Today is International Rare Disease Day.
Rare diseases, sometimes called “orphan diseases,” are a group of about 6,000 disorders that affect a small percentage of the population. The majority of rare diseases stem from genetics, and around half affect children.
In recent years, government incentives have helped boost rare disease research. These include Orphan Drug Designation, which gives a company more time to exclusively sell a drug, and FDA-issued priority review vouchers, which can be traded in for a quicker approval process. The vouchers can sell for upwards of $100M.
We took a look at 100+ companies and investors working in the rare disease space, which you can see here.
And now, on to today's research.
Warren Buffett has written an open letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders every year for the last 40 years. The most recent letter published this week.
They've become an annual required read in the investing world, for insight into how Buffett and his team think about investment strategy, stock ownership, and more.
We unpack 24 of the most important lessons from the last four decades of letters. Check them out here.
The end of the road
The harsh reality is 70% of tech startups fail, usually less than 2 years after first raising funding.
Why are the numbers so bleak? We compiled 298 startup post-mortems to answer that question. You can read them here.
Brain research has advanced over the years, but the brain still remains an engimantic organ. Alzheimer's disease, for example, affects around 5.7M Americans, but its causes are still unknown.
But researchers are determined to solve the brain's mysteries, and a number of new technologies have emerged to help.
We dig into the current state of brain research, the startups and innovations shaping the area, and much more. Clients can read it here.
Can't stop, won't stop
Earlier this month, Amazon teamed up with Western Union to launch a service called PayCode, which lets customers purchase items from Amazon's site using local currencies that were not previously accepted.
PayCode is now available in 10 countries, including Chile, Indonesia, and Kenya. We take a look at what else Amazon is working on in financial services here.
SoftBank reads the tea leaves
SoftBank Group has participated in over 100 deals worth nearly $56B over the last 2 years.
From ride-hailing to back office automation, we take a look at where SoftBank sees transformational opportunities based on its recent investments. Clients can read about it here.
Have a great rest of the week.
P.S. We're extending today's Future of Fintech pricing until EOD tomorrow, as we heard from teams they needed final approval. Saving $500 off your ticket with code savedmyseat should help.
P.P.S. We're hiring. Check out all of our open positions here. If you're happy, helpful, humble, and hungry, we'd love to chat.
This week in data:
- 30: Verizon announced that it is planning to launch its next generation wireless network in 30 US cities this year. The cities receiving 5G have not been confirmed, but the service promises speeds of up to 1Gbps, 20x faster than Verizon’s stated top download speed for current generation tech. We analyzed how 5G will affect major industries.
- 5 stars: The FTC just brought its first ever case against using fraudulent, paid Amazon reviews to advertise a product online. Cure Encapsulations, Inc. has come under fire for paying a third party to write 5-star Amazon reviews of its weight-loss supplement. The FTC found claims that the supplement was a “powerful appetite suppressant” that “literally blocks fat from forming” to be false and unsubstantiated.
- 190: Apple laid off 190 employees from its mysterious Project Titan program, which develops self-driving car technology. The cuts reportedly included product design staff, hardware engineers, and software developers. However, Apple has recently ramped up testing of its autonomous vehicles, logging nearly 80x more miles in 2018 compared to the previous year. We looked at 45 other cos working on AVs.
- $1B: Target is taking on Victoria’s Secret. The retail giant is launching new lingerie and sleepwear lines, announcing an expected $1B in sales in the next year. Target will offer over 200 bras in 40 styles in its Auden line, as well as provide “Bra Fit Studios” and an online “find your fit” tool. It’s also using untouched photos of models of more diverse body shapes to promote the line in stores — a move in contrast to Victoria’s Secret, which has recently come under fire for a lack of diversity in its models. We highlighted startups disrupting lingerie and underwear in a recent client note.
- 52%: More than half of US economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics expect a recession before the end of 2020. Only 11% of respondents thought that the US economy would avoid a recession through 2021.
- 35th: Spain just became the world’s healthiest country, according to the 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index. The index ranks 169 economies based on factors like life expectancy, access to clean water, tobacco use, and sanitation. Spain surpassed Italy to take the top spot, with Iceland, Japan, and Switzerland rounding out the top 5. Meanwhile the US dropped a spot to clock in at 35, behind Cuba, Canada, Costa Rica, and more.
- 38 years: Megachile pluto, also known as Wallace’s giant bee or raja ofu, has been spotted for the first time since the last sighting in 1981. The rare bee, found on a group of islands in Indonesia, is approximately 4x the size of a European honey bee. Feared extinct, a specimen sold last year for over $9,000 on eBay (with $12 postage).