Spotify’s Mood Targeting, Wellness Pop-Ups Invade SoHo, and Why One in Three Entrepreneurs Experience Depression

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WORK-LIFE BALANCE

While the American Psychiatric Association says one in six people experience depression in their lifetime, almost one in three entrepreneurs experience depression: “There are many reasons for this. First, society puts a lot of pressure on the entrepreneur to succeed. Small business owners work extended work hours. They often struggle to form a vibrant personal life. The constant grind of turning an idea into a reality can be overwhelming. Stress pervades.

“Unfortunately, these stressful periods last a long time. Many entrepreneurs are in hustle mode for three-to-five years before their product attracts a large customer base. For some, it’s even longer.  To complicate matters, many novice entrepreneurs, in their haste to become profitable and successful, neglect their physical and mental well-being. Many skip meals, choose work over sleep and fail to exercise their brains and bodies. I’ve met some over the years who abuse substances that help keep them awake and sharp for long periods so they can complete projects. Each of these excessive choices negatively impacts mental health and can lead to burnout or severe depression.

Clinical depression requires a medical diagnosis. However, there are warning signs that any entrepreneur can identify before talking to a medical professional. Symptoms include loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, increased fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, loss or increase in appetite, or irritability. Depression is different for most people, but if you see these symptoms, get checked.”

RETAIL

Is Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood turning into one big wellness pop-up? “There is By Chloe, a vegan fast food restaurant, which sells a quinoa taco salad for $12.45; Brodo, which sells cups of bone broth for $10; the Good Market, which sells pineapple raspberry kombucha organic slushies for $4.50; Welleco and the Nue Co, both supplement stores; the Hemp Garden, where CBD sheet masks sell for $29.99; the Detox Market, where the Vintner’s Daughter Active Treatment Essence face oil is $225; Lululemon and Nike; boutique fitness establishments like Y-7 Studio, New York Pilates (three locations), SLT and SoulCycle, where classes are upward of $30.

“In early April, Kind, the snack food company, organized a two-day pop-up highlighting its ‘Sweeteners Uncovered’ campaign, which shows hidden sugars in popular snack foods. This took the form of a high-tech bodega at 579 Broadway, a space that once housed an Aldo shoe store and whose rent for the space Kind declined to share. At the pop-up, the sugar content from Kind’s competitors could be revealed by scanning a QR code. …

“The condom company Sustain Natural hosted the Get on Top Pop-Up in April 2018 at 208 Bowery, with neon vulva art installations and tampon-filled bathtubs leading into a back event space called the womb. Meika Hollender, its chief executive, said that foot traffic and a neighborhood affinity for wellness made her choose the Bowery: ‘There are so many like-minded wellness studios and brands showcasing their products in this area that it felt like a natural opportunity to reach consumers in a fun and accessible way. I mean, who wouldn’t be curious walking past a vagina-themed pop-up.’”

MARKETING

Spotify tracks users through its mood-based playlists and markets to users based on their streaming choices. “Where other platforms might need to invest more to piece together emotional user profiles, Spotify streamlines the process by providing boxes that users click on to indicate their moods: Happy Hits, Mood Booster, Rage Beats, Life Sucks. All of these are examples of what can now be found on Spotify’s Browse page under the ‘mood’ category, which currently contains eighty-five playlists. … [A] careful look into Spotify’s history shows that the decision to define audiences by their moods was part of a strategic push to grow Spotify’s advertising business in the years leading up to its IPO—and today, Spotify’s enormous access to mood-based data is a pillar of its value to brands and advertisers, allowing them to target ads on Spotify by moods and emotions.”

OXFORD STRATEGIC ADVISORY DEAL OF THE DAY

BuildBox, a game development platform that teaches people to create games without coding or programming, was acquired by AppOnboard, a mobile app design software that does not require coding.

VENTURE CAPITAL

Pay4Education, a developer of a personalized college decision-making platform to help determine the ROI of college, raised $575,000 in an Early Stage VC Round.

Anvl, developer of a workforce-first safety software, raised $2 million in a Seed Round.

Sure, a provider of a mobile application designed to get commercial flight insurance, raised $15 million in a Series B Round. The valuation of the company is $59 million following the round.

FOOD AND BEVERAGE

Food delivery apps like UberEats, GrubHub and DoorDash were marketed to restaurateurs that the services would boost revenue, but some restaurants are getting left behind. “Many independent restaurants say they work with multiple online-delivery apps because they have become so pervasive; without them, they fear missing out on business. But that doesn’t mean they come cheap.

