Welcome to the weekend and happy new year!
We’re starting the new year with fresh new branding. I’ve been writing the Weekend Briefing every week for almost nine years, but we’ve never really had a cohesive brand identity. I worked with Lydia Witt, a member of the Weekend Briefing community, to develop a fresh new look. If you’re interested in the concept and the process, you can read more here.
Every week, a bunch of you shoot me an email to give me brilliant feedback and comments on the stories in the briefing. I always enjoy the insights (whether I agree with them or not). They usually create really interesting one-on-one conversations, but I always wish the rest of the community could benefit from it.
This year, I’m going to try something new to bring these conversations out into the open and spark dialogue amongst the community. After the first story, I’m going to ask a question related to that story. I want you to leave a comment with your answer. I’ll jump in and respond to your comments when relevant. Please feel free to respond to each other’s comments as well.
Lastly, here’s my January playlist. The vibe is optimism.
Did your brilliant friend share this with you?
18,500,000,000—Bad Bunny had 18.5 billion music streams in 2022, making him the most streamed artist in the world ... for three consecutive years!
0.38%—New estimates from the Census Bureau found that the U.S. population grew by only 0.38% from July 2021 to July 2022, which was the second-lowest growth on record.
$260,000—A Washington man was charged with two counts of first-degree theft and first-degree identity theft after executing a scheme inspired by the film Office Space. The man was said to have altered code to pilfer shipping fees and manipulate prices at the e-commerce company Zulily, allegedly stealing $260,000 in payments.
Techno-optimism in 2023
As we enter 2023, there are lots of technological developments that are either changing our world in major ways already or seem likely to change it soon. 1) The artificial intelligence (AI) breakout. Obviously, one of the biggest pieces of tech news in the last year was the release of a bunch of generative AI apps, including art applications like Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, and text generators like chatGPT. The best way to look at these tools is to see them as a co-author/editorial assistant. 2) The energy revolution rolls onward. Renewable energy is predicted to actually generate more electricity than either coal or oil five years from now. 3) Biotech boom. Scientists created a mouse embryo with a beating heart, using nothing but stem cells. That’s kind of amazing; we can now literally create life. In other stem cell news, we can now create a human ear from stem cells and implant it in living people. mRNA vaccines just keep rolling along. BioNTech is now conducting trials for its malaria vaccine, which could help defeat the deadliest endemic disease on Earth. Noahpinion (18 minutes)
What technology in this article are you most optimistic about and why?
This list of 2023 predictions from The Hustle had some good stuff. Some of my favorites are: 1) Bitcoin will decline to $5K. 2) The US economy will grow at 0.5%-1% pace, a drop from 1.5%-2% in 2022, and there will be a mild recession near the end of the year. 3) Inflation will decline to 4%-5% by May, but it will take much longer to bring it down to 2%-3%. 4) Real estate will be a “nobody’s market,” with high-priced homes and limited options. 5) Málaga, Spain, will be the trendiest travel destination, followed by Sydney, Australia. 6) “Kitsch” will become a popular aesthetic for interior decorating. 7) Netflix will merge with Disney or Paramount to create a mega-streamer. The Hustle (7 minutes)
In With the Old
As a society we have a problem always chasing the next new thing, ignoring what already exists. You see this in the underinvestment we make in cities, neighborhoods, institutions and systems, ignoring their needs and the people who depend on them. The same is true with social entrepreneurship. Too much time, energy and resources are focused on starting new ventures and building new systems to the detriment of fixing what’s in place, as imperfect as it maybe. While in the past, disruption has been game changing- creating new cures, new answers, new access points, much has been counterproductive- often diverting precious resources to create new systems that never reach their potential all at the expense of being able to make quick fixes to existing systems that can help those in need now. “Instead of Disruption, Leverage What Already Exists” published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review lays out this insight. As the article says, “The allure of disruption and systems change from the top down was hard to ignore until the facts showed us something had changed. And it was undeniable”. DRK Foundation (sponsored)
Startups in 2023
