Bringing Back Incandescent Bulbs, Hiring From Fresh Applicant Pools, and the $5 Billion Mall

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RETAIL

After $5 billion, five governors, three developers, and 15 years, a Supermall called American Dream is set to open in New Jersey. Will it be “internet-proof”? “[Don] Ghermezian is speaking in the New Jersey Meadowlands offices of Triple Five, a family business that owns North America’s two biggest shopping centers: West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America. Triple Five are the incredible guys in question; Ghermezian is the company’s president. The future center of the universe is across the turnpike, a 91-acre tract of filled-in wetlands now home to a structure Governor Chris Christie, something of an expert on dismal spectacles, called ‘the ugliest damn building in New Jersey, maybe America.’

“The first thing Ghermezian means for us to understand is that his family isn’t building a mall. Online shopping is killing malls; American Dream is one of only two in the country being built from the ground up. Its extravagant attractions make it ‘internet-proof,’ says Ghermezian, who is in his 40s and wears a big watch and expensive sneakers. Beyond its 450 shops and restaurants, half of the 3 million-square-foot complex will be devoted to entertainment: a DreamWorks water park, a Nickelodeon theme park, a Legoland, a ski slope, an aquarium, a performing arts space, a movie theater, an ice rink, a miniature golf course, and a kosher food hall, all enclosed in a glass bubble.”

REGULATION

The Trump administration is relaxing rules intended to phase out inefficient light bulbs: “The proposed changes would eliminate requirements that effectively meant that most light bulbs sold in the United States—not only the familiar, pear-shaped ones, but several other styles as well—must be either LEDs or fluorescent to meet new efficiency standards. The rules being weakened, which dated from 2007 and the administration of President George W. Bush and slated to start in the new year, would have all but ended the era of the incandescent bulb invented more than a century ago. Eliminating inefficient bulbs nationwide would save electricity equivalent to the output of at least 25 large power plants, enough to power all homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to an estimate by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Trump administration said the changes would benefit consumers by keeping prices low and eliminating government regulation.”

HUMAN RESOURCES

With a historically tight labor market, companies are dipping into applicant pools that include stay-at-home parents and those with disabilities: “Economists, however, said they doubt most companies will keep such programs in place when the next recession hits. Similar policies adopted during the late 1990s and early 2000s largely disappeared after the dot-com bubble burst, and didn’t make a comeback even during the relatively healthy job market of the mid-2000s. There are these things that employers have ‘learned’ over the past year,’ [economist Martha Gimbel] said. ‘They have learned that people with criminal records can be good employees. They have learned that women coming back from raising children can be good employees. They have learned that letting employers leave 30 minutes early to pick their child up from soccer practice will not destroy workplace productivity. ‘The eternal question,’ Ms. Gimbel continued, ‘is just are they going to remember this when the next recession hits, or is all of this progress going to be lost?’”

FINANCE

Christina Stembel believes not going to college prepared her to bootstrap FarmGirl Flowers: “When I was creating Farmgirl, I intentionally created a business model that could be bootstrapped. I knew that without a pedigree, I wouldn’t be able to go out and raise a round pre-revenue like I saw so many other startups doing. Once I got the company off the ground and started to hit some speed bumps, I pretty quickly realized that having some peers to lean on would be super helpful. This is partially because having a person, or a community of people, to commiserate with is helpful when times get tough. But I also needed peers to go to for advice, to trade tips with, and to help me reflect on experiences. Peers also help with connections for access to funding. While I certainly recognize some of the benefits I believe a formal education could have provided, I learned a lot by moving out on my own at 18 years old and making my way through the series of jobs that would eventually lead me to founding my own company.”

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

WeWork CEO Adam Neumann has returned about $5.9 million worth of stock that was originally paid to him to acquire the trademark “We”: “In an amended S-1 filing on Wednesday, WeWork’s parent company, the We Company, noted that it was unwinding the agreement ‘at Adam’s direction.’ The $5.9 million was issued to Neumann after WeWork rebranded to the We Company in January. … The trademark payment was cited by critics as an example of WeWork’s less-than-stellar corporate governance.”

LeBron James has filed to trademarkTaco Tuesday”: “And this Tuesday night, for seemingly the thousandth time, the Millennial NBA superstar went on Instagram and announced to his tens of millions of followers: ‘You know what it is! Taco Tuesdayyyyyy!’ This is how he lets people know it is his family’s taco night. Mr. James’s custom usually includes the addition of a howl delivered in an exaggerated Spanish or Mexican-ish accent. His fans love it. And now the 34-year-old forward for the Los Angeles Lakers is making a move to formalize a claim on the phrase. … The company seeks protection for use of the phrase in a host of forums, including ‘downloadable audio/visual works,’ podcasts, social media, online marketing and ‘entertainment services.’”

