What we've been reading: Drones, eating out and entrepreneurial welfare

What we've been reading
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Every week, we collate some of our pieces of journalism and writing for you to enjoy. We call it - somewhat obviously - What we’ve been reading.

So, if you’ve got a moment to spare, check out the content that got us talking and thinking this week. Hopefully, it will inspire a similar reaction in you.

The end will be delivered by Amazon drone

Amazon just bought the American food retailer Whole Foods for $14bn. The transaction was reported in The Washington Post, a newspaper owned by Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos. The company is about to acquire the messaging app Slack, too.

It could soon be the first trillion dollar company. It has patented a nightmarish beehive tower to house its burgeoning armada of drones. It grows and grows and, as Emmett Rensin writes, "Jeff Bezos is just a major pharmaceutical company short of owning everything the average middle-class American needs to live".

Are we frightened? Should we be frightened? Would it matter if we were?

A few years ago, the writer Brad Stone wrote a book about Amazon's rise called The Everything Store. It detailed how Bezos grew Amazon from bookseller to behemoth. The book's title just seemed clever at the time. These days it's beginning to sound like prophecy.

The Paradox of American Restaurants

As Derek Thompson observes, the visions of fast food dystopia never came true. There was a point where we feared the corporate food giants would swallow our towns, destroying independent restaurants.

But it never happened and, in terms of sheer dining choice, we're incredibly spoilt. And we've become a nation of diners. According to the ONS, Britons spend more than £45 a week on restaurants and hotels (compared to shrinking totals on booze and cigarettes).

But despite this boom, the sector isn't quite the gold rush you imagine. Even Jamie Oliver can't escape the rigours: after he closed six restaurants, Oliver blamed it on "the tough market".

As The Atlantic's Thompson points out in this article, the sector is defined by cutthroat competition, the vagaries of diner's preference and the market you operate in.

Finland tests a new form of welfare

Those bloody clever Finns are up to something. If it's not their startlingly progressive education system, then it's them essentially trying to hack their welfare system.

The Finnish government has randomly selected 10% of the country's welfare recipients to trial an unconditional basic income. The story details one such recipient who now receives £500 a month, no matter what.

Juha Jarvinen was previously trapped by welfare bureaucracy: There was work available but it wasn't stable and well paid (and if he took it, he'd have lost his welfare and would've been worse off). But the UBI has changed the game.

The amount has freed Jarvinen to pursue an entrepreneurial venture. Any income he makes adds to his basic income.

It raises the intriguing question: would we be more entrepreneurial if we had less to lose? Is there a way to make welfare more entrepreneurial?

The America’s Cup: A fierce battle ahead

I don't want to fall into the trap of writing something dumb like "Six lessons you can learn from The America's Cup" - but, you know, it's incredible to see the teamwork.

The sport has this strange contradiction at its heart: the craft tears across the sea, it's frenetic, constantly on a knife's edge - but it's also beautiful to see. The crews move with a synchronous poise despite the hostile environment.

It's up to you whether you want to extract any metaphors or lessons here. It is, though, worth watching no matter what.

Hate them if you want but The Warriors are what every team should hope to be

While we're on a sports bent, it's worth mentioning the Golden State Warriors, probably the most dominant sports team on Earth right now.

The team has an obscene galaxy of talent and, of course, their complete dominance has inspired visceral hatred.

But if you ask The Warriors themselves, they'll credit their success to something deeper than just talent (that helps, of course).

The picture that emerges is of an incredibly close, cohesive unit; no ego, no battles or posturing. Just symbiosis. 

About Francois Badenhorst


Francois is the deputy editor of BusinessZone and UK Business Forums.


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