04/3/19

Blue Apron and the Meal Kit Delivery Genie

Blue Apron — APRN NYSE — is a meal recipe/delivery company (OK, meal-kit delivery is the right buzz word, shoot me) that went public back in 2017. It was once upon a time a Unicorn. Here is what the stock has done since coming out at $10/share in July 2017 and thereby earning it a title as a $2B Unicorn. Bravo! Oh, wait. Belay that bravo, please.

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As you can also see, things have not gone so well since then. Most recently the last founder has shed the CEO role as the company brought in a new CEO, Linda Findley Kozlowski, the former COO of Etsy. [All of the founders have flown the coop now.]

Image result for images linda findley kozlowski

LFK left Etsy when they eliminated her position. She had been with them for three years. Folks fancy her an expert in eCommerce and consumer-focused business. She was also the COO of Evernote and the Director of Global Marketing and Customer Experience at Alibaba Group Holding, Ltd. Player, to be sure. Tough hill to climb.

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04/3/19

China — New Foreign Investment Law

China goes through a charade every year in which they convene a National Congress in the Great Hall of the People. This fiction pretends to consider “laws” and enacts them. This is an impressive building, no?

It is worth noting they have no desks, no? How can you work without a desk? [Asking for a friend.]

China’s new foreign investment law was approved during the National People’s Congress. Photo: Xinhua

This year, they enacted a new Foreign Investment Law to take the place of three prior laws:

 1. The Law on Sino-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures;

 2. the Law on Sino-Foreign Contractual Joint Ventures; and,

 3. the Law on Foreign-Capital Enterprises.

These “laws” were passed in the 1979-1990 time period, so they were overdue for an update. They, of course, had no impact on reality.

The new Law on Foreign Investment responds to the concern articulated by companies doing business in China regarding Chinese theft of intellectual property, amongst other issues. In a left handed way, it acknowledges the mischief and tomfoolery thereby contradicting the central government which says, “What? China is stealing intellectual property? No way.”

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04/2/19

C Suite Hiring Assistance

Lovely, chilly, sunny day in the ATX — a great day to discuss how a CEO obtains hiring assistance.

In the last month, I have assisted five CEOs in hiring a top flight C Suite or top management person. These are folks who are in the CTO, CMO, CFO range and in the business development, head of sales type positions.

This is where the maxim, “Hire people who are better than you” is tested. Catchy slogan, but it runs into two problems:

 1. Can you actually find such people; and,

 2. Can you afford such people?

The answer to the first question is YES. Hire lions. Do not hire cubs. Can you tell the difference? If you were going to war with someone which do you want on your side? The King of the Damn Startup Jumble.

The answer to the second question is MAYBE.

If you are a first time CEO, it is understandably worrisome as to how exactly you do this. In spite of this, I have seen CEOs time and again do this successfully.

All the successful first time CEOs have asked for hiring assistance from a trusted advisor, a boardmember, a CEO coach, or a mentor.

[Pro tip: Ask for help from someone who has actually done a ton of hiring as a CEO. Make sense? Do not ask a 28-year old VC novitiate on your board even if he went to Harvard, drives a BMW convertible, and has mousse in his hair. He has no idea. Get a salty CEO who has done this for a quarter of a century. A salty CEO can smell a phony.]

Do not go it alone.

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04/1/19

Mayor Pete

I have decided I will write about politics one day a week — maybe two, but definitely one — until the 2020 election. As you know, I predicted that Donald J Trump would win both the nomination and the election back in 2016.

Since his Inauguration, I have consistently held the position that I support some of his policies. I have previously described him as the political chemotherapy our nation needs. Chemo kills the bad cells before it kills the good cells. It is not really a compliment.

I only applaud policy, nothing else.

Chemotherapy Party Candidate? Trump

Today, I write about Mayor Pete Buttigieg (pronounced: “butt-edge-edge”) an exciting new Democrat candidate for his party’s nomination. Here is a picture of Mayor Pete threatening to poke Spartacus in the eye with his fingers.

“Booker, I’m going to stick these fingers in your eye!”

Image result for images mayor pete

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04/1/19

Believing — An Essential Leadership Skill

This is the big month for a few things — Christianity, college basketball, and CEOs. It is all about believing.

For Christians, Easter is the essence of their belief. Jesus came to Earth to atone for our sins, lived amongst us, taught, provided a living example, offered a few miracles for the disbelievers, was crucified, died, and buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father to judge the living and the dead.

If you are a Christian you believe the preceding paragraph to be a true statement. That belief — faith — is the glue that holds your life together. It is, literally, what makes you a Christ follower.

