🔮 Hyper growth; Internet control; Early-stage crypto; New approaches to recycling & walking whales ++ #340

Hi, I’m Azeem Azhar. I convene Exponential View to help us understand how our societies and political economy will change under the force of rapidly accelerating technologies.

🇬🇧 A brief public service announcement for anyone who pre-ordered my book from Amazon UK. Many of you ordered the paperback which Amazon listed as being available and have subsequently had your orders cancelled. Sorry - you need to go back and re-order the hardback which will arrive in double quick time. My apologies.

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Dept of near future

The exponential company and hyper growth

🚀 The technology businesses of the Exponential Age are shaped differently than those that came before them. One of the key characteristics is the speed at which these new businesses scale. Hopin is one of the fastest-growing European tech companies ever, and one of its earliest employees has published incredible insights taken from the company’s lightning success.

I’ve tried to distill the insights from this essay but is isn’t easy: move quickly, don’t worry about polish, keep a sense of your north star (and the metrics that orient you towards it), keep shipping.

What funds hypergrowth is venture capital. Mark Suster, an astute observer of his own industry, describes the changing venture landscape.

As in many industries upended by VC, the capital providers themselves now find the middle ground eviscerate. Go big or specialise. There is no safe Goldilocks’ zone. In the case of Suster’s firm:

To drive outsized returns you have to have edge and to develop edge you need to spend the preponderance of your time building relationships and knowledge in an area where you have informational advantages.

Countries assert internet control

🙀 Self-discipline is a jarring term. Despite the Orwellian connotations [or maybe because of them], Chinese content platforms, including Weibo and Tencent, just agreed to enforce “more self-discipline” to maintain a “clear” internet. This announcement comes after China’s most prominent movie star was all but erased from the internet. As part of China’s recent crackdown on various consumer internet areas, the actress and singer Zhao Wei’s online profile has all but vanished. The exact reason for Wei erasure isn’t apparent, but it appears the government wanted to use her status to send a strong message across the consumer-facing internet.

This type of internet control isn’t restricted to China. Russia is continuing its crackdown on the open internet through similar assaults on press freedom and the censorship of leading internet voices. Most notably, the Russian government successfully pressured Google and Apple to remove opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s tactical voting app from their app stores in a startling move. If that wasn’t enough, some countries are looking to subvert western internet companies altogether with homegrown [and controlled] versions of their platforms. Ethiopia is one such example as it is working to build a local rival to Facebook. If we feel like private companies have too much control over the internet, these examples of state-run control over the web might provide some pause. [See also: Top class reporting from the Wall Street Journal on Facebook. Facebook knows just how toxic its platforms are and has done too little to mend them.]

Growing pains

💥 El Salvador’s adoption of Bitcoin this month didn’t go as smoothly as expected. But it’s also important to take a non-Western perspective. Research from EV reader, Ronit Ghose, Citi’s top financial services analyst, is instructive: crypto adoption is high where property rights are low. Indonesia’s crypto scene, for example, is on fire—there are more crypto traders than in the equity, bond and mutual fund arenas in total.

Crypto adoption is high in areas with low property rights. Credit: Citi GPS

The red hot new blockchain and cryptocurrency Solana also experienced a 17-hour outage last week, leading some to question the strength of its technology. Lost in the sea of hot takes about these events is the fact that many (if not most) sometimes take for granted: We are in the very early stages of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. This isn’t a value judgement on the use and efficiency of blockchains or cryptocurrencies. Instead, it’s a humble reminder that we are in the early stages of a profoundly innovative technology.

Recall, if you will, the Morris worm in 1988. This early worm infected up to 10% of the computers connected to the internet at the time. Despite this crippling event, which naysayers at the time cited as a potential downside of the internet as a whole, the internet has fared remarkably well since then. Instead of using growing pains like the Solana outage as evidence of the inferiority of cryptocurrencies, it's more instructive to see these developments as a natural part of emerging technology. A technology that could radically transform banking, investing, and smart contracts as we have come to understand them.

🔋Dept of decarbonisation

CO2 level 412.94 ppm | 3,217 days until we reach the 450ppm threshold

The latest measurement of atmospheric CO2 (as of September 14, 2021): 412.94 ppm; September 2020: 411.98 ppm; 25 years ago: 360 ppm; 250 years ago, est: 250 ppm. Share this reminder with your community by forwarding this email or tweeting this.

