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Weekend Briefing No. 436
Weekend Briefing - A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society
Welcome to the weekend.
Hi from Tennessee. Here’s my annual country music playlist. Enjoy!
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$110—Surprisingly, you don’t have to spend $500+ for critically acclaimed food. The cheapest Michelin rated restaurant is King’s Joy in Beijing, China, where you can dine for $110.
20—A new study analyzing the ability of teams to make decisions over long email chains was fairly wanting. Pairs of two workers took an average of six minutes to achieve a consensus when negotiating a sales strategy in person, while pairs of workers took 20 minutes on average to achieve the same consensus over email.
10—Here are the 10 best hikes in America.
This week, I sat down with Kevin Owocki, founder of Gitcoin—a funding platform for world-positive projects—and author of Greenpilled: How Crypto Can Regenerate the World. Through our conversation, you’ll learn: (1) What the Green Pill is and why you should take it. (2) How quadratic funding works. (3) Why Kevin’s vision for the future is that we all are earning income from Impact DAOs. (4) Advice for Web3 founders. If you watch all the way to the end, you’ll learn about his $10 million mountain bike. YouTube (21 minutes)
Y Combinator (YC) has more weapons than any other player in venture capital. No one else has such pronounced network effects, pricing power and brand equity wrapped up in a single package. Perhaps that’s because YC isn’t really a VC firm—at least, not a traditional one. Here are some key insights from this deep dive on YC: (1) Full-stack venture. YC is best known for offering a three-month program for new entrepreneurs. That mental model is outmoded. Founded by Paul Graham, the organization now helps from inception through pre-IPO. (2) Network effects. YC is a venture capital firm with network effects. By batching its portfolio into cohorts and connecting them through internal tools like “Bookface,” it has created a structure that becomes stronger as it scales. (3) Pricing power. As venture capital has become more competitive, valuations have risen. Not so at YC. The accelerator manages to invest in startups at a significant discount that has increased relative to the market over the past decade. The Generalist (22 minutes)
Quince has become a champion of making high-quality, stylish apparel and home goods at affordable prices. Their $50 cashmere sweaters have thousands of 5-star reviews, their beanies were lauded on Good Morning America, and their linen bedding earned "Best Value" honors in Sleep Foundation's top bedding article. At a time when prices are going up everywhere, Quince has remained true to its mission and continues to offer European linen apparel, Italian leather handbags and much more for 50-60% less than their competitors in most cases. To top it off, they don't compromise on fair manufacturing and sustainable sourcing. Quince (Sponsored)
Google engineer Blake Lemoine, who works for Google’s Responsible AI organization, began talking to Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), an artificial intelligence chatbot, as part of his job in the fall. He signed up to test whether the artificial intelligence used discriminatory or hate speech. As he talked to LaMDA about religion, Lemoine, who studied cognitive and computer science in college, noticed the chatbot talking about its rights and personhood, and decided to press further. In another exchange, the AI was able to change Lemoine’s mind about Isaac Asimov’s third law of robotics. Lemoine worked with a collaborator to present evidence to Google that LaMDA was sentient. But Google looked into his claims and dismissed them. So Lemoine, who was placed on paid administrative leave by Google on Monday, decided to go public. This is his story. Washington Post (13 minutes)
U.S. beekeepers lost 45.5% of their managed honeybee colonies from April 2020 to April 2021. California-based startup Beewise aims to help address the issue. The startup claims its tech-powered “Beehome” decreases the number of failed colonies to just 8%. The Beehome’s solar-powered robot uses cameras, AI, and neural networks to monitor bees and address needs like food, water, temperature, humidity and pests, and administer medicine to sick bees. Emerging Tech Brew (6 minutes)
6 Forces That Fuel Friendship
There are six forces that help form friendships and maintain them through the years: (1) Accumulation. The simplest and most obvious force that forms and sustains friendships is time spent together. (2) Attention. You have to look for friendship in places you would never expect it. (3) Intention. When opportunity arises, you have to put yourself out there. That requires courage, vulnerability and a willingness to let things be awkward. (4) Ritual. The effort of coordinating hangs (or even phone calls) is the biggest barrier to seeing friends. It’s much easier when something is baked into your schedule. Then all you have to do is show up. (5) Imagination. It takes imagination to design your life so that friendship plays the role you really want it to. (6) Grace. Grace has two meanings. One is the forgiveness that we offer each other when we fall short. The other is the space that creates connections—and reconnections—that feel nothing short of miraculous. The Atlantic (12 minutes)
Here are some life learnings from legendary tech journalist Kevin Kelly, who, for his 68th, 69th and 70th birthdays shared h
is wisdom. (1) Getting cheated occasionally is a small price to pay for trusting the best in everyone. When you trust the best in others, they will treat you the best. (2) The thing that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult. (3) It’s not an apology if it comes with an excuse. (4) Anything you say before the word “but” does not count. New York Times (7 minutes)
Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll. Steve Coll investigates the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States, revealing the true extent of its power. ExxonMobil’s annual revenues are larger than the economic activity in the great majority of countries. In many of the countries where it conducts business, ExxonMobil’s sway over politics and security is greater than that of the United States embassy. In Washington, ExxonMobil spends more money lobbying Congress and the White House than almost any other corporation. Yet despite its outsized influence, it is a black box. Private Empire pulls back the curtain, tracking the corporation’s recent history and its central role on the world stage, beginning with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and leading to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The action spans the globe, moving from Moscow, to impoverished African capitals, Indonesia, and elsewhere in heart-stopping scenes that feature kidnapping cases, civil wars and high-stakes struggles at the Kremlin. Buy Now
Most Read Last Week
Why Web3?—This article is one of the clearest philosophical arguments for what’s wrong with Web2 and what might be possible in Web3.
Evolutionary Mismatch—In many areas of our lives, things that are not as satisfying now tend to be more satisfying and leave us better off later.
Questions for Entrepreneurs—As an entrepreneur, you own your success or failure. Asking these questions monthly makes you more likely to succeed.
Funding Fridays is a briefing about the data and trends in startup funding. I send it out on the first Friday of each month. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Funding Fridays.
Web3 Impact is a briefing I co-write with Banks Benitez about how Web3 is making the world a better place. We send it out on the third Thursday of each month. If you’re interested, click here to subscribe to Web3 Impact.
Should We Work Together?
This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm for startups. Most entrepreneurs want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a fixed, monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a call.
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. –Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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