preliminary results of 2016 National Health Interview Survey. For the first time, more than half of Americans reported that they got the recommended amount of leisurely physical activity.
Method is a billion-dollar business now, but it didn’t start that way. This story I wrote after interviewing the founder. It is a behind the scenes look at the chaos of an early stage startup that almost failed a dozen times, but somehow survived. It’s a story of how the founders were going door-to-door, calling on independently owned grocery stores, just showing up early in the morning and giving a 30-second pitch. How they hand-delivered the inventory to the stores out of the back of their car. And how things were so desperate that when they got into a car accident, they considered it a stroke of luck. They had just $16 left in the bank at the time, and the insurance payout allowed them to cover rent and food for a few months. How they were rejected from every venture capital firm they approached, but a gambling company in Las Vegas saved them with a bridge loan. How a beautifully shaped bottle got them in the door at Target, how they almost lost it, but an internal champion fought for to keep them on the shelves. Read this story in Westaway Review (16 minutes).
And as a special treat for you, download a free copy of the third chapter of my book Profit & Purpose called Build With Hustle.
Bill Gates’ Summer Reading List
Bill Gates jut released his summer reading list, can’t wait to dig in. Here are a few of my favorite. (1) Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah - Comedian and Daily Show host Trevor Noah recalls his childhood as the product of a criminal act between a white man and a black woman in apartheid South Africa. (2) Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance - The surprise US literary hit of 2016 was the Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir about growing up poor and white in the Rust Belt and ending up at an elite east-coast law school. (3) Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari - The author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which Gates recommended last summer, has a new book that explores what’s next for humans now that they’ve radically altered the rules of life on Earth. See the whole list at Quartz (3 minutes).
Class of 2017
After years of elevated unemployment and depressed wages, young graduates’ economic prospects have finally begun to brighten. Members of the Class of 2017 have better job prospects than their peers who graduated in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Unemployment rates for young high school and young college graduates have returned to within one percentage point of their pre-recession levels and wages are continuing to slowly recover. While young high school graduates on average are still paid less than they were in 2007 (adjusted for inflation), the average wages of young college graduates have finally surpassed the 2007 level. Relative to the full employment economy of the late 1990s and 2000, the shares of young graduates who are unemployed and underemployed, and generally “idled” by the economy (neither working nor in school), are still quite high. And economic growth has not yet reached all corners of the labor market. Learn more at Economic Policy Institute (6 minutes).
Apartment Building or Vending Machine?
Inspired by the popularity of vending machines in Japan, a new skyscraper concept offers prospective homeowners the facility to customize and manufacture a modular home, which is then slotted into a high-rise framework. Customers would be able to choose from an array of ready-to-use housing pods to design their home, based on their needs. The home would then be manufactured on-site by a pod printer installed above the the building. Once printed, the pods are plugged into spaces in the structure below by crane arms attached to the skyscraper. The futuristic building concept has been designed to adapt to the needs of its inhabitants over time, rather than remaining a static structure. Modules stored within the building could be moved, regrouped, modified and recycled, preventing waste and ensuring that space is used efficiently. Learn more and watch a video at Dezeen (2 minutes).
Blockchain & Developing Economies
Blockchain has drawn the attention of the economist Hernando de Soto, who has worked for decades on improving access to the formal economy for the world’s poor. He has commented that the reason poor people don’t have more access to the formal economy is twofold: (1) the record-keeping systems in their developing world countries are unreliable and (2) they won’t give up information about themselves and their transactions because they don’t trust the people they’d be giving it to (i.e., their own governments). “They don’t want to be vulnerable to something that can be used against them,” says de Soto. “And that’s what’s interesting about the tamper-proof blockchain — if you can get the right message about it out there, [people will see] that it’s worthwhile recording yourself.” Learn more at Harvard Business Review (7 minutes).
The Narrative Fallacy
The Narrative Fallacy is when we attribute a linear and discernible cause-and-effect chain to our knowledge of the past. We are inundated with so much sensory information that our brains must tell us stories to organize the information. Stories that point an arrow in the direction of Why are the ones that stick most deeply. Our need to look for cause-and-effect chains in anything we encounter is simply an extension of our inbuilt pattern recognition software. Once we understand our brain’s craving for narrative, we begin to see narratives every day, all the time, especially as we consume news. The key question we must ask ourselves is “Of the population of X subject to the same initial conditions, how many turned out similarly to Y? What hard-to-measure causes might have played a role?” Figure out what you know and what’s a guess, and become humble about your understanding of the past. Learn more at Farnam Street (12 minutes).
The Old-Fashioned Way
’m a 30-something single guy that’s been dating in New York for the last decade. My friends are often nostalgic for dating the “old-fashioned way” (before dating apps) when people would just meet in person and ask each other out on a date. Tom Greaves didn't want to meet his next date online. So, he challenged himself to meet strangers face-to-face. This video shows how hard that actually is to do in a post-Tinder world. Ultimately, it’s heartwarming tale of modern romance. Watch it on YouTube (6 minutes).
About the Weekend Briefing
Thanks for making the Weekend Briefing a part of your Saturday morning routine. Feel free to shoot me an email with any feedback, insights, tips or suggestions. If you like what you’re reading, I’d be honored if you share it with your friends. Have a restful and thoughtful weekend.