A ‘Sober Pub,’ Uber Wins an NLRB Ruling, and How to Hire Ex-Inmates

Get the Oxford Morning Report every day. Click here for a free subscription.

MARKETING

Mailchimp is targeting small businesses with a new full marketing platform: The platform includes “technology to record and track customer leads; the ability to purchase domains and build sites; ad retargeting on Facebook and Instagram; social media management. It will also offer business intelligence that leverages a new move into artificial intelligence to provide recommendations to users on how and when to market to whom.

“SMBs continue to make up 48 percent of the GDP in the US. And within the SMB sector, the opportunity has totally changed with the rise of the internet. ‘What’s really key is the role digital apps, digital publishing and social media have played,’ said Ben Chestnut, Mailchimp’s co-founder and CEO. ‘We can have a 10-employee company with a customer base bigger than 1 million.’

“There are clearly a lot of others vying to be the go-to platform for small businesses to do their business, … but Mailchimp’s unique selling point … is that it’s the platform that has no vested interests in other business areas, and will therefore be as focused as the small businesses themselves are. That includes, for example, no upcharging regardless of the platform where you choose to run a campaign. ‘We are Switzerland,’ Chestnut said.”

HUMAN RESOURCES

Here’s how a Chicago company, Progressive Coating, learned to hire ex-inmates: “With the job market tight, the small company in October hired Mr. Brady, who had a criminal record, through a retraining program. He worked about two months, then got fired for a drinking problem.

“Just over a month later, he was back, sweeping and stacking boxes before dawn as he waited for co-workers to arrive. He had checked into a substance-abuse program and was hoping to get his life back on track. Progressive hoped for the same. ‘John has everything in him to succeed,’ says Edgar Rosales, Progressive’s operations manager. ‘I don’t want to see him fail. I feel like I will fail as well.’ …

“‘The tough part of it,’ Mr. Walters says, ‘is how much rope do you allow? How much leniency do you give before you become unfair to the business or other employees?’ Mr. Walters says if he can get over initial issues with former inmates, he thinks they are likely to be more loyal than traditional employees. He says hiring has slowed as he replaces equipment. Progressive expects to hire more graduates of the North Lawndale program when it gets a new production line up and running in about three months.

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Uber drivers are in fact contractors, not employees: “The move, outlined by the board’s general counsel in a memorandum released Tuesday, deals a blow to drivers’ efforts to band together to demand higher pay and better working conditions from Uber and its main rival in the ride-hailing business, Lyft. It is the first major policy move the board has made concerning the so-called gig economy under President Trump.

“Contractors lack the protection given to employees under federal law—and enforced by the labor board—for unionizing and other collective activity, such as protesting the policies of employers. As a practical matter, the conclusion makes it extremely difficult for Uber drivers to form a union.”

Palantir is expected to go public later this year, but the group Tech Workers Coalition plans to stage a protest against the company’s alleged assistance of ICE in deportations. “Earlier this month, The Intercept reported that Palantir had provided Homeland Security with technology to ‘target the parents and other relatives of unaccompanied minors crossing the border.’ … The protest organizers’ hope is that by addressing Palantir’s employees directly on GitHub, where coders communicate, they will be galvanized into using their considerable collective clout at the company to pressure executives over the alleged misuse of its technology.”

E-COMMERCE

Flexe is challenging Amazon with a “warehousing-as-a-service” model, providing a marketplace for on-demand storage space: “Flexe benefits warehouse owners who make revenue on space that would have otherwise sat empty, which Flexe estimates is 20 to 30 percent of a given warehouse. More than 1,000 of them across the US and Canada use Flexe’s software to bid on various offers, up from 370 warehouses three years ago.

“Walmart is one of many companies using Flexe in the e-commerce battle against Amazon. While Flexe’s customers are competing against Amazon, so too is Flexe itself. Instead of selling on Amazon, Flexe offers brands an alternative that lets them ship products in their own branded boxes and existing shopping software. The third-party warehouses, meanwhile, handle labor and administrative work. It also keeps retailers from having to share any data with Amazon.”

STARTUPS

NPHub founder Krish Chopra wants to fix the biggest flaw in how we train nurses: “‘Graduate nursing students throughout the US are required to complete six-to eight-week-long rotations under the mentorship of a working nurse practitioner to fulfill graduation requirements. Finding working professionals who are willing to teach, however, can be a colossal task,’ causing nursing students to postpone graduation. The Atlanta-based company [Chopra] co-founded in 2017 with Abhi Golhar, 34, automates the pairing of graduate nursing students with clinical educators in exchange for $12.50 per clinical hour of training.

