Weekend Briefing No. 442
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society.
Welcome to the weekend.
I was reading the Weekend Briefing last week when it dawned on me: “Man. This thing is getting long.” Over the years, I’ve added a section here and a section there, and without really noticing, the Weekend Briefing has become—not so brief.
So, for the rest of the Summer, I’m going to run a reverse pilot. I’m going to cut out the fat and strip the briefing down to its essentials. The goal is to deliver less, but better.
I’d love your feedback. Would you even notice a difference if I hadn’t mentioned it? Is the change positive or negative for you?
Did your brilliant friend forward this to you?
12 million—In China, a record 12 million college grads are set to enter the job market this summer, a number that’s grown ~10x over the past two decades.
28.4%—Latin music grew at an annual rate of 28.4% in the U.S., the second consecutive year of more than 20% growth.
12.5%—Wages for American workers aged 16 to 24 increased 12.5% over the year-long period ending in June, more than twice the rate of workers between the ages of 25 and 54.
Could decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) be the key to building the next great city? Experimental urbanist Scott Fitsimones shares how these mission-driven, blockchain-governed, collectively owned organizations could increase the speed and efficiency of building cities (among many other applications)—all while pooling decision-making power in a radically collaborative way. Hear about how he started a "crypto co-op" that bought 40 acres of land in Wyoming and learn more about the potential for DAOs to get things done in the future. TED (11 minutes)
Inches Versus Miles
Here’s a question for startup founders: Should you be playing a game of inches or a game of miles? Well, that depends. If you’re in a constrained domain—a tightly regulated context where all actions are governed by strict rules to limit the scope of competition—then you need to try to eke out small advantages by doing 100 things each 1% better. That’s the game of inches. If you’re in an unconstrained domain—a completely wide-open context where it’s possible to dream up something completely novel and hugely successful, like the first big social network, the first smartphone or the song Despacito—then you want to find your one (or two) big levers and exploit them. This is the game of miles. Startup Core Strengths (4 minutes)
Accidental Customer Churn
As customer acquisition becomes more difficult, companies are placing more & more of an emphasis on customer retention. Typically subscription companies spend their effort on fixing 'voluntary' churn, meaning customers who are deciding to opt out of their subscriptions because they aren't receiving enough value from the service. However, there's an entire other side churn, one that is not due to customer's satisfaction, but rather driven by payment failures when payments are falsely flagged as fraud. This hidden or 'accidental' churn can seem small, but for many subscription companies it's the single biggest driver of overall customer churn. By not addressing this problem, subscription companies are literally leaving 2-5% of their ARR on the table, which is why investors are backing Butter Payments. TechCrunch (Sponsored)
In the 1960s, NASA wanted to make food by capturing the carbon dioxide breathed out by the astronauts, concentrating it and then feeding it to microbes in a fermentation vessel. That’s essentially what food startup Air Protein does. “We start with a process that’s like making yogurt,” Dyson explains. “If you look at traditional fermentation today, to feed the system, it uses glucose, or sugar, which is made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Instead of glucose molecules, we feed our system the individual elements: carbon dioxide, hydrogen and oxygen. The cultures eat that, and we end up with a high-protein ingredient that has all the essential amino acids, as well as bioavailable vitamins and minerals.” Dyson says the product is like a high-protein flour. “Once we have that,” she says, “we then apply culinary techniques—think of wheat flour and turning it into pasta—to get texture and structure, essentially what you’re looking for when you bite into a steak or chicken breast. Then we add some spices and flavoring, and we end up with Air Meat.” Neo (11 minutes)
When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed authorities to develop land in the kingdom’s arid northwest, he demanded something as ambitious as Egypt’s pyramids. What urban planners came up with in response are plans for the world’s largest structure: two buildings up to 1,600 feet tall, running parallel for 75 miles in a line across coastal, mountain and desert terrain, connected via walkways, dubbed the Mirror Line. The Line aimed to allow 1 million residents to meet daily within a five-minute walk and to travel end-to-end in 20 minutes. The project would be powered by renewable energy. The Mirror Line is designed by the U.S.-based Morphosis Architects, founded by Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Thom Mayne. Wall Street Journal (6 minutes)
Decisions formed from a diversity of opinions usually lead to better long-term outcomes. So, when you believe that your team or organization is missing something important, moving in the wrong direction or taking too much risk, you need to speak up. Done effectively, dissent challenges groupthink, reminds those in the majority that there are alternatives paths and prompts everyone to get creative about solutions. Six decades of scientific research point to strategies that those without formal power can use to make sure their dissenting ideas are heard. First, pass the in-group test by showing how you fit in. Then, pass the group threat test by showing how you have your team’s best interest at heart. Make sure your message is consistent but creatively tailored for different people, lean on objective information, address obstacles and risks, and encourage collaboration. Finally, make sure to get support. Dissent isn’t easy, but it can be extremely worthwhile. Harvard Business Review (7 minutes)
Less But Better
Seneca wrote, “Everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things.” Warren Buffett is credited as saying it this way: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” Now, your definition of very successful may be different than Warren Buffett’s, but the truth remains the same. If you desire to be successful in your most-valued pursuits, you need to say no to the less important pursuits that distract you from them. Recognize the inherent value in the word no. Learning to say no to less important commitments opens your life to pursue the most important. Becoming Minimalist (6 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.
There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth. -Leo Tolstoy
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