The Urbanist: Affordable housing
The struggle for regular folks to find a place to stay is global. This is an very interesting survey of housing situations in California, Finland, Egypt, and Portugal. The California situation is so interesting. For a state that prides itself on leading other parts of the country in pushing progressive policy, the not-in-my-backyard vibes are too strong. The situation in Egypt is frustrating. How do you tear down a whole neighborhood while building a new capital that will probably keep low income folks at arms reach?
Soulection Radio Show #400 (Live from Los Angeles, CA)
Joe Kay has built something at Soulection. The pure love for music comes through every episode of the show. My Saturday ritual for several years now has been listening to their latest episode. Listen to the episode to see why.
Welcome to the Future
Whatever Flutterwave and Andela cofounder Iyinoluwa Aboyeji is building, its focus on building a shared vision for the future of Africa is something I can get behind. Excited to see where this goes.
Ghanaian startup mPharma is buying Kenya’s second-largest pharmacy chain
You don’t see too many deals where a startup acquires a legacy brand. To see that on the continent is incredible. More vim.
American Democracy: Conversation between Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Peter Thiel, and Cornel West
This is a fascinating conversation that covers a range of topics that impact our form of government – technology, creativity, and economics to name a few. I’m not the biggest fan of Peter Thiel’s world view. I struggle with his mix of contrarianism and libertarianism, but I do appreciate that he doesn’t make many points without taking a long view of history to support his arguments. This is one of my biggest concerns with the health of our form of government. I just don’t think we’ve equipped our minds to go back far enough to connect the dots for how we got to where we are today. That sets us up to rinse and repeat history.
An early point that stood out is we’ve narrowed the definition of technology to information technology. I agree. This connects to my mention yesterday of the potential of African countries investing in R&D. Considering the continent’s challenges, there’s all sorts of white space for developing technologies around pipeline safety, transportation, solar capture, and more. The continent’s working age population is set to grow 14% every five years through 2050, according to Brookings. Consumer facing startups won’t create the jobs needed to put folks to work.The trajectory of economic inequality
This conversation is entertaining for another reason – the manner in which West and Unger physically close in on Thiel is hilarious.
Take Bigger Risks: Shellye Archambeau, Former CEO, MetricStream
I’ve seen Shellye Archambeau’s name around and have been intrigued to learn more about her story. Her appearance on Masters of Scale gives a great peak into how she’s navigated her way through Silicon Valley.
What stood out in particular was her telling about a Bible her family has passed down that contains her family tree for ten generations. She credits that Bible along with her family’s culture has given her a sense of her ancestors and where she comes from that. That shaped how she developed her vision.
I’m so big on the importance of knowing where we come from being a mental block for black folks in the Diaspora, but haven’t given a lot of thought to how to make sure those coming after me know where they come from. I will give that some thought.
2018 was a Monumental Year for African Tech Start-ups with US$1.163B raised in equity!
It’s pretty amazing to see the traction startups are getting, but there’s a long ways to go. Just yesterday, $1.93b in deals were announced globally.
This brings to mind this great conversation between Ian Bremmer and Keyu Jin. China and African countries are not apples-to-apples by any means. There have to be lessons in the China story, though, that can guide countries to chart their own path deliberate, yet accelerated growth. I think making big investments in developing R&D ecosystems in each country’s strong industries is the way forward.
GenNx360 Capital Partners acquires majority stake in Miller Environmental Group
This deal stood out initially because GenNx360 is founded and run by black folks. Then, this morning I thought about this study showing the racial-ethnic disparities in who causes and consumes pollution. The study essentially showed that minorities cause less pollution but consume more of it. The GenNx360 deal feels somewhat symbolic of an effort to take the reins of addressing that.
Smaller institutions should embrace, not oppose, fintechs
I’ve been increasingly bothered by the specter of establishments going cashless. We’ve all had opportunities to give some cash to folks who don’t have money at the time for their next meal. Where do they use that cash in a world where it’s not just SweetGreen or ShakeShack going cashless, but it’s also Starbucks, 7-Eleven, and the mom-and-pop corner store going cashless?
