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đŸ“» StĂ©rĂ©o #4 - 2019.05.06

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StĂ©rĂ©o is our new bimonthly digital-oriented newsletter highlighting the main developments and weak signals affecting the world’s societies and economies.

Stéphane D.  & Tom M.'s Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions

Tony Blair, former New Labour (yes, there was a New Labour once, and a Prime Minister could last 10 years at that time) UK Prime Minister, came to Silicon Valley last month to share his views on social welfare for the future. His point: politicians are hopelessly unprepared for the next Industrial Revolution. An opinion somehow shared by Kara Swisher, the only person who gathered Steve Jobs and Bill Gates on the same stage, explaining the misunderstandings between the Silicon Valley and DC. (S)

How hacking was turned into a well-organized market through bug-bounty startups. And also became an attractive earnings prospect for students and even teenagers (a few of them millionnaires now). Link (T)

We issued our study on Slack a few weeks ago, looking into the B2B communication platform phenomenon before its IPO. Rani Molla at Recode raises the question of the productivity pit: “by lowering the barrier to initiate communication, the hidden side effect is that Slack has the quiet capacity to exponentially increase communication overhead. Resulting in much more voluminous, lower quality communication”. She may have a point. Link (S)

Amazon is not playing nice to successful open-source software companies, leveraging their code to replicate their services on its AWS platform. Even more worrying, as a result open-source companies are making their code more proprietary, thus limiting the innovation potential of new projects that could build on them. Because of a questionable practice, in the end the whole ecosystem loses. Link (T)

Whether you love it or hate it, scooters and micromobility are the most amazing innovation in town since Uber. And arguably even more. Here is an insight on this craze. (S)

(Bedside) tables are turning but Zuck, loving husband and father, always has a solution. (S)

4-day week vs. 996, the new East-West clash

I was in Shanghai a couple of weeks ago and experienced one of my strongest corporate clashes ever.
Based in Paris, at the middle of what we look at as the western part of the world, I was constantly reading posts on Medium from startup founders making a strong point on very pro-employee measures like unlimited vacation policies, 4-day weeks, paid days to work on community or freelance projects, etc. The war for talent raging, millions of startups must stand out of the crowd using all-action / low budget plans. I must confess I always had mixed feelings: startups are the Formula 1 of the future of work and an invaluable source of inspiration for sure but, nonetheless, some of these ideas may sound too narcissistic, sometimes insincere, in a world where unions have no grip and bosses (think of Elon or Zuck) are regarded as semi-gods.

At the same time, in China, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, is a strong supporter of the 996 work culture - which means 12 hours a day, 6 days a week - common among the country's big technology companies and startups. "I personally think that 996 is a huge blessing," he says. "How do you achieve the success you want without paying extra effort and time?" Ma adds that any prospective employees of Alibaba, one of the world's biggest tech companies, should be prepared to work 12 hours a day if they want to succeed. "Or why bother joining? We don't like those who work eight hours comfortably".

Trip after trip, study after study I can only bring testimony China is not only the world’s factory but now holds the top innovation hotspots on Earth with Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, competing head to head with the Silicon Valley and outpacing any European city. And the long working hours are, each time I am visiting the country, a shock, and bring, with my European perspective, unease.
Already ahead of most of the would-be Silicon Valleys, where will they be in only five years if they work twice our load?

So, my questions are, should we all bet on labor rules and conditions, just like startups, and cherish our art-de-vivre work-life balance to make it a better magnet for talent than stock options in the territories of rare unicorns and no IPOs? Are these trends gadgets most of organizations can’t afford and a trap Silicon Valley exported to seal our economic fate forever? Or, will Calfornication inevitably reach China and get rid of the 996?

My only certainty is that here again we need to invent and promote our own model and social dialogue is something to reconsider, finally, in an environment so good at social networks, user centricity and talent-rockstars. (S)

 

Can art collective become the Disney of the experience economy? Meow Wolf may be the Cirque du Soleil of retail. If you didn’t click yet on this title from the New York Times it is because you didn’t read this issue that far. (S)

We wanted humanoid companions, instead we got AI-generated death metal and a robotic arm able to find Waldo in 4.5s. (T)

With its Futurecraft Loop prototype, Adidas is experimenting with the circular economy. Interesting questions regarding tastes / experience (after a few recycling steps, will we accept wearing not-so-white shoes?) and business model (subscriptions might be more adapted to this new era). Link (T)

For the first time in 26 years, the Joan Bates Clark Medal, an even more exclusive award than the Nobel prize in the fields of economics, goes to a macroeconomist: in an age of hyper-specialization, Emi Nakamura, a young yet broad expert of business cycles, stands out as a virtuoso and may announce a new reign for Keynesian economics. Link (S)

Fed up with shiny, squared, preplanned, filtered, hashtagged pictures? Good news. It looks like the Instagram aesthetic is over: “the pink wall and avocado toast are just not what people are stopping at anymore.” Link (S)

Anki

In 8 years, median funding raised by SaaS startups at IPO has tripled (to $300m), while their median annual revenue has doubled (to $200m).
Is it the sign that low-hanging fruits have already been picked and so that SaaS startups are now less effective? Or on the contrary that VC funding has grown so much that startups can build and market their products with more resources? Link (T)

Eric Schmidt is leaving Alphabet’s board without much noise. He joined Google as CEO in August 2001. Their turnover was $70 million back then, it was $116 billion last year (x1657). I often tell myself it is not Zuckerbergs we are missing but Schmidts, great seasoned managers joining promising startups. (S)

You may know my love for design. Especially for chairs. And web of course. Ben Talabot, our Creative Director, shared a joint masterpiece with me, a very beautiful web page on Danish chairs, a mid-20th century classic. Enjoy. Link (S)

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