Funeralocity, the Beefless Whopper, and the Small Business Case for Universal Healthcare

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DAYLIGHT  

Alyssa Milano and dozens of other performers have threatened to stop filming movies in Georgia if a bill becomes law: “The bill, HB 481, would ban abortion after as early as six weeks of pregnancy. It was passed by the state Senate on March 22, but has yet to be voted on again by the House of Representatives. …

“Georgia is a popular location for numerous film and TV sets, generating billions of dollars in revenue, and creating thousands of jobs in the state. Hundreds of productions are shot in and around Atlanta, from The Walking Dead to Marvel movies like Avengers: Infinity War. It would be a major blow to Georgia’s economy if the industry paused in protest of the bill.”

HEALTHCARE

Gene Marks, a small-business owner and frequent guest on Mind Your Business, makes the business case for universal health care: “My question is what’s better for me, the small employer: a UK-style universal health-care system or the health-care system we currently have here in the US? The answer for me—a right-leaning, free-market guy—is a difficult one: universal health care. This is the case for two reasons: It would likely cost me less, and it would make my business more competitive. …

“Employers with less than 50 full-time equivalent (full and part-time) employees aren’t required by law to provide health insurance. But we’re at a serious disadvantage if we don’t. Health insurance is an essential part of an employee’s benefits and a top priority for people looking for jobs (not to mention a major hindrance for people looking to leave their job and be an entrepreneur).

“In these days of low unemployment, every small-business owner I know is struggling to find and hold on to good people. Healthcare is a big part of that. Unfortunately, my company just can’t compete with larger employers who can afford to offer better healthcare benefits, so I lose out on prospective employees. A universal healthcare system would level the playing field.”

A federal judge has struck down the Trump administration’s small-business health insurance plan, calling it an “end run” around consumer protections: “At issue in the latest ruling are so-called ‘association health plans,’ in which businesses and sole proprietors can band together to offer lower-cost coverage that doesn’t provide all the benefits required under the Affordable Care Act. President Trump has hailed the small-business plans as a big success, but their impact is difficult to measure.”

PRICING

Koloni brings dockless bike and scooter programs to rural areas that are often overlooked by competitors: “Some other micromobility companies are less likely to work in small towns, or even small cities, because ridership may be too low to make it economical. Instead of relying primarily on making money per bike rental, Koloni charges communities a monthly fee for the hardware–bikes with smart locks that can be parked anywhere–and software, and a small transaction fee. The monthly fee is $35 per device. ‘We’re just not as dependent on that daily transactional fee as some of the other companies are,’ says [co-founder, Brian] Dewey.”

STARTUPS

There’s a new push to get funeral homes to list their prices online, and several companies, including Parting.com and Funeralocity.com, have created online marketplaces: “Ed Michael Reggie, founder of Funeralocity, said the site lets shoppers search prices at funeral homes in 100 major markets and awarded ‘excellence’ status to funeral homes that met its standards and fully disclosed prices. Funeralocity, he said, earns a referral fee when users book services with funeral homes that have that status. The website says those homes agree to offer discounts to users who choose them through Funeralocity.”

To deal with the growing traffic congestion in major metro areas like San Francisco, companies like Blade are taking to the skies: “Blade is backed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Airbus, among others. It is reportedly valued at $140 million. The company also offers on-demand service via seaplanes and private jets.

“Blade is part of a growing number of startups—including Uber—competing in the short-range aerial rideshare space. ‘Ultimately, what we aim to do is build a platform that—though today is using helicopters—will someday be suitable for future electric flying machines that will be quieter and less expensive,’ said [Head of Corporate Development for Blade, Will] Heyburn.”

Caroline Spiegel is building a porn site for women that will have no visuals: “Her older brother, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, spent years trying to convince people his app wasn’t just for sexy texting. Now Caroline is building a website dedicated to sexy text and audio.

“The 22-year-old college senior tells TechCrunch that on April 13th she’ll launch Quinn, which she describes as ‘a much less gross, more fun Pornhub for women. …’ She believes there’s still a stigma around women pleasuring themselves, leading to a lack of products offering assistance. Sure, there are plenty of porn sites, but few are explicitly designed for women, and fewer stray outside of visual content. Caroline says photos and videos can create body image pressure, but with text and audio, anyone can imagine themselves in a scene.’”

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WOMEN-OWNED

Yelp is making it easier to find and support women-owned businesses: “The label appears under ‘More business info’ on the right side of a business’s page, the same place where you’ll find whether or not a spot has bike parking, accepts credit cards, or requires appointments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear you can search specifically for women-owned businesses using the site’s filters the way you can search for spots with WiFi and that take reservations, so you’ll have to pick a spot and then see if it’s owned by a woman rather than the other way around.”

THE ECONOMY

The recent lull in manufacturing is affecting the outlook of small business owners: “Surveys released this year, by the US Chamber of Commerce and MetLife; by researchers at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School and Dun & Bradstreet Corp. and by Wells Fargo and Gallup, have all shown weakening confidence in the economy among small business owners since the start of 2019. Owners tend to have more faith in their own companies than the economy. However, some owners say they expect their own revenue to decline in the year ahead—a common prediction when there are signs of an economic slowdown.”

ZACK ELLER’S DEAL OF THE DAY

Torc Robotics, an autonomous vehicle company, has been acquired by Daimler Trucks. “Like most major automakers, the company has been talking about developing self-driving passenger vehicles and big rigs for years. On Friday, Daimler executives said the trucking industry has some unique challenges to automation, so they want a separate team that can focus on self-driving trucks alone.”

REGULATIONS

On Saturday, a business owner published an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for increased regulation of his own business: “From what I’ve learned,” wrote Mark Zuckerberg, “I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.”

North Dakota is repealing ‘Blue Laws’ that until recently required most retailers to close from midnight to noon on Sundays: “Ashlen Morken, Unglued owner, said local vendors hope the change will help them see an uptick in business as a result. ‘We have so many visitors that come through on Sundays, whether they’re from Canada or just they’re driving through Fargo. There are so many people who say time and time again they wish we were open earlier or they can’t believe how little downtown shopping there is to do on a Sunday, even later on in the day.’”

FOOD

Burger King is introducing a beefless Whopper: “The Impossible Whopper, as it will be known, is the biggest validation—and expansion opportunity—for a young industry that is looking to mimic and replace meat with plant-based alternatives. Impossible Foods and its competitors in Silicon Valley have already had some mainstream success. The vegetarian burger made by Beyond Meat has been available at over a thousand Carl’s Jr. restaurants since January and the company is now moving toward an initial public offering. White Castle has sold a slider version of the Impossible burger in its 380 or so stores since late last year.”

SPOTLIGHT

Sign up to attend the Commerce Dinner

May 9, 2019

6:30-8:30 p.m. EST

Murphy’s, 997 Virginia Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30306

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And that’s what’s ahead.

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