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The pandemic has hit checkout-aisle impulse purchases hard

Photo: Aleks Dorohovich/Unsplash

Do you need to worry about how fresh your breath is when you’re at a distance from everyone around you and wearing a mouth-covering mask?

The answer is, no, you don’t. As the Hershey Company, one of the major players in the gum market, elegantly put it, “The functional need for breath freshening continues to be impacted by social distancing.”

The pandemic has seen many business winners. But for so-called “impulse products” like chewing gum, that rely on consumer impulse and well-positioned sale points, it has been a sticky period. These products sell best when targeting people at till points…


The institutionalization of real estate and the rise of ‘placeless’ places

Fenwick, a 310 unit apartment building in Silver Spring, Maryland. Source: SK + I

Many of America’s towns and cities could charitably be described as boring. New development, that is. America is home to an incredible diversity of regional architectural and planning styles. We cherish what makes each of these places special, traveling far and wide to take in their idiosyncrasies and beauty. But somewhere along the way, we stopped building according to local traditions. Over the last 70 years, America hasn’t put its best design foot forward.

It would be disappointing enough to fail in gracing a land as physically beautiful as the US with the built companions it deserves. But it’s downright…


How the $2 trillion crypto asset class taps into ‘scarcity credibility’

Any firm that approaches $1T in value has tapped into a basic human instinct. Consuming, signaling, loving, and praying have been the fuel of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google’s ascents, respectively. That the crypto asset class universe has reached $2T reveals, I believe, that it taps into two attributes we instinctively pursue: trust and scarcity.


Founders with a small exit in their first company were much more likely to build a unicorn in their next, a new study of startups shows

Screenshot of “The Million Dollar Homepage”

Alex Tew isn’t your stereotypical Ivy League college dropout or software engineer at Google who founded a billion-dollar startup. Tew was a student at Nottingham University when he started his first project. His itch for building something and making some money had led him to create “The Million Dollar Homepage” in 2005. The website consisted of a million pixels arranged in a 1000 × 1000 pixel grid. The pixels were sold for $1 per pixel and the purchasers of these pixel blocks were advertisers. This is before “Display Ads” were a big thing. In four months’ time, word of the…


Why founders in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere are leveraging SPACs to take their companies public

Co-authored with Allen Taylor (Endeavor Catalyst)

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

Last month, Grab announced it would go public via SPAC. This is an incredible milestone in the world of SPACs (“Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), a sector that has exploded in the last two years. Grab’s SPAC deal — valuing the company at nearly $40B — is the largest in history globally, more than double the previous record.

While that in of itself is noteworthy, it isn’t the punch line.

Grab is not a traditional Silicon Valley company. Instead, it is the leading super app in South East Asia, with a primarily emerging market user…


Basecamp bosses banned politics at work over a social justice diagram

The ADL’s “Pyramid of Hate.” Image via adl.org.

Earlier this week, I wrote a response to tech company Basecamp’s decision to ban political speech in the workplace. That same evening, Casey Newton published an article for The Verge that shed some light on the events that apparently prompted this announcement. As Newton’s article explains, the political discussions taking place at Basecamp largely focused on the internal culture of the company itself — not conversations about the outside world brought into work, as many were led to believe by the company’s original statement. Newton writes,

Interviews with a half-dozen Basecamp employees over the past day paint a portrait of…


Putting a dollar value on the language of the internet will be weird

Zoe Roth, aka Disaster Girl

For over a decade, the image of a young girl smirking in the foreground as a home in the background is engulfed in flames has circulated as fodder for countless memes. The picture, known simply as Disaster Girl, though originally taken by an amateur photographer — who then entered it into an online contest, sparking its journey across the web — has all but officially entered the public domain. That is, until Thursday, at least technically speaking.

The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the then-young girl in the photo, Zoe Roth (now 21), recently sold the image as a…


In his final letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos calculated how much his company has benefited stakeholders. Let’s check his math.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

“If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.” So wrote Jeff Bezos in his final letter to shareholders, released last week. It’s a great sentiment, one I heartily agree with and wish that more companies embraced. But how well does he practice what he preaches? …


The company’s ban on social discussions forgets that workers are people

For the past several years, Chicago-based company Basecamp has positioned itself as a moral and strategic leader in the tech world. This posture has come, in no small part, from the tireless workplace culture evangelism of cofounders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson—better known by his web handle DHH. DHH’s reputation for performatively calling out the unethical practices of other tech companies is part of the reason it came as a shock to many when, on Monday, Basecamp issued a statement outlining a series of internal changes to the company. Among other things, this statement (which has already been heavily…


Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 bestseller was naive about the dark side of the ideas it championed, but taught readers that books about ideas could be cool

When The Tipping Point was published in 2000, it marked a sea change in the world of books. Selling over a million copies, Malcolm Gladwell’s “biography of an idea” convinced publishers that, told well, readers could and would read serious books about economics and social change and history and science and business. A new genre of silo-busting, multi-disciplinary non-fiction was born. And even though it drew largely from academic research, it wasn’t stodgy, it was fun. And its central thesis — “there is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible” was broad…

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