When Slow is Fast — #111
There is no shortcut to things falling into place
This week, I've been getting new perspectives. Valuable perspectives.
One of my main frustrations lately has been the slow pace I have been moving with when starting Better Odds, partly because I haven't been sure what route to take.
But then I realised that slow progress in the right direction might be faster than moving quickly without knowing where you're going.
All the small pivots I've done through the first 1.5 years of this company would have been a lot harder and more painful if we were a VC-backed startup of 40 people. And no matter the size or context of starting a company, you still need to make some iterations until you know your direction.
When working with digital transformation at large companies, I often talked about building a skateboard instead of a rocket. If you make a skateboard that runs, it could be upgraded to a bike, and the bike to a Vespa, and the Vespa to the car ... and you would know it worked as it scaled. It is much harder to succeed if you start by building the rocket.
Speed is worth nothing if you don't know where you are going. You don't have to be off by much in your navigation to end up in the wrong place.
This week, I might have found the skateboard version of the tool we're building. Going slow might have been the fastest - and cheapest - way to get to a place where increasing the speed and scale makes sense.
Things need time to mature. To marinate. To be challenged. I believe this to be true both in business and in life.
You cannot skip over the iterations that help you fine-tune where you are going or what you are doing. And it's probably strategic to give it the time it requires from the beginning instead of running as fast as you can in the wrong direction.
Yes, it is slow, but it is also fast.
📍 Five Small Things
Listen – This season of the podcast Land of the Giants from Vox is called The Twitter Fantasy. Episodes drop weekly, starting this week.
Read #1 – What can we gain by changing our collective narrative from a Consumer Story to a Citizen Story? Read Jon Alexander's How to be a hands-on citizen.
Read #2 – The book Your Face Belongs to Us: A Secretive Startup's Quest to End Privacy as We Know It by Kashmir Hill. A story of how a small AI company (Clearview AI) gave facial recognition to law enforcement, billionaires, and businesses — threatening to end privacy as we know it.
Remember – The British designer Phoebe Philo, renowned for minimalistic design and time at Céline, releases her eponymous brand tomorrow. To say the fashion world has been waiting for this would be an understatement.
Try – The Venture Capital and Startup incubator Antler openly published its Sustainability Toolkit, described as a one-stop-shop for founders of early-stage companies beginning their sustainability journey.
🗞️ The News Section
Israeli Military Says It Can't Guarantee Safety of Journalists in Gaza
On Friday, the Israeli military explicitly stated that it cannot guarantee the safety of journalists from Reuters and Agence France Presse operating in the Gaza Strip. Gaza has been under Israeli bombardment since October 7, following the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel. The conflict has resulted in approximately 1,400 Israeli and around 7,000 Palestinian deaths, according to respective health ministries.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) communicated their stance on journalists after Reuters and AFP sought assurances for their journalists' safety. The IDF clarified that they are targeting all Hamas military activities and warned that these operations often occur near civilian areas, including locations where journalists are based. This puts journalists at risk from both Israeli strikes and potential misfires from Hamas rockets.
The treatment of journalists by military forces during times of war is guided by international law, particularly the Geneva Conventions, which outline the rights and protections afforded to civilians, including journalists, in conflict zones.
Both Reuters and AFP have expressed grave concerns for their journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has reported that at least 27 journalists have been killed since the conflict began, not just in Gaza but also in Israel and southern Lebanon. The situation underscores the dangerous conditions under which journalists are currently working to report on this conflict.
Unilever's New CEO Shifts Away from Purpose as a Growth Strategy for All Brands
Hein Schumacher, the new CEO of Unilever who took over in July, has announced a shift in the company's strategy concerning the concept of "purpose." This comes after criticism from investors, who questioned the company's focus on integrating purpose into all its brands. Schumacher, formerly the CFO of Heinz, aims to move away from "force-fitting" purpose into every brand, a strategy that his predecessor, Alan Jope, strongly advocated. While Jope saw purpose as a pathway to sustainable growth, Schumacher believes it should be applied selectively, citing brands like Dove and Lifebuoy as compelling examples.
Schumacher's approach also includes a focus on Unilever's 30 "power brands," which make up more than 70% of the company's revenue, as part of a broader strategy to address weaknesses like declining volume growth and gross margins. He is committed to driving a "performance culture" within the company, a move that includes new leadership appointments.
This change in leadership and strategy at Unilever highlights a broader industry trend and risk: CEOs who prioritise purpose as a core strategy may find themselves replaced by successors who are less inclined to do so, particularly if the focus on purpose is perceived to come at the expense of growth and investor satisfaction.
Ford and GM Hit the Brakes on EV Expansion Because of Sluggish Customer Demand
Major automakers like Ford and General Motors (GM) are hitting the brakes on their ambitious electric vehicle (EV) plans. The industry's enthusiasm has been dampened by lower-than-expected consumer demand, leading Ford to postpone a staggering $12 billion in EV manufacturing expansions. This includes halting construction on a new battery plant, marking the second pause in just over a month. The company cites an accumulation of unsold EVs at dealerships, mainly due to their higher sticker prices and rising interest rates that have made car loans less affordable. Despite a 51% increase in EV sales this year, the growth rate pales compared to the 69% surge in 2022.
GM is also pumping the brakes, postponing the opening of its second electric truck plant. Additionally, a promising joint venture with Honda to flood the market with affordable EVs has been mutually cancelled.
The slowdown isn't limited to traditional automakers. Elon Musk is contemplating a delay in constructing a new Tesla "Gigafactory" in Mexico. Hertz, a significant renter of Tesla's EVs, is also scaling back its electrification plans.
