From Malls to ‘Alls’ and Study Finds Pessimistic Entrepreneurs Outlast the Optimists

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DAYLIGHT  

A new study says pessimistic entrepreneurs last longer than optimistic ones: “Optimistic thinking is leading people to set up businesses that have no realistic prospect of financial success, shows new research which may help explain why only fifty percent of businesses in the UK survive their first five years. Tracking individuals as they move from paid employment to setting up their own business venture, the study found that business owners with above average optimism earned some 30 percent less than those with below average optimism. Many of the optimists would have been well advised to remain an employee.”

PAYMENTS

Facebook is recruiting online merchants for a cryptocurrency-based payment system: “Hurdles to the project are high. Cryptocurrencies have so far failed to catch on in payments. The existing system is full of entrenched interests and technology clogs. And Facebook’s battered standing with users, investors and regulators make it a delicate time to plow into new territory. Working in its favor: One-third of the world’s people log on monthly to Facebook, and they all need to buy things. …

“One idea under discussion is Facebook paying users fractions of a coin when they view ads, interact with other content or shop on its platform—not unlike loyalty points accrued at retailers, some of the people said. This would reward the kind of genuine interaction that Facebook, beset by bots and hate speech, has been trying to encourage. It could also blunt criticism that the company makes billions of dollars on the backs of its users, sometimes in troubling or invasive ways.”

STARTUPS

As part of Somalia’s recent tech boom, motorcycle-hailing app Go! recently launched in the capital Mogadishu, where motorcyclists rule the streets. “The e-hailing service is starting out with 20 motorcycles, allowing customers to order their rides online or hail them on the street after identifying the drivers with their yellow helmet and bikes. … The moto-taxi service makes the company the first in the Horn of Africa nation to venture into and digitize the motorcycle business. Getting around African cities like Mogadishu and Nairobi can be demanding given the poor infrastructure, insufficient street addresses, the absence of reliable public transportation … As such, motorcycle taxis, locally known as moto or boda bodas, have grown over the last few years.”

RETAIL

A Canadian bookstore chain is trying to reinvent book stores by selling related items like “reading socks”: “Over the last few years, Indigo has designed dozens of other products, including beach mats, scented candles, inspirational wall art, Mason jars, crystal pillars, bento lunch boxes, herb growing kits, copper cheese knife sets, stemless champagne flutes, throw pillows and scarves.

“It may seem strange for a bookstore chain to be developing and selling artisanal soup bowls and organic cotton baby onesies. But Indigo’s approach seems not only novel but crucial to its success and longevity. The superstore concept, with hulking retail spaces stocking 100,000 titles, has become increasingly hard to sustain in the era of online retail, when it’s impossible to match Amazon’s vast selection. Indigo is experimenting with a new model, positioning itself as a ‘cultural department store’ where customers who wander in to browse through books often end up lingering as they impulsively shop for cashmere slippers and crystal facial rollers, or a knife set to go with a new Paleo cookbook.”

The Westfield Garden State Plaza, the largest mall in New Jersey, announced it would convert its parking lots into hotels and apartment complexes: “The Plaza … sees a future that doesn’t necessarily involve driving to the mall, because you will be walking to the mall from your office or your home. … [Paco] Underhill has long advocated that US malls have to follow the lead of shopping centers around the world and become ‘alls.’ He believes the Plaza project could draw affluent, older retirees, as well as Millennial working parents who like the idea of living ‘where it’s easy to get stuff done.’ … ‘We as a culture, globally, are more time poor than we are money poor,’ Underhill said. ‘And being able to live work, shop, recreate and not have to drive your car is in lots of ways the ultimate 21st-century luxury…’”

DELISTING

Blue Apron, which started the meal-kit fad, might soon be delisted from the NYSE. “[Its] customer count dropped 30 percent from a year ago, to 550,000. Total orders fell 29 percent in the first quarter, compared with 2018. … Blue Apron helped kick off the meal kits craze in the US, but it’s now facing increased competition from both stores and online rivals. Kroger and Albertsons have acquired meal kit companies to sell in their supermarkets. Amazon sells its own kits online and inside its Amazon Go cashier-less stores.”

CLIMATE

Indonesia has decided it has to move its capital out of Jakarta: “This week, amid devastating flooding, Indonesia announced it’s planning to move its capital out of Jakarta, which really is nothing new—the country’s first president was talking about it way back in 1957. Part of the problem is extreme congestion, but today the city of more than 10 million is facing nothing short of obliteration by rising seas and sinking land, two opposing yet complementary forces of doom. Models predict that by 2050, 95 percent of North Jakarta could be submerged.”

MARKETING

Burger King is using depression to sell a new line of meals in a partnership with Mental Health America, as well as change up its longstanding slogan from “Have It Your Way” to “Feel Your Way.” “For Mental Health Awareness month, Burger King has partnered with Mental Health America to release a Blue Meal, a Yaaas Meal, a Pissed Meal, a Salty Meal, and a DGAF Meal in select cities for one month. This is, apparently, a critique of McDonald’s Happy Meals. …

AdWeek opens its coverage with a prolonged meditation on the relationship between comfort food and depression, eventually revealing that ‘#FeelYourWay is designed to help destigmatize conversations around mental health.’ ‘Burger King ‘Unhappy Meals’ Capture All The Feels From Pissed to Yaaas,’ writes Newsweek.”

ZACK AND GRANT’S DEAL OF THE DAY

Booking Holdings, a travel services company, has acquired Venga, a guest management software company. “Sam Pollaro, cofounder and chief executive of Venga, describes the deal as ‘a natural fit.’ … ‘Joining the Booking Holdings family will allow us to bring our comprehensive suite of tools personalized service, targeted marketing, feedback management and actionable analytics—to thousands of more businesses.’”

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Google just released a virtual customer service agent service for small businesses: Call Joy combines “several technologies, including virtual phone numbers, audio transcriptions, automated reporting and analytics in a new effort to help small business owners better manage their inbound phone calls … Typically, customer service phone agents like this are out of reach for small business owners, but CallJoy is priced at a flat monthly fee of $39 to make the technology affordable.”

PRICING

With podcasts becoming more profitable, startup Acast launches Acast Access which develops subscription paywalls tailor-made for the medium. “Until now, podcasts have not been well-suited to subscription paywalls, due to the fact that they’re distributed via RSS feeds that can be accessed by any podcast player. … With Acast Access, on the other hand, publishers should be able to create versions of their podcasts that are only available to subscribers, but are still accessible from any app.”

And that’s what’s ahead.

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

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