“Last year, Modern Restaurant Management reported that Uber Eats was charging restaurants a service fee of 30 percent of the bill. Similarly, a 2018 analysis by Business.com found select New York restaurants that opted for sponsored listings, in addition to delivery services, ended up paying a minimum of 30 percent to Grubhub. For some restaurants, those fees are too high. A recent survey of members by Restaurants Canada found that 55 percent of restaurants that used delivery apps said the apps were ‘slightly profitable’ for their business, while 21 percent said they were ‘not at all profitable.’”

The Philippines doesn’t know what to do with all its mangoes. “Thanks to weather patterns associated with El Niño, mango farmers grew more mangoes than expected—and the department of agriculture is getting creative to move those mangoes. As part of a program called ‘Metro Mango’ the government will install bulk fruit stands all over the capital of Manila. Then, to really get the people mangoing, the government will sponsor cooking classes and host a mango festival. Foreign demand has marginally mitigated mango mania (a Japanese company is looking to order 100,000 kg), but not quite enough: Some farmers have already begun giving their mangoes away for free.”

AGRICULTURE

Indigo Agriculture incentivizes farmers to use “regenerative” farming practices like crop rotation as a way to fight climate change. “[While] carbon-sucking machines can cost $100 per ton of sequestered CO2, changes on a farm can happen much more affordably. [CEO David Perry says,] ‘For around $15 or $20 a ton, we’d be providing farmers a really compelling reason to change practices,’ says Perry. Each acre might sequester two to three tons of carbon a year. That payment, he says, could potentially double the salaries of farmers who are struggling to make ends meet. The company will offer a guaranteed rate of at least $15 a ton for the first 12 months.”

Misfits Market is using money from a Series A funding round to bring deliveries of ugly fruits to more US states: “About one-fifth of produce is trashed simply because it’s unattractive. Americans are particularly bad about skipping over bruised fruit or funny-shaped tomatoes, so much so that some 60 million tons, or $160 billion worth, of fruits and vegetables, get thrown away in the United States every year. Misfits Market is one of a handful of companies working to fight that waste, by buying that misshapen yet totally edible produce and shipping it to eager consumers. Since its founding in September 2018, Misfits Market has rescued more than 2.5 million pounds of certified organic, non-GMO, handpicked produce that would have otherwise gone to waste.”  

TECHNOLOGY

Video game software like Unreal Engine and Unity are now being applied to other forms of business tech like designing cars: “Designers at McLaren Automotive, a division of UK-based McLaren Group, have been using the Unreal Engine for more than a year to create, evaluate and fine-tune digital car models. The process now takes hours or days, a switch from using drawings and modeling clay, which sometimes took a month. McLaren Automotive also uses tools from companies including Autodesk Inc. for designs and calculations. ‘It’s really paying dividends because it is dramatically speeding up the process. A designer can put on a VR headset, sketch something directly into 3-D, build a volume model, spin it around, and fast track to 3-D,’ said Mark Roberts, head of design operations at McLaren Automotive.”

CANNABUSINESS

Colorado has passed the $1 billion mark in marijauna sales revenue: “Colorado Gov. Polis told CNBC’s Scott Cohn that its first mover advantage in the cannabis business will be key to developing a much broader economic engine for the state than just tax revenue on marijuana sales. “We are always going to be relatively small potatoes on the actual sales. … We are just not going to be as big as states like California or New Jersey. … We want to make sure that 10 years from now, point-of-sales systems, chemistry, genetics—all those pieces—are housed here in Colorado with successful companies that power a multi-billion national industry.”

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Every week, hundreds of thousands of people watch Bethany Gaskin binge-eat shellfish on YouTube: “Mrs. Gaskin, 44, has capitalized on the popularity of a food-video genre known as mukbang, which involves scarfing down, on camera, more grub than should rightly be consumed in a single sitting. On her two YouTube channels, Bloveslife and BlovesASMR Eating Her Way, Mrs. Gaskin chats up her audience while eating king crab legs, mussels, lobster tails, hard-boiled eggs and roasted red potatoes. The videos, produced in her Cincinnati home, have made her a millionaire, she said. …

“Before becoming a YouTube sensation, Mrs. Gaskin, who has an associate’s degree in early childhood development, owned a daycare facility. After five years, she sold the business and used the money to pay off loans and leases. She then got a job making circuit boards for the military for a year.

In 2017, she started making Food Network-style cooking videos in her home kitchen and posting them on YouTube. ‘I’m a foodie,’ Mrs. Gaskin said. ‘I’ve always liked to cook. Then I did a mukbang, and people just went crazy. I was like, ‘People want to see me eat, this is weird.’”

And that’s what’s ahead.

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

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