Morning Report

What you need to know one minute before daylight

The Last Blockbuster. Explaining TikTok. And the Rewards of Cannabis

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DAYLIGHT  

Mark Zuckerberg announced that he intends to alter the essence of social medianot to mention Facebook’s business model. Is there any reason to believe him this time? “Instead of encouraging public posts, he said he would focus on private and encrypted communications, in which users message mostly smaller groups of people they know. Unlike publicly shared posts that are kept as users’ permanent records, the communications could also be deleted after a certain period of time.

“He said Facebook would achieve the shift partly by integrating Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger so that users worldwide could easily message one another across the networks. In effect, he said, Facebook would change from being a digital town square to creating a type of ‘digital living room,’ where people could expect their discussions to be intimate, ephemeral and secure from outsiders.”

RETAIL

There is one Blockbuster video store left. It is in Bend, Oregon, and it has no plans to close: “One possible explanation for the store’s long life: Bend is in a region that the city’s mayor, Sally Russell, describes as having ‘huge expanses with really small communities’ that often do not have easy access to the high-speed internet necessary for content streaming.

Many residents of outlying areas stop at Blockbuster during their weekly trips to town to run errands, drawn in part by the store’s seven-day rental policy, Ms. Russell said, adding that the store’s last-in-the-world status could even give it a lift. ‘It’s like with old vinyl, and how everyone wants to have turntables again,’ she said.’”

HUMAN RESOURCES

Will Read founded Sideways 6 to create a suggestion box that employees would actually use, and he funded it with advance orders: “‘At Sky TV I had ideas for how to improve things, but no way of getting them heard,’ he says. ‘Line managers weren’t interested and I couldn’t get ideas to the real decision makers in senior management.’

“This became the starting point for Sideways 6. While most other suggestion box systems require employees to download an app, or register and log in to a new platform, often with poor engagement rates, Sideways 6 connects to the communication platforms already used by its customers, for example, Slack, Workplace by Facebook and Microsoft Yammer.” Read says that approach gives Sideways 6 “ten times the level of engagement of our competitors.”

Which city has generated the most tech jobs in North America? It isn’t San Francisco, but Toronto, which created more than 82,000 jobs between 2012 and 2017. “Canada has been making it easier for skilled foreign workers to remain a resident of our neighbors to the north: “Canada’s openness to immigration isn’t new: 51 percent of Toronto’s residents were born in another country—more than New York’s 40 percent. But the strategy has given a new tech focus to Canada’s immigration policy: The most common professions among those admitted were developers, computer analysts, university professors and software engineers.”

TECHNOLOGY

Are autonomous cars racist?If you’re a person with dark skin, you may be more likely than your white friends to get hit by a self-driving car, according to a new study out of the Georgia Institute of Technology. That’s because automated vehicles may be better at detecting pedestrians with lighter skin tones. …

“The study’s insights add to a growing body of evidence about how human bias seeps into our automated decision-making systems. It’s called algorithmic bias.”

SOCIAL MEDIA

Still wondering what exactly TikTok is and why big brands like Coca Cola, Nike, ABC and Google are advertising on the lip-syncing app? Here’s a beginner’s guide, and here’s a taste of it’s all about: “Challenges are what unite the TikTok community, and they’re often sponsored by advertisers. Right now, for instance, ABC is running the #LikeAnAmericanIdol challenge on TikTok, which invites you to “show off your amazing voice!” (So far, 25.3 million videos have been created featuring the hashtag.) Google recently ran a similar challenge campaign with the hashtag #HeyGoogleHelp.

“Most challenges aren’t sponsored. Instead, they’re created by TikTok and the community itself. The app is currently featuring the #faketravel challenge for instance, in which users pretend to be on a luxurious vacation. The meme pokes fun at influencers who brag about their #jetsetlifestyle on other platforms like Instagram.”

