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Weekend Briefing No. 196
Welcome to the weekend. I’ve just touched down at JFK and I must say… I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed tonight after 5 weeks on the road.
The last stop on my trip was Hong Kong. I kind of fell in love with the city. It’s incredibly fast-paced, innovative and global. It also has a burgeoning social enterprise scene. I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to Rebecca Yung and KK for inviting me to keynote the closing session of the Social Enterprise Summit. I learned a lot during the summit and was very impressed by the vision that Mrs. Carrie Lam and Mr. Matthew Cheung (basically, the President and VP of Hong Kong) have for growing social entrepreneurship in Hong Kong.
1,000,000,000,000 – With a current market value of nearly $900 billion, suddenly, $1 trillion seems to be within reach for Apple. The company has had year-over-year quarterly revenue growth of 12%, a staggering growth rate for a company Apple’s size. Last quarter’s sales totaled $52.6 billion.
1,000,000,000,000 –As of the end of Q2 2017, UBS had $1 trillion of assets (roughly 1/3 of their asset base) in sustainable or impact investments as the global firm has made a major push in this space. This seems like a big number. I am curious how they are defining “sustainable or impact investing.”
500,000,000 – The Hong Kong Jockey Club, I learned this week, is not only a race track, but a massive philanthropy. It has the exclusive license on horse racing and gambling in Hong Kong and puts all those profits to charity, with an annual spend of $500 MM (USD).
Google & China
Google pulled its search engine and many other services from the mainland in 2010 over government censorship. In the years since, Google has explored several paths for re-entry, including activating its mobile app store there, with little success. China has become the biggest market for smartphones running Google’s Android software, but without Google services. Rather than another splashy product launch, Google’s latest China strategy is a grassroots effort focused on getting developers in the country trained and hooked on its AI building blocks. More than seven years after exiting China, Google is taking the boldest steps yet to come back. And it’s not with a search engine. The internet giant is actively promoting TensorFlow, software that makes it easier to build AI systems. At the same time, Google parent Alphabet Inc. is adding more personnel to scour Chinese companies for potential AI investments. This aligns the goals of the Chinese government, which plans to be the world leader in AI, and Google, which plans to be an “AI-first company.” Bloomberg (7 minutes)
Confucius & Africa
China is driving the largest language and culture-promoting initiative the world has ever seen. The Confucius Institutes (CI) are a vital ingredient in China’s global soft power campaign. Since the first CI was set up in Seoul 13 years ago, 516 of these language and culture centers have opened in 142 countries and regions, over 40 of them in Africa. While Beijing’s language and culture drive has provoked suspicion and controversy in the US, it is steadily winning hearts and minds on the continent, where brand new CI buildings often stand in contrast to crumbling campuses. If there’s one part of the world where CIs have the potential to shape public opinion, it’s Africa. The CIs, hosted in universities, and the Confucius Classrooms that are hosted in primary and secondary schools, are cementing the foundations for Africa’s future relationship with China. Quartz Africa (7 minutes)
Innovation & Inequality
Three decades ago, San Francisco was a mostly middle-class city. On a map of inequality at the time, most neighborhoods show up as either middle-income or low-income. By 2010, the city had become a hub for tech innovation, and incredibly economically segregated. A recent study of how that happened in the city–and in cities around the country–blames a phenomenon it calls “innovation intensity.” Researchers looked at 2 million patents–all linked to specific U.S. metro areas–to understand the level of innovation in a city. Then they studied the relationship between that innovation and a city’s segregation by income, occupation, and educational level thus controlling factors such as changes in the economy and a lack of housing. The conclusion: A growth in high-tech innovation clearly causes a growth in inequality. Fast Company (4 minutes)
Blockchain & Social Good
It’s easy to get lost in the hype that blockchain can solve every problem. Here are some thoughts on how blockchain can make the world a better place: 1) Identity. In theory, Blockchain — combined with cryptography — will allow individuals to control their own identity and authenticate it using whatever information they want to reveal at whatever time they want to reveal it. This approach would disrupt incompetent government agencies and incompetent companies who currently are in the business of charging us fees to prove who we are. 2) Financial inclusion. Blockchain creates the possibility of total transparency in lending to any person, anywhere. Good news for the 2 billion unbanked on the planet. 3) Supply chains. More and more, people care about where and how products are made. Blockchain has the potential to verify claims about where products came from, what materials were used in their manufacturing, who made them and how. 4) Democracy. Blockchain is an unparalleled digital ledger and the nodes on its network can facilitate transactions across the system in a way that prevents voter fraud. Breathe (4 minutes)
Kids & Entrepreneurship
WeWork, not content to tackle just the office, apartment and gym, has now set out to create a kindergarten. As WeWork attempts to expand into every aspect of young professionals’ lives, they’re now determined to begin their takeover of an even younger crowd: elementary schoolers. The company’s education spinoff, “WeGrow,” will launch its first school in New York City in the fall of 2018 for kids ages 5-8. It all stems from Chief Brand Officer, Rebekah Neumann and her husband, CEO Adam Neumann’s frustration with the lack of school options for their kids in NYC. "In my book, there's no reason why children in elementary schools can't be launching their own businesses," Neumann said out loud to the press with a straight face. Not. A single. Reason. The Hustle (4 minutes)
Frontier markets performed well in the World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business index, nabbing seven of the top 10 spots on the “most improved” list. Africa was overrepresented, with Malawi, Zambia, Nigeria and Djibouti joining the top 10 most improved, alongside Kosovo, Uzbekistan and El Salvador. Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the progress was evidence of the effectiveness of the Buhari government’s reform efforts, but promised to continue improving the business environment. This is “by no means an excuse for us to slow down,” he said. Frontier markets are also well represented among the top ranks of the easiest countries in which to do business in absolute terms. Georgia, which according to the World Bank has implemented the highest number of business regulation reforms since the launch of the ranking in 2003, stands at number 9. World Bank (12 minutes)
We are at the beginning of a period of what renowned futurist Peter Diamandis calls rapid demonetization, in which technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper — or even free. While goods and services are becoming demonetized, knowledge is becoming increasingly valuable. Those who aren’t investing consistent time in learning are at risk of being stuck on the bottom rung of global competition. To shift our focus from being overly obsessed with money to a more savvy and realistic quest for knowledge, we need to stop thinking that we only acquire knowledge from 5 to 22 years old, and that then we can get a job and mentally coast through the rest of our lives if we work hard. To survive and thrive in this new era, we must constantly learn. Working hard is the industrial era approach to getting ahead. Learning hard is the knowledge economy equivalent. Observer (7 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.