Marketer of the Year, Stripe Goes After Square, and a New Way to Get Through Airport Security

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Good Tuesday Morning,

DAYLIGHT

The yield curve has begun to flip. Since 1960, every time long-term interest rates have turned lower than short-term rates, a recession has followed: “The spread between 3- and 5-year yields fell to negative 1.4 basis points Monday, dropping below zero for the first time since 2007, and the 2- to 5-year gap soon followed. The 2 – to 10-year is more closely watched as a potential indicator of pending recessions. But Monday’s move could be the first signal that the market is putting the Federal Reserve on notice that the end of its tightening cycle is approaching.”

MARKETING

Ad Age has named Nike its marketer of the year: “Depending on who you asked, Nike was either a crusader for social justice or an unpatriotic agitator making a hero out of the man who started the movement of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as a means to bring attention to racial inequities. Kaepernick was not the only athlete in the campaign celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ‘Just Do It’ slogan, but he narrated one spot, which quickly became a lightning rod.

“Spike Lee praised Nike for being ‘on the right side of history.’ Republican Sen. Ted Cruz bashed the brand for being ‘on the wrong side of the American people.’ Either way, Nike ended up right where it needs to be: in the middle of a debate that drew attention, admiration and – most importantly – sales from the urban Millennials it needs to keep the swoosh strong.”

Mushroom tea – how do you get people to drink it? Tero Isokauppila knew it was a challenge because some people cannot even accept mushrooms, a superfood, on their pizza. When going into retail for the first time, Isokauppila knew her café was going to be competing on one of LA’s most expensive streets.

So, she decided to make a Shroom Room, where the café would provide complimentary mushrooms and drinks. Some shroom-infused drinks cost $10 at other places and Isokauppila thought that was no way to draw new customers. She thought, why not just offer a drink for free so they could eventually become regulars? She will soon open a Manhattan location.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Across Wall Street, in reaction to the #MeToo era, men are taking a Mike Pence-like approach to avoid working one-on-one with women – but this strategy presents risks as well: “‘If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment,’ [an employment lawyer] said, ‘those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.’”

FINANCE

Patrick and John Collison started their online payment platform, Stripe, in 2010 and today it reportedly produces more than $1 billion a year in annual revenue by processing online transactions and serving as a financial system for more than 100,000 companies ranging from mom-and-pops to tech giants. Now the company is going after offline payments, too: “Brendan Miller, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, suggests that the company will have tough competition from the likes of Square and PayPal, which have long made credit card readers for brick-and-mortar businesses available.”

M&A

Media group Nexstar will take over Tribune Media, 42 channels to 50 million households,  for $4.1 billion, making Nexstar now the largest operator of local TV in the country. This comes three months after Tribune’s failed sale to Sinclair Group after the company didn’t pass the regulatory eye test. A huge bounceback for Tribune after rising from the ashes of bankruptcy in 2012.

The most valuable asset under the Tribune umbrella is the Food Network with its family-friendly programming and popular personalities. By the way, the network just signed one of its superstars, Bobby Flay, to a three-year deal. Local news and original programming has Nexstar being a perpetual presence in the living room, meaning more opportunity for ad revenue.

From Our M&A Guy Zack Eller – Asahi Kasei Homes acquired Erickson Construction for $106 million from Atlas holdings. Asahi Kasei Homes is exclusive to Japan, but not for long. This is an interesting time to purchase Erickson. New home sales have fallen month over month this year, which could be a sign of bad things to come.

TRAVEL

Traveling Entrepreneurs might actually get to their NYC meetings on time. Hartsfield-Jackson airport has opened the first fully operational biometric terminal. It works to improve security while also streamlining the hassle of check-in lines at the busiest airport in the world. The main feature is facial recognition that automatically checks travelers into their flight. This includes, TSA ID checks and luggage. The new system is totally optional if someone feels more secure going through the traditional hurdles.

ENERGY

Qatar, the small Arab nation expected to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022 that’s been awash in controversy, is pulling out of OPEC to focus on natural gas production. It comes as no surprise since the country’s ratcheted up its natural gas output and Saudi Arabia and the UAE have imposed economic embargoes. Qatar’s natural gas exports account for 30 percent of global demand.

PRIVATE EQUITY

Last week on Mind Your Business, Loren and his guest, Lou Mosca, took a call from the owner of a profitable hazardous-waste-disposal business who is trying to decide whether to scale his business by borrowing money or by taking on an investor. “Boy,” said Lou, “I am loath to give up equity.” Listen to the conversation here.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Bright Health, an insurance company that provides exclusive Care Partner Health Plans, raised $200 million. Bright Health is a digital-first insurer that’s riding a wave of other digital insurance companies banking on tech and VC to get ahead of the incumbents.

Roam Robotics, a company building robotic exoskeletons, raised $12 million. The company creates exoskeletons for active individuals consisting of high strength fabrics. It’s been getting some buzz around the skiing community in providing an extra layer of protection.

SPOTLIGHT  

An announcement from Oxford Member Mark McKenzie:

I wanted to let you know that we again had another great year with our Golf for the Kids 12th annual tournament. On November 27, Giving Tuesday, we did our check presentation of $45,000 at the AFLAC Cancer & Blood Disorder Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The dollars we raised go to fighting Childhood Cancer and we earmark the first $20,000 to go towards the Canines for Kids Program at CHOA.

Over the past 10 years, Members of the Oxford Center have volunteered, sponsored or played in this event. We have several current and former Members serving on the advisory board:

Angie Rehkop – Founder of Golf for the Kids and Scarlet Oak Financial Services

Joe English – Taylor | English

Lee Heisman – Savant

Mike and Amy Russell – ETS Solutions

Mallory Atkinson – Shear Structural

Rachel Eisaman – Joli Residential

Jeremy Joiner – 3ci People

Rick Walker – GAMA

I wanted to point out that this is one of the many reasons I participate in the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. Not only for the education, networking amongst my peers, but being involved in our community and making a real difference. Learn more here.

And that’s what’s ahead.

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

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