Political factors further complicate the EV market. Ford's CEO, Jim Farley, has described EVs as a "political football," and research from UC Berkeley's Energy Institute at Haas indicates a deep partisan divide among EV owners in the United States. About half of all EVs sold in the US went to the 10% most Democratic counties and about one-third to the top 5%.
Despite these setbacks, Ford is still committed to opening a $5.6 billion EV and battery manufacturing campus in Tennessee by 2025.
📈 The Insights Section
IMF Predicts Slowing Global Growth Amid Geopolitical Tensions and Inflation Concerns
The World Economic Outlook report outlines the current state of the global economy, which is still recovering from various challenges. Before I give you the data, I wanted to share one quote from the report that genuinely stuck with me: "[A]ll countries should aim to limit geoeconomic fragmentation that prevents joint progress toward common goals and instead work toward restoring trust in rules-based multilateral frameworks that enhance transparency and policy certainty and help foster a shared global prosperity".
But despite hurdles such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the cost-of-living crisis, global economic activity has not stopped. Still, it has slowed down and become increasingly uneven across regions.
According to the IMF's latest projections, the world economy is expected to grow slower, decreasing from 3.5% in 2022 to 3% in 2023 and further to 2.9% in 2024. This slowdown is more pronounced in advanced economies than their emerging market counterparts. For instance, while the growth outlook for the United States has been revised upwards, the Euro area faces a downward revision. China, on the other hand, is grappling with headwinds from its ongoing real estate crisis.
Inflation is another critical concern. Headline inflation rates are projected to decelerate from 9.2% in 2022 to 5.9% in 2023 and 4.8% in 2024. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, is also expected to decline but more gradually, reaching 4.5% next year. Most countries are unlikely to achieve their inflation targets until 2025. In the United States, unemployment is expected to rise modestly from 3.6% to 3.9% by 2025, but labour markets in advanced economies remain generally strong.
Three major forces are shaping these economic trends: the near-complete recovery in services, tighter credit conditions affecting housing and investment, and the impact of last year's commodity price shocks. These forces are contributing to regional divergences and affecting inflation and economic activity differently across countries.
IMF also highlights several risks and policy recommendations:
China's intensifying real estate crisis (a long-running building boom that drove China's growth has halted, threatening jobs and savings of millions of households worldwide) and volatile commodity prices pose significant risks.
Fiscal buffers have eroded in many countries, making them more vulnerable to crises. Fiscal policies should focus on rebuilding buffers while protecting the vulnerable.
Central banks should maintain a tight stance to control inflation. And structural reforms targeting governance and business regulation are essential for higher long-term growth.
In summary, the global economy is showing resilience but faces challenges of slowing growth, inflation, and increasing regional divergences.
Instagram Significantly Better Than Facebook, YouTube and TikTok at Creating Media Impact for Brands
According to a recent data analysis by Launchmetrics, Instagram remains the most influential social media platform for brands, particularly in the fashion, lifestyle, and beauty sectors. The study, which evaluated data up to June 30, used a proprietary metric called Media Impact Value (MIV) to assess the impact of paid, owned, and earned media across various platforms. Instagram led the pack with a staggering $16.9 billion MIV and a 57.7% share of social brand reach. While Facebook ($3.5 billion) and YouTube ($2 billion) followed significantly behind, highlighting Instagram's dominance.
Interestingly, despite TikTok's surging popularity, its overall MIV was $1.8 billion, trailing behind other platforms. Instagram's new feature, Reels, even had a 10% higher average MIV than a typical TikTok video. In the luxury and beauty categories, Dior emerged as the most powerful brand, followed by Chanel and Prada.
However, this shows that the time users spend with a platform isn't the only metric to consider when prioritising marketing initiatives. It is essential to match objectives with the differences across channels. For instance, YouTube's strength lies in its search capabilities and long-form content, which fetches an average of $10,700 MIV per placement, higher than Instagram's $7,300 MIV average per post in fashion and sportswear.
Clean Energy Investments Have Increased 40% Since 2020, But Is It Enough?
According to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global energy situation is unstable, with fuel prices fluctuating and ongoing conflicts like the one in Ukraine and potential issues in the Middle East. Global temperatures are already 1.2°C above what they used to be before industrial times, and over 90% of the world's population is breathing polluted air, causing more than 6 million premature deaths each year.
And while it is (too) slow, things are changing. Investment in clean energy has increased by 40% since 2020. Now, one in five cars sold is electric, up from one in 25 in 2020. Also, a record 500 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity will be added in 2023, and more than $1 billion a day is being spent on solar energy.
In the United States, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, it's expected that 50% of new cars will be electric by 2030. In the European Union, more eco-friendly heat pumps are installed. China is also making strides, with plans to add three times more solar and wind energy by 2030 compared to previous estimates. These efforts are contributing to a decrease in the use of fossil fuels, which is expected to peak before 2030.
But challenges remain. Current investment in oil and gas is nearly double what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030. For developing countries, investment in clean energy must increase five times by 2030 to meet climate goals.
(Thank you, Judith, for sharing).
More than half of Gen Z Says Sex Scenes are Unnecessary in TV shows and movies
Gen Z, Media
A recent study from UCLA surveyed 1,500 adolescents aged 10-24 and found that a slight majority of Gen Z prefers to see platonic relationships or friendships in movies and TV over romantic or sexual content. Only 15.2% disagreed with this preference, while 33.3% had no preference.
The study also revealed that 44.3% of adolescents feel romance is overused in media, and 47.5% of the surveyed population said that sex "isn't needed for the plot of most TV shows and movies." Additionally, 39% of respondents want to see more aromantic and asexual characters on screen.
Additionally, the 10-24-year-olds are rejecting the dominating portrayal of traditional heteronormative relationships in media. And very few adolescents prefer aspirational content. Only 10.5% were interested in stories about the "rich and famous".
Thank you for today. I hope you learned something! ✨
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