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Weekend Briefing No. 367
Welcome to the weekend.
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$74 billion—Elon Musk’s SpaceX reportedly raised $850 million, launching its valuation to $74 billion.
~$51 billion—Last week, we learned that Microsoft reportedly tried to buy Pinterest, which is valued at ~$51 billion.
13.5 million—The Biden administration will ship out 13.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses per week, up from 11 million last week.
BlackRock & Climate
Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, released his annual letter using his firm’s huge influence to pressure companies to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Mr. Fink is now calling on all companies “to disclose a plan for how their business model will be compatible with a net-zero economy,” which he defines as limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial averages and eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “We expect you to disclose how this plan is incorporated into your long-term strategy and reviewed by your board of directors,” he wrote. When Mr. Fink makes what sounds like a request, in truth it is much more than that. BlackRock’s size gives it enormous influence: Mr. Fink can seek to oust directors of companies that he doesn’t believe are heeding his call, and he can dump the shares of companies owned by the firm’s actively managed funds. Last year, the firm voted against 69 companies and against 64 directors for climate-related reasons, while putting 191 companies “on watch.” These sorts of actions won’t sacrifice investment performance, Mr. Fink said. Sustainable funds outperformed the market last year, he noted, especially during the worst moments of the pandemic downturn. “The more your firms are seen to embrace the climate transition and the opportunities it brings, the more the market will reward your firms with higher valuations,” he wrote in the letter to C.E.O.s. New York Times (11 minutes)
Algebra of Wealth
If you are a young person (relative term) and you’re looking to build wealth, what should you do? Scott Galloway’s observation is that there are four factors in the algebra of wealth: focus, stoicism, time and diversification. You can read the rest in his article, but I want to focus on … well … focus. (1) Focus on your career positioning. Get certified: In a digital world, much of the corporate world decides whether to swipe right or left based on the logos (aspirational universities/firms, vocational certifications, etc.) on your LinkedIn page. Sector dynamics will trump your talent (I realize how awful that sounds). However, someone of average talent at Google has done better over the last decade than someone great at General Motors. Be thoughtful. Any opportunity you have when you are young to choose among different paths is a profound blessing. Look for the best wave to ride. (2) Focus on your relationships. Family and friends are essential to long-term happiness, and the most important relationship is your spouse. The most impactful economic decision you make will be who you decide to partner with or, more specifically, who you decide to have kids with. Married people grow their net worth 77 percent more than single people. Marry the right person, and then invest in that relationship every day. No Mercy No Malice (14 minutes)
North Dakota v. Big Tech
North Dakota’s senate is set to vote on Bill 2333, which will “stop Google and Apple from forcing companies in the state to hand over a share of their app sales.” The standard cut is 30% of sales. In 2020, the practice brought in a combined $33 billion for Apple and Google. Last year, Apple reduced its take to 15% for companies making less than $1 million. But it’s not just the commission at issue: Apple doesn’t allow apps to be downloaded outside of its app store (Google does). Ultimately, the bill is meant to attract companies to the state and help address the sheer dominance that Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems have across billions of smartphones. Other states are battling Big Tech. Georgia, Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin are looking at similar app-store legislation. New York is considering a bill that will make it easier to pursue antitrust cases against Big Tech. Florida proposed a bill on how social media firms moderate their platform’s content. Maryland just enacted a law that will tax online ads for companies making more than $100 million. The Hustle (5 minutes)
Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey and rapper Jay Z have created an endowment to fund bitcoin development initially in Africa and India, Dorsey said on Friday. The duo is putting 500 bitcoin, which is currently worth $23.6 million, in the endowment called ₿trust. The fund will be set up as a blind irrevocable trust, Dorsey said, adding that the duo won’t be giving any direction to the team. ₿trust is looking to hire three board members. The mission of the fund is to “make bitcoin the internet’s currency.” Africans that trade cryptocurrencies rely on them because they offer protection against currency devaluation and for value exchange during cross-border transactions. In Nigeria, bitcoin trading became ubiquitous last year during the #EndSARS protests that rocked the country. When donations for the protests began to flow from all parts of the country and in the diaspora, the Nigerian government shut down the bank accounts used for this effort. But bitcoin became a lifeline keeping the crowdfunding activities alive. Since then, there have been growing concerns that the Nigerian government had intentions to regulate cryptocurrency in the country. Last week, those doubts were actualized as the country’s apex bank gave a directive to banks and financial institutions from dealing in cryptocurrency or facilitating payments for cryptocurrency exchange platforms. TechCrunch (7 minutes)
