The Profile: The Silicon Valley elite who want to build an $800M city & the companies curing our anxiety
This edition of The Profile features James Daunt, Riley Keough, Sean Paul, and more.
Good morning, friends!
I get immense joy from … going on a walk. Is that weird?
It sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s the one thing I look forward to no matter where I am in the world. And I think it has to do with the fact that I think better when I walk (I also pace frantically when I’m on the phone.)
In all honesty, most of my ideas come when I’m walking. Research suggests that people’s most creative ideas strike when they’re not actively thinking about anything — that’s why walking, running, meditating, driving, or any sort of rote activity can spark inspiration.
But it’s more than that. I can't get new ideas staring at a blank page. Creativity, for me, requires motion. When you go on a walk, you can turn your world into an idea-generating sensorium, and ideas will spring up from the most unlikely sources.
We tend to miss so much because we’re always doing something else. When’s the last time you went on a walk without something like a podcast or music occupying your mind? We rarely take a moment to truly notice.
My toddler recently learned to identify colors, so she’s been pointing our every “yellow car,” “green tree,” and “red sign” so inevitably, I’ve been noticing every yellow car, green tree, and red sign. Those things had only been part of the backdrop. Now, they’re the stars of the show.
Imagine if we did something similar and pointed out all the interesting, bizarre things we saw on a daily basis. Yesterday, I saw seven people photographing a squirrel eating a french fry. There’s so much about that situation that makes you go, “WTF.”
It was odd, it was strange, it was bizarre — all the best ingredients for an idea.
— The CEO disrupting America’s biggest bookstore chain [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
— The Silicon Valley elite who want to build an $800 million city
— The Elvis heiress inheriting Graceland
— The man revolutionizing dining
— The party boy of Y2K
— The companies curing our anxiety
PEOPLE TO KNOW.
The CEO disrupting America’s biggest bookstore chain: Barnes & Noble was once the enemy of independent bookstores. Now it’s trying to be more like them. James Daunt, the CEO since the company was taken private in 2019, has a plan to save the company and its bookstores by combining the power of a big chain with the pleasure of a beloved indie. By shifting control of the process to individual store managers across the country, Daunt is giving local booksellers permission to do things they were never able to do before. They have discretion over purchasing, placement and even pricing. Here’s how Daunt is flipping the leadership model and giving more power to the booksellers. (WSJ; The link above is a complimentary link, but please reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
“It’s no coincidence that I took over Waterstones when it died and I took over this place when it was barely breathing.”
The Silicon Valley elite who want to build an $800 million city A company called Flannery Associates has been buying large plots of land in a largely agricultural region 60 miles northeast of San Francisco. The company, which has little information public about its operations, has committed more than $800 million to secure thousands of acres of farmland, court documents show. One parcel after another, Flannery made offers to every landowner for miles, paying several times the market rate, whether the land had been listed for sale or not. The company’s investors are a who’s who of Silicon Valley, including Marc Andreessen, Michael Moritz, Reid Hoffman, and Chris Dixon. Here’s what kind of city they’re hoping to create. (The New York Times)
“This effort should relieve some of the Silicon Valley pressures we all feel — rising home prices, homelessness, congestion etc.”
The Elvis heiress inheriting Graceland: Riley Keough’s grandfather Elvis Presley died before she was born, but his house in Memphis stayed in the family. Graceland. In this profile, filmmaker and actor Keough opens up about growing up Presley, losing her mom, Lisa Marie Presley, and inheriting Graceland. (Vanity Fair)
“Because to be American royalty is not just to have your country watch you. To be American royalty is to have the whole world watch you.”
The man revolutionizing dining: Ben Leventhal is the man who has arguably done more than anyone to shape the tastes and habits of the unruly online age of New York City dining. Leventhal is the co-founder of Eater, Resy, and, as of three months ago, a still somewhat unformed but closely watched venture called Blackbird. He describes the venture, which has attracted seed capital from investors on both coasts, as a software company that will help restaurants build loyalty clubs in a business where the profit margins can hover around 4 percent. Will it work? (GrubStreet)
“The lesson is that once you sell something, you have to be okay with whatever it becomes.
The party boy of Y2K: It’s been two decades since Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” dethroned 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” from its No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Young people today seem to be discovering Sean Paul with the same delight their elders once did in middle school. On TikTok, influencers like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae, who were un- or barely born in 2003, can be found participating in viral dance challenges to “Get Busy,” while millennial comedians 10 years their senior make videos about the unfairness of being in seventh grade when the song was ruling clubs. Here’s what Sean Paul has been busy with in recent days. (The New York Times)
“Paul’s best songs take all your amorphous longings and feelings of exile — whether imposed by a pandemic or a boarding school or a lost youth — and exorcise them.”
COMPANIES TO WATCH.
The companies curing our anxiety: Americans are anxious — and there’s a flurry of companies aiming to fill the demand for relief. There are vibrating devices that hang around your neck and “tone your vagus nerve,” weighted stuffed animals, bead-filled stress balls and coloring books that claim to bring calm. Here’s how anxiety became a big business. (WSJ; reply to this email if you can’t access the article)
“Not every pain in your knee requires a surgeon. Not every anxious feeling requires a therapist.”
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