A Database of Women Investors, McDonald’s Stops Fighting the $15 Minimum Wage, and 7-Eleven Goes Farm-to-Fountain

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DAYLIGHT  

A special Oxford Center members memorial service for Rebecca Watkins will be held Friday at 5:00 pm at Shiloh Baptist Church 2490 Ross Rd., Snellville (770-979-3265). A general memorial service for Rebecca will be held Saturday at 1:00 pm at the Willie Watkins Funeral Home, 1003 Ralph David Abernathy SW, Atlanta (404-758-1731).

VENTURE CAPITAL

On Monday, Sutian Dong and Jessica Peltz-Zatulove introduced their Global Women in VC Directory, an online database of nearly 1,000 women investors: “‘If you want to continue to promote and elevate women in venture, there needs to be career progression and upward mobility,’ says Peltz-Zatulove, a partner at MDC Ventures, an early-stage venture investing firm in New York. ‘Having this infrastructure enables them to find each other to connect and collaborate in a more efficient way.’ And that stands to help entrepreneurs, say the co-founders.”

PRICING

There’s a bizarre price war between delivery services in China: “In Beijing, it’s often cheaper to have food delivered than to get it yourself. Like, way cheaper. Abey Lin, a 19-year-old Californian studying at Beijing Film Academy, uses his smartphone to order a local restaurant’s roast duck dish for 20 yuan ($2.99), about 80 percent less than it costs at the register, via delivery app Meituan. …

“Across the country, millions of people like Lin are ordering in two or three meals a day, as well as groceries, office supplies, haircuts, massages, and whatever else they might want. Behind this $35 billion delivery market isn’t exactly efficiency, though—it’s a fight between Meituan and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s most valuable company. Alibaba and its various subsidiaries dominate the country’s online retail market for physical goods, but Meituan is leading the way in services. Its namesake app, a sort of mashup of Grubhub, Expedia, MovieTickets.com, Groupon, and Yelp, has 600,000 delivery people serving 400 million customers a year in 2,800 cities.

“Alibaba is betting it can undercut Meituan to death. Both companies are spending billions in an escalating war of subsidies that might persuade even Jeff Bezos to cut his losses.”

HUMAN RESOURCES

McDonald’s will no longer lobby against a $15-an-hour minimum wage: “Fast-food giant McDonald’s boosted congressional Democrats’ efforts to hike the minimum wage Tuesday by telling the National Restaurant Association that it will no longer participate in lobby efforts against minimum-wage hikes at the federal, state or local level. ‘We believe increases should be phased in and that all industries should be treated the same way,’ Genna Gent, McDonald’s vice president of government relations, wrote in the letter. ‘The conversation about wages is an important one; it’s one we wish to advance, not impede.’”

Employees and business owners have very different views of the wage gap: “Do people across America believe enough is being done to promote equal pay, and how do their views compare to those of employers? TSheets by QuickBooks surveyed 16,679 adults and 1,067 business owners throughout the US to find out. According to the survey data, just 22 percent of Americans—15 percent of women and 30 percent of men—believe employers are doing enough to promote equal pay in the workplace. When business owners were asked the same question, 71 percent said they believe the issue is being addressed adequately.”

SUSTAINABILITY

With its new Loop program, Terracycle is betting on “extreme sustainability,” as consumers and companies pledge to use less plastic: The Loop program launches … in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania on May 21. In those states, customers will buy a product online through the Loop Store and pay a deposit for the container, usually between 25 cents and $10. The goods get shipped in a reusable tote bag. When the containers are empty, UPS picks them up in their original shipping tote. The containers go to a plant where they’re cleaned, sterilized, and refilled, and the whole process begins again.

“Time will tell how widely it’s adopted. ‘In a perfect world, I love it,’ says Mitch Hedlund, executive director of Recycle Across America, a nonprofit with the goal of revamping US recycling programs. ‘Whether it will scale up to the impact they’re looking for—that’s the biggest question.’ … [Terracycle] founder Tom Szaky thinks customers will “appreciate the benefits that come with containers that are built to last 100 uses or more. The Clorox wipes receptacle, for example, looks nicer and keeps wipes wet longer. The Haagen-Dazs container has two walls of stainless steel that keep ice cream frozen for hours. ‘It’s such a departure from a coated paper box,’ he says.”