CANNABUSINESS

Hilary Dulaney bootstrapped Accuvape to become the first woman-owned Michigan cannabis company to be acquired by a publicly traded company: “In 2013, I returned to cannabis…I focused on the business part-time while working at a corporate job. One day I got a call from a friend in Portland, Oregon, telling me to come to check out the market there. I sold about $26,000 worth of vaporizers and parts in about 10 days and decided we needed to attack this market. When I came back to Michigan, I quit the corporate job. Five years later, Accuvape has hundreds of wholesale accounts nationwide and limited distribution in Canada and Europe…

“The cannabis industry is unpredictable. In traditional businesses, like real estate, there are protocols and standards. There are references that will help guide you along your way. In this industry, we’re writing and rewriting those protocols daily so everyone is operating on a moving target. We can’t follow a set business plan like other industries…This is why there are people who recommend staying out of this industry for three years until it settles. But there are great rewards in being first…”

MANUFACTURING

There is no penalty for falsely claiming that your product is made in America: “Patriot Puck, a New York-based company, wrapped its hockey pucks in American flags, declaring them ‘The Only American Made Hockey Puck!’ The mattress firm Nectar Sleep, founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, promoted its mattresses as ‘designed and assembled in the USA’

“Two California-based manufacturers of deployment bags, tactical gear and other merchandise marketed to active and retired American military personnel sold the products online as #MadeInUSA, and inserted ‘American Made’ tags into its products. In reality, most of the products were manufactured entirely in China, according to the Federal Trade Commission.”

ZACK ELLER’S DEAL OF THE DAY

Aon, a reinsurance and retirement firm, has announced that it will not acquire Willis Towers Watson, the insurance broker. “A potential combination with Willis could have been the industry’s largest-ever merger…Wells Fargo said regulatory issues would be a big overhang for any deal between Aon and rival Willis Towers given the size of the two companies, which are the second- and third-largest insurance brokers.”

INNOVATION

Tony Fadell is the man who helped invent the iPod, iPhone and founded the smart home company, Nest, which is now run by Google. While traveling, he had his eyes opened to humanity’s waste problem. There’s just too much garbage, he said. But his advisory and investment firm, Future Shape, works to help entrepreneurs solve existential problems. “We tell them: We give you money to hire us to help you,” Fadell said. That might mean improving communications, or engaging in product development, or establishing market fit. ‘Most of the time, they’re trapped in the lab,’ he said of his target entrepreneurs, and they can’t meaningfully explain to the world what they’re working on.”

ENTERTAINMENT

Steven Spielberg has been taking shots at streaming services like Netflix over the years, basically dismissing the work they create including “Roma,” the highly acclaimed Alfonso Cuaron epic that got 10 nominations this yearTV movies. Well, Netflix has responded: “‘We love cinema,’ Netflix tweeted. ‘Here are some things we also love: Access for people who can’t always afford, or live in towns without, theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. Giving filmmakers more ways to share art. These things are not mutually exclusive.’”

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

For those who don’t watch E!, Kylie Jenner is youngest daughter in the Kardashian family/marketing powerhouse as well as the founder and owner of Kylie Cosmetics, a makeup and skincare brand which used to be sold exclusively online. But after signing a distribution deal with Ulta, the 21-year-old founder just became the youngest “self-made billionaire ever,” according to Forbes.

“Her empire consists of just seven full-time and five part-time employees. Manufacturing and packaging is outsourced to Seed Beauty, a private-label producer in nearby Oxnard, California. Sales and fulfillment are handled by online merchant Shopify. Her shrewd mother, Kris, takes care of finance and PR in exchange for the 10 percent management fee she siphons from all of her kids. Marketing is done mostly through social media, where Jenner has a massive following.”

People all over social media have been calling out Forbes for labeling Kylie Jenner “self-made” when she had the world-famous Kardashian platform to build on. So, what constitutes as self-made to you? Are there any lessons to be learned from Jenner’s success? Send your commentary to Millennial Matt (mattg@oxfordcenter.com).

And that’s what’s ahead.

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

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