While Nathaniel Hoopes’ piece focuses on fintech lenders and how smaller banks shouldn’t be fighting them, it brought to mind community banks and credit unions as potential good partners for fintechs in solving the access problem for folks without resources to get the tools they’ll need to navigate that world. A couple solutions that could work are debit card dispensary kiosks or Lifeline phones to have near field communications. Here’s to not boxing folks further out of society than they already are.
What is Amazon?
Fascinating piece that crystallizes one of the four or so defining companies of this technological era. The piece starts with Wal-Mart which perfected the art of putting the bounds around its marketplaces aka Wal-Mart stores and optimized everything inside of them. With the onset of the internet, Amazon didn’t need to make that optimization. It rather optimized for eliminating bottlenecks to satisfying the customer. Now, it’s gotten so big that has a growing problem of optimizing for sellers who don’t have the same incentives Amazon has internally to be hyper-focused on the customer. This is a must-read if you think about platforms and/or customers.
My job is to work with government agencies in elevating the voice of their customers into their decision-making so I did take some umbrage with Kanter’s assertion that the DMV would remain in stasis, at best. With Deloitte’s new customer strategy & applied design offering in the mix, that’s not a foregone conclusion. **Steps down from soap box**
SoftBank’s Masa Son: We’ve already invested $70B in Vision Fund
Masayoshi Son has carved out a space to shape the future of technology and it’s worth spending time understanding his worldview. This interview is helpful in that effort, though David Faber tosses a wiffle ball soft question on the Vision Fund’s relationship with the Saudi Arabian government.
One worldview I think needs examining is what the world looks like when the Singularity arrives. More than a few technological optimists including people like Kai-Fu Lee argue that the onset of mature artificial technology will enable us to focus on art or work that requires caring like nursing. I don’t see historical proof of this. With broad onset of new technologies, more often than not, policy has had to come into play to ensure folks were well taken care of. What makes us think artificial intelligence will foster all of this benevolence?
I’m writing this while sitting in peace after listening to Seinabo Sey’s latest album, I’m a Dream. It’s a very strong project you should give a listen.
It’s fitting that album put me in good mood, because a recent interview media critic Jay Rosen did with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had me shaking my head.
Dorsey has been doing something of a press tour to provide more transparency into what the company is doing about things like abuse on the platform and improving engagement.
As Dorsey talked about new product ideas the platform was considering, he mentioned innovations that have emerged from #blacktwitter several times. #Blacktwitter isn’t monetizing the strategy it’s providing Twitter. There has got to be a way to change that not only on Twitter, but on Instagram, SnapChat and other platforms.
In saluting the McBride Sisters for their Black Girl Magic line of wines, Richelieu Dennis pointed out how dope it was for black people to monetize something from our culture.
I think platforms like Blavity and LOL Network could quickly crowdsource folks who create cool video and written content and pay them for content. iOne Digital and Revolt could do this as well. I could also see Macro Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures and New Voices Fund supporting folks who refine their craft and put out longer form content or build their own platforms.
What ideas do you have for how black folks can monetize the content we generate on social media platforms?
Kwame Anthony Appiah’s excerpt on Amo Afer is fascinating. I had never heard of Amo Afer, a Nzema man, who became a philosopher in Germany in the 1700s. After gaining relative stature for his thinking, he decided to move back to his family’s village on the Gold Coast, a place he hadn’t been to since he was my daughter’s age.
The piece tugs on my heart desire to eventually spend a good chunk of my time back home. It also reminds me of my confusion with James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates who sought and found solace for their identity as black men in France, as opposed to an African country.
I recently met a man whose Nigerian mother and African-American father married in Nigeria back in the 70s. His 87-year old father just moved back to the U.S. after enjoying life in Nigeria for forty-plus years. I look forward to hearing his story and finding other African-American folks like him. It would be cool to tell their stories for other African-American folks to hear. I think there are a lot of us who wonder what it would look like for a critical mass of us to move to countries to the continent like Amo Afer.
What are your thoughts about moving to Africa?