Weekend Briefing No. 499
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
As I’ve mentioned the last couple weeks, I’m launching a new product that I think it going to be really helpful for startups - Ace: Chat GPT for startup law.
I’m excited to announce that we’ve nailed down the launch date for Ace - September 15th, and I want to celebrate the launch with you.
Please join me for the Ace Launch Party on Friday September 15th. It will be a happy hour in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends as well as meeting many of you for the first time face to face. Click the button below to register for the launch party. Note that there is limited capacity, so the first people to sign up will have priority.
18,000 — My neighborhood is home to an engineering marvel, a triple-cantilever section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. However, it’s essentially collapsing in real time. And yet, 18,000 trucks that exceed the weight limit drive on this stretch of the BQE daily.
66 — The majority of U.S. unicorns — private startups worth more than $1 billion — have at least one immigrant founder. India is the most common country of origin with 66 founders.
36 — Domestic consumption of pecans has increased 36% from 2016 to 2021.
The Pulitzer Prize in fiction this year went to Barbara Kingsolver for her book Demon Copperhead. It’s set in Lee County, Virginia in the heart of Appalachia. I’m from Appalachia and thought the book really nailed the culture. You should listen to this interview with the author and consider reading the book. (Warning: It’s heavy.) Here is Barbara Kingsolver on Appalachia: “I mean, ‘Demon Copperhead’ is my attempt to speak to people — well, it’s doing two things. I want it to be a window and a mirror, as they say books can be. I wanted it to be a mirror for my people to feel seen. And that’s been an amazing experience, to hear from kids in the foster care system, from teachers, from so many people in Demon’s walk of life saying, ‘I never knew that anybody else could see how hard this is.’ But, at the same time, to let people from elsewhere understand the complexity of our lives here, the nuance of Appalachian culture, the value of our communities, the whole ecosystems of characters that we are — the bad and the good — and the ways that we take care of ourselves. I wanted this book to be a conversation about that divide. And it is being read mostly by people who are not from here.” Ezra Klein Show (61 minutes)
If you’re from Appalachia, what struck you about this interview?
An author named Kyle (not me) delves into his experience with a personalized artificial intelligence (AI) writing tool created by a startup named Writer. The tool, dubbed "Robot Kyle," was designed to mimic Kyle's personal writing style, having been trained on approximately 150,000 words of his writings. The sophistication of Robot Kyle is evident in its ability to mimic the nuanced aspects of the author's writing style. Still, it struggles with providing genuine insights, often reverting to clichés or generating factually incorrect information. As the AI world advances, there is a looming fear for writers, analogous to how the industrial revolution impacted artisans. These tools are reshaping the way writing and content production is perceived. The software not only spews out text but challenges the essence of writing itself, as writing has long been considered a process to articulate and refine one's thoughts. Yet, while AI can handle grammar and structure, genuine insight and originality, foundational aspects of writing, are still distinctly human. New Yorker (9 minutes)
A Banksy got everyday investors 32% returns?
Mm-hmm, sure. So, what’s the catch? It may sound too good to be true, but thousands of investors are already smiling all the way to the bank, thanks to the fine-art investing platform Masterworks. These results aren’t cherry-picking. This is the whole bushel. Masterworks has built a track record of 13 exits, including net returns of +10.4%, +27.3%, and +35.0%, even while financial markets plummeted. But art? Really? Okay, skeptics, here are the numbers. Contemporary art prices: outpaced the S&P 500 by 131% over the last 26 years, have the lowest correlation to equities of any asset class, and remained stable through the dot-com bubble and ’08 crisis. Got your attention yet? Weekend Briefing readers can skip the waitlist with this exclusive link. Masterworks (Sponsored)
You may not like to hear this, but Kim Kardashian is pretty good at business. In the 2010s, direct to consumer (DTC) brands were everywhere. You couldn’t scroll social media without being served an ad for Warby Parker glasses, Casper mattresses or Glossier cosmetics. Many DTC brands raised large amounts of capital but struggled with something pretty important — profitability. Earlier this year, Fast Company proclaimed “the era of DTC brands is over.” Once-popular DTC brands have been in freefall, which begs the question, “How’d Kardashian’s Skims buck the trend?” They followed a different playbook. Unlike other DTC brands that relied on paid ads, Skims took a more balanced marketing approach, utilizing organic social, email marketing and collaborations to reach its customers, 70% of whom are millennials and Gen Zers. It worked: Skims is on track for $750 million in sales this year, up 50% from 2022. And it keeps expanding its offerings — launching with just shapewear and intimates in 2019. Skims has since added clothing, loungewear, swimwear and children’s items. This growth has kept investments rolling in, leading Kim K. and company to four-time unicorn status. The Hustle (2 minutes)
Here are some interesting stats on consumer trends. 1) Health is the new wealth: Across every income demographic, Americans would rather be 25% healthier than make 25% more money. And they tend to prioritize health even more as their income increases. 2) Young consumers value trust: Compared to Baby Boomers, Gen Z and Millennials say it’s three times more important that they admire and trust the founder of a brand. 3) Consumers are drinking less alcohol: This isn’t a particularly new trend, but it’s interesting to see how much “physical health” shows up in the reasons why. 4) Older, city-dwelling males with kids are the happiest: Across the board, Americans that are older and have kids appear to be the most satisfied with life. The Split (9 minutes)
How Messi Handles Anxiety
In soccer, while most players actively engage from the very start of the match, Lionel Messi, renowned for his prowess, adopts a distinctive approach by mostly walking and observing during the game's initial moments. Rather than immediate involvement, Messi uses these moments for dual purposes: first, to calm himself, ensuring he's emotionally and physically poised for the game's intense moments, and second, to meticulously assess the opposition's strategy and vulnerabilities. Such a methodical approach, although counterintuitive, allows Messi to elevate his performance during the crucial segments of the game, often resulting in him making pivotal moves at critical junctures. An iconic example is a 2017 match against Real Madrid, where despite walking for the majority of the game, Messi's focused engagements led to significant plays. This deliberate pausing underscores a broader life lesson about the value of slowing down and preparing, especially in moments of anxiety. Contrary to our natural instincts to react hastily, there's profound wisdom in strategic inaction. TED (8 minutes)
Fitness After 40
Aging need not result in diminished physical activity. In fact, envisioning one's long-term athletic goals and adopting smart training practices can ensure enduring fitness. Beginning in our 30s, the body starts losing muscle mass and bone density, while our cardiorespiratory efficiency (VO2 max) diminishes. However, proactive changes in fitness routines can mitigate these declines. It's essential to assess one's current fitness levels, focusing on strength, stability, mobility and cardiorespiratory fitness. Based on this assessment, personalized training can be established, emphasizing the importance of varied exercises for comprehensive health. Additionally, while aesthetic goals like toned arms and abs are common, holistic strength training — which includes compound exercises targeting multiple joints and muscles — ensures overall health and strength. Ultimately, a consistent, progressively challenging workout plan can set the foundation for a physically active future, regardless of age. New York Times (7 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 Founder Fridays — A Friday morning briefing helping founders scale smarter.
I love when people underestimate me and then become pleasantly surprised. -Kim Kardashian