TECHNOLOGY

Drone startup Matternet is partnering with UPS to deliver medical samples at WakeMed’s hospital in Raleigh, NC: “Previously, WakeMed relied on courier cars, which were subject to road delays. The drone-led deliveries entail a medical professional first loading the drone with a medical sample or specimen, such as a blood sample. From there, the drone will fly along a predetermined route to a fixed landing pad at WakeMed’s main hospital and central pathology lab.

“This comes about a year after Matternet secured a $16 million round led by Boeing HorizonX Ventures, the aviation company’s venture arm. At the time, the Federal Aviation Administration had recently selected, among others, Matternet for drone logistics operations for US hospitals as part of its Unmanned Aircraft System pilot program. In 2015, Matternet started testing the first drone delivery system in Zurich, Switzerland, to transport blood and pathology samples to labs. Matternet has since expanded its operations in Switzerland and has conducted more than 1,700 flights over densely populated areas to make more than 850 deliveries of patient samples.”

M&A

Hostess Brands and Ferrero are the lead contenders to buy Kellogg’s Keebler cookie, Famous Amos and fruit snack businesses at a time when big food brands are pulling back from smaller brands. “The talks come as food companies including Kellogg, Campbell and Kraft Heinz are paring back their portfolios to focus resources on brands the companies can revive. Sales growth has stalled across the industry, and food giants are pouring more targeted efforts into fending off upstart on-trend competitors like Kind Bar and Beanitos chips. Simple scale and cost efficiencies are no longer the goal for Big Food brands.”

MEDIA

Spotify will buy podcast subscription service Parcast to expand its reach, particularly in the true crime genre: “With an expertise in genres touching mystery, crime, science fiction, and history, Parcast has shown it has depth in subject matter and the ability to develop audiences across its robust network. Additionally, Parcast has more than 20 new shows slated to launch later this year.”

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RETAIL

In Dallas, there’s a 7-Eleven “lab store” where the chain is experimenting with a wellness rebrand: “Outside, the store looks largely like any other 7-Eleven, with the familiar signage and gas pumps—until you notice the giant selfie-friendly mural painted by a local artist. Inside, it looks a lot like a Whole Foods or any other sleek modern grocer, with natural wood accents and towers of trail mix ingredients sold in bulk.

Unlike most other 7-Eleven stores, this outpost offers a range of hot and prepared food items that goes far beyond the typical roller-grill hot dogs that have been the chain’s bread and butter for decades. … In the aisles, this 7-Eleven is stocked with enough gluten-free, paleo, vegan, organic, and naturally sweetened options to feed an entire army of wellness-obsessed snackers, with just enough ‘normal’ food to resemble a small grocery store. …

And then, of course, there is the Slurpee, both an American icon and an engineering marvel. The fluffy, frozen beverage is a sweet-tooth staple; the lab store’s innovation is the organic Slurpee, made with ‘farm to fountain’ flavors like coconut, blood orange, and cucumber …”

CANNABUSINESS

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are starting a cannabis company: “Dubbed Houseplant, the marijuana company is being developed in partnership with Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth. In a statement, Rogen and Goldberg said that Houseplant cannabis was developed after years of research and its first strain, called Houseplant Sativa, will launch in April. The company is planning Houseplant Hybrid and Houseplant Indica marijuana strains later this year. ‘Every decision we’ve made for the business reflects the years of education, first-hand experience, and respect we have for cannabis,’ Rogen said in a statement.”

SPOTLIGHT

On Mind Your Business today, Loren will talk to Brian Hamilton, founder of an organization called Inmates to Entrepreneurs, as well as by Carolyn Rodz and Elizabeth Gore, who run Alice, a website that features “the first machine learning technology to help business owners find their path by matching them to personalized opportunities and resources.” Basically, they are building a business around a smart database that is compiling everything you need to know to start and run a business in the United States. We’ll talk about what they’ve learned and take your questions when the show airs today at 1:00 pm ET on SiriusXM 132.

And that’s what’s ahead.

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

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