🛵 Electric scooters and bikes have the potential to alter carbon emissions in urban areas radically. And they are extremely popular. India’s Ola Electric Mobility just released an electric scooter that received 300,000 bookings on its first day. To put that into perspective, they sold four scooters every second. This sort of demand reveals the pent up demand for two-wheeled electric vehicles in dense markets like India. The growth potential is mind-boggling.

♻️ The dark secret about recycling is that it created a logistical headache for municipalities around the world. So much so that a lot of recycling doesn’t even end up being recycled. This came to a head five years ago when China stopped buying the majority of America’s recycling. Now, Maine might have found a solution. A new law requires manufacturers [instead of municipalities and taxpayers] to cover the lion’s share of recycling costs. Should private companies be forced to shoulder the burden of public goods like recycling even when it's clear that the government isn’t up to the task?

Short morsels to appear smart when you meet a woolly mammoth

🧠 It’s remarkable how little we understand about the human brain. A new study finds a single neuron is essentially a complex tiny computer.

📽 Streaming demand is boosting the UK’s film and television industry by adding as many as 30,000 jobs.

📱Two sides of TikTok’s user base and algorithm: the platform served up sex and drug videos to minors and was an essential organising tool for those that stormed the US Capitol on January 6th.

😜 Bioethical issues galore as scientists debate bringing back the woolly mammoth.

🐋 Careful what you wish though as fossils of “land-roaming whales” have been found in Egypt.

⛴ We have covered the container shipping crisis for months, but this piece in The Economist provides a detailed overview.

🚉 If you were missing your commute, here is a lovely meditation on the beautiful melody of subway sounds from around the world. The secret of the midday power nap.

🥼 Own a piece of history—an authentic Theranos lab coat for sale on Etsy.

End note

Thanks for all the amazing support you’ve given me around the release of EXPONENTIAL / THE EXPONENTIAL AGE.

I should stress that the book is built on the work of the newsletter but presents a lot of very new ideas that I haven’t really written about in the past few years. My model for why some technologies improve exponentially, as well as the rationale for why people and organisations don’t grok such changes, is quite novel. So too, I think, are the analyses of economic and political impacts across markets, labour, trade, geopolitics and democracy. The feedback has been great (cheers!) - so once, again, thanks.

😍 Azeem

What you’re up to – notes from EV readers

Kaila Cobin published “Why lab-grown meat is definitely going to be a thing”.

Check out Azeem’s tips for founders in the Exponential Age at Pitch Live.

Azeem will also take part in the inaugural Cyber Summit brought together by Tortoise on 30th September. The Cyber Summit is a one-day hybrid gathering of global business leaders and policymakers. EV members are invited to join: register using this link and the code AINETWORKGUEST.

Pete Flint published “Demand shocks open a new marketplace era”.

Joseph Dana continues to report on Cape Town’s attempts to establish [renewable] energy independence.

Claire Curry has been working with the WEF on a series of workshops to understand how to shape artificial intelligence to support the energy transition and decarbonisation. She just published the outcome of her work.

Rohan Bhobe’s Nava PBC just published their 2020 public benefit report, highlighting some of the transformation successes they've achieved amid the pandemic.

To share your projects and updates, fill out your details here. Because of space constraints, we prioritise updates from paying members and startups I have invested in. (You can become the former by subscribing, if you have not already, and the latter by getting an intro to me via a trusted contact.)

Exponential Jobs - Featured roles for our community

Every week, we curate jobs for our community, by our community. Our members are hiring in climate tech, blockchain, energy storage, AI. Here are the highlights:

Build a Climate Startup is hiring a Venture Science Associate to lead technical diligence and analysis of venture creation opportunities in climate deeptech.

CitiVentures / D10x is looking for a Venture Builder / entrepreneur in residence to work with senior business leaders to discover, develop, build, take to market, and grow problems worth solving by Citi now.

X, the moonshot factory, is hiring a Moonshot Storyteller to inspire innovators, makers, entrepreneurs, and dreamers, inside and outside of X.

Tomorrow, startup on a mission to organise the world’s electricity data to drive tangible reductions in carbon emissions, is hiring a Head of Sales.

Around, hybrid workspace & collaboration startup, is hiring:

and more.

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