09/30/19

Rent The Wrong Way

I have never rented anything from Rent the Runway, the unicorn women’s “unlimited closet in the cloud” fashion site, your secret door to the latest in the rag trade.

You can rent clothing by the one off, on a subscription basis, and buy the clothes at a discounted post-rental price. They send you (gratis) a second size to make sure you can fit into their clothes. It is a first rate business.

Though I have never rented a dress (don’t carry the right size for Big Red Cars), I have always loved the business concept, their financial model, their innovative business development, their founder story, and their web site.

The company was founded by a couple of Harvard MBA women in 2009 — Jenny Fleiss and Jenn Hyman (bit of irony, no? couple of “Jens”). It is a profitable unicorn.

However, if today you go to their website, you will find the following message:

Currently all one-time Reserve rentals must be scheduled for delivery after 10/15.

Thanks for your patience as we upgrade our system!

Imagine the conversations within the company that resulted in that sentence appearing on the website. In addition, the company¬† is not taking any new “members” for any of their programs.

In essence, the unlimited closet in the cloud is out of business for 2-3 weeks. Closed for tech remodeling! Never saw that happening!

How does a company weather a 2-3 week unannounced cessation of their business when they are an immediate gratification B2C, cutting edge fashion business? 

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09/29/19

We Work Obituary

I suppose it is obligatory to write an obituary for We Work given that we wrote about the company and its Initial Public Offering several times already.

On the final turn around the track to price and issue its Initial Public Offering stock to the public, the company “postponed” its IPO.

At the same time, they pulled the plug on their founder CEO, Adam Neumann for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Wait, sorry. Got confused for a second.

Neumann “stepped down” and the lead investor, SoftBank through its Vision Fund, took action to right the sinking ship.

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09/27/19

CEO Shoptalk — Confidence: Expecting To Win

The other day I read some screed that attempted to describe confidence in a ham-handed and poorly written manner. Reading it felt like an intellectual barbed wire enema, but it did make me think about the subject.

Tom Brady, quarterback of the National Football League New England Patriots, expects to win every time he steps on the football field.

Not only does HE expect to win, but those who play with him, the coaching staff of the team (led by Head Coach Bill Belichick), the sports punditry, the fans, and maybe the opposition — also expect him to win.

He brings that magic bit of confidence that creates this mojo — expecting to win. He has played in nine Super Bowls and has emerged with a ring from six of them.

Stop for a second: Do YOU expect to win as a CEO? Do you?

Tom Brady doesn’t expect to win only on the football field; he expects to win in life, at everything.

This doesn’t happen by accident.

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09/26/19

Digital Despotism — China

Tech can be a good thing; tech can be a bad thing. China, a vicious Communist country, is using tech to control its people. Soon they will use it to reward and punish their people. It is all about control. Let’s dig into this.

China — the world’s largest country by population — has 1,420,000,000 people. Some (talking to you, Hong Kong) are yearning to be free, free of the Communist leadership that desires to suppress the yearnings for freedom while controlling everybody. The promise of “One China, Two Systems” has evaporated. Hong Kong is going to conform to Beijing’s wishes or disappear.

Look at the picture of Moe and Larry. Two clowns who could cause a lot of trouble, who are big pals. If the Chinese wanted to control North Korea, they could do so in a heartbeat, but they don’t want to.

China is 92% Han Chinese with the balance being “other” minorities like the Uyghurs (Uygurs, Uighurs, Uigurs). The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic minority, one of the 55 “ethnic minorities” recognized by Beijing.

Since the 16th century, the Uyghurs have been Muslim which has defined their culture and identity. In China, there are 11,300,000 Uyghurs. More about the Uyghurs later.

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09/26/19

A Few Good Men — Joseph Maguire

Today, you may have seen a few snippets of the Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, being quizzed by the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Cali) in regard to the l’affaire “blowing of the whistle.”

It was the typical Congressional investigatory shit show, but I discovered an interesting man: Joseph Maguire.

Who is this man Joseph Maguire?

Director Maguire was a 36-year Navy man in a prior life. He wore three stars as a Navy Vice Admiral. He spent his entire career as a special warfare officer and wears the SEAL Trident and the Marine Corps Parachutist insignia.

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09/25/19

Inspiration — It’s Everywhere

In life, we require inspiration to awaken us to the possibilities of the world. As a young man, I worked in construction during high school and college. I garnered some inspiration on the end of a shovel handle digging ditches.

I worked for a general contractor at the Jersey Shore that built anything, but they also used to install the ocean intakes into the Atlantic Ocean for the seawater pools at beach clubs in tony places like Deal. Deal is an incredibly affluent shore town with enormous mansions and the most wonderful collection of shingle beach monstrosities. [Today, this little jewel could be yours for $12MM.]

When we would put in these ocean intakes, it required digging a ditch to install a pipe, sometimes for a long, long, long distance from the pump house to the point at which the pipe would enter the ocean.

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09/24/19

The Cult of Personality and Adam Neumann of We (We Work)

Since time immemorial, American business has always revered the iconic startup leader whether it was John Davison Rockefeller, Sr — American business icon, considered the wealthiest American of all time, and a generous philanthropist; or, the Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates stories. Sam Walton was an iconic, successful businessman.

All have a “larger than life” nature to them. They fall into the category of the iconic American business billionaire. These folks, however, come with a full bag of positive and negative traits.

In the modern startup world, we have folks like Travis Kalanik, formerly of Uber, and, now Adam Neumann, of We (We Work).

What we are confronted with is the “cult of personality” wherein the business becomes synonymous with the leader or founder.

This can be good or bad.

In the case of Sam Walton, it is generally perceived as a positive thing. Folksy Old Sam was a gimme-cap-wearing, pickup-driving, Easy-Rider-rifle-rack-shotgun-owner, bird-hunting, bird-dog-loving man of the people from the heartland.

Walmart HQ never left Bentonville, Arkansas, and Bentonville never left Sam.

Sam Walton and his pickup truck at the beginning:

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09/22/19

BRC — The Website Troubles

About a month ago, the BRC website was hacked. I first noticed it because my Amazon Web Services “instance” (the hosting arrangement) kept cutting out for excess CPU usage. At the time, I knew nothing about it and hadn’t put any analytics on the site.

To fix this, I had to dig into AWS, close down the instance, and restart the instance. When the hack was in play, load times on my site were measured in weeks. Still, I had great traffic for most of the day.

The AWS solution was to buy more CPU capacity, but something didn’t look right. I wiggled into the analytics and found out it was happening between 1-4 AM and that the CPU usage was rocketing right up. Still, AWS said, “Uhh, buy more CPU and it will handle the problem.”

I hired a guru through UpWork to look at it and he said, “Every night between 1-4 AM, bad actors are snatching your website and using it to host nefarious things.”

We made some changes and it got better by pieces. Still, AWS said, “Buy some more CPU, you rusty bucket of bolts.”

It took about three weeks and the consultant re-worked a bunch of things — server side things. Then, he noted that my site was SLOW.

I used GTMetrix to monitor my site and agreed. If you know GTMetrix, you will gag when I tell you that my PageSpeed Score was F- and my YSlow Score was also F-. My site was taking about 16 seconds to load.

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