If you are a college basketball fan, next weekend is the Final Four and you believe with all your heart that your team is going to win it all.

You have had a tough time of it as the #1 seeds have been decimated — Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga — leaving only Virginia to represent the elite and the Atlantic Coast Conference. ACC had three #1 seeds and only one remains.

You — like me — have been forced to transfer your allegiance to, say, Auburn University. War Eagle!

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[Allow me to digress for just a second, WAR EAGLE! Is that a great motto or what? I went to a military school and we never came up with WAR EAGLE! Auburn was, once upon a time, a military school, but still. WAR EAGLE!]

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03/30/19

Where Are We From?

So, a pal of mine asked me, “What has shaped your life? Where are you from?”

We were drinking coffee, I swear. He was also a trade school grad (what one calls a fellow military school graduate).

So, I said, “I won the lottery on parents — both of my parents were World War II veterans — and I went to Virginia Military Institute.”

VMI is one of those places that develop you. One of those places that holds you down and stuffs you full of suffering and character. Suffering builds character.

First, they dissassemble you, then they reassemble you from the broken parts, then they fire you in a hot furnace, then they test you, then they throw you out into the world — armed and dangerous — to put to work what they’ve taught you.

Same thing they’ve been doing for almost two centuries.

Come graduation, there will be far fewer graduates than when you matriculated. It is not for everybody and not everybody can make it. It is a stern, unforgiving test and if you graduate you will know that you have accomplished something hard. That hardness will be in you.

You will never have an association as that of your Brother Rats — men who have been through the same furnace and emerged intact.

It all starts right here. From this point on, VMI owns your butt. I was the first Rat — the lovely term they use to refer to freshmen after they shave your head — in my class to “sign the book.”

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This is also your last look when you leave. It will still be there fifty year later when you come for your 50th Reunion.

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03/30/19

Managing Expectations and Messaging

I wish I were not using President Donald J Trump as an exemplar for part of my blog post, as it is not intended for a political discussion, but rather for the CEO and his/her slice of capitalism.

As a CEO, two of the elements of your company that can be (must be?) managed are expectations and messaging. They are intimately related.

As a CEO, you are converting a Vision into a Mission and creating Strategy, Tactics, Objectives in a framework of Values which define a Culture.

Click on this graphic to see it at larger scale. It shows how these things are related. There is both structure and process at work here.

I often find that CEOs are comforted when they are able to see how all of these concepts are related and work together. It proves up the structural elements of your rapidly evolving process.

 

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03/27/19

Anchors Aweigh, Tech IPOs

First quarter of 2019 was a bust for tech Initial Public Offerings. Some blame it on the government shutdown and the inability to get the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to respond to preliminary S-1s (registration document). Fair play to that sentiment.

A company files an S-1, the US SEC reviews it, the SEC provides comments, and the issuer makes revisions in response to the SEC’s comments. Now, your preliminary S-1 has become a final S-1 and you are registered. In two weeks, you can begin banging your drum. If the government is shut down, this process doesn’t happen.

If you just take a Mulligan for Q1-2019 and focus on the rest of the year, you may see a deep lineup of tech companies, familiar names amongst them, getting ready to make the leap.

Here is my favorite recent public offering, demonstrating her flexible approach to the world. Can you reach down and grab your foot while in a seated position? Her name is Tempe and she is a Southern girl from Savannah. But, I digress.

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03/27/19

Drone Profits

For the first time ever, a drone has been used in a commercial application that derived revenue for its owner. This is the story of UPS and Matternet providing a drone delivery service in Raleigh, North Carolina. UPS is a delivery company while Matternet is a drone tech company.

This just happened yesterday, so it is a fresh and new happenstance. Here is the actual drone.

UPSDrone 20

Their customer is WakeMed whose campus is in Raleigh. Using the drone reduced a 30-60 minute transportation time across campus to three minutes and fifteen seconds. This time savings could be life saving as, sometimes, the delivery might be blood or an organ sample.

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03/26/19

The Mueller Report

So, a pal calls me and gives me a bit of the red ass for my interview with Robert Swan Mueller III — “Say something serious,” he says. “It is a very important thing.”

Exclusive Robert Swan Mueller III Interview

I have written a bit, but not much on the entire Russian Collusion escapade. Punch in “Mueller” in the search box to the right of this post and you can read those posts.

So, in response to my pal, I will offer the following observations.

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OK, so I tipped my hand a bit, didn’t I? But I have a serious observation or two.

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