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Marker
Pop business for the intelligent reader. A publication from Medium.

Is it the end for the infamous startup strategy?

At the heart of the Theranos trial is a story about a founder with a potentially world-changing idea who took some questionable steps in desperation to achieve it, only to see that dream go up in flames. The fate of Elizabeth Holmes — the one-time “future Steve Jobs” — and her actions aside, the trial is also putting the very practices of Silicon Valley under the microscope; namely, the practice of ‘fake it till you make it.’

Silicon Valley has a long history with the idea that you can talk the talk before you can walk the walk, selling potential…


Our desire for quick justice can make us pounce on the most visible actors

The criminal trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the blood-testing startup Theranos, began last week. As the trial drew near, I had a foreboding feeling that games would be played with the ideas of victim and victimizer — games that would leave many people, possibly even including the jury, confused about how to apply the law.

Understanding the sociological mechanisms that influence our perception of guilt has been my key work over the past several years. …


I Read It So You Don’t Have To

How Tesla rose from a scrappy EV startup to the most valuable car company in the world

I Read It So You Don’t Have To is a series that gives you the TL;DR on a business book you want to read — but don’t have time to.

What did I read?

Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century by Tim Higgins.

So who’s this Tim Higgins?

Tim Higgins is a tech and auto reporter for the Wall Street Journal and an on-air contributor to CNBC. Higgins has won two awards from the Society for Advancing Businesses Editing and Writing (SABEW) for his past reporting on Elon Musk and driverless cars.

Give me the 30-second sell.

While Tesla Motors is today nearly synonymous with its CEO and “Technoking”…


No Mercy No Malice

Helping students catch up may be the pandemic’s most enduring challenge

Miles of plexiglass, masks, and deranged parents. Back to school 2021 feels more like Stranger Things than the fall ritual we grew up with. Yet there’s an eerie sameness between this fall and the previous most-unusual-back-to-school year of our lives … last year. Classrooms are experiments on viral transmission rates, and school board meetings are proof that antipsychotic meds are dangerously underprescribed.

Whitney Was Right

The children are indeed our future. In my book, Post Corona, I offered this thesis: “The pandemic’s most enduring impact will be as an accelerant.” And that’s proving out in many areas. In health care, office work, food…


After decades of stability in the automotive world, startups finally have a chance to compete

Since the introduction of mass-market vehicles in the early 20th century, the automotive industry has been remarkably stable. The largest automakers from 80 years ago are still mostly among the largest today. Breaking into this industry was difficult, very few succeeded.

The rise of electric vehicles — and the slow adoption from many established automakers — has presented a narrow window for new entrants. Tesla, which was struggling to put out their first mass-produced vehicle just a decade ago, has already become the most valuable automaker in the world.

This enormous success has inspired dozens of copycat startups hoping to…


Metropolis

Creating a city for 5 million people isn’t utopian, but building it in the desert might be

Utopias are easily dismissed. Part of this is in the name. Definitionally, utopia means “no place.” Coined by Thomas More in his 1516 classic, utopias aren’t meant to exist in the real world. They are the (sometimes) well-intentioned dreams of fallible people trying to create infallible places, wholly encompassing the interpersonal relationships, politics, economy, and day-to-day life of the imagined residents.

Biases and personal experience make it such that what may be utopian for the visionary may not be for others. Perhaps such a vision could even be dystopian. More’s imagined Utopia, after all, was a strictly regimented society that…


Why is the McFlurry machine always broken? The FTC also wants to know

McDonald’s McFlurry machine is famous for great ice cream and for never being able to serve said ice cream. The machine is out-of-order so frequently that it’s become a long-running joke (read: big customer bugbear). Even the company couldn’t help but poke fun at the problem, tweeting, “We have a joke about our soft serve machine but we’re worried it won’t work.”

Customers have continually made their disappointment heard, and it’s now the most common complaint. Conspiracy theories have grown louder, including the popular one that McDonald’s employees intentionally lie about the machine being broken to avoid making shakes and…


NUMBER CRUNCH

After a year of explosive growth, the company is beginning to slow down

25%: The percentage fall in Peloton’s share price year-to-date, not accounting for the further losses that occurred after the company’s recent Q4 report, which failed to meet expectations.

A treadmill runner typically struggles in the early minutes of the run, then kicks into gear, enjoying a sustained period of high-performance before hitting the wall and eventually coming to a stop. It seems this trajectory also applies to the trendiest of treadmill makers, Peloton. On August 26, the company shared its Q4 earnings for 2021, and the data showed a dramatic tail-off in growth compared to the previous year. The numbers…


Logology

We can measure whether today’s trademarks and logos all look alike. But criticism of sameness has always dominated the discourse.

In recent years, a number of observers of the commercial landscape have commented on an increasing sameness across the world of brand design. James Edmondson’s 2018 “Everybody fall in line” tweet pointed out the tendency of tech giants to adopt similar vanilla sans-serif logotypes. Thierry Brunfaut and Tom Greenwood decried the rise of “blanding,” in which “an army of clones wears a uniform of brand camouflage.” And last year, Ben Schott dinged “blands” for “slavishly obeying an identikit formula of business model, look and feel, and tone of voice.”

Do these perceptions of blandness reflect a reality in today’s branding…


No Mercy No Malice

For all its success, Facebook doesn’t have vertical distribution or much presence in the world of work

The greatest impediments to changes in our traditional roles seem to lie not in the visible world of conscious intent, but in the murky realm of the unconscious mind.

— Dr. Augustus Napier

The Metaverse

The Zuck is obsessed with another Augustus, world-conquering emperor Augustus Caesar. But the boy-who-would-be-emperor has a problem, something standing between him and greater wealth and power. Not the Facebook board; he’s neutered that via dual-class shares. Not the government; his 900-person comms department, coupled with a massive increase in lobbying expenditures, has dispensed with that nuisance. The last remaining obstacle is the world itself … it’s distracting.

Marker

Pop business for the intelligent reader. A publication from Medium.

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