Fred Wilson, partner at Union Square Ventures, has some predictions for the startup community in 2023: 1) Startups will struggle to raise money. Many will fail in the first half of the year. Those that survive will raise capital at lower valuations. 2) Web3 will continue to struggle as many projects lack a real business plan or product market fit. 3) Climate tech will grow buoyed by the oddly named Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that will flow billions of dollars of capital into the sector over the next decade. AVC (6 minutes)
East Africa's biggest economy is betting on electric-powered motorcycles, its renewables-heavy power supply and position as a technology and startup hub to lead the region's shift to zero-emission electric mobility. The initial purchase price is about the same cost as a similar gas-powered motorbike. To support the electric motorbikes, a network of battery swapping stations have cropped up around Kenya's capital Nairobi, allowing electric motorcyclists to exchange their low battery for a fully charged one. The battery-swapping system not only saves time, but also saves buyers money as many sellers follow a model in which they retain ownership of the battery, the bike's most expensive part. Reuters (6 minutes)
Super Soldier Cells
A new cancer therapy is a match made in heaven. On one side is CRISPR, the gene-editing technology that’s taken genetic engineering by storm. The other is a therapy called CAR-T, which transforms normal immune cells into super soldiers that hunt down specific cancers. But practically, the duo is the “most complicated therapy ever.” The genetic edits are tailored to attack a person’s own cancer. Now, in a study in Nature, a team based at the University of California, Los Angeles tested the treatment in 16 people with various cancers. Within weeks, the team found that the edited immune cells had elbowed into the cancerous tissues so much that the engineered cells constituted 20% of the cancer sample. It’s not a silver bullet; this first trial is just to assess safety. But it shows that the CRISPR and CAR-T team is feasible in cancer patients. The study is a first step toward potentially overhauling current cancer treatments, making them more personal and efficient and causing fewer side effects. Singularity Hub (7 minutes)
Here’s a long and very detailed list of common misconceptions: 1) Contrary to business school lore, the Chevrolet Nova sold very well in Latin American markets; General Motors did not need to rename the car. While “no va” does mean "it doesn't go" in Spanish, “nova” was easily understood to mean "new." 2) There are no known cases of children having been killed or seriously injured by poisoned candy or fruit given to them by strangers at Halloween or any other time, though there are cases where people have poisoned their own children. 3) The Pyramids of Egypt were not constructed with slave labor. Archeological evidence shows that the laborers were a combination of skilled workers and poor farmers working in the off-season, the latter likely recruited for national service, with the participants paid in high-quality food and tax exemption status. Wikipedia (65 minutes)
Should We Work Together?
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 flat, 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 one-on-one call with me.
Check out my other briefings: Founder Fridays and Web3 Impact.
Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose. - Lyndon B. Johnson
Vigilant concern is not the opposite or enemy of optimism.
I’m excited and optimistic about many technological advances. Not just next-gen tools to assist us beyond our physical limits, computing at greater volume or velocity, adding new ways to communicate, or the like. Though those have positives. But in important gap-leaping even profound ways that help people and society: eradicating disease, curing the sick or restoring functionality to the handicapped, enabling people to learn, grow, improve daily experience, facilitating meaningful contributions from creative minds who might otherwise have languished in desperate circumstances.
But too many emerging technologies, even those with exhilarating positive potential, are being developed and applied at scale prematurely and without sufficient appreciation for unintended consequences. Or others—especially but not only those focused on trying to emulate or replicate human thought and are intended to intervene in human affairs without human supervision or involvement—are introduced with wickedly inadequate understanding of the human mind or the psycho-social implications.
So I’m responding to your prompt from the side of cautious optimism and with a call to action: to pay attention, be deeply thoughtful, and not to be seduced by how exciting certain possibilities seem.
Renewable energy! Our house is all in with solar panels, an EV, and an energy monitoring system - I'm excited for the tech to improve to full automation: e.g. run my dryer when my solar is producing excess energy, or charge my EV when the grid is at it's lowest carbon intensity, etc.
In my job I'm most excited to use tools like ChatGPT to assist in writing copy for blogs and websites and helping with keyword use for SEO-optimization. I don't see this tech as replacing workers, only enhancing - if you're not using these tools you will fall behind.