Weekend Briefing No. 449
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
This week has been a momentous week in so many respects. Below, you’ll read about the steps an apparel company, a cryptocurrency and the largest asset manager in the world are taking to address climate change. Any one of these stories would be big news, and it’s fun to see them all in the same week.
In separate but related news, I’ve noticed that it has become popular to be pessimistic/cynical. (I personally have never understood this.) When we read the headlines or open our news feeds, it feels like we’re swimming in a sea of doom and gloom.
However, there are amazing things happening in the world. So I, for one, am grateful for all the people behind the scenes that have been working hard to create a positive impact. It’s fun to see their work pay off.
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53—Magnus Carlsen, the No. 1-ranked chess player in the world, had his 53-game unbeaten streak snapped last week by 19-year-old American grandmaster Hans Moke Niemann.
59—Child poverty in the U.S. declined by 59% between 1993 and 2019, per a new study from Child Trends.
16,000—The average American paid more than $16,000 in taxes last year. This outpaces average spending on food, clothing, education and health care combined.
Give It Away
A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away. Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits—some $100 million a year—are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe. And they did it in a manner that reaped zero tax benefit; it cost them $17.5 million in taxes to execute. This is by far the boldest example of profit and purpose. Yvon built a wildly successful company that will be generating cash into perpetuity to protect the environment. I spend a lot of time thinking about how legal structures can create impact, but I’ve never even contemplated something this bold. My hat’s off to the Chouinard family. New York Times (12 minutes)
ESG and Politics
BlackRock published a letter on Wednesday pushing back against claims made last month by 19 Republican state attorneys general, who accused the world’s largest money manager of putting its environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) agenda ahead of clients. The whole letter is worth a read, but here’s one notable excerpt: Your letter makes several inaccurate statements about BlackRock’s motive for participating in various ESG-related initiatives. In managing our clients’ assets, BlackRock seeks to realize the best long-term financial results consistent with each client’s investment guidelines. Our participation in these initiatives is entirely consistent with our fiduciary obligations. Governments representing over 90% of global GDP have committed to move to net zero in the coming decades. We believe investors and companies that take a forward-looking position with respect to climate risk and its implications for the energy transition will generate better long-term financial outcomes. These opportunities cut across the political spectrum; notably, as Bloomberg recently reported, Republican districts are well ahead of their Democratic counterparts in advancing clean-energy projects and deploying clean-energy technology. Climate risk and the economic opportunities from the energy transition have become a top concern for many of our clients. BlackRock clients representing more than $3.3 trillion in assets have committed to support that transition through investments in their portfolios. Our role is to offer them data and analytics, investment insights, and thought leadership about the impacts of the energy transition on their portfolios. BlackRock (11 minutes)
Volatility + Inflation = Profit?
The near-zero interest rates and sub-2% inflation that fueled the record bull market of the last 10 years are gone. In their place, volatility and fear now rule. To prepare, UHNW investors are increasing their exposure to the one asset class that outpaced the S&P 500 by 164% for the last 25 years: blue-chip art. Driven by this demand, Deloitte expects the asset class to grow nearly 60% in just three years. But fine art isn’t just an opportunity for the elite anymore. Thanks to Masterworks, an investment app so easy to use, over 500K members have discovered the potential of this wealth-generating asset. In fact, since inception, their team of art market experts have delivered an average 29% Net Realized Return across six exits.* Due to record demand, there’s a waiting list to join. But you can completely skip it with this exclusive referral link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
This week, a monumental shift happened for Ethereum. The Ethereum blockchain has historically validated transactions through a process called Proof of Work, which is incredibly energy intensive. Early Thursday morning, Ethereum switched to a new method of validation called Proof of Stake, which is much less energy intensive, in a process known as The Merge. This upgrade transforms Ethereum into an almost net-zero technology positioned for sustainable future growth, reducing overnight its carbon footprint by over 99.988%, from nearly 23 million megawatt hours per year to just over 2.6K. As a result, CO2 emissions are down 99.992%, from over 11 million tons annually to under 870, which is the equivalent of less than the annual energy use for a hundred homes in the United States. Consensys (4 minutes)
But What Is Crypto?
As I’ve been on my learning journey about blockchain, cryptocurrencies and Web3 applications, I’m constantly thinking about how I can explain these concepts to my friends and family in a way that actually makes sense. Frankly, it’s pretty challenging. In this talk with Balaji Srinivasan, an angel investor and co-founder of multiple companies including Earn.com and Counsyl, he gives an overview of Web3. Srinivasan starts off by tracing the history of crypto from Bitcoin and Ethereum to the present. He highlights the crypto applications that have already gotten traction—infrastructure providers such as exchanges, wallets and miners; decentralized finance (DeFi) apps; and stablecoins that eliminate the volatility of early cryptocurrencies—and looks ahead to the ones that are likely to emerge in the next five years. These include personal tokenization, new financial instruments, decentralized autonomous organizations and gaming. Check out the video, and if you’re up for it, join the challenge below. a16z (36 minutes)
Challenge: I’m trying to understand whether this video is good at explaining these concepts (or not). So, if you watch the video, I’d love for you to click here to share your perspective.
The hottest new trend in dating is not another app, rather it’s a decidedly low-tech approach to meeting a partner. The so-called “Date Me” docs are Google docs that people are posting publicly in hopes of making a romantic connection. They are a (kind of) Wiki to the human soul. On one hand, none of this is new. The desire to find a mate, or just fornicate, has launched a thousand apps over the past two decades. Both Facebook and YouTube started out as versions of “Hot or Not.” But Date Me docs are uniquely paradoxical. For one, they’re not apps. The whole idea gestures toward a post-dating-app future. But the tech itself is basic. Put another way, the authors of the Date Me docs are optimizing for partnership, but some of the docs themselves feel more akin to a Craigslist post than the whiz-bang future of sex in VR. WIRED (7 minutes)
Here’s a look at the winning entries into the Drone photo awards 2022, including the overall winner showing a secondary fissure a few hundred meters from the main crater of the Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland. Enjoy these stunning photos. The Guardian (4 minutes)
Move Fast. Don’t Break Things.
Hi! I’m Kyle. This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm that helps startups move fast without breaking things. Most founders 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.
I was in Forbes magazine listed as a billionaire, which really, really pissed me off. -Yvon Chouinard
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