Top Reads: August 2021

My favorite reads from the month across startup communities, social impact and tech in modern society.

Top Reads: August 2021
Photo by alvin matthews / Unsplash

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1. Everyone will be a Creator, a Business and an Investor: The New Global Entrepreneurial Generation

The Hard Fork | 3 minutes

“Many of these Influencers can rent the larger platforms and then build up personal brands and large audiences. Talk about opportunities here for building audiences. As they make money, this goes into investments if they are smart or even just want to keep with inflation.”

The world of creators will naturally generate diversified investors. Great examples here of the growing set of platforms that help the everyday person build an audience, monetize it, and reinvest in their future.

2. Apple Is Now an Antifragile Company

Tidbits | 7 minutes

“Apple has not just a diverse portfolio, but a diverse portfolio of strong products backed by both physical and online distribution options that keep revenues balanced even in the toughest times. A brick-and-mortar retailer like Dollar General would be devastated by store closures, but for Apple, the slack was easily taken up by its online store. Netflix lives or dies by its subscriber figures, but a dip in extended warranty subscriptions would be mitigated by a music service, original video content, fitness service, and even a credit card. HP is nothing without PC and printer sales, but the Mac could coast along if necessary thanks to Apple’s other product offerings.”

Apple remains innovative, strong and resilient thanks to smart planning and a diversified product line. And if you’ve tried the AirPod Pro earbuds, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Apple still makes magic.

3. Why is China smashing its tech industry?

Noahpinion | 8 minutes

“When China’s leaders look at what kind of technologies they want the country’s engineers and entrepreneurs to be spending their effort on, they probably don’t want them spending that effort on stuff that’s just for fun and convenience. They probably took a look at their consumer internet sector and decided that the link between that sector and geopolitical power had simply become too tenuous to keep throwing capital and high-skilled labor at it. And so, in classic CCP fashion, it was time to smash.”

The Chinese crackdown of consumer tech started in the depths of the pandemic and has only intensified. When a government forces all tutoring companies to become non-profits,  equates video games to “spiritual opium,” and passes strict data laws, it’s taking a hard line on future paths for its people. China is playing to win in the arenas that matter for geopolitics and soft power.

4. The lost history of the electric car – and what it tells us about the future of transport

The Guardian | 18 minutes

“The failure of electric vehicles in the early 20th century, and the emergence of the internal combustion engine as the dominant form of propulsion, had a lot to do with liquid fuel providing far more energy per unit mass than a lead-acid battery can. But the explanation is not purely technical. It also has a psychological component. Buyers of private cars, then as now, did not want to feel limited by the range of an electric vehicle’s battery, and the uncertainty of being able to recharge it.”

This may have been my favorite read of the month. To summarize: cities traded horsesh*t for electric cars, which failed to tackle the automobile market when opportunities arose. Oil came to dominate, redraw borders, and poison the world. As battery costs, density and materials evolve, we can only hope to see the electric-powered “unbundling of the car.” Smart phones and micro mobility will play a huge role, as will the data they generate. If any of that caught your attention, this is worth a read.

5. ‘Green Bitcoin Mining’: The Big Profits In Clean Crypto

Forbes | 9 minutes

“Spence is one of an emerging cohort of American bitcoin miners who are turning one of the cryptocurrency’s biggest liabilities—its insatiable thirst for energy—into an asset. Whether they’re getting rid of waste fuels like gob, helping balance the electric grid in Texas or tapping into the flares at oil-and-gas fields, these cryptopower entrepreneurs are profiting by turning digital lemons into green lemonade. And with countries such as China, Indonesia and Iran moving either to severely restrict bitcoin mining or ban it altogether, the opportunity for domestic producers has never been greater. From just a 4% share two years ago, the U.S. has grown into the world’s second-largest miner, now accounting for 17% of all new bitcoins.”

The term “green crypto” can take many forms. This feature examines many angles on the topic, including instances where the economics make sense. At the end of the day, extending the life of the dying fossil fuel industry will put the most vulnerable of humanity at further risk. Crypto needs to decarbonize by shifting to renewables as it scales.

6. Nonprofits Get a New Type of Donation: Cryptocurrency

New York Times | 4 minutes

“Cryptocurrencies are like any appreciated asset, including securities and real estate, in terms of taxes. No taxes are owed on the capital gains of assets donated to charity, so the nonprofit effectively receives more money. A second reason is that the blockchain technology has proved effective in transferring, tracking and accounting for money sent internationally.”

A major university (UPenn) accepting a donation in Bitcoin signifies a growing trend. Crypto is becoming more mainstream when traditionally slow, bureaucratic institutions are positioning themselves to receive it.

7. The Secret Diary of a ‘Sustainable Investor’ — Part 1

Medium | 27 minutes

How a flower grows.
Photo by Edward Howell / Unsplash
“This is the first of a three-part essay that shares how my thinking evolved from evangelizing ‘sustainable investing’ for the world’s largest investment firm to decrying it as a dangerous placebo that harms the public interest. It’s not short. But this topic is critically important: it lies at the heart of how we reform capitalism to address important environmental and social challenges with concrete action. I challenge business leaders who have advocated the ideas I question below to offer a serious rebuttal. We’re running out of time: we can no longer afford to answer inconvenient truths with convenient fantasies.”

This insightful long read from BlackRock’s ex-CIO gives an inside look at the challenges of sustainable investing in practice. I read all three parts and enjoyed the perspective. In short, the rise of conscious capitalism will not save us from climate change – governments must change the rules to drive rapid change.

8. Spatial Interfaces

1729 | 13 minutes

"We could have games for anything. Games for attending classes, co-working, and making art. Games for work. Games for just hanging out. We're going to make these kinds of games. But at this point, it's time we stop thinking about them as games and start considering them part of a broader field: spatial interfaces."

The world of “spatial interfaces” has already begun to reshape the internet, and I've noticed more mentions of "the metaverse" as the mutating pandemic continues to ravage health systems everywhere. We’re going to see incremental changes to our software and hardware until augmented and immersive 3D experiences are just part of our day.

9. How Axie Infinity Creates Work in the Metaverse

CoinDesk | 7 minutes

“Ultimately, if more Filipinos were able to stay in their home country, this would increase the supply of local labor. Working full time in the Metaverse is still a pipe dream for most. Even those who call themselves full-time, play-to-earn gamers usually have another side hustle or two on the go. It is perfectly possible to balance NFT gaming with other employment because the work is fully flexible and can be done anywhere, anytime.”

Axie Infinity, a Pokémon-esque online NFT game, has begun to change livelihoods. The innovative "play-to-earn" model makes crypto and NFTs far more accessible – and is attracting big bets by investors like a16z. By enabling tax-free remittances and generating real income, this game could be among the first ways to make real money in the metaverse.

10. How employers steal billions of dollars from workers every year

The Hustle | 6 minutes

Great infographic story on wage theft, another way employers and business lobbies limit economic mobility among essential workers. Fortunately, legislators are beginning to regulate these exploitative practices.‌

Farewell, August! I hope you found these reads interesting. If you made it this far, I'd love your input – would you like to see more monthly reads or only 10?

Take care of yourself as we roll into what I find to be the best, busiest month of the year.

The dog days of summer (are over).