“Typically, nurse practitioners who teach students are not compensated even though it is required for students to get this form of training, Chopra says. NPHub, rather, offers to pay educators anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of what a student pays to use the service; NPHub pockets the rest.”

FOOD AND BEVERAGE

Brooklyn’s Getaway is a “sober pub” that’s part of a trend gaining in popularity: “A bar without booze sounds like an oxymoron, like an aquarium without fish or a bakery that doesn’t serve bread. But in cities like New York and London, where bars often function as second living rooms for apartment dwellers with little space, an alcohol-free nightlife option can appeal to people who, for whatever reason, would prefer not to drink. …

[Co-owner Sam Thonis says,] ‘There weren’t many nightlife options in New York that didn’t revolve around alcohol or weren’t trying to push that on you in some way,’ Thonis says. ‘The more I talked to people, some of whom are sober and some of whom aren’t, the more I felt that people wanted that kind of space.’ … But what’s different about today’s wave of alcohol-free bars is that they aren’t necessarily rooted in the idea of total abstinence. At Getaway, for example, the audience isn’t just non-drinkers but anyone who wants a fun bar environment without the threat of a hangover the next day.”

A renowned Philadelphia restaurateur, Marc Vetri, has come up with a new concept for a pasta bar that will be open five nights a week for dinner and take no reservations: “Fiorella, which he hopes to open in the fall, will include one long counter seating 11 to 13 people, who will be served by the cooks, he said. The menu will include six different pastas, three or four salads and appetizers, and a dessert of the day. ‘That’s it,’ he told me. ‘You get a noodle, a salad, and leave.’”

If you were forwarded this newsletter, click here for a free subscription.

LITIGATION

Apple lost a Supreme Court ruling that will allow an antitrust case targeting the App Store to proceed: “The ruling, in which conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh joined the court’s four liberal justices, also could open the door for similar actions against a wide array of other companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft, all of which had urged the Supreme Court to side with the iPhone maker in legal briefs submitted by their top Washington advocates last year. …

“At the heart of the case is the way Apple handles iPhone and iPad apps created by third-party developers. Apple allows the developer to set the price of an app, but takes up to a 30 percent commission for every app sold, rankling some software makers that essentially see it as a tax. … ‘I would expect a bunch more cases to be filed against a bunch more companies,’ said Avery Gardiner, a top competition expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology.”

CANNABIS

Women and seniors are turning to precision dosing when dabbling in recreational pot: “One product promising newcomers a more predictable experience with cannabis is a two-year-old, Woodland Hills, Calif.-based vaporizer company called Indose, whose tagline is ‘greatness comes with control.’ The outfit, which just closed on $3.5 million in funding led by Casa Verde Capital, enables users to adjust how many milligrams of THC they are inhaling, from a modest 1 to 2 milligrams, to a more impactful 3 to 4 milligrams, per puff.”

DEAL OF THE DAY

Golf Digest, a monthly golf magazine, has been sold by Condé Nast to Discovery. The terms of the deal were not disclosed but the New York Times reported that insiders to the deal said the sale price was $35 million. In 2001, Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast, acquired Golf Digest (and other golf titles) from the New York Times in a deal estimated at around $430 million. This difference in deal values not only highlights the shift away from print media, but the recent decline in global golf viewership.

M&A

Walt Disney and Comcast have struck a deal that turns operational control of Hulu to Disney and gives Comcast the option to sell Disney its stake in the streaming-video service for about $9 billion.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Mark Cuban says Uber’s IPO should be a wake-up call for Silicon Valley: “‘It’s not a growth company,’ Cuban said in a phone interview with Scott Wapner on ‘Halftime Report.’ ‘They just waited too long. There’s nothing exciting about it,’ Cuban added. ‘I don’t think you could have expected anything different … the reality is you’re nine years in and you’re still having to buy your revenue. That’s not a good sign.’

“Cuban said Uber reflects poorly on the California region’s venture capital investors, saying it ‘suggests they’re not very good at valuing companies and it’s not a very efficient market when it comes to late-stage companies in evaluating IPOs.’”

The ID Co, a developer of an online vacation platform designed to verify customer identity for businesses raised $2 million in a seed round.

Hatch, an online platform offering essentials to wear before, during and after pregnancy, has raised $5 million in Series A funding.

Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods, raised $123 million at a $2.1 billion valuation.

And that’s what’s ahead.

Please send comments and suggestions to mattg@oxfordcenter.com and lfeldman@oxfordcenter.com.

BECOME AN OXFORD MEMBER