Top Reads: June 2021

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

Top Reads: June 2021

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Hi, All! I'm exploring a new format – a quick list where I highlight my favorite content from the past month and share my perspective on why they matter. I hope you can dig in over the long weekend. Enjoy!

  1. Startups Are The Ultimate “Mental Game” — Part I (NfX)
"Underlying the success of Founders are the mental models they employ to understand, prioritize, and execute the key objectives in their business. Studying them is the highest point of leverage for Founders because it can change your mental approach — your ultimate asset."

I’ve read about many of these mental models from NfX over the last year or two, and here it is in full. My favorite model comes down to the following: you can't improve what you don't measure. Pick the ones that resonate most with you and save them to revisit quarterly.

2. Choosing Your North Star Metric (a16z)
"So what are the optimal North Star Metric(s) for startups? I surveyed current and past employees at over 40 of today’s most successful growth-stage companies to compile the table below; the findings provide a helpful framework for organizations seeking their own guiding metrics."

The journey to product insights is a marathon, not a sprint. Here, AirBnB growth leader Lenny Rachitsky examines the North Star metrics from a range of growth-stage startups.

3. The Community-Building Checklist: A Quick-Start Guide (Commsor)
"Building a community might seem like a monumental task. When folks come to us for advice on this, their number one question is always something along the lines of, 'Where do I even start?'"

The last year has demonstrated the importance of online community building – and this practical guide is a simple, helpful checklist to get started. Alex Angel, Mac Reddin and the team at Commsor have been welcome leaders in the space during this crucial year for community managers.

4. Twilio, Asana to List on Long-Term Stock Exchange as ESG Push Continues (WSJ - Paywall)
"To list on LTSE in August, Twilio and Asana are agreeing to a slate of commitments such as aligning executive and board compensation with long-term performance; taking customers and employees into account; and explaining how the company’s board oversees its long-term strategy."

The Long-Term Stock Exchange is a valiant and welcome effort to bring generational thinking to the business world. Eric Reis gave us The Lean Startup, and he's now working to create a better version of capitalism.

5. Tech in Africa (The Generalist)
“By 2050, ten of the biggest 50 cities will be in Africa. In just the next ten years, a collection of Africa’s biggest 18 cities will reach $1.3 trillion in spending. That’s the kind of commercial scale that can support and galvanize new ventures.”

An incredibly thorough primer on tech in Africa, written by a knowledgeable team. As a Kenyan founder once told me, "this is Africa’s century." It’s difficult to understate the significance of this continent in our shared global future.

6. Here's How to Foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in a Remote-Work World (Entrepreneur)
“My consultancy business has been 100 percent remote since day one. But it hasn’t been without trial and error. We’ve managed to grow substantially as a remote business because we’ve followed certain practices that keep DEI a focus. Here’s how we make our fully remote company work.”

With the rise of remote work, it's crucial to create transparent and inclusive spaces where employees can thrive. Nika White shares how thoughtful support systems and an iterative approach can ensure remote work is great for people.

7. A Major New Index Fund Should Unnerve Climate-Skeptical CEOs (The Atlantic)
“The new Engine No. 1 Transition 500 Fund is, in other words, a low-fee, diversified index fund of the type that now dominates the American stock market. Yet unlike other index-fund providers, which sit out some fights with management, Engine No. 1 has pledged to crusade. When Engine No. 1 campaigns against a company’s leadership, shares held by the Transition 500 ETF will vote for its slate. The ETF will trade on the stock market, appropriately, under the ticker symbol VOTE.”

As climate-conscious investors explore their options, this new ETF from Exxon’s usurpers illustrates a force that could prove more powerful than outright divestment – change from within.

8. How Much Energy Does Bitcoin Use? (Quartz)
“[According to] the University of Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index… the global bitcoin network currently consumes about 80 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, roughly equal to the annual output of 23 coal-fired power plants, or close to what is consumed by the nation of Finland.”

Bitcoin mining is energy intensive, but its carbon footprint depends heavily on the local sources of power generation. As harsh regulations crack down on bitcoin miners in western Chinese coal country, perhaps these operations can set up shop in areas with a cleaner energy mix. Better yet, they should champion greener crypto solutions.

9. The Deep Sea Is Filled With Treasure, But It Comes At A Price (The New Yorker)
"'We seem to be in a Catch-22 scenario where we haven’t explored the deep ocean because we don’t appreciate what a remarkable, mysterious, and wondrous place it is, and we don’t know what an astonishing place it is because we haven’t explored it,’ she argues. Meanwhile, she writes, 'we are managing to destroy the ocean before we even know what’s in it.'"

The frontier of human discovery has been driven by exploitation over understanding. The deep ocean is a vast opportunity where we can reverse this narrative.

10. Infographic: The economics of dollar stores (The Hustle)

I'm rounding out the list with a fun infographic about dollar stores, which thrived during the pandemic. An interesting case study, though it's worth noting that dollar stores create serious equity issues.

Bonus (Audio): Mary Powell, Clean Energy Leader & Former CEO of Green Mountain Power (My Climate Journey)

A great episode of a great podcast. Mary Powell is a clean energy legend and I can't wait to see what she does next.

So long, June! I hope you found these reads interesting and share your feedback. Have a thoughtful and safe weekend. I'll leave you with this adorable photo of two bees asleep in a flower.

Photo: Joe Neely