Girls Killing the Technology Game

Andreessen Horowitz just posted a short interview with four high school girls who recently competed in Technovation 2015. (If you’re opening this in your email, click on the title so that you can see the podcast linked below.)

The winner of the competition was a team from Nigeria! All of the teams are really impressive. Check out their pitches.

Thursday AM Reads and Listens

A little over a year ago, Jehiel was telling me about this idea he had for smart tractors. A few days ago, he talked about what Hello Tractor is doing while moderating a panel with President Obama. Amazing.

It is so frustrating to read story after story on America’s failing infrastructure.

Great post by Mark Suster on startup failure.

Barry Ritholtz’s Masters in Business podcast is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Here’s a great one with Dambisa Moyo, though he interrupted her a lot.

Mind boggling graphics on China’s investment around the world.

Nice rundown of the latest in the startup scene across Africa.

First Round Capital looked at ten years worth of data from its time investing in startups at the seed stage. The findings are interesting, though I don’t feel comfortable with the “Where You Went to School Matters” finding. I think that propagates some of the diversity issues in the US technology startup scene.

I highly recommend you read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me. I’ve been struggling with writing a post on it, so I’m just going to sit with it for a while. Perhaps I’ll have something of substance to say later.

Tuesday AM Reads

It’s looking like a $3B effort to put broadband in rural America hasn’t gone well. 

Good list of African multi-nationals with sights on other parts of the continent.

Worth taking another look at a report BCG put out in 2010 on African multinationals pushing to compete in the global economy.

Critique of a new documentary on the Black Panther Party. I’d be interested in hearing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ response to this. 

Video: Hearing on Dodd-Frank Act Five Years Later

Thursday Morning Reads 

Tidjane Thiam gets off to a nice start at Credit Suisse

Silicon Valley’s Political End Game

Rocket Internet’s portfolio value has grown $2.5 billion in nine months 

Wistia founder shares how not being fake helped them close an account with a big customer 

Not sure I buy the analysis that Eurobond issuances among African countries with increase in the second half of this year 

Interesting points on what DC needs to do to prepare for population growth to 800k

Ethiopia centralizes coffee regulation; Nigeria rice industry dealing with Dangote’s push to eliminate imports; Ghana giving sugar another shot

New York fast food workers get their salary doubled 

Build Something From Nothing

Paul Judge has a mantra – build something from nothing. It’s amazing to watch folks I have met along the way live this out.

Jehiel Oliver’s startup Hello Tractor was profiled in Fast Company today. It wasn’t too long ago when we sat down at Chinatown Coffee and he told me about this idea he was working on. At the time, the concept of using technology to lower the cost of mechanization for small-scale farmers made a lot of sense. He’s raised a couple million dollars to prove out this idea. If Jehiel is right, Hello Tractor is going to catalyze the productivity of a whole lot of farmers across Africa. McKinsey will owe him thanks for making their projection that the continent’s agricultural productivity could reach $880 billion by 2040 look right. As an aside, I hope the continent can generate a lot more productivity than that. I really don’t want to be eating Soylent.

Several years ago, my friend Odini Nwakuche told me that he was going to make ties. As an aspiring dandy, I was super excited about the idea, but could not have imagined where Odini and his partner Josh Moore have taken Res Ipsa.  Some time after Odini told me that they were going to try and make shoes. Res Ipsa now has its shoes in several stores in the southeast and they are just beginning. This weekend, I got to hang out with Josh and Odini (pictured above) as they manned their booth for the MRket New York Show, one of the premier menswear trade shows. Everyone from the convention center set-up staff to fellow exhibitors to buyers were checking out their booth. I found myself grinning ear-to-ear with pride at what Odini and Josh have built and look forward to watching them make their mark in menswear.

Several months ago, Angelina Darrisaw mentioned that she was considering stepping out on her own after distinguishing herself in stints at ESPN and Viacom. I was thrilled to get a LinkedIn notification not long ago indicating that she was Founder of C-Suite Coach. Over the years, I watched Angelina go outside of her comfort zone – joining the track team at Davidson, reach the finals twice in the Miss New York USA. Now, she is stretching herself again as she helps underprivileged millennials achieve professional success.

My brother, Kwadwo, is a builder. As kids, this man lived at Michael’s, convincing my parents to buy items for him to try out different ideas. To this day, he continues to build things – a carbonated juice company. A production company. SapidMedia Productions, has been a labor of love for several years now and he is scratching the surface. He landed his first corporate client and released a short film in the first six months of this year. Look out for more cool stuff from him this year, and the next, and the next.

That goes for all the people listed here. This list could be much longer – Cherae Robinson, Eric Osiakwan, Maame Boakye, Nana Ama Afari-Dwamena, Nina Oduro, Eric Guichard, KJ Blackwell, Billy Fennebresque, Robert Long, Whitney White, Bobby Pittman, my dad.

Who else? Who are some people you know building something from nothing?

Thoughts on David Brooks’ Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates

David Brooks published a review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest book, Between the World and Me this morning. A few points stood out to me:

The last year has been an education for white people. There has been a depth, power and richness to the African-American conversation about Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and the other killings that has been humbling and instructive.

Whatever education white people have engaged over the last year must become an internal conversation on what to do based on the knowledge gained from this education. Toni Morrison does a nice job explaining the importance of white people having this conversation amongst themselves. I doubt the extent to which this education and conversation has taken place.

For you, slavery is the original American sin, from which there is no redemption. America is Egypt without the possibility of the Exodus. African-American men are caught in a crushing logic, determined by the past, from which there is no escape.

I don’t think Mr. Coates would agree. See The Case for Reparations:

An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.

Mr. Brooks should give that piece another read. Again, I doubt the extent to which this education and conversation has taken place.

I think you distort American history. This country, like each person in it, is a mixture of glory and shame. There’s a Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis and a Harlem Children’s Zone for every K.K.K. — and usually vastly more than one. Violence is embedded in America, but it is not close to the totality of America.

I am distracted by this equating Lincoln and the Harlem Children’s Zone. You mean the Lincoln who thought it would be a good idea to ship the slaves back to Africa? He probably would have done well to dwell on Lincoln as a mixture of glory and shame a bit.

The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past. It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow.

By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism, you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future.

See above quote from The Case for Reparations. I just don’t believe sins can be transcended. They need to be addressed and dealt with. And then you move forward.

Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change.

Nope. There has been plenty silence for centuries now. Talk. Ask the hard questions. Have the hard conversations amongst yourselves. Hopefully, after those hard conversations, we will be able to have a thorough conversation on how to move forward – together.

Netflix is Taking it Global

One more before bed.

Netflix released its shareholder letter today and had some interesting results. Jake Bright mentioned in his comments during the book launch for The Next Africa, that Netflix is paying attention to what is happening in African markets in the internet TV streaming space. So, when I saw that Netflix released its letter I figured I should take a look. Interesting highlights:

  • 43 million members in the US
  • 23 million members internationally
  • Nearly nine million more paid subscribers year-to-year in Q2 2015
  • 48 percent year-to-year international revenue growth
  • Launching Japan in Q3 2015, and Spain, Italy, and Portugal in Q4 2015
  • Plan to be fully global by the close of 2016

Hopefully, Jason Njoku, CEO of iRoko Partners, posts something about Netflix’s updated figures. iRoko continues to make moves. They went completely mobile a few weeks ago.

Does anything else stand out to you in the letter?