Check your Pulse #25

⏳media diet for enlightenment, people IPOs and nunchi 🌍

Welcome to the 25th edition of Check your Pulse, a weekly newsletter where I curate thought provoking reads at the intersection of tech, society, and culture. It is read by 3,500+ founders, creators, and other purposeful readers and has been described by readers as ‘a yoga class for the mind’. If you know someone who’d like this sort of thing in their inbox, they can subscribe here.

Happy Sunday, friends.

I made it to 25 newsletters. It’s really hard to consistently do anything for 25 weeks.

Tony Sheng wrote something about publishing that really spoke to me: “Publishing is easy once you internalize two things: (a) nobody cares about you and (b) the potential benefit of publishing vastly outweighs the potential risk.”

I still don’t know what this newsletter is or how to describe it but I do know it’s the one place I've continually found pleasure, joy, and meaning in sharing.

After close to a decade of working in tech and startups, I have a difficult time explaining what I do. Words like startup investor, strategist, creative businessperson or digital product creator just don’t cut it. Sure, my projects involve AI in all its forms, but when it comes to startups, I’m less interested in the latest technology and more interested in the people who make the technology, who use the technology, who benefit from the technology, and whose lives may be impacted by the technology.

So much of the way we’ve derived our identity and our sense of self-worth is subject to radical overhaul in the next decade. More jobs will be automated and certainly new jobs will emerge, but we can’t wait for them to make sense of this. We have to start to reimagine what meaning looks like in that context.

Andrew Yang, the fringe presidential candidate railing on the dangers of automation taking away jobs was recently interviewed on Eric Weinstein’s The Portal podcast where he said “the division of our identities into work and non-work is one of the greatest things we have to overcome.” Men struggle with this more than women. Yang cites the differences in men and women’s response to unemployment — men who lose their jobs tend to develop self-destructive patterns of behavior and volunteer less than employed men despite having more free time. Women, on the other hand, are more adaptable to non-work idleness and show higher rates of volunteerism and going back to school when they have more free time. Twelve disenfranchised taxi and limo drivers killed themselves last year. “This sort of self-destruction is happening all the time, and most of it is men quietly drinking themselves to death in their homes.”

So maybe this newsletter is that - a yearning for a media diet that speaks to humans in a time of unprecedented change, one that brings more creativity and soul to the world of business and startups. Because startups and tech are cool, but technological progress and innovation is irrelevant if we don’t wrap that progress around our own enlightenment as a species.

Stay human,

🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

Sari

"Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties, out of the experience of humankind as it is passed on to you, out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something. The ingredients are there. You are the only one who can put them together into that unique pattern that will be your life. Let it be a life that has dignity and meaning for you. If it does, then the particular balance of success or failure is of less account.”

John Gardner

caught my attention

links to love this week

Good piece by Eugene Wei (one of my favorite writers) on Status Updates. He writes about the idea that for the first time, the majority of people are putting their thoughts out for public consumption. Billions of humans IPO'd, whether we were ready for it or not ... In another era, most of us lived in social circles of limited scope. 🌐

Food for thought: Auren Hoffman says almost every company spends over 95% of its time doing what every other company does Companies spend less than 5% of their time on things that are unique to the company. That makes no sense.

I’m intrigued by Project Mercury, a joint initiative from Derris and Mythology (the agencies behind Warby Parker) to find the next great brand. 🔎

I want ChoirChoirChoir in my city. It’s a weekly drop-in communal singing event. There is SO MUCH JOY in these videos! 👇🏽

The Korean concept of Nunchi is fascinating. Nunchi is the subtle art of gauging other people's thoughts, feelings and needs in order to improve your relationships through deeper trust, harmony and cooperation. Known as the Korean superpower, some people even go so far as to say nunchi is how Korean people can read minds – though there’s nothing supernatural about it. Nunchi is a part of daily life in Korea, with Korean parents teaching their children about its importance on a par with lessons such as ‘Look both ways before crossing the street’ and ‘Don’t hit your sister.’ ‘Why do you have no nunchi?!’ is a common parental chastisement. 👫

The Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others. The most important things in life are measured internally. Thinking about what matters to you is hard. Playing to someone else’s scoreboard is easy, that’s why a lot of people do it. But winning the wrong game is pointless and empty. You get one life. Play your own game. 💭

Time Magazine released a list of the 100 Best Inventions of 2019

The skills you need to be romantically competent from TED’s How to be a Better Human series. (1) Insight – taking the time to actually know yourself and your partner in the moment.  (2) Mutuality – is about ensuring your partner’s needs are addressed and factoring both partner’s needs into decision-making. (3) Emotion Regulation – developing the ability to manage those moments when you might act hurtfully due to the height of your emotion. 

Interesting to see Bird selling kids scooters (called Birdies). Smart play imo. 🚙

I’m intrigued by wine subscription company Winc’s decision to turn to equity crowdfunding to raise capital. It makes sense, and as the DTC fundraising environment gets harder, I predict more brands will follow suit. 🍷

Interesting read on the state of capitalism by Joe Lonsdale who co-founded Palantir and now runs 8VC. "The gravest threat to the American economy is “crony capitalism”, whereby special interests including industry groups and unions pervert the policy making process in order to restrict competition and line their own pockets… The problem is not that conservatives or progressives are evil but rather that our economic system and mode of government gravitate towards an equilibrium in which special interests have captured our political institutions. 💰

Why don't millennials ever want to leave their apartments anymore?  Of course, if you’re also talking to other people online, you’re not entirely solitary. And so the internet has given rise to a new kind of night in. We may indeed feel relaxed and cozy beneath our weighted anti-anxiety blankets, relieved to be spared the rituals of shots and small talk and shouting over music. Still, there’s a part of us that wants to connect. So we reach for our phones, wanting to share the pleasure we take in being alone. 🏠

PayPal made its largest acquisition this week, paying $4b for  LA-based Honey, a company that has flown somewhat under the radar since its launch. Honey was Product Hunt's #1 most up-voted product on November 30th, 2013. Coincidence??? 🍯

This is such a good graph 👇🏽

venture corner

a roundup of startupy things from around the web

great overview by a16Z on why we're just getting started in digital health. 💉

Great thread related to my commentary last week on TAM vs. SAM. 👇🏽

Which investments generate the greatest value in venture? Turns out the vast majority of value from M&A has come from enterprise co’s since 1995. Portfolio value creation in enterprise is driven by a cohort of exits, while value creation in consumer is driven by large, individual exits. 👇🏽

have you heard of?

ROOM makes soundproof office phone booths. More broadly, they are rethinking the modern workplace through affordable, sustainable and flexible solutions that make more room for people at work. Room solves pain points we’re all familiar with — paying for expensive office buildouts, that person who blocks off a large conference room to take a personal call, and how hard it can be to find quiet space to focus in an open office. A few years ago, open offices were all the rage, but recent studies have concluded that noisy open offices reduce productivity and don’t foster collaboration. The 10-square-foot ROOM booth ships flat and can be assembled in less than 30 minutes. The CEO Brian Chen gave an excellent interview recently on the This Week in Startups podcast. In a world in which profitability has just recently become cool, Brian talked about growing ROOM to $30 million in sales on just $2 million raised in two years. The biggest risk I see in this business is copycats building cheaper versions, but ROOM has the opportunity to position itself as a future of work business, offering a range of office furniture and prefab products.

overheard on twitter

If you’re wondering who’s behind this newsletter:

My name is Sari Azout. I am a design-thinker, strategist, and early stage startup investor at Level Ventures and Rokk3r. My mission is to bring more humanity and creativity to technology and business.

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