Morning Report

What you need to know one minute before daylight

Vegan Butchers, Custom Sneakers, and the Amazon of Transportation

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Gene Marks asks if it’s time to consider Airbnb for your next business trip? “Airbnb already has six million listings in more than 100,000 cities. But the company wants more business people to take advantage of their platform. That’s why their division that specifically caters to this demographic – Airbnb for Work – has introduced new search tools that are designed to help corporate road warriors locate somewhere that’s simply a more business-friendly place to stay. So what do we business travelers want? That’s easy. Flexible (and quick) check-ins. Workspace and collaboration areas. Fast Wi-Fi. Long-stay options. Locations near corporate centers and business services like FedEx and UPS Stores. Most importantly: peace and quiet!

“David Holyoke, global head of Airbnb for Work, told me that small businesses make up 40 percent of Airbnb for Work’s 500,000 companies in their professional community around the world. According to him, companies save an average of 49 percent a night when they stay at an Airbnb over a traditional hotel.”


Before she became a butcher, Kate Kavanaugh, who owns Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe in Denver, was a strict vegetarian: “She stopped eating meat for more than a decade, she said, out of a deep love for animal life and respect for the environment. She became a butcher for exactly the same reasons. Ms. Kavanaugh, 30, is one in a small but successful cadre of like-minded former vegetarians and vegans who became butchers in hopes of revolutionizing the current food system in the United States. Referring to themselves as ethical butchers, they have opened shops that offer meat from animals bred on grassland and pasture, with animal well-being, environmental conservation and less wasteful whole-animal butchery as their primary goals. 

“It’s a sharp contrast to the industrial-scale factory farming that produces most of the nation’s meat, and that has come under investigation and criticism for its waste, overuse of antibiotics, and inhumane, hazardous conditions for the animals. The outcry has been so strong that some meat producers say they are changing their practices. But these newer butchers contend that the industry is proceeding too slowly, with a lack of transparency that doesn’t inspire trust. ‘I’m basically in this to turn the conventional meat industry on its head,’ she said.”

Distilleries are producing exclusive beverages for restaurants to sell: “The Maker’s Mark Private Select program, which began at the end of 2015 and released its first barrels in the spring of 2016, is one of the most popular options for chefs and restaurants interested in creating their own signature bourbon. The program, which started as a way to give the distillery’s local partners in Kentucky something special, now has a six-month wait for clients across the country to create a barrel of bourbon at the distillery. The bourbon then takes another six months to finish aging before being bottled, registered, and shipped out.”


Uber is looking to public transit for riders and revenue: “As the company seeks new growth, it has teamed up with cities and transit agencies in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia to provide tickets, to transport people with disabilities or sometimes to substitute for a town’s public transportation system entirely. Since 2015, Uber has inked more than 20 transit deals. The push is now being championed by Dara Khosrowshahi, its chief executive, to turn the company into the ‘Amazon of transportation.’ In that vision, Uber would become a one-stop shop for car, bike, scooter, bus and train trips.

“Doing so would help Uber draw more riders, especially as the company faces questions from Wall Street about whether it can make money and revive its once red-hot growth rate. On Thursday, Uber is scheduled to report its latest earnings, including an estimated quarterly loss of nearly $5 billion and declining revenue growth.”


Retail workers are receiving better pay than a generation ago: “Minimum wage increases by states and across major chains, like Walmart Inc. and Target Corp., coupled with a tight labor market, have jump-started the income gains. Average hourly earnings for 13.4 million non-supervisory retail workers surged 5.1 percent last year for the biggest advance since 1981, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. And they’ve kept rising, hitting $16.65 an hour in July. When adjusted for inflation, that’s the highest level since December 2003.”

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Online marketplace The Custom Movement wants to bring designer sneakers to the masses: “[The startup] enables independent artists to sell their one-of-a-kind sneaker designs to those who want highly unique Nikes, Vans, Timberlands or any other brand of shoe. Customers can shop by shoe brand, style, artist or price. … The platform is entirely open, meaning any artist can sign up to sell their shoes. That means the prices can vary, but the cheapest shoe you can buy right now costs $110 and the most expensive one costs upwards of $1,000. The Custom Movement processes the payments, but artists handle the shipping. Since joining Y Combinator, the startup has shifted from enabling people to describe what they were looking for to instead having artists put up the designs they were willing to make.”