Working from Home and Trust
Working from home (WFH) is eroding trust within companies for two reasons: (1) Predictability is the foundation of trust. We’re willing to be vulnerable—to expose ourselves to potential risk—when we have reason to believe that someone will not take advantage of us or disappoint us. This comes only when we think we can anticipate how others will behave. Two distinct kinds of trust are essential for people to work together effectively. First, they need to believe that others will deliver and that the work will be high quality (competence trust). Second, they need to believe that others have good intentions and high integrity (interpersonal trust). To trust colleagues in both of these ways, people need clear and easily discernible signals about them—what they’re doing (actions), why they’re doing it (motivations) and whether they’ll continue to do it (reliability). (2) The isolation of remote working may be tied to lower trust for another reason: We unconsciously interpret a lack of physical contact as a signal of untrustworthiness. In virtual work, misunderstandings and miscommunications abound. We therefore face a perfect storm of less information on which to establish trust, less reinforcing information to maintain it and more “trust infractions” to break it. Once trust is lost, it’s very hard to regain. There are a few steps that leaders should take—and ones they shouldn’t—to bring trust back to theirs and their employees’ relationships. Harvard Business Review (8 minutes)
There is a primary key to being contrarian, non-consensus, non-conformist, whatever you want to call it. A pure, child-like curiosity will take you off the beaten path to identify the best long-term strategies, not because you’re trying to be different, but because children at play have no choice but to wander. Make no mistake about it: A will to win is absolutely vital. However, in choosing to win at all costs, what you’re really doing is sacrificing the war to win a battle. So the need to win is still an essential trait, but it can’t be over a short-time horizon. It’s sort of like Amazon continually delaying profits. They’re a company designed to make money, yet have chosen to push back short-term net income in favor of a long-term view. If you extend this idea to its logical extreme, the optimal time horizon for greatness is “forever,” meaning you should let your passions and curiosities dictate your direction. Doing so has compounding advantages over optimizing for the present moment, and those advantages can be “cashed in” for wins at a later date. Just as Amazon and other great companies invest in innovation, you can achieve long-term greatness by investing time in following your curiosities—by wandering. As Jeff Bezos said, “Wandering in business is not efficient, but it’s also not random. It’s guided and powered by a deep conviction that the prize is big enough, that it’s worth it to be a little messy and tangential to find your way there. Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency. The outsized discoveries—the non-linear ones—are highly likely to require wandering.” Long-term greatness requires exposing yourself to short-term hurdles; if you’re truly exploring, most of the time you’re not going to be at a peak, but rather at a much lower point looking for something better. Lucky Maverick (21 minutes)
This Google Earth-type representation of the planet. Every green dot is a radio station. Click any dot to listen in. It’s like cultural teleportation. You could spend hours with this thing. radio.garden (15 minutes)
Foundation by Isaac Asmov. This is the first novel in Isaac Asimov’s classic science-fiction masterpiece, the Foundation series. For 12,000 years, the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. Only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—a dark age of ignorance, barbarism and warfare that will last 30,000 years. To preserve knowledge and save humanity, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He calls this sanctuary the Foundation. But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. And mankind’s last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: Submit to the barbarians and live as slaves—or take a stand for freedom and risk total destruction.
Most Read Last Week
10 Simple Questions—This Twitter thread by Greg Isenberg lays out 10 questions that changed his life.
PBC SPAC—My latest Forbes piece is about the first public benefit corporation SPAC.
Psychology of Virality—Why do people share content? The psychology of virality is based on eight triggers.
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We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things because we're curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. –Walt Disney
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