The Agenda 👇
I spoke with Toni Cowan-Brown about everything that’s changing in F1 🎧
Thumbs up/down for last week
I’m very happy to publish what will be the last episode of the Building Bridges podcast this season: a wide-ranging conversation with Toni Cowan-Brown about the fascinating world of Formula 1 🎧
Toni is the first repeat guest on Building Bridges, since Laetitia already interviewed her a few months ago about being a European in Silicon Valley. Being a Nation Builder alumnus, Toni’s main focus is the intersection of tech and politics. She’s currently the publisher and/or co-host of several inspiring lines of content, including her personal newsletter Idée Fixe; the podcast Unapologetic Women, which she co-hosts with Sorcha Rochford; and the podcast Another Podcast along with Benedict Evans.
As I explain in my opening, my personal story with Formula 1 can be divided into two parts. The first was my growing up in 1980s & 1990s France and cheering for 4-time world champion and local hero Alain Prost. Prost’s popularity was such at the time that I was watching as many races as I could and knew quite a lot about the teams, the rules, and obviously the drivers.
But then Prost retired after winning his fourth world championship in 1993, and like most of France I became bored and disengaged from Formula 1. In fact, I stopped following the sport altogether until I discovered Netflix’s (excellent) Drive to Survive earlier this year—effectively a 28-year gap between being a Prost cheerleader and enjoying the popular Netflix series about current seasons!
Hence my very first question to Toni: What has happened in Formula 1 over the past three decades? Quite a lot, it turns out, between the evolution of the power unit, the constant shortening of the pit stops, and many other things that you’ll discover if you listen to the podcast.
In our conversation, Toni and I cover the following topics:
What matters the most, the car or the driver? Hint: it’s both, and so much more!
Why spec series (that is, series in which cars are all the same) are the best opportunities for women to break into motorsports.
Why the UK is the core of the Formula 1 world, and all about Motorsport Valley, a small area in England where (almost) all the teams are headquartered.
Why Formula 1 teams are the best illustration of French economist Philippe Aghion’s concept of a “neck-and-neck firm”.
What the Formula 1 overlords are doing to try and win the interest of the American audience—including Drive to Survive, which has been tailored for the US.
Why Formula 1’s weird (and sometimes dark) politics is being turned upside down thanks to social media (hello, Lewis Hamilton!).
Who and what you should follow if you want to dig deeper and engage with the sport.
Also here are a few videos that Toni mentions in our conversation:
Formula 1 documentary | Pit Stop in Two Seconds (December 2019)
And don’t forget to check out some of Toni’s other works on Formula 1:
A conversation with Benedict Evans (Another Podcast): F1, the plane that never takes off 🎧
An episode of Unapologetic Women about athletes becoming activists 🎧
😀 The Dealroom team is doing an excellent job, along with Sifted and the European Commission, on documenting European tech and outlining the challenges it needs to tackle to get even better. After an excellent report on Corporate Innovation in the Entrepreneurial Age, they’ve just released another great report on Startup Cities in the Entrepreneurial Age 👉 Read it all here 👀
🙂 Our friends at Stripe recently launched a product called Stripe Tax—which, as you can guess considering the company and the product’s name, is about helping startups and small businesses comply with differing tax rules when doing business across borders. Read all about it here. Also, this:
😏 The piece I wrote last year about the future of construction featured a French entrepreneur, Pascal Chazal. Interesting that Pascal’s insight was that retail chains would take the initiative in disrupting the housing market, and now there’s this: John Lewis plans to build 10,000 rental homes.
😐 Everyone is finally awakening to the idea that venture capital is eating financial services. It’s a phenomenon that I call The Diffraction of Venture Capital (see this list of curated links on the topic), but now it’s made its way into the Financial Times: The new world of venture capital.
😒 There was a debate recently about Western European VCs writing (much) more than their counterparts in Central & Eastern Europe. Fortunately, Marcin Szelag, a VC investing from Poland, is remedying this with his newsletter CEE Venture Rounds Review. Keep writing, Marcin!
😖 I once wrote about investors needing to switch from a country risk paradigm to one focused on widespread uncertainty. The examples I used were Brexit and the CCP’s crackdown on Hong Kong. But this is also relevant: Didi Crackdown: Wall Street Should Have Seen the Regulatory Risks Coming.
From Country Risk in an Uncertain World (July 2020—just unlocked):
In the past you could confine your business within the limits of the vaguely global part of the economy in which risks could be assessed and managed. Today, the Great Fragmentation is destroying even that “globaloney” corner—starting with Britain, Hong Kong, and even the US—and forcing everyone to realize that uncertainty, not risks, rules the world economy now.
Sign up for European Straits if you don’t want to miss the next issues—starting again in September 🤗
(Credit: Franz Liszt, Angelus ! Prière Aux Anges Gardiens—extrait du disque Miroirs de Jonas Vitaud, NoMadMusic.)
From Normandy, France 🇫🇷