SELLING THE BUSINESS

If you were to sell your business, do you know what you would do next? “Many business owners don’t realize everything they get out of running a business until it’s gone. Your company gives you a sense of identity and purpose, and a roadmap for what to do next. It puts structure into your life and provides you with a tribe of co-workers you see every day. When you suddenly don’t have any of those things anymore, you may feel lost and confused. The owners who have the happiest exits either know in advance what they’re going to do after they leave or figure it out fairly soon afterward. Many decide to spend their time helping other business leaders navigate their own exits.”

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STARTUPS

AppHarvest, a two-year-old startup is building the largest greenhouse in the United States: “Next summer, when AppHarvest begins production at its $97 million building, 285 employees will start shipping 45 million pounds of fresh produce annually, primarily tomatoes, to grocery stores from Atlanta to New York, and as far west as Chicago and St. Louis. For the greenhouse to be cost-effective, size was as important as location. The 60-acre, 2.76-million-square-foot building will be big enough to lower costs on materials, production and distribution. …

“The mammoth project will use Dutch greenhouse technology, which focuses on sustainable crop production, to meet the rising demand for American-grown tomatoes. The greenhouse uses digital monitoring, sun and LED lighting, recycled rainwater and nonchemical growing practices. It also responds to a host of cultural concerns about food safety, freshness, environmental quality and energy consumption. Other food growers have the same idea. AppHarvest is part of a wave of new greenhouse construction changing vegetable production in the eastern United States.”

Sprout Pharmaceuticals, maker of female libido drug Addyi, just raised $20 million after favorable decisions from the FDA: “Sprout CEO Cindy Eckert told Fortune that the drug, often referred to as ‘female viagra,’ received some favorable decisions by the Food and Drug Administration. Instead of telling patients to entirely refrain from alcohol before using Addyi, they can now tell them to discontinue at least two hours prior. The FDA also removed the requirement for healthcare practitioners or pharmacies to be certified to prescribe or dispense Addyi. Women will now be able to speak with any licensed US healthcare provider to obtain a prescription for Addyi. … The first eight weeks of Addyi are available to patients at no cost, regardless of insurance coverage. Subsequent refills cost no more than $25 per month with insurance, and no more than $99 per month without insurance. (Sprout subsidizes the remaining cost through a co-pay program).”

TECHNOLOGY

Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence just developed the first AI that can pass an eighth-grade science test: “It correctly answered more than 90 percent of the questions on an eighth-grade science test and more than 80 percent on a 12th-grade exam. The system, called Aristo, is an indication that in just the past several months researchers have made significant progress in developing AI that can understand languages and mimic the logic and decision-making of humans. … ‘This has significant business consequences,’ said Oren Etzioni, the former University of Washington professor who oversees the Allen Institute. ‘What I can say—with complete confidence—is you are going to see a whole new generation of products, some from start-ups, some from the big companies.’”

ENERGY

Wyoming which produces 40 percent of the nation’s coal, has been shaken by the recent closing of two mines: “Locals in this northeastern corner of the state maintained that the lower cost of operating the region’s surface mines compared with mines elsewhere, and the quality of the coal here, would cushion them from the impact of the nation’s shift toward cheaper and cleaner natural gas—as well as tougher environmental standards. But on July 1, two of the area’s 12 coal mines abruptly closed, leaving nearly 600 workers without jobs and sending shock waves through Gillette, which proudly dubs itself the ‘Energy Capital of the Nation.’ ‘It has been difficult to talk about the decline of coal in Wyoming,’ said Robert Godby, director of the University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics & Public Policy. ‘But…reality has come crashing through the door.’” 

OXFORD STRATEGIC ADVISORY DEAL OF THE DAY 

Belvedere Advisors, a developer of a financial investment advice platform, was acquired by Northern Trust, a provider of investment management, asset and fund administration, and banking solutions. 

VENTURE CAPITAL

Fyllo, a developer of a market technology platform for the cannabis industry, raised $16 million of Seed Funding.

Repare Therapeutics, a developer of oncology drugs that target vulnerabilities of tumor cells, raised $82.5 million of Series B funding

And that’s what’s ahead.

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

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