Morning Report

What you need to know one minute before daylight

Arkansas Sake, IP Watchdogs, and Climate Change Gets Real

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CLIMATE

Companies see climate change hitting their bottom lines in the next five years: “‘The numbers that we’re seeing are already huge, but it’s clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg,’ said Bruno Sarda, the North America president for CDP, an international nonprofit that wrote the new report and works with companies around the world to publicly disclose the risks and opportunities that climate change could create for their businesses. …

“Many firms are bracing for direct impacts. Hitachi Ltd., a Japanese manufacturer, said that increased rainfall and flooding in Southeast Asia had the potential to knock out suppliers and that it was taking defensive measures as a result. Banco Santander Brasil, a large Brazilian bank, said increasingly severe droughts in the region might hurt the ability of borrowers to repay loans. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, Inc., noted that rising temperatures could increase the cost of cooling its energy-hungry data centers.”

But there can also be opportunity in climate change. For example, Sun Peaks, a Canadian ski resort, has rebranded itself as a four-season entertainment center: “It opened British Columbia’s highest-elevation golf course in 1996, and then added to that with its mountain bike park in 1999. With two lakes in close proximity, it also started to offer canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, as well as fishing. In the village, the resort added a weekly farmer’s market about 12 years ago and then started to offer free concerts throughout the summer. …

“Though the resort’s winters still outstrip the summer in terms of visits, the resort experienced a record summer two years ago, with occupancy in the village up to almost 50 percent. The peak winter months are up around 80 percent occupancy. ‘Fifty percent is very good for the summer but there’s still lots of room to grow,’ Ms. Schieven says, adding that the resort is spending about $350,000 this summer on expanding its bike park.”

E-COMMERCE

As Amazon shifts the burden of controlling counterfeits and unauthorized sellers on its marketplace, brand owners are hiring IP watchdogs: “Companies like Vantage BP, MarkMonitor and CompuMark are brand enforcers-for-hire, promising to monitor marketplaces like Amazon for counterfeits, price violations, unauthorized resellers, IP infringements and gray market sellers for brand manufacturers, who pay a flat fee per month for the service, tiered depending on how many marketplaces they want monitored.

“When a seller is flagged as a potential wrongdoer—meaning the seller doesn’t match an authorized seller from the database provided by brands, the company can’t verify a listed product’s source or authentication, and it’s listed under a different Amazon Standard Identification Number than other brand-name products—the hired brand enforcer sends a letter on the brand’s behalf. At the outset, it asks for the source of the seller’s inventory, invoices disclosing inventory level and other company and business information to confirm product authentication. …

“‘Amazon’s business is made off third-party sellers that backdoor product and drive prices down,’ said Manlapeg. ‘It benefits Amazon and hurts brands. Everyone wants them to do more—there’s a transparency program for counterfeits, but that’s not the biggest issue anymore.’”

STARTUPS

Gina Adams of Farmington Hills, MI launched Buttons2Button, an apparel brand meant to assist people with disabilities: “Adams, who has a background in the apparel industry, came up with Buttons2Button, which are magnetic adapters that are added to button down shirts. They’re transferable and machine washable. ‘Each piece attaches to your button and buttonhole and then you can overcome your fine motor skills,’ Adams said. ‘You can push your shirt together to close it.’ …

“The magnetic adapters are sold in sets of 10 for $30. Adams recently started a crowdfunding campaign. They’re taking pre-orders now to raise capital up front with delivery by December or your money back. They’re already about midway to their crowdfunding goal. Buttons2Button is the first product from Adams’ company Wareologie, but she has others in the pipeline.”

Swedish startup, Cangoroo is bringing pogo-sticks to San Francisco as an e-scooter alternative: “The pogo sticks, [founder Adam Mikkelsen] said, could be used to get around, but could also be used as a fitness product, as it counts each jump to keep riders motivated. ‘We’ve been following the micro-mobility market and seen the demand. However, we also found that existing players are very generic when it comes to brand loyalty and making a statement and contributing to something beyond taking you from point A to B,’ he said, emphasizing the sustainability and fitness aspect to the pogo sticks.”

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OXFORD STRATEGIC ADVISORY DEALS OF THE DAY  

Twitter, has acquired Fabula AI, a machine learning company that helps detect the spread of misinformation online. “As with most of the major social media platforms, Twitter has faced its share of criticism for the way it is used to spread misinformation. This latest move is designed to ‘improve the health of the conversation’ on Twitter, according to CTO Parag Agrawal, and will expand over time to help stop other forms of spam and platform abuse.”