Atlanta-based Mini City is making a for-profit business out of serving the homeless, by positioning itself as a cost-saving solution to cities and non-profits: “The startup helps individuals in two ways: the first, a wearable wristband that allows users to request and secure identification documents, generate employment forms, store their records, etc. Through pilots with The Salvation Army and others, the startup has deployed 500 wristbands in Atlanta. … Their second service is a tablet, placed in homeless and transitional shelters, that allows shelter residents to access these same services, plus even more. ‘Homeless citizens can check on status of their IDs, set up a secure pin to access their account, check for nearby food resources and medical providers,’ [co-founder India] Hayes says. ‘We can even offer a way for you to book shelter beds based on how you self-identify your gender.’”

Ibotta, an in-app coupon company, just became Colorado’s only tech unicorn: “The startup offers a coupon alternative for consumers that want to save money and get cashback rewards. Users of the Ibotta app can shop at places like Uber, Chipotle, Whole Foods, among others and get cashback rewards for each transaction. Bryan Leach, founder and CEO of Ibotta told me that it’s ‘trying to put the paper promotions business out of business.’ In addition to offering cashback awards, Ibotta lets users purchase using those rewards through their own app. The free Ibotta application has more than 35 million downloads, and to date Leach said the company has given $600 million back in rewards to its customers.”


Popular cannabis search engine Weedmaps opened a marijuana-focused pop-up museum that aims to stamp out the negative stigma surrounding the drug. The museum consists of “a 30,000 square-foot space filled with interactive and informational exhibits telling the story of ‘growers, stoners, and activists who expanded knowledge of the plant and kept the cannabis movement alive despite decades of government prohibition and propaganda.’ It will have exhibits and areas highlighting marijuana’s role in several eras, from pre-prohibition, to the ‘age of madness,’ the counterculture revolution, the war on drugs, and beyond. It’ll also explore social justice issues surrounding weed and how medicinal use helped change its reputation in America.”


California’s largest recycling business shut down, laying off 750 people: “RePlanet closed all 284 of its centers, and company president David Lawrence said the decision was driven by increased business costs and falling prices of recycled aluminum and PET plastic, the San Jose Mercury News reported. … Now many San Francisco Bay Area residents have few or no options for redeeming their recyclables, which is especially concerning for those who live in poverty or experience homelessness and rely on recycling for income. Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit that studies issues in California’s recycling industry, estimated that more than 40 percent of all redemption centers have closed in the last five years. The closures result in consumers only getting back about half of their nickel and dime bottle and can deposits, according to a recent report from the nonprofit. The closures also mean that more bottles made of aluminum and polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, will end up in landfills.”


GameStop is making a last-ditch effort to save itself by having stores market to esports and nostalgia: “GameStop has employed design firm R/GA to pilot some very different types of stores in an effort to get people back into their brick and mortar outlets. One idea is esports focused with ‘home-grown e-leagues’ as a concept for the local areas those stores would be planted in, and another idea is a type of store that is focused on retro hardware and games. … It’s a wild idea, but I can’t imagine it’s one that’s going to bail out a ship that’s sinking as quickly as GameStop.”

Bulletproof backpacks have grown in demand for back-to-school shopping: “In the past, some stores have reportedly sold out of the backpacks, which typically cost $100 to $200. Months before the Parkland shooting, a private Christian school in Miami sold protective panels that could be inserted into backpacks, charging $120 for the bulletproof shields. This year, ArmorMe, a personal-defense company run by a former Israeli commando, Gabi Siboni, started selling a bulletproof backpack that can unfold into a larger covering. ‘The backpack is designed first of all to be a very stylish and nice-looking backpack,’ Mr. Siboni said. ‘And it has panels that protect you against bullets. It will increase your survival chances.’”

And that’s what’s ahead.

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