Brick-and-Mortar Retail Declines, How One Company Evades Tariffs, and Silicon Valley Discovers Bread

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Good Monday Morning,

DAYLIGHT

We hope you all had a great Thanksgiving break and we are glad to be back. Black Friday had a record year, pulling $6.22 billion in online sales. That’s a 22 percent jump from last year with over $2 billion in sales coming from purchases on smartphones. Basically a Cyber Monday a few days earlier, which is expected to rake in nearly $8 billion.

So far, holiday spending is down for brick-and-mortar and up for e-commerce: “A surge in online shopping and higher spending by low-income Americans gave a lift to the start of the holiday season, even as initial reports showed that foot traffic to traditional stores continued its long decline.”

SILICON VALLEY

Forget electric scooters. The latest trend among Valley bros is bread baking: “‘When I saw Bijan Sabet, the venture capitalist who invested in Twitter and Tumblr, I was showing him pictures of my bread, and now he’s doing it, he’s tweeting about it,’ Vanity Fair tech writer Nick Bilton, who got into bread in early 2018 after several years of baking generally, told me. ‘Dennis Crowley, who started Foursquare, he was texting me and asking me about it, too. We all wanna do it because we don’t want to be on technology.

‘There’s been a moment when every single person I know who works in tech – and I say this as a blanket statement – has hit a wall with tech,’ Bilton said. ‘It’s too embedded in their lives, it consumes everything, they’re too dependent on it. They’re deleting apps from their phone.’ But, he added, ‘you can’t turn that technical side of your brain off if that’s what you do for a living.’”

Is it time to break up Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple? “This consolidation at the heart of the American economy creates two big problems. First, it stifles innovation. Contrary to the conventional view of a US economy bubbling with inventive small companies, the rate at which new job-creating businesses have formed in the United States has been halved since 2004, according to the census.

“A major culprit: big tech’s sweeping patents, data, growing networks and dominant platforms have become formidable barriers to new entrants.”

HUMAN RESOURCES

A host of startups say they can help you find the perfect employee by using “advanced artificial intelligence” to analyze the social media feeds of job candidates: “Predictim’s scans analyze the entire history of a babysitter’s social media, which, for many of the youngest sitters, can cover most of their lives.

“…Predictim’s chief and co-Founder Sal Parsa said the company, launched last month as part of the University of California at Berkeley’s SkyDeck tech incubator, takes ethical questions about its use of the technology seriously. Parents, he said, should see the ratings as a companion that ‘may or may not reflect the sitter’s actual attributes.’ But the danger of hiring a problematic or violent babysitter, he added, makes the AI a necessary tool for any parent hoping to keep his or her child safe.”

M&A  

From Oxford M&A Guru Zack Eller – Alpine SG, which is backed by Alpine Investors, acquired e-courier Software. While Alpine Investors doesn’t call itself private equity, it walks and talks like PE. Alpine Investors already ousted the CEO and put a new one in.

BridgeTower Media acquired Progressive Business Media, a Greensboro, N.C.-based media and communications company. As Cliff has said in the past, if you buy local media branches, you get  access through the local programming.

Logitech will not buy Plantronics. The deal would have been around $2.2 billion, mostly because Plantronics bought video conferencing platform Polycom for $2 billion. We’ve been using Zoom at the Oxford Center.

INTERNATIONAL

WeWork launched a made-to-order mentorship platform for Entrepreneurs called Labs in Singapore, which will allow startups and Founders to tap into a community for advice and guidance as they navigate their industry’s landscape. Entrepreneurial networks and support groups as of right now are “fragmented in Southeast Asia” says head of Labs Adrian Tan.

Friend of Oxford and marketing wiz Bryan Wish is already ahead of the curve on WeWork. In college, he launched a community website The Wish Dish for people to share their life story. A sort of collaborative memoir that helped launch the careers of many college grads, myself included.

ECONOMY

A Trump administration report finds climate change may reduce the US economy by as much as 10 percent: “The report could become a powerful legal tool for opponents of Mr. Trump’s efforts to dismantle climate change policy, experts said. ‘This report will weaken the Trump administration’s legal case for undoing climate change regulations, and it strengthens the hands of those who go to court to fight them,’ said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton.”

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Ready to live on Tulsa time? Entrepreneurs and those who work remotely might want to load up the jalopy and head to Tulsa. The city is offering people up to $10,000 in stipends and rent subsidies to stay at least one year in the low-key, Okie art hub.

The program Tulsa Remote is part of a city-wide effort to diversify its businesses. Those chosen out of the 6,000 applicants will be provided free working space in the downtown area. The city right now is more of a college town with a vibrant hipster art scene.

By the way, the Amazon HQ2 expansion might be better for New York than for the Northern Virginia area. Why? New York is close to cementing a $15 per-hour minimum wage and with Amazon coming to NYC, it will create indirect jobs for construction workers, retail and fast food among other industries.

NOVA is a different story with a $7.25 wage and little to no union presence for the aforementioned industries. So the job growth outside the Amazon campus may not be as impactful.

TRADE

Columbia Sportswear, which manufactures all of its goods overseas, has learned how to work around tariffs: “The addition of a super-thin sheath of fabric to the sole of a boot or shoe can help circumvent an existing 37.5 percent tariff on rubber soles imported into America.

“A fabric sole, by contrast, is taxed at 12.5 percent. (Customers find that the fabric wears off within days, revealing the rubber sole beneath.) A water-resistant jacket triggers a 7.1 percent tariff, while a jacket that has not been waterproofed gets hit with a 27.7 percent tariff. A jacket filled at least 10 percent, by weight, with down, brings about a tariff of only 4.4 percent.”

SPORTS

FIFA is considering a proposal to hold the World Cup, the largest and most-watched sporting tournament in the world, every two years instead of four. Might motivate our national team to improve, although it’s showing signs of promise with the under-20 team qualifying for the U-20 tournament in 2019.

HEDGE FUNDS

After months of back-and-forth, Third Point reached an agreement with Campbell Soup. The food and beverage company will relinquish two seats on the board to the hedge fund after much talk of whether the company should be sold.

More from Zack Eller – Clearview Capital acquired Premier Care and Maintenance and recovery services. Both acquired companies were sold by the same company. Wondering why they haven’t been merged into one company? Rebranding is high risk, high reward. However, they will almost always be joined at the hip.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Workable, which sells online recruiting software, raised $50 million. More than 20,000 companies in 100 countries have used Workable to evaluate more than 50 million job candidates. The AI automation software aims to outdo the junior recruiter who spends on average six seconds per resume.

Green Mountain CBD, an organic hemp grower and maker of CBD products, raised $7 million. CBD is a cannabinoid that can reduce inflammation without THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. The company is located in Vermont in which its marijuana laws allow easy access to a Entrepreneurial side-hustle – state allows people to grow two mature plants per household and access to their own product.

SPOTLIGHT

Entrepreneur Briefing – Holiday Party

December 5, 5:00 – 7:30 at Ray’s on the River.

Kris Maynard, co-Founder at Atlanta-based Essential Ingredients, will join us to talk about why he decided to sell the business to his employees and explain how Essential Ingredients – now a $100 million business and Forbes Small Giant – survived the financial crisis.

Contact events@oxfordcenter.com for more info.

And that’s what’s ahead.

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

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