VENTURE CAPITAL

CANOPY Space, a provider of shared workspaces, raised $2 million in Venture Funding.                                                                                                                       

Agrivida, a developer of renewable chemicals, fuels, and bioproducts to simplify enzyme production, raised $4.92 million in a Later Stage VC Round.

Workspan, a marketing platform intended to offer access to joint funds, campaigns and content raised $27 million in a Series B Round.

Fluree, a data management platform that provides curation tools, content distribution, and content analytics, raised $4.7 million in a Seed Funding Round.

THE ECONOMY

Americans are increasingly living alone, and consumer-products companies are responding to a growing market segment that’s busy, has fewer mouths to feed and is willing to splurge: “Companies are furiously researching how singles buy differently. The findings aren’t that they simply want things to be smaller. Researchers have found many affluent, single-person households in urban areas … are often willing to spend more for a unit of something—twice as much, say, for chopped romaine as a whole head.

“One thing some singles want bigger is wardrobe space, says Lisa Adams, founder of LA Closet Design, a Los Angeles luxury-closet firm. She says 40 percent of her clients live alone, a growing proportion over her 12 years in business. Single clients, she says, tend to own bigger wardrobes, want larger closets and are more willing to splurge on details such as custom display cases for shoe and handbag collections. ‘It becomes more personal because you’re not having to share this space with a partner,’ she says. ‘You can be bolder.’”

FOOD AND BEVERAGE

In Arkansas, where 40 percent of America’s rice is produced, Ben Bell wants to create a sake trail similar to California’s Napa Valley and Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. “However, building multiple sake breweries is only part of the challenge when thinking about how to ingratiate a completely new industry in a state. In order to truly achieve success, Bell and his fellow craft sake makers will have to educate the public about sake’s history, brewing techniques, and how to properly drink the beverage. …

“‘Brewers have a lot of leverage in the sake-making process, and as a result, sake can be savory, sweet, floral, or acidic, and combinations thereof,” [owner of Brooklyn Kura, Brian] Polen says. For now, American sake spokespeople are concentrating on making the best sakes they can using locally available ingredients. ‘I think people here like the idea of sake production and very much understand the connection with our rice industry. But they are understandably skeptical of the potential,’ Bell says.”

Fast food companies are incorporating meatless burgers, but suppliers like Beyond Meat and Impossible are struggling to fulfill orders. “That rapid growth in demand is straining the ability of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods to meet it. … Craft & Crew Hospitality in Minneapolis hasn’t received scheduled shipments of Impossible burgers for weeks from a local distributor, said Luke Derheim, operations director for the three-restaurant chain. Impossible burgers have become the company’s second-most popular menu item despite costing $4 more than a standard beef patty, he said. ‘It’s frustrating that they are not supporting the early adopters,’ said Mr. Derheim, who just decided to drop Impossible Foods from their menus and swap in alternatives made by Beyond Meat.”

OPINION

Dallas Mavericks owner and “Shark Tank” judge Mark Cuban makes his case for why he thinks a computer science degree will lose value over time:  “Twenty years from now, if you are a coder, you might be out of a job … Because it’s just math and so, whatever we’re defining the AI to do, someone’s got to know the topic. If you’re doing an AI to emulate Shakespeare, somebody better know Shakespeare … the coding major who graduates this year probably has better short-term opportunity than the liberal arts major that’s a Shakespeare expert, but long term, it’s like people who learned COBOL or Fortran and thought that was the future and they were going to be covered forever.”

What do you think of Cuban’s comments about putting liberal arts majors above computer science majors? Send your comments to mattg@oxfordcenter.com and they might end up on tomorrow’s newsletter.

ENTERTAINMENT

Want to feel old? Tetris is turning 35 this week and only Minecraft has sold more copies, but how did it reach the level of videogame icon? “Of course, you can’t discuss the legacy of Tetris without also discussing Nintendo’s world-beating Game Boy console. Technically, Tetris had been around for five years before it was packaged in with every Game Boy soldbut the console’s immense popularity meant that the game became a sensation almost overnight. Picking Tetris as the Game Boy launch title was an inspired choice. For a device meant to be played in short bursts, Tetris let gamers pick up their Game Boy, crush some lines and put the game down, only to jump back in later.”

And that’s what